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Featuring 330 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXI, NO.

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REVIEWS

Also In This Issue

Awaiting the Longed-For Word of Freedom: Tonya Bolden's Emancipation Proclamation p. 96 Hollywood Wonderwold p. 128 The Disappearing Act with Roger Hobbs p. 14

John Mackey Q&A on Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business p. 60

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

P.K. Pinkerton & the Petrified Man

by Caroline Lawrence Twelve-year-old private eye P.K. investigates the murder of a "soiled dove" in 1862 Virginia City in this fast and funny sequel. p. 97

NONFICTION

The Undivided Past

by David Cannadine A stirring critique of history that questions conventional approaches to narrating the human chronicle p. 52

FICTION

Flora

by Gail Godwin Godwin examines the bonds of family. p. 16 Photo Courtesy Whole Foods Market速


Anniversaries: Commemorating Sylvia Plath B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

Chairman H E R B E RT S I M O N # President & Publisher M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N mkuehn@kirkus.com

Sylvia Plath had acquired a modest reputation as a poet when she committed suicide 50 years ago, on February 11, 1963. Just 30 years old, she was as well known in England as the wife of the more famous poet Ted Hughes. That might have added to her depression, but she was far from stilled. Instead, in the six months preceding her death, she produced the stunning confessional poems collected in 1965 as Ariel, with their shocking equations: father as Nazi, husband as beast, society as prison. Two weeks before her death, Plath’s novel The Bell Jar appeared under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Anyone who read it—and not many did on its initial release—might have seen bad things coming for its author. Anyone who knew the young writer closely—and such people were also very few—would have known that the things she described in her work were real: the shock treatments and suicide attempts and heartfelt attempts to embrace what others might call the normal worlds of motherhood, wifedom, academia and authorship. Plath’s marriage to Hughes was famously uneasy, marked for decades after her death by allegations and accusations. After separating from him, she found a Cassandra-like voice in a sequence of

Editor E L A I N E S Z E WC Z Y K eszewczyk@kirkus.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkus.com Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@kirkus.com Features Editor C laiborne S mith csmith@kirkus.com Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH Contributing Editor G R E G O RY M c N A M E E Senior Indie Editor KAREN SCHECHNER kschechner@kirkus.com Indie Editor RYA N L E A H E Y rleahey@kirkus.com Indie Editor D avid R app drapp@kirkus.com Assistant Indie Editor M AT T D O M I N O mdomino@kirkus.com

verse often called “the October poems,” which are now the standards of anthologies and workshops:

Editorial Coordinator CHELSEA LANGFORD clangford@kirkus.com

“Lady Lazarus,” “Daddy,” “Death & Company.” Few poems of their day—or any day, for that matter—

Copy Editor BETSY JUDKINS

carry as much weighty anger and, without exception, the editors with whom she had been working

Director of Kirkus Editorial P E R RY C RO W E pcrowe@kirkus.com

declined to publish them. In the years since her death, those poems have become emblems, much imitated and much admired; without them, later poets such as Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton might have found it much harder to find publication. And Plath has come to be seen alternately as a victim or as, well, self-indulgent for having left the world while caring for two infant children. The facts support the former view, though to be pro-Plath does not require one to be anti-Hughes. We may learn more such facts now that portions of her archives are being unsealed, a decade and a half after Hughes’ own death. For now, it is worth noting that the winter in which Sylvia Plath died was one of the coldest on record, which would not have helped matters; after relocating to London from the countryside, she wrote to her mother, “Thank goodness I got out of Devon in time. I would have been buried for ever under this record 20ft snowfall with no way to dig myself out.” It is also worth noting that the medical approach to what we now call clinical depression was much less sympathetic to sufferers in her time than it is today. Sylvia Plath stands at the head of a long, illustrious list of literary suicides (“One year in every ten / I manage it”), and she is read, perhaps unfairly, with that sad end in mind. Her poems, marking a terrible struggle, remain very much alive.

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contents fiction

The Kirkus Star is awarded to books of remarkable merit, as determined by the impartial editors of Kirkus.

Index to Starred Reviews............................................................5 REVIEWS.................................................................................................5 Roger Hobbs: the hottest new thriller writer to emerge this spring........................................................................14 Mystery..............................................................................................36 Science Fiction & Fantasy..........................................................43

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................45 REVIEWS...............................................................................................45 Whole Foods' founder on Conscious Capitalism.......... 60

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................79 REVIEWS...............................................................................................79 Tonya Bolden depicts the long wait for freedom....... 96 interactive e-books...................................................................119 Continuing series.......................................................................120

indie Index to Starred Reviews........................................................ 121 REVIEWS............................................................................................. 121 Hollywood's World of Wonder Productions' beautiful new book...................................................................128

Gail Godwin examines the intricate bonds of family and the enduring scars inflicted by loss. See the starred review on p. 16. |

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on the web w w w. k i r k u s . c o m Check out these highlights from Kirkus’ online coverage at www.kirkus.com 9

In his new collection of short stories, Nothing Gold Can Stay, PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author Ron Rash turns again to Appalachia to capture lives haunted by violence and tenderness, hope and fear, in stories that span from the Civil War to the present day. In the title story, two drugaddicted friends return to the farm where they worked as boys to steal their former boss’ gruesomely unusual war trophies. In “The Trusty,” which first appeared in the New Yorker, a prisoner sent to fetch water for his chain gang tries to sweet-talk a farmer’s young wife into helping him escape, only to find that she is as trapped as he is. In “Something Rich and Strange,” a diver is called upon to pull a drowned girl’s body free from under a falls, but he finds her eerily at peace below the surface. Kirkus writer Bridgette Bates asks Rash about the inspiration and foundations of his art. On the day the film adaptation of their bestselling young-adult novel Beautiful Creatures— starring Alice Englert, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons—appeared in theaters, the co-authors of the Beautiful Creatures series, Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, revealed exclusively to Kirkus their top 10 favorite movie versions of YA novels. Beautiful Creatures, of course, is about Lena Duchannes, who is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power—and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met.

Adele Oliveira interviews Duncan Wall about his plunge into the unique and wonderful world of the circus. When Wall visited his first nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, everything about it—the monochromatic costumes, the acrobat singing Simon and Garfunkel, the juggler reciting Proust—was captivating. Soon, he was waiting outside stage doors, eagerly chatting with the stars and attending circuses two or three nights a week. So great was his enthusiasm that a year later he applied on a whim to the training program at the École Nationale des Arts du Cirque—and was, to his surprise, accepted. Sometimes scary and often funny, The Ordinary Acrobat follows the (occasionally literal) collision of one American novice and a host of gifted international students in a rigorous regimen of tumbling, trapeze, juggling and clowning. For the latest new releases every day, go online to Kirkus.com. It’s where our editors and contributing blog partners bring you the best in science fiction, mysteries and thrillers, literary fiction and nonfiction, teen books and children’s books, Indie publishing and more. And be sure to check out our Indie publishing series, featuring some of today’s most intriguing self-published authors, including best-seller Hugh Howey. Each week, we feature authors’ exclusive personal essays on how they achieved their success in publishing. It’s a must-read resource for any aspiring author interested in getting readers to notice their new books.

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fiction THE LIARS’ GOSPEL

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Alderman, Naomi Little, Brown (320 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 11, 2013 978-0-316-23278-4

THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR by Jake Arnott........................................... 6 THE MOVEMENT OF STARS by Amy Brill...........................................8

Four narratives set during the time of the ministry, trial and death of Jesus, all involving characters central to the origin of Christianity. The book opens with the sacrifice of a lamb at the temple and ends with BarAvo (Barabbas) cutting the throat of Ananus, the High Priest of the Temple, and “bleed[ing] him like a lamb,” so there’s an obvious symmetry in the narrative arc Alderman sets up. In between these two sacrifices, we learn how the major characters she focuses on relate to the story of Yehoshuah of Nazaret (later Romanized to Jesus of Nazareth, though throughout her re-telling, Alderman uses Hebrew names). The first story is that of Miryam (Mary), mother of a man whose mission she doesn’t understand, and she remains bitter about the loss of her son. Her husband, Yosef, is even more uncomprehending and angry, definitively breaking with his son about a ministry that seems to him idiosyncratic and misguided. The next novella-length narrative introduces us to Iehuda from Qeriot (Judas Iscariot), who, from a later perspective, recounts the “strange tale” of his attachment to Yehoshuah, to the amusement of Calidorus, a Roman merchant, and his guests at a feast. Following Iehuda’s version of events comes that of Caiaphas, a High Priest of the Temple, who tries to resist the pressure of Roman politicians but who ends up turning Yehoshuah over to Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea. The last narrative is that of Bar-Avo, a Jewish revolutionary and assassin who’s caught just before Passover. The rebel band he’s been leading forms a large part of the crowd when Pilate engages in the “Roman sport” of letting the crowd decide who will be released. Alderman re-creates with startling immediacy the culture of first-century Judea, with its political intrigue and riots and with its characters wondering at what the life of Yehoshuah has meant to them.

HE’S GONE by Deb Caletti..................................................................10 FLORA by Gail Godwin.......................................................................16 EQUILATERAL by Ken Kalfus............................................................. 20 THE HOPE FACTORY by Lavanya Sankaran.................................... 29 IN THE GARDEN OF STONE by Susan Tekulve.................................32 THE HUMANITY PROJECT by Jean Thompson.................................. 33

EQUILATERAL

Kalfus, Ken Bloomsbury (224 pp.) $24.00 Apr. 23, 2013 9781-62040-006-7

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“A nimble fable...” from every boy should have a man

EVERY BOY SHOULD HAVE A MAN

sexual manifesto. Or religious parable. Or a narrative about the possibilities and limitations of narrative. Or a series of interrelated stories inspired by the cards of a tarot deck. Or all of the above. Yet the reader need have no knowledge of the tarot (or the occult, which pervades the novel) to appreciate its imaginative vision or make sense of the way it hopscotches across genre, chronology, geography and cosmos. It begins and ends with the first-person account of a fictional American science-fiction writer named Larry Zagorski, best known for a novel titled American Gnostic, which attracted a hippie cult following in the 1960s. For the novel, Zagorski drew upon his own experiences with the likes of Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard (the latter, fictionalized in Zagorski’s novel and rendered under his own name in Arnott’s, transforms his science fiction into a religion in both). Also playing key roles in the novel are Aleister Crowley, Rudolf Hess, Ian Fleming and Jim Jones (the prophet of mass suicide). Told through multiple narrators, it is a novel of “quantum leaps, of diverging timelines, alternate futures, and crucial moments when things could go either way.” Yet, it sustains a narrative momentum as it unfolds as fact and fantasy, mystery and revelation, pulp fiction and metaphysical transcendence. Along the way, it traces the thematic arc of science fiction, which has gone “from being about the probable, the possible, the impossible, the metaphysical to the ordinary, the everyday. It seems the one form that can truly grasp the essential strangeness of modern living.” A novel that combines the pleasures of genre fiction and the thematic richness of literary fiction, while blurring the line between the two and exploding the very concept of genre.

Allen, Preston L. Akashic (224 pp.) $23.95 | $15.95 paper | May 14, 2013 978-1-61775-162-2 978-1-61775-157-8 paper

In a world ruled by giant post–human beings, mankind is reduced to mere playthings in this fractured fairy tale. After exploring addiction and religion in his first two outings, Allen (Jesus Boy, 2010, etc.) throws caution to the wind with his bizarre but exquisitely composed fable that uses transhumanism as the prism to reflect on the nature of humanity. In his latest, the world is populated by “oafs,” simple giants who tower above and live in large, crowded assemblies; and “mans,” people who have been reduced to a primitive, sometimes feral state. The novel tells the story of our protagonist, “Boy,” and his three “mans.” The boy’s first man is called Brown Skin and turns out to be the runaway property of the local mayor. When the mayor retrieves him, the boy is inconsolable. To make it up to him, his father arranges for him to have Red Sleeves, a “female man.” But one day, the boy finds her “entangled” with another missing man, and she later becomes pregnant. When the oafs take her child away to slave in the mines, Red Sleeves dies suddenly. Eventually, her daughter, Red Locks, escapes from the mines and takes up with a rascal named Rufus but eventually visits Boy to let him in on some of the great secrets of the world. If it sounds absurd, it is, but it’s also intellectually curious and rather cutting in many of its conceptual and cultural assessments. It’s a world where man is not only pet, but also meat, where religion, wars and empires are just as backward as they are in our own world, and where worlds collide with a temperamental angst that is as uncomfortable as it is alluring. Much like Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel Planet of the Apes, this novel is a sardonic parable on the nature and destiny of the species. A nimble fable whose bold narrative experiment is elevated by its near-biblical language and affectionate embrace of our inherent flaws.

TEN WHITE GEESE

Bakker, Gerbrand Penguin (240 pp.) $15.00 paper | Feb. 26, 2013 978-0-14-312267-8 An Emily Dickinson scholar from the Netherlands journeys to Wales, ostensibly to carry on her research but more realistically, to escape from a scandal involving one of her students. Agnes arrives in Wales in November, when days get grim and dark fairly early, an atmosphere that’s well-suited to her loneliness. She rents a farmhouse and soon meets Rhys Jones, who tends his sheep and helps orient her to the small local community. Concerned that the 10 domestic geese are rapidly diminishing in number owing to the predations of a fox, Agnes constructs a crude pen to try to protect them. As she desultorily works on her translation of Dickinson’s poetry, she muses about her past—her brief but intense affair with a student and the hounding that occurred shortly after. Bakker also intercuts scenes with Anges’ husband, still in the Netherlands, who has no idea where his wife has gone, though scurrilous notices on the campus bulletin board make the “why” of her disappearance apparent. Although Agnes has few visitors, another Jones shows up (she wonders whether that’s the only

THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR

Arnott, Jake Amazon/New Harvest (448 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-54-407779-9 An audaciously ambitious novel that takes great creative risks and, against considerable odds, makes most of them pay dividends. What kind of novel is the latest from the British Arnott (The Long Firm, 1999)? Science fiction, most likely. Or World War II espionage. Or Utopian/dystopian. Or 6

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THE FORGOTTEN

surname in Wales), this one a young man named Bradwen who had dropped out of university to help plot a hiking trail across the landscape. Agnes—who introduces herself as “Emilie” (in honor of Dickinson) to Bradwen—begins to repeat the past by showing sexual yearning toward Bradwen, but she’s frustrated by his reticence. When Rhys shows up to check on Agnes, he’s surprised to find Bradwen there. Revelations follow. In stark but lyrical prose, Bakker explores themes of both isolation and intimacy.

Baldacci, David Grand Central Publishing (432 pp.) $27.99 | Nov. 20, 2012 978-0-446-57305-4 “The next time you go on R and R, pick a safer place than Paradise.” Mysterian Baldacci (The Sixth Man, 2011, etc.) serves up a gently ironic tale of mayhem, this time set in idyllic Florida. John Puller is a classic Baldacci character, a combat-wise Army special agent whose life has been spent in service. His ailing father, a retired general, has received a letter from his older sister, who has just died under questionable circumstances, and though it doesn’t reveal much, it’s enough for Puller to head south and begin poking around. Before long, he runs afoul of, then makes alliances with, the local gendarmerie. And because Puller is, after all, a hairychested dude who knows his way around guns and conspiracies

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SECRETS FROM THE PAST

and all that, pretty soon there’s a dame involved. Two, even. Baldacci works all the angles with due skill; it’s not Hammett or Chandler, but the prose is serviceable, the tale broadly entertaining. What is best is his showing Puller’s line of reasoning as he attempts to figure out just what it was that his elderly aunt saw that led to her death—and when he finally does, how he deals with the culprit, who, suffice it to say, looks very good in a tight-fitting uniform. The clichés are refreshingly few, and Baldacci writes sympathetically of the not-so-golden years at the end of life, when Puller’s father, once the commander of 100,000 men in battle, is “now intently watching a TV show where people guessed the prices of everyday stuff in an attempt to win more stuff.” A solid thriller—though someone tell the fact checker that Bulgaria was never part of the Soviet Union.

Bradford, Barbara Taylor St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $27.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-312-63166-6

Clichéd and overlong novel about war photographers coping with PTSD, love affairs and family secrets. Bradford’s protagonist, 30-year-old Serena, is a combat photographer who has left the front lines to pen a biography of her late father, Tommy, founder of a photojournalism empire and a former war correspondent himself. When another photojournalist, ex-boyfriend Zac, is brought from Afghanistan to Venice by a mutual friend, Serena, summoned to his side to help him decompress, finds herself falling for him all over again. The scene shifts to Nice, where Serena reconnects with her older twin sisters, Cara and Jessica, at a villa inherited from their late mother, a movie star of Elizabeth Taylor stature. Over many, many glasses of pink Veuve Clicquot and cups of tea, repetitious conversations belabor mostly peripheral and insignificant details—about Cara’s and Jessica’s unadventurous love lives, an upcoming anniversary celebrating their departed parents and Zac’s continuing recovery from a trauma that was never rendered convincingly in the first place. It isn’t until two-thirds in that a potentially riveting “secret from the past” emerges: While combing through her father’s archives, Serena finds a cache of photographs revealing that Tommy may have dallied briefly with another war photographer, Valentina. There are photos of a very pregnant Val, with a disturbing caption suggesting that Serena may not be a movie star’s daughter after all. Serena can get no confirmation of her origins from her sisters or her father’s closest friends. But Zac distracts her from this dilemma with another. Although he promised to give up warzone reporting forever, he wants to go to Libya to cover the rebellion against Gadhafi. And he insists on taking Serena, now his fiancee, with him. Serena has an ulterior motive for agreeing: Val is now in Libya. But that’s not the most distressing information she’s withholding from Zac. However, the prodigious amount of front-loaded exposition may discourage readers long before the excitement starts. A gripping novella embedded in a thick tome of largely irrelevant window dressing.

AND THE MISS RAN AWAY WITH THE RAKE

Boyle, Elizabeth Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-06-208908-3

When his nephew puts a lovelorn ad in the paper on his behalf as a prank, Lord Henry Seldon never expects to find someone he might consider his soul mate; unfortunately, she’s a Dale, sworn enemies of the Seldons. Lord Henry Seldon, possibly the most sober and sensible Seldon ever born, is not amused when his nephew, the Duke of Preston (who is barely six months younger than he) buys an ad in the London paper, from a sensible gentlemen seeking a sensible lady for correspondence and possible matrimony, and directs the replies to Henry’s address. But he is shocked when one of the letters actually resonates with him, and he finds himself falling in love with Miss Spooner through a series of exchanged letters he signs Mr. Dishforth. However, as events unfold, it soon points to the possibility that his beloved Miss Spooner is none other than Daphne Dale, of the detested Dales, sworn enemies of the Seldon clan for centuries. At first determined to deny their mutual attraction, Henry and Daphne sway to the strength of their feelings for one another, but their families prove to be further obstacles to their happiness. Boyle’s second installment in the Rhymes With Love series is a light, fun read with a cute and intriguing storyline that combines a Romeoand-Juliet–style arc with a twist on a Cyrano de Bergerac–esque correspondence confusion. For the most part, Boyle’s writing is smooth and well-paced, the characters are engaging and authentic, and the dialogue is witty and does a good job grounding the characters and moving the story forward. However, there are some slow moments, and a pet dog at times gets in the way of the flow of the plot rather than enhancing it. The book charms and entertains, and the hook is unique and fun, earning a few extra points for originality: a good bet for historical romance fans. (Agent: Karen Solem) 8

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THE MOVEMENT OF STARS

Brill, Amy Riverhead (400 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-1-59448-744-6

A young woman has her eyes opened to her community’s limitations—and her own—in television writer/producer Brill’s strong debut. |


In the small, tightly controlled Quaker settlement on Nantucket in 1845, 24-year-old Hannah Price’s principal duties are to behave and dress with sober decorum and to find a husband. Though her father has encouraged her passion for astronomy since she was a girl, he’s lost interest in celestial observations since her beloved twin brother, Edward, shipped out on a whaling vessel nearly three years earlier. Hannah dreams of sighting a new comet and winning the King of Denmark’s prize, but when her long-widowed father announces that he plans to remarry and relocate to Philadelphia, assuming as a matter of course that Hannah must accompany him, she sees painfully and angrily how little control she has over her own life. She is further unsettled by Isaac Martin, a sailor from the Azores who brings his ship’s chronometer to be recalibrated and asks Hannah to teach him how to use it. Quakers are against slavery but hardly free of racial prejudice; Hannah’s sessions with Isaac scandalize the meeting—and though her critics are narrow-minded, they’re not wrong that she is uneasily attracted to a man she has been raised to believe is beneath her. Hannah is by no means a saintly heroine; as her returned brother’s new wife points out, she is quick to judge and slow to see anything that can’t be observed through astronomical instruments. In spare yet luminous prose, Brill shows Hannah achieving emotional and spiritual growth to match her intellectual gifts: Gaining her heart’s desire to be recognized as a scientist, she also finds the courage to acknowledge her feelings for Isaac. Brill’s realistic, poignant conclusion gives her appealing protagonist almost equal portions of happiness and sorrow, just as she has done equal justice throughout to the passions of the mind and the flesh. Probing yet accessible, beautifully written and richly characterized: fine work from a writer to watch.

he doesn’t call for weeks, she is disappointed but has an idea for a column, which she titles “The Viagra Diaries.” Starting with Mr. X (Marv), she writes about all kinds of guys she meets and interviews, and column after column inspires so much reader response that she is given a much-needed raise at work. Before long, her column becomes nationally syndicated, and she becomes a star. Along the way, she speculates on how renewed sexual vigor via Viagra has influenced the dreams, expectations and relationships of her generation. The ending, which is really a new beginning for Anny, is enticing and exciting. No, 60 is not the new 40: As Anny would say, why should it be? Sixty is a time to enjoy life and continue to pursue one’s dreams. This realistic and funny novel will appeal to women of all ages, while men should find it attractively controversial.

THE VIAGRA DIARIES

Brooker, Barbara Rose Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $16.00 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-4516-8861-0 A smart, witty, sometimes hilarious coming-of-age novel for and about the boomer generation. Anny Applebaum is 65, an artist and an art lover, 10 years divorced, who supplements inadequate social security with money she earns writing a newspaper column for seniors. Her editor, a young woman who likes and admires her, has to inform her that their boss plans to cut the column unless she can come up with topics that attract more readers. Meanwhile, her daughter continues to push her into seeking a mate and suggests she try one of the online dating sites. On JDate, Anny finds Marv, and they set up a date to meet in person. He is an attractive 75-year-old diamond merchant who appears to reciprocate Anny’s initial attraction. Following advice from her daughter and a couple of friends, she doesn’t go to bed with him right away, but their first kiss leads her to expect the proverbial phone call. When |

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“A capable, empathetic historical recap...” from roses have thorns

WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES

Helena—or Elin as she was named in Sweden—was scarcely 17 when chosen to accompany Swedish Princess Cecelia on a visit to the English court in 1564. Immediately upon arrival, Elin catches the eye of Lord Northampton and stays on when Cecelia leaves, becoming a maid of honor to the queen. But Northampton is not free to marry her, and when eventually he is, the marriage only lasts five months before he dies, leaving Elin—now Helena—a marchioness and the highest-ranking lady in the land after Elizabeth. The two women’s friendship intensifies, although later the closeness is jeopardized by Helena’s second marriage to Thomas Gorges, not a nobleman. But Helena’s romantic history is in essence a background to and insider’s perspective on the real and familiar story of Elizabeth’s reign—the plotting; the Catholic enemies; the question of marriage; the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Byrd ends with Helena as Elizabeth’s chief mourner. A capable, empathetic historical recap with an unusual heroine, but it fails to set the Thames on fire.

Brookmyre, Christopher Atlantic Monthly (368 pp.) $24.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-8021-2089-2

Jasmine Sharp, the drama school dropout who became an unlikely Glasgow PI in Where the Bodies Are Buried (2012), looks into the 1981 disappearance of a young actress—a case that overlaps a fresh murder investigation in the Highlands by Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod. The orphaned daughter of an actress, Jasmine got her start as an investigator when her uncle, Jim, an ex-cop, convinced her she could use her thespian skills working for his investigative agency. Having inherited the company following Jim’s disappearance and murder, Jasmine is hired by a woman to find out what happened to her younger sister Tessa, who fell off the face of the earth in 1981. After Jasmine questions hotshot theater producer Hamish Queen, whom Tessa was last seen working for, he is shot dead by a sniper at a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream outside a castle. Catherine, who has been arguing with her husband over their teenage son’s desire for a sniper-themed video game, finds herself on the trail of a real-life shooter. Jasmine, with the help of Glen Fallan—the mysterious gangland enforcer who became her guardian angel in Where the Bodies Are Buried—overcomes threats to her wellbeing to uncover a conspiracy involving drugs, sex, satanic cults and changed names. Brookmyre pushed against the restraints of crime fiction with his “Tartan noir” series featuring investigative reporter Jack Parlabane and his outlandish satirical novels. But following the very good Bodies, which returned him to mainstream fare, he’s in tame whodunit mode. The flashback plot is tired. The scaling back of Catherine’s presence denies us the pleasure of seeing the two female investigators cross paths. And though never less than likable, Jasmine loses charm as she gains confidence, something one hopes the author will reverse in future books. With its running social commentary and bits on Scottish theater and politics, this is an entertaining book. But its predecessor was livelier and more brimming with incident.

HE’S GONE

Caletti, Deb Bantam (352 pp.) $15.00 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0-345-53435-4 YA veteran and National Book Award finalist Caletti (The Story of Us, 2012, etc.) makes a striking adult debut with this tale of a husband’s mysterious disappearance. When Dani Keller wakes up with a pounding headache after too much wine and a couple of Vicodin at a tense party at husband Ian’s software company, she isn’t terribly surprised not to find him next to her. She vaguely remembers an argument the night before, and Ian is the punishing sort who seethes in silence or absents himself when she’s displeased him. The couple met when married to others—angry, abusive Mark and party-throwing, hard-drinking, free-spending Mary— and the resultant divorces scandalized their affluent Seattle suburb. Now they’re married and living on a houseboat on Lake Union; her daughter, Abby, likes Ian well enough, but Kristen and particularly Bethy have never forgiven Ian for leaving their mother and bitterly blame Dani. Indeed, Bethy accuses her hated stepmother of doing away with Daddy, and the worst of it is, Dani can’t deny it with total conviction. As Ian’s absence lengthens into weeks, her memories slowly paint a devastating portrait of two damaged people who clutch at each other for rescue but soon discover that their problems are deeper than unsatisfying marriages. Ian will never be successful enough for his hypercritical father, and Dani spends her life trying to make people who mistreat her feel better. She’s never had the courage to be alone, until Ian’s disappearance leaves her sick with fear and remorse. Could she have been angry and wasted enough to do him harm? Though the opening pages seem to promise a suspense novel—and the close delivers a well-executed plot twist— this is in essence the story of a woman’s growing self-knowledge,

ROSES HAVE THORNS

Byrd, Sandra Howard Books/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-4391-8316-8 The story of a Swedish noblewoman in Queen Elizabeth I’s court. Prolific novelist Byrd’s latest historical draws on Lady Helena von Snakenborg’s actual experiences as lady-in-waiting and close companion to the Virgin Queen. 10

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perfectly executed at an appropriately measured pace. Caletti softens the stark message that love doesn’t necessarily change anything with her compassion and understanding for Ian as well as Dani. Well-written, strongly characterized and emotionally complex fiction.

having no other choice, moves with her two young children to her mother’s condominium. She takes a job as a bank teller and must trust her mother to help her care for the children, which is difficult insofar as her critical mother has never taken much interest in her. After two miserable years with her narcissistic mother, Libby receives an invitation from her mother’s estranged sister, Jean (the other heroine of the story), to bring the children and live on her farm near Atwater, Texas. Jean says she is suffering from arthritis and needs help with the chores, but there is another, secret reason she yearns to have Libby, her precocious 7-year-old daughter, Abby, and the little boy, “Tank,” come live with her. While driving to Jean’s, Libby meets two people who will play an important role in her new life. Heart-rending and heartwarming.

THE LOST HUSBAND

Center, Katherine Ballantine (304 pp.) $15.00 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0345-50794-5

A novel about family, love and forgiveness. Libby, a heroine of this story on many levels, loses her husband in an automobile accident and cannot afford to keep the family house. She sells the house and,

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PIRATE ALLEY

Max Gallo, whom she’s met before and who has a connection to more than one of the recent victims. If that’s not enough, former adversaries are reaching out, complicating the current case, and the agency she works for is losing funding. While Cadence tells herself she’s excited for a normal life, events conspire to threaten nearly everything she’s putting in place toward that goal, which may be a sign to question what she think she wants. Davidson’s third and final installment in the series featuring Cadence Jones and her unconventional investigative agency is full of witty banter, intelligent humor, and characters that are unique, quirky and perfectly rendered. The mystery is interesting but functions more as a backdrop for all of the other action and relationships in the book, rather than as the primary driver of the story. Davidson’s accomplished navigation of the investigation, the romantic and professional tensions, and the full range of mental disorders and eccentric characters is clever, inventive and entertaining and makes the book a fun, engaging read.

Coonts, Stephen St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $26.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-312-37284-2 A swashbuckling thriller from Coonts. The Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa sees heavy commercial traffic as ships ply their way to the Suez Canal. Given the great poverty on the continent, some men take to piracy—they commandeer a cruise ship or freighter and hold cargo, passengers and crew for ransom. One such victim is the Sultan of the Seas, a luxury liner with almost 900 souls aboard. Sailing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, it catches the attention of Muslim pirates operating out of Mogadishu, Somalia. Once they board the unarmed vessel, they kill a few infidels to frighten the rest, then issue their demand to the world: $200 million, or everyone dies. Meanwhile, passenger Mike Rosen secretly sends emails to his employer about deteriorating conditions on the ship, and his messages become worldwide news. The CIA and Navy SEALs get involved, since the U.S. thinks the pirates may intend to kill everyone onboard regardless of whether they get the ransom. Former Navy pilot Coonts expertly builds the tension as plans develop to take back the ship, conflicts brew between pirate factions, copious blood flows and an old coastal fortress turns into a potential bomb. Coonts’ fans will welcome back series characters Jake Grafton and Tommy Carmellini, who see to it that readers have fun while lots of bad guys take the express route to Paradise. Meanwhile, readers considering an Indian Ocean cruise might want to pick something less adventurous. Thriller lovers will enjoy this one for its fast pace, colorful locale and satisfying conclusion. There’s never a doubt as to which side will win, of course, but Coonts takes us on a heck of a good ride.

