America’s BoOK Review
Sinister family secrets AUDREY NIFFENEGGER returns with a suspenseful follow-up to ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’
Monsters of literature pg. 8
First nonfiction since ‘Morrie’ is a winner pg. 13
new book reviews
5 out-of-this-world fall selections pg. 26
Outspoken grandmother inspires her latest pg. 19
America’s BoOK Review
Associate publisher Julia Steele Editor Lynn L. Green fiction Editor Abby Plesser web Editor Trisha Ping Contributing Editor Sukey Howard Contributor Roger Bishop Children’s books Allison Hammond Advertising Sales Julia Steele Angela J. Bowman Production Manager Penny Childress Production Designer Karen Trotter Elley SUBSCRIPTION MANAGER Elizabeth Grace Herbert Customer Service Alice Fitzgibbon
7 Audrey Niffenegger A ghost story from the
INTERVIEW 19 Jeannette Walls Her unique family history
FEATURES 5 Eoin Colfer Meet the author behind the latest in
the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” series
6 Well Read Philip Caputo takes us across the border
in his latest novel
22 Short Stories Three stunning story collections
A remarkable journey of faith and friendship
Children’s Books 24 Halloween Creepy picks to celebrate the 31st
25 Judy Schachner Meet the author-illustrator 26 Young Adult The best teen reads 27 Scott Westerfeld A fantastical World War I
The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott
Stardust by Joseph Kanon
When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster
Nonfiction 6 Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
9 Moon River and Me by Andy Williams
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
R E V I E W S
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
12 Anne Frank by Francine Prose
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A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
12 Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
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14 Generosity by Richard Powers
16 Man of Constant Sorrow by Ralph Stanley
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
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Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War by Neil Sheehan
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
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9 The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson
The best books for the spookiest season
3 4 6 11 14 17 20 28 30
Buzz Girl The Author Enablers Bestseller Watch Whodunit? Audio Romance Book Clubs Science Fiction Cooking
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buzz girl ➥ Our publishing
insider gets the skinny on tomorrow’s bestsellers From political daughters to snarky children’s authors to edgy Englishmen, there’s something for everyone on the horizon.
➥ snicket’s sad news Daniel Handler, aka “Lemony Snicket,” has just signed a deal with the U.K.’s Egmont Press to publish a new fourbook, middle-grade series starting in 2012. Snicket told BBC News: “I can neither confirm nor deny that I have begun research into a new case, and I can neither confirm nor deny that the results are as dreadful and unnerving as A Series of Unfortunate Events. daniel handler However, I can confirm that Egmont will be publishing these findings.” According to the New York Times, Snicket has not yet sold the books in the U.S., but his HarperCollins editor, Susan Rich, has been working with him on the series. Snicket fans can look forward to the 2010 publication of a picture book, 13 Words, which Snicket worked on with the artist Maira Kalman. The Series of Unfortunate Events was
a publishing sensation, and the first three books inspired a 2004 film starring Jim Carrey.
➥ SHRIVER’S STORY Lionel Shriver has a March 2 release scheduled with Harper. Info on So Much for All That is scarce (they don’t even have a cover design available yet), but the catalog describes it as “a searing, deeply humane new novel about the tragic costs of the American healthcare system.” Before you think, ugh, a novel about issues, consider that Shriver has previously taken on such controversial topics as violence in schools, maternal ambivalence and infidelity in her novels, and still managed to make them completely absorbing. Plus, her current status as an expat (she is an American lionel shriver who lives in England) gives her a different perspective on the health care controversy. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s a sharply intelligent writer who won’t pull punches. We have high hopes that this novel will be another winner.
More chances to win Looking for more free books? You’ll find contests in every edition of our email newsletter, BookPageXTRA, and on our blog, The Book Case, where we highlight books, authors, publishing news and more. BookPage.com has the details!
Over the past year, novelist Ian McEwan (Atonement, Enduring Love) has dropped several tantalizing tidbits about his work-in-progress, an 11th novel—his first since 2007’s On Chesil Beach. It’s about global warming. It features a physicist whom McEwan has described as “an intellectual thief. He’s sexually predatory. He’s a compulsive eater, a round and tubby fellow who has profound self-belief.” It’s not a comedy—but has “extended comic stretches.” And recently he revealed a title, Solar. In the new novel, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist suggests that “men outnumber women at the top of his profession because of inherent differences in their brains, rather than any gender discrimination,” according to The Guardian. This plotline revelation
➥ ’Dorian’ on film After two other successful Wilde adaptations, director Oliver Parker and producer Barnaby Thompson have teamed up to bring Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, to the big screen. For the non-Wilde fans out there, the book tells the story of a beautiful young man who sells his soul to stay that way. Ben Barnes, aka Prince Caspian, plays Dorian and heads up a cast that includes Colin Firth (as Henry Wotton, Dorian’s mentor in debauchery). Unfortunately, no U.S. release date has been announced.
➥ mCcain’s memoir Political daughter Meghan McCain, who became one of the most prominent young Republican voices during her father’s campaign for the presidency, has sold a memoir to Hyperion for a reported six-figure advance. It will be published in spring 2010. Hyperion says the book will explain “what it means to be a progressive Republican in the party today” in an “appealing and light-hearted meghan mccain voice.” While this is McCain’s first book aimed at an adult audience, it isn’t her first time as a published author. She wrote a children’s picture book about her father’s life—including his service in the U.S. military—My Dad, John McCain, in 2008.
ERIC JEROME DICKEY
DYING FOR REVENGE Gideon, a professional assassin, is convinced that an old score with a former client from Detroit was settled a long time ago. But the lady from Detroit has never forgotten, or forgiven, Gideon. Backed by a crack team of hitmen, she’s not letting him out of her sight. Now, Gideon’s on the run, embarking on a global chase that takes him from London to Nashville and back to the Caribbean, where those on both sides of this battle are dying for revenge.
NOW IN PAPERBACK ericjeromedickey.com
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has made major headlines since McEwan himself has faced criticism for giving his opinion on such things as radical Islam and Christianity. (Everyone loves an autobiographical ian mcewan angle!) The twist here is that after transforming himself into something of a media scapegoat, Beard makes a discovery that might help save the planet—if only anyone would listen to him. As McEwan explained to the New Yorker in February, “It isn’t angels necessarily who are going to save us.” Doubleday, McEwan’s publisher in the U.S., hasn’t announced a release date for the novel yet, and it’s unlikely to appear before next fall. Between now and then, we can probably expect a few more of those revelations.
The next installment in the bold and sexy series by the fearless New York Times bestselling author
THE AUTHOR ENABLERS
In King Henry’s court By Lauren Bufferd Hilary Mantel sets a new standard for historical fiction with her latest novel Wolf Hall, a riveting portrait of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to King Henry VIII and a significant political figure in Tudor England. Mantel’s crystalline style, piercing eye and interest in, shall we say, the darker side of human nature, together with a real respect for historical accuracy, make this novel an engrossing, enveloping read (it’s also the favorite to win this year’s Booker Prize). Wolf Hall is set in an England on the brink of disaster. It is 1520 and Henry VIII, desiring a male heir, wishes to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and wed Anne Boleyn, despite the opposition of half his kingdom, the Pope and much of Europe. Meanwhile, the Yorks are plotting to put one of their own on the throne. Into the middle of this turbulence walks Thomas Cromwell, lowly born but protected by the king’s advisor, Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell was a financier with a brilliant grasp of international politics. Multi-lingual and self-taught, both ruthless and generous, he quickly surpassed even Wolsey as close confidante to the king and built up a coterie of followers that equaled any modern Mafia don. In the novel—as in his life—as Cromwell grows in power, the danger and intrigue does as well. Wolf Hall Knowing the trajectory of his career, familiar to many from By Hilary Mantel Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons, in no way inter- Holt $27, 560 pages feres with the deliciousness of the unfolding tragedy. The Tudor period has been over-romanticized in books ISBN 9780805080681 and films, especially lately, but Mantel keeps her focus less on the heaving bosoms and changing bed partners and more on the corruption, the scheming and the petty cruelties. She writes in the present tense, a device that in lesser hands might seem showy and self-conscious, but here propels the action forward while providing great insight into Cromwell’s personality. With a generous cast of characters and meticulous descriptions of castle, town and countryside, Mantel evokes the era with an unfussy ease. Despite the length and the intricacy of the story told, there is a freshness and rigor to this compelling novel that will delight and engage any reader. o Lauren Bufferd writes from Nashville.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
HENRY PARKER MUST UNCOVER THE MOST DEVASTATING SECRET OF ALL…HIS OWN.
“Jason Pinter knows what he’s doing. The Fury rocks. Read it!” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“A brilliantly conceived, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.” —Chicago Tribune on The Guilty
On sale November 24! www.MIRABooks.com www.JasonPinter.com
On sale now!
The dating game A reader in Michigan writes with a special request: “I know in the last year or so the Author Enablers commented on sending in your manuscript to more than one agent at a time. As I recall, they said to do it one at a time. I need ‘proof’ of this for my daughter-in-law.” As long as you don’t set out to deceive anyone, it is acceptable to make submissions to several agents at once. We like to think of this in terms of high school dating: you can play the field as long as you haven’t promised anyone to go steady. But then we both sucked at high school dating. Those humbling memories aside, you should be OK if you state clearly in your query letter that you are making multiple submissions. Of course, if you already have a proBY SAM BARRY & fessional relationship with an agent, you should do the brave thing and “break up” KATHI KAMEN GOLDMARK before seeking another. Remember to return that ID bracelet. And we definitely advise against simultaneously sending the same query to several different agents at the same agency. Dear Author Enablers: You two do a great job answering all our questions! I would like to know if an aspiring screenwriter has to have a platform to sell a script? Also, is animation written the same way as any other script? Do they have bidding wars with scripts? Dolores Ohio, Illinois Thanks for the shout out, Dolores! We decided to toss this ball to a couple of pros, since (ironically) we had no idea how to answer your questions. According to L.A. comedy writer Tony Goldmark, bidding wars for scripts generally don’t occur unless you’re already an established screenwriter. “Sometimes ‘established’ only has to mean that you won a prestigious contest,” says Tony, “but usually you have to have considerable hit-making screenwriting experience.” The process of screenwriting for an animated film can be quite different than for a live-action feature, Tony tells us. “Animation is a bit more complicated, because in addition to a screenplay, the entire film must be storyboarded by a team of story artists, whose job is to essentially draw every shot in rough comic book form. Sometimes the screenplay inspires the storyboards, sometimes vice versa—it varies from studio to studio, and often from project to project. DreamWorks, for example, storyboards every film in its entirety first, then hires screenwriters to adapt those storyboards into a script, giving them the mandate that they may not alter more than 30 percent of the work that has already been done. But as far as I know, such a script would still have the same format as a live-action script,” Tony says. “The biggest problem with breaking into animation, especially with a new idea, is that animation is such a collaborative group process, more often than not requiring a fully equipped studio loaded to the brim with creative people, so most if not all of each studio’s new ideas come from in-house.” Devo Cutler-Rubenstein, producer/screenwriter and former studio executive, adds, “If there is an established market—i.e. a successful comic book, book, novel or play that can be the springboard for an adaptation—that can help a fledgling writer. Animation is written for features, and for some TV series, in the same format in terms of building a story, structure, character development, theme, etc. But characters may be a bit more extreme due to the ability to show them doing extraordinary things with out a lot of special FX in an animated format. Take UP!, for example. That movie had a great story, but could not be done as live action.” “Bidding wars occur when an agent or manager is able to get ‘heat’ on a script and/or novel and/or play and/or news article and/or true story. There has to be something about it that is incredibly unique or time appropriate. It is usually established writers, but sometimes a spec comes along from an unknown writer (novelist or screenwriter) and the agent creates heat for a bidding war to occur.” Look for Devo’s helpful articles on the subject: “Script Criteria Checklist” in Movie Maker and others at www.storylink.com. Big thanks to Devo and Tony. We’re off to dig the heat lamp out of our basement to shine it on our platform. 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 email@example.com or visit their blog at bookpage.com.
Hornby’s fresh, funny musical tale By Carla Jean Whitley The fictional American singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe achieved critical success in the 1980s with the classic breakup album Juliet. Then, at the height of his career, Tucker canceled a tour and withdrew. In the years since, a small but committed following has sprung up on the Internet, tracking every rumor or tidbit suggesting activity from the reclusive Crowe. When a stripped-down version of Tucker Crowe’s classic album shows up in the mailbox of leading Croweologist Duncan and his girlfriend Annie, the duo’s relationship is already on the rocks. They’ve remained together for 15 years—more out of habit and proximity than passion, given the lack of options in their bleak, seaside English town. Their polar reactions to the new album, Juliet, Naked, only heighten Duncan and Annie’s differences. Duncan is the kind of neurotic fan who intimidates others, turning them away from music instead of toward it. Anyone who has obsessed over unreleased material or bootlegs of their favorite band’s shows will identify with him immediately. He knows too much, finding significance in every note his favorite musician plays and every syllable he utters. Juliet, Naked That arrogance pushes Annie to the edge. After the couBy Nick Hornby ple posts their differing analyses of the album on Duncan’s Tucker Crowe fan site, Annie and Duncan’s paths split—and Riverhead $25.95, 416 pages converge with Tucker Crowe’s—as they set out after their ISBN 9781594488870 own lives. Also available on audio Juliet, Naked is classic Nick Hornby, with characters internally debating what is worthwhile as their lives are lived out to a soundtrack. At the same time it’s a fresh story of these curiously interwoven lives and perspectives. Each Hornby venture exhibits his considerable talent, whether through a novel, memoir or collection of essays. But it’s the music-oriented books that often draw a cult following, not unlike that of Juliet, Naked ’s Tucker Crowe. And Hornby’s insights into the rabid fan are as acute as ever—not a surprise, given his own obsessive listening. o Carla Jean Whitley attends way too many concerts and regularly interviews musicians in Birmingham, Alabama.
Eoin Colfer © MICHAEL PAYNTER
Byatt tells the story of an age
The author of the Artemis Fowl series and several other acclaimed books for young readers, Eoin Colfer was chosen by Douglas Adams’ widow to write the final book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2) series. And Another Thing . . . (Hyperion, $25.99, 288 pages, ISBN 9781401323585), goes on sale October 12. Colfer lives in Wexford, on the coast of Ireland, with his wife and two children.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Trisha Ping The heft of A.S. Byatt’s latest work, The Children’s Book, promises a detailed, sprawling story. But the actual scope of this ambitious novel has to be experienced to be believed. The story of an age more than anything else, it encompasses 25 years (1895-1919) and has at least that many main characters, which leaves the reader wondering how they can all come to such vivid life in just 700 pages. If such a wide-ranging saga can be said to have a center, this novel’s is Olive Wellwood, a complicated woman whose writing for children (she’s based in part on the writer E. Nesbit) financially supports the large family her sister, Violet, cares for while Olive writes and her husband works in Parliament. The Wellwoods are part of a circle of artistic friends, and the children are raised in a bohemian, permissive atmosphere that rivals Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s. Themes of creation and art—its power and what a person must sacrifice in its pursuit—are at the heart of The Children’s Book. Fairy-tale allusions abound, and some of the best passages are Olive’s writings, which have the almost subliminal creepiness found in the best fairy tales. Byatt displays her signature interest in secrets of all sorts, from those parents keep from children to those we hide from ourselves. The Children’s Her characters juggle physical and intellectual desires, pursuits and goals—like Olive’s eldest daughter, Dorothy, Book whose desire to become a doctor is verbally but not always By A.S. Byatt materially supported by her counter-cultural family; and Knopf Phillip, a runaway with the drive and genius to become a $26.95, 688 pages 9780307272096 great potter, who is discovered living in the basement of the ISBN Also available on audio brand-new South Kensington (soon to be Victoria & Albert) Museum at the beginning of the book. The Children’s Book has been touted as Byatt’s best work since Possession, the 1990 novel that brought the author a wider audience (she’s been publishing novels since 1964). The two novels do share many characteristics, but in many ways The Children’s Book, with its meticulous, complete rendering of a time and place, surpasses that earlier work. Masterful, complex and thought provoking, it will linger in the mind. o
The mysteries of manhood By Pete Croatto In popular culture, when men talk about being men they follow a certain formula. We’re probably going to hear about the protagonist looking deeply into the eyes of his firstborn child, his wild single days and the emotional rigors of being a husband. There’s almost a sense that men live the same life; just the names of the primary characters change. Novelist Michael Chabon’s book of essays, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, fits into that paradigm, but not perfectly. Thank goodness. Chabon focuses on the almost-overlooked moments of his life, and the result is a sparkling, clear-headed collection that provides a glorious look at the makeup of a man. The Pulitzer Prize winner (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ; Wonder Boys) waxes poetic about the creative benefits of the crappy TV shows and movies of his youth, compared to the polished, CGI-animated treats of today, which “don’t leave anything implied, unstated, incomplete.” He talks about the growing sense of doom accompanying his daughter’s blossoming into womanhood and how getting a men’s purse, or “murse,” represents one of the key benefits of getting older—not caring what other people think. Chabon also installs a towel rack, worries about his wife and examines Manhood for other wonders of childhood: getting lost, the seductive power Amateurs of basements and the shattered world of scatological humor. As has been observed repeatedly, Chabon is an awesome By Michael Chabon talent. He’s blessed with observational shrewdness and a gift Harper $25.99, 320 pages for nimble wordplay, but that never obscures the points he ISBN 9780061490187 makes. (That last talent has served him well as a novelist, and Also available on audio it’s especially helpful here.) The essays, most of which previously appeared in Details, are nostalgic, funny and introspective while never straining for style points or wallowing in sentiment. It’s the kind of writing you read twice, not to get a better understanding, but to better appreciate the man’s abilities. Chabon is a regular guy—except that he can expertly explain himself with smooth, embracing eloquence. The rest of us have to stick to the same old story. o Pete Croatto is a New Jersey-based freelance writer.
BESTSELLER WATCH There are so many big books coming out this month, we barely had room for them all! Check out the on-sale dates for these October blockblusters:
13 Pursuit of Honor By Vince Flynn
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Simon & Schuster $27.99 ISBN 9781416595168
When a series of explosions devastates D.C., counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp is on the case.
20 The Scarpetta Factor
6 How to Raise the Perfect Dog By Cesar Millan
Crown, $25.99 ISBN 9780307461292
The famed “Dog Whisperer”on how to raise the perfect dog and prevent behavior issues before they start.
20 The Queen Mother By William Shawcross
Putnam, $27.99 ISBN 9780399156397
Knopf, $40, ISBN 9781400043040
27 True Blue By David Baldacci Grand Central, $27.99 ISBN 9780446195515
A high-profile homicide sparks a dangerous chain of events for an allnew cast of characters in Baldacci’s latest legal thriller.