THE STUD BOOK

Drake, Monica Hogarth/Crown (384 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-307-95552-4 Drake (Clown Girl, 2006) pointedly avoids sentimentality in writing about Portland friends who approach sex and procreation with varying degrees of desire, fear and trepidation. The central character, 38-year-old Sarah, studies animal habits, especially regarding procreation, at the Oregon Zoo; the novel’s title refers to an international record book for mandrills dealing with births, couplings and deaths. Ironically, Sarah and her less than macho husband, Ben, who works in mortgage financing and has been known to sit to pee, have been through three failed pregnancies by the first chapter, with more failures likely to come. Even if Sarah’s desire to have a baby is mostly an animal need to procreate, she can’t help feeling jealous of her best friend, Georgie, who has recently had a baby by C-section. But Georgie, who overcame her hardcore childhood to become a literary professor, is a mess—afraid to put the baby down and taking pain pills—while her husband escapes with increasing frequency to the local bar, where he plays a macabre drinking game, taking a shot every time a dead girl shows up on the TV screen. Sara and Georgie’s slightly older, widowed friend Nyla is a cartoonishly idealistic yoga instructor and environmentalist who has raised two daughters alone. While the older girl is successfully off to college (Brown no less), Nyla remains willfully oblivious about her younger daughter’s typical but dangerous adolescent crises. Nyla is also happily pregnant without a partner. Then there’s Dulcet, who has zero interest in babies and works in an anatomically correct body suit to teach sex ed when she’s not having casual sex with strangers. All the friends grew up in pre-hipster Portland, and

YOU AND I, ME AND YOU Davidson, MaryJanice St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-312-53119-5

Cadence Jones, the multiple personality detective, must juggle her love life, her fantasy life and, alongside her sociopathic partner, her newest serial killer investigation. Cadence is moving in with her boyfriend, Patrick, the rich baker/entrepreneur who also happens to be her best friend’s brother. But when a new serial killer case heats up on Moving Day, Cadence feels pressure from Patrick to step back from the work she loves, and she begins to worry that perhaps she’s moved into the relationship—and Patrick’s home—too quickly. Also confusing is the heady attraction she— and Shiro, one of her “personality sisters”—feels toward Dr. 12

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“...another wild ride.” from pacific

EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE

the portrait of the city in its evolution sometimes outshines the lives of these unhappy, increasingly annoying characters. Often sharply observed, at its best this is a comedy of manners among a very distinct subset—the not quite successful but intellectually self-superior—so the tragic and uplifting elements bunched together in the last chapters seem to come out of left field.

Dymott, Elanor Norton (384 pp.) $26.95 | May 6, 2013 978-0-393-23977-5

Zambia-born Oxford graduate Dymott’s debut novel moves slowly through the world of academia and postgraduate life as it chronicles the murder of a woman who was as mysterious in life as

PACIFIC

Drury, Tom Grove (208 pp.) $25.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-8021-1999-5

she was in death. Alex Peterson and Rachel Cardadine marry after being seated near one another at the wedding of mutual friends following their graduations from Oxford. Rachel studied poetry, but Alex followed the law, and although they had known one another while students, this later meeting changed their relationship into something serious. One night, after dining with a former tutor and close friend, Rachel leaves Alex for a short

Getting by, getting over, getting laid: Drury’s characters keep busy in his fifth novel, another wild ride. Some of them we’ve met before in Hunts in Dreams (2000) and The End of Vandalism (1994): Charles, Joan, Lyris and Micah. The action is split among small Midwest towns and Los Angeles. Charles, now known as Tiny, had a plumbing business which has since failed. His ex-wife, Joan, has moved to LA and has a juicy role in a TV show. Stepdaughter Lyris has moved into town to shack up with a young newspaper reporter. Joan re-appears to claim 14-year-old Micah and move him to the coast. She’s going to take another stab at this mothering business; or is she just playing a role? These departures leave Tiny in an empty nest. Out of loneliness, he starts stealing boxes from the loading docks of big-box stores. That’s kids’ stuff compared to Jack Snow’s criminal enterprise. Jack is an ex-con shipping fake Celtic artifacts from a warehouse. It’s his bad luck to be tracked down by Sandra Zulma, his old childhood playmate. Sandra is now cuckoo, lost in a Celtic fantasy world, but with the single-minded energy of the mad, she is looking for a rock that Jack may own. Also on Jack’s trail is Dan, once the sheriff but now working for a detective agency, though he hates the sleaze. He and his wife, Louise, are emblems of decency; their private sorrow is the loss of a daughter at birth. Meanwhile, in LA, Micah is experimenting with drugs and girls, while Joan is making the leap to the big screen and sleeping with the screenwriter. The second half includes a murder and a divorce; Micah, overwhelmed, calls his half sister Lyris, who flies out to help. There’s no plot or protagonist, but a fine percussive beat sweeps the reader along. The always fresh perspective of this one-of-a-kind writer will have you responding like his character, who “laughed with surprise in her heart.”

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The Disappearing Act b y

Ghostman Hobbs, Roger Knopf (336 pp.) $24.95 Feb 12, 2013 978-0-307-95996-6

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You’d be forgiven, if you knocked up against him in Portland, Ore., for having no clue that Roger Hobbs is the hottest new thriller writer to emerge this spring. I don’t know what new thriller writers are supposed to look like, exactly—they arrive in all shapes and sizes—but experience tells me they all look more wizened than Roger Hobbs. He is 24 and graduated from Reed College in 2011. He looks like he shouldn’t just be carded but quizzed as to which sweetheart he’s taking to the senior prom. His baby-faced looks are notable in part since the protagonist of Ghostman, his dark, confident debut, is so steady, cool, knowing and even a little jaded. The ghostman (he goes by Jack to the people he wants to throw off his trail) is a singular, odd creation. He is ruthless—his moral code is to kill only when absolutely necessary, while his colleagues harbor no such scruples—but he is also a meditative loner, someone who translates ancient Roman poets in between jobs. The ghostman is the best in the business at what he does: pulling off heists of heavily guarded banks in a highly orchestrated ensemble team of expert criminals. Then, he utterly, totally disappears. To keep everyone in the dark about his location, the ghostman discards an innumerable heap of cheap cellphones and gets close to no one. (A highly literate drinking game: down a shot on each page of Ghostman in which the ghostman crushes the SIM card of a cellphone and then chucks the whole thing out the window.) Even other highly accomplished criminals are in awe of the ghostman, but it’s due to a previous job he botched in Kuala Lumpur that he now has to clean up the bloody mess left by two less thoughtful thugs. The ghostman owes their boss, so he’s flown from the Pacific Northwest to steamy Atlantic City to do that drug lord’s bidding before a heaping sack of money blows up (the feds have triggered it to detonate in 36 hours if it doesn’t arrive precisely where it’s supposed to). How he exactingly executes his assignment—with numerous lowlifes and a savvy, determined, beautiful FBI agent after him—makes for a memorable, eye-popping ride. Rather than the usual tale of the writer hounding the agent, Hobbs’ literary agent found him. It was the summer between Hobbs’ sophomore and junior years at Reed. “I must have applied to 100 jobs,” he recalls and got none. He was sleeping on a couch in the middle of the recession and had no money. Instead, he garnered as many writing clips as he could and submitted a short story that’s clearly the precursor to Ghostman, titled “What’s Inside,” to thuglit.com. Hobbs says he didn’t hear back from the thuglit editors until he saw the story on their site; several months later, the person who would become his agent saw it there and emailed him about seeing his other work. “He hated it,” Hobbs remembers. The following summer, writing “in a now-defunct Borders in the blistering heat,” and throughout his

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senior year (as he was also writing his thesis about the nature of suspense and character in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”), he honed the manuscript. One of the reasons Ghostman is so alluring is its deep level of detail that allows noncriminal readers to feel as if a door has been opened into illegal activity, like how you might crack one of the world’s most sophisticated vaults when you hadn’t been expressly invited to. Cautioning that “not all of the things that sound like they’re researched in Ghostman are researched,” Hobbs acknowledges that he did conduct “a lot” of what he calls “practical research.” “I taught myself to pick locks, I taught myself how to hotwire a car, I traded cigarettes for stories in Seattle,” he says. “Research is a lot of fun.” Hobbs’ evident confidence has been hard won. When he was a freshman at Reed, Hobbs was a runner-up in The New York Times’ Modern Love college essay contest. His Modern Love contribution begins, “For several years I had a problem unusual among Internet geeks: I had too much success with women.” Hobbs describes his high school self in the essay as “a plump, silent, painfully awkward dweeb who clung to his Latin textbook as if it held the secrets to existence.” He would sweat while talking to a girl he liked, but after he got the gumption to ask for her screen name on instant messenger, he became, online, someone charming and suave. To convince himself he was the Casanova he saw himself becoming online, Hobbs talked awkwardly with another female in person and then flirted smoothly with her online. He did this with another, then another, until he racked up “19 phony relationships,” as he writes in the essay. He was still in high school and broke up with all 19 women. When he arrived in Portland to attend Reed, he felt as if “I was stepping into sunshine after four years in the dark,” he writes. “.…If I could step away from the lies I had put on the computer screen, I could find a way both to be charming and true to the person I really am.” Like his protagonist, Hobbs now appears to be at the top of his game, even though the game has just begun for him. Hobbs is working on a sequel to Ghostman; (when I asked him what the sequel will be about, he says only “gemstones”). Warner Bros. has optioned Ghostman and is “very aggressively pursuing it,” Hobbs says, though he’s tightlipped in general on the subject of the film plans for Ghostman. “I’m treading lightly on this question because I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to tell you,” he says. Ghostman was originally reviewed in the November 15, 2012 issue on page 2529. Claiborne Smith is the features editor at Kirkus Reviews.

p h oto by Mi c ha e l L io n s ta r

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walk alone by a nearby lake and is murdered. Alex is briefly arrested for the slaying, until the tutor steps forward and helps absolve him of the killing. Alex decides to dig into his dead wife’s mysterious past, which includes a rocky relationship with Evie, the odd and unforgiving godmother who supported Rachel, and her friendships with two college study companions. Readers will have difficulty embracing Alex and Rachel, since neither exhibits any warmth or even a quirkiness that might make them interesting. Instead, the story moves sluggishly along, encumbered by clunky dialogue, a meandering plot and constantly changing tenses within scenes, all of which detract from the narrative tension. But the author does reveal a nice sense of place, and her descriptions of the school and other geographic settings are compelling, while the secondary story, which centers upon Alex’s childhood, a tragic relationship with a friend and his father’s downfall, is nicely drawn. Those who like moody British-based academic thrillers may find this is their cup of tea, but those not positively inclined toward excessive navel-gazing and a slow, deliberate plot will find it boring.

also distances the narrator and the reader from woes that befall Nihil, Devi, Sonna, Raju and their families. Lovingly written, historically rich and compassionate to all sides of the turmoil, this tale is also frustratingly distant, leaving the reader sympathetic but not fully engaged. (Author tour to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Agent: Julie Barer)

TWICE TEMPTED

Frost, Jeaniene Avon/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-06-207610-6 It’s hard enough being the girlfriend of The Prince of Darkness, an emotionally distant vampire who is the inspiration for humanity’s greatest nightmare; but when Vlad Tepesh’s enemies try to get to him by coming after Leila, they may all have some shocking surprises in store. After settling in Romania with her vampire prince, Leila begins to wonder if she will ever be satisfied with Vlad’s detached nature, despite their explosive sexual chemistry. When she misinterprets an anticipated public event as a prelude to a marriage proposal, he reminds her in no uncertain terms that his heart is not up for possession. Realizing she can never be truly happy in the inadequate relationship, Leila leaves. Returning to the circus community she formerly called home, Leila barely survives a firebomb that kills her best friend. She and her escort, Maximus, who carries a torch for her, decamp, trying to figure out who wants her dead. As they attempt to stay out of reach of her allpowerful ex, the two are abducted by henchmen of an unknown enemy. Leila, who possesses supernatural powers—including the ability to generate deadly electrical currents and read people’s minds—gains their freedom but is unable to bring them to safety. She psychically reaches out to Vlad, who rescues them and takes her back to his Romanian castle, where a number of surprising secrets are waiting for her. Having nearly lost her, Vlad reconsiders his position on love, but the path is not yet smooth for the lovers, nor is it safe. Whoever is out to get them has inside help from someone in Vlad’s closest, most trusted circle. This book is the second in Frost’s Night Prince trilogy, a taut, intriguing paranormal romantic suspense that keeps the pages turning from the very first paragraph. Vlad is an intense, sexy alpha male, and Leila’s a smart, unique heroine who can hold her own in a firefight (literally) while demanding an authentic relationship from a man most people flee from in fear. An action-packed, emotionally charged paranormal romance with dramatic, satisfying characters and an engaging, fast-paced plot.

ON SAL MAL LANE

Freeman, Ru Graywolf (336 pp.) $26.00 | May 14, 2013 978-1-55597-642-2

Sri Lanka erupted into violence in the 1980s, with people identifying themselves as Tamil or Sinhalese, Hindu or Buddhist, Burgher or Muslim—the conflicts brewed over language policies, territories and curfews. Against this backdrop of sociopolitical unrest, Freeman (A Disobedient Girl, 2009) sets her second novel. The inhabitants of Sal Mal Lane, like a constellation of stars, orbit around the Herath family, whose house is in the middle of the street and whose matriarch embraces the songs and customs of many religions. A devout Buddhist, she nonetheless teaches her children to sing Christian hymns in four-part harmony. Gravity draws first the attention of Mr. Niles, who discerns a troubled soul through Nihil’s uncertain voice; then Sonna Bolling, a bully and political thug-in-waiting; then the Silvas, whose own matriarch embraces every bias and prejudice; and later Raju, whose ugly face belies his lovely heart. Utterly devoted to his younger sister, Devi, Nihil negotiates the world of Sal Mal Lane and beyond, learning about Mr. Niles’ previous war experience, which has left him chastened, aware that racial distinctions blur, and frightened to witness the rising turmoil. Slowly, the tensions ratchet up. Sonna joins an anti-Tamil gang, and violence intrudes into everyone’s lives. Yet, the event that brings everyone to their knees has nothing to do with Tamil-Sinhalese tensions and everything to do with the pointless loss of innocent life. Freeman establishes her narrator in the prologue as the air, the road, the dreams that bind her characters together. The technique may weave the characters more closely, but it |

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“Unsparing yet compassionate...” from flora

TABLE FOR SEVEN

when she was 3. Helen’s father, the discontented, hard-drinking principal of the local high school in Mountain City, N.C., needs someone to stay with her while he does “more secret work for World War II” in Oak Ridge, Tenn. So he asks her mother’s 22-year-old cousin, Flora, and, when one of Helen’s best friends comes down with polio, insists that the pair remain at home to avoid the risk of infection. It’s a bad idea: Weepy, unbuttoned Flora seems like a dumb hick to snobbish little Helen, who at first makes a thoroughly unappealing narrator. But as Godwin skillfully peels back layers of family history to suggest the secrets kept by both Nonie and Lisbeth (some are revealed; some are not), we see that Helen is mean because she’s terrified. She’s already lost her mother and grandmother, she’s afraid her polio-stricken friend will die, and another close friend is about to move away—after delivering some home truths about how “you think you’re better than other people.” Helen got this trait from Nonie and both her parents, we realize, as Flora’s comments gradually reveal how cruel Lisbeth was in her eagerness to leave behind her impoverished background. As usual with Godwin, the protagonists are surrounded by secondary characters just as fully and sensitively drawn, particularly Finn, the returned soldier whose attentions to Flora spark Helen’s jealousy and prompt the novel’s climax. Not all mistakes are reparable, we are reminded, but we learn what lessons we can and life goes on. Unsparing yet compassionate; a fine addition to Godwin’s long list of first-rate fiction bringing 19th-century richness of detail and characterization to the ambiguities of modern life.

Gaskell, Whitney Bantam (416 pp.) $15.00 paper | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-553-38628-8 Gaskell’s novel invites readers to monthly dinner parties featuring mouthwatering menus and a group of guests dealing not so well with various relationship issues. Fran’s husband, Will, would rather work on his action-figure robots in the garage than listen to her concerns. Despite his distraction, Will does seem aware that Fran’s parenting skills are in need of improvement. Fran is terribly disturbed that her surly teenage daughter spends a small fortune on designer sunglasses to keep up appearances with the rich girls she attends private school with, but she then expects Will to repaint the living room, replace a kitchen counter and do major landscaping projects to impress their friends the next time they host the meeting of their monthly dinner club. Clearly, she is unaware that teaching by example trumps controlling by ultimatum. Jaime’s husband, Mark, would rather go to tennis tournaments to watch his snotty teenage daughter from a first marriage than help Jaime care for their two young children. This obsession makes Jaime think that perhaps Mark is having an affair with the tennis coach. While right about the affair, she is wrong about with whom. Audrey, childless and widowed at a young age, would rather get a dog than date the men her friends keep trying to set her up with. Nonetheless, she finds herself feeling hot and bothered in the presence of Will’s sexy single friend, Coop. Only Leland, the old widower from down the block, seems grounded and secure. Physically frail, Leland has a strong spirit, a ready sense of humor and often offers insightful advice on life before he dies. A series of dramatic crises force the dinner club members to confront their own flaws and work on their lives. All the characters at different times compare their lives to various contemporary TV shows and this book, chapter by chapter, could easily be transposed to serial episodes of a TV sitcom. Gaskell has mastered the art of putting the fun in dysfunctional.

THE SLIPPAGE

Greenman, Ben Perennial/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-199051-9 Greenman’s book examines the marriage and relationship of two imperfect, ordinary people. William and Louisa Day are a childless couple living in suburbia, he works in a midlevel office job and she in a museum. She asks him to build them a house to ensure that their lives together are moving forward, which he does. Isn’t that part of the American dream? But he is dissatisfied with their life together, perhaps out of boredom or a vague feeling that he is trapped and unfulfilled. He is losing his footing, the condition he defines as slippage. A one-night stand with a married woman turns into an affair that adds a dimension to the story without apparently adding to William’s happiness. It’s a tale of middleclass angst with few events, although fire eventually consumes some of the readers’ attention. Before that, a case of workplace violence makes one wonder if the story really takes place in the United States. In what company could a man punch his boss in the nose and not be permanently escorted out of the building on the same day? So, it’s a not-bad story built on characters and

FLORA

Godwin, Gail Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $26.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-62040-120-0 Godwin (Unfinished Desires, 2009, etc.) examines the intricate bonds of family and the enduring scars inflicted by loss. In the summer of 1945, 10-year-old Helen Anstruther has just lost Nonie, the grandmother who raised her after her mother, Lisbeth, died 16

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AND THEN I FOUND YOU

interactions, with the events being incidental. Unfortunately, there is no omigod, what happens next. Will the marriage hold, the slippage stop? How about the affair? Where Greenman shines, however, is in his use of language, with William “foresuffering” in the novel’s opening sentence. Later on, he looks up at the sky and sees a “gluttony of blue,” and that’s perfect. Another character “talked like a car whose brakes had been cut.” Vivid imagery and metaphors bring life and a spark to what would otherwise be an ordinary literary exercise. A perfectly decent read, but it probably won’t keep you up at night flipping pages.

Henry, Patti Callahan St. Martin’s (272 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-312-61076-0

A fictional work based on real-life events in the life of the author’s sister. In the fictional version, Katie falls in love with Jack when she is 13 and makes a promise she will love him forever. He reciprocates, and they are a happy couple throughout high school and manage to get through four years at separate colleges. But when Katie wants to take a job in Arizona counseling disturbed young women in a therapeutic wilderness program, Jack finds it hard to wait for her return. She visits but must go back to help a young woman who needs her. He meets someone he doesn’t love like he loves Katie, but he wants to settle down and have a family. By the time Katie realizes she is pregnant with their child, Jack is married to someone

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else. Katie’s parents do not condemn her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. They want, in fact, to have and care for a grandchild, but whether from a feeling of inadequacy or disappointment that Jack failed to wait, Katie decides to give the little girl to an anonymous couple who have been trying to have a child for years. She meets another man she’d like to love as much as Jack, but before she can open a new chapter in her life, she must see Jack to discuss and close the last chapter. In the midst of these developments, the daughter they continue to think about and love for 13 years finds them. Lives are rearranged, and cherished dreams are finally realized. In a forward to readers, the author characterizes her younger sister’s decision to give a child up for adoption as courageous and heart-rending. She goes on to tell us that when this child, her niece, later found her birth mother’s family via Facebook, she was inspired to write a novel that explores the emotions and life changes that such a miraculous reunion can bring to a family. A touching story.

a bit forced, even as their characterizations contribute little to the core story. A richly composed but demanding portrait of familial gravity and the wobbly orbits that bring us together again and again. (Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman)

TERROR RED

Hunt, Colonel David; Christine Hunsinger Forge (336 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-7653-3289-9 It’s Boston under attack in this double-author debut action-thriller, with the Muslim Brotherhood hoping to go one better than al-Qaida. Although the authors label the protagonists with nearly identical first names, this one’s no roman à clef. Retired special ops colonel David Gibson operates a security company. Christina Marchetti is a political consultant to “I want to be President” Sen. Brian Kerrigan from Massachusetts. It’s post-Christmas, and there’s a flight from Logan Airport to D.C. Gibson’s mother has a seat, and Marchetti’s eager to load her high-maintenance sister. Then the aircraft is hijacked while it sits at runway’s end. Gibson and Marchetti meet when security officials question people who have connections to the flight’s passengers. It’s then that Marchetti attaches herself to Gibson, since “Woman’s intuition?....You just look like you’d know these kinds of things.” And the fireworks start! Gibson knows people: Fuller, a state police major, who becomes the go-to source for information; and Tony, intelligence wizard. Marchetti knows street cops and politicians. She talks her way through roadblocks and has her senator help dispatch a SEAL team to locate a nonresponsive LNG vessel in Boston Harbor. The pair survive tunnel explosions—even part of the billion-dollar Big Dig goes bang—and ambushes and escape being labeled murderers as they shoot Brotherhood bad guys. Told in alternating points of view in chapters sometimes shorter than a page, this is a take-no-breath–or-prisoners narrative. This one suits the big screen. And it has sequel written all over it.

A DUAL INHERITANCE

Hershon, Joanna Ballantine (496 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-345-46847-5

The lives, loves and fortunes of two very different men become hopelessly entwined as the decades pass them by. Hershon’s latest story revisits many of the same themes as her earlier works— family, class competition and marital strife are all on display here—but there’s no doubt that she (The German Bride, 2008, etc.) is a born novelist, even if her new novel does wander on a bit too long. The story takes place between 1962 and the present day, following the most intimate hopes, fears and relationships of two talented New England savants. Ed Cantowitz is an ambitious Jewish student at the largely WASP-ish Harvard University. Ed is oddly drawn, however, to the gregarious and wealthy Hugh Shipley, a budding photographer who’s far more interested in whiskey than his expensive education. Hugh develops a vibrant relationship with the stunning Helen Ordway, which initiates the rift between the two friends when Ed becomes wildly obsessed with her. After a near-miss between Ed and Helen, life, as it does, goes on. Hugh and Helen leave for Africa, where Hugh falls into humanitarian work, while Ed pursues his single-minded quest for wealth on Wall Street. The novel takes an unlikely turn after both men’s relationships start to fall into disarray. Ed’s estranged daughter Rebecca becomes close friends with Hugh and Helen’s daughter Vivi, bringing the families closer than is comfortable for anyone. Hershon, par for the course, captures the off-putting rhythms of life’s big and little disappointments with verve, but Ed and Hugh are both so pitiably unlikable that it’s difficult to conjure much sympathy for them, even in the wake of Ed’s prison sentence and Hugh’s stunned disbelief that his marriage is crumbling. Meanwhile, the intersection of their two daughters feels 18

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THE CONQUEST OF LADY CASSANDRA

Hunter, Madeline Jove/Penguin (336 pp.) $7.99 paper | Feb. 26, 2013 978-0-515151114

Lady Cassandra intrigues the rakish Viscount Ambury when she sells him some jewels he recognizes; investigating the mystery unearths even more questions, and Ambury considers marriage to keep the beauty safe from surprising enemies. |


Thanks to the shelter and safe haven provided by her beloved Aunt Sophie, Lady Cassandra Vernham has lived on the fringe of society for years after a scandalous first season that saw her family abandon her. Now that Sophie is aging, however, Cassandra’s brother, Gerald, is putting excessive energy into exerting control over both Sophie and Cassandra and is using Sophie’s well-being as leverage. Auctioning off Sophie’s jewels so she and her aunt can leave England, Cassandra’s plan is stymied when the winner of the biggest lot—Viscount Ambury—fails to provide the money in a timely manner. Ambury recognizes the valuable earbobs as part of his family’s estate and must account for their history to his father, whose health is failing and has tasked his son with taking full inventory of their holdings. As he pursues the truth of the jewelry, Ambury realizes all is not what it seems with the woman known for selfish scandal and that Cassandra is in more danger from her brother than anyone realizes. Getting to the heart of this animosity reveals many dangerous secrets, and as Gerald becomes more domineering, the viscount is drawn to protect the mysterious beauty, launching scandalous rumors about the two of them that place her in even more danger and ultimately lead Ambury to play the romantic hero for the first time in his life. Hunter’s follow-up to The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne (2012) is a satisfying romance that glides along the crafty twists and turns of a fresh plot and hinges on the strong, compelling characters of its hero and heroine, reinforced by an engaging roster of secondary characters. We enjoy watching Cassandra and Ambury move from abject mistrust, to intrigued interest, to a surprisingly sweet happily-ever-after and are absorbed by the surprising puzzles of Sophie’s jewels and Gerald’s antipathy. A witty, intense and entertaining romance that will win readers over with its distinctive, intricate story and convincing, appealing characters.

less enthusiastic Jen to find him. After 10 days of walking, they make it to Arizona, where Delores, a 91-year-old elder of the (fictional) Wakapi tribe, catches them trying to steal eggs from her henhouse. Delores makes them work for her for 10 days in supposed retribution while she feeds and houses them. Jen quickly bonds with Delores, whose rough veneer covers a tender heart not unlike Carly’s. Jealous that everyone likes Jen better and hurt that Jen has adapted to life on the farm more easily, Carly redoubles her efforts to find Teddy. When Jen refuses to leave with her this time, Carly sets out on her own, hitching rides and riding the train—in a harrowing display of physical endurance—until she arrives at the seaside town where Teddy has landed with a new girlfriend. Carly, who inhabits a politically correct world in which white rednecks are all evil and all Native Americans are noble upholders of moral goodness, is a familiar literary convention: the spunky innocent who talks tough to hide her vulnerability. Hyde knows how to punch all the emotional hot buttons but neither plot nor characters are believable or original.

WALK ME HOME

Hyde, Catherine Ryan Amazon Publishing (400 pp.) $14.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-611097979 978-1-611092776 e-book Hyde’s newest (Diary of a Witness, 2009, etc.), about two sisters looking for a home after their mother’s death, straddles the fence between adult and

YA fiction. After their mother dies in a car crash with her latest live-in boyfriend in New Mexico, 16-year-old Carly is afraid she and her 11-year-old sister, Jen, will end up separated in foster care. The only person approaching family in their lives is previous “step-father” Teddy, who lived with them back in California until her mother accused him of attempting to abuse Jen; Carly is so sure her mother made up her claim as an excuse to leave him for Wade that she refused to talk to her right up until her death. Carly has no address for Teddy, but she sets out with

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TAKING EVE

of pedophiles. Discovered by the FBI living with a man nicknamed Jolly, Caleb, 14, is brought home from Washington state to his parents in Atlanta. Marlene, his mother, never lost hope for Caleb’s return, but his father, Jeff, had at one point given him up for dead. To escape her shaky marriage and the intrusive media that hounds the family day and night, Marlene moves herself, Caleb and 11-year old daughter, Lark, to Costa Rica to live in the cloud forest at a ramshackle hotel owned by Jeff ’s mother, Hilda. As the narration dips in and out of Caleb’s head, the reader only gradually learns what happened to him during his disappearance. Jolly, it emerges, is a doctor who rescued Caleb from the pedophiles and took a paternal as well as sexual interest in him. The paternal won out when Jolly encouraged Caleb to attend school, thus facilitating another rescue, this time by authorities. So ambivalent is Caleb about his feelings for Jolly that he refuses to cooperate with the FBI’s prosecution of him (the original kidnappers are still at large) and cannot resist making contact with Jolly from Costa Rica. Meanwhile, other sexually charged scenarios play out: Marlene rekindles an old romance with her husband’s brother, Lowell, and Caleb dates a local girl, Isabel, while not so secretly yearning for her transvestite cousin, Luis. Joseph approaches this explosive material with circumspection, perhaps excessively: So much time is devoted to atmospheric but aimless descriptions of Costa Rican scenery, flora and fauna that at times the travelogue overwhelms the plot, which unfolds at a leisurely, tropical pace. However, Joseph’s preoccupations are less with plot than with honestly confronting the internal conflicts that can arise in reaction to unspeakable crimes. A fraught subject, handled with gravitas and, improbably, grace.

Johansen, Iris St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-250-01998-1 978-1-250-01997-4 e-book Jim Doane will stop at nothing to get the answers he wants as to what happened to his son, and he knows forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is the key; not only can she recreate Kevin’s face from his skull, but she’s a character in a deadly game she doesn’t even know she’s playing. Renowned forensic sculptor Eve Duncan loves her life. She loves her husband, her adopted daughter and the calling she has for recreating faces from skull bones of the dead. Jim Doane only wants one thing—to get answers about his son’s death. After years of research, the time has come to act. First step, take Eve—which is complicated, given how fiercely protective the people around her are. But Doane has an answer for everything, and nothing can get in the way of his agenda. He won’t hesitate to threaten Eve’s loved ones if it means getting her to do what he wants. In the end, she’s simply a pawn in a broader chess match than even she knows. Or wants to know. Doane is convinced his son was special, and if anyone can reach beyond the grave to revive his own special kind of magic, it’s Kevin. Eve is in danger, and every step closer to recreating Kevin’s face brings her nearer to an uncertain future, though even she’s shocked when Doane confesses his true intentions and reveals the biggest secret of Eve’s life so far. Johansen is known for her tight plotting and suspense-driven storytelling, and this book doesn’t disappoint. An interesting conspiracy-theory backdrop, with hints of the supernatural tendrils Johansen is known for— particularly in regard to Eve’s connection with her long-dead daughter, as well as a new animal-psychic character, Margaret, and adopted daughter Jane’s love interest, Caleb—make for a slightly different take on an Eve Duncan book. An abrupt, notcompletely-resolved ending that is a prelude to the second book of the series is annoying but probably a good marketing ploy for fans. A successful Johansen novel, filled with intriguing twists and characters and an overarching mystery that will keep fans coming back for Book 2.