A powerful look at life on the border By Robert Weibezahl Eight years on, it would be impossible to calculate the number of writers who have explored the tragedy of 9/11 in their fiction and nonfiction. In his latest novel, Crossers, Philip Caputo joins their ranks; but his multilayered narrative quickly moves beyond the horrible events of that darkest of days to probe the heart of a more perennial American tragedy: our complicated history with our Mexican neighbors. Gil Castle, a 57-year-old investment banker, lost his wife that September day (she was a passenger on the plane that slammed into the North Tower), and a year later, he cannot begin to shed the deep sense of loss that has enveloped his being. Unable to bear it any longer, he takes early retirement, sells his house, gives away most of his belongings and moves to the Arizona desert, where an aunt and cousin he barely knows own a cattle ranch. Ensconced in a rustic cabin in an isolated corner of the San Ignacio Ranch, Castle passes his sterile days reading Seneca, hiking and hunting. BY ROBERT Largely cut off from the world, he soon realizes he has not WEIBEZAHL escaped his despair, but he nonetheless prefers this imperfect solitude to what he has left behind in Connecticut. Castle’s retreat from the world takes an unexpected turn when he finds an exhausted young Mexican man hiding in the brush not far from his cabin. Because the ranch shares its southern boundary with the border, illegal immigrants often make their way north across its land. This terrified refugee, Miguel, has lived through a horrid ordeal as he has tried to pass into the United States. Since the money he was going to pay the “coyote” has been stolen from him, he has been forced to smuggle parcels of marijuana across the border, narrowly escaping the fate of his two gunned-down traveling companions. Castle and his relatives feed the migrant and let him rest before turning him over to the authorities, who put Miguel—a valuable witness to murder—in a Homeland Security detention center rather than deporting him.
Philip Caputo on love, loss, war and belonging in a post-9/11 world.
By Patricia Cornwell Kay Scarpetta faces a vicious killer and personal blackmail in the 17th thriller starring the forensic analyst.
The official and definitive biography of the most beloved British monarch of the 20th century.
20 SuperFreakonomics By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner Morrow, $29.99 ISBN 9780060889579
Levitt and Dubner are back with a “freakquel” to their hugely popular book exposing the riddles and paradoxes of our everyday lives.
The other unanticipated event in Castle’s life is the advent of love. Tessa McBride, the owner of the neighbor- Crossers ing ranch, proves a congenial companion, and the attrac- By Philip Caputo tion these two wounded souls feel is stronger than their Knopf individual needs for keeping the world at bay. Tessa’s only $26.95, 464 pages 9780375411670 daughter joined the military a few months before 9/11, ISBN Also available on audio and now, with the drums of war beating in Washington and Baghdad, it seems inevitable that the girl will soon see battle. Despite his own emotional desolation, Castle provides Tessa some reciprocal solace in anxious times. The story of Gil Castle’s reluctant ascent from grief is just a fragment of the story that Caputo sets out to tell in Crossers. There are forces at work well beyond Castle’s upper-middle-class ken, as a dangerous war is being waged in a desert much closer than the one circumscribed by the Tigris and Euphrates. Rival Mexican drug lords fight for supremacy in the arid territory surrounding the ranch on both sides of the border, using poor, disposable countrymen such as Miguel as cannon fodder. That war has arrived at Castle’s doorstep. The deadly power struggle between Mexican and gringo landowners offers striking echoes of an earlier story that makes up the third piece of Caputo’s narrative. Castle’s grandfather, Ben Erskine, who killed his first man at 13, played a formidable, though not always lawful, role in shaping this godforsaken territory in the years before Arizona statehood. Crossing into Mexico freely, but most notably as a soldier of fortune during the Revolution, Ben’s legacy is shadowy at best. The truth, as complicated and uncompromising as the landscape itself, will return to haunt his descendents as they face off against their violent adversaries. Philip Caputo, who won a Pulitzer Prize for reportage, and wrote the seminal Vietnam memoir, A Rumor of War, has long focused his fiction on the moral ambiguities that have accompanied violent conflicts around the world—Vietnam, the Sudan, Iraq. With Crossers, he brings the war home, powerfully evoking an America marked by complexities, contradictions and an uncomfortable relationship with its own past. o
A family haunting
Follow-up to ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’ delivers chills and thrills By Katherine Wyrick utomatic writing, homemade ouija boards, body Though echoes of Edgar Allan Poe can be heard throughout snatching, mistaken identity—these are but a few of the Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger says, “The books I’m conspooky pleasures that await the reader of Her Fearful sciously modeling on are Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White and Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger’s latest novel. Henry James’ Turn of the Screw and Portrait of a Lady.” She acSix years after her wildly successful book The Time Traveler’s knowledges that other influences may be at play as well, “All Wife, Niffenegger returns with a riveting contemporary ghost sorts of things creep in there, and you don’t even realize it, ” with story set in the environs of London’s famed Highgate Cemetery, “creep” being the operative word here. The book is as entertainthe final resting place of Karl Marx and ing as it is unsettling (albeit in a titillatGeorge Eliot, among other luminaries. ing sort of way). Her Fearful Symmetry (the title is an “I think people who haven’t read allusion to William Blake’s poem “The much 19th-century fiction might find Tiger”) is the story of mirror-image this thing a bit odd because the ratiotwins, Julia and Valentina, who share nale for certain plot turns and chara preternaturally intense bond. Their acter traits comes from the existence aunt Elspeth, their mother’s twin of previous characters and previous whom they’ve never met, dies of canplots,” muses Niffenegger. cer and bequeaths to them her flat in “People kept telling me that Julia and London with the stipulation that they Valentina seemed unnaturally kind of live there for a year. Before this sudden wrapped in cotton,” she says. “For conwindfall, the twins have been sometemporary girls, it’s ridiculous. I think what adrift; neither seems to have any people were perplexed by it.” She likens desire to finish college or to leave the them to “every Henry James heroine home they share with their parents in a who emerges out of nothing and goes quiet Chicago suburb. Their indolence to the old country and has these commight be typical of many an American plicated experiences.” 20-year-old, but these girls are anyElspeth’s character also harkens thing but typical. back to other tales of the arabesque. AUDREY NIFFENEGGER They move to Elspeth’s apartment, “In ghost literature, the ghosts are ofon the outskirts of Highgate, and come ten described as being hungry and cold to know the building’s other inhabitand desperate to get close to people for ants—Martin, a charming crossword the warmth; and there’s this sense that The author takes inspiration puzzle creator suffering from cripthey really aren’t people anymore, and pling obsessive-compulsive disorder, they don’t have the full range of human from the great ghosts of and Robert, Elspeth’s bereaved lover emotions . . . so the longer Elspeth’s and a scholar of the cemetery. As their been dead, the less she empathizes . . . literature in crafting her lives become intertwined, they soon she just gets more and more selfish”— discover that the building houses ana truth evidenced in the book’s chilling other resident—the recently deceased denouement. spooky new novel. Elspeth. For Niffenegger, delving into the Niffenegger spoke to BookPage supernatural wasn’t a way to explore from her Chicago home shortly before questions of a metaphysical or spirishe departed on another trip to London. tual nature, but a literary conceit, a way to tell a story—while The author says she first traveled to London to visit Highgate paying homage to some of the great ghosts of literature. in 1996 and had a “miraculous and amazing” experience that beShe says, “If you look at both of my novels, you see that there came the germ of Her Fearful Symmetry. She had been toying is no God. I’m a total skeptic, which doesn’t mean that I object to with an idea for a book that somehow involved a cemetery, but other people believing anything they want to believe. In the case wasn’t sure exactly what shape it would take. She had originally of Time Traveler, there’s no purpose and no control to Henry’s set the novel in her hometown of Chicago, but Highgate proved time traveling, and he’s just kind of like a ping pong ball, ponging to be the perfect setting. around. With the characters in Fearful Symmetry, they all have Having never lived in London, Niffenegger spent a fair amount this kind of vague, modern tiny bit of religion, but they’re really of time conducting research at the British Library and getting insecular people, all of them.” volved with the cemetery, where she is now a guide. Of the phenomenal popularity of Time Traveler, Niffenegger She says writing this book was completely different than writsays simply, “It’s crazy.” She imagined that the book would be ing Time Traveler. “For one thing, with Time Traveler, I just sort published by a small press (which it originally was), for a small of exuberantly jumped in and started doing it because I’d never audience. “I never expected the book club phenomenon,” which done any kind of novel before.” For her new novel, she was detershe cites as the main factor in the novel’s success. She says she mined not to recreate the same thing or revisit the same territory. hasn’t seen the film version and doesn’t plan to. “The movie be“I thought maybe I could teach myself to write a different kind of longs to the people who made the movie. All the decisions were book, and so on a technical level there their decisions, and they had complete control over it. . . . I dewere a lot of things I had to learn to do. cided to preserve my own experience with my own book.” . . . I had to start consciously analyzing Niffenegger teaches art at Columbia College in Chicago and and reading from other books.” published two illustrated novels prior to Her Fearful Symmetry. Asked if she considered illustrating Her Fearful Symmetry, she offers a definitive “no,” and adds, “The great thing about just words is that you can leave these empty spaces that people will fill.” Her Fearful Symmetry While it’s true that English lit buffs will relish the many literary By Audrey Niffenegger allusions and Victorianisms in Her Fearful Symmetry, you don’t Scribner have to be an English major to enjoy this spellbinding story, solid $26.99, 416 pages proof that Niffenegger’s ascending star is burning bright. o ISBN 9781439165393 Katherine Wyrick writes from her home in Little Rock. Also available on audio
A chilling tale of a mother’s unspeakable betrayal
© STEPHEN DESANTIS
new from sophie hannah acclaimed author of little face
“Pure terror. . . . A nightmare come to life.” —Tana French, author of In the Woods and The Likeness
PENGUIN BOOKS A Member of Penguin Group (USA)
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Also Available from Penguin
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Back to Dracula
By Eve Zibart The month of Halloween brings us Dracula The Un-Dead, a bone-chilling sequel to the classic and the latest in the classic novel revisionist craze. This continuation of Bram Stoker’s Victorian thriller isn’t just family-sanctioned, it’s co-written by a family member. With the assistance of Ian Holt, a Dracula documentarian, historian and screenwriter, The UnDead was created by Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram, who claims parts of the novel are based on material cut from the original Dracula and Bram’s own notes. The Un-Dead rejoins the band of friends and lovers who survived the original novel—Mina and Jonathan, Seward, Holmwood, even Van Helsing—now 25 years after the purported demise of Dracula. Over the years they have each faced disappointment and drifted apart, but they are brought back together when it appears that those who once hunted Dracula have now become the hunted. Someone—or something—is out to get them. Could it be that Dracula himself survived and is back for revenge, or might it be something even more sinister? In a way, it seems likely that Dacre Stoker has been waiting his entire lifetime to resuscitate and reimagine the immortal prince. In The Un-Dead, Stoker and Holt have assembled an all-star cast highlighting the key players and events throughout history, weaving in Jack the Ripper, the Countess Bathory and her centuries-old rivalry with Vlad Tepes (the historical inspiration for Dracula), the burning of the Lyceum, the voyage of the Titanic and yes, even Bram Stoker himself. In- Dracula The deed, the cameos and tributes— Un-Dead as clever and playful as they may By Dacre Stoker be—are at times so numerous with Ian Holt that they risk overwhelming the Dutton, $26.95, 432 pages plot itself. Additionally, there ISBN 9780525951292 are a few historical slips that will trip up vampire diehards, for example the erroneous statement that Vlad is short for Vladimir, rather than Vladislav, which was actually the historical prince’s real name. Since Dracula is often viewed as a creature symbolizing lust and unquenched desire, it is perhaps unsurprising that The Un-Dead owes as much in tone to contemporary romance novels as to the post-Anne Rice vampire epics. The eroticism that merely coils beneath the surface of Dracula is overt here, complete with actual bodice-ripping. The violence is also more explicit, befitting a more modern audience, and ramps up throughout the course of the novel. At times it verges on gruesome, but thankfully touches of humor, however dark, manage to save these scenes and offer the appropriate respite. At one point in the novel, a man feels the strong urge to vomit upon realizing he has been gutted, but then of course he remembers that he (quite literally) no longer has the stomach for such action. As for the prose itself, the initial attempt to capture the Victorian style of writing embodied in a letter from Mina to her son is a bit clunky; however readers who persevere through this experiment in writing will ultimately be rewarded with a breathless narrative rife with twists and turns. The writing is spirited, if not inspired, and the story will quickly capture readers’ interests and imaginations. The Un-Dead is a slow boil that eventually builds up a good deal of steam and ambient mist, although perhaps a “red fog” would be more apt. Apparently it’s true what they say: it’s hard to keep a good vampire down! o Eve Zibart was born on Halloween, and her license plate reads “vampyr.”
A curious quartet for the spooky season By Michael Alec Rose eneath all the fun, Halloween upholds its spooky essence. On a single October night, we celebrate the darkest side of ourselves: our fundamental desire to transcend our natures, to exceed mortal limits, to claim unwarranted power. We let our children don horrific masks and gather loot from neighbors whom they barely see for the rest of the year. As a community, we gleefully become monsters. Deeper and more durable than trick-or-treating are the delights of ghost stories and horror tales. So many of the classic works in the genre, Frankenstein and Dracula above all, set into high gear the unbridled Halloween impulse to break through the bonds of mortality and assume mastery over life and death. Under the sway of Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker, we seize for real the power to which Victor Frankenstein and Count Dracula fictitiously pretend. Inert matter (ink on a page) comes to shocking life, and that which is dead (the author, for one thing) is summoned from the grave to haunt us and feed upon the lifeblood of our imaginations. Year in and year out, the horrors are told and retold, retuned, rediscovered and revamped (or revampired). The books recommended here offer a splendid quartet of such variations.
A monster collaboration Most diehard fans of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein come to it in its third edition of 1831. Now, English professor Charles Robinson rips away the veil of the novel’s origins and takes us back to the thrilling night in 1816 when two of the greatest living poets—Lord Byron and Percy Shelley—joined in contest with Shelley’s wife Mary and their friend Dr. Polidori to devise the scariest ghost story. Without any doubt, Mary took the laurel with her story of a “Modern Prometheus” and went on to expand the terrifying premise into her famous novel, first published in 1818. So far, this history is common knowledge. But Professor Robinson digs yet deeper in The Original Frankenstein (Vintage, $14, 464 pages, ISBN 9780307474421). Through close examination of the manuscripts, he has been able to determine that the novel came into being as a sustained and extraordinarily intimate collaboration between Mary and Percy, with Percy’s hand literally evident on almost every page. Feminists need not be concerned: Robinson’s research is not another patriarchal theft of a woman’s achievement. Indeed, the professor gives us Mary all on her own in the second half of his volume— two Frankensteins for the price of one—and it is clear that the wife’s raw, “unhusbanded” text is the more forceful one. But in the other text, Robinson allows us to bear witness to a marriage of true minds. The inspiring collaboration between Mary and Percy is the greatest possible antidote to Victor Frankenstein’s solitary
and overweening ambition.
Rewriting history—and fiction Peter Ackroyd seeks no such remission from Dr. Frankenstein’s colossal error. On the contrary, the acclaimed British novelist and biographer swings the monstrous electrical lever of his fiction to its maximum position, committing every conceivable historical outrage in the process. Leave it to this most distinguished living biographer of British poets to fabricate such a delectable conflation of history and imaginative literature. In Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (Nan A. Talese $26.95, 368 pages, ISBN 9780385530842), the infamous narrator becomes the inseparable chum of (who else?) Percy Shelley at Oxford, and Mary comes to love Victor as a trusted friend. The Shelleys inadvertently abet Victor’s unholy investigations into the founding principle of life, and in the end—ha! Did you think I would tell you? However inured you may think you are to the shocks of horror fiction, Ackroyd will violate your defenses with his diabolical intelligence and his uncanny empathy for both reallife and imaginary characters.
The vampire authority Anyone who has had the good fortune to visit Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan knows what a paradoxically overpopulated and uncluttered paradise he has created for book lovers. The very same qualities inform Penzler’s work as an editor. His latest collection, The Vampire Archives (Vintage, $25, 1056 pages, ISBN 9780307473899), presents an unprecedented cornucopia of stories, ranging from pure pulp (Stephen King) to high art (D.H. Lawrence). Even so, the experience of reading the anthology feels like a walk in a beautifully landscaped cemetery, perfectly laid out with varying tactile delights and far vistas. The gigantic bulk of this book is counterbalanced by its lucid editorial touches, including a 110-page bibliography of vampire literature.
Sibling love gone awry Douglas Clegg has been busy building his own 21st-century empire of supernatural fiction (check out his state-of-the-art website). His latest novel, Isis (Vanguard, $14.95, 128 pages, ISBN 9781593155407), is a feat of old-fashioned storytelling. When 16-year-old Iris Villiers loses her beloved older brother in a tragic accident, she will do almost anything to get him back. But, as any wise reader knows, summoning the dead back to Earth against their will often has grave consequences. This brief chiller should be read aloud, in a happy company ready to be distressed, while a surplus of Halloween candy sweetens Clegg’s bitter little masterpiece. o Michael Alec Rose is a composer who teaches at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.
Andy Williams: nice guy makes good By Pat H. Broeske His very name brings to mind Squaresville—thanks to that pressed white collar worn over the ubiquitous sweater, his Midwestern, nice-guy demeanor and songs that are never going to burn down the house. But give Andy Williams credit: he’s worked long and hard to make things look, feel and sound so darn easy. The man with the mellow tenor tells how it was done—charting the good times and the bad—in the impressively detailed and introspective Moon River and Me. It’s no milquetoast memoir. Anecdotes are candid: Sinatra’s cruelty; Lawrence Welk’s puritanism; those innocent young Osmonds; Judy Garland forgetting the lyrics to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”; Williams’ affair with the much older Kay Thompson. Owning up to his failings, Williams was such an absentee husband and father that one of their kids didn’t even notice when he and wife Claudine Longet divorced. Longet was later embroiled in a scandal involving the shooting death of her skier lover; Williams stood by throughout the ordeal. That’s the closest he’s come to negative press, though he’s been in the presence of tragedy: he was at the Ambassador Hotel the night close friend Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Now 81, he’s been performing since childhood, when his Moon River and Me determined father created the Williams Brothers quartet. By Andy Williams He was eight when the group segued from church socials Viking and weddings, in their hometown of Wall Lake, Iowa, to a $25.95, 320 pages ISBN 9780670021178 Des Moines radio show. Williams and his brothers went from radio to movies Also available on audio (bit parts at MGM, in the heyday of musicals) to ritzy Manhattan club dates. Finally, Williams went solo, playing small clubs, the county fair circuit, gigs in Vegas and Tahoe, before moving to the recording studio (shrewdly, Williams even became a label owner), television, concerts, and on to Branson, Missouri, where today he entertains audiences at his own theater, named for his signature tune, “Moon River.” Now that’s a career. No wonder Williams suddenly seems very cool. Even when he’s wearing those sweaters. o Journalist-biographer Pat H. Broeske’s favorite Williams tune is “Dear Heart,” from the 1964 movie of the same name.
A SIZZLING NEW TRILOGY FROM NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
Can true love defeat the family curse? Or are the sexy Corwin cousins destined to lose their women and their fortunes…?
Patterson’s first foray into history 978-0-373-77401-2
Available now wherever books are sold!