EQUILATERAL

Kalfus, Ken Bloomsbury (224 pp.) $24.00 | Apr. 23, 2013 9781-62040-006-7 The fifth book and third novel by Kalfus (whose wonderful A Disorder Peculiar to the Country, a National Book Award finalist of 2006, dared to make 9/11 the backdrop to a divorce comedy) is a slender but ambitious tragicomedy of ideas

set in 1890s Egypt. British astronomer Sanford Thayer has mounted a gigantic international scientific and engineering effort—employing 900,000 fellahin—to dig out an equilateral triangle, each side 300 miles long, in the desolate Western Desert. His plan is to put nearly 5,000 square miles of pitch into the excavation and to set it afire...at a moment in the summer of 1894 when the desert will be clearly visible to Mars. The geometric conflagration cannot fail, he believes, to attract the attention of the no-doubt highly evolved inhabitants of the red planet, beings whose phenomenally impressive canal-building Thayer and other stargazers have for years been watching and mapping and/or fooling themselves

WHERE YOU CAN FIND ME

Joseph, Sheri Dunne/St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-250-01285-2

A family moves to Costa Rica to heal from a kidnapping. At age 11, Caleb Vincent was abducted and imprisoned in a basement, then starved and trafficked by a ring 20

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“Lucid and lyrical...” from river of stars

GUILT

about. There is another sort of triangle in play here, a romantic one involving the obsessive Thayer, a man near physical collapse and largely confined to quarters in the makeshift village at remote Point A, and two females: Miss Keaton, Thayer’s limitlessly competent and patient helpmeet/assistant, and a young Arab serving girl who speaks no English. A compelling portrait emerges not only of Thayer and his brand of scientific imperialism, but also of 19th-century positivistic science at its most arrogant. Thayer proceeds with an air of utter certainty. Progress knows only one path, as he sees it, and the Earth is a pliant female creature whose duty it is to yield her secrets to the probing male scientist and his adjunct, the engineer. But there are forces and mysteries at work here that are beyond him. Kalfus maps the boundary between science and mysticism while simultaneously muddying, in a way the 20th century soon would, the previously bright line between scientific certainty and arrogant, self-deluded error. (Blackand-white diagrams throughout. Author events in New York, Philadelphia and Boston)

Kellerman, Jonathan Ballantine (400 pp.) $28.00 | Feb. 12, 2013 978-0-345-50573-6 The only clue to a buried baby’s identity is a vintage Duesenberg. The new owners of the fixer-upper Victorian in LA’s posh Cheviot Hills area are appalled when a storm reveals an old metal hospital box containing the skeleton of a dead baby in their yard. The LAPD’s Milo Sturgis, who catches the case, drags along his pal, consulting psychologist Alex Delaware (Victims, 2012, etc.). Tracking down former house tenants turns up a pediatric nurse often visited late at night by someone driving a rare Duesenberg, whose ownership leads to a late doctor with severe war wounds who may have provided abortions back in the days before Roe v. Wade. The case is further complicated when another baby, more recently buried, is found

RIVER OF STARS

Kay, Guy Gavriel ROC/Penguin (576 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-451-46497-2 An elegant, imaginative inhabitation of Song-dynasty China of 1,000 years ago by prolific historical novelist Kay (A Song for Arbonne, 1993, etc.). The time is a fraught one: Nomadic raiders from the Central Asian steppes encroach along the length of the Chinese border, while on the other side of the Great Wall, the old imperial order is cracking. As Kay’s epic tale opens, a young boy, “big for his age, and grimly, unshakably determined to be one of the great men of his day,” can think of nothing more than how he can serve that empire, even as he must face all the odds that stand in his way: being stuck in a backwater without resources or a teacher in a time of drought, famine and widespread infanticide. Lin Shan, meanwhile, has it easier; her father is well-placed in the court, she is “tall for a woman” and pretty without being beautiful, and, well, she escaped being killed just for being female. Naturally, the paths of Ren Daiyan and Lin Shan are destined to cross— and so they do, but in no way predictably. Kay reveals—and revels in—the endless intrigues of court, which, in the end, will prove to be accomplished, indeed indispensable, Ren’s undoing. Yet that undoing is for the larger good, as Kay tells us, drawing straight from the annals: “The peace between the newest steppe empire and Kitai...would last more than two hundred years...with almost unbroken trade, diplomats exchanged, even gifts between ever-changing emperors on their birthdays, as the rivers flowed, and the years.” Lucid and lyrical, and skillfully written, with the sweep of an old-fashioned Pearl S. Buck or James A. Michener saga.

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THE BABYLON RITE

in a nearby park with a woman, possibly its mother, lying dead nearby. Would a serial killer space his crimes over 50 years apart? Would he even have the appetite for murder so many years later? The new infant’s bones have been picked clean by flesh-eating beetles, then coated with beeswax. The woman turns out to be a missing nanny whose last job was for superstars Prema Moon and Donny Rader, now sequestered on their vast estate with their four adopted kids. The couple’s marriage is a sham, their estate manager turns up with a bullet in his head, and another of their nannies has also departed without notice. After Alex tails Prema, she decides that she’ll pay $300 for a 45-minute session with him, and that lets loose a three-hankie tale of marital woe that ends with Milo and a forensic crew surrounding the film stars’ living complex. Too slick, too generous with coincidences and too cute by far. One pet pooch in particular is so endearing she ought to be in a Disney movie.

Knox, Tom Viking (368 pp.) $26.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-670-02664-7

Another thriller about the Knights Templar results in a disappointing and amateurish effort to emulate a best-selling novel. It’s a hair-whipping race to figure out who the bad guys are and what they’re really after in Knox’s (The Lost Goddess, 2012, etc.) latest offering. Anthropologist Jessica Silverton is a member of an archaeological team in Peru studying the Moche, a preColumbian civilization. She’s convinced the murals and other artifacts depicting violence, carnage and erotic activities actually occurred, but she wants to discover the underlying cause and is skeptical when her boss (and lover) believes the behavior was probably caused by el Niño. Across the ocean, investigative reporter Adam Blackwood watches in horror as noted historian Archibald McLintock ends his life in a fiery car crash outside Rosslyn Chapel, a Scottish tourist attraction associated with the Knights Templar and popularized by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. But McLintock’s daughter, Nina, refuses to believe her father committed suicide and convinces Adam to help her uncover the truth. Armed with a bag of her father’s old receipts, the two track his last movements among Templar sites in Western Europe, where they discover one of her father’s secrets. Meanwhile, Detective Mark Ibsen is tasked with investigating a series of gruesome autoerotic deaths in London, and what he uncovers is pretty far-fetched. He crosses paths with Adam and Nina after a horrific attack, and they share what they know. Told in short cliffhanging chapters, the story becomes more convoluted with each chapter as the author adds layer upon ridiculous layer to the mix. The characters experience repeated flashbacks about their lives; countless feelings of ominous foreboding; lots of menacing looks from tattoo-sporting men associated with drug cartels; liberal doses of gory murders; and endless encyclopedic information to explain every supposition or twist. When the heroes finally assemble for a boat trip on the Amazon (except for Ibsen, who wisely chooses to participate by phone) to put together the final piece of the puzzle, don’t get too excited: The trip takes forever. Knox begins with an interesting premise, which he first attacks with enthusiasm; unfortunately, he drags the story out well beyond tolerable limits and literally stomps it to death.

NOTHING SERIOUS

Klein, Daniel Permanent Press (212 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 15, 2013 978-1-57962-314-2 A hip editor takes the helm of Cogito, a stodgy philosophical journal, with mixed—and occasionally hilarious—results. Digby Maxwell has recently left his job at New York Magazine under untoward circumstances—he has lost his ability to be able to spot “the very next thing”—and his initial hope is to get back his former position at the Village Voice. When owner and editor-in-chief Phil Winston quickly disabuses him of that notion, Digby begins smoking a lot of pot and wondering about his future. Enter Felicia Hastings, owner/proprietor of Cogito, a journal known for the intellectual panache of its philosophical inquiry, who rather unaccountably chooses Digby to be the new editor-in-chief, succeeding her late husband, Bonner. Much to the disgust of some of the editorial staff, Digby decides to shake things up by having his first journal focus on the subject of heaven—scarcely worthy of serious analysis according to “real” philosophers. But Digby follows through, relying on old friends—one of whom is a world expert on comic books—to churn out a few metaphysical articles. He also meets Mary, a local Unitarian minister and widow, who has some serious views on the topic. Life gets complicated when Digby becomes smitten with Mary (though he is more intimately involved with the hypersexual Winny). Amid a personal life that’s falling apart—Digby’s wife has left him for Phil Winston, and his daughter Sylvie is making a good living writing online erotica— Digby tries to overcome Felicia’s plot to undermine her own journal and to woo the sweetly innocent Mary. Klein has a light—or “lite”—touch when it comes to both philosophy and love.

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WITHOUT A SUMMER

AND THEN SHE FELL

Kowal, Mary Robinette Tor (368 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-7653-3415-2

Laurens, Stephanie Avon/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-06-206864-4

Lady Jane and Sir David Vincent, a husband and wife team of glamourists, accept a commission in London and take Jane’s sister with them, in hopes of broadening her prospects for marriage; in the process, they become embroiled in treasonous conspiracies and familial tribulations that threaten far more than their marital content. England in 1816 is cold and dreary, and staying with her family for an extended visit is a pleasure wearing thin for Jane and her husband. When they are invited to London to create a glamural (a mural created by magic, or “glamour”) in the ballroom of a baron, the couple accepts. Melody, Jane’s younger, unmarried sister, has few prospects in their rural neighborhood, so they take her with them. Melody meets Mr. O’Brien, son and heir to their client, and they are mutually interested. Jane learns the family is Irish Catholic, however, and discourages a match. More disturbing, Jane meets Vincent’s father, an earl who cast his son off when he pursued the art of glamour. Despite the couple’s success, including commissions from the Prince Regent himself, the Earl of Verbury maintains a cool attitude with them, which moves toward malice as the plot unfolds. Events in England are tumultuous. It is the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, which affects society in unexpected ways, and the unseemly weather (based on actual historic events related to the eruption of Mt. Tambora) creates even more unrest and uncertainty, which place Jane, Vincent and Mr. O’Brien in dangerous territory. Kowal has penned a wonderful Regency romance/fantasy crossover with fascinating tidbits of and nods to history. The characters are unique and authentic, whether they are heroes or villains, and include a surprising degree of human foible. At the heart of the successful story are an intriguing world built around a clever concept of everyday magic and a sweet, unconventional marriage of two oddly yet perfectly matched partners. A creative, elegantly crafted novel that combines magical elements, historical intrigue and both a broad and an intimate canvas of human weakness and virtue. (Agent: Jennifer Jackson)

When Henrietta Cynster steps in to prevent a friend from marrying James Glossup, her brother’s best friend, she feels honor-bound to help him find a bride; she doesn’t expect to become one herself. Known as The Matchbreaker in late Regency society, Henrietta Cynster takes no pleasure in disrupting James Glossup’s pursuit of her friend, Melinda. But she knows Melinda wants to marry for love, and while James would like to marry her, he does not love her. Henrietta has learned that James, her brother’s best friend, needs to find a wife in a timely manner or he will lose an enormous financial inheritance that supports the tenants of his estate. Feeling guilty for placing so many innocent people in jeopardy, Henrietta agrees to help James find a suitable bride for a marriage of convenience. But as James and Henrietta plan and consider the possibilities, James realizes that the woman of his dreams is right in front of him, and a marriage of convenience is no longer an option. Convincing Henrietta he’s the man for her is risky enough, but when it becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Henrietta for no apparent reason, James, Henrietta and all of the Cynster clan jump into investigative mode to get to the bottom of it. Laurens’ newest addition to the popular Cynster family novels is a touching romance set against a mystery that heightens the sexual tension between two characters who are only beginning to understand just how much they mean to each other. The mystery—which causes Henrietta’s endangerment—seems a little strained in the end, but as it sets up dramatic external conflict and compels high-stakes emotional honesty, readers will likely be willing to forgive its weaknesses. With witty, authentic dialogue, great writing and characters, and a charming story of two people forced to look more closely at something that’s been there all along, the romance in this book is potent and winning and generally overcomes the slightly shaky core of its suspense elements.

SUBMERGENCE

Ledgard, J.M. Coffee House (218 pp.) $15.95 paper | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-56689-319-0 The second novel by British author and political journalist Ledgard (Giraffe, 2006) is a tangle of rich imagery, philosophical nuggets and factual anecdotes. And yes, there is also a plot, but one that the book abandons and rejoins at will. Much of the action takes place within the mind of James More, a British spy posing as a water inspector in Somalia, |

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“A compelling story...” from the other child

who’s been caught and imprisoned by jihadists. In his memory, More relives his previous Christmas in a French hotel, where he had a brief and intense love affair with Danielle Flinders, a brilliant marine biologist. As the two characters head for very different destinies, the narrative heads off on tangents whose relation to the main story isn’t always immediately clear. James is a descendant of Utopia author Thomas More, which apparently makes him prone to philosophical thought; and Danielle has her own questions about the nature of religion and society. Shortly after the two lovers meet, she explains her fascination with the complexity of undersea life and concludes that human society is merely “a film on the water…nature’s brief experiment with self-awareness.” This less-than-hopeful worldview is borne out by a later scene that describes, in concise journalistic style, the stoning of a young girl. Though it covers only two pages and involves neither of the main characters, it’s a powerful sequence that underlines the existential anger at the book’s core. While the nonlinear structure is initially frustrating, there are enough brutal and beautiful moments to make this book absorbing.

who prefer an interesting, well-developed police investigator, Almond is a disappointment—dull, one-dimensional and not very competent. A compelling story, but the cop on the case isn’t likely to garner fans with her approach to crime solving.

THE VIEW FROM PENTHOUSE B

Lipman, Elinor Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (272 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-547-57621-3 Lipman’s latest is a post–financialcrash comedy about a 50-ish widow and her divorced sister living together in a Greenwich Village apartment. After the heart-attack death of her beloved husband, Gwen-Laura accepts her older sister Margot’s invitation to move into Margot’s penthouse both for companionship and to save money. Margo’s ex, fertility doctor Charles, is in jail for behavior that was both scandalously illegal and adulterous. Margo, who made the unfortunate mistake of investing her divorce settlement with scam artist Bernie Madoff, is now not only divorced, but broke. Margo is a drama queen with a blog devoted to anti-Madoff resentment. Gwen-Laura is a bit of a retiring mouse who doesn’t acknowledge her potential sex appeal. (Their bossy younger sister Betsy is still married, employed and financially solvent.) Soon, the sisters move in an unrelated, not exactly appropriate roommate: former Lehman Brother employee Anthony, who is not only gay, but in his 20s. Fueled by liquor and the wonderful cupcakes Anthony bakes, the three are having a lovely time together when Charles, newly sprung from prison, moves into a studio apartment in the same building and starts a campaign to win back Margot that includes introducing everyone to his newly discovered 19-year-old son, Chaz, the result of his fertility hanky-panky. Will Margot drop her new blog boyfriend, screen named HardUp, for narcissistic but maybe self-improving Charles? Will Gwen-Laura ever meet a decent man once she grudgingly enters the world of Internet dating? Will Anthony meet a decent man too? The answers are not terribly surprising, but Lipman is more interested in the jokes than the characters, taking a sitcom approach. Although the author throws in plenty of contemporary social details, Gwen-Laura and Margot feel dated, closer to the world of Auntie Mame than Girls and without the edge of either. This book has more romance and less satiric bite than the author’s best comic novels (The Family Man, 2009, etc.).

THE OTHER CHILD

Link, Charlotte Pegasus (416 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-6059-8430-8

Although she’s well-known in Germany, this book marks Link’s first real entry into the American market. When plain, uninteresting Gwen Beckett becomes engaged to a handsome and accomplished man with little means, an old family friend, Fiona Barnes, smells a rat. Worse, the elderly Fiona isn’t shy about saying what she thinks, and by doing so, she opens a floodgate of startling developments that take place both in wartime London and on the Beckett farm located in the Yorkshire countryside. First, there’s the terrible murder of a young university student who is killed by an unknown assailant following a baby-sitting job. Then, following Gwen’s engagement party, things become even more dangerous, as the killer, or a copycat, strikes again. DI Valerie Almond is brought in to solve the crime, and she races to catch the murderer or murderers before he or she strikes once more. The back story of what happened to the other child in the title—a little boy whose family died in the London air raids and ended up mistakenly accompanying Fiona to the Beckett farm during World War II—is compelling and offers a fascinating look at English rural life during the war. Fiona, painted as an unlikable and selfish woman, tells the story of the other child, Brian, and her feelings about him through a series of long email letters that Gwen finds. Rich with interesting characters and a plot that only becomes a little repetitive at the end, this is a solid tale that will keep readers guessing at the identity of the killer or killers. But some readers may be put off by the way Link’s characters always choose to do the wrong thing. And for those 24

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THE DEVIL IN HER WAY

working as hard as possible to hit the mark that will make her feel like a success and to live up to the promise she made to her dying mother as a young teen. So when she not only doesn’t get the coveted partner position, but is fired despite all her talent, effort and hard work, everything changes. Libby never sets out to find her center or discover what truly matters; somehow, though, as her job hunt encounters one dead end after another, it happens anyway. Living on a dwindling severance, she first joins the gym, then discovers the yarn shop on Blossom Street. But it’s when she starts rocking the preemies at the nearby hospital that things really get interesting. Things like meeting the handsome pediatrician, Phillip, and actually taking time to smell the roses, knit the yarn, connect with old and new friends, and invest emotionally in the people around her—including a troubled young teen with an unsettling secret. So what happens when her new life is in place and her old profession comes calling? Macomber’s newest book takes her fans back to the popular Blossom Street, with the familiar characters and businesses that populate the series. Best-selling Macomber became famous for her romantic fiction, though she seems to have taken more of

Loehfelm, Bill Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (288 pp.) $26.00 | May 1, 2013 978-0-374-29885-2

That scrappy Staten Island waitress returns as a rookie cop in post-Katrina New Orleans in this sequel to The Devil She Knows (2011). Only a year after dispatching two really bad guys on her home turf, Maureen Coughlin has graduated from the police academy in New Orleans. Her idea is to start over somewhere new; wounded herself, she identifies with a wounded city. Maureen’s makeover in not complete: “she hated the raw fury that swirled inside her.” That fury shows itself on her first assignment, a domestic violence call. She overreacts by hurling the perp to the ground and is admonished by her training officer, Preacher Boyd, a jaded veteran near retirement. More serious crime scenes follow. An addict trying to locate drugs in a neighbor’s green Plymouth is shot to death; then a 13-year-old’s burnt body is found in the car’s trunk. From clues dropped by another at-risk kid, a drummer in a marching band, Maureen gathers the instigator is Bobby Scales, a mysterious figure with no criminal record. But just when Loehfelm should be tightening the screws, zeroing in on Scales, he pauses for flashbacks to Maureen and her mom on graduation day. Another scene, in which Maureen is dumped by her boyfriend, further slows the momentum. New Orleans is an inexhaustible trove for crime writers, so it’s disappointing that the NOPD, reputedly the most corrupt in the nation, is represented by just two cops, Preacher and Atkinson, the upstanding female homicide detective whom Maureen sees as her role model. There’s a corresponding dearth of major league criminals. We barely glimpse Bobby Scales, whom Maureen, without her gun, recklessly chases on foot through the tourist-packed French Quarter; he escapes. Some readers will find Maureen admirable; she has a big heart and is always up for a challenge. Others will feel the last thing the city needs is a new officer with a hair-trigger temper. Readers will be turned off by the sluggish pace and paucity of action.

STARTING NOW A Blossom Street Novel Macomber, Debbie Ballantine (352 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-345-52881-0

When Libby Morgan is expecting to be named partner of her law firm but instead gets laid off, she’s shocked and angry, but it may prove to be just what she needs to create the life she deserves. Libby’s whole life has been devoted to making partner, |

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NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT

a women’s fiction tone with some recent titles, and this book falls into that category. The romance is integral to the plot, but Libby’s journey is more about self-discovery and understanding what “a good life” truly means for her, while opening her heart to other damaged characters in the story broadens her understanding of love and purpose. Macomber’s writing and storytelling deliver what she’s famous for—a smooth, satisfying tale with characters her fans will cheer for and an arc that is cozy, heartwarming and ends with the expected happily-ever-after.

Miller, Derek B. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (304 pp.) $26.00 | May 21, 2013 978-0-547-93487-7 Miller’s affecting debut, about a cantankerous Jewish widower transplanted to Norway who becomes party to a hate crime, is an unusual hybrid: part memory novel, part police procedural, part sociopolitical tract and part existential meditation. Native New Yorker Sheldon “Donny” Horowitz, 82, is a retired watch repairman living in Oslo with his granddaughter Rhea, an architect, and her new Norwegian husband, Lars. She thinks her grandfather is slipping into dementia. Haunted by his experiences as a Marine sniper in the Korean War and by his son Saul’s death in Vietnam, Sheldon sometimes has trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. He thinks the Koreans are still after him. But he is more strong-willed, decisive and wily than his granddaughter thinks. When a stranger murders the immigrant woman who lives upstairs, Sheldon shelters and then escapes with her young son, fearing the boy is in danger, too. On the run with the boy, who doesn’t speak English, the old man deftly talks his way into a pricey Oslo hotel, gives the boy a makeover to disguise him, steals a boat and heads to Rhea’s summer home. In close pursuit are the killer, an Albanian war criminal whose rape of the woman led to the birth of her son, and tough-minded Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård, a staunch opponent of her country’s open-door policy. The novel’s stylistic moving parts don’t always mesh: The patter between Sigrid and her wisecracking partner, Petter, would be better suited to another novel. But Sheldon, who has never forgiven himself for encouraging his son to go to war like him, boasts an abrasive wit. And Miller, an American living in Oslo (he directs The Policy Lab, an international research group), makes the setting a powerful character as well. Hovering over the narrative is Norway’s roundup of its Jewish population during the Nazi occupation— for which, the author points out, the nation didn’t formally apologize until 2012. This novel, first published in Norway, was worth the wait.

THE HONEY THIEF

Mazari, Najaf; Hillman, Robert Viking (304 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-670-02648-7 Tales from the oral tradition of Afghanistan, a land where “memories are not made of air and light and colour, [but]...of iron and stone”; in this collection, the stories vary in tone from the homely to the harrowing. The artistic process behind this collection is uncommon, for Mazari, an immigrant to Melbourne, tells his stories to Australian author Hillman, who reshapes them and then runs them by Mazari again to see whether he has captured the authenticity of his original voice. While the stories are separate, they’re concatenated in that characters recur from story to story, so while one might be a major player in one tale, he might be only alluded to in a subsequent narrative. Mazari focuses on one specific area of Afghanistan here: the relatively remote mountainous area of the Hazarajat. There we meet the Hazara, who, according to Mazari, are a “mystery people, but only to others,” and indeed, we do locate universal themes within the individual stories he tells. The title story is (no pun intended) sweet, for it concerns the passing of a long tradition of beekeeping and honey-gathering from one generation to another. Among the more haunting tales are “The Life of Abdul Khaliq” and “The Death of Abdul Khaliq.” For reasons that become obvious, the title character of these stories becomes known as “the king-killer” for his assassination of Mohammad Nadir Shah, a monarch who’s been oppressing the Hazara. “The Snow Leopard” introduces us to Abraham, a London university professor who, in searching out the elusive snow leopard, finds much more than he expected. Mazari and Hillman’s collaboration reveals the rich culture of a region largely unknown in the West.

SIGN OF THE CROSS

Mogford, Thomas Bloomsbury (240 pp.) $25.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-62040-200-9

In the second novel of his series (Shadow of the Rock, 2012), Mogford sets up his unconventional hero for a third volume in the violent world of Gibraltarbased attorney Spike Sanguinetti. Spike, whose family originally hails from Malta, returns there with his aging father, Rufus, when his father’s brother, David, and his beloved wife, Teresa, are 26

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“Fans of Victorian and/or quirky mysteries will find much to enjoy...” from murder as a fine art

found dead, victims of what police say is a murder-suicide. But Spike and his dad know that something is wrong. David loved his kind, beautiful wife, and their late-in-life marriage had been a source of great joy to both of them. Police believe David, an art expert, cut Teresa’s throat after discovering she had a lover. But those who knew Teresa, a generous woman who worked for a nonprofit refugee relief agency, say that the only love outside of David that Teresa possessed was her dedication to the agency’s clients. Slowly, Spike begins to realize that David and Teresa fell victim to something much more sinister than a love triangle. And when young women, including one from Teresa’s camp and another from Spike’s past, also disappear, Spike joins forces with family friends who are also quasi-celebrities on Malta and starts questioning the investigation. Soon, he is thrust into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that he neither prepared for nor understands. Mogford opens with a graphic homicide, and while his writing is atmospheric and evocative of the exotic locales his characters occupy, his prose tends to come off as dark and brutal. Romantic souls who want to escape for a few hours to Malta, or in a lesser capacity, Gibraltar, will learn plenty about their histories and customs, but there’s nothing pretty about either the settings or the characters they’ll meet along the way. The author overuses changes in tense as a literary device, throwing in the requisite ho-hum evil conspiracy or two, but the cons don’t outweigh the pros in this hardhitting, no-holds-barred novel that will leave readers panting for the next installment.

empire at risk. Morrell (First Blood, 1971, etc.) fills his work with extensive detail on life in London in 1854, usually in service to his story but sometimes in a gratuitous fashion. His De Quincey is quite convincing, but most of his other characters lack the same depth. Some sections are oddly and distractingly repetitive—for instance, the reader is given a detailed introduction at two different points in the novel to the real-life Dr. John Snow, who traced a cholera epidemic to a contaminated water source. In trying too hard to bring certain threads full circle, the book’s climax comes across as a bit contrived. But the charming central conceit—a laudanum-chugging De Quincy chasing a killer through fog-shrouded Victorian London—goes a long way toward making up for the novel’s glaring shortcomings, as do several tense, well-paced action sequences. Fans of Victorian and/or quirky mysteries will find much to enjoy and will likely be willing to forgive the book’s substantial flaws.

UNDER TOWER PEAK

Paul, Bart Arcade (288 pp.) $23.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-61145-836-7

Paul (Double Edge Sword, 2009) makes his fiction debut with a tale of greed and violence set in California’s Sierra Nevada. It’s spring. Tom Smith and Lester Wendover, saddle buddies and guides for high-country horseback expeditions, are up along a mountain trail clearing avalanche debris. In the morning light, Tom spies aircraft wreckage above the timberline. The two climb to investigate, discovering the pilot’s body, “more like a mummy than a corpse...like something out of an old National Geographic, a photograph of...that Bronze Age guy who took an arrow up in the Alps.” It’s the body of a monthslongmissing billionaire adventurer, with a trophy wife wanting him declared dead and a wastrel son preferring the billionaire’s new will not be filed. Tom served two tours in Iraq as a sniper. Lester is the proverbial good ol’ boy. Without Tom noticing, Lester impulsively strips a Rolex and cash from the wreckage. Later, when Tom learns what Lester has done, he realizes they can’t report finding the wreck without being crucified by the law and the media as “body robbers,” even though Deputy Sarah Cathcart might have the hots for him. He demands they trek back up to the crash site and replace the purloined items. They do, only to find the corpse missing, replaced by a forged note indicating the pilot survived. In the meantime, Lester and Callie, his good-time girlfriend, have contacted both the trophy wife and the son, Gerald Q, who’s immersed in the Miami gangster lifestyle. That brings lawyers from Los Angeles and drug-smuggling Cubanos to the high Sierras. Tom’s trusty .270 Remington deer rifle and Leupold scope solve problems for several Miami gunmen before Gerald Q’s fake suicide becomes the drug lord’s alibi. Paul writes with spare, clean, hard-driving prose that skates along morality’s knife-edge—writing reminiscent of

MURDER AS A FINE ART

Morrell, David Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (288 pp.) $25.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-316-21679-1 In 1854, a series of senseless killings in London so closely echo the literary work of Thomas De Quincey that he becomes the principal suspect. Writer Thomas De Quincey, best known for Confessions of an English Opium Eater, his frank memoir of his experiences with opium, also published a satirical essay entitled “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” in which he describes in appreciative detail the early-19th-century Ratcliffe Highway murders. While he’s in London on a promotional tour, accompanied by his outspoken daughter, Emily, someone re-creates the Ratcliffe murders in a way that suggests the killer may be using De Quincey’s piece as a blueprint. De Quincey falls under suspicion and must use his extensive knowledge of the nature of violence and regret, and his pre-Freudian theories of the subconscious, as well as his resourceful daughter and two policeman who believe in his innocence, to catch and stop the true killer, all while dealing with his crippling opium addiction. Meanwhile, the ongoing murder spree spreads increasing terror throughout London, putting the entire |

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Cormac McCarthy and James Lee Burke—all the while layered with lush, keenly observed descriptions of the natural world and man’s place in it. Wild-country noir with gripping, compelling action.

morphing into a female who looks spookily like Evelyn. She’s not afraid of this gentle alien—indeed, the two begin a passionate sexual relationship rooted in the visitor’s extraordinarily empathetic touch and voice—but terrified of what would happen if its true nature were discovered in close-minded North Carolina. Evelyn introduces everyone to a long-lost cousin named Addie, and life continues tranquilly until Addie senses Evelyn’s longing for a child. She disappears one night with a roving drunk and returns two weeks later looking just like the man. Now Evelyn can marry her soul mate, renamed Adam Hope, and enjoy blissful domesticity on the farm. They have a near-escape from detection when twins Jennie and Lillian are delivered in the hospital and doctors, baffled by their amorphous appearance, want to run tests, but Evelyn and Adam whisk them home to speedily acquire their mother’s entirely human appearance, just as their home-born sisters did. The danger is greater when Adam lands in the hospital, and the family decides to move to Florida. The narrative speeds up at this point as the girls enter adolescence and Evelyn enters middle age, but Adam’s ever-young appearance again threatens them with discovery. His exit is as mysterious as his entrance, and this is the book’s underlying problem. If Addie/ Adam had any notion where s/he came from, or if Evelyn’s love was ever shaken by any real conflicts, this sweet but rather anodyne tale would gain some needed bite. As is, despite a few asides on racism, it’s basically a romance with E.T. trimmings. Well-written and stocked with many strong characterizations, but fuzzy in plotting and theme. (Author tour to Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Boston, Charlotte, Gainesville, Miami, Mississippi, New York, Raleigh/Durham, San Francisco and Santa Cruz)

THE RIVER OF NO RETURN

Ridgway, Bee Dutton (464 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-525-95386-9

Literate time-travel exercise by English professor and debut novelist Ridgway. No, it’s not the river plied by Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum, but instead the river of time that we’re talking about. Nicholas Falcott, nobleman and cavalryman, is in big trouble with one of Napoleon’s dragoons one minute and recovering in a London hospital nearly two centuries later, where a mysterious stranger—always a mysterious stranger—tells him, “You are in the care of the Guild.” As though in some witness protection program, Nick will be assigned a new time and place and name and given what he needs to live comfortably; the stranger informs him that he himself “jumped from Aachen in 810 and landed in 1965” and, for complex reasons, hasn’t been able to go to Germany since. Yet time has a way of moving on its own; as another mysterious figure, a Russian named Arkady, tells Nick portentously, “Volga: the Queen of Rivers. Mississippi: the Father of Waters. Amazon: the River Sea. The river of time is a thousand times greater than these. As wide and deep as the universe itself.” So it is, and though Nick is practical-minded enough to demand that Arkady “[s]top speaking in metaphors,” he goes with the flow anyway. Not much happens for all that, but Ridgway’s talky narrative is smart and often funny—and, of course, ends with enough of an opening to permit a sequel or two. It’s not especially distinguished, but bookish fantasy fans who make it a point to keep up with Doctor Who will like this one.