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Martin Brady Best-selling author James Patterson has multiple manuscripts on the drawing board at any given time, but when he decided to write about King Tut, Patterson suspended all projects and teamed up with respected journalist Martin Dugard to craft this “nonfiction thriller” that aims to unravel an age-old mystery. The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King essentially divides into two alternating historical sections, with scenes shifting readily from 1492 B.C. (with the Tut lineage, life and death outlined) to the first decades of the 20th century, when excavator/Egyptologist par excellence Howard Carter finally discovered the young monarch’s elusive tomb. Patterson and Dugard exploit their own extensive research into the available historical facts, then extrapolate accordingly, coming to dramatic conclusions that fly in the face of some official speculations. The Tut story emerges as the fictionalized true-crime aspect of the book, while the accounts of the eccentric but determined Carter are based on more readily verifiable facts. With a simple storytelling style that proves accessible whether focusing on the factual or fanciful, the authors ef- The Murder of fectively portray the exotic ancient world, including colorful King Tut insights into Tut’s brief reign and the soap-opera-like events By James Patterson of his rise and fall, especially as involves his stepmother & Martin Dugard Nefertiti and his marriage to his half-sister AnkhesenpaatLittle, Brown en. The Carter story evokes the atmosphere of an Indiana $26.99, 352 pages Jones movie (but without the violence). Occasionally, Pat- ISBN 9780316034043 terson interrupts his two-pronged tale to fill his readers in on certain elements of the writing and research process, these tidbits shedding some light on his passion for getting at the truth about Tut’s fate. Patterson is due to return in November with a new Alex Cross novel; in the meantime, this deft blend of antiquity and whodunit should interest his many fans. o Martin Brady writes from Nashville.
Atwood revisits the apocalypse
Grief and awakening on Mt. Kenya
By Stephenie Harrison Oryx & Crake fans rejoice! Margaret Atwood triumphantly returns with The Year of the Flood, in which readers are once more catapulted into the smoking embers of a world that faintly echoes our own. After centuries of rampant moral and environmental exploitation, the Earth has been decimated—perhaps beyond repair—by a “waterless flood,” one that comes in the form of a plague and leaves few survivors standing. The Year of the Flood occurs in parallel with Oryx & Crake, meaning the two books can be read in any order. This time, we trace the fall of the human race through the eyes of two female narrators, Toby and Ren. When the flood hit, these two women were members of God’s Gardeners, an organization focused on sustainability, its principles founded in early Christian scripture updated with a modern-day vegan twist. Through interwoven, retrospective narratives, Toby and Ren share how they each came to join the Gardeners, and how they witnessed the eventual crumble and collapse of civilization. Living as they do in a world where healthcare corporations are actively spreading disease so they can profit from providing the cures, prisoners are sentenced to Battle Royale-style death matches in which winners get their freedom, and losers are brutally slaughtered, and the only animals to walk the Earth are genetically engineered The Year of splices, it is only too easy to appreciate Atwood’s indictment the Flood of our own 21st-century world. By Margaret Atwood At times this skewering can feel heavy-handed, as if the Nan A. Talese storytelling has taken a backseat to environmental and cor- $26.95, 448 pages porate whistle-blowing, but even so, no one can deny that ISBN 9780385528771 Atwood’s message remains chilling, timely and necessary. Also available on audio For all the portents of doom and destruction caused by our own hands, Atwood is at her very best when she is focusing on the human struggle to survive, despite the odds. Above all else, readers will be moved by Toby and Ren’s story; in a strange land, these women feel like family. The Year of the Flood is sure to thrill fans of speculative fiction, while also converting an entirely new wave of Atwood devotees. o Stephenie Harrison writes from Nashville.
By Eliza Borné There comes a point in Anita Shreve’s latest novel, A Change in Altitude, when we start to wonder when the plagues are coming—the succession of unfortunate events that befall the protagonist are that bad. It would ruin the plot to describe exactly what she must withstand, but suffice it to say that there is death, looting, political corruption and strands of adultery. It is a testament to Shreve’s storytelling that this soap opera of disaster does not come off sounding contrived. In fact, prepare to cancel all your appointments as you race through this dramatic saga set during Kenya in the late 1970s. Americans Margaret and Patrick are in Kenya for Patrick’s work; a physician, he is researching equatorial diseases at Nairobi Hospital and offering free clinics around the country. When the novel starts, the couple has been married for five months. Margaret, a 28-year-old photographer, is eager to find something to do while her husband works at the hospital. She is eventually hired as a freelance photographer for the Kenya Morning Tribune (which, in a moment of rather visceral foreshadowing, is first introduced to us as the bloodsoaked wrapper of dinner’s horsemeat.) With two other couples, Margaret and Patrick go on a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya. The group is mismatched in terms of climbing experience and marital hap- A Change piness, and one of the climbing party’s rage and desire to in Altitude show off causes a terrible accident. Guilt haunts Margaret for By Anita Shreve the remainder of the novel, and her marriage with Patrick Little, Brown becomes fragile and pained. It becomes a tremendous effort $26.99, 320 pages for them to “break through the clot that was thickening just ISBN 9780316020701 Also available on audio below the surface of their civility and pleasantries.” Shreve, whose novel The Pilot’s Wife was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club, can get cheesy with her flowery prose. (“He took her hand. He often took Margaret’s hand, in public as well as in private. It meant, I am suddenly thinking of you.”) This time, we can forgive Shreve the melodrama because the story is so enthralling. The mountains Margaret must climb—literally, and figuratively—are difficult ones. Readers will be eager to learn if she successfully scales the peak. o Eliza Borné writes from Nashville. The highest “mountain” she has ever climbed was in a state park in Arkansas.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
John Bell Hood’s tormented journey
“O’Donohue deftly weaves clever crimesolving with valuable quilting tips.” —Publishers Weekly
PLUME Penguin Group (USA) Inc. www.penguin.com
By Amy Scribner Part historical novel, part love letter to New Orleans, A Separate Country is the remarkable new novel by Robert Hicks, author of the bestseller The Widow of the South. Based on the real life of Confederate General John Bell Hood, the novel imagines Hood in the years after the war, crippled and trying to find peace despite his infamy. He ends up in New Orleans, a city both beautiful and corrupt, peaceful and filled with the cacophony of drinking, gambling and any other vice one can dream up. Hood sets up shop as a cotton trader, but without any real business skills, he fails quickly. He spends years trying to write a book in defense of his war experiences, but his only real success is in marrying Anna Marie Hennan, a young Creole woman he meets at a ball: “I saw that if I had gone through my life intent on the ugly and difficult (as I had!), shedding every delicate and perfect part of my soul like so many raindrops, Anna Marie must have followed behind me gathering what I sloughed off so that one day I might sit in a ballroom in New Orleans and see for myself what I had lost.” After several happy but increasingly impoverished years during which they have 11 children, Anna Marie and the A Separate Hoods’ oldest daughter, Lydia, die during a Yellow Fever epi- Country demic. Hood, himself stricken with fever, calls his friend Eli to his deathbed and gives him the manuscript of a book he’s By Robert Hicks written—one not about war but about his life after the war. Grand Central $25.99, 432 pages Eli also discovers Anna Marie’s secret journals, and he pieces ISBN 9780446581646 together the story of their extraordinary, tough life together. Also available on audio Hicks once again delivers a lovely, richly detailed tale pulled partly from history, partly from his own imagination. He captures the enchanting, dark, humid soul of post-war New Orleans, a time when anything was possible but nothing—at least for one Confederate—was easy. o Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.
WHODUNIT? Let’s hear it for the girls
Mystery of the month
This is a big month for the women of mystery, whose entries in Whodunit? outnumber their male counterparts’ by three-to-one. First up is Sara Paretsky, whose V.I. Warshawski series has entertained readers for the better part of two decades. Her latest, Hardball (Putnam, $26.95, 464 pages, ISBN 9780399155932), is the first Warshawski novel since 2005’s Fire Sale. Hardball finds our Chicago private eye hard at work at the most thankless of detecting jobs—tracing a long-missing person. This case promises to be exceptionally thorny, in that the subject, Lamont Gadden, a black activist, has been missing since the Chicago riots of 1966, following a controversial speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A homicide took place in the crowd that fateful day, BY BRUCE TIERNEY and Gadden subsequently disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. As the case develops, Warshawski makes two startling discoveries: 1) there are powerful folks who, for some reason, badly want this case to go away; and 2) her beloved deceased father, by most accounts a stand-up cop, was one of the arresting officers of the aforementioned murder suspect, and was apparently involved in the torture-induced confession that followed. (I should note here that the torture technique known as waterboarding sounds pretty tame in comparison to what is outlined here—let the faint of heart be warned.) Paretsky’s outspoken political views on events both past and present will engage like-minded readers, and likely enrage those of the opposing camp, but it cannot be denied that she is a storyteller of the first order.
Modern mysteries, unlike their early 20th-century counterparts, tend to identify the villain early on (see examples in my column, at left), then go on to show how the clever detective sorts through clues (and red herrings) to reach the same conclusion that has already been revealed to the reader. That is, of course, not a hard and fast rule, but it seems to be the case nowadays more often than not. Sophie Hannah’s suspense novels, by contrast, reach back to the days of Agatha Christie, where the identity of the miscreant is hidden until the final pages of the book. Hannah’s latest, The Wrong Mother (Penguin, $15, 432 pages, ISBN 9780143116301), spins the tale of Sally Thorning, a none-too-likable working mom, and her strange, albeit libidinous, encounter with businessman Mark Bretherick while on holiday. The tryst was to be a one-time affair, as both were (purportedly) happily married, and indeed, a year has gone by without further contact. Then one day, out of the blue, Sally hears Mark’s name on the news; his wife and daughter have been brutally murdered, and there is one other troubling fact: the person pictured on the news program is not the man she knows as Mark Bretherick. His wife and daughter have the same names as her Rendezvous Romeo, his address is the same; everything matches but the face. She can’t very well go to the police with this information, as she has never confessed her amorous sins to her husband, so an anonymous note to the authorities would seem to be the order of the day. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say, and Sally soon finds herself a victim of attempted murder (a creative attempt at that, pushed from a crowded sidewalk into the path of a moving bus). Woven into the story are the final entries of the dead woman’s diary, a deeply disturbing narrative markedly at odds with her reportedly happy life. The Wrong Mother is an un-put-downable read, and as a $15 paperback, the bargain mystery of the year! o —BRUCE TIERNEY
A killer returns Inspector Wexford returns in Ruth Rendell’s latest, The Monster in the Box (Scribner, $26, 304 pages, ISBN 9781439150337). A chain of seemingly unrelated murders hits close to the Wexford home when the family’s elderly gardener is slain for no apparent reason. Wexford suspects a wealthy self-made businessman, Eric Targo, who happened to be in the vicinity of the scenes of a pair of homicides early in Wexford’s career. He has no proof against Targo, and when he articulates his reasoning, even to himself, it sounds painfully thin. His biggest reason for suspicion is that the murders stopped when the man moved away years ago, and they resumed shortly after he moved back to Wexford’s town. Still, the nagging feeling will not go away. Moreover, Targo knows that he is the subject of Wexford’s scrutiny, and he misses no chance to taunt and irritate the usually taciturn inspector. And so the cat and mouse game begins, although at times it is difficult to tell just which one is the cat and which the mouse, especially when Targo’s prized pet lion escapes his private menagerie and goes on the rampage, terrorizing the local townspeople. Rendell is in fine form (when hasn’t she been?), as is Wexford, and The Monster in the Box will undoubtedly (and justifiably) rise quickly on bestseller lists both here and in the U.K.
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author
The lone male presence in this month’s column (besides, of course, mine) is that of British author Mark Billingham, whose Death Message (Harper, $25.99, 464 pages, ISBN 9780061432750) serves up one of the more original premises in recent memory: a killer sends a text message to police inspector Tom Thorne shortly before each new murder, with a photo or video of his prey in the moments before their deaths. We learn the killer’s identity early on, as does the police inspector, but there is precious little that can be done either to apprehend the suspect or to prevent further killings, as the perpetrator is both clever and motivated. His victims are those he sees as having wronged him, landing him in jail for a crime he did not commit, and then arranging for the “accidental” deaths of his girlfriend and young son. So far, his tally includes a couple of scruffy motorcycle gang leaders and a pair of bent cops, arguably no great loss to society as a whole, but Thorne is chilled to the bone by the identity of the next victim: his friend and co-worker, pathologist Phil Kendricks. Somehow, Thorne must stray far afield of normal police protocols to engage the killer on his own turf, risking both his career and his life in the process. Death Message is just the ticket for the compulsive page-turner, and it will be the rare reader indeed who can resist skipping ahead to see who will be the last man standing! o
FBI proﬁler Maggie O’Dell discovers a special brand of terror— made in the USA. “Kava peppers the breathless action with enough intel to make the premise scarily real.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
On sale now.
www.MIRABooks.com • www.AlexKava.com
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
A pretext for murder
Finding the real Anne Frank
The downside of positive thinking
By James Summerville Hers is a face recognized around the world, 65 years after her death in one of Hitler’s concentration camps. Because her picture survived, she stands for the faceless millions who were herded, stripped, whipped and forced into the gas chambers. Her personal struggle came to life in the journal she kept while her family hid in a cramped attic from the Nazi patrols. In Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, novelist Francine Prose aims to rescue Anne Frank from the mythmakers of Broadway and Hollywood, who turned her story into a “universal” one about tolerance and human goodness. She excoriates the play and the film, which portrayed a naïve nitwit and downplayed Anne’s Jewishness. Prose sends us back instead to Anne’s book, The Diary of a Young Girl, insisting on Anne’s prodigious literary gifts, her religious faith and her understanding of the devils who had taken over Europe. With extensive quotes and paraphrases from the attic chronicle, she calls attention to the teen’s powers of observation. Especially noteworthy are the depiction of her parents and others who shared the closed cramped space, Anne’s blooming puberty—and the fear of discovery, arrest and death. Anne Frank Still, says Prose, the proof of Frank’s genius is her ca- By Francine Prose pacity for revision. Anne reworked her daily entries to Harper sharpen, clarify or set in relief details of the quotidian life $24.99, 336 pages under the eaves. Prose writes, “Anne can render a moment ISBN 9780061430794 in which everyone is talking simultaneously, acting or reacting, an example of barely contained chaos that poses a challenge for even the practiced writer.” The most compelling chapters of this study are “the afterlife.” Otto Frank, Anne’s father, recovered the diary and saw it into publication, which made him a wealthy man. But the saccharine adaptations from it falsified the profundity of Anne’s work, according to Prose. The book, and only the book, can depict a brilliant young writer’s acute observation of a world gone mad. o Jim Summerville writes from Dickson, Tennessee.
By Rebecca Steinitz What could possibly be wrong with being positive? A lot of things, says Barbara Ehrenreich, in her articulate and deftly argued new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Ehrenreich employs her usual mix of research, personal anecdote and incisive commentary to demolish the claims of positive thinking. Known popularly as the Law of Attraction, and promoted by books like The Secret and motivational speakers like Tony Robbins, positive thinking holds that our thoughts shape our reality, and optimism, confidence and affirmation are the route to health, wealth and happiness. Tracing the roots of what she terms this “mass delusion” to Emerson, Christian Science and the 19th-century New Thought movement, Ehrenreich reveals how contemporary America’s focus on positive thinking has set us up for failure by obscuring our material realities, blinding us to risk and fomenting a self-blame which ignores the deleterious actions of others (like corporate raiders who sanction layoffs in search of increased profits). According to Ehrenreich, positive thinking has permeated our society, taking over medicine, corporate America, Bright-Sided religion and even academia, where the new—and unprov- By Barbara en—field of positive psychology is putting a scholarly spin Ehrenreich on self-help. Whether she is eviscerating the purported Metropolitan evidence that good attitude helps breast cancer patients $23, 2456 pages survive (it doesn’t), or lampooning the empty claims of ISBN 9780805087499 motivational speakers, Ehrenreich is clear-eyed and im- Also available on audio pervious to cant as she pursues her prey. Like any polemic, Bright-Sided occasionally overreaches, especially when Ehrenreich blames the Iraq war and the current economic collapse on positive thinking run amok—such large-scale events never have a single cause. Overall, though, Ehrenreich offers a convincing critique and an alternative route to happiness that resonates in these difficult times. o Rebecca Steinitz is a writer in Arlington, Massachusetts.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
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From the bestselling author of The Island comes a new novel of civil war, flamenco, and Spanish passion.
Leap of faith
For Mitch Albom, midlife doubts spark a spiritual journey
hardcover, $35 ISBN 9780807832738
During the 1960s and 1970s, folklorist William Ferris toured his home state of Mississippi, documenting African Americans as they spoke about and performed musical traditions that form the authentic roots of the blues. Illustrated with Ferris’s photographs Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues features more than 20 interviews and includes a CD and DVD.
hardcover, $25 ISBN 9780807832943
The Price of Defiance by Charles W. Eagles is indisputably the definitive history of James H. Meredith’s historic desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962. Eagles’s detailed and compelling account of one of the landmark events in the African American freedom struggle is scholarly history of prize-winning quality.” —David J. Garrow
“This sweet book is more than recipes. Every dish has personality beyond its taste thanks to colorful introductions by Foy Allen Edelman that include notes from the cook whose recipe it is. These extra ingredients add flavor that makes Sweet Carolina a joy to read as well as tempting to cook from.”—Jane and Michael Stern hardcover, $30 ISBN 9780807832615
© GLENN TRIEST
Michael F. Allen analyzes the effects that activism by POW and MIA families had on U.S. politics before and after the Vietnam War’s official end in Until the Last Man Comes Home. He argues that this activism prolonged hostility even as the search for the missing became the basis for closer ties between the two countries in the 1990s.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Jay MacDonald uccess hasn’t gone to Mitch Albom’s head. It’s gone wearing Bermuda shorts and sandals. He just looked like a goofto his heart. Fifteen years ago, Albom was already the ball! I didn’t think that was allowed! I thought he slept in a robe. best-known sportswriter in Detroit, having worked his Here he was, saying, come into my world, it’s not that strange.” way into the majors by writing for Sports Illustrated and the The rabbi helps reconnect the author with his faith through Philadelphia Inquirer. He would go on to conquer other media exchanges like this: as a radio talk show host, ESPN “But so many people wage wars in analyst, screenwriter and playwright. God’s name. Successful? Sure. But fulfilled? ‘God,’ the Reb scolded, ‘does not Not so much. want such killings to go on.’ “I was sort of living neutrally; Then why hasn’t it stopped? you’re not in reverse and you’re not He lifted his eyebrows. in drive,” he says, choosing an apt ‘Because man does.’ ” Motor City metaphor. “If you would Between Saturdays with Albert, have asked my position on faith, I Albom skillfully weaves in a second wouldn’t have said I was an atheist narrative about Henry Covington, or agnostic; of course I believe in whose journey through a hellish God and I was raised with the faith youth of poverty and drug addicand that’s it. But if you drilled down tion ultimate led him to establish a little further and asked how often the I Am My Brother’s Keeper do you go to service? Uh, once a ministry and homeless shelter in year. How often do you get involved Detroit’s inner city. in anything having to do with your When Albom drops by the faith? Never. How often do you church to write a feature story, he pick up a Bible and read through it? finds a ministry held together by Never.” faith and charity but little else. A In 1995, in quick succession, he mitch albom gaping hole in the church roof ulmarried Janine Sabino and recontimately forced the congregation to nected with Morrie Schwartz, his construct a makeshift tent of plasformer college professor who was tic sheeting in one corner to enable “When times get tough, you start dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. The services to be held. life lessons learned from his dying Covington’s courage and his mentor would form the basis for congregation’s dedication nudged to drift back to something you Tuesdays with Morrie, which spent Albom to an ecumenical awakenan astounding four years on the New ing. once had and you wonder why York Times bestseller list. “Before I started going through Morrie did more than catapult all this, I did not like it when other you let it go in the first place.” Mitch to fame and fortune (part of people started talking about their which he used to pay off Morrie’s religion, especially if it wasn’t mine. medical bills). It also threw open deI felt almost offended; don’t push serted locker rooms in his heart. what you believe on me, you know? “Tuesdays with Morrie kind of pushed me in the direction to And when people of my own faith talked about it, I was kind of begin examining a bigger picture of life than just making money embarrassed, too: don’t overdo this, don’t call attention to yourand accomplishing things,” Albom admits in a telephone interself. I felt uncomfortable in both directions,” he says. view. “But I don’t anymore. I realized that you can be around people Following a couple of inspirational novels (The Five People You of faith and you don’t have to turn into a zombie. You don’t have Meet in Heaven; For One More Day), Albom hits one out of the to eat communion wafers or put on a yarmulke. It’s just one elpark once again with Have a Little Faith: A True Story, which grew ement of people’s lives and you can talk to them about it and from the author’s close encounters with two remarkable men of celebrate it.” very different faiths. Though Have a Little Faith was eight years in the making, AlHave a Little Faith opens with an unusual request. An aging bom admits its message could not be more timely. Albert Lewis, who had been Albom’s rabbi growing up in subur“I do think it’s fortuitous. When times get tough and money ban New Jersey, asks his successful congregant to write his eulogy. disappears and people get fired and the things you assumed were To do so properly, Albom must get to know the man behind the going to be there forever are not there, you start to drift back to vestments, little knowing it would take eight years to prepare for something you once had and you wonder why you let it go in the the inevitable. first place,” he says. As Albom makes pilgrimages to “the Reb’s” suburban home Albom uses his success to power three charities: A Time to for Morrie-like visits, he slowly grows to love and understand the Heal, which focuses on community projects; The Dream Fund, man he had feared as a kid—a loving which provides scholarships for underserved children; and S.A.Y. husband and father who suffered the (Super All Year) Detroit, which serves the needs of the homeless. loss of a daughter yet remained unBut Albom refuses to take the credit, or to use his success to shakable in his faith. promote himself. “When I knocked on his door the “My attitude, for better or worse since these books started to first time, he opened it and he was become what they’ve become, is I’m happy for them, I embrace them, but I don’t need to change who I am. I like who I am here. I don’t need to leave Detroit and go and try to elevate myself. I live Have a Little Faith in the same house, we have the same phone number and I have By Mitch Albom the same job as I did before Tuesdays with Morrie.” Hyperion Would he wish a little faith upon his hapless Detroit Lions? $23.99, 272 pages “Yeah,” he chuckles, “along with a little defense.” o ISBN 9780786868728 Also available on audio Jay MacDonald writes faithfully from Austin, Texas.