WRECKED

Roche, Charlotte Translated by Mohr, Tim Black Cat/Grove (320 pp.) $15.00 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0-8021-2112-7 A woman examines aspects of her life—from the mundane, to the erotic, to the tragic—in graphic detail. Elizabeth Kiehl is a mother, wife, photographer, daughter, ex-wife (sort of), ex–wild child, confused feminist, militant atheist and survivor (in a sense). She tells her story in a first-person, streamof-consciousness fashion and relates conversations with her therapist, trips with her husband to brothels and the devastating calamity that ripped her life into before and after with the same oddly engaging (in a train wreck sort of way) storytelling. There are moments of fascinating psychology, as well as deceptively muted visceral screams, and by the end of the book, one is not sure whether to admire, pity or detest Elizabeth. Roche’s shocking storyline covers three chronological days in Elizabeth’s life, with an intense amount of retrospection. For some readers, the mesmerizing if unsettling narrative might be groundbreaking and sophisticated; for

THE ENCHANTED LIFE OF ADAM HOPE

Riley, Rhonda Ecco/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $15.99 paper | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-209944-0

A husband literally made in the image of others teaches Evelyn Roe about enduring love and the equally enduring human distrust of difference in Riley’s debut. On a rainy morning in early 1947, 19-year-old Evelyn stumbles across a mud-encrusted body on her family’s farm. She assumes this oddly misshapen, seemingly scorched being is a wounded veteran—until “he” begins 28

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DEAR LUCY

others, it will simply be disturbing and TMI.

Sarkissian, Julie Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-4516-2572-1

THE HOPE FACTORY

Sankaran, Lavanya Dial Press (384 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-385-33819-6

An ambitious debut expresses different versions of maternal need through three female voices, notably that of Lucy, a girl who is “different.” There’s a whiff of American Gothic about Sarkissian’s claustrophobic evocation of life on the chicken farm where frustrated Missus yearns for a child and taciturn Mister looks suspicious in the light of adopted daughter Stella’s pregnancy and disappearance. Now, two new girls live there: Samantha, also pregnant, whose baby is destined to be handed over to Missus; and mentally challenged, behaviorally troublesome Lucy, whose mother has instructed her not to leave the farm so that she can come and reclaim her. Sarkissian describes desperation on one side

The brisk pace of economic and social change in India does not always bode well for a Bangalore factory owner and his servants. Anand has a chance to achieve true prosperity at last: Cauvery Auto, the auto parts manufacturer he built from scratch, is courting a major Japanese account. However, the Japanese are entertaining other bids, and in order to bring Cauvery Auto to the necessary level of productivity, Anand needs additional real estate. Largely beneath his notice, Anand’s house servants, house maids Kamala and Thangam and cook Shanta, contend with their own dramas. Kamala, a widow who has been struggling to raise her son, Narayan, ever since being cut off by her brother, hopes to get the boy into a private school, his only chance for upward mobility. Shanta’s husband beats her and steals from her, and Thangam is moonlighting by running a pin-money Ponzi scheme which is on the verge of collapse. Anand’s life has always been run by his vain, spendthrift wife, Vidya, and her meddlesome father, Harry Chinappa. So far, Chinappa’s inroads have been limited to organizing lavish parties bankrolled by Anand. But when Anand hires a “Landbroker” to acquire land from several farmers, Chinappa, without consulting Anand, brokers his own deal. When Anand objects, Chinappa’s politically powerful friends operate behind the scenes to subvert and stymie the Landbroker’s negotiations. So heavily leveraged is Cauvery that the failure of the land acquisition would spell irretrievable ruin for Anand and all who depend on him: not only his wife, children and servants, but Narayan, whom Anand is sponsoring to attend private school. Meanwhile, the humble rental Kamala occupies is being sold to developers, and she and Narayan will shortly be homeless. Having contrived suspenseful ways to get her characters into terrible trouble, the devices deployed by Sankaran to extricate them—or not—do not disappoint. Sankaran’s debut novel, like her well-received short story collection (The Red Carpet, 2005), is a vivid exposé of modern India’s growing pains.

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“A thought-provoking collection...” from fools

FOOLS Stories

and deceived otherworldliness on the other as Lucy’s interior landscape is revealed as a struggle for comprehension, memory and expression, lit with shafts of insight and fantasy. Lucy may be intellectually limited, but she understands, indeed obsesses over, love, family and parenting, which is why she wants to help Samantha and her baby join the father and become a unit. Using Samantha and Missus as alternative first-person narrators helps break up the monotony and oppressiveness of Lucy’s stream of consciousness, but there’s still a sense of overload to this novel as well as the questionable magic-realist involvement of a talking chicken. A daring, somewhat formless mix of thriller, whimsy and intense emotional portraiture. Shorter would have been better.

Silber, Joan Norton (256 pp.) $25.95 | May 13, 2013 978-0-393-08870-0 A sequence of six linked stories explores the lives of those who risk something for their ideals, which is not the same as, and produces quite different results from, risking something for one’s beliefs. Silber (The Size of the World, 2008, etc.) teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. She has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize and the National Book Award. The title story begins with telegraphic directness: “A lot of people thought anarchists were fools.” Silber makes much of the difference between what it means to be a fool and being merely foolish. The former is so much worse. In “Fools,” a merry band of political idealists lives a bohemian life in New York in the ’20s. In the background looms the incarceration and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. The characters make love, marry, cheat on their spouses and scatter. The next story, “Hanging Fruit,” follows Anthony—the son of one who left penury for profit, then regressed back into poverty. “Two Opinions” follows Louise, the daughter of an anarchist, in jail as a conscientious objector. The legacy of her father’s radical politics costs her the life she imagines she wants, but she is merely mistaken and learns to provide for herself in novel ways, finding satisfactions she couldn’t have dreamed of, including the possibility that satisfaction is overrated. “Better” is the weakest in this worthwhile collection. Its connection to the others is tenuous. “Going Too Far” dramatizes a clash between the spiritual and the practical. It and the final story, “Buying and Selling,” are more completely realized. A thought-provoking collection; “Buying and Selling” is particularly strong.

DON’T GO

Scottoline, Lisa St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $27.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-250-01007-0 A cascade of melodramatic reversals for a podiatric surgeon, who returns from Afghanistan to find even more trouble waiting at home. Dr. Mike Scanlon’s wife, art teacher Chloe Voulette, begged him not to leave her and their new daughter, Emily, when his Army Medical Corps reserve unit was called up. Now it’s too late for him to tell Chloe he’s sorry. Tipsy from the vodka she’s been hitting, she accidentally stabs her arm while she’s loading the dishwasher and bleeds out on her kitchen floor. The 10-day emergency leave the Army allows Mike is just long enough for him to make arrangements for Chloe’s funeral, satisfy himself that Emily is in the best of hands with Chloe’s sister, Danielle, and her lawyer husband, Bob Ridgeway, and discover that Emily has no idea who he is and doesn’t like him. Back in Helmand province, Mike endures a bone-jolting series of calamities that send him back stateside, this time for good. But his second homecoming is no happier than his first. The job he’s been promised by his old partner is a far cry from his old job; Emily still cries whenever he picks her up; he realizes that Chloe had been having an affair; and her best friend, fellow teacher Sara Hambera, is murdered before she can tell him anything about who Chloe’s lover might have been. Unfortunately, Mike reacts to all these shocks like a bull in a china shop. In a trice, he’s been arrested for assault, sued by the man he thinks cuckolded him and threatened with the permanent loss of Emily to Danielle and Bob. In the hands of many another novelist, this nightmare would spiral further down to a grim conclusion, but Scottoline (Come Home, 2012, etc.) has a fairy-tale ending in reserve. The author’s recent crossover novels have mostly featured imperiled or hard-used heroines like those of Mary Higgins Clark. This time Scottoline varies the pattern by making her heroine a hero. A surprisingly successful attempt to retool the damselin-distress formula. 30

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HEART OF PALM

Smith, Laura Lee Grove (496 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-8021-2102-8

Amiable debut novel of life in the nonglitzy part of Florida, the swampy confines of the Georgia borderlands. Utina is a definitive backwater, literally. But it’s close enough to Jacksonville and the interstate to be attractive as the site for potential development, a prospect that makes some of its oddball mix of residents very, very happy. From the best family around, Arla Bolton—she of the mangled foot, wherein hangs a tale—went off years before and married Dean Bravo, proving that good girls love bad boys and that, as her mother archly observes, “[l]ove won’t be enough.” |


Sure enough, years later, shiftless Dean now smells money in the air. He and Arla, meanwhile, have begat a far-flung family that, as one member puts it, is a “frigging pack of oddballs and failures for whom he’d been wrestling with shame and ambivalence his entire life.” Well, so it is with all families. Other characters in Arla’s orbit are clearly more worthy of a share, such as the rugged young man named Biaggio, who “was a handsome man, but so beaten. Oh, but they were all so beaten.” In a slowly, gently unfolding comedy of manners, Smith skillfully sets multiple stories in motion, most, it seems, designed to showcase the vanity of human wishes. Smith is a kind and understanding creator, and even the most venal of her characters, we see, is just trying to get by—and usually not succeeding. In the end, Smith overlaps territory John Sayles explored in Sunshine State, but with a more generous sense of our foibles. It’s a promising start—and a lot of fun. (Agent: Judith Weber)

want me to do,” she says, watching her daughter burn her arm with a lighter.) The plot twists are too obvious and the characters too predictable for the tentatively hopeful ending to be very persuasive. Well-written and atmospheric, but overdetermined and relentlessly grim.

VACATIONLAND

Stonich, Sarah Univ. of Minnesota (288 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-816687664 Minnesota author Stonich (The Ice Chorus, 2005, etc.) draws a novel from 15 linked north-country stories. Naledi Lodge on Little Hatchet Lake is a now-faded Minnesota summer resort, a place of “water in all its incarnations—stream, swamp, puddle, or lake.” Czech immigrant Vaclav Machutova ran the resort in its heyday. His orphaned granddaughter, Meg, spent summers there and winters in Chicago boarding schools. Stonich’s lake-connected stories move through time from Meg’s childhood onward, each story/chapter linked to Naledi Lodge like spokes to a hub. The book opens with adult Meg, a prominent artist, sketching a portfolio of a severed human hand brought home by her treasured wolflike dog. Then an advertising executive remembers a dalliance, a Lolita-like seduction. Adult sisters confront a euthanasia pact made after their mother’s lingering death. A Balkan refugee, unable to penetrate the insular Scandinavian community, reconciles his isolation on the lake’s quiet waters. Meg’s citified gay cousin delivers Meg’s mother’s ashes and discovers a connection to family and place. One of the more affecting reoccurring characters is Ursa Olson, Vac’s contemporary sometime-lover and a woman who prefers the hardy simplicity imposed by the inhospitable land. Ursa, defiant and self-reliant as her children plot to shift her from her cabin, finds comfort in one of Vac’s lost journals. Readers also encounter a giant bull moose, deer silently drifting in a glade and empathetic characters—all rendered with compassionate insight and a gift for artful observation—including Polly, surrogate grandmother and science professor turned novelist; Alpo, trimming away at grief in topiary; one-dimensional Magda, who left Vac for a Third Reich functionary; Meg’s father, Tomas, plunging to his death with his pregnant wife as an airplane crashes, “We will die, yes, but it’ll be all right.” Each chapter renders a story complete, and the stories together weave a deeply mined narrative of place and people, elegiac yet life-affirming.

TOMORROW THERE WILL BE APRICOTS

Soffer, Jessica Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (336 pp.) $24.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-547-75926-5

An unhappy teen and a shellshocked widow make a vital connection, though not the one they initially think, in Soffer’s somber debut. Both 14-year-old Lorca and elderly Victoria are carrying a lot of emotional baggage when they meet. Lorca has just been suspended from school after a fellow student finds her cutting herself—a practice, we soon learn, to which she is helplessly addicted. Victoria’s husband, Joseph, has just died after a long illness, and she is haunted by guilt about the baby she gave up for adoption against his wishes many years ago. Lorca’s real problem is her impenetrably self-absorbed mother, a successful Manhattan chef who prevents the girl from maintaining any connection with her long-divorced husband and frequently stays out late drinking with her equally unnurturing sister. Mom’s only response to her daughter’s desperate attempts to win her favor by cooking wonderful meals is to criticize them, so when Lorca hears her tell Aunt Lou that her favorite dish ever was masgouf, a baked fish “from an Iraqi restaurant that’s closed now,” she determines to track it down and learn to make it perfectly. It turns out that the restaurant belonged to Joseph and Victoria, whose pushy neighbor Dottie has just persuaded her to give cooking lessons. Conveniently, Lorca is the only student who shows up, and these two painfully lonely souls not only bond over food, but become convinced that Lorca’s mother (who was adopted) must be Victoria’s abandoned daughter. The truth is a lot more complicated and won’t be arrived at until there have been several more instances of Lorca’s ghastly self-harming (described in gruesome detail) and of her mother’s incredible callousness. (“I don’t know what you |

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LEADING MAN

love him. Then she gets the prize assignment at work: representing a hot new movie star, Billy Fox, who never fails to let her know how attractive he finds her. Red-carpet events with Billy overlap with Jacob’s cancer research fundraising events, and the tension builds. A beautiful and narcissistic co-worker at the PR company, who is not above creating problems for anyone and everyone at work, is envious and connives to create a particularly serious problem for Sophie, but in the end, it all works out as it should. After losing the boyfriend and the job for a period of confused self-examination, Sophie makes a triumphant comeback. What makes the book remarkable is not so much the plot, which is mostly predictable, but Sophie’s reactions to what happens. You just have to love this girl. That sense of humor that can save a person in real life makes this an extremely fun read.

Svetkey, Benjamin Vintage (240 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jul. 30, 2013 978-0-307-94961-5 Understanding the appeal of celebrity becomes a journalist’s mission after his girlfriend is stolen by his favorite star. Max Lerner loved pop culture from the get-go. “[I]f it was on TV, I watched it.” Growing up in the New York suburbs in the 1980s, he worshipped action star Johnny Mars. He also worshipped his neighbor Samantha. The two became childhood sweethearts, despite Sammy’s more highbrow tastes. It seemed fated they would live together in the big city: Sammy the actress, Max the writer for KNOW, the prestigious news weekly. He gets the shock of his life when he learns from the tabloids that Sammy and Johnny, acting together in a New England stage production, have become involved and are soon to be married. When Max is assigned to the entertainment beat, he resolves to figure out this whole fame thing. Svetkey scatters Max’s interviews with movie stars throughout his first novel. As a former writer for Entertainment Weekly, he knows the territory, from the protocols on the set to the delicate massaging of celebrity egos: “avoid asking questions that require any serious thinking.” Max fumbles at first (an actress throws her food at him after he asks about her “infantile hermaphroditism”) but soon has the format down pat, as well as a key to the puzzle: Fame may be nothing more than clever marketing. The interviews are the best part of this engaging but underplotted work. As long as he keeps a satiric distance from his material, Svetkey sparkles.

FROZEN SOLID

Tabor, James M. Ballantine (336 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-345-53063-9 The South Pole is the real star of Tabor’s (The Deep Zone, 2012, etc.) latest thriller. The bleak and forbidding nature of the pole lends a powerful atmosphere to a story that begins with two mysterious deaths and grows to include an international chemical conspiracy. Scientist Hallie Leland arrives at the pole to replace Emily Durant, a recently deceased friend and colleague, on a biochemical research project. But her mission is ill-fated from the start: Just after her arrival, she sees a female scientist die at her desk of a spontaneous hemorrhage. Soon afterward, she discovers a video that’s been left (perhaps a bit too conveniently) on Emily’s computer which reveals that she was sexually tortured before being murdered. Hallie also learns another pair of dangerous secrets: The pole base is home to a microorganism known as Vishnu, whose chemical powers have the potential to cure global warming—information that the world’s energy dealers are anxious to suppress. Finally, she learns that Emily was somehow connected with Triage, a conspiracy to solve overpopulation by spreading a sterilizing virus among the world’s women. There are plenty of suspenseful scenes, including a near-fatal deep-sea dive with a sabotaged diving suit, as Hallie works to connect all these dots while more scientists die and Emily’s killer is still at large. The final payoff isn’t quite as satisfying as one might hope: The Vishnu subplot is disposed of in one sentence, and the criminal ringleader is executed offstage. Still, the setting and a generally well-turned plot make this a fine thriller.

THE STAR ATTRACTION

Sweeney, Alison Hyperion (272 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 14, 2013 978-1-4013-1104-9

A highly entertaining debut from Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser and star of Days of Our Lives for 20 years. Sweeney’s insider knowledge adds authenticity to this laugh-out-loud story of working and romancing in Los Angeles. Her badass heroine, Sophie Atwater, has worked her way up the ranks of a PR company representing Hollywood celebrities. She has a great sense of humor, and the narrative voice is so real you might think you were reading text messages from a friend you’ve shared stories and laughs with over the years. Sophie, at 31, is still single, although she has a steady boyfriend and she knows her parents worry about her single status. She is not sure if she wants marriage or not. Jacob is an investment banker and travels in a different world that is not all that interesting to Sophie, but she feels comfortable with him and really does 32

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one-night stand only leaves his body broken in a highway wreck. The bad news doesn’t stop there: Nearby, divorcee Art is forced to take in his teenage daughter, who’s become a disciplinary nightmare back in Ohio after witnessing her half sister’s murder in a school shooting. After a stint of petty thievery, Conner does odd jobs for a wealthy widow, Mrs. Foster, who wants to do something with her late husband’s largesse. So, she taps her nurse, Christie (also Art’s neighbor), to run a nonprofit with a vague purpose and name: The Humanity Project. The worldsin-collision setup is contrived, but Thompson’s handling of it is superb and unforced. She wants to explore how much of our bad behavior, from lousy dates to murder, is hard-wired, and in Sean and Conner, she exposes how much our actions are grim functions of economic circumstance. Yet this book isn’t preachy, and Thompson has a knack for rendering characters who are emotionally fluid but of a piece: A daughter of Mrs. Foster’s who’s outraged at her squandered inheritance is selfish, yes, but her despair about a nonprofit’s ability to repair humanity is legitimate. Thompson caps the story with a smart twist ending that undoes many of the certainties the reader arrived at in the preceding pages. A rare case of a novel getting it both ways: A formal, tightly constructed narrative that accommodates the mess of everyday lives.

Tekulve, Susan Hub City Press (250 pp.) $17.95 paper | May 1, 2013 978-1-891885-21-1 It is 1924. Up in West Virginia’s coal country, in a town called War, young Emma awakens one morning to find her house buried in the debris of an overturned rail car. Tekulve’s (Savage Pilgrims, 2009, etc.) debut novel examines love, family and place through an affecting multigenerational saga. Emma’s the daughter of a Sicilian immigrant and his American schoolteacher wife, a woman grown bitter. The lone girl in a houseful of brothers, all coal miners like her father, Emma helps her mother, a deeply religious Catholic convert, with the work demanded by the harsh, coal dust–covered world. Perhaps there is symbolism when Caleb Sypher uses a white handkerchief to clean Emma’s bloody feet after the derailment. There is certainly love and empathy and then a wedding a week later, after which Emma and Caleb retreat to his Virginia farm. Tekulve’s descriptions of the hard, cold, dirty coal camp life, above and below ground, are masterful, and as the narrative moves to Virginia and Caleb is battered by the Great Depression, the author superbly draws struggling Caleb’s withdrawal into his perception of perfection: an ornate Italian garden set among the mountain’s hemlocks, blue laurels and rhododendrons. But Caleb is murdered by a tramp, and the narrative evolves to follow Dean, their son. Dean’s reluctantly taken to War while his shattered mother recovers, but Dean loves the mountain farm and treasures his mother. He returns to care for her and soon marries Sadie—think Ruby from Cold Mountain— a lonely girl who births him a daughter, Hannah. Tekulve’s great gift is to live in the hearts of her characters, whether it be Caleb, Emma, Dean, Sadie or the older Italian immigrant generation toiling in the mines. Lyrical, haunting literary fiction.

MERIVEL A Man of His Time Tremain, Rose Norton (384 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 15, 2013 978-0-393-07957-9

Tremain (Trespass, 2010, etc.) pens a follow-up to her novel Restoration, first published in 1989, about a 17th-century English physician with a self-deprecating wit. It’s November, 1683, a mere 15 years after Robert Merivel’s return to his estate in Bidnold, and manservant Will Gates, now 74 to his master’s 57, is still alive, and though not exactly kicking, he’s tottering around and comically caring for his employer. Suffering from crying jags and melancholy, the troubled doctor is in somewhat of a rut. His daughter Margaret is becoming more independent with each day, and he’s wallowing in self-pity and loneliness. Merivel’s youth is now behind him, and though he’s had a colorful existence to date, he fears that his life has served no lasting purpose. Recognizing her father’s depression, Margaret urges him to put some spice back in his life while she vacations in Cornwall with their neighbors, and Merivel decides to make good on her suggestion. As he travels among France, Switzerland, London and Bidnold, Merivel does, indeed, find adventure, excitement and moments of unadulterated happiness. But he also experiences times of personal loss and extreme sadness. Merivel recounts these years in touching and bawdy detail: his involvement with Madame Louise de Flamanville, a woman whose interests and sexual appetite equal his own; his

THE HUMANITY PROJECT

Thompson, Jean Blue Rider Press (352 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-399-15871-1 Seemingly everybody on the class ladder scrabbles for a definition of human decency in the latest from Thompson (The Year We Left Home, 2011, etc.). The novel opens with a penetrating vision of a lower-middle-class family sinking fast. Sean is a divorced, out-of-work handyman who’s about to lose his Bay Area house and his grip on his teenage son, Conner; when Sean decides to meet a woman via Craigslist, the attempted |

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“Impressive work from a virtuoso.” from the house at belle fontaine

THE CARRION BIRDS

friendship with a humble clockmaker with whom he shares quarters while both attempt to gain access to King Louis XIV in Versailles; his empathy toward a caged bear he tries to rescue. Tremain’s genius lies in her ability to portray Merivel in multifaceted ways that make him human and ultimately likable. He’s at times a self-indulgent, impulsive scamp who commits outrageous acts, but he also exhibits an admirable side. Tremain’s sequel can be read as a stand-alone, but readers may struggle to understand many of the events the main character alludes to in the narrative.

Waite, Urban Morrow/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $25.99 paper | $12.99 e-book Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-06-221688-5 978-0-06-221690-8 e-book Wild West noir from Waite (The Terror of Living, 2011), his second literary effort. But this isn’t the Wild West of rustlers and cattle barons. It’s southern New Mexico on the cusp of the second millennium, and the range war is between the Mexican drug cartel and the local drug kingpin, an ugly and blooddrenched fight that ranges across the desert and mountains and pumped-out oil fields along the border. Raymond Lamar, son of a Mexican cook and a hard-driving Anglo wildcatter, returned from Vietnam, worked the oil fields until the oil and the work dried up, and then signed on as a pistolero for Memo, a Las Cruces dealer controlling the border country. Times were hard, jobs scarce and the money good, but Ray’s wife, Marianne, didn’t approve. Dead soon thereafter from an apparent “accidental” car crash that left their son Billy brain-damaged, Marianne became a victim of the violence Ray brought home. Guiltridden, revenge-minded Ray believed the cartel responsible, and he pressured his cousin Tomás Herrera, the local sheriff, to confront the woman rumored to be the cartel’s local chief. The woman was shot dead, Herrera lost his job, and Ray disappeared into the drug war’s deadly jungle. Now promised big money by Memo and hoping to reconnect with his deaf-mute son, Ray agrees to one last job, wetwork that eventually leaves a trail of dead bodies along the borderland. Waite writes with grace and poignancy and keen comprehension of hard men in hard circumstances, especially in delineating Ray, Tomás and Dario, local cartel kingpin. While he doesn’t fully explore the Hispanic-Anglo cultural clash muddying the flow of narcotics north, and female characters are somewhat tangential, Waite’s narrative rages as a perfect torrent of violence flooding toward its inevitable conclusion. Fierce and lyrical. (Agent: Nat Sobel)

THE HOUSE AT BELLE FONTAINE Stories

Tuck, Lily Atlantic Monthly (224 pp.) $23.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-8021-2016-8

Death haunts this dark collection of 10 stories from Tuck (I Married You for Happiness, 2011, etc.). Ella is an American divorcee raising her children in France in the title story. She’s a tenant on the estate of one of the richest (and oldest) men in the country. Her arrival coincided with a horrendous plane crash nearby; hundreds died. Ella has been summoned to dinner with her landlord on a cold winter’s night: The story is suffused in existential dread. That same dread affects Maud in “Ice.” She and husband Peter, retirees, are on an Antarctic cruise. Peter’s nighttime disappearance, re-awakening her old fears, is far more frightening than the surrounding icebergs. “Lucky” is more complicated. Six characters’ lives intersect; the model is the play/movie Six Degrees of Separation. An alcoholic crashes his car and dies; that’s the heart of a story remarkable for its technical expertise. That expertise is also evident in “Sure and Gentle Words.” It begins with a German professor’s mysterious and fatal fall from a train in 1911, touches lightly on two momentous sexual encounters and one world war, and ends some 20 years later with the professor’s son interpreting that fall in his film. Dislocation is a recurrent theme. An American couple discovers that going native in Thailand can have a boomerang effect: It’s not pretty. (“Bloomsday in Bangkok”). “Pérou” offers a more extreme example of cultural dislocation. A young French nanny travels with her employer to South America in 1940 to avoid the war. Her fate there seems almost gratuitously cruel. There’s nothing cruel about Chingis in “The Riding Teacher,” though he’s a descendant of one of the great killer conquerors of history, Genghis Khan. All that this gentle, unhappy man has inherited is superb horsemanship. Leave contemporary cruelty to Mark, the unfaithful husband in “My Flame,” who takes shocking advantage of his vulnerable niece in a story that burns with a wicked flame indeed. Impressive work from a virtuoso.

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THE ASHFORD AFFAIR

Willig, Lauren St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-250-01449-8

Multigenerational tale, from an author of popular Regency/historicals, takes a family from estates in England and Kenya to a Manhattan law firm. Clemmie hopes to make partner after years as vassal to a petty tyrant in an Ivy League sweatshop. Her personal life is in shambles: Her engagement is off, and she’s still smarting from a disappointing |


Roman holiday with her stepcousin Jon, with whom she’s had a love-hate relationship since childhood. Now, though, her maternal ancestors are commanding more of Clemmie’s angst. Her once indomitable grandmother Addie, 99, is failing fast. Addie’s story intertwines with her granddaughter’s. After a 1906 accident claims the lives of her parents, young Addie’s uncle, an earl, takes her to live at his stately home, Ashford, ruled by his imperious countess, Vera. Almost immediately, Addie is welcomed as a sister and confidante by her impetuous cousin Bea. Back in 1999, Clemmie suspects that her mother is prevaricating about Addie’s past. As the story of Bea and Addie evolves, so does the enigma. After the girls make their post–World War I debuts, Bea marries a marquess (to Vera’s relief), and Addie, the poor relation, accompanies Bea to her opulent London pied-àterre. However, as Addie occupies herself with intellectual selfimprovement, Bea’s social status is threatened by the marquess’ philandering. To avenge herself, she steals Addie’s beau, Frederick. Everything explodes when the marquess learns of Bea’s pregnancy by Frederick. The action shifts to Kenya, where the characters re-enact an edgier version of Out of Africa. While on an ill-advised safari, Bea disappears. Since she is presumed dead, and husband Frederick, after a rather cursory investigation, is presumed innocent, Addie and Frederick are free to marry and become the progenitors Clemmie always thought she had. The panoramic canvas Willig chooses to cover is a bit overambitious—the law firm minutia, although entertaining, is essentially a digression—but she makes up for the unwieldiness with sharp, scintillating dialogue and expert scene-craft. Willig’s crossover into mainstream fiction heralds riches to come.

doesn’t particularly want. Hartley also asserts his power over black slave women by fathering 20 children during his first year alone. His life begins to unravel over the next few years when he develops a love relationship with Phibba, a slave whose status he elevates, and by a slave rebellion led by the now-free Cuffy, obsessed with becoming a gentleman for the sole purpose of fighting a duel with Hartley. Jamaica-born Winkler opens a door into a cultural period beset by an inhumane system that poisons relationships between whites and blacks.