north carolina Press hardcover, $35 ISBN 9780807833254
The future of our world, page by page By Lindsey Schwoeri In his provocative, vibrant 10th novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers once again explores the impact of technology and scientific discovery on our lives. When melancholic failed writer Russell Stone agrees to teach a creative nonfiction course at a local college, his students confirm his worst fears about the future—in a world where the private is public, writing is becoming less an act of reflection than of exhibitionism. But one student captivates him: Thassadit Amzwar, an Algerian refugee whose unwavering joy earns her the nickname of “Miss Generosity” from her peers. Thinking Thassa may be bipolar, delusional or worse, Russell consults college psychologist Candace Weld, who suggests that Thassa might be “hyperthermic,” or excessively happy. When Thassa’s exceptional capacity for joy comes to the attention of geneticist-entrepreneur Thomas Kurton—who is on the verge of announcing the genotype for happiness— Russell and Candace are powerless to help her. Thassa finds herself at the center of a raging public debate about genetic modification. Does it signify progress, improving our quality of life as so many scientific advancements have, or will Generosity it do away with identity itself? Will it provide even greater By Richard Powers advantages to the children of the rich? Will we be testing Farrar, Straus each other’s DNA in job interviews, and before we get mar- $25, 304 pages ried, to figure out just what it is we’re getting into? Heralded ISBN 9780374161149 by some as a living prophecy and derided by others for her role in ending human nature as we know it, Thassa begins to bend and break under the strain, changing the lives of those around her forever. Though at times Generosity feels overly deliberate—it’s no secret that the book is carefully organized around a particular ideological debate—it is never didactic. While Kurton may seem the obvious villain, he is guilty of nothing but exuberance, and of belief in that greatest and most basic of human narratives: “that the future will be slightly better than the present.” The beauty of this book lies in Powers’ ability to capture human passion—for art, for scientific discovery and for one another. o Lindsey Schwoeri writes from Brooklyn, New York.
New York, New York
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Jillian Quint In Jonathan Lethem’s latest offering, readers are once again thrust into a genre-bending, category-defying and humorously disjointed New York City. In Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude, Lethem explored his favorite outer borough through the lens of noir and fantasy—and now he turns his attentions to Manhattan proper with a surrealistic eye that owes as much to Saul Bellow and James Baldwin as it does to Pynchon, Baudrillard and DeLillo. The narrator of Chronic City, Chase Insteadman, is a former child actor and popular Manhattan socialite who has recently attained notoriety for his personal life—his astronaut fiancée is trapped in the ether, stuck in a layer of loworbit mines on the International Space Station. In the midst of this tragedy, Chase meets and befriends Perkus Tooth, an intellectual music critic whose quest for drugs, art and truth rivals the urban experience that Chase has always known. Perkus forces our hero to ask what is real, and what is the product of the myth that is Manhattan? Chase’s Manhattan is almost—but not quite—our own. Rather, it is a secluded island in which the downtown lies hidden behind a mysterious fog (as close as we get to any 9/11 discussion), an escaped tiger roams the Upper East Side and the rich outbid each other in eBay auctions for mysti- Chronic City cal artifacts. In short, it’s a setting ripe for paranoia, absurd By Jonathan Lethem comedy and a very real exploration of the problems of truth Doubleday and trauma. The Twin Towers have not fallen, but still the $27.95, 480 pages city is in crisis. ISBN 9780385518635 In many ways, this psychological and sociological investigation makes Chronic City Lethem’s most stimulating book yet. That said, it is long and meandering—occasionally more fun to think about than to actually slough through. Fortunately, Lethem is a stellar writer, and his prose electrifies. Moreover, the sheer ambition and scope of this new novel is exciting and innovative. Who knows what Lethem will try next, but we’re certain it will be anything but the sameold same-old. o 14 Jillian Quint is an editor at a publishing house in New York. She lives in Brooklyn.
THE SPOKEN WORD The best laid plans George Dawes Green, out of the bestseller limelight for many years, has surfaced again with Ravens (Hachette Audio, $34.98, 9 hours unabridged, ISBN 9781600246258), a suspenseful cautionary tale that makes the oft-quoted, rarely heeded biblical admonition that “the love of money is root of all evil” all too real. When Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, two prospectless, bored guys from Ohio, on their way Key West to jump-start their lives, stop at a convenience store in Brunswick, Georgia, Shaw overhears a snippet of a cell phone call and sees a way to fortune and fame with a foolproof scam, backed by a chutzpah-laden dose of intimidation. The Boatwrights, an ordinary Brunswick family, have just won the $316 BY SUKEY HOWARD million lottery jackpot, but before the elation, let alone the reality, can set in, Shaw, the alpha male of this less-than-dynamic duo, is in their living room with an offer they can’t refuse—give me half your winnings or my blindly devoted, stop-at-nothing sidekick will start shooting your extended family. True or just a clever ruse? The Boatwrights don’t know, but as the days go by, a strange combo of fear, greed, desire and power, plus Shaw’s newfound Messianic aspirations, brings them all to a dangerous place and an unsettling denouement. Narrators Robert Petkoff and Maggi-Meg Reed capture the voices and the rollercoaster emotions perfectly.
That je ne sais quoi What is it that French women have? What gives them that allure, that easy edge in the savvy, sexy, smart department that we, in the great American melting pot, can’t quite put our finger on? The answer to these conundrums are, at last, to be found in Debra Ollivier’s sassy, clever, clear-eyed, informed new demythifying manual, What French Women Know: About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind (Penguin Audio, $34.95, 7 hours unabridged, ISBN 9780143144502), which she reads with her own brand of joie de vivre. Ollivier, an American married to a Frenchman who has lived in Paris for over a decade, has the advantage of being a consummate insider with an outsider’s cool candor. She knows how to look at the oo-la-la stereotypes and tease out the reality, how to look at French women in the context of French culture—and she makes you think about how you think about the essential matters of the heart and mind. Whether you want to go Gallic all the way, or just add a soupçon of French femininity, this is a good place to start. Have fun!
Audio of the month Stieg Larsson’s first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was an international blockbuster and his second in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire (Random House Audio, $39.95, 18.5 hours unabridged, ISBN 9780739384176), narrated by the very talented Simon Vance, is as good, if not better. The oddest of odd couples—and the most appealing in current thriller-dillerdom—who, somehow, made it through their debut appearance, are back. But Mikael Blomkvist, the middle-aged crusading journalist for Millennium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander, the fierce, fiercely self-reliant, fiercely private, fiercely antisocial, doll-sized, 20-something bundle of contradictions and complexities, and hacker extraordinaire, don’t see each other face to face until the last agonizing scene. Just before an explosive exposé, names and all, of sex trafficking in Sweden, is about to be published by Millennium, the investigative reporter and his research partner are brutally gunned down. The murder weapon has Salander’s fingerprints on it. Blomkvist, sure that she’s not the killer, leads his own investigation, as the police, sure she is the killer, mount a massive pursuit. Chief suspect, Salander must become chief sleuth, and as pieces of her harrowing, haunted childhood begin to surface and mesh with her new problems, the former victim must become active avenger. It’s a wild ride, totally engrossing—a must for smart fans of smart thrillers. o
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A memoir from movie legend Patrick Swayze and his wife of over 30 years, Lisa Niemi, about Patrick’s remarkable career and brave battle against pancreatic cancer.
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Spencer Johnson’s #1 bestselling phenomenon, Who Moved My Cheese? and his latest parable, Peaks and Valleys are now together in one great audio collection.
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Read by the author #1 New York Times bestselling author and Pastor to millions around the world, Joel Osteen teaches listeners how to seize the moment and recognize that they have the power to shape their lives and their destinies, starting right now in It’s Your Time.
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From Jeannette Walls, the author of the wildly successful memoir The Glass Castle, comes a spellbinding novel of her grandmother that is destined to become a classic.
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A different sort of God book
Bluegrass star recalls life on the road
By Will Ayers God has enjoyed quite the hot streak on the bestseller lists lately. Or rather, books about God have, specifically those about whether or not such a thing exists, with ample ink given to how misguided believers or atheists are, depending on which author you turn to. Now Karen Armstrong has joined the debate over religion’s sway in modern society. The Case for God attempts to cut pop atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens off at the pass, exposing their attack on fundamentalist religion, particularly Christianity, as a wild goose chase. True religion, says Armstrong in a level-headed, cool tone, has nothing to do with intelligent design or predestination or any kind of dogma. She asserts that what most of us think of as religion emerged in the 17th century, as advances in science steered religious practice into something more cerebral than corporeal, and that for most of human history, “God” meant something very different than what it means now. For Armstrong, herself a Catholic nun and atheist at different points in her life, God is a symbol, not an om- The Case for God nipotent ruler. Religion is a matter of deed, not belief. To By Karen Armstrong prove that point, The Case for God begins way back at the Knopf dawn of civilization, examining the sacred implications $27.95, 432 pages of cave paintings in Europe, and follows the divine thread ISBN 9780307269188 through several cultures. What emerges is a picture of Also available on audio several cultures that understood God not as a singular entity, but as an unknowable, mysterious essence. Despite her nebulous claim, Armstrong’s attention to detail is impressive, and the pace of her argument is well-plotted. But if you’re looking for Armstrong to take a side in the God wars, don’t hold your breath. She opts for a third way, away from the blustery invective. Religion, she concludes, is a matter of silence, because God by nature is outside the realm of human comprehension. Words simply fail. That might sound like a cop-out, but when you consider her point, isn’t silence something we could use a bit more of? o Will Ayers is a writer in Nashville.
By Edward Morris In the tight-lipped tradition of Greta Garbo, J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley has been verbally parsimonious in disclosing details about his life and art—until now. Here he opens up, talking freely about his shadowy absentee father, his immensely gifted but hard-drinking older brother, Carter, and the heart-wrenching ordeal of trying to make a living playing a kind of music too few people wanted to hear. Born in 1927 in southwestern Virginia, Stanley was steeped in ancient folksongs, hymns, parlor ballads and the sounds of a newer, jazzier string band music being perfected by the Kentuckian Bill Monroe, who dubbed this emerging genre “bluegrass.” The day he returned from military service in 1946, he and Carter formed the Stanley Brothers band with Carter as front man and chief songwriter. Over the next 20 years, the Stanley Brothers achieved a stature within the bluegrass community that rivaled Monroe’s. Then, in 1966, Carter finally drank himself to death and in so doing thrust his younger brother into the spotlight. In that role, Stanley mentored such formidable young talents as Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley and Larry Sparks, even as he Man of Constant was carving out his own reputation as a stunningly emo- Sorrow tional vocalist. Although long revered by bluegrass fans, By Dr. Ralph Stanley Stanley didn’t become a superstar until he was featured on with Eddie Dean the soundtrack album for the Coen Brothers’ 2000 movie, Gotham O Brother, Where Art Thou? His chilling a cappella rendi- $26, 320 pages tion of “Oh Death” on that album won him a Grammy and ISBN 9781592404254 sparked two successful arena tours. As fascinating as Stanley’s personal revelations are, this book’s greatest value lies in his documentary-like descriptions of the hardships rural musicians faced in the 1940s and ’50s—crowded cars, band rivalries, long and dangerous roads and hand-to-mouth living. It’s little wonder then that Stanley can say at age 82, “I ain’t afraid to die, but I am scared of what would happen if my voice were to fail me . . . because singing is really all I’ve got to give anymore.” o Edward Morris writes from Nashville.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Independent Voices for an Independent World
In book two of this tale, a nun is committed to an insane asylum and is convinced that some women are protecting a document personally dictated by Christ. “A truly thrilling series.”—Clarion Review
The second trimester at Familiar Academy for Avians begins with Jules growing desperate to regain her magic. She will try any cure to restore her seventh sense.
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In the final book of the trilogy, within the bowels of the Sequentia, a subterranean prison, the women are hiding a document personally dictated by Christ, which contains His last instructions to mankind.
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ROMANCE Hearts on the mend October brings a treat bag of romances to tempt readers. From suspense to seaside love, from Scottish lads to creepy curses, there’s something special for everyone to dig into this month. Reporter Elise McBride travels to the Chicago area to find her missing sister, Ashley, in Love You to Death (Grand Central, $6.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780446510295) by Shannon K. Butcher. Hoping there’s been a misunderstanding, Elise breaks into Ashley’s house in the middle of the night. Neighbor and ex-cop Trent Brady believes he’s witnessing a real crime and goes to stop the perpetrator. From that meeting, things get truly dangerous as Elise and Trent join forces to search for the missing woman. Elise is motivated by sisterly love and Trent is motivated by the cop instincts that have BY christie ridgway never left him—and of course there’s this urge he has to help the smart and beautiful Elise. Some gritty, violent moments in the book are not for the faint of heart, but these scenes do let the reader know that the villain is particularly crazed and heinous. Can they stop him and find Elise’s sister before she’s just another headless body or disembodied hand? The author deftly weaves the romance and suspense and will have readers shivering for more.
Man of enchantment Karinna Adams can’t say what attracts her to a gallery painting in Amanda Ashley’s Immortal Sins (Zebra, $6.99, 384 pages, ISBN 9780821780640), but soon she brings the artwork home. The painting is either magical or she’s going crazy, because a beautiful man moves about inside it. Unable to resist his appeal, she wishes aloud that he could be with her . . . and then he is. Finally, someone has broken vampire Jason Rourke’s 300-year-old curse. That long ago, a wizard placed him in the enchanted painting. Free at last, Jason doesn’t know what he wants to do first: take revenge on the wizard or make love with the lovely Kari who has brought him into her contemporary world. What’s a lonely young woman to do when the man she’s fallen for will live forever on the blood of others? Kari can’t stop her attraction to Jason, but can’t see how they can ever be together. Only when the wizard comes seeking Jason does danger truly enter her life, leaving both Jason and Kari to make hard choices about their futures. This version of a vampire, more tender than terrible, will steal readers’ hearts.
Serving up romance
Forbidden love It’s 1350, and in Sue-Ellen Welfonder’s A Highlander’s Temptation (Grand Central, $6.99, 400 pages, ISBN 9780446195300) Arabella MacKenzie is determined to leave her family home to seek adventure and love. During a sea journey, her ship is preyed upon by Black Vikings. Darroc MacConacher first learns of this when wreckage appears on the beaches of MacConacher’s Isle. As clan chief, he leads the effort to search for survivors and finds only one, the raven-haired Arabella. He brings her back to his castle where she heals from her wounds . . . and where they fall in love, despite the fact that their families are old enemies. Certain he cannot have her, Darroc swears to return her safely home, but she proves too great a temptation—thanks to Arabella’s complete eagerness to be in his arms. Still, there are impediments to their happily ever after, and they come in the guise of a ghost, a cursed relic, the Black Vikings and Arabella’s powerful father, the chieftain of an enemy clan. Full of sensuality and a touch of magic, A Highlander’s Temptation is a satisfying Scottish adventure. o Christie Ridgway writes contemporary romance from her home in Southern California.
antastic F ICT ION by abulous AUTHORS Temptation and Surrender By Stephanie Laurens $7.99, 9780061243417 Handsome, wealthy and well-born, Jonas Tallent has everything a gentleman needs, but he’s restless and bored so he returns to the family’s estate where his most pressing need is to find a new manager for the inn. When he hires the genteel, impoverished Emily Beauregard, she rapidly resurrects the inn and steals his heart. But Emily has a secret, she’s searching for a family treasure that will reinstate her family to its rightful place in society. But Emily hadn’t bargained on Jonas.
The Earl Claims His Wife By Cathy Maxwell $7.99, 9780061350993 Preoccupied with fighting Napoleon and making love to his mistress, Brian Ranson has ignored his wife since their wedding. Now, he’s ready to fetch his bride back to London. Meanwhile his Lady, Gillian, has become a bold, beautiful woman, exactly the kind he lusts after, but she wants nothing to do with him. Desperate to be free to find the love she’s been denied, Gillian makes a bargain—to be the perfect wife for 30 days, then he’ll set her free. But does her heart understand?
The Renegade Hunter By Lynsay Sands $7.99, 9780061474316 Nicholas Argeneau was once a successful hunter who went after rogue vampires who broke the immortal law. Except no one has mentioned his name in the last 50 years, not since he turned into a rogue himself. But once a hunter, always a hunter. When Nicholas sees a bloodthirsty sucker terrifying a woman, it’s second nature for him to come to her rescue. He had no idea he would also want to kiss her senseless. When he saves a beautiful mortal from a terrifying demise, everything changes.
The Solomon Effect By C.S. Graham $7.99, 9780061689352 A remote viewer working for the U.S. government, October Guinness can “see” events occurring on the other side of the globe. But she and her loose cannon partner, CIA agent Jax Alexander have arrived too late to prevent a bloodbath and perhaps the Apocalypse. Now every second brings the unthinkable a step closer and places them in the gunsights of powerful enemies as they race to prevent an impending catastrophe cultivated decades earlier by Nazi scientists with an evil agenda.
Dawnbreaker By Jocelynn Drake $7.99, 9780061542886 The naturi despise nightwalker Mira for what she is and for the lethal fire she bends to her will. But the naturi are about to be unchained, and blood, chaos and horror will reign supreme on Earth. As the day approaches when destiny draws them toward an apocalyptic confrontation, Mira can trust only Danaus, the more-than-mortal vampire slayer. But all is not lost, a rogue enemy princess exists who can change the balance of power and turn the dread tide.
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Denise Hunter’s Seaside Letters (Thomas Nelson, $14.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9781595542601) is a tender love story with a Christian focus. Sabrina Kincaid is waitressing in Nantucket after a painful failed engagement. During the year she’s been in town, she’s established an anonymous email correspondence with one of her customers, Tucker McCabe. While she knows him to be “Harbormaster,” she believes he doesn’t know she’s “Sweetpea.” She’s wrong. Tucker is aware it’s Sabrina who has stolen his heart through emails and he’s determined to bring her out of the shell she has built around herself in real life. But the tangled web of deception between the pair trips up Tucker’s goal and makes Sabrina face some personal pain that could end any hope of a future between herself and the man she’s grown to love. Readers will enjoy the poignant portrayal of the awkwardness and tension between two people who feel a chemistry they’re not ready to admit.
Sheehan’s fascinating portrait of the men who built the bombs By Edward Morris Just as he used the pivotal figure of John Paul Vann in A Bright Shining Lie to tie together America’s myriad miscalculations in the Vietnam War, so Neil Sheehan focuses here on Bernard Schriever, another relatively unknown presence, to anatomize America’s arms race with Russia from the end of World War II through the mid-1960s. A German by birth, “Bennie” Schriever came to the U.S. in 1917 when he was
six years old. He grew up in San Antonio, earned a degree in construction engineering from Texas A&M and was commissioned into the fledgling Army Air Force in 1933. That same year he met Lt. Col. Henry “Hap” Arnold, a strong believer in the scientific development of weaponry. Schriever served in the Pacific during World War II, and in 1946, with the war over, Arnold appointed Schriever to serve as liaison between civil-
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Dark Curse Dragonseeker Lara Calladine longs to find the source of her nightmares. The only man who can help her is Nicolas De La Cruz who, for centuries, has longed to feel sensual love without a hunger for blood. But their mysterious pasts share a secret that could destroy them both.
Dragon Moon An enslaved psychic from another world, Kenna is sent to Earth to gather information for her master, a vicious half dragon/half vampire set on conquering the planet. But when she meets and falls for Talon, a werewolf, their fate hangs in the balance unless they can learn to trust each other.
The Gray Man Court Gentry is a legend in the covert realm, accomplishing the impossible and then fading away. But there are forces more lethal than Gentry in the world, and in their eyes, he has outlived his usefulness. Now, there’s no gray area between killing for a living and killing to stay alive.
SUSPENSE Heat Lightning In John Sandford’s new novel, a killer is leaving a puzzling calling card in the mouths of his victims. And in the middle of a steamy Minnesota summer, Virgil Flowers of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension finds himself embroiled in an investigation with no easy answers and no easy way out.
Hot for the Holidays Come in out of the cold and experience the thrill of a soul-stirring new tale of the Breeds from Lora Leigh, a return to the beguiling world of the Mageverse from Angela Knight, and two more mesmerizing stories of sensual surprises and seasonal spirits from Anya Bast and Allyson James.
The Lone Texan Three days after arriving in Galveston, newly widowed Sage McMurray is taken hostage in a robbery. She fears she may never see Whispering Mountain again when the outlaws decide to auction their pretty captive off to the highest bidder, until a tall stranger offers twice the highest bid.
Shadowlight: A Novel of the Kyndred New York Times bestselling author Lynn Viehl reveals the secret progeny of the Darkyn: the Kyndred, ordinary people unaware that they’ve been altered by vampire DNA, but who are destined to become the next generation of heroes.
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ian scientists and the Air Force to develop new weapons systems. Although Schriever would rise in rank and responsibility, this essentially would be his mission until he left the service in 1966. Sheehan argues that the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was predicated on an erroneous assessment of Joseph Stalin’s comparatively modest territorial ambitions. After Russia got the atomic bomb in 1949, however, the us-versus-them dynamic boiled out of control. Then the question became which side could deliver its A-bombs most effectively. Schriever’s nemesis in this calculation was Gen. Curtis LeMay, the man who had fire-bombed Japan into near submission before the Abombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finished the job. LeMay’s solution was more, bigger and longer-range bombers, all carrying thermonuclear warheads—and a willingness to use them. Since Russia couldn’t match the U.S. in number of A-bombs and planes, it turned its attention to long-range rockets. So did Schriever and his civilian teams. Much of Sheehan’s book concerns his circumventing or surmounting the political machinations, corporate greed and personal vanities that stood in the way of creating what would come to be called the “ICBM”— intercontinental ballistic missile—with the capability of delivering a targeted, nuclear-tipped rocket halfway around the world. In telling his story, Sheehan profiles a gallery of fascinating characters, among them Paul Nitze (whose 1950 report to the National Security Council, Sheehan says, grossly overstated the Soviet threat); hawkish and brilliant mathematician John von Neumann; the Hall brothers, Ed and Ted, the former a member of Schriever’s first ICBM unit, the latter a spy for Russia who wasn’t unmasked until 1995; and Hitler’s morally accommodating rocket man, Wernher von Braun, who was more interested in space travel than nuclear confrontation. In piecing this narrative together, Sheehan interviewed well over 100 sources, including Nitze, physicist and hydrogen-bomb pioneer Edward Teller, diplomat Richard Holbrooke and Schriever himself, who died in 2005. It is a dazzling display of scholarship. To some, this book will be a triumphant tale of America once again winning the day, but to others it will read like a tragedy in which the brightest minds of a generation bent themselves to finding the best ways to slaughter people en masse. o Edward Morris writes from Nashville.
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War By Neil Sheehan Random House $32, 560 pages ISBN 9780679422846 Also available on audio
READ REVIEWS ONLINE AT bookpage.com
One tough broad
Remembering a grandmother who broke all the rules by Alden Mudge n her riveting memoir about her hardscrabble childhood, found it was much easier when I wrote in her voice than when The Glass Castle (2005), Jeannette Walls described being I wrote in third person trying to capture her voice. When I was severely burned while boiling hot dogs when she was three writing in the third person about Lily, I was just writing in my years old. own voice.” As she explains in an author’s note in the book, Walls’ “I used to think being burned was my earliest memory,” Walls decision to tell this story in her grandmother’s distinctive voice says during a call to the home she shares with her husband, rather than as an objective historian is one of the reasons she writer John Taylor, in Culpepper, Virdecided to call her book a “true-life ginia. “But I also remember going to a novel.” cafeteria with [my grandmother] Lily “I’ll bet most people in America have and her standing up, pointing to me, similar ancestors,” Walls says. “The deand shouting to the entire place: SHE’S tails might be different but the overall ONLY TWO YEARS OLD AND SHE’S story is the same—some tough old DRINKING FROM A STRAW! SHE’S broad or tough old coot who came to A GENIUS!” this country and did what had to be The loud, irrepressible and ever-redone to survive. I think most people sourceful Lily Casey Smith, who in later are tougher than we realize and that we years took pleasure in brandishing both have this inner strength and resilience her “choppers” and her pearl-handled that we’re not aware of. One of the ways pistol in the air, is the subject of Wall’s to get in touch with that is to look at captivating new “true-life novel,” Half our ancestors.” Broke Horses. But for Walls, writing Half Broke Lily grew up in the vast, still-unpopuHorses was also as least as much about lated reaches of the Southwest. As a child gaining an understanding of her own she helped her rancher father break difficult, free-spirited mother, Rose horses. In her teens, she left home to beMary Smith Walls, as getting in touch JEANNETTE WALLS come an itinerant schoolteacher, riding with her ancestors. “When I was on 500 miles to her first job on horseback. book tour,” she remembers, “readers She later lived for a while in Chicago, “Writing about your parents of The Glass Castle would often ask where she worked as a housekeeper for me why, with a college education, my a wealthy family and was seduced and mother would choose the life she did. and your ancestors is like wedded by a bigamist. Chastened, she At the time I didn’t know the answer. returned to the Southwest and married But writing about your parents and going into intensive therapy. your ancestors is like going into intenBig Jim Smith, and together they managed a spacious ranch in Arizona. Hers sive therapy. You really get at the roots. is a story that evokes an American way I now see that the time when she was You really get at the roots.” of life that no longer exists. Lily died growing up on the ranch without elecwhen Walls was only eight but her she tricity and running water was the idylleft an indelible imprint on her granddaughter. lic time of my mother’s life. She’s always tried to recreate it, the “She was a leathery woman and she would just pick you up and wildness and lack of discipline. Her life is very much a search for toss you in the air. She’d always yell. She’d enter a room and say that freedom she had as a child.” HERE I AM! She loved to dance. Every time we’d go someplace Now at age 75, Rose Mary is living in a mobile home a hunwhere there was music, she’d just grab some guy from his seat dred yards away from her daughter and son-in-law, surroundand start dancing with him. She was always driving us around in ed by the menagerie of rescued dogs, feral cats and horses her this great big station wagon. She thought she was a brilliant driver daughter and son-in-law have collected since abandoning a tony but she was really quite reckless. There were always cars sort of life in New York City for a semi-rural one in northern Virginia. crashing and screeching around us. But for all her sort of wild Rose Mary’s vivid stories of her childhood and about her parrecklessness, she was very orderly,” Walls remembers. ents’ lives in the Southwest 50-some years ago helped define her “She had all these rules and was very bossy. My mother and daughter’s new book. she would clash very badly. My father and she would clash even In fact, Walls interviewed her mother extensively for Half worse. When I was growing up, my mother told me on a regular Broke Horses. She says with deep satisfaction, “My mom gave me basis that I was just like her mother, and I don’t think she meant these stories without reservations.” And, she adds, “She is not a that as a compliment. Lily glommed onto me at an early age. She normal mom, whatever the heck that means. But she’s a fascinatsensed a kindred spirit. She was a lot tougher and ballsier than I ing woman and she’s given me a great deal of joy.” ever was, but I do think we’re similar in a lot of ways.” Among the most moving stories Rose Mary shared “so pasAmong the obvious similarities are Walls’ own loud, embracsionately and tenderly” with her daughter was the story of halfing laughter, a gift for storytelling and the sort of indomitable broke horses, the wild horses captured on the range that were spirit that enabled Walls to overcome the dysfunctional childonly half broken by her father’s ranch hands. “Hearing her dehood she describes in The Glass Castle. scribe their plight and the love and affinity she had with these These similarities explain why Walls creatures that don’t belong anywhere really struck me,” Walls found it so easy to slip into Lily’s unsays. “Mom really does see herself that way, as a creature who is a usual voice in Half Broke Horses. “I relittle too wild for civilization but broke enough, civilized enough, member Lily so vividly,” Walls says. “I that she can’t survive in the wild.” Reflecting on the experiences of her grandmother and mother, Walls says, “It’s a bit of an anachronism, but there’s a lot to be said for the tough pioneer spirit and the untamed wilderness. I Half Broke Horses think it’s important that we don’t forget our roots. And our own By Jeannette Walls half-brokeness.” Scribner Half Broke Horses is Walls’ evocation of that American $26, 288 pages legacy. o ISBN 9781416586289 Also available on audio Alden Mudge writes from Berkley, California.
Rosemary’s Baby meets The Shining behind Audrey’s Door
© JOHN TAYLOR
Built on the Upper West Side, the elegant Breviary claims a regal history. But despite 14B’s astonishingly low rental price, the recent tragedy within its walls has frightened away all of the potential tenants except Audrey Lucas. Is it something otherworldly or is it Audrey’s increasing instability that’s to blame for the dark visions that haunt her? www.harpercollins.com
“Just what the world needs, and just in time. Keynes is demolished and his quack system refuted. But this wonderful book does more. It restores clear thinking and common sense to their rightful places in the economic policy debate. Three cheers for Hunter Lewis!” James Grant
Editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer Books to help you Available from think through your leading booksellers everywhere XIOS personal choices
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hen the world financial system failed in 2008, world governments used a playbook devised by famed British economist John Maynard Keynes. But should we be relying so completely on Keynes? What if he is wrong? If Keynes is wrong, then so $18 (hardcover) are the ecoISBN 978-1-60419-017-5 nomic policies of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and virtually all world governments today. Where Keynes Went Wrong addresses these critical questions in a lively, stimulating, and transparently clear style.
Turns out, you can go home again By Norah Piehl Rhoda Janzen was having a really bad year. Following her recovery from a hysterectomy, Janzen’s handsome, charismatic, but mercurial husband of 15 years abruptly left her for “Bob the Guy from Gay.com,” leaving her with conflicted feelings—and an expensive lakefront home she couldn’t afford. Just days later, Janzen was involved in a crippling car accident. What was this sophisticated, confident woman in her early 40s to do? With a six-month sabbatical scheduled, Janzen made a most unexpected choice—to head back home, into the welcoming arms of the Mennonite family and community she thought she had nothing in common with. Janzen’s period of healing—in both body and spirit— forms the backdrop of her memoir, as she utilizes her quasioutsider perspective to reflect on her own story of growing up Mennonite (and the social ostracism that sometimes resulted), on her often troubled marriage and on her sometimes strained relationships with her siblings. Even as she affectionately pokes fun at such things as her father’s bold demands and her mother’s unflaggingly earnest optimism, Janzen reflects on how her Mennonite upbringing might have affected her own relationships and on how she’s man- Mennonite in a aged to incorporate the cabbage- and starch-laden cuisine Little Black Dress of her youth into her cosmopolitan, foodie lifestyle. Readers will find themselves laughing out loud at Jan- By Rhoda Janzen zen’s wry commentary on themes that shouldn’t really be Holt $22, 256 pages funny at all. The playful humor is balanced, however, with ISBN 9780805089257 genuine thoughtfulness, especially as Janzen reconnects Also available on audio with childhood companions and reflects on how different her own life might have been, had she chosen to remain in the Mennonite community instead of embracing an intellectual life. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress will resonate with any reader who has ever thought about how such choices shape our futures, or with anyone who has struggled to recapture faith—in God, in other people or in oneself. o Norah Piehl is a freelance writer and editor in the Boston area.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
New York Times bestselling author
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“Flock tells a disturbing family story in two authentic voices.” —Boston Globe www.MIRABooks.com www.ElizabethFlock.com
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Book clubs New paperbacks for reading groups The Story of Edgar Sawtelle By David Wroblewski Shakespeare’s Hamlet provides the foundation for Wroblewski’s debut—a compelling coming-of-age-tale set in 1970s Wisconsin. Edgar, a mute boy who helps his parents run their dog-breeding business, has a remarkable ability to bond with and train canines. He comes from a family of dog lovers that includes his grandfather, who started the breeding business, his father, Gar, and his paternal uncle, Claude, who left town years ago. When Claude returns unexpectedly, things turn sour for the Sawtelles. Gar and Claude quarrel Ecco bitterly, and a few weeks later, Gar dies under mysterious $16.99, 608 pages ISBN 9780061374234 circumstances. Edgar feels certain that his uncle is somehow responsible. To make matters worse, Claude’s concern for Edgar’s mother, Trudy, seems inappropriate, and it soon becomes clear that he’s trying to seduce her. Determined to show that Claude had a hand in his father’s death, Edgar comes up with a plan that goes horribly awry. Forced to run away, he escapes into the woods of Wisconsin along with three young dogs. Yet the mystery of his father’s death proves an irresistible draw, and, hoping for answers, Edgar goes home—a decision that has fateful consequences. Wroblewski writes wonderfully poetic prose, and he uses it effectively to probe the themes of language and communication, both verbal and non-verbal. An Oprah’s Book Club pick and a bestseller, this is an inventive, original narrative from a gifted new writer. A reading group guide is included in the book.
Home Safe By Elizabeth Berg Berg’s latest book focuses on marriage, family and the female quest for personal fulfillment. Helen Ames, a successful novelist, has been dealing with writer’s block for a year, since the death of her husband, Dan. Fearful that her once-fertile writing life has dried up for good, Helen struggles to regain a sense of purpose. Taking on the daily responsibilities Dan once handled so that she could be free to pursue her career, Helen finds herself in unfamiliar—and frightening—territory. Her good-natured daughter, Tessa, a smart, stylish young Ballantine woman who works as an editor at a fashion magazine, en- $15, 228 pages courages Helen and tries to bolster her sagging spirit, as does ISBN 9780345487551 Midge, Helen’s high-spirited best friend. But when Helen discovers that her financial status is not as secure as she assumed, unforeseen questions about Dan arise. Doubts about their relationship—and what Dan was doing with their money—start to plague Helen. Trying to make sense of her past while planning for the future, Helen searches for closure—and for a way back to the art that once sustained her. Another bestseller for Berg, this is a perceptive and sensitively written novel—a compassionate, illuminating narrative that examines the nature of love and the process of grieving. A reading group guide is included in the book.
Indignation By Philip Roth Indignation is another masterwork from one of America’s greatest authors. Set in the 1950s, Roth’s 25th novel follows the adventures of young Marcus Messner, a native of Newark, New Jersey, who dreams of escaping the city. Desperate to break away from his possessive father, a kosher butcher, 19-year-old Marcus goes off to Winesburg College in Ohio. A bookish young man, he doesn’t quite fit in with his classmates—standoffish farm country natives who drink beer and attend church. Shying away from the campus’s Jewish Vintage $15, 256 pages fraternity, Marcus becomes involved with Olivia Hutton, a ISBN 9780307388919 sensitive Gentile whose father is a successful doctor. Olivia seems wholesome to the core—and conventionally American—but Marcus soon learns that she’s concealing a dark past, and his entanglement with the girl brings more trouble than he ever dreamed possible. The Korean War is another source of worry for Marcus, who’s determined to succeed in school and evade service overseas. Intelligent, complex, and—like most teenagers—confused, he’s a fascinating point of focus in this vivid and compellingly plotted novel. Capturing both the uncertainty and the optimism that characterized the 1950s, the book richly explores the gaps that divide generations and genders, as well as the difficulties of relationships, and the power of sexual desire. Marked by his signature mixture of humor and melancholy, Roth’s latest has all the makings of a classic. o —JULIE HALE
Chronicling the life of a less-celebrated founding father courage in 1795. Realizing that her husband, who had obtained the release of Americans from French prisons, might jeopardize his diplomatic status if he tried to rescue someone who had only honorary American citizenship, she decided to go herself. She was able to get Lafayette’s wife, Adrienne, freed after 16 months in prison. Unger’s outstanding biography of Monroe is consistently illuminating and a fine
introduction to its subject. o Roger Bishop is a retired Nashville bookseller and a frequent contributor to BookPage.