THE TALE OF RAW HEAD AND BLOODY BONES

Wolf, Jack Penguin (560 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-143-12382-8

A pastiche of 18th-century English literature blended with some very modern psychoses and the attendant possibilities of mayhem. “I do know there is terrible Monstrosity in me.” So writes debut novelist Wolf in the voice of narrator/protagonist Tristan Hart, a young man who most decidedly has difficulty determining “whether what was real had become Dream, or Dream real.” His constant companion is a scamp named Nathaniel Ravenscroft, who is always getting into some mischief in which Tristan is implicated, but Tristan doesn’t need much encouragement. Give him a view out a window, after all, and he’s likely to conjure up visions of gypsies or fairies, to say nothing of the frightening fellow who gives the novel its creepy title. Tristan is both genius and monster indeed, a medical student who is fascinated by the workings of pain and not at all shy about conducting sadistic experiments with the strumpets of London. Only a Dick Cheney could love such a fellow, and Wolf takes evident delight in describing Tristan’s excesses, which some readers might find hard to take. Amid the bloodletting and self-absorbed meditations on the meaning of it all, there are also well-written if perhaps anachronistic pleas for wilderness conservation. Though broad and broadly written in generally spot-on Georgian English, and though boasting the figure of none other than Henry Fielding in an advisory role, this is no Tristam Shandy—or Fight Club, for that matter—and Wolf ’s tale goes on far too long, well past the point of self-indulgence. A little of it goes a very long way. Still, there are plenty of good moments in this rollicking, inventive and surpassing strange tale.

THE FAMILY MANSION

Winkler, Anthony C. Akashic (224 pp.) $15.95 paper | May 14, 2013 978-1-61775-166-0

Life on a 19th-century sugar cane plantation in Jamaica, with all its attendant historical and cultural problems, especially the dominance of white overseers over black slaves. In England in 1805, Hartley Fudges has the typical issues facing the second-born male child in a system of primogeniture, for his older brother Alexander is to come into title, property and money, and Hartley is to get... nothing. To rectify this “inequity,” he hires a gentleman thug who’s a good shot to ritually insult Alexander. The plan is that a duel will ensue (it does) that will benefit Hartley (it doesn’t). In a scene that would be comic were it not so tragic, Alexander emerges unscathed, while Hartley’s stand-in manages both to die and to confess to Alexander his younger brother’s treachery. Hartley wisely decides to flee, and he winds up on a 1500-acre sugar cane plantation in Jamaica, one of eight white males amid 960 slaves. One of Hartley’s first acts is an impulsive one: to buy a slave named Cuffy and give him his freedom, something Cuffy |

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m ys t e r y

LOVE POTION NUMBER 10

Woodman, Betsy Henry Holt (336 pp.) $16.00 paper | May 14, 2013 978-0-8050-9357-5

WHEN THE DEVIL DOESN’T SHOW

Can a 59-year-old widow in the Indian Himalayas find new love? Does she want to? Set in the fictional town of Hamara Nagar, the second in Woodman’s (Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes, 2012) series finds Jana as the town’s beloved fortuneteller, with the help of her adored and possibly psychic parrot, Mr. Ganguly. Jolly Grant House is home to a joyous, makeshift family: Jana; Mr. Ganguly; Mary, former children’s nurse and current resourceful housekeeper; Lal Bahadur Pun, a retired soldier; and Tilku, an orphaned Nepali boy who thinks he might be 11. Yet, a 1961 morning cracks with three misfortunes: First, Mr. Ganguly awakens the whole house with his screeching; second, Mr. Ganguly’s screeching alerts everyone to a burst water pipe; third, the reporter from the Illustrated Weekly of India is due at any minute. Determined to put her best foot forward, Jana endures a strange interview with the reporter, a Mr. Gopal, despite Mr. Ganguly’s constant warning of “Bad Bird!” Not until weeks later, when another reporter shows up for the same interview, does Jana begin to suspect that something fishy may be afoot. Perhaps she should have paid more attention to those poisoned pen letters claiming she stole Mr. Ganguly. The mystery, however, must take a back seat to the many other claims on Jana’s—and the reader’s—attention, including transcribing Grandfather MacPherson’s music, traveling by harrowing taxi cab to the dentist, interpreting dreams for Mr. Rambir’s newspaper and testing Mr. Abinath’s new elixir: Love Potion Number 10. Soon, love begins crackling through the air as besotted couples, intrigued pen pals and old flames cross Jana’s path. Crowded with charming characters, each with his or her own troubles, Woodman’s novel barely makes room for Jana’s mystery or love life. Colorful, exuberant, yet frustratingly directionless.

Barber, Christine Minotaur (288 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-250-00472-7

The victims have two things in common: proximity to a movie set and a biotech lab at Los Alamos. It doesn’t get much grislier than this: One corpse has the severed penis of the other in his mouth, and both have knife wounds, bullets in the brain and abundant signs that they’ve been brutalized while duct-taped to chairs. The third victim met a slightly different fate. He was dangled from a ceiling plant hanger, then doused with gasoline to start the house fire that brought rescue squads, EMT volunteer Lucy Newroe and, finally, Santa Fe police detective Gil Montoya to the scene. The seated bodies belong to Drs. Price and Jacobson, a gay couple with ties to the film industry and the Primary Structural Biosystems department at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Genetics mark the dangler as a descendant of the Crypto-Jews who fled Spain for New Mexico centuries ago, pretending to be of the Catholic faith. A second arson sends another Los Alamos scientist to the hospital, while yet another home invasion sends a retired lab employee’s husband to the surgery ward. Fortuitous snooping by the newly sober Lucy, dogged police work by Gil and his assistants Kristen and Joe, and determined plotting by the author reveal a gang of four perps whose number quickly diminishes to one when its leader decides that he doesn’t need his pals anymore. The weather turns bleaker; snowdrifts impede the final chase scene; and it’s not until the spring thaw that one last body is found, although it doesn’t belong to the guy Montoya was hounding. Another case for Montoya (The Bone Fire, 2010, etc.) that’s rife with historical tidbits, garish deaths, back stories of the police staff and a love for Santa Fe. If only the author would concentrate a little more on sensible plotting.

THE PERFECT GHOST

Barnes, Linda Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-250-02363-6

An unappreciated ghostwriter finds herself in the spotlight. Em Moore was first a student of Teddy Blake, then his lover and, finally, half of the writing team of T.E. Blakemore. Before Teddy was killed in an auto 36

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MUSIC OF GHOSTS

accident, he and Em had been working on the authorized biography of actor-turned-director Garrett Malcolm, scion of a famous acting dynasty. Teddy has always been the charming face of the duo and Em, a plain girl subject to panic attacks. But somehow she persuades the publishers, who want to cancel the project, to let her go ahead with it. Armed with the tapes Teddy made while he was interviewing Malcolm on Cape Cod, Em sets out to finish the book. Malcolm is working on a production of Hamlet on his father’s large estate, a place that will eventually belong to his actress daughter, who is currently in Europe, or maybe Australia. At first, Malcolm puts off Em, but then he invites her to stay at the estate, where he seduces her. Both Malcolm’s jealous cousin and a scandalmongering local blogger insinuate that Malcolm has a dirty secret to hide. Enchanted by Malcolm, harassed by the blogger and questioned by the police, Em fights off panic attacks while working hard to find the truth behind Malcolm’s facade of wealth and celebrity. The police, meanwhile, express their doubts that Teddy’s death was really an accident. Barnes puts aside her Carlotta Carlyle series (Lie Down With the Devil, 2008, etc.) for an eerie, suspenseful standalone that focuses more on the characters and their dark pasts than on a clever mystery.

Bissell, Sallie Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (384 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3584-9 Atlanta attorney Mary Crow, transplanted to Pisgah County, N.C., battles monsters criminal and domestic in her fifth case. Something’s been subtly different about Mary’s live-in boyfriend, Jonathan Walkingstick, ever since he and his daughter Lily, 9, returned from a visit to her grandparents in Oklahoma. In Lily’s case, the difference is anything but subtle: She screams that she hates Mary and never wants to live with her since Mary killed her mother. Sure enough, Fred and Dulcy Moon filled their granddaughter with a hatefully selective account of her mother’s death during the visit, and now they’ve sued Jonathan for custody, contending that his lover would be an inappropriate guardian even if she hadn’t killed Lily’s mother. Mary would like nothing better than to spend every waking minute supporting Jonathan as he battles his in-laws, but she can’t; she’s promised to defend Dr. Nicholas Stratton, the director of Pisgah Raptor Rescue who’s accused of murdering Lisa Wilson, an intern who was infatuated with him and not shy about expressing it. Lisa took off from her full-bore pursuit of Nick to spend a night with five other Raptor Rescue interns at a remote cabin rumored to be haunted by Fiddlesticks, the man who, returning home to find his wife entertaining his best friend, slashed them both to death, then played his fiddle as they bled out. Lured outdoors by some unearthly fiddling as her friends slept, Lisa was stripped, strangled and so hideously mutilated that a photograph of her corpse fetches $25,000 from a tabloid rag. After an eight-year sabbatical, Mary (Legacy of Masks, 2005, etc.) works her hardest to defend Nick and stand by Jonathan, but there’s only so much of her to go around. Of the two breathless tales Bissell intertwines, one ends with a crash of cymbals, and the other doesn’t end at all. To be continued.

CARVED IN DARKNESS

Beaumont, Maegan Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (408 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3689-1 A homicide inspector and a killer for hire make an unlikely team. Sabrina Vaughn’s new partner in the San Francisco PD can tell that something is wrong with her, but he has no idea how bad it is. Fifteen years ago, Sabrina, who was born Melissa Walker in Jessup, Texas, was kidnapped, raped and tortured for 83 days by a psychopathic serial killer. Left for dead in a churchyard with “Mine” carved in her stomach, she somehow survived. Now, her younger brother and sister and her only friend are safe, or so she thinks, until the arrival of Michael O’Shea, a childhood acquaintance whose military record is sealed, turns her life upside down. Michael, whose sister was one of a string of victims who all resembled Melissa, wants to use Melissa as bait to catch the killer. Nor do her troubles end there. Steve Sanford, a fellow cop whose life Melissa saved, wants to die and is harassing Melissa in the hopes she will snap and kill him. Michael works as a hired killer—his handler helped him slip away from his dangerous boss—so he has only a small window of time to catch the killer. Indications that the killer has learned that Melissa is still alive, and has killed the grandmother who shared her secret, make her desperate to protect her siblings and her friend. When Sanford is murdered, Melissa, a prime suspect, has no choice but to return to Texas and bait the trap. Pulse-pounding terror, graphic violence and a loathsome killer. First of a series.

DYING BAD

Carter, Maureen Creme de la Crime (224 pp.) $28.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-78029-036-2 Fast-talking enemies must join forces to stop the leader of a child prostitution ring from striking again. The ice queen of her department, DI Sarah Quinn is the one person in Birmingham willing to stand up to her chief when she disagrees with his calls. So, she senses that she’s approaching a familiar position when she feels that things are moving a little fast with their latest case. The |

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“An overcaffeinated noir farce...” from the old turk's load

DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT

streets of the city are doubtless a little cleaner once a set of youths are picked up for suspected links to apparently random attacks throughout the city. While they’re certainly guilty of some smaller crimes, could they be responsible for something worse? Sarah can’t help seeking a victory to make up for the failure to convict Jas Ram, who’s gone free even though he was patently guilty of corrupting children into prostitution. Journalist Caroline King, equally convinced of Ram’s guilt, intends to use his release to her advantage, interviewing him and his victims for what she hopes will become a best-seller. Although Caroline and Sarah often fight on opposite sides of the same battles, what happens next forces the two enemies into an uneasy truce as both use Caroline’s sources to figure out whether there’s a connection between the prostitution ring and the street attacks. The dialogue Carter (Mother Love, 2012, etc.) provides between the enemies-turned-collaborators is so snappy that readers may well forgive the lack of narrative drive.

Danna, Jen. J. with Vanderlaan, Ann Five Star (290 pp.) $25.95 | May 15, 2013 978-1-4328-2695-6

A Massachusetts state trooper and a forensic anthropologist combine their talents to solve a series of murders. Trooper Leigh Abbot is an ambitious woman who’s not about to let harassment by her male colleagues slow her down. When a single bone is found sticking out of a beaver dam, Leigh talks reluctant professor Matt Lowell into taking a look at it. Once Matt and his team of graduate students, Kiko, Paul and Juka, conclude that the bone is from the recently buried body of a young person, they ask where the rest of the body might be. While searching a possible location, they come upon a disturbed grave. Back in the lab, however, Matt realizes that the bones do not match. Returning to the site, the crew stumbles upon the body of a freshly tortured and murdered young woman. Someone shoots at them, slightly wounding Matt, but before they can give chase, the shooter escapes in a motorboat hidden nearby in the thick reeds. Matt, a former marine medic in Afghanistan, is still struggling to deal with his memories of some very bad experiences, but he refuses to let his flashbacks stop him from investigating the crime, especially when more graves discovered nearby reveal that they’re dealing with a serial killer of young women. The only real clue is a strange design carved on the chests of the corpses, a sign they finally identify with a violent video game. As the team slowly discovers new evidence, its members become targets of the killer. This first in a planned series by a pair of scientific researchers is both exciting and informative, sure to please fans of forensic mysteries.

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MURDER

Dailey, Judy Five Star (252 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 19, 2013 978-1-4328-2691-8

A newly-widowed urban farmer tries to reconcile her memories of her husband with the discovery she makes at the hands of a dead man. Urban farmer and aptly named Sunny Day Burnett is an optimist who met and married her husband, Ken, after a whirlwind courtship, then settled down to what she thought would be a lifetime of happiness. Now, just months later, Sunny is a widow struggling to make ends meet by starting a farm in the backyard of her home, located in the upscale gated community of Laurelmere, outside Seattle. She’s getting ready to slaughter her chickens when she finds that a man facedown in her vegetable patch has already met that fate. Though she doesn’t even know the deceased, Sunny soon finds herself hiring her friendly neighborhood lawyer, Horace “call me Ace” Pennington III, to stop the cops, led by DS Stanislaus, from trampling all over her livelihood. Sunny, so used to being straightforward, can’t bring herself to tell Stanislaus that she’s hiding something: The murdered man was holding a photo of Ken in stilettos and a boa. Sunny doesn’t know what to do with this information, but she’s sure she has to do something, and quickly. So, on Ace’s recommendation, she solicits neighbor and former cop Angus “Mac” MacDougall’s help to get to the bottom of whatever it was Ken was involved in, all the while hoping there’s no more information to find. Though it’s filled with interesting characters, Dailey’s debut mystery ultimately doesn’t fulfill the promise of its premise.

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THE OLD TURK’S LOAD

Gibson, Gregory Mysterious Press (288 pp.) $24.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-8021-2113-4

Several pounds of uncut heroin, derailed from their intended recipient by the 1967 Newark riots, attract the lethal attentions of a motley crew in Gibson’s debut thriller. Woody and Vince Street, partners but not brothers, unexpectedly lose control of the Porsche they’re driving to a mob that has no idea what a fabulous cargo it contains. So, it’s left to DiShaun Smoot to claim it for his boss, oldtime enforcer Julius Roth, whose own boss, paper millionaire Richard Mundi, is running a development partnership that can really use a shot in the arm. But since Angelo DiNoto, Woody and Vince’s employer, isn’t about to take the loss of $250,000 to |


THE LADY FLIRTS WITH DEATH

$5 million—after it’s cut and distributed—lying down, he sends his own enforcers after Mundi. Mundi’s daughter Gloria sees the H as fuel for the amateur terrorism of the self-styled revolutionaries she’s been hanging around with. When Mundi hires private eye Walkaway Kelly to tail Gloria in order to separate her from Kevin Gallagher, the grandiose agitator she’s been closest to, Kelly gets the zany idea that the key to the troubled relationship between father and daughter is the death seven years ago of Agnes Day Mundi, Gloria’s actress mother. Nor are these the only wild cards in the deck. Harry Jarkey, the investigative journalist who doubles as an investigator for Kelly, soon develops his own interest. So does the Mailman, a messenger whose laryngeal cancer has left him talking through a blowhole in his neck. The Mailman doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither does the rest of this crowd. So it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be the last man (or woman) standing. An overcaffeinated noir farce enlivened by many cartoon fatalities. Just the thing if you’re really stoned and don’t have to pass a quiz on the plot. (Agent: Neeti Madan)

Herring, Peg Five Star (246 pp.) $25.95 | May 15, 2013 978-1-4328-2712-0

Being a friend to both a royal and a crook can be a dangerous pastime. Apothecary Simon Maldon has long been a friend to Elizabeth Tudor. Her sister Mary occupies the throne, while Elizabeth is in the Tower of London, accused of taking part in a plot to overthrow her. Simon visits her in the guise of a Spanish priest, but there is little he can do for her. On a visit to the Tower, however, he runs into Peto the Pope, a thief he counts as an old friend. Accused of murder, Peto denies his guilt, at least this time, and Simon tries to help him. Meanwhile, Simon’s wife, Hannah, desperate for a child, takes in Janet, a pregnant girl who soon delivers a baby girl. The mysterious new mother is strangely uninterested in her child, but Hannah, who has fallen for the infant, puts up with Janet’s laziness and deceit in order to keep the baby in her home. Preoccupied with his search for the man who set up Peto, Simon pays little attention to Janet. As he roams the mean streets of Southwark with Peto’s devoted follower, Pen, an alleged halfwit who lives with his sister, Simon catches the attention of the man who’s trying to take over Peto’s gang of thieves. If only the distracted couple had time to talk, they might realize that their current obsessions are not only related but also very dangerous for both of them. Simon’s third appearance (Her Highness’ First Murder, 2010, etc.) is less notable for mystery than for historical detail.

ELEVEN LITTLE PIGGIES

Gunn, Elizabeth Severn House (192 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8236-3

Murder resolves the Kester brothers’ disagreement over whether to continue farming or become millionaires by selling their acreage. Owen, devoted to the land his family began cultivating eons ago, opts to keep the dairy going, the corn growing and his wife’s riding school in business. Snobbish Ethan, now a lawyer in town, wants to hold off for the highest bidder. Black sheep Matt, recently returned to the vast holding from a career in rodeo and with a penchant for wooing the ladies, says he’ll do whatever Owen wants. Owen is firm: You’ll sell this land over my dead body. That’s easily arranged by whoever left his carcass with a gun blast to the gut at the edge of the goose-hunting field abutting the property, where Jake Hines, chief of detectives for Rutherford, Minn., happens to be enjoying an afternoon off shooting fowl from a blind. Owen’s death is not the only Kester farm mishap, just the most recent. A roof has fallen on an outbuilding; wire fences have been cut, letting the horses get out and run into a truck; and Maynard, a gossipy field hand, winds up dead in Ethan’s car. Soon, everyone is quitting, leaving Owen’s widow, his aging dad and an old retainer to manage. There’ll be a little early Saturday morning trysting, a foiled attempt to waylay Owen’s autistic son and—despite all the work put in by Jake and his department— another fatality before the horrible results of sand mining and fracking are exposed. Jake (The Ten-Mile Trials, 2010, etc.) is his usual proficient self, whether passing spoons to his almost 1-year-old son to bang around, helping wife Trudy get Thanksgiving dinner to the table or dealing with his underpaid, overworked staff.

GOOD PEOPLE

Hutton, Ewart Minotaur (320 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-250-01961-5 Everyone who thinks Ian Rankin doesn’t write fast enough should give newcomer Hutton a try. Relegated to the Welsh boondocks after his misstep causes a death in Cardiff, DS Glyn Capaldi, never one to follow orders anyway, persists in asking where Boon, a young black man, and a female hitchhiker have gone after five local lads say they left following a night of high-spirited debauchery. According to them, Boon planned to take the girl to the ferry to Dublin to meet up with her boyfriend and then return to his military posting. But their story is a little too pat, and when it crumbles, their revision sounds rehearsed and preplanned. Glyn, whose interrogation technique is part punch-up, part blackmail and total intimidation, singles out Trevor as the group’s weakest link. After two prostitutes alibi the lads and Glyn gets treated to a tormented sexual confession, Trevor’s dead body is found |

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SLEIGHT OF HAND

hanging from a barn rafter. No longer welcomed in the pub by xenophobic countrymen, and told by his superiors to leave off harassing the boys, Glyn can find solace only in his encounter with Sally, Boon’s adopted mother, whose travails include an ex who absconded with a student and subtle bits of racism aimed at her son. But shortly after Sally and Glyn tentatively reach out for one another, the current husband of Glyn’s ex-wife descends asking for a bit of advice, and investigation shows that more girls than the misplaced hitchhiker have vanished from the village in the past. Convinced that Boon and probably several of the females are dead and possibly buried in the countryside, Glyn makes several incorrect assumptions that lead to a final revenge scenario upending his notions of what good people can be driven to while their friends turn a blind eye. The sexual peccadilloes are not for the squeamish, but the plot twists are cunning, and Glyn Capaldi is the most appealing antihero this side of John Rebus.

Margolin, Phillip Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-206991-7 Washington, D.C. shamus Dana Cutler (Capitol Murder, 2012, etc.) goes up against an impossibly clever killer: an amateur magician who’s also a member of the bar. The legal eagles who find Charles Benedict intelligent and charming would undoubtedly be surprised to know that he’s also a stone-cold killer who doesn’t flinch from liquidating the occasional thorn in the side of his associate Nikolai Orlansky, a pillar of the Russian Mafia. Fresh from his latest such favor for Orlansky, Benedict decides that it would be fun to have sex with Carrie Blair, a narcotics prosecutor who’s having another quarrel with her much older husband, Horace, a wealthy businessman. So he drugs her, takes her home, drugs her again, has his way with her and then demands $250,000 for suppressing the evidence that she’s violated her prenup. Alas, their negotiating session ends with Carrie’s death, and now Benedict, who never planned this murder, realizes that he’ll have to do some fancy footwork indeed if he’s to avoid serious jail time. But great illusionists are also great improvisers, and soon enough, Benedict has not only framed Horace very convincingly for his wife’s murder, but has also gotten Horace to hire him as his defense attorney. He’ll get away with his crime scot-free unless Detective Frank Santoro, of the Lee County police, joins forces with Dana, back in town after a wild goose chase after the priceless and totally fictitious Ottoman Scepter, to take equally resourceful measures against him. They do, he’s trapped, and then the tale is over. Margolin presents another triumph of inventive plotting over paper-thin characterization, flat prose and a wholesale departure from realism. The result is on a par with an especially good episode of Columbo. (Author appearances in Seattle and Portland)

A SERPENT’S TOOTH

Johnson, Craig Viking (352 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-670-02645-6

The vast, lonely spaces of rural Wyoming attract some unusual lifestyles. It’s up to Sheriff Walt Longmire to sort the good from the bad. Longmire’s problems start when Cord Lynear, a Mormon “lost boy” who’s been thrown out of a polygamous Mormon compound so that the older men can have their choice of women, wanders into Absaroka County looking for his mother. Assisting Longmire, as usual, are his friend Henry Standing Bear, aka The Cheyenne Nation, and his deputy Victoria Moretti, a tough, beautiful woman he considers much too young for him. Among the strange people he turns up in his quest are a man who claims to be 200-year-old Mormon enforcer Orrin Porter Rockwell; Cord’s grandmother, Eleanor Tisdale, who runs a bar and store in the tiny town of Short Drop; Roy Lynear, who owns a large, heavily fortified ranch and who may be Cord’s father; and Tomás Bidarte, a Mexican poet who’s handy with a knife. A visit to another Lynear compound in South Dakota leads to a run-in with more lost boys and a confrontation with yet more Lynears. A little help from a friend in the CIA identifies Rockwell as CIA agent Dale Tisdale, reportedly killed in a plane crash in Mexico. When someone burns the sheriff substation and almost kills one of his deputies, Longmire and his friends take actions that may be the death of them. Longmire’s ninth (As the Crow Flies, 2012, etc.) is a tense, action-filled story with Johnson’s usual touches of humor and romance. No wonder Longmire’s TV series has been renewed for a second season.

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KILLER HONEYMOON

McKevett, G.A. Kensington (304 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-7582-7651-3

Murder disrupts a newlywed detective’s shot at connubial bliss. At their long-awaited nuptials, private eye Savannah Reid (A Decadent Way to Die, 2011, etc.) agreed to take her longtime admirer, police detective Dirk Coulter, for better or worse. Grumpiness? Fine. Snoring? OK. But starting the first day of their honeymoon on the island paradise of Santa Tesla by watching a woman die of gunshot wounds? Unacceptable! Even worse, Savannah and Dirk hear |


“...a compelling debut...” from the missing file

THE MYSTERY WOMAN

TV reporter Amelia Northrop’s death described by Eyewitness News as “an accidental drowning.” When they confront Charlotte La Cross about the cover-up, Santa Tesla’s police chief is more than a little evasive. So Savannah and Dirk have no choice than to haul their crew—Tammy Hart, John Gibson and Ryan Stone, along with Savannah’s brother Waycross and of course Granny Reid—over to Santa Tesla to help them investigate. Stalker Burt Ferris looks like a good suspect. So does Ian Xenos, whose multimillion-dollar designer knockoff business Amelia recently busted. But when Amelia’s husband, William, a developer with plans to build a casino on one of Santa Tesla’s pristine beaches, confides that he too was the target of a mystery shooter, attention turns to the Island Protection League, an environmentalist group dedicated to stopping the project cold. Only Savannah would have a honeymoon featuring a cast of thousands, proving once more that enough is enough, but too much is fantastic.

Quick, Amanda Putnam (368 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-399-15909-1

A woman with psychic powers and a man who believes only what he can see make a formidable pair. Miss Beatrice Lockwood worked with Roland Fleming at the Academy of the Occult until he was brutally murdered. After fleeing the scene, Beatrice was fortunate to find a job with Flint & Marsh, a pair of talented women who provide paid companions with paranormal talents. While serving as a companion to a lady who’s been targeted by a fortune hunter, Beatrice is approached at a ball by handsome, mysterious Joshua Gage, aka Mr. Smith’s Messenger. Gage, who carried out assignments for the government before he was badly hurt, has come out of retirement to aid his sister, who’s being blackmailed by someone, with all signs pointing to Beatrice as the culprit. Despite his suspicions, Gage is immediately attracted to Beatrice, who agrees to go with his sister to a house party at Alverstoke Hall, where the blackmailer has set up a meeting. The blackmailer is found murdered, and Beatrice is nearly kidnapped by the assassin known as the Bone Man, the same man who killed Fleming. Realizing that Beatrice is the target and the blackmail just a scheme to lure her into a dangerous situation, she and Gage flee, posing as a married couple until they can return to London. There, they mount a desperate campaign against an unknown enemy who will do anything to get what he wants. The second in the Victorian Ladies of Lantern Street series, though not the best of Quick’s popular romantic mysteries (Crystal Gardens, 2012, etc.), still contains all the requisite elements: romance, sex, mystery and clever repartee.

THE MISSING FILE

Mishani, D.A. Translated by Cohen, Steven Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-06-219537-1 A missing person case provides an unexpected challenge for a suburban Tel Aviv police inspector. Aside from terrorism, there’s very little crime in Israel. That, explains Inspector Avraham Avraham, is why so few detective novels are written in Hebrew. So when Hannah Sharabi comes to the station to report that her son Ofer left their apartment in Holon for school that morning and never returned, Avraham assures her that the 16-year-old probably left on his own and will eventually return. But Ofer doesn’t turn up, and after a day, Avraham is forced to open an investigation. Much to his chagrin, young hotshot Eyal Shrapstein is assigned to help him. Shrapstein undermines Avraham’s fragile authority almost as much as his older colleague Eliyahu Ma’alul supports him. Avraham’s superior, Ilana Lis, is also supportive, but as the investigation stalls, her patience wears thin. Should Avraham focus more on Ofer’s father, a seaman who was headed to Trieste when his son disappeared? On neighbor Ze’ev Avni, a teacher whose poor sense of boundaries may have pushed Ofer toward the edge? On one of the anonymous phone calls that make Shrapstein’s ears twitch? Even a weeklong business trip to Brussels can’t shake the Sharabi case from the mind of Avraham, who struggles to separate the truth from a tangle of evasions, misperceptions and outright lies. Mishani gives his unfortunately named sleuth a compelling debut in a complex case aimed straight at the reader’s heart.

THE BAKER STREET TRANSLATION

Robertson, Michael Minotaur (288 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-250-01645-4

Baker Street barrister Reggie Heath (The Brothers of Baker Street, 2011, etc.) is faced with three puzzles fully as strange as his enforced avocation of answering letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes. The most straightforward case involves the kidnapping of Lord Robert Buxton, Reggie’s wealthy, pompous, wholly ineffectual rival for the affections of American actress Laura Rankin, which would on the whole be a welcome development if the £1 million ransom (“Is that all?” exclaims Laura) didn’t include as a supplement all the recent correspondence |

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PICTURE PERFECT CORPSE

addressed to Holmes. The second, far more recondite, concerns Mr. Liu, a translator who appeals to Holmes, and to Reggie as his agent, to persuade Elizabeth Winslow, of Standard Translation Services, that his Chinese translations of several nursery rhymes are indeed correct. The third is an awkward bequest by Hilary Clemens, a deceased centenarian in Texas, who has left her entire fortune to Sherlock Holmes and whose grandnephew Darby fails to see the humor of the situation. There’ll be much crosscutting among the adventures of Laura, Reggie and Reggie’s brother Nigel, who’s sweating the results of the California bar exam, as they struggle to trace possible connections among these three problems, or at least extricate themselves from the dangers they pose individually, before a climactic sequence that may mark the first time in history or fiction in which political terrorists seek to promote their nefarious ends by using talking toy ducks. Readers who, unlike Mr. Darby, know not to take the proceedings seriously will find the deadpan tone perfectly suited to the whimsically improbable developments. As a bonus, all the policemen the heroes consult are so imperviously dense that they might have stepped out of your own comic nightmares.

Slan, Joanna Campbell Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (336 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3538-2

When your life is totally trashed, it’s time to stand up and take charge. Kiki Lowenstein has just shot and killed the man who murdered her husband. He had already wounded her and a friend and was strangling her motherin-law at the time, but still, she feels guilty. Kiki’s own head wound was minor and her unborn baby unharmed. Her longtime boyfriend, Chad Detweiler, indicates that he’s finally ready to divorce his drug-addicted wife, Brenda, and marry her. Then fresh disasters strike. Brenda is found shot dead, and Detweiler is arrested. Brenda’s well-connected father, who holds the debt on the Detweiler family farm, is determined to get his son-inlaw convicted of murder. All the while, Kiki’s friend Dodie, her senior partner in their crafts shop, is dying of cancer. Kiki is stuck with her uncaring, self-absorbed mother, and her daughter Anya is obviously hiding something. A friend at the shop helps her retain a shark of a lawyer for Chad who works pro bono but insists that Kiki stay out of the investigation. Still, the intrepid sleuth not only comes up with a few good leads, but finds time to investigate the accidental death of Dodie’s son after one of his high school friends blurts out that she caused his death. Accused of whining by one of her friends, Kiki realizes that it’s up to her to get her life back while she still has one. Fans of this scrapbooking series (Ready, Scrap, Shoot, 2012, etc.) won’t be surprised that sorely beset Kiki doesn’t shine as a detective this time. But they’ll be drawn to her ongoing personal struggles and her take on social problems, in this case self-mutilation.