The Last Founding Father By Harlow Giles Unger Da Capo $26, 400 pages ISBN 9780306818080
Tough Guy. Artist. living legend. In American Rebel, bestselling author and acclaimed film historian Marc Eliot examines the ever-exciting, often-tumultuous arc of Clint Eastwood’s life and career. Filled with remarkable insights into Eastwood’s personal life and public work, American Rebel is highly entertaining and the most complete biography of one of Hollywood’s truly respected and beloved stars–an actor who, despite being the Man with No Name, has left his indelible mark on the world of motion pictures.
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By Roger Bishop James Monroe served in more public positions than anyone else in American history. He was both a U.S. congressman and a senator, a governor of Virginia, secretary of state and secretary of war, ambassador to France and Great Britain and minister to Spain, and the fifth U.S. president, serving two terms. A hero of the American Revolution, Monroe served at Valley Forge and was seriously wounded in battle at Trenton. Despite such an imposing resume, Monroe’s contributions to the nation are usually overshadowed by those of his close friends Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In his compelling new biography, The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness, Harlow Giles Unger demonstrates that Monroe was a major player with significant achievements, including the Louisiana Purchase. Even his supposed diplomatic failures look like impossible tasks. Unger, an award-winning author of 15 books, including four biographies of other founding fathers, deftly guides us through Monroe’s pre-presidential period, which includes assisting a wounded Lafayette during the Revolution and rescuing Thomas Paine from a French prison. Unger argues that the three presidents between Washington and Monroe—John Adams, Jefferson and Madison—were merely “caretakers” whose administrations left the country divided and bankrupt, her borders vulnerable and, after the War of 1812, despite the heroic efforts of Monroe as acting secretary of war, the capital seriously damaged. Holding two top cabinet positions (secretary of state was the other) Monroe was hailed for his brilliant military strategy and astute management of peace negotiations. As president, Monroe was a transitional figure, the last of the founding generation, but also responsible for westward expansion and economic recovery. He worked hard to achieve unity, appointing representatives of a wide range of views. He made long tours of the country that helped to bring people together. Despite problems, including the Panic of 1819, there were good reasons to refer to his presidency as “the era of good feelings.” Unger vigorously refutes those historians who claim that Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote what Monroe is best known for, the “Monroe Doctrine.” Monroe had almost eight years of experience as a seasoned diplomat in the most sensitive posts, was a highly regarded lawyer and a gifted politician. Once he decided to include in his seventh annual message to Congress a manifesto about the U.S. staying free of entangling alliances and defining America’s sphere of influence, he conducted a series of cabinet meetings in which he asked for written and oral arguments on the subject. Adam’s diplomatic experience did give him more influence than others, yet, Unger notes, only one of Adams’ submissions appears in the final policy statement. The Monroes were a close-knit family and James’ beautiful wife Elizabeth was a formidable influence, especially in matters of taste and style. She also demonstrated extreme
Three acclaimed writers offer shimmering collections By Harvey Freedenberg hort stories are often the vehicle of choice for young writers seeking to make their mark on the literary world, so it’s refreshing when established authors choose to work in the genre. These collections display the skills of three well-known writers from diverse backgrounds, each with a unique take on contemporary life.
Perspectives on Native American life In War Dances (Grove, $23, 256 pages, ISBN 9780802119193), his fourth collection (which features a dozen poems along with its 11 stories), National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie enhances his stature as a multitalented writer and an astute observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. In the title story, a middle-aged Spokane Indian confronts the tension between traditional tribal culture and modern life as he watches over his alcoholic and diabetic father in the hospital while undergoing his own health crisis. “Breaking and Entering” tells the heartbreaking tale of a Native American film editor who commits an act of fatal violence in self-defense and must live with the consequences. And “Salt,” the story that ends the volume, is the moving portrait of teenage boy from the reservation who learns about life and death when he’s called on in his summer job at the local newspaper to write the obituary of the paper’s obituary editor. Not all of the stories feature Native-American protagonists. “The Senator’s Son” is a modern morality play, as the son of United States senator is involved in an incident of violence against a gay friend, in the process exposing his father’s expedient ethical judgment. In “The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless,” the narrator is a seller of vintage clothes, a lover of pop music and a serial philanderer, “a small and lonely man made smaller and lonelier by my unspoken fears,” a status he shares with several of Alexie’s male characters in this edgy and frequently surprising collection.
In “Crooner,” a chance meeting in Venice between an itinerant guitarist (a talent Ishiguro shares with his creation) and an aging Tony Bennett-like singer leads to an emotional encounter with the crooner’s wife as he offers a swan song for their marriage. That woman, Lindy, resurfaces in the story “Nocturne,” a meditation on the vagaries of fame, where she and a jazz saxophonist named Steve share a bizarre recuperation in a Beverly Hills hotel after plastic surgery at the hands of a celebrity doctor. Ishiguro skillfully blends humor and melancholy in “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Its narrator, Ray, visits college friends in London whose relationship is imploding. The story veers wildly from broad comedy to pathos as Ray struggles to save his friends’ marriage. “Malvern Hills,” the story of a singer-songwriter and his encounter with two fellow musicians in the English countryside, and “Cellists,” the tale of an unorthodox music teacher and her enigmatic student, round out the collection.
Women and their discontents
Best known for novels like The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro offers a collection of five pensive tales in Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (Knopf, $25, 240 pages, ISBN 9780307271020), that succeed in expressing music’s seductive power.
Jill McCorkle’s Going Away Shoes (Algonquin, $19.95, 272 pages, ISBN 9781565126329) concentrates on the plight of mostly middle-aged women struggling with the consequences of their flawed relationships. McCorkle is an acute observer of the foibles of domestic life, and in stories like the title tale, in which a woman is yoked to her dying mother as a caretaker while her younger sisters carp at her from a distance, or “Surrender,” where a grandmother must suffer the childish cruelty of her late son’s five-year-old daughter, she blends empathy for her characters’ predicaments with an unsparing take on those grim circumstances. Still, McCorkle’s stories don’t lack for humor, as in “Midnight Clear,” where a single mother gets a new outlook on life from a septic tank philosopher who answers her distress call on Christmas Eve, or “PS,” a sardonic farewell letter from a woman to her family therapist. The collection builds to a powerful climax in “Driving to the Moon,” as former lovers reunite while one faces death from cancer, and “Magic Words,” which features interwoven narratives of a married woman about to embark on an affair, a troubled teenage girl and a retired school teacher. Both stories are impressive demonstrations of McCorkle’s ability to infuse short fiction with an almost novelistic scope. o Harvey Freedenberg writes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The painful echoes of a sister’s death
Science and secrets in 19th-century Paris
By Rebecca Shapiro Thirteen-year-old Mathilda Savitch doesn’t see the world like most people. Something inside of her wants to be bad—and not just breaking the supper dishes on purpose bad, but really core-shakingly awful. Her sister Helene has been dead for a year, and Mathilda’s parents are spiraling into complete dysfunction—her mother has become a full-blown alcoholic, which overwhelms her father to the point that neither is paying much attention to Mathilda at all. Mathilda, too, is reeling with grief in her own way, becoming obsessed with the circumstances of her sister’s death. She roots through Helene’s perfectly preserved room and realizes that she can use the relics of her sister’s old life to both haunt her parents and dig deeper into the person Helene was and how she came to die. Though the circumstances surrounding Mathilda’s family are unthinkable, they are not the only formidable forces in her young life. There has recently been a new wave of terror attacks, which Lodato implies are the first major ones since September 11. Mathilda’s cool indifference and her bizarre way of thinking about the world are particularly fascinating Mathilda Savitch By Victor Lodato in the face of what has become a crisis to everyone else. Mathilda isn’t just a monster, though—there are mo- Farrar, Straus ments of deep compassion that not only make her a sym- $25, 304 pages pathetic narrator, but also one of the most interesting new ISBN 9780374204006 Also available on audio voices in fiction. Lodato’s absolutely incredible rendering of her narration, ripe with as much humor as darkness, is what makes this masterful novel shine so brightly. If The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time had an evil twin, it would be Mathilda Savitch. o 22 Rebecca Shapiro writes from Brooklyn, New York.
By Arlene McKanic Paris just after the Napoleonic Wars was a thrilling place to be. The intellectual life of the city was in full flower, with Madame de Stäel presiding over salons and scientists like Georges Cuvier investigating the origins of life. But it was also a dangerous place: Napoleon’s defeat and exile were traumatic and the Terror, despite having occurred two decades before, had left some of its survivors feral. It’s into this ferment that medical student and narrator Daniel Connor arrives, from staid Edinburgh, in 1815. Daniel gets into trouble immediately when he’s robbed en route to Paris by a mysterious and alluring woman who goes by the name of Lucienne Bernard. She pilfers not his money, but the items he’ll need as an entree into the world of M. Cuvier: letters of introduction, notebooks, a mammoth bone and, most precious of all, coral specimens. Distraught, Daniel turns first to M. Jagot, a crook turned private eye who has a long history with Madame Bernard, then to the thief herself. Not surprisingly, Daniel falls in love with this intriguing woman who’s nearly twice his age, and the reader can hardly wait to find out whether the The Coral Thief young man will ever get his belongings back—and, more By Rebecca Stott importantly, if Lucienne really loves him, or is just leading Spiegel & Grau him on in a labyrinthine game. Stott’s skill as a writer is $25, 304 pages ISBN 9780385531467 such that one thinks she might be doing both. Aside from her graceful writing style and believable Also available on audio characters, Stott also delights with her grasp of history. Romantic, full of twists and turns and glimpses of the past, The Coral Thief is an unlikely page-turner. o Arlene McKanic writes from South Carolina.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
The eternal appeal of music
This month’s top publisher picks Unhallowed Ground Heather Graham In the midst of renovating her dream house, Sarah McKinley makes a grim discovery—the remains of dozens of bodies. Now she must escape a killer who is on a quest for blood. MIRA Books
PB 9781577316718 $18
Guardians of Being
Best of Halloween Tricks and Treats
Better Homes and Gardens
Combining words by Eckhart Tolle with illustrations by Patrick McDonnell, this book offers lessons of the present moment, as embodied by the dogs and cats who share our world.
HC 9780470503966 $14.99
New World Library
PB 9780778326762 $7.99
Edward M. Kennedy
Helen A. Rosburg
Has Harmony discovered true love—or the most elaborate deception imaginable?
Can Irenee Sabel stop the Cataclysm Stone from falling into the wrong hands? Will she find her soul mate in the process? Book four in the Magic series.
In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells the extraordinary story of his legendary family, politics and 50 years at the center of national events. Hachette Audio
CD 9781600247545 $49.98 PB 9781605420639 $7.95
The Guardians: Loving Eyes are Watching Richard Williams
PB 9781933836997 $7.95
Garden of the Moon
R. Garland Gray
Beyond the moongate lie the ghosts of her past . . . while the secrets to his past lie in the dusty pages of time.
In the second book of the Darkscape series, a rogue warship commander fights for a second chance.
PB 9781933836980 $7.95
PB 9781933836553 $7.95
The Rock & Roll Queen of Bedlam
The Guardians: Lost in the City
Richard Williams When DJ and Maggie find themselves separated from Bill and Paula they are led into the abandoned part of a large city. What they discover will change not only their lives, but those they come into contact with. Will they ever get back home again? AuthorHouse
PB 9781438991276 $13.50
From Chicago’s Humboldt Park to the bleak abandonment of Ukraine, a frightening chain of events threatens countless lives when Lazlo Horvath realizes that to some, power is more important than human lives. Medallion Press
Marilee Brothers One of Allegra Thome’s students is missing and the answer Allegra seeks may be more shocking than she could ever imagine. Medallion Press HC 9781605421056 $24.95
PB 9781934755464 $15.95
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
PB 9781434376633 $12.99
Imagine a world where there are special dogs whose only task in life is to lead their masters back to the path of God’s love. The Guardians is such a story; it tells of two shelties named DJ and Maggie who have the ability to speak, but their unusual talent is a closely guarded secret. Visit www.lovingeyesarewatching.com
Halloween conjures up the trickster in all of us. Whatever your holiday pursuits—spooky décor, festive foods, or bewitching costumes—you’ll find family-friendly ideas for brewing up all kinds of Halloween fun.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Mummies and monsters and scarecrows, oh my! By Ellen Trachtenberg omething is lurking out there. Scarecrows are stirring, black cats are making mischief, and innocent young girls are taking to their broomsticks. It must be, it must be . . . this season’s bumper crop of fabulous Halloween picture books. By the time everyone’s favorite dress-up day arrives, there will be candy to fill young bellies and literary treats to feed imaginations. You’ll recognize many of the authors and artists—including Jane Yolen, Ed Emberley and Lois Ehlert—and a few newer storytellers have been added to the brew. This particular blend of spooky stuff will draw so much deserved attention, Frankenstein’s monster will be positively green with envy.
Mummy dearest When you first glance at the cover of The Runaway Mummy (Putnam, $15.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780399252037), you may be overcome with a spooky sort of déjà-vu. In case you missed the thread that began with last year’s best-selling Goodnight Goon, Michael Rex’s latest parody is a ghoulishly gleeful take on Margaret Wise Brown’s classic, The Runaway Bunny. And while the cast of characters may not be as warm and fuzzy as in the original story, the mummy love is ever abundant. While her son morphs into a series of crazy creatures, mom is hot on his trail. “If you try to get me,” said the little mummy, “I will turn into a serpent that lurks at the bottom of the sea.” But Mother Mummy has him covered, delivering a squeeze worthy of a giant squid. Little mummy finds that independence is elusive until a surprise ending turns the story on its tail, leaving readers wondering what sort of mischief Michael Rex might make with The Big Red Barn.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Garden of delights Sure to be another monster hit for author and artist Lois Ehlert, Boo to You! (Beach Lane, $17.99, 42 pages, ISBN 9781416986256) lends her impressive trademark multimedia collage style to an autumn feast for the eyes, set to rhythmic verse. A harvest party is being planned by the garden mice but a pesky cat is determined to spoil the fun. It’s really a dilemma, because “A raccoon or a squirrel might bite a veggie, but a cat loves meat, and that makes us edgy.” The crafty mice devise a plan to scare the kitty, and it unfolds with a satisfying surprise. You know Ehlert from Eating the Alphabet, Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and many others. Her latest effort will bring jack-o-lantern grins to the faces of a whole new generation of admirers.
The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme (Sterling, $17.95, 50 pages ISBN 9781402744174) is an exuberant collection of poems about monsters of every 24 stripe—in the engaging form of letters, notes and secret files—that gives read-
ers a rare and comical glimpse at their private lives and predilections. There’s a personal invitation from Count Dracula, a warning about werewolves, an exclusive interview with the Loch Ness Monster and a classified email about zombie research. Appropriately, this is Bobbi Katz’s 13th poetry collection. Her others include We the People: Poems and Once around the Sun. Adam McCauley’s mixed media design is great fun and likely to convince children that they are indeed holding a rare collection of monster memorabilia. It’s time for a sing-along. “There was an old monster who swallowed a tick. I don’t know why he swallowed the tick ‘cause it made him feel sick.” The creepy critters being ingested by our gluttonous friend in There Was An Old Monster! (Scholastic, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780545101455) range from ants and bats to lizards and a lone jackal. It culminates with a lion and, well, it’s not necessarily a happy ending. The Emberley family— Rebecca, Adrian and Ed, a Caldecott Medal winner for Drummer Hoff—has joined together to give us a twisted take on an already twisted tune that will be a memorable addition to Halloween pageants everywhere. Readers who can’t seem to get the catchy refrain out of their heads will be happy to find it available for download on Scholastic’s website.
Vampires next door The new neighbors are a vexing bunch to young Bram Pire. In Dear Vampa (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780061355349) Bram dashes off a letter to his Vampa in Transylvania to blow off a bit of steam. For starters, the Wolfson family stays up all day long and seems overly fond of sunshine (“Mom says it’s disgusting”). They lock their windows at night (“It’s so inconsiderate”), and call the cops when the Pires engage in a bit of rooftop revelry at midnight. When the Wolfsons take up slingshots to shoot the Pires out of the sky during their “evening flutter,” it’s the last straw for Mom and Dad. But are the Wolfsons keeping a dark secret of their own? Ross Collins, the author and illustrator of Medusa Jones and Germs, introduces irony into his story at a level that won’t fly over the heads of young readers and his modgoth style will appeal to graphic novel devotees in the making. This is Halloween hilarity at its hippest.
As the (scare)crow flies Scarecrows aren’t normally known for their fancy footwork, but in the hands of Jane Yolen and illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline, one comes alive
with wild abandon in The Scarecrow’s Dance (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9781416937708). When the wind began to blow “He shrugged his shoulders / And a grin / Just like a corn row, / And as thin, / Broke out along / His painted face. / He gave a leap— / And left the place.” The scarecrow dances past the barn and peers in the window of the farmhouse where he glimpses a young boy reciting his prayers. As he leans in to listen to the child’s appeal for a healthy corn crop, the scarecrow knows he must return to his post to do his part. Ibatoulline’s gouache and watercolor illustrations are breathtaking and readers of all ages will appreciate Yolen’s refined verse and the book’s final message about responsibility. o Ellen Trachtenberg is the author of A Parent’s Guide to the Best Children’s Literature.
Finding confidence to take her dreams aloft If you knew in your heart you were destined to fly, wouldn’t you want to give it a try? In the lovely and thoughtful new picture book Only a Witch Can Fly (Feiwel & Friends, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780312375034) by Alison McGhee, the Halloween moon beckons to a young girl who longs to fly. Dressed as a witch, she gazes out her bedroom window until the time is just right, and with broomstick in hand, she slips out the door. After one failed takeoff and a subsequent tumble into the pumpkin patch, her little brother provides just enough encouragement to get her back on the broom. With an expression of great resolve and a dramatic count, she finally slips into the sky, black cat in tow. “The moon trails fire through a reservoir, and you are earthbound no more. Who could have known it was such a big sky? Bat and Owl wave bye, bye and Cat calls a velvet song to the moon. And you? You have flown . . . you have flown!” Her confidence soars as she glides higher, “For only a witch can fly past the moon.” The linoleum block illustrations of Taeeun Yoo are simply stunning, giving the book a pastoral, folksy quality. When the girl returns to Earth, her parents are waiting with open arms, clearly proud of her accomplishment. It’s an enchanting book that makes a compelling point about the perseverance needed to follow your dreams. It’s not hard to imagine such a potent message resonating with young readers this Halloween. o —ELLEN TRACHTENBERG
CHILDREN’S BOOKS One day, one world
MEET Judy Schachner
By Robin Smith You know the feeling when you read a book and you want everyone you know to read it—right now? Well, that’s how I feel about All the World, a new picture book by poet Liz Garton Scanlon and artist Marlee Frazee. This oversized paean to living life right here and now has grabbed me in a way that few books have lately. By the time I let my husband read it, I had already read it three times, just because it made me feel so happy. Told in rhyming couplets, Scanlon’s story of a day in the life of Every Family is just the antidote for the cynicism of the times. “Rock, stone, pebble, sand / Body, shoulder, arm, hand / A moat to dig, a shell to keep / All the world is wide and deep.” So opens this story of a loving family, a supportive community and the beauty of the day. Frazee’s illustrations show various figures buying produce at a farmer’s market, playing at a park, eating in a cozy local café, playing music together and, finally, safe at rest. At the center of each picture and couplet are relationships—between couples, parents and children, and neighbors. A careful look at the illustrations allows the reader to follow each set of characters— including the multiracial family with two kids, the two All the World women on bicycles, the older couple, the man with his yellow dog—from start to finish. Gentle foreshadowing By Liz Garton Scanlon also lets the reader see what’s coming next. One stunning Illustrated by Marla Frazee double-page spread shows the whole town—and the Beach Lane whole landscape of the story—at rest. Young readers can $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781416985808 trace the story from the beginning at the beach in the Ages 6 and up west all the way to the pier in the east. This oversized volume is a statement of what all people really need to be human. The needs of the characters are the needs of everyone everywhere—food, recreation, companionship, music, land, a safe place to play, imagination, love and, most of all, community. All the way through, a gentle lullaby of words tells the tale: “Hope and peace and love and trust / All the world is all of us.” I think I’ll go read it again. o Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher in Nashville.