THE OVERLOOKER

Sampson, Fay Severn House (208 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8241-7

A father’s newfound interest in genealogy poses a danger to his family. Nick Fewings’ wife, Suzie, takes a break from her genealogical research to join him and their teenage daughter, Millie, on a trip to Lancashire to visit Martin, Nick’s oldest living relative. Martin’s daughter Thelma is pleased to have them stay even though Martin is in hospital with a stroke. And a conversation with Martin makes Nick regret that he’s waited so long to come see him. While exploring the former mill town, the Fewings meet a weeping woman whom they see again when they’re turned away from the old family home. The house, slated for demolition, should have been empty, as a suspicious Nick reports to the authorities. Although he can’t imagine how anyone knows about his visit to the police, Nick begins to get threatening phone calls and texts. As they continue to explore mill museums, rural chapels and a deserted mill, the threats keep coming. Soon after the Fewings’ university-age son joins them for a quick visit, Millie, whom they have not told about the threats, sneaks off on yet another shopping expedition, and Suzie is kidnapped while trying to find her. The police search in earnest, but it’s up to Nick to figure out who took her and where she is being held. Suzie, who usually stars in Sampson’s Genealogical Mystery series (Father Unknown, 2011, etc.), yields the limelight to Nick in this weak mystery whose main selling point is its information about Lancashire history. 42

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DEAD SEA

Tonkin, Peter Severn House (240 pp.) $28.95 | Feb. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8231-8 Greed and green technology intersect with combustible results in a deadly maritime race. Disgusted by public indifference to the rampant pollution of the world’s waterways, industrialist/adventurer Richard Mariner teams up with ecologist and magnate Nic Greenbaum for a brilliant publicity stunt. They invite seamen worldwide to compete in the hunt for a certain plastic bottle dropped into a Tokyo river. Inside the bottle are dozens of lottery tickets, one of which just might be a multimillion-dollar winner. Adding a dash of public relations panache are Richard’s wife and fellow adventurer, Robin, and Greenbaum’s daughter Liberty, a scholastic prodigy and accomplished sailor, in |


a kind of side bet. They’ll race against each other, Liberty helming the Flint and Robin the Katapult, to the bottle, which moves from its original urban locality to the open seas, where most of the public is ignorant of spreading toxicity. Taking the bait, the media begin filming several crews that have avidly accepted the challenge. But the sublime plan of Greenbaum International and Heritage Mariner goes seriously awry with the discovery that the targeted bottle does indeed contain a winning ticket worth $110 million. The friendly competition instantly turns deadly, endangering both the reputations of the planners and countless lives, including those of their loved ones. Mariner’s 26th escapade (Dark Heart, 2012, etc.), written with crisp authority, abounds in Tonkin’s trademark nautical action sequences. And the premise is his freshest and most viscerally appealing in years.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Woods, Stuart Putnam (320 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-399-15987-9

News flash: Superlawyer Stone Barrington, that sworn enemy of deferred gratification, wakes up in substandard accommodations, and he’s alone! Stone is an unwitting guest of the U.S. Embassy in Paris, which took him in when he was found wandering the streets of the City of Lights in a fog. Who drugged Stone into amnesia, and why? Why does he have a dinner engagement with art curator Amanda Hurley and another with millionaire auto manufacturer Marcel duBois? What was he doing on a flight to Paris in the first place, and what happened during the four days he can’t remember? These are promising questions, and in the hands of another novelist, they’d drive the story. In Woods’ (Collateral Damage, 2013, etc.), however, they’re just a batch of red herrings whose answers turn out to be inconsequential (Amanda Hurley, the reason for Stone’s trip) or obvious (Marcel duBois, the question of who drugged Stone). Once they’ve been disposed of, Woods can get down to the real business at hand: a deal between Stone and duBois to duplicate the wildly successful Arrington Hotel in a dozen locations far from Los Angeles. Signing all those papers and scoping out possible locations brings duBois to America, where he and Stone can serve the infinitely less interesting function of providing target practice for the nefarious Russian gangster Yuri Majorov and his minions in between rounds of acquiring ever more creature comforts. “I will dine out on the stories for years,” vows duBois as he heads back to Paris. Fans of Stone’s well-upholstered, featherweight adventures can only marvel at how well this installment’s title would suit them all.

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BRACED FOR MURDER

Wright, Sue Owens Five Star (242 pp.) $25.95 | May 15, 2013 978-1-4328-2689-5

A brace of basset hounds bring joy and chaos to a writer’s life. Widowed Beanie MacBean fosters homeless basset hounds from South Lake Tahoe’s Lakeside Animal Shelter. Unfortunately, the shelter is managed by Rhoda Marx, a woman who’d rather euthanize the hapless strays as quickly as possible than try to find them homes. When Beanie goes to pick up her foster Calamity to join her own basset, Cruiser, she discovers Rhoda’s dead body in the euthanasia chamber. No stranger to murder (Embarking on Murder, 2009, etc.), Beanie is always ready to help her friend Sheriff Skip Cassidy. But she’s distracted by her concern for the health of her daughter Nona, a successful model who’s found a lump in her breast. Mother and daughter return to Beanie’s Native American roots to do a healing ceremony. Calamity, who has all kinds of issues, is causing problems at home but seems to have adopted Nona as her special person. Now if only Beanie could pick out Rhoda’s special person from among the long list of suspects who detested her. Could it be one of the downtrodden shelter workers? A woman whose basset was euthanized before she could reclaim her? Or perhaps a member of a local militant animal rights group? Despite her dislike for the dead woman, Beanie does her best to find out. Hard-core animal lovers will focus on the detailed information about the many problems with animal shelters and forgive the disjointed plot.

science fiction and fantasy THE GATE THIEF

Card, Orson Scott Tor (400 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-7653-2658-4 Card weaves another in a chain of satisfying, teenager-pleasing fantasies. Ced, familiar to Card fans, is the kind of unpleasant supernatural being who can really drive down real estate values in the Shire—beg pardon, in Rockbridge County, Va. There, as Card’s yarn opens, a young man is

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“Darkly fascinating, flaws and all...” from necessary evil

doing showoff-ish things, rocketing up a mile into the sky above Buena Vista and plummeting downward, up and down, up and down, on his own steam. These being the days of YouTube, it’ll make the news—but high schooler Danny North, the son of Odin and Gerd and thus one of the junior gods (“Nobody called them gods anymore, but they were still around”), has bigger things in mind. But, Card adds amiably, “Some of the gods...were heading to Parry McCluer High School in order to find Danny North and kill him.” And why? Well, Danny is a gatemage—and if you’ve read Card, you’ll know that a gatemage is definitely something that’ll get a war broiling in heaven. Card’s not content just to call on the Norse pantheon; Egyptians and Greeks and Romans and every other sort of deity and demideity mixes it up here, with some nice results—Danny might be a “defiant little asshole,” in the words of his gym teacher, but that’s nothing compared to one tough chick who is “Clytemnestra and Medea rolled into one.” Card has a grand old time romping around in the fields of comparative religion while letting a feud worthy of the Hatfields and the McCoys unfold, with much tongue-in-cheek humor but a touch of gore, too. And will the world remain safe for the Aesir? This fun, inventive tale holds the answer.

the flabby narrative, characters that develop so-o slo-owly, and a tone that vacillates between jocular horror and all-out macabre thrills, this unusual hybrid takes a while to heat up—but heat up it does. As soccer fans might say, Cornell’s first touch lets him down, but as the game progresses, his play grows in confidence and stature.

NECESSARY EVIL

Tregillis, Ian Tor (384 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-7653-2152-7

Independently intelligible final installment—Tregillis provides an ingenious summary while getting things under way—of the Milkweed Triptych (The Coldest War, 2012, etc.). In this bleak fantasy, World War II was fought between Nazis with devastating psychic powers and British warlocks employing Eidolons, irresistible demons beyond time and space—a struggle the British ultimately lost. In 1963, after the Soviets defeated the Nazis and took over their horrid experiments, Gretel, a psychic so powerful that she can not only view possible futures, but actually create them, escaped from Soviet captivity and fled to England. So terrified of the Eidolons was Gretel—they come to dominate and ultimately destroy reality—that she determined to create the only possible future free of the demons by conveying banged-up former spy chief Raybould Marsh back to an alternate 1940 where the war is in its infancy. Marsh, who fears the Eidolons more than he loathes the fiendish Gretel and doubts the possibility of outwitting her, cooperates while scheming to somehow defeat her and achieve his personal goals: to save his marriage and preserve the life of his infant daughter. Marsh, then, without revealing his identity, must guide his younger self and youthful colleagues along the necessary path. But can he resist the temptation of stealing his beloved wife away from—himself? This time, Tregillis gets many details of 1940s London wrong, though not fatally; what’s more troubling is that one of the issues on which the plot depends probably doesn’t work. Still, even this doesn’t significantly detract from the intensity of the narrative, the torments of the protagonist or the deviously alluring storyline. Darkly fascinating, flaws and all: A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to an imaginative tour de force. (Agent: Kay McCauley)

LONDON FALLING

Cornell, Paul Tor (416 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-7653-3027-7

Oddball yarn that begins, adequately, as a police procedural and morphs, more or less successfully, into an urban fantasy thriller, from the author of DC and Marvel comics, Doctor Who novels and scripts, and other scripts for popular

U.K. TV series. For years, detectives Tony Costain and Kev Sefton have been working undercover in London crime kingpin Rob Toshack’s organization, though the inner workings of Toshack’s remarkably successful operation elude them. Finally, the Met bosses decide to arrest the gangster despite the lack of hard evidence. As if forewarned, Toshack has Costain and Sefton drive him all over London, where he ransacks abandoned houses in a desperate search for—something. Still, DI James Quill nabs Toshack, who inexplicably, begins to confess—until he dies gruesomely while the astounded officers look helplessly on. The mystery only deepens when poison and other agents are ruled out. To continue the investigation, a new unit is formed, including Quill, Costain, Sefton and police intelligence analyst Lisa Ross. Things get even weirder when Toshack’s secret protector turns out to be a mass child murderer, seemingly with occult powers—and a fanatical West Ham soccer supporter! Even worse, the four touch evidence imbued with their quarry’s evil energies, only to discover that they can now detect the supernatural horrors that lurk inside London’s darkest dreams— an ability they heartily wish they hadn’t acquired. What with 44

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nonfiction MOM & ME & MOM

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Angelou, Maya Random House (224 pp.) $22.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4000-6611-7 978-0-679-64547-4 e-book

GUN GUYS by Dan Baum................................................................... 48 A SKEPTIC’S GUIDE TO THE MIND by Robert A. Burton................. 51 THE UNDIVIDED PAST by David Cannadine....................................52 THE SELECTED LETTERS OF WILLA CATHER by Willa Cather ..... 53 HAMMARSKJÖLD by Roger Lipsey.....................................................63 AN ENLARGED HEART by Cynthia Zarin......................................... 77 GUN GUYs A Road Trip

Baum, Dan Knopf (352 pp.) $26.95 Mar. 7, 2013 978-0-307-59541-6

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Angelou (Letters to My Daughter, 2008, etc.) has given us the opportunity to read much of her life, but here she unveils her relationship with her mother for the first time. True to her style, the writing cuts to the chase with compression and simplicity, and there in the background is a calypso smoothness, flurries and showers of musicality between the moments of wickedness. And wickedness abounds, for Angelou had a knack for picking bad men. But the pivot of the book is her mother—first called lady, then mother and finally mom— who sent Angelou and her brother to live with their grandmother when Angelou was 3. By the time her older brother was capable of getting into serious trouble as an independentminded black man in the American South, they were shipped back to their mother, who was as ready as she would ever be. She had been around, ran a few gambling houses and picked up plenty of worldly wisdom, which she dispensed to Angelou: “Power and determination…[w]ith those two things, you can go anywhere and everywhere”; “If you don’t protect yourself, you look like a fool asking somebody else to protect you.” Though readers may not sense that her mother was not the most reliable force in her life, Angelou knew enough to grab the most from what she had: “[S]he was there with me. She had my back, supported me. This is the role of the mother….She stands between the known and the unknown.” Strung through the narrative are intense episodes in Angelou’s personal progress, from those disappointing-to-terrifying boyfriends, a seriously ugly meeting with her father and stepmother, her days as a prostitute and her incandescent relationships with her brother and her son. A tightly strung, finely tuned memoir about life with her mother.

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“An al-Qaida watcher lends some farsighted insight into the group’s motivation and direction.” from after bin laden

PAYING FOR THE PARTY How College Maintains Inequality

Armstrong, Elizabeth A.; Hamilton, Laura T. Harvard Univ. (294 pp.) $35.00 | April 8, 2013 978-0-674-04957-4

How a large Midwestern state university (unnamed in this longitudinal study) does little to help young women move upward or outward from their working- and middle-class backgrounds. Armstrong (Sociology and Organizational Studies/Univ. of Michigan) and Hamilton (Univ. of California, Merced) report the results of their five-year study of a group of young women who began in the same freshman dorm but ended up in very different situations. The constraints of social and economic class remained formidable, and moving into the professional class seemed virtually impossible, especially for those women who followed what the authors call “the party pathway.” Women from more privileged backgrounds survived their partying through school due to their more substantial support systems at home. We also see how difficult the college adjustment was for less talented students and for women from modest backgrounds and small towns. The authors conducted five annual interviews with their cohort of about 50 students (not all sat for all five interviews). The text looks and reads like the academic study that it is (many charts, some jargon, a conventional organization), but the conclusions are sobering, if not depressing. Armstrong and Hamilton assail the university itself for a number of failures, including an ineffectual system of student advising; a plethora of meaningless majors and courses designed to attract full-paying students, many of whom have no intention of actually pursuing such a career; and its continuing support for the fraternity/sorority system, which the authors contend undermines the very academic mission of the university. Athletics take some major blame, as well. The authors also discovered that some of the women who transferred to regional campuses performed better and were happier. The prose is sometimes sluggish and the recommendations perhaps quixotic, but the portrait of the university features stark lines and alarming colors.

SEXY FEMINISM A Girl’s Guide to Love, Success, and Style

Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin; Rudúlph, Heather Wood Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (256 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-547-73830-7 A fun and enlightening guide detailing the multifaceted ways women can 46

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integrate an inclusive mode of feminism into their lives without compromising their ideals and giving up their lip gloss. Co-founders of the blog SexyFeminist.com, Armstrong and Rudúlph examine their individual journeys to becoming feminists and why they wrote this book: “We want to help other women find their own feminism, just as we found ours.” The authors aim to “show young women how fun, empowering and, yes, sexy it is to fight for women’s rights and choices.” After a minihistory of feminism, they cover a variety of topics, including Brazilian wax jobs, plastic surgery, vanity and makeup, dieting, fashion, dating, the conundrum of working women, female friendships and feminism in the bedroom. The chapter on plastic surgery decodes the different types of procedures, followed by a Sexy Feminist Action Plan, titled “Invest in Yourself, Not New Boobs.” Armstrong describes her personal experience in “What I Learned from a Laser Facial Peel.” Though the tone is light and playful, there is plenty of information packed into each chapter. Most include follow-up questions for further exploration. The afterword, “Real Ways To Fight For Feminism,” lists feminist charities and pointers on becoming literate in politics and media. The appendix includes resources for sexy feminists, and the book serves as a quick and satisfying read for women of a certain age who might need a refresher course. A sexy heads up for young women who may not grasp how culture and media continually manipulate women into thinking that what they have and how they look are never quite good enough.

AFTER BIN LADEN Al Qaeda, the Next Generation

Atwan, Abdel Bari New Press (304 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-59558-899-9 978-1-59558-900-2 e-book An al-Qaida watcher lends some farsighted insight into the group’s motivation and direction. Editor-in-chief of the London newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi, Atwan (A Country of Words: A Palestinian Journey from the Refugee Camp to the Front Page, 2009, etc.) has evidently been studying the terrorist organization for decades (he interviewed Osama bin Laden twice). Here, he presents a wealth of strategic information and cleareyed assessment that casts American efforts in a fairly naïve light. There are some essential givens about the group that need to be grasped before an effective approach can be tendered: that the organization has only grown horizontally since the killing of bin Laden, so much so that the elimination of one leader only leads to martyrdom and replacement by others; the group is inextricably linked to the Taliban and will probably be present as the Taliban moves back into Afghanistan with the vacuum of American withdrawal; and the group has anticipated the fall of the Arab dictators and the re-establishment of an Islamic Caliphate across the Arab world, which

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looks something like the Arab Spring. Indeed, senior leaders such as Ayman Al-Zawahiri have been preaching this philosophy for some time. Atwan offers a chilling narrative that covers the group’s activity in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, where it hopes for its strongest toehold; Iraq and Afghanistan, as the U.S. departs; the Maghreb, Africa, Indonesia, China and even ex-Soviet Muslim states; and an increase in “lone wolf ” jihadist attacks in the West. Moreover, the group has cunningly adapted the Internet for its ideological spread. A sobering, intensive report.

ARMY OF GOD Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa

Axe, David; Hamilton, Tim PublicAffairs (128 pp.) $14.99 paper | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-61039-299-0

A graphic narrative illuminates the atrocities of Joseph Kony in Central Africa, yet the horror and the complexities of the story are a challenge for such

THE DANCING GODDESSES Folklore, Archaeology, and the Origins of European Dance

Barber, Elizabeth Wayland Norton (448 pp.) $35.00 | Feb. 11, 2013 978-0-393-06536-7

An exhaustive study of how a series of remnants of early religion lie at the roots of European folk dance. Barber (Archaeology and Linguistics Emerita/Occidental College; The Mummies of Urumchi, 1999, etc.) begins with a group of beliefs involving water spirits, which go by different names in different cultures but are generally represented as young women who appear in the forests around the time of spring planting. They appear in various guises from Greece to central Russia, but all are dangerous to men—especially those who come upon them when they are dancing in the woods.

a short work. The figures themselves are staggering: By 2011, Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army “had abducted at least 50,000 people and killed at least 12,000. No fewer than two million people in three countries had been displaced by Kony’s attacks.” Yet it took a viral video titled “Kony 2012” to stir massive public outrage, and even that was undermined when the head of the Invisible Children organization devoted to raising consciousness “cracked under the strain” of the attention. That provocative episode is given short shrift in the narrative, as is much else in a story of little more than 80 pages. Axe (War Is Boring, 2010, etc.) and Hamilton (Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation, 2009) don’t fully come to terms with Kony, though they do suggest the difficulty of such a challenge: “Dominated by its mysterious, volatile founder Joseph Kony and governed by a complex body of rules, customs and superstitions, the LRA is ostensibly a fundamentalist Christian religious movement, an army of God. In reality it bears no resemblance to Christian institutions elsewhere. Its methods are rape and pillage. Its major aim is to sustain itself.” The artistic rendering of rape and slaughter is as powerful as it is horrific, and the narrative hits hardest on an individual, human level in the chapter about a young girl, kidnapped by the LRA and forced into “marriage,” and the ongoing trauma after she was rescued at age 13. There’s enough here to make concerned readers want to learn more about Kony, whose forces have dwindled even as he continues to elude capture, but the condensing of the graphic narrative falls short of the immensity of the barbarism.

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“Engrossing social study from a rara avis: an East Coast progressive who’s also a gun enthusiast.” from gun guys

Barber collects a number of variations on this legend, noting that the days sacred to them vary with the onset of “Crazy week”—the time of their dominance—in the different regions they inhabit. The investigation then turns to the folk celebrations, many of which involve dances or dancelike rituals, proper to each season of the year; Barber traces correspondences between a pre-Christian nature-based calendar and the church season in different cultures. A second section analyzes a Russian folktale, “The Frog Princess,” as it shows the expectations of brides in agricultural societies. Barber goes on to trace remnants of pagan ritual in modern customs, moving back through time to uncover the earliest stages of European history. In the final section, she delves even deeper into prehistory, arguing that dance may actually predate language in human culture. The book is richly illustrated with artifacts from a wide range of eras and cultures. This dense, demanding book will undoubtedly be compared with that early modern classic of speculative anthropology, James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Difficult but rewarding look at a side of history with which many readers will be unfamiliar. (150 illustrations; 9 maps)

MICKEY AND WILLIE Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age

Barra, Allen Crown Archetype (496 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-307-71648-4

Veteran sports journalist and biographer Barra (Yogi Berra, 2009, etc.) returns with a dual biography of two of baseball’s

all-time greats. The author does not employ Castor and Pollux imagery in his treatment of these two very similar athletes, but he might as well have. Throughout his well-researched and generous tale, he continually alludes to the similarities of these Hall of Fame centerfielders. From their baseball-playing fathers to their eerie physical resemblances to their remarkable multiple talents (hitting, power, speed, throwing arms), Barra highlights the enormous improbability of two such gifted athletes arriving simultaneously. Of course, there were differences. Mays, an African-American, always had to contend with race; there were critics who thought he did not do enough for civil rights. Mantle was an alcoholic (Mays never drank), a weakness that tarnished his image and limited his still-remarkable achievements. Mantle also suffered a bad knee injury in the 1951 World Series, and Barra reminds us that Mays hit the fly that Mantle was chasing at the time. Another difference: Mays entered the military, and Mantle, classified 4-F because of his osteomyelitis, had to endure taunts early in his career about his courage. Barra follows both men from childhood to the present (Mantle died in 1995), writing about their families, marriages, miscues, relationships, friendships (they liked each other) and post-baseball lives. He includes some social history, as well, including the 48

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Curt Flood lawsuit, and he blasts Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The author argues that both players should have won MVP awards more often than they did. Ages are “golden” only in misty-eyed retrospect, but Barra excels at showing these athletes’ superhuman abilities and all-too-human frailties.

GUN GUYS A Road Trip

Baum, Dan Knopf (352 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 7, 2013 978-0-307-59541-6

Engrossing social study from a rara avis: an East Coast progressive who’s also a gun enthusiast. Former New Yorker staff writer Baum (Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans, 2009, etc.) wonders at the vast gap between his social peers, who tend to abhor every aspect of firearms culture, and the “Red State” demographics that embrace it, particularly as a response to the perceived effete social meddling of liberals. He is also curious as to his own lifelong fascination with the forbidden, masculine allure of guns. For this project, he pursued a “gun-guy walkabout” through parts of the country where guns are beloved (the Southwest) or, in some cases, problematic (Detroit, New Orleans). He first obtained a concealed carry permit (noting how easy this process has become in many states), then tried to find pro-gun academics, industry types, gun-store owners, hunters and other firearms enthusiasts to share their views. He heard from many thoughtful individuals on gun culture and the social value of self-defense, though he also documents an undercurrent of embittered paranoia among “gun guys,” which he shrewdly connects to the hard economic times he observes in the working-class regions that skew progun—e.g., Kentucky or Nebraska. Baum summarizes this complex effect of the gun issue on American politics by noting, “It was hard to think of a better organizing tool for the right than the left’s tribal antipathy to guns.” The author develops wellshaded character portraits, including wealthy machine-gun enthusiasts, an African-American self-defense advocate, aimless young suburban men growing up on gun-oriented video games who’ve embraced the now-notorious AR-15, and his own fish-out-of-water adventures among more conservative gun enthusiasts. Baum’s road trip into gun culture taught him about self-reliance, but he admits his core questions about firearms’ easily politicized allure remain slippery. Though many liberals will dislike Baum’s conclusions (and gun rights crusaders may distrust him regardless), he offers a thoughtful corrective to the mutual ideological hysteria surrounding the issue of guns in America. The book should gain further exposure and/or controversy following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. (Author tour to Denver, New York, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle)

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WHY GROWTH MATTERS How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries

Bhagwati, Jagdish; Panagariya, Arvind PublicAffairs (304 pp.) $28.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-61039-271-6 Bhagwati (Economics/Columbia Univ.) and Panagariya (Indian Economics/Columbia Univ.) collaborate again (co-editors: India’s Reforms: How They Produced Inclusive Growth, 2012, etc.) in this rebuttal of critics of India’s present economic performance. The authors seek to lay to rest the views of some who disagree with them about poverty, malnutrition, health and mortality, and education. They seek to show, for example, that while caloric consumption seems quite low on average, the numbers don’t point to the extensive malnutrition their opponents claim exists and need not have much to do with the prevalence of stunted growth and other continuing evidences of persistent poverty. Their arguments, however, are occasionally undermined by the evidence they provide and may not convince non-Indian readers. Among the most dramatic indicators are those concerning per capita income, life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, deaths from malaria and childhood stunting. While India’s performance is comparable to Bangladesh, it differs markedly from China. India’s women, as well as their children, do indeed appear to be in a class apart. The authors leave many unanswered questions about the continuing influence of India’s caste system in its struggles to achieve what they identify as necessary growth— nor are institutions of higher education the hoped-for panacea. Bhagwati and Panagariya show how India’s food-subsidy system becomes perverted as supplies are sold into private distribution channels to raise cash that can be spent on nonfood items. The authors seem to undermine the view that India can successfully compete with China. For students of Indian affairs or global economics, particularly in the East.

MIDNIGHT, JESUS & ME Misfit Memoirs of a Full Gospel, Rock & Roll Late Night Suicide Crisis Psychotherapist

Blaine, J.M. ECW Press (324 pp.) $17.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-77041-108-1

“Sometimes I wonder if magical thinking is my alcohol,” writes Blaine, a crisis interventionist in Nashville, in this self-aware, literate memoir of adventures in the para-shrink trade. |

Anchorless as a teenager, but pretty sure he didn’t want to break a sweat for a living, the author took a job at a mental hospital in college, assured that he would get decent pay, free meals and plenty of time for study. What he got was an education in how terribly sad the human mind can be when in a state of illness, as with an early encounter with a “vampire girl with stars tattooed around her eyes swearing I am the holy one, the chosen son, and she wants to bleed me badly but she is so afraid that she wants to and it is very so very important that I know how much she needs to bare her teeth into the softest part of my neck and slowly grind them together until they produce the richest of blue-black juices….” The mental ward led to a suicide hotline and other avenues into that sad world, and all the while, Blaine wrestled with plenty of demons and worldly sins of his own, filtered through a particularly flinty kind of fundamentalism that fell away in sheets in the face of reality. After time in the trenches, the author reflects on the book of Job and concludes that the “whole wager thing between the devil and God is scary and just doesn’t seem fair.” Blaine’s memoir is likable and often compelling, if he sometimes strains too hard for a laugh; its chief flaw is that it is too long by nearly 100 pages, studded with false endings that suggest that he found and then abandoned points at which to break off. Still, a glimpse into a world that few readers know firsthand—and good thing for them.

THE GARMENTS OF COURT AND PALACE Machiavelli and the World that He Made

Bobbitt, Philip Atlantic Monthly (240 pp.) $24.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-8021-2074-8

A convoluted return to the misunderstood work of the wily Florentine bureaucrat and philosopher. Bobbitt (Law, Center for National Security/Columbia Univ.; Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century, 2008, etc.) aims to strip some of the disfiguring tarnish from Machiavelli’s work by redefining his authorial aim as one providing a map for the new constitutional order that was emerging from republican Florence in the early 16th century. The author rejects the “five particular ideas” about The Prince that developed soon after its posthumous publication in 1532: that it is a “mirror book” composed for the edification of a ruling prince at court on how to behave in the tradition of Cicero or Erasmus; that the book is incompatible with his previous writing on republican government; that Machiavelli was unable to reconcile his essential notions of destiny and fate; that The Prince was a kind of “employment application” for work in the new republic; and that it separates ethics from politics, thus allowing it to become bedside reading for Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler. Bobbitt finds in Machiavelli a prophetic poet of the new age, whose cleareyed exhortations on realpolitik (“princes who have

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actually accomplished great things are those who cared little for keeping faith and knew how to manipulate men with cunning”) reversed expectations of the Renaissance humanist. The author looks carefully at problematic passages that seem to question Machiavelli’s moral values, yet sees in him “an intense moralist” whose allegiances were to the good of the state rather than the good of the prince. Machiavelli’s ideas of consequentialism, “good laws and good arms” and virtù e fortuna were all rather shocking at the time and heralded a new world order. Bobbitt examines these and more, but the narrative is oddly structured and likely to appeal only to other academics. Dense, repetitive commentary that may lead some readers back to The Prince.

THE SOUL OF IT ALL My Music, My Life

Bolton, Michael Center Street/Hachette (352 pp.) $24.99 | Jan. 29, 2013 978-1-4555-2365-8 Easy-listening icon Bolton recounts his hard-won rise to fame and the spoils of success. The author may seem to many like just another assembly-line creation engineered in a Los Angeles hair salon for crass overnight success. Say what you will about his critically reviled repertoire of Motown covers and schmaltzy original love ballads, Bolton took a long, hard road to success. His long career in the music business officially began on the streets of New Haven, Conn., when he was barely a teenager. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, he was a scruffy nomad hippie, plying his white blues–rock in various generic bands and on street corners and dives in places like New Haven and Greenwich Village. With no formal education to fall back on, Bolton had no other choice but to press on in the face of one failed record deal after another. But in the late ’80s, Bolton found some success singing jingles and writing pop songs for other artists. As it turns out, he overestimated what it took to make it big in the music business. One day, at the behest of his boss at CBS, Bolton recorded a cover of “Dock of the Bay.” Suddenly, he became a multi-platinum–selling pop star and worldwide soccer-mom heartthrob. Unfortunately, once Bolton writes about the successful part of his career, after recounting 18 or so years of interesting futility, there’s not much drama left. The latter half of the book finds Bolton simply reeling off the predictable cavalcade of celebrities he counts among his friends. Even the most rabid Bolton fan probably isn’t aching to know what it’s like to play golf with Clint Eastwood or about the talents of Bolton’s charity softball team. An intermittently compelling memoir of music-biz perseverance that eventually lapses into worthless celebrity worship.