Unlocking the secrets of a magical crime
Skippyjon Jones: Lost in Spice (Dutton, $16.99, 32 pages, ISBN 9780525479659) is the latest entry in Judy Schachner’s picture book series about an adventurous Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua. Schachner lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, with her family, which includes two Siamese cats.
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
By Eliza Borné Bran Hambric has a crummy home life. His foster parents, Sewey and Mabel Wilomas, make Bran sleep in the attic and do chores around the house; they won’t even add his name to their “Wilomas Family” sign. But Bran is no ordinary orphan. When he was six years old, Sewey mysteriously found him in a locked bank vault. Nobody knows how Bran got there, and Bran has no memories before the vault. Because mages and gnomes are strictly outlawed in the city of Dunce, Bran would never imagine himself part of a magical plot, until he involuntarily performs magic at the Duncelander Fair, and allies and foes suddenly appear from an underground magical network. Bran quickly learns that his dead mother was a mage who created a terrible curse, and only he holds the key to the curse’s completion. As readers devour Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, the experience may feel like a rolling snowball. The momentum of the plot builds as the pages turn, and we only discover the truth of Bran’s background in the book’s final chapters. It is impossible to read about Bran Hambric without thinking of a certain lightning bolt-branded wizard who came before him. Both Bran and Harry Potter live with Bran Hambric unpleasant foster families and discover their unusual abili- By Kaleb Nation ties late in life. Bran is not a wannabe Harry Potter, though; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky rather, his story is a delightfully different take on a magical $17.99, 464 pages ISBN 9781402218576 population. Ages 9 to 12 Younger readers will enjoy this story because of the general silliness of its characters. Most memorable is Sewey Wilomas, a “Schweezer”-driving wacko who refuses to pay his bills. Older readers may take away lessons from the book’s themes: the difficulty of making big choices, the nonsense behind discrimination and the deep thinking involved in navigating right from wrong. Aspiring young writers will find a role model in Kaleb Nation, the precocious 20-yearold who spent his teenage years writing Bran Hambric (among other pursuits). At kalebnation.com, readers can listen to music composed by this talented author and watch self-produced videos documenting his journey to publishing success. o Eliza Borné writes from Nashville.
Our top picks for Teen Week Read
his year’s Teen Read Week celebration, October 18-24, encourages teenagers to “read beyond reality.” Check out our recommendations below—from madcap adventure to heartfelt drama—and find a young adult novel that’s out of this world.
Tilting at windmills By Angela Leeper In a departure from her Victorian-era trilogy for teens, Libba Bray dishes out a multi-layered dark comedy in her latest book, Going Bovine (Random House, $17.99, 496 pages, ISBN 9780385733977). Sixteen-year-old Cameron Smith, a self-absorbed slacker from Texas, is dying from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human variant of Mad Cow. Doctors don’t give Cameron much time, but Dulcie, a punk angel with pink hair, explains that the prions attacking his brain are from dark energy released by Dr. X. While parallel world-hopping, this mad scientist opened a wormhole, allowing dark energy to penetrate Earth. If Cameron can track down Dr. X, he’ll not only find a cure for his Mad Cow, but also save the planet in the process. Cameron sets out on a farcical road trip to Daytona Beach, where Dr. X may be hiding. With help from his hospital roommate (an anxious, hypochondriac Little Person named Paul Henry “Gonzo” Gonzales), guidance from Dulcie and messages from tabloids, the pair tackles a series of hilarious, Don Quixote-like battles. During the journey, Cameron begins to appreciate his parents, reconnect with his near-perfect sister and most importantly, learn about himself and how to trust, love— and live. While enjoying the hijinks, readers will have to decide whether Cameron’s escapades are really happening or merely the result of his deteriorating spongy brain, an element that adds to the madcap fun. o
OCTOBER 2009 BOOKPAGE = www.bookpage.com
Finding Amanda By Emily Booth Masters Callie is part of the most popular clique at Endeavor High. When a teacher asks her to help new student Amanda Valentino get caught up in math class, Callie is initially irritated, but she soon finds herself becoming good friends with Amanda. Something about this new girl draws Callie in, particularly the fact that Amanda chooses Callie to be her “guide” at Endeavor. Amanda explains that she moves quite a bit, so she always chooses one—and only one—person to help her get to know a new school. When Amanda mysteriously disappears, Callie is less than thrilled to learn that Amanda also chose super-weirdo Nia and geek-turned-artsy-cool Hal to be her “one and only” guides. As the mystery grows more and more intense, Callie finds herself drawn to her new, “uncool” classmates. They begin to discover that very little of what they believed they knew about Amanda is actually true, and they start to wonder if they ever really knew her at all. United in their desire to find Amanda, the girls decide to stick together and embark on what they eventually term “The Amanda Project.” The Amanda Project: Book 1: Invisible I (HarperTeen, $16.99, 352 pages, ISBN 9780061742125) is the first installment in a series of eight books that will eventually (hopefully) solve the Amanda mystery. And for readers of this first volume, the next installment cannot come soon enough. Savvy teen readers looking for a more indepth experience than the typical teen novel will devour Invisible I and head straight to the book’s website (www.theamandaproject.com) for more mystery and drama. o
Transcending time and space
By Angela Leeper Prolific fantasy writer Sharon Shinn spins another imaginative tale with gentle romance in Gateway (Viking, $17.99, 288 pages, ISBN 97806700117800). Taking time out from a busy summer internship, Chinese adoptee Daiyu stops at a jewelry vendor near the St. Louis Arch and is captivated by the beautiful and unusual stones that reflect her birth heritage. After wearing them for only a few moments, she is transported to Shenglang, an alternate St. Louis that resembles 19th-century China and in which Chinese 26 culture is dominant while whites and blacks serve as ostracized laborers. The confused teen is taken in by a biracial couple, who explain to Daiyu that she is one
of the few individuals who can travel between dimensions with the aid of magical amulets. They ask for her help in bringing justice to Chenglei, their corrupt prime minister. With the help of Kalen, an orphaned, white teenage boy, and a wealthy socialite, Daiyu quickly learns espionage tricks and the finer skills of high society for her auspicious meeting with Chenglei. Once her mission is completed, the teen is free to return home, but she will forget all that she experienced in Shenglang, including her developing and secret relationship with Kalen. Caught between two worlds, Daiyu is afraid of losing memories from both. But can love survive beyond time and space? The possibility will enthrall teen readers, as will the author’s detailed descriptions of this parallel world; her interesting explanations of travel across time and dimensions; and thought-provoking discussions of race and culture. Shinn concludes with room for a sequel and the chance to explore love and time once more. o
The doubts of a pastor’s daughter By Angela Leeper Fifteen-year-old Samara is fed up with a summer when everything is broken—the air-conditioner, the ceiling fan, the icemaker, even her family. While her mother is serving a “suggested” court-ordered rehab for DUI, her father, charismatic Pastor Charlie, has time and answers for everyone in their small town, except his wife and daughter. “Everyone thinks they know us, me. Everyone is wrong,” Sam explains. Left out of “nonChristian” activities on the weekends because she’s the pastor’s daughter, she sinks into depression and a crisis in faith in Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost (Little, Brown, $16.99, 224 pages, ISBN 9780316036047). In the midst of Sam’s burgeoning doubt, 13-year-old Jody from her youth group disappears without a trace. As each day passes and the mystery continues, smothering hope and fueling rumors, no one is above suspicion. Red herrings run aplenty, duping readers to the very end. Time begins to stand still, as community members reach out to one another and Sam develops a relationship with Jody’s big brother. And as she realizes the reasons behind her father’s neglect, Sam begins to view him as a multifaceted, misunderstood figure, just like herself. Once Was Lost is part realistic fiction, part mystery, part religious story and all together one gentle, smart read that features believable characters, flaws and all. Small-town life, for better or worse, is frankly depicted, too. For likeable, resilient Sam, who expresses her feelings to readers before she does to the rest of the world, her summertime struggle to reclaim her faith is more about reclaiming her identity. o
Five teens on a hellish journey By Dean Schneider “Hell isn’t some fiery/ pit ‘down there.’ It’s right here on Earth, / in every dirty city, every yawning town. / Every glittery resort and every naked stretch / of desert where someone’s life somersaults / out of control.” So says 16-year-old Eden Streit, near the end of Tricks (McElderry, $18.99, 640 pages, ISBN 9781416950073), a free-verse narrative that takes readers and five narrators on a journey straight to hell. It’s Eden’s narrative that opens the story. Her father is a hellfire-and-brimstone minister, and when he discovers Eden’s relationship with a boy outside their congregation, Eden is sent away for “rehabilitation,” with disastrous results. Four other teenaged characters—Seth Parnell, Whitney Lang, Ginger Cordell and Cody Bennett—face crises that catapult them into journeys Cody describes as a “snowball roll toward hell.” The five separate first-person narratives of these teens eventually come together among the walking dead of the sex trade in Las Vegas. An intense, utterly compulsive tale that readers may well read in one daylong binge, this is a disturbing look at teen prostitution, a big problem in the U.S., where, as Hopkins says in an author’s note, the average age of a female prostitute is 12 years old. In alternating sections, narrators tell their stories, each section opening with a poem that could stand alone in its poetic and reflective power. Hopkins is a fine practitioner of the free-verse novel; her voices are distinct and put readers directly into the minds and hearts of her characters. These are five teens that readers will come to know and care about, and at the end of the novel, there is, indeed, some amount of hope as they continue down their difficult paths. o
CHILDREN’S BOOKS Westerfeld sails into history with a whale of tale By Heidi Henneman hat if World War I was fought with giant walking machines and genetically modified monsters instead of airplanes and ammunition? What if, instead of telephones and radios, long-distance communication was carried out by talking lizards and trained birds? What if our version of history was somehow turned on its head and futuristic tales were spun instead? This is just what happens in Scott Westerfeld’s exciting new novel for young adults, Leviathan (Simon Pulse, $19.99, 448 pages ISBN 9781416971733). Westerfeld treats readers to a captivating story about a young boy in the early 1900s, who happens to be the orphaned son of Archduke Ferdinand. History teaches us that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife ignited the sparks that led to World War I. In Leviathan, this bit of history remains the same, but the details of the war are dramatically different: Britain and her allies are armed with a fleet of Darwinian-created “beasties,” including a flying, hydrogen-burping whale, while Austria and her allies fight with enormous “clankers” made of metal and gears, and run by classic engines. For Westerfeld, whose previous works for teens include the Uglies and Midnighters trilogies, writing in the genre known as “steampunk” SCOTT has been an interesting challenge. “It’s about rewriting history in an WESTERFELD alternative way—and making it better,” he says in a telephone interview from New York, a day after arriving in the city from his native Australia. Westerfeld and his wife Justine Larbalestier, also a successful YA author, divide their time between the two locations. Although steampunk has been around for awhile (think H.G. Wells and Jules Verne), it gained notoriety in the 1980s and ’90s. The genre gets its name from the time period in which most stories are set, the Victorian era, when steam power was king. Westerfeld became aware of the genre when he came across a role-playing game called Space 1899, in which players explore futures that could have been. “That was the first time I realized that people were really doing this stuff and thinking it through,” he says. Westerfeld especially enjoyed researching and writing about the technology of the era. “Everything looked weird at the time, sort of clunky and fantastical: airplanes had three wings, tanks looked like boilers on tractor treads,” he says. He particularly liked researching zeppelins—both the original giant flyers and his own genetically fabricated creations. “I have a big airship fetish,” Westerfeld admits, “and thought a living airship would be a kind of fascinating thing.” To do research, he and Justine went to the headquarters of Zeppelin Corporation in Switzerland, where a smaller version of
Heidi Henneman writes from New York.
A grandma with staying power
One boy’s larger-than-life adventure
By Alice Cary Grandma Dowdel lives! Fans of Richard Peck’s Newbery-winning books A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago know that this is indeed good news. If you haven’t met this feisty heroine, you’ve got a treat in store with A Season of Gifts. This time, the year is 1958, and Elvis is King. A preacher, his wife and three children move next door to Grandma Dowdel in a small Illinois town. The Barnhart family includes Ruth Ann, about to enter first grade, her big sister Phyllis, who adores Elvis, and 11-year-old Bob, our narrator. Bob describes how the town bully and his minions drag him to a nearby creek, strip him of his clothes and duct-tape his mouth shut. It is indeed a horror story, but in Peck’s version, things turn out all right, and justice is finally served. The bullies end their fun by stringing Bob up over Grandma Dowdel’s privy. When she discovers him there, she swears that she will never let anyone know she has witnessed his humiliation. Grandma quietly helps out all of Bob’s family in the short time that they are next-door neighbors. The Barnharts have little money, and their father’s church is in disrepair with no congregation. Luckily, rumors soon begin to fly that Mrs. Dowdel’s melon patch is haunted by the A Season of Gifts ghost of a native Kickapoo princess. Hundreds of folks By Richard Peck come out to try to get a glimpse. When the crowds become Dial, $16.99, 176 pages overwhelming, Mrs. Dowdel presents Mr. Barnhart with a ISBN 9780803730823 box containing, she claims, the princess’ remains. After he Ages 10 and up preaches a stirring funeral for the circus-like crowd, both his congregation and popularity begin to grow. Peck’s lovingly written historical fiction provides a wonderful glimpse into times past. Grandma Dowdel fends for herself by canning produce, catching and cooking a turtle, gathering walnuts and hunting birds. Her gifts don’t come from stores, but they certainly last forever in these fast-paced adventures. o Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.
By Sharon Verbeten The mind of Newbery Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman must be a very animated, busy and slightly offbeat place—and thankfully so. Otherwise, adults and children alike would be missing out on some of the most inventive characters and stories of our time. In this fantastical romp, laden with the echoes of Norse mythology, readers meet Odd, a 12-year-old Norwegian boy who is down on his luck. He recently lost his father, a master carver who dove overboard on a Viking ship to rescue a pony. Then, Odd crushes his leg in a tree-felling accident and is left to hobble about with one good leg, one bad leg and one wooden crutch. Despite his moniker, Odd’s name doesn’t really fit him. He is, perhaps, the most normal character in this short, yet extremely compelling, novel. There are far more odd fellows the boy will encounter when he ventures out of his village— fed up with grumpy villagers and a drunken stepfather, and eager for adventure. It isn’t long before befriends a fox, a bear and an eagle—at least that’s what he initially believes them to be. Odd is soon enraptured and entwined in their spectacular tales of powerful gods, teasing goddesses, intimidating Frost Giants and a magical place known as Asgard. Nothing is as it seems, Odd will soon learn. The woods Odd and the are full of surprises, minds can play tricks and animals can Frost Giants transmogrify. The world of what is real and what is imagined soon melds together—with Odd smack in the middle. By Neil Gaiman In this magical novel, dry humor is woven into the con- Illustrated by Brett Helquist cise text. Anthropomorphic animals, vivid imagery and fan- HarperCollins tastical happenings provide an extremely quick-paced and $14.99, 128 pages ISBN 9780061671739 accessible introduction to mythology. Ages 8 to 12 Readers, especially young boys, will easily be drawn into Odd’s excellent adventure, which is ultimately a satisfying coming-of-age story wrapped in magic and mythical overtones. o 27 Sharon Verbeten is a freelance writer and former children’s librarian in De Pere, Wisconsin.
© SAMANTHA JONESW
the historically giant airships are still being produced. “We got to go up in one and that was cool,” Westerfeld says. He also drew a bit of inspiration from the biological sciences: Darwin and his true-life granddaughter Dr. Nora Darwin Barlow play major roles in the book. “Scientists of that era were the original action hero-adventurers,” Westerfeld explains, “and I thought it would be fun to make Darwin a character.” Indeed, the author takes Darwinian philosophy to a new level, creating a world in which Darwin has discovered DNA threads and has been able to manipulate them to create hybrid animal species: jellyfish that float through the air like hot air balloons, lizards that talk like parrots, and of course, the title creature Leviathan, the aforementioned flying whale. To help us visualize these fanciful creatures, Westerfeld enlisted the artful talents of Keith Thompson, who created more than 50 illustrations for the book. “It was a very collaborative process,” he says. “He did with the pictures the same thing I was doing with the text. It was like being a novelist and an art director at the same time.” After Thompson drew the magnificent creatures and ornate machines that Westerfeld had imagined, the author edited the text to reflect the details that Thompson had added. Westerfeld’s exuberance for the technology of the era—and beyond—comes through clearly in his writing. From mechanized horses to metal-eating bats, eight-legged battleships and light-producing earthworms, he has created a world where technological and biological sciences collide. “It’s a war between two completely different world-views,” he notes. The same could be said of the early 20th century, and the events of the era created fodder for Westerfeld’s storyline. “The great thing about doing historical research is that you can look back and say, if they had only done this it could have all been different. It’s a fascinating perspective.” By creating the alternate reality of Leviathan, Westerfeld is able to inspire his readers—young and old—to think about what really did happen at that time in history, how close we might have come to the fictional story, and how the fate of the world can hinge on seemingly innocuous events. o
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Welcome to Hollywood By Deborah Donovan Joseph Kanon has made his mark in the literary thriller genre, starting with 1997’s Edgar-winning Los Alamos. His fascination with the post-WWII era continues in Stardust, which blends one man’s search for the reasons for his brother’s death with an eyeopening look at the machinations of the Hollywood studios during the Communist witch hunts. Ben Collier (formerly Kohler) returns to the U.S. at the end of the war, taking the train from New York to California, where his brother Danny, a movie director, is hospitalized—supposedly after jumping from his fifth floor apartment. On the train Ben meets a producer who knows Danny and promises Ben he will help him with a movie he has been assigned to make for the Army—a short film dramatizing the horrors of the concentration camps. Ben reaches the hospital in time to see Danny briefly come out of his coma, then die. Their father died in the Holocaust, and Danny later helped many Jewish Germans, including his own wife, Liesl, escape. At his funeral, Ben meets some of these emigrants who owed Danny their lives; Ben senses they are demanding some kind of justice. Kanon thus sets the stage for the melding of these two Stardust plots: Ben’s search for his brother’s killer set against the By Joseph Kanon backdrop of the politics and paybacks of the competing Atria $27.95, 512 pages studios in Hollywood’s early years. At the same time, the war’s aftermath is leading to the ISBN 9781439156148 Also available on audio hunt for Communists all over the country—but nowhere is the hunt fueled by such fervor as in Hollywood. As Ben gradually unravels the intricate ties between Congress, the FBI and its informants, he simultaneously garners information about who might have wished Danny dead—information that puts him in danger, as well. Once again Kanon has woven real-life figures—from Paulette Goddard and Jack Warner to Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann—into a taut thriller, all set against the background of one of the least laudable moments in our country’s history. o Deborah Donovan writes from La Veta, Colorado.