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THE CREATION OF ANNE BOLEYN A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen

Bordo, Susan Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (368 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-547-32818-8

A dissection of the many varying portrayals of Anne Boleyn (1501–1536) since her death. Bordo (Humanities/Univ. of Kentucky; The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and Private, 1999, etc.) begins her study of Boleyn through the ages with the attempted eradication of the doomed queen’s presence from Henry VIII’s castle and life. It was with this erasure, writes the author, that Boleyn ceased to exist as a person and became a character known only through the lenses of others. The chief contemporary accounts of her time at court come from a diplomat and supporter of Boleyn’s predecessor, Katherine of Aragon. The portrait is that of a villain, which Bordo thinks is unfair and probably historically inaccurate due to the biases of the sources. The author examines many of the histories and fictions that make Boleyn their subject, from early biographies to novels, plays and TV shows. While she makes a compelling case for her assertion that Boleyn was a strong and independent victim of the times rather than a bloodthirsty and power-mad vixen, Bordo’s own biases are apparent. She portrays the former queen not as simply misunderstood but as a feminist hero for the ages. The angle won’t surprise those familiar with her other works, but occasionally the book feels less like history than sociological theory. While the obvious discontent with many Boleyn accounts is a main focus of the book, one consequence of all the attention given those works is the likelihood that readers who are not well-versed in the lore will become curious about all the stories, including the negative. A great read for Boleyn fans and fanatics alike, though not for readers seeking a general biography of the queen.

HAPPIER ENDINGS Overcoming the Fear of Death

Brown, Erica Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4516-4922-2

A guidebook to becoming comfortable with death ahead of its actual occurrence. Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård wrote movingly of humanity’s insistence on acknowledging death only peripherally, if at all. We have entire systems of commerce and spirituality designed to make death as abstract as possible, to prevent anyone needing to see a corpse or face |


“An informative, witty, provocative meditation on the mind–brain paradox.” from a skeptic's guide to the mind

their own mortality. The actions that are undertaken prior to death are primarily focused on gathering loose ends for the soon-to-be-deceased, and those who are left behind gain little from the experience except slight insight into the logistics of death. Jewish Federation of Greater Washington scholar-in-residence Brown (Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe, 2012, etc.) offers reflections gained from people operating outside of that cycle, who have found ways to integrate an understanding of our finite lives into what seems so abstract. The initial chapters address insights into the business of death and how we integrate the idea of an afterlife into everyday life. From there, the author goes deeper into considering those things we automatically, unconsciously look away from—how we view the different choices we encounter in regards to what happens to the body, both before death, with assisted suicide, and after death, with cremation, “natural burials” and other variations. Brown writes expansively about the long, dark night we all must eventually face, sharing stories from her own reflections as well as those of others who chose not to turn away when faced with their own mortalities. In an appendix, the author examines how to write an “ethical will” and what information to include. The answers these people have earned are by no means applicable to every reader, but their questions, and how they wrestle with them, provide a great deal of insight.

CARRIE AND ME A Mother-Daughter Love Story

Burnett, Carol Simon & Schuster (160 pp.) $24.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-4767-0641-2

Comedian Burnett (This Time Together, 2010, etc.) limns her relationship with her eldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton, who died of cancer at age 38. A mother can be forgiven for a tender yet poorly written book about a beloved daughter who died too young, but Burnett’s prose is uninspired and littered with clichés. In her telling, excitement is always “unbridled,” life is full of experiences that are “magical,” “beautiful” or “terrific,” and people are always “gung-ho,” even on the cancer ward. It would be tempting to dismiss Burnett’s recreated dialogue as pure fabrication, except that about half of the book consists of emails from her daughter, which she copied and pasted directly into the text. Missing a narrative arc, the book meanders through various chapters of Hamilton’s life: her youthful drug addiction and multiple, ultimately successful stints in rehab; the collapse of her parents’ marriage and, later, her own; her wanderlust; her early success as an entertainer. Hamilton led a varied and unconventional life, and her exploits should be richer and more engaging on the page. Unfortunately, they are flattened by Burnett’s refusal to analyze: She tells us that her daughter traveled constantly, and where, but she never explains why. Although the book is deeply flawed, its subject, Hamilton, comes across as a warm, vivacious |

and talented young woman. She acted, wrote and sang, and she was a caring daughter, sister and friend. According to the many glowing letters Burnett received after Hamilton’s death, she was loved by all those who came into contact with her. A mediocre book, but it’s not difficult to understand why Burnett wrote it. Instead of buying it, rent Tokyo Pop, a 1988 cult classic starring a young, radiant Hamilton.

A SKEPTIC’S GUIDE TO THE MIND What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves Burton, Robert A. St. Martin’s (272 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-1-250-00185-6 978-1-250-02840-2 e-book

A neurologist criticizes the emerging new language that attaches the prefix “neuro” to economics, linguistics, marketing and attempts to explain market crashes by fMRI brain scans. Burton (On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not, 2008, etc.) warns of a dangerous trend in which what once were considered to be “metaphysical musings” by neurologists, are now increasingly being “offered and seen as scientifically based facts.” The author takes issue with those eminent neuroscientists and philosophers who suggest that “the explanation of consciousness is around the corner.” Beginning with the early use of EEGs to explain mental functions by referencing brain waves, he traces the use of modern technology, such as fMRI, to bridge the mind–brain gap, which is an effort that is inherently flawed. Burton explains that using brain scans to observe which areas of the brain are activated is informative but limited. At the neuro-atomic level, scientists have yet to determine the number of cells in a typical brain or the relationship between neurons and the surrounding gray matter that has been thought to play a supporting role but may actually be involved in thought processes. While neuroscientists can observe mental activation, it is impossible for them to determine when (or whether) it is conscious without the subjects’ own reports of their thought processes. People form intentions consciously, and they are then carried out in large measure by brain activities (sensations, beliefs, biases) of which we are only dimly aware. A brain scan shows areas of activation but cannot distinguish between conscious and unconscious thought processes. Burton makes clear that neuroscience is “improving both our daily lives and our self-understanding,” but he takes issue with the role assumed by neuroscientists as “the preeminent narrators of the modern story of the mind.” An informative, witty, provocative meditation on the mind–brain paradox.

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“Historian and editor Cannadine constructs a stirring critique of history that questions conventional approaches to narrating the human chronicle.” from the undivided past

THE INCIDENTAL STEWARD Reflections on Citizen Science

Busch, Akiko Yale Univ. (248 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 22, 2013 978-0-300-17879-1

Essayist and former Metropolis contributing editor Busch (Patience: Taking Time in an Age of Acceleration, 2010, etc.) shows how ordinary people can play an important role in protecting the natural environment simply by “paying attention” to the creatures around us. In a surprising footnote to history, the author tells of how a field notebook of birds in the Hudson Valley, which Franklin Roosevelt kept as a boy, was used by a climate researcher a century later, “correlating the earlier arrival of certain migratory birds with climate records.” Busch bases her book on her writings since 1987, when she returned with her husband to the region where she had grown up. The author records her joyful experiences reconnecting with nature, citing New York Times writer Daniel B. Smith’s use of a Freudian metaphor in a discussion of “deep-rooted ecological instincts,” which we suppress at our emotional peril. Busch writes with appreciation of citizen scientists, the volunteers who participate in keeping records of changes in the environment and participate in events such as the annual Christmas Bird Count in communities throughout the United States. Her survey of the local flora and fauna includes bats, which are no longer an endangered species but now appear to be subject to a new fungal disease. She also examines how insect-eating salamanders and wood frogs kill off insects that endanger human health, examines the pros and cons of so-called invasive species, which are sometimes destructive in their new environment but, in other instances, benefit local wildlife—e.g., the purple loosestrife plant—and discusses how northern coyotes interbreed with wolves and dogs and play important ecological roles as predators. An appendix lists citizen-scientist volunteer opportunities. Sure to inform and delight nature lovers.

THE UNDIVIDED PAST Humanity Beyond Our Differences

Cannadine, David Knopf (352 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 12, 2013 978-0-307-26907-2

Historian and editor Cannadine (History/Princeton Univ.; Mellon, 2006, etc.) constructs a stirring critique of history that questions conventional approaches to narrating the human chronicle. The author rejects the Manichaean simplicities of “us vs. them” and “good vs. evil” embodied in traditional histories’ 52

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preoccupation with “difference” as well as the alleged uniformity of antagonistic groups. Cannadine investigates the categories of religion, nation, class, gender, race and “civilization” to reveal the persistence of thinking in adversarial absolutes—the malevolent or hapless “other”—and the incalculable damage this mindset has caused. He insists that we indulge in arbitrary, incomplete group “identities” and ignore at our peril the interactions that go on across supposedly impermeable boundaries. Knighted in 2009 for his distinguished service and Chair of the National Portrait Gallery since 2005, the author is no Pollyanna. In assaying the work of such predecessors as Gibbon, Huntington and Toynbee, as well as contemporaries of the caliber of Fernández-Armesto, he acknowledges the strife that has occurred within these often self-contradictory categories but argues convincingly that such tensions are far outweighed by a history of mutual borrowing and cross-fertilization between peoples. Of particular salience are his observations on religion and perception as expressed in a divergent view of the relationship between Christianity and Islam. That we exaggerate animosities and fail to recognize how cooperation, at least as much as conflict, has marked humanity’s experience, may seem a belaboring of the obvious. Yet Cannadine, an accomplished writer, details it in fresh and provocative terms. A generally persuasive, impassioned book-length essay. While his conclusions (and language) sometimes grow repetitive, they nonetheless serve to underscore at every turn an incisive argument buttressed by millennia of evidence.

LIVING WITH SHAKESPEARE Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors

Carson, Susannah—Ed. Vintage (528 pp.) $16.00 paper | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-307-74291-9

An eclectic collection of pieces from an eclectic collection of writers about reading, directing, performing and ador-

ing the Bard of Avon. The included writers agree on a few things, including the dreadful experiences they had with Shakespeare in secondary school—although Margaret Drabble felt quite the opposite; an amusing alliterative example from comic-book artist Conor McCreery: “I was taught that Shakespeare should scare the shit out of me.” Another bright thread in the weave of all the essays: an enduring affection for Shakespeare. Poet J.D. McClatchy calls him “the language’s premier poet.” Some contributors focus on individual plays. James Earl Jones has a long piece about his journeys with Othello; F. Murray Abraham writes about the complexities of Shylock; Eve Best compares Beatrice and Benedick with tennis legends Borg and McEnroe; Jane Smiley remembers how King Lear inspired A Thousand Acres; Joyce Carol Oates waxes academic about Antony and Cleopatra; Julie Taymor explains why she decided to cast Helen Mirren as “Prospera” in her film of The Tempest. Virtually all of |


“A splendidly edited, generous gift to lovers of Cather and American literature.” from the selected letters of willa cather

the writers are generous to others in the Shakespeare world, although Jess Winfield has some unhappy words for Kenneth Branagh’s film of Hamlet. A couple of writers talk about the wonders of producing and performing Shakespeare at the reconstructed Globe in London, while others defend the late “problem” play Cymbeline. Maxine Hong Kingston recalls teaching Romeo and Juliet to adolescents. The least engaging essays tend to be those written by academics; the most, by those who have a passion for performance and a love of the language. Other contributors include Camille Paglia, Isabelle Allende and James Franco. Bardolaters, thespians, logophiles and followers of the muses Thalia and Melpomene—all will find light and warmth, comfort and companionship in these glowing pages.

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF WILLA CATHER

Cather, Willa Jewell, Andrew; Stout, Janis—Eds. Knopf (736 pp.) $37.50 | Apr. 19, 2013 978-0-307-95930-0 A revealing, even revelatory collection of correspondence from Willa Cather (1873–1947), a woman who never wanted her letters made public. Editors Jewell (Digital Projects/Univ. of Nebraska; coeditor: The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age, 2010) and Stout (Willa Cather: The Writer and Her World, 2000) offer a brief introduction explaining how these letters came into print—and note the virtual absence of letters to two of Cather’s most intimate women friends, Isabelle McClung and Edith Lewis. (The latter lived with Cather for many years.) Then the editors retreat, re-emerging only to introduce each division of the text and offer some light but welcome annotations. The letters begin when Cather is a teenager in Red Cloud, Neb., and end just weeks before her death. And what a story they tell. We follow her to college in Lincoln, Neb., where she also began her journalism career; to Pittsburgh, Pa., where she continued as a journalist and a high school English teacher; to New York City, where she worked for McClure’s and began publishing the stories and novels that would eventually earn her celebrity, creature comforts, many honorary degrees, a 1923 Pulitzer Prize and exchanges of letters with the likes of Robert Frost, Thornton Wilder, Sinclair Lewis and Langston Hughes, who wrote about his appreciation for the portrayal of African-Americans in her final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940). There are also many letters to family members— especially to her beloved brother Roscoe—and to friends from childhood and early adulthood, including lifelong friend Carrie Miner Sherwood. The letters reveal Cather as a consummate professional, demonstrating her assiduous work habits and her continual reminders to her editors and publishers about how she wanted her books to look and be marketed. Other notable recipients of her letters included John |

dos Passos, Ford Madox Ford, Alfred A. Knopf, H.L. Mencken and Rebecca West, and the editors offer a helpful biographical dictionary for each recipient. A splendidly edited, generous gift to lovers of Cather and American literature. (22 photos)

WHAT ART IS

Danto, Arthur C. Yale Univ. (192 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-300-17487-8 A distinguished art critic, academic and philosopher distills his views into a compact volume that is likely to provoke more debate than it resolves. Danto (Philosophy Emeritus/Columbia Univ.; Andy Warhol, 2009, etc.) maintains that the definition of art has to encompass the entirety of art, from the mimetic to the nonrepresentational, from the beautiful to the aggressively nonbeautiful, and from the traditional to whatever comes next. He offers the theory that “works of art are embedded meanings.” He expands: “Something is a work of art when it has a meaning—is about something—and when that meaning is embodied in the work—which usually means: is embodied in the object in which the work of art materially consists.” For those who speak in academic and/or philosophic code, this may add something to the ongoing dialogue, but anyone new to the conversation might wonder how we recognize or define “meaning” and whether it lies within the province of artistic intent or critical interpretation. Is the meaning what the artist thought he was doing (if he gave it any thought), or is it what the viewer perceives? While this book may not provide the last word that its title implies, it features plenty of provocative analysis on how a painting can be more “real” than a photograph, how the world of art and the world at large have changed (or not) since Aristotle and how (or if) we can make a qualitative distinction between a Warhol Brillo box and the actual box that inspired it. “Today art can be made of anything, put together with anything, in the service of presenting any ideas whatsoever,” writes Danto, putting the responsibility on the viewer to “grasp the way the spirit of the artist undertook to present the ideas that concerned her or him.” Less a primer than a series of postgraduate lectures.

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THE SECOND ARAB AWAKENING Revolution, Democracy, and the Islamist Challenge from Tunis To Damascus

altruism, concluding that neither religion (despite its historical influence) nor law (despite its ideological heft) is the root cause of the human inclination to act morally. Instead, the author argues, biology is responsible for our instinctual understanding of right and wrong. Weaving together poignant anecdotes of his work with bonobos, a great ape that was long overlooked as a close genetic relative of humans, and philosophical discussions on morality through the lens of religious history, the author makes a cogent argument that moral instinct must precede current civilizations and religions “by at least a hundred millennia.” Examples abound of behavior by animals—not just bonobos, but also elephants, chimpanzees and mice—displaying social emotions like gratitude, facial recognition, an awareness of the permanence of death and a willingness to help each other even at personal detriment. De Waal also presents research that indicates a social culture marked by matriarchal hierarchies and sexual freedom, as well as a largely peaceful and conflict-avoiding ethos. This may suggest something altogether different about human participation in the evolution of religion and law than a thesis citing those entities as responsible for providing mankind with a moral center. The author avoids belaboring any one aspect of morality’s applications, however, and instead provides an intimate and joyful series of proofs that the “ingredients of a moral society…come from within.” A well-composed argument for the biological foundations of human morality. (Author tour to New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco)

Dawisha, Adeed Norton (288 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 8, 2013 978-0-393-24012-2

A solid overview of the Arab revolutions, country by country, from the first nationalist stirrings of the 1950s that put the dictators in place to the snowballing events in recent years. Dawisha (Political Science/Miami Univ., Ohio; Iraq: A Political History) lends his insight into recent upheavals in the Arab world prompted by the staggering oppression of the many by the venal, rich few that has gone on for far too long. There is a satisfying sense of fatal payback in the Baghdad-born author’s narrative of the spreading “virus of liberation” catching on from Tunis to Cairo to Tripoli and beyond. The people of these oppressed lands demanded greater political rights from their leaders and were not going to back down in 2011, thanks to greater numbers, social media and the inability of police forces to keep news of insurrection from spreading. Flooding the streets with security police and offering the people a few cosmetic reforms worked in some hot spots, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, but the same tactics quickly led to the toppling of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen. In Libya and Syria, however, the leaders did not hesitate to use shocking force against the demonstrators. While Gadhafi died by the same sword, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad continues to butcher his own people with impunity, convinced perversely that they love him. Dawisha steps back to examine Nasser’s role as galvanizer of the first Arab Revolution, tapping into the humiliation Arabs felt at Western imperialism by the mid-1950s—followed by the “predatory authoritarianism” of the young, idealistic leaders who took the helms and were never really interested in “freedom.” A knowledgeable survey for students and a glimpse into what the Islamist future might offer.

THE BONOBO AND THE ATHEIST In Search of Humanism Among the Primates de Waal, Frans Norton (312 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 25, 2013 978-0-393-07377-5

Is morality a learned aspect of human nature, or is it innate? Are thinking and acting morally behaviors exclusive to humans? Drawing from decades of fieldwork and research, influential primatologist de Waal (The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, 2010, etc.) explores the roots of empathy and 54

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CONGRESSMAN LINCOLN The Making of America’s Greatest President

DeRose, Chris Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 29, 2013 978-1-4516-9514-4

The story of Lincoln’s two-year stint in Congress. There might be a reason why so few books about Lincoln dwell on his brief spell as an Illinois congressman, from 1847 to 1849—the details are mostly dull. To his credit, attorney and political strategist DeRose (Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation, 2011) injects some energy into the political minutiae, managing to sound a few bright, telling moments within the fight over the Mexican War, slavery and Whig jockeying that portended the later, great president. Lincoln was just beginning to test the political waters as a successful Springfield lawyer and leader of the Illinois Whig party when he decided to run for Congress in his mid-30s. Already known for his good nature and entertaining storytelling, he was also deeply ambitious and committed to helping the Whigs gain power. By cannily gaining support for his county base by taking on new law partner William Herndon, as well as having married (albeit reluctantly) into “what passed for Illinois aristocracy” in the person of Mary Todd,

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“The legendary autobiography, with all the naughty bits restored.” from my life

Lincoln was learning the game of politics, handily defeating his Democratic opponent in 1846. In Washington, Lincoln and his family stayed at Sprigg’s boardinghouse, the so-called “Abolition House,” mingling with kingpins and becoming a member of the minority Whig congressional caucus. Lincoln distinguished himself by his key advocacy for the Whig candidate for president, Gen. Zachary Taylor, and by his stance against the war and against the spread of slavery in Oregon. It was an important time of making political connections and shaking out the “hayseed in his hair.” A knowledgeable but fairly tedious assessment of the trajectory of Lincoln’s early career.

MY LIFE The Restored Edition Duncan, Isadora Liveright/Norton (372 pp.) $17.95 paper | May 27, 2013 978-0-87140-318-6

The legendary autobiography, with all the naughty bits restored. Actually, even the expurgated version of modern-dance pioneer Duncan’s account of her life, loves and art was frank enough to make it a scandalous success in 1927, the year she died at age 50. The passages deleted generally featured the names of people still alive or practices then considered beyond the pale, such as homosexuality or masturbation. (The sentences left in about unabashedly lesbian dancer Loie Fuller are often as obviously indicative of her sex life as the ones that were omitted.) The inclusion of this material doesn’t substantively change the nature of Duncan’s book, which remains one of the great documents of early-20th-century bohemianism and radicalism. She despised marriage, money and the bourgeoisie; she lived for Art (always with a capital A). Duncan’s unashamed selflove would have been absurd if she hadn’t expressed the same enthusiasm for other artists: Fuller, Eleanora Duse and Cosima Wagner are among the strong-minded women for whom she voices vivid appreciation; actors Henry Irving and Jean Mounet-Sully are among the men. The author’s portrait of visionary theatrical designer Gordon Craig, father of her first child, rings with fervent admiration for his genius as it unforgettably captures the domineering personality Duncan had to flee. Dance critic Joan Acocella’s surprisingly grudging introduction focuses on Duncan’s admitted solipsism and “willed naïveté,” somewhat at the expense of her groundbreaking impact as a dancer and a free woman. Yes, it was ridiculous of Duncan to think she had the right to teach modern Greeks how to dance and sing in the manner of their ancestors, and, yes, her endless recitations of the accolades showered on her get wearisome. But Isadora’s sublime faith in herself as a genius was the force that drove her life, and it gives her memoir its marvelous flavor. A welcome new edition of a classic.

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IN THE KINGDOM OF THE SICK A Social History of Chronic Illness in America

Edwards, Laurie Walker (256 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-8027-1801-3

The story of “where attitudes about chronic illness came from, and where they stand today.” Edwards, chronically ill with lung and autoimmune diseases (Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties, 2008), quotes Susan Sontag in describing herself: As a wife, mother and teacher, she behaves as if she were a citizen in Sontag’s “kingdom of the well,” but in truth, she belongs to the “kingdom of the sick,” with daily needs of drugs and lung aids to enable her to breathe freely. And she is not alone. There are 133 million Americans living with chronic disease, which accounts for 75 percent of health care spending. The author offers a well-researched if somewhat overwritten study of how the current state developed, what it says about society and the medical profession, and how science and technology are forces for change. Her review of the past is an exercise in negativity. Societies faced diseases with fear, often isolating, condemning or stigmatizing the sick. With World War II medical advances came optimism: Antibiotics would eliminate infectious disease, for example—until they didn’t. Nevertheless, doctors were respected, and Edwards writes that this was especially true in relation to female patients with chronic pain conditions. Even today, many doctors say that conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome are “all in the head.” That is changing with the growth of disease advocacy groups, new research and the wide use of social media. Many patient groups, writes the author, take inspiration from the civil rights movement or AIDS activists. But the problem for chronic-disease advocates is that the term encompasses so many problems that it’s hard to strike a common agenda. Instead, Edwards argues for better-informed and -empowered patients and greater collaboration among scientists, researchers policymakers and patients. A timely call to attention to a global health problem, but with no real solutions in sight.

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THE SHAPE OF THE EYE A Memoir Estreich, George Tarcher/Penguin (288 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-399-16334-0

The moving, heartbreakingly lucid story about how a family learned to cope with, and ultimately appreciate, a daughter born with Down syndrome.

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Friends had told poet Estreich (Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body, 2004) and his scientist wife that a “second child changes everything.” Neither, however, was prepared for the news that the baby girl they would name Laura had Trisomy 21, Down syndrome. Both were devastated; but for the author, the diagnosis had even more profound implications. John Langdon Down, the Victorian-era physician after whom Laura’s condition was named, had called it the “‘Mongolian idiocy.” “Twisted, weird, and wrong” as this label was, it named not only Laura’s diagnosis, but also the half-Japanese Estreich’s own ethnic identity. “To have a child, any child, is to thrust ordinary mysteries into the foreground: mortality, love, inheritance.” As he and his wife struggled to come to terms with their daughter’s condition and the future it portended, Laura suffered heart failure and had to be force-fed through nasal tubes. Yet the little girl survived. Soon, the visits to doctors, cardiologists, nutritionists and speech pathologists and other accommodations the family made for Laura began to feel normal. What struck Estreich as bizarre was the negativity, both intended and unwitting, that pervaded the accounts he read about Down syndrome. Laura was a child first and not a diagnosis. And the fate written into the 47 chromosomes of her DNA was no more tragic than that of other children who carried their own genetic risks hidden within supposedly “normal” bodies. With the humility born of painful experience, Estreich concludes that “it is not the chromosome, but our response to it, that shapes the contour of a life.” A poignantly eloquent meditation on the genetics of belonging.

THE MACHINE A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right Fang, Lee New Press (272 pp.) $16.95 paper | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-59558-639-1 978-1-59558-692-6 e-book

Nation contributor Fang debuts with this introduction to the leadership of the contemporary conservative movement, survey of its organizational forms and tactics, and classification of its different sections, by function and area of activity. The author presents a movement split between two parts— the religious fundamentalist wing and its libertarian counterpart—with two sources of tactical leadership, organized around weekly coalition-type meetings in the nation’s capital. There is the group associated with Grover Norquist and his tax resisters, while the other identifies with the late New Right leader Paul Weyrich of the Heritage Foundation. Fang reviews both the public and behind-the-scenes influences of organizations like FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation and the Council for National Policy, as well as funding influences like the Koch brothers. In the process, he documents how front groups and single-issue formations have been spawned and their activities funded and coordinated. Fang identifies the Heritage 56

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Foundation as “still the center of conservatism” and finds the roots of the present radicalism on the right in the opponents of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. He shows how Koch family members, involved in founding the John Birch Society, continue to play a multigenerational role. Fang insists that today’s movement, along with its corporate sponsors, are usurpers of the tradition associated with the original tea party, which was directed against government-subsidized efforts to undermine domestic and international competitors. Funding, media, Internet and other elements are all coordinated in ways some participants probably don’t understand at all. A practical addition to literature on conservatism that will be widely appreciated, not just on the left.

FALLING CARS AND JUNKYARD DOGS A Memoir

Farrar, Jay Soft Skull Press (192 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-59376-512-5

A slim, sketchy, not-quite memoir that defies categorization but plainly comes from a personal place within its musician author. As the taciturn leader of alternative-country cult favorites Uncle Tupelo and, more recently, Son Volt, Farrar would seem to be the last rock artist who would bare his soul in the pages of a book. And so he hasn’t. For an artist resistant to interviews, he generally omits here any mention of the matters that might interest his fans most: the rise and disbanding of Uncle Tupelo, his relationship with Jeff Tweedy (who was Farrar’s junior partner in that band, but has subsequently achieved greater critical renown and popularity as the leader of Wilco) and the two different versions of Son Volt, a band he formed, disbanded and reformed with a new group of musicians. In fact, Farrar hardly bothers to mention any musician with whom he has worked, though he pays generous tribute to other, older ones: Taj Mahal, The Band, Doug Alex Chilton, a very troubled Townes Van Zandt. Most of these pieces, too short to be chapters, are a page, a paragraph or even a sentence or two long. Farrar expresses his disdain for the show-business elements of making music: “Musicians are basically cut from the same cloth as carnies. Whoever puts on the biggest freak show wins the prize.” He also writes of his father, who saw Hank Williams in live performance: “In my father’s world, an unwavering belief and reverence for the power of music occupied the space society usually reserves for religion.” Amid vignettes and anecdotes about coming-of-age in hillbilly Missouri, the author offers a “Dialectic Timeline of Country Music and Communism,” charting contrasting developments by year, letting readers make of these what they will. Not particularly well-written or elegant, but it provides some illumination of the creative mind of a very private artist.

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“A forcefully written treatment of the plight in which an increasing number of people find themselves.” from end of the good life

END OF THE GOOD LIFE How the Financial Crisis Threatens a Lost Generation—and What We Can Do About It

Froymovich, Riva Perennial/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 1, 2013 978-0-06-221784-4

What will the future hold when the best-educated generation ever can’t find the employment for which it is qualified? Brussels-based Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires reporter Froymovich debuts with an impressive presentation of the challenges raised by this question. The author argues that if policies are not changed internationally, those individuals born between 1976 and 2000, known in the United States as “Generation Y,” could well become a lost generation. Generation Y member Froymovich examines the stories of a wide variety of people, including a graduate of Middlebury College now teaching in New York City and dealing with student debts and a 25-year-old Spanish journalist unable to find regular employment in his occupation. The author also cogently explains the underlying financial, economic and demographic trends currently under way. The daughter of immigrants who arrived in Brooklyn in the early 1980s, Froymovich compares her own experiences with those who entered the job market in the previous generation. In the U.S., the previous decade was the first since the 1940s when more jobs were lost than created. More than 17 million college graduates are working in jobs that do not require a college degree. In both the U.S. and Europe, unpaid internships, contingency contracts, temporary work and reduced salaries are replacing the higher-paid, longer-lasting jobs of just a few years ago, and many are choosing to delay household formation and marriage. Like others, Froymovich points to the counter-trend of half the world’s labor force being located in Brazil, Russia, India and China and the foreseeable growth of a global middle class. She insists that maintaining America’s competitive edge depends “on the construction of better policies” in education and the workplace. A forcefully written treatment of the plight in which an increasing number of people find themselves.

OPERATION STORM Japan’s Top Secret Submarines and Their Plan to Change the Course of World War II Geoghegan, John Crown (496 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-307-46480-4

Nicely dramatized story of the monster Japanese submarines that were trained on the American mainland at the end of World War II. |

Aviation scholar, researcher and journalist Geoghegan has scoured the archives to present a little-touted facet of Japanese naval history that offers a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the Japanese mindset at the endgame of the war. After Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto engineered the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, his next gambling idea was to bomb American cities so that “the American people [would] surely lose their will to fight.” A superfuel-carrying submarine that could double as an aircraft carrier was needed for such an ambitious, risky enterprise, and thus, a series of I-400 supersubs came under intensive design and construction well into 1943. While the Japanese were flirting with other bombing raids over the Oregon coast, time was running out; the Americans scored victory at Midway, among others, and Yamamoto had been ambushed, forcing a scale back of the I-400s; yet completing the first supersubs became a point of honor, even as the tide was turning for the Axis powers. Special attack planes called Seiran were tested to accompany the pair of subs, which were finally ready by January 1945. Geoghegan pursues the fate of the I-401 on its last mission in August 1945, manned by the incompatible pair of commanders Nobukiyo Nambu and Tatsunosuke Ariizumi, for whom the news of the Japanese emperor’s capitulation prompted two competing reactions as the sub was pursued by the American patrol sub Segundo, skippered by the young commander, Stephen Lobdell Johnson, who was “brash with a cockiness that put his crew on edge.” An exciting narrative of a naval showdown revealing hubris and humility on both sides. (8-page b/w photo insert)

MISTRIAL An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works...and Sometimes Doesn’t Geragos, Mark; Harris, Pat Gotham Books (304 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 11, 2013 978-1-59240-772-9

Two high-profile defense lawyers pull back the curtain on the U.S. criminal justice system and find much to criticize. Geragos and Harris are law partners in Los Angeles who have represented famous clients such as Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, Winona Ryder and Chris Brown. They have also represented noncelebrities who became well-known because of the crimes they allegedly committed—e.g., Scott Peterson, Gary Condit and Susan McDougal. The authors use portions of the book to suggest that Peterson and other clients found guilty are probably innocent. These sections occasionally come across as selfserving, although Geragos and Harris offer little-known details that, at the very least, signal reasonable doubt. The heart of the book, however, is an indictment of the criminal justice system in general: how it is skewed in favor of prosecutors, how prosecutors add to their built-in advantage by employing improper tactics, how police routinely lie during trials to remove perceived

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“Grandin, whose life has been an inspiration to millions, warns parents, teachers and therapists of the danger of getting locked into diagnostic labels.” from the autistic brain

THE GOD ARGUMENT The Case Against Religion and for Humanism

criminals from the streets regardless of guilt or innocence, how too many judges rule with re-election in mind instead of serving justice, how jurors are predisposed to believe before hearing evidence that any defendant is guilty simply because he or she has been charged with a crime, how inflammatory TV and blog commentators sabotage truth and how even mainstream media organizations fail to provide balanced news coverage. Geragos and Harris offer solutions, some of which have been adopted in specific jurisdictions but most of which are politically unpopular. Perhaps the most surprising suggested reform is to develop a group of professional jurors who would use their accumulated knowledge gained during multiple trials to better evaluate evidence, especially in complex cases. A no-holds-barred indictment of the system, filled with memorable anecdotes and accessibly written.