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SENSE OF WONDER Harnessing the power within This month our fantasy triptych includes the story of a young woman who is too beautiful and powerful for even the most powerful men, a machine too powerful for the Wild West and a former slave whose power may destroy him. In the world of Kristin Cashore’s Fire (Dial, $17.99, 480 pages, ISBN 9780803734616), every living creature has a monster analogue, distinguishable by unnatural colors and a lust for blood—particularly monster blood. Though she does not lust for blood, Fire is a human monster. Her beauty causes uncontrollable lust in weak-willed men, and through a form of telepathy she can force men to do her will—though she is understandably reluctant to do so. Her father and his puppet king destroyed their kingdom through excess and cruelty, and Fire quickly finds herself embroiled in court politics, assaulted by the king and used as a tool to BY SEAN MELICAN interrogate spies. She faces internal conflict as she sees the manipulation of human will too similar to her father’s amoral and casual brutality, but also necessary to the defense of the kingdom. To make matters worse, she falls in love with the prince—and his daughter. Aside from sharp writing, the strength of Fire lies in Cashore’s depiction of womanhood. The author plays with traditional gender fantasy roles, giving us a strong but feminine character whose physiology generates her strengths and weaknesses, and male characters who are aggressive chauvinists and misogynists—not the asexual ideal heroes of Tolkien’s pale imitators. The enchanting prequel to Cashore’s beloved young adult novel Graceling, Fire is an excellent book for all ages—particularly young women.
Steampunk in Seattle There are plenty of alternate Civil War novels, but none quite like Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (Tor, $15.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780765318411). In the 1860s, Leviticus Blue builds a gold-mining machine in response to a Russian contest. But something goes terribly wrong—either intentionally or by accident, we don’t quite know—and the Boneshaker destroys the banking district of Seattle and unleashes a gas that turns the living into the living dead. A wall is built around Seattle to contain the gas and the zombies. Sixteen years later, Leviticus’ widow attempts to rescue their son, Ezekiel, who has braved the wall to vindicate his universally hated father. Behind the wall, a man who may or may not be Leviticus—and who may or may not have robbed the banks—has built a kingdom of the living, and he has other plans for Ezekiel and his mother. What follows is a fantastic whirlwind tour of an alternate history and a steampunk version of The Lord of the Flies. While slightly marred by a few too many similar chase scenes, Boneshaker offers fans of both steampunk and the New Weird much to enjoy.
Fantasy pick of the month Flesh and Fire (Pocket, $26, 384 pages, ISBN 9781439101414) gives us another unlikely hero. Jerzy is a slave plucked from the vineyards because he shows a talent for creating spellwines. The reader learns (as Jerzy does) that these magic wines were omnipotent until the vines were split into types by a semi-deity who ordered that vintners and governing entities be entirely independent from one another. This Command has been kept and vigorously enforced, but has led to a stagnation in the development of government and particularly the evolution of spellwines. Peace has been held for centuries, but a new malevolent and destructive power appears which no one can identify. The narrative develops slowly, but the patient reader is rewarded with the skillful unfolding of a richly developed world heavily dependent on religious interpretation—a delightful discovery especially as the novel eschews slavish imitation of Grecian mythology or thinly veiled criticism of Christianity, instead presenting a history and mythology which informs and guides the powerless and the powerful. Laura Anne Gilman also approaches the issue of slavery from an alternate viewpoint; Jerzy sees slavery as a natural and moral behavior, is unable to recognize any other option, and questions the meaning of “freedom” through an examination of what it means to be guided by a dead deity’s Commandments. Moral questions are deeply embedded in the novel, with a brilliantly limited authorial intervention, and presented through well-developed characters and first-class world-building. Since this is subtitled “Book One of The Vineart War,” we can only look forward to the sequel(s). o In alphabetical order, Sean Melican is a chemist, father, husband and writer.
Harvey Comics Classics Volume 1: Casper the Friendly Ghost 978-1-59307-781-5 | $19.95
Creepy Archives Volume 1 978-1-59307-973-4 | $49.95
The Art of Tony Millionaire 978-1-59582-158-4 | $39.95
Aliens Omnibus Volume 1 978-1-59307-727-3 | $24.95
Harvey Comics Classics Volume 4: Baby Huey 978-1-59307-977-2 | $19.95
Eerie Archives Volume 1 978-1-59582-245-1 | $49.95
Harvey Comics Classics Volume 5: Harvey Girls 978-1-59582-171-3 | $19.95
Herbie Archives Volume 1 978-1-59307-987-1 | $49.95
Little Lulu Color Special 978-1-59307-613-9 | $13.95
Mister X Archives 978-1-59582-184-3 | $79.95
Little Lulu Volume 20: The Bawlplayers and Other Stories 978-1-59582-364-9 | $14.95
Nexus Archives Volume 2 978-1-59307-455-5 | $49.95
Kickass Kuties: The Art of Lisa Petrucci 978-1-59582-252-9 | $22.95
Lost Constellations: The Art of Tara McPherson 978-1-59582-222-2 | $22.95
The Workshop of Filthy Creation: The Art of Johnny Ace and Kali Verra 978-1-59307-924-6 | $19.95
Yoshitaka Amano: The Collected Art of Vampire Hunter D
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume 1 978-1-59307-784-6 | $24.95
Clover Omnibus 978-1-59582-196-6 | $19.95
Predator Omnibus Volume 1 978-1-59307-732-7 | $24.95
Star Wars Omnibus: Rise of the Sith 978-1-59582-228-4 | $24.95
978-1-59582-110-2 | $29.95
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UP ! ODAY
It’s ‘Gourmet’ all the way for today’s cook
Gourmet began its illustrious career in 1941 and has become the magazine of record, the gold standard for food magazines. There are others to be sure, but Gourmet maintains its cachet and its excellence due, in good part, to Ruth Reichl’s leadership. Reichl, Gourmet’s famed editor-in-chief, edited The Gourmet Cookbook in 2004, the more-than-magnum opus compiled to celebrate the magazine’s 60th birthday. With more than 1,000 recipes, it was a grand retrospective that gathered the best of the best— retested, retasted and updated. Now, only five years later, the indomitable Gourmet team has done it again with Gourmet Today (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $40, 1,024 pages, ISBN 9780618610181). Another whopper (not the Burger King variety!), this one is orchestrated to suit “the on-going revolution in the AmeriBY SYBIL PRATT can kitchen”—our wonderfully eclectic, international appetites, the ever-increasing ease in getting ethnic, organic and healthy ingredients and our concern about ethical eating. And, with 650 recipes that can be made in 30 minutes, it invites the time-challenged (and who isn’t?) to share in our current culinary adventures. Encyclopedic in an exciting way, there’s not a cooking category missing, from minty Mojitos to Zucchini Curry, Quail with Pomegranate Jus and an impressive Frozen Passion Fruit Meringue Cake. If a new “Julie” cooks her way through this tome, it may take a decade.
Chef with a mission Jamie Oliver has become a revolutionary. Armed with cooking utensils, solid recipes and his signature charm, he’s determined to wage culinary war on bad health and the rise of obesity (pace fat studies proponents). His strategy for winning the war is to give you the tools to make “good, honest, affordable food,” that you cook from scratch (big
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emphasis on “scratch”), whether the economy is in boom or doom mode. The tools, aka great recipes, are in his latest manifesto, Jamie’s Food Revolution (Hyperion, $35, 360 pages, ISBN 9781401323592). He wants us to cook at home, to give up the deleterious habit of eating fast food and takeout, and offers 14 chapters—from 20-minute meals (try the Chicken and Leek Stroganoff!), curries, stir-fries, a wonderful riff on ground beef entrees, roasts and stews, to super salads, sweet things and more—each with an irresistible array easy enough for a novice and intriguing enough for an old kitchen hand, all with fabulous photos, demonstrating a dish’s evolution, the how-to’s involved or the finished product. Join the revolution by passing on your favorites to at least two friends who will do the same (building a progression of happy rebels), or just enjoy Jamie’s take on good homemade food.
The scoop on soup Soup is the ultimate and indisputable comfort food, but in its many incarnations it’s so much more. A soup can show off its hearty peasant roots, exude an ineffable elegance, warm your soul or cool it off. And as souperista Anna Thomas maintains, “soup may be the last hope for home cooking.” To ensure that that “last hope” remains alive and well, Thomas, author of the much-admired Vegetarian Epicure books, serves up her personal, invitingly inventive “library of soups” in Love Soup (Norton, $22.95, 528 pages, ISBN 9780393332575). As you might suspect, Thomas’ soups are vegetarian and many are vegan, and as you might surmise from the title, she’s truly, madly, deeply in love with soup. That love manifests itself in every one of the 100 soup recipes here, plus 60 more for breads, salads, starters and sweets to go with the “souper” main course. Seasonal stars, like chard and root veggies, shine as we move from fall to winter—with some sensational creations for the holidays—then come soups that honor the first tastes of spring and the bounty of summer. We’ve come full cycle, souped it up for a year and are all the better for it. o
Secrets from the upper crust
Small town wisdom
By Eliza Borné The economy has tanked, unemployment’s up and we’ve all got better things to do than read about the woes and ruminations of prep school-educated rich folks, right? Not if Tad Friend has anything to say about it. In Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor, Friend, a staff writer at The New Yorker, writes a multi-generational portrait of his family, an impressive set of Wasps whose ancestors include a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Clearly an expert on the breed, Friend sprinkles hilarious aphorisms throughout the text: “Wasps name their dogs after liquor and their cars after dogs and their children after their ancestors”; “Wasps emerge from the womb wrinkly and cautious, already vice presidents, already fifty-two.” Cheerful Money Through it all, Friend falls in (and By Tad Friend out) of love—multiple times—and Little, Brown deals with the knowledge that when $24.99, 336 pages his kids are grown, they won’t be ISBN 9780316003179 Wasps . . . the family money will be gone. The memoir is most engaging when he keeps closest to home; the scenes with Friend’s parents are touching and poignant. At the beginning of the book, Friend writes, “I am a Wasp because I harbored a feeling of disconnection from my parents, as they had from their parents, and their parents had from their parents.” Cheerful Money is Friend’s funny and enlightening way of piecing together that disconnect. o Eliza Borné recently graduated from Wellesley (and is not a Wasp).
By Linda White Autumn has been the resident sage of the town of Avening for longer than anyone can remember (some may call her a witch or a shaman, but really she is more of an old-fashioned wise women). When Autumn is called to find a replacement, she decides to hold an essay contest for would-be candidates. While the entries themselves prove to be both surprising and illuminating, this is not merely the story of Autumn finding her replacement—it is also a multifaceted tale of the women (and in some cases, girls) vying to take over for their beloved Autumn. Each candidate’s specific experiences unveil—or in some cases, release—the power that is deep within each of them. Above all, this magical book is a testament to the power of women. There is a great preponderance When Autumn of beautiful people in the book— Leaves almost all of the women are striking, and you start to wonder if there By Amy S. Foster must be something in the Avening Overlook water. But beyond that, Foster’s $14.95, 304 pages ISBN 9781590202555 overall message is clear: each of us has a gift. Whether we choose to exercise it or how we choose to do so is ultimately up to us. Foster has a facility for the poetic, and her characters feel comfortable and real from the beginning. When Autumn Leaves is a fantastical coming-of-age story, but mostly, it reminds us of the importance of faith—both in ourselves and in that which we cannot see. o Linda White is a writer and editor living in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sisters are sisters forever By Mary Kennedy With a string of wildly successful books behind her, communications expert Deborah Tannen turns to the emotionally charged topic of sisterhood. Written in a conversational style, You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! offers a look into the passionate dynamics that occur in the relationships between sisters, a visceral connection that can be both symbiotic and suffocating, life-changing and joyful. No one can relate to you like a sister, no one can share your experiences like a sister and conversely, no one can push your buttons like a sister. Tannen bases her work on interviews—or as she prefers to say, focused conversations—with more than 100 women, ranging in age from late teens to their early 90s. One of the many strengths of this powerful book is the way she highlights the stories the women tell about their lives. We learn how their sisters were there for them in a time of crisis, how they converse in a unique way (“sisterspeak”) and how they provide a lifeline for each other. Many subjects felt that their sisters were someone “to talk to and laugh with,” someone who shares the same childhood memories. In the interviews, Tannen skillfully weaves the poignant (“I can’t imagine life without her”) with the mundane (“I love her to death but You Were Always she drives me crazy”) and a fascinating picture emerges. Is Mom’s Favorite! sisterhood a bond or bondage? In The Other Boleyn Girl, Anne says to Mary, “I was born By Deborah Tannen to be your rival. And you, mine. We’re sisters, aren’t we?” A Random House $26, 256 pages sisterly relationship can be challenging, fraught with peril ISBN 9781400066322 and misunderstandings. One misstep, one false note in a Also available on audio heart-to-heart conversation, and the connection is severed or irreparably damaged. Tannen, one of three sisters herself, has written a captivating book that offers a window into this fascinating topic. o Mary Kennedy is a psychologist and mystery writer in Delaware. Her new series, The Talk Radio Mysteries, will be released in January.
Traveling the road of redemption
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By John T. Slania William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That argument gained credence when James Ford Seale was arrested more than 40 years after he and fellow Ku Klux Klan members tortured and murdered two young black men in Mississippi. The ghosts of his victims, and others who lost their lives during the long struggle for civil rights, seem eerily present in the courtroom during Seale’s murder trial, as chronicled in The Past is Never Dead: The Trial of James Ford Seale and Mississippi’s Struggle for Redemption. Author Harry N. MacLean’s main objective is to cover the trial in which a now aging and feeble Seale is accused of the 1964 killings of Charles Moore and Henry Dee. But the book’s broader theme concerns an underlying racial tension MacLean detects in Mississippi, and how the state’s white residents are still trying to atone for sins their ancestors committed against blacks. Thus, the steamy courtroom air seems thick with the spirits of hate-crime victims Medgar Evers, Emmett Till and other lost souls of the South. Even while MacLean is covering Seale’s trail, he spends time traveling across Mississippi. His goal is to understand and describe the complex culture of the state. MacLean’s approach is effective when he recounts Mississippi’s strug- The Past is gle to recover from the Civil War, the rise of The Klan and Never Dead the racial clashes during the 1960s. Equally engaging is By Harry N. MacLean his account of how Mississippi attempts to exorcise its Basic Books demons, as when one small town tries to erect a memo- $25.95, 304 pages rial to Emmett Till. But the narrative loses its way when ISBN 9780465005048 MacLean takes side trips to Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, and later visits with an old black blues musician who admits he’s never heard of James Ford Seale. Fortunately, these distractions are short, and the drama of the murder trial is enough to keep the reader interested and the story moving forward. In sum, The Past is Never Dead works both as a true crime potboiler and as a broader allegory of the South’s search for redemption. o John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago.
On the receiving end Dear Editor: Usually the suffix -ee forms a noun designating the receiver of the action of a verb, as in trainee, while -er designates the initiator of the action, as in trainer. It seems that attendee is an exception to this rule. Can you explain why it doesn’t fit the pattern? A.M. Huntsville, Alabama Let’s start with a little history of the usage of the -ee suffix. It comes via Middle English from Middle French and has proved surprisingly productive in English. The most common use of the suffix is to form receiver-ofthe-action nouns like trainee. A number of usage commentators are not exactly pleased with the proliferation of coinages using the suffix this way. Often -ee is used whimsically in nonce coinages: Harry Truman wrote in his diary in 1948, “In times past I was the giver; now things are reversed, and I’m the givee.” But it also occurs in other more serious coinages, such as draftee and appointee. Some of the commentators who dislike the receiverof-an-action -ee have been led to embrace it thanks to the appearance of another sense of the suffix, the one you noticed in attendee, designating more of a doer than a receiver. Some go so far as to try to prohibit escapee, which has been established for about a century, recommending escaper in its place. Since absentee, dating from 1605, is about the earliest of the words formed with this sense of -ee, you can see how untimely and futile the complaints are. These formations may seem illogical if
the “receiver” sense of -ee is taken as the logical norm, but it’s far too late for the logicians to turn back the clock on centuries of usage.
Many moons Dear Editor: I have recently come across the phrase month of Sundays in a book I am reading. Do you have any idea where and when this phrase originated? J. D. Detroit, Michigan Literally, a month of Sundays is a period including 30 Sundays, but the phrase is of course almost always used less literally to mean “an indefinitely long time,” as in “We haven’t had a vacation in a month of Sundays.” This phrase is on a par with once in a blue moon or on a cold day in July, to mention some of the tamer examples we have heard. As with many colloquialisms, the specific origin of month of Sundays is ultimately unknown and more than likely unknowable. Phrases like this one often persist in speech long before they are committed to print. We can tell you, though, that the first recorded use of the phrase appears in 1832, in a book by British author Frederick Marayat titled Newton Forster; or the Merchant Service. Since the 19th century, the phrase has become a familiar part of informal spoken English and has been employed by many writers in rendering dialogue, perhaps reaching its literary peak in 1975 when it was used as the title of a novel by John Updike.
regarding Word Nook to:
Language Research Service P.O. Box 281 Springfield, MA 01102
Banana filling Add an to each of the words below and then rearrange the letters in each word to form a new five-letter word.
banana splits GOAT, LION, HORSE
Please send correspondence
© 2009 Joe Edley
banana leaves Possible solutions: GALA, GLAD, DANG, GOAD, DRAG, GRAD, HANG, GOAL, RANG, GNAT, TANG, GOAT, TOGA, GOLD, DUNG, GOOD, DRUG, HUNG, THUG, LONG, LUNG, LOGO, GLUT, GOON
For each of the three words below, change one letter to an and then rearrange the letters to spell a type of animal.
Hors d’oeuvre, which is used to refer to any of various savory foods usually served as appetizers, is a term that came to us from the French in the early 18th century. As you note, it translates literally to “outside of (the) work.” It may seem a long jump from this literal sense to “appetizer,” but if we look back to how the term was originally used in France, we can see the logic behind its sense development. One of the early uses of hors d’oeuvre in French was to refer to an outbuilding not part of an architect’s main design. Such a structure would be “outside of the main work” of the original architecture. Hors d’oeuvre also had some early use as an adverb with the meaning “out of the ordinary course of things.” It isn’t hard to see how these uses could have led to the application of the term to a part of a meal that is “outside” the main course. This sense of hors d’oeuvre was first recorded in French in 1690, and in English in 1714.
Use the tiles in the bunch to make 24 different common four-letter words. Each word must include the letter .
The #1 Game of the Year Is Now a Book! These puzzles are excerpted from Bananagrams! The Official Book, by Joe Edley and the creators of Bananagrams, on sale now from Workman Publishing.
Dear Editor: Could you please discuss the origin of the word hors d’oeuvre? The dictionary says it translates to “outside of work.” Could you explain? E. B. Chandler, Arizona
Food for thought
By the editors of Merriam-Webster
banana filling SALAD, ARGUE, CHAFE, NAIVE
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