Grayling, A.C. Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-62040-190-3

A spirited repudiation of pies and deities in the sky in favor of an ethic that “is about this world.” London-based academic and philosopher Grayling (To Set Prometheus Free, 2010, etc.) has the sharp analytical mind of fellow naysayer Richard Dawkins, though he is gentler about saying no to God or god or gods. Grayling first makes the distinction between the consolations of belief and the attendant costs, writing that while some people are indeed likely to feel some sense of enhanced well-being at the thought of a supreme being, “the burdens are social and political as well as personal.” One need only look at some of the legislation coming through the more pious American states to see his point. Grayling proposes against religion “as such, in any form,” a grown-up philosophy that requires both personal accountability and social awareness, that addresses some of the big-picture items that religion sometimes obscures or evades—sex, for one thing. That “grown-up” qualifier is important, for Grayling considers religious belief to be a species of superstition, “a hangover from the infancy of modern humanity, sticky and enduring because of the vested interests of religious organizations, proselytization of children, complicity of temporal powers requiring the social and moral policing that religion offers, and human psychology itself.” That’s about as stern as the author gets, so readers looking for fire-and-brimstone contrarianism will want to turn to Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens instead. Mild though the rebuke is, a readable and persuasive argument—if, of course, an exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE AUTISTIC BRAIN Thinking Across the Spectrum

Grandin, Temple and Panek, Richard Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (304 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-547-63645-0

Grandin (Animal Science/Colorado State Univ.; Different…Not Less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and Successful Employment from Adults with Autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD, 2012, etc.), whose life has been an inspiration to millions, warns parents, teachers and therapists of the danger of getting locked into diagnostic labels. With the assistance of science writer Panek (The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality, 2011, etc.), Grandin applies her experience and interviews with others on the autistic spectrum to the latest neuroscientific research. Describing the labels given to autism and other developmental disorders as “a clumsy system of behavioral profiling” that shifts with every new edition, she is critical of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and its revised diagnosis of “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” She reviews how understanding of autism has developed since 1947, when she was born and so-called refrigerator moms were targeted for blame. Today, “observable neurological and genetic evidence” is beginning to reveal how a multiplicity of causes, including environmental factors, may be responsible for particular symptoms. Readers of Grandin’s previous books and viewers of the award-winning 2010 biopic will be familiar with the details of her life and career as a high-functioning autistic. She has been a volunteer experimental subject since 1987, in the early days of MRIs, and scans of her brain reveal structural differences that appear to correlate with her disabilities and her extraordinary visual memory. Grandin is optimistic that future progress will improve diagnosis and education for non-neurotypicals who have many important gifts to contribute. An illuminating look at how neuroscience opens a window into the mind. 58

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TRUTH’S RAGGED EDGE The Rise of the American Novel

Gura, Philip F. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (400 pp.) $30.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-8090-9445-5

How did 19th-century American novelists deal with liberty, equality, slavery and the changing role of religion in American life? That’s the question Gura (American Literature and Culture/Univ. of North Carolina; American Transcendentalism: A History, 2007, etc.) sets out to answer in this comprehensive survey. On one side stood conservatives like James Fenimore Cooper, whose novels “demonstrate a belief that the ambitions unleashed by liberalism and capitalism needed strong

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regulation, if not outright elimination.” There was also Robert Montgomery Bird’s 1836 experimental novel Sheppard Lee, which suggested that people are happiest when they accept their social role. Likewise, The Lamplighter, Maria Cummins’ widely popular 1854 novel of a struggling orphan girl, “instructs the reader to acquiesce rather than to resist.” The novelists on the other side—spurred over time by Darwin’s theory of evolution and the social philosopher Charles Fourier—were re-examining accepted notions of equality, faith and community. Sara Payson Willis Parton’s 1854 novel Ruth Hall “had little interest in Christian submission and morality.” Harriet Beecher Stowe’s overwhelming Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) brought slavery to the forefront, as well as a number of foundational African-American narratives. Gura knows his field and draws many credible connections, but he’s also long-winded and tends to smother his insights in countless plot synopses. While his attention to so many forgotten writers is commendable, it’s perhaps telling that his writing only really comes alive when he’s wrestling with the big fish. He’s superbly cogent on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance (a critique of the kind of communal living inspired by Fourier) and impassioned about all things Melville. The Confidence-Man, he writes, sounded an alarm “about the nation’s descent into mere selfindulgence and, so, possible irrelevance.” Illuminating in key spots, but a slog for nonacademics.

THE WORLD’S STRONGEST LIBRARIAN A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family Hanagarne, Josh Gotham Books (288 pp.) $26.00 | May 2, 2013 978-1-592-40787-3

A jaunty memoir covering both the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the torments of

Tourette’s syndrome. Hanagarne’s coming-of-age was marred by the urge to blink and bark, hoot and yowl. The independent tics that still visit him trigger not only uncontrolled noises, but disconnected movements, which can be distressing and painful. Neither the brawny author’s warm Mormon upbringing nor his assiduous weight training were sufficient to prevent the unwelcome, surprise visits by “Misty” (“Miss Tourette’s”). Hanagarne’s first crush was for Fern, heroine of Charlotte’s Web. His love of reading—boys’ books, girls’ books, the complete works of Stephen King or Agatha Christie, among many others—provided refuge from the taunts of schoolmates, and that love has abided. His day job is appropriate: He is a librarian at Salt Lake City’s public library, where Misty has little influence. Hanagarne is quite passionate about libraries, expressing more enthusiasm on the subject than he does on his relationship to his church. Mormon missionary work and higher education did not fit well with the |

recurring spasms; fitness training helped some. Even better was his marriage, an especially important part of the Mormon way of life. Now, since Tourette’s has a genetic component, he worries about his young son. Filled with patently imaginary discourse, clever invented conversation and just a hint of the inspirational, this text on how the writer copes is surprisingly amiable. Along the way, readers will learn about the workings of LDS ministration and a puzzling physical disorder. A clever, affable story of one Mormon, his family, his vocation and his implacable ailment.

I DREAMED I WAS A VERY CLEAN TRAMP An Autobiography Hell, Richard Ecco/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-06-219083-3

The life and wild times of a punk avatar. Besides being a rock legend, Hell has long been a journalist and novelist (Godlike, 2005, etc.), and this memoir reveals a skilled writer. Born in Kentucky in 1949 as Richard Meyers, he became a fledgling poet who ditched home and high school for the New York art world, where he trawled through galleries and beds, winding up as the boy toy of the wife of sculptor Claes Oldenburg. He also co-founded the band Television with his contentious pal Tom Verlaine, although he left before the band’s first album, as would also be the case with his brief stint with Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. He hit his peak instead with his own band, The Voidoids, creating both a classic album (“Blank Generation”) and a fashion style he wore on his torn and safety-pinned sleeve. The Brits noticed. Punk was born. In recalling these days when love came in spurts, Hell is precise, telling a lot without ever seeming to tell too much. He nails the essence of both scenes and people, from rock peers to exploitative record producers. Nodding on heroin “was like the dream of a dream, a dream you could manipulate—in other words, paradise on earth.” Sid Vicious “wasn’t really vicious,” just someone who “saw that there was a crazy opening into fame and money that required only that he relax into full loutish negativity.” He can also be bitter, as when he writes that Thunders’ lyrics “were half-assed in never having an original idea or turn of phrase.” A deft, lyrical chronicle by a punk with perspective.

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Gaining Consciousness

b y

Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

Mackey, John; Sisodia, Raj Harvard Business Review Press (368 pp.) $27.00 Jan 15, 2013 9781422144206

c l a i b o r n e

s m i t h

Reading Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey, the co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a bit like hearing two voices emerge from the same mouth. There’s no doublespeak in the book, and Mackey’s ideas, about how companies can function more humanely and still reap profits, are sound. But to see the founder of one of the nation’s most progressive businesses inveigh against corporate taxes in the book, or malign the Health Care Act in some of the interviews he’s done about the book— when he has sounded not unlike President Barack Obama’s fiercest partisan critics—is to realize that John Mackey is an iconoclastic thinker. Conscious Capitalism (co-written with Raj Sisodia) is Mackey’s vision of how organizations should function; he lays out seven qualities all conscious companies exhibit: trust, accountability, caring, transparency, integrity, loyalty and egalitarianism. Easier said than done, perhaps, but Mackey is clear that conscious capitalism isn’t about being a corporate Pollyanna. “Conscious Capitalism is not about being virtuous or doing well by doing good,” he writes. “It is a way of thinking about business that is more conscious of its higher purpose, its impacts on the world, and the relationships it has with its various constituencies and stakeholders.” I asked Mackey about launching the idea of high-minded capitalism at a moment when we seem mistrustful of corporations in general. Q: There’s a lot of hope in your book, but there’s a perception among people that businesses nowadays are exactly what you say they don’t have to be—greedy, unthinking and mean. Why do you have hope that businesses can become conscious, as you all call it, when people seem to think otherwise?

Q: You write about early capitalism and what you call the “intellectual hijacking” of capitalism—what do you admire about Adam Smith’s books and, in particular, his first book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which people tend to forget about? A: I didn’t put this in the book, and I wish I had— when capitalism got going, the ethics of the society 60

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Q: I wanted to ask you about the moment you decided to become vegan, after your dialogue with a critic of Whole Foods’ animal welfare decisions. You learned more about animal welfare, changed your company’s policies and changed yourself. It’s a great example, but it occurs to me that being a conscious company is a difficult thing. Given human laziness and corner-cutting, is it really possible for a company to be conscious in the way you describe? A: It’s not an all-or-nothing state of being; it’s just like individuals. We’re paying attention, and we’re growing, we become more conscious, we learn in the hard school of life how to relate better to people, partners, significant others. This is all part of the growth process we have as human beings. Organizations get afraid collectively. They’re going to make some stupid decisions. It’s not like you go to a mountaintop and get enlightened. People don’t want to work for Neanderthal companies. Evolve or perish. Conscious Capitalism is reviewed on page 64.

9 Claiborne Smith is the features editor at Kirkus Reviews.

h oto an c op pa p hoto C ou rt e sypwh ol e©fo od re s mwa rk et®

A: Business is judged by its worst practitioners. I mean the Enrons and the Bernie Madoffs and the Lehman Brothers and Wall Street banks, and that gets generalized for all of business. I think in general, business has been the greatest value generator in all of history—it creates value for customers, shareholders, the larger population, and I think human consciousness continues to evolve, and business needs to evolve as well. Business is good today, but it could be so much better. It has so much—everybody continues to need to improve, but one of the things that we got excited about when we did our research is that we think conscious businesses do better when they’re conscious.

were taken for granted and capitalism piggybacked on those ethics. This was not a secular society, it was religious, so the ethics were part of that religion, and business people weren’t strictly self-interested. Darwin wasn’t around, and Marx hadn’t done his thing. They thought about these things differently back then— not necessarily in a better way. There was this ethics system that undergirded everything, but through science and Darwin (and a lot of the myths about religion have been disproved, really), we’ve moved more into a secular society, so the overall ethical foundation of the society has been eroded, and capitalism stands exposed. You cannot start a society on the basis of selfinterest. Social cooperation begins to break down. It’s not just business reputation that’s bad, but the health care system, any sector, really. Maybe only the military has a good reputation. His insights [in The Theory of Moral Sentiments] about empathy and sympathy are timeless insights that we do care about the approval of our fellow human beings; that partly helps us to be more caring individuals. But his insights were quickly forgotten, and The Wealth of Nations took prominence—it all became about the ‘invisible hand.’ [In Conscious Capitalism], we’re looking for a new ethical foundation for business, this idea that we have obligations not just to shareholders, but to everybody. We’re not in a win-lose, zero-sum society; we can all prosper and flourish. Business is lifting everything up, and it’s been characterized inaccurately.


“A rich, vibrant collection that pries wide the door to the East, welcoming Western readers inside.” from strange stones

STRANGE STONES Dispatches From East and West

Hessler, Peter Perennial/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-06-220623-7

A collection of personal essays and profiles that reveal the wonders and woes of the East. New Yorker staff writer Hessler (Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, 2010, etc.) bridges the divide between East and West with riveting reportage. In the opening essay, “Wild Flavor,” the author chronicles his visit to a restaurant in southern China, where the waitress casually asked, “Do you want a big rat or a small rat?”— a line that embodies the collection’s interest in celebrating and questioning cultural differences. In the title essay, Hessler and an old Peace Corps buddy take a road trip across northern China, and the well-seasoned travelers find themselves duped at every turn—further evidence of the slow learning curve between cultures. Yet perhaps the theme running throughout most of these essays is the author’s examination of the perils of living in a closed society, in which even the assistant manager of the aforementioned rat restaurant refused to give his name for the book (despite the fact that most of the village shares his name). In “Boomtown Girl,” Hessler best elucidates this fear of oversharing with outsiders by introducing readers to Emily, a Chinese teacher-in-training who bucked all traditional gender roles and set out a future of her own making. While much of the book depicts a country consisting of walls, gates and fences— both literally and metaphorically—Emily’s idealism reveals a new breed of Chinese woman, one whose intrepid spirit serves her well. A rich, vibrant collection that pries wide the door to the East, welcoming Western readers inside.

THE FLOWER OF EMPIRE An Amazonian Water Lily, the Quest to Make It Bloom, and the World It Created Holway, Tatiana Oxford Univ. (336 pp.) $29.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-19-537389-9

A deftly told tale of a magnificent water lily that, during the Victorian age, captured the attention of British horticulturalists, wowed the British public and became the inspiration for the Crystal Palace, then the largest building in the world. Dickens scholar Holway has assembled a terrific cast of characters, including the German Robert Schomburgk, hired by the Royal Geographic Society to survey the new colony of |

British Guiana and discoverer of the flower on the River Berbice in 1837; John Lindley, the botanical authority who classified the find as Victoria regia; and Sir Joseph Banks, the force behind the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Getting a viable plant to England took years, and getting it to thrive and bloom there led to competition between Joseph Paxton, the multitalented head gardener at Chatsworth, and Sir William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. The star of the saga is Paxton, an ambitious individual with little education who figured out what the plant needed to survive, flourish and bloom. He designed and had built the large plate-glass–andwrought-iron building that protected it, inspired, as he said, by the structure of the leaves of the plant itself. Paxton, who was later knighted, went on to use those same features to design the enormous Crystal Palace erected in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition in 1851. Not essential to the story but a happy bonus is Holway’s description of the exhibition, which featured not just nature and art, but a cluttered mass of industrial objects from around the world. A fresh and often witty account in which the author quotes freely from correspondence and periodicals to create a lively portrait of Victorian England and of the widespread passion for flowers and gardening at that time. (35 color halftones)

THE PLANTAGENETS The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

Jones, Dan Viking (560 pp.) $36.00 | Apr. 22, 2013 978-0-670-02665-4

A novelistic historical account of the bloodline that “stamped their mark forever on the English imagination.” The first 250 years of the Plantagenets included numerous battles, the first half of the Hundred Years’ War and some of the most colorful kings, from Henry II (the first king of England, as opposed to “of the English”) and his “eaglets” to the three Edwards and Richard II. With a bit of background on the civil war between Stephen and Matilda that first gained the throne for Henry, Jones (Summer of Blood: The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, 2009) splits his tale in two at the usurpation of Richard II in 1399 by his first cousin Henry IV. This structure will whet readers’ appetites for the second volume, which will cover the War of the Roses, the princes in the Tower and Richard III. Shakespeare and the movies have given most nonhistorians sufficient background to enjoy further tales of these kings and the little I-never-knew-that! moments that a good historian uses to tickle our fancies. For example, Edward I’s Hundred Rolls was an even larger inventory than William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book. After King John’s death, his wife, Isabella of Angouleme, returned to France and married the man she was betrothed to when John swept her off her feet. There were so many battles and skirmishes with France and invasions

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TRIPPING WITH ALLAH Islam, Drugs, and Writing

back and forth, readers may wonder why the French and British even speak to each other anymore. Perhaps Jones’ regular column in the London Standard has given him a different slant on history; however he manages, it’s certainly to our benefit. Historians may question a few dates and events, but for enjoyable historical narratives, this book is a real winner.

THE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results

Knight, Bob with Hammel, Bob Amazon/New Harvest (240 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-544-02771-8

With the assistance of co-author Hammel (The Bill Cook Story: Ready, Fire, Aim!, 2008, etc.), legendary college-basketball coach Knight (Knight: My Story, 2002), known for his anger management issues, sings the praises of negativity. Well into this book, it feels as though the word “negative” is a little too salty. Yes, there are plenty of negative-sounding commandments, but Knight comes across more as fiercely realistic and attentive. He obviously dislikes Norman Vincent Peale thinking (hence the book’s title) and the irresponsible optimism of finding good everywhere—precisely because it doesn’t involve thinking, but a failure to sensibly, actively engage. Knight writes with considerable bounce, and he relishes poking a sharp stick into the Pollyannaish clichés and platitudes of optimism: In response to that old chestnut, “Every dark cloud has a silver lining,” Knight writes, “The cloud is what you’d better notice.” But under the bluster and prickle is a common-sensical approach that is evidently effective if you are a basketball coach with a nose for winning. Despite the histrionics, the slap and choke, and chair throwing, Knight is the third-winningest coach in college-basketball history (he was just passed by Jim Boeheim). Knight counsels to question, worry, improve, do the research, exercise skepticism, avoid mistakes, talk less than you listen and be open to the new. The author is certainly not breaking any new ground here, but his advice is simple and energetic: Have the will to prepare to win; trust, but verify; if it looks too easy, you have a problem. A quick, negative-to-achieve manifesto that initially sounds like a bummer but turns out to be brightly anecdotal.

Knight, Michael Muhammad Soft Skull Press (256 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-59376-443-2

A personal quest into the intersection of Islam and mind-altering drugs. “I am a Muslim with plans with tripping with Allah, if Allah so wills, making me simultaneously a participant in two religions of high discomfort in our present America.” A sentence like that, which comes early in the pages of Knight’s (Osama Van Halen, 2009, etc.) memoir, isn’t going to win its author points with Homeland Security or the Salafi mullahs. It is thoroughly revealing of Knight’s program, however, which started off as a scholarly inquiry: He wanted to consider the effects of drug use on a modern Islamic practitioner—a “chemically enhanced Sufism,” as a friend puts it—in much the same way an anthropologist might look at a drug-induced spirit journey among an Amazonian people. The author is cautiously academic in some respects; he worries, for example, that his discipline is painting with too wide a brush by applying the rubric “shamanism”—once specific to the peoples of northern Siberia—to such spirit journeys around the world. But Knight is also exuberant, sometimes to the point of channeling, directly or indirectly, the menacing drug dealer in the movie Withnail & I (1987): “I’ve put substances into my body that are so fuckin’ condemned by society that I wouldn’t even name them to you. So, from that experience, I’d say to go for it.” Does Knight succeed in melding ayahuasca and Islam? It’s most certainly worth reading this intelligent book to find out, for it has, beg pardon, a higher purpose than its surface gonzoism might suggest at first, with its smart meditations on consciousness and the passage of time. William James, suffice it to say, would probably be appalled at first, and then fascinated.

CUSTOMER SENSE How the 5 Senses Influence Buying Behavior

Krishna, Aradhna Palgrave Macmillan (208 pp.) $30.00 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-230-34173-9

Krishna (Marketing/Univ. of Michigan) examines the relatively new idea of sensory marketing, which “engages the consumer’s senses and affects their perception, judg-

ment, and behavior.” The study of sensory marketing may be in its infancy, writes the author, but its use, intentional or otherwise, has been around for years, including such sensory signatures as the royal purple dye of the city of Tyre, Tiffany Blue and the pink of the breast cancer campaign. Krishna is clearly beguiled by sensory 62

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“A monumental life, spiritual and intellectual more than purely biographical, of the great Swedish diplomat and author.” from hammarskjöld

marketing, and she manages to convey that fascination by concentrating on each sense in turn, explaining how it works and giving sharp examples of how it has affected marketing. Her touch is light as she tackles how marketers make use of visual bias, cultural preferences for certain colors, packaging designs that move our feelings, the impact of a spokesperson’s voice or the music in a store, the dance of brand names and sound patterns, the different desires people bring to the need for touching, the connections among smells, emotions and recollections, and the fashioning of food design to taste buds. When the author digs deeper—into the mechanics of the senses, the innate and learned views of smell perception, how taste is “an amalgamation of all of our senses that combine with…those receptors on the tongue to form a perception of an object on our mouth”—she still treads lightly, at least for the most part. Nor is she immune to the pleasures of the more whimsical ploys: scratch and sniff, the crunch of Rice Krispies, the role of heft in food products. Despite some dry prose, Krishna presents a sophisticated, easy-handed elucidation of the practice of marketing to our senses.

DEMOCRACY IN RETREAT The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government

Kurlantzick, Joshua Yale Univ. (304 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-300-17538-7

Think democracy’s the up-and-coming thing in the developing world? This book may shatter more than few illusions of free markets and polities. Council on Foreign Relations fellow Kurlantzick (The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War, 2011, etc.) recommends a second look at places like Russia, China and Mexico, where democracy seems to be in rapid decline. The neoliberal line for the last quarter-century has in the main been that of Francis Fukuyama, whose influential book The End of History and the Last Man (1992) posited that the West’s triumph over communism meant “that liberal democracy, combined with market economics, represented the direction in which the world would inevitably evolve.” Indeed, authoritarian regimes such as Thailand—a favorite Kurlantzick case study—as well as Russia and China seemed to be headed in that very direction, but no more. For various reasons, those regimes have retrenched: The Chinese leadership retains a tight grip on both society and the economy, while in Russia, Vladimir Putin seems to have tossed the whole democratic experiment under the bus. As for the rest of the world—well, Kurlantzick holds that nine of the 13 nations that most deteriorated politically between 2008 and 2010 are to be found in sub-Saharan Africa, while Central Asia and chunks of South America aren’t looking too good, either. The so-called Arab Spring is still unfolding |

but not showing terrific promise. Kurlantzick offers counsel on how to steer the world onto the right course, which, perhaps paradoxically, involves letting it find its own way or at least asking the West (and particularly America) to show a little humility while waiting for it to come around. Other useful nuggets: Separate out the work of the police and the army, which is not always the case in the developing world; take pains not to “shun nondemocratic partners,” such as Saudi Arabia, that may be on the path to becoming democratic; and respect whomever it is who has won a fair election—“if they play fair,” that is. International-policy wonks will find much of interest, and Francis Fukuyama might want to consider updating his good book in light of it.

HAMMARSKJÖLD A Life

Lipsey, Roger Univ. of Michigan Press (752 pp.) $35.00 | Mar. 18, 2013 978-0-472-11890-8

A monumental life, spiritual and intellectual more than purely biographical, of the great Swedish diplomat and author. Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–1961), writes Lipsey (Angelic Mistakes: The Art of Thomas Merton, 2006, etc.), was “formidable in his time, somewhat forgotten now.” The second secretary general of the United Nations, he was also an author of note whose book Markings sold widely across the world—and, the author is careful to record, some 185,000 copies in its first six months in the United States. Lipsey makes a convincing case for why Hammarskjöld should not be “somewhat forgotten”: His spiritual yearnings and conviction that the U.N. could serve as a vehicle for true Christian compassion may seem a touch arcane now, but his activist stance and equal conviction that all humans are indeed created equal lend the office and institution a certain nobility. Lipsey argues that, more than mere inspiration, Hammarskjöld, once a diplomat with an economic portfolio, brought useful specific ideas to the business of international human rights, among them the importance of sanctuary and his capacity for “lightninglike” assessment of unfolding crises. He died a half-century ago in one such crisis, in the Congo, where an ugly civil war was raging; Lipsey devotes a considerable number of pages to this conflict as a kind of exemplar of all the things the U.N. is meant to ameliorate. Another episode he covers thoroughly is of current interest again more than 50 years later, namely the flight of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese invasion of Tibet, which the U.N. could not satisfactorily resolve. A good and indispensable man, Hammarsjköld “understood and respected the need for heroes.” In this lucid, well-written biography, he certainly emerges as one. (20 b/w halftones)

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MAKING HOPE HAPPEN Create the Future You Want in Business and Life

Lopez, Shane J. Atria (272 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4516-6622-9

A leading authority on the psychology of hope shares the secret of how to achieve a happier and more successful future. Hope, writes Gallup senior scientist Lopez (The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology, 2009, etc.), is a more dynamic concept than just wishful thinking; it is the ability to imagine a future goal and understand the steps necessary to accomplish it. The author uses many examples from his personal life, research and clients to demonstrate his argument that hope not only changes one’s outlook on the future, but also helps to shape it. Lopez begins with the example of John, a farmer who had become suicidal after being diagnosed with kidney disease. By focusing on the jobs that needed to be done around the farm, Lopez helped John to “futurecast”—to envision a future of his making. This exercise improved John’s emotional state and allowed him to delay dialysis as his kidneys started to improve. Lopez tends toward the sentimental in his examples: the young girl who survived two heart transplants and is now a successful college student; the entrepreneur, who, despite a failing economy, managed to keep his business afloat; the parents who turned around a failing school; the immigrant child who worked hard and found a future for himself that would have been unimaginable in his home country. These aren’t new or shocking narratives, and they often border on cliché. Yet, unlike some similarly themed self-help books, Lopez doesn’t claim that simply thinking something will make it so. Hope, by his definition, includes good, old-fashioned hard work. Will not convince the cynical or pessimistic among us, but for those who already engage in hopeful thinking, Lopez offers positive reinforcement.

REST IN PIECES The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses Lovejoy, Bess Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $19.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4516-5498-1

Death is only the beginning in Schott’s Almanac writer and researcher Lovejoy’s marvelously macabre chronicle of some of history’s most well-traveled cadavers. Thomas à Becket had it tough in life—having the top of his head lopped off, and all—but the poor guy didn’t get much rest in the grave either. Neither did good ’ol St. Nick, Jesse James, Voltaire, Laurence Sterne or 64

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any of the other intriguing personalities profiled in this highly satisfying investigation into (real) life after death. While some public figures found their final resting places problematic due to the controversial lives they led, others found their notoriety made their decaying bones valuable sources of prestige for the local municipality. And the good citizens were willing to go to great lengths in order to get their towns on the map, even if it meant digging up famous teeth and skulls. Sometimes the tug of war raged for centuries. Even when they were beyond the reach of politics, celebrity stiffs still had to contend with the nefarious “Resurrection Men.” Better known today as grave robbers or body snatchers, these shadowy figures were more than enthusiastic about plundering famous crypts. Lovejoy has a great time relating all their dubious exploits, but the ghoulish behavior is just one aspect of her graveside exploration. Death does strange things to people. In the case of Hunter S. Thompson, it compelled him to have his lifeless body shot out of a cannon to the tune of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Even more profound, Thompson had forged the kinds of relationships in life that would actually make his bizarre death wish become a reality. Somewhere, Thompson is thanking actor Johnny Depp for footing the bill for the cannon. The author invites readers to crack open all these coffins, curl up inside and stare death straight in the eye. The effect is oddly comforting. A fascinating foray into the way of all flesh. (b/w illustrations throughout)

CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

Mackey, John; Sisodia, Rajendra Harvard Business Review Press (362 pp.) $27.00 | Jan. 15, 2013 978-1-4221-4420-6 Whole Foods co-founder Mackey, writing with economist Sisodia, offers a persuasive paean to free enterprise. “In the long arc of history, no human creation has had a greater positive impact on more people more rapidly than free-enterprise capitalism,” write the authors. That statement serves as a good summary of this book, which combines a brief but lucid history of the capitalist system with Mackey’s own sometimes-idiosyncratic interpretation of it. Flying in the face of Economics 101, for instance, he insists that a goal of the capitalist need not be profit maximization and that self-interest can be broader than the mere individual self. Mackey combines a strong sense of social service with the thought that there are goals beyond mere money for the successful investors. As the book progresses, Mackey’s vision becomes more singular, with sharp attacks on crony capitalism—the unholy wedding of big government with certain strands of big business—side arguments on animal welfare, and heightened consciousness and a well-reasoned critique of the vaunted “triple bottom line.” Throughout, his insistence on long-term thinking is welcome—and too seldom found |


in popular business writing. Though he has been in the news lately for seemingly off-the-mark statements equating health care reform with fascism and holding that there’s a positive side to climate change, Mackey presents a reasonable and mostly unobjectionable defense of capitalism at a time when, thanks to the excesses of the wealthy, it needs defending. Light on ideology and long on thoughtful analysis— a good book to hand to the budding entrepreneur in the family.

BENDING TOWARD JUSTICE The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy May, Gary Basic (336 pp.) $28.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-465-01846-8

May (History/Univ. of Delaware; The Informant: The FBI, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Murder of Viola Liuzzo, 2011, etc.) explores the agitation for, and the passage and continuing significance of, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In a meticulous, impassioned narrative, the author describes how determined activists in Selma, Ala., succeeded in mobilizing their community and many others in the Deep South to demand an end to the devious, cynical and violent practices that had excluded blacks from the voter rolls since the end of Reconstruction. Their campaign culminated in the horrific violence at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, an atrocity that galvanized the nation and forced a reluctant Lyndon Johnson to make passage of a muscular voting rights act an urgent priority. May delivers a fascinating account of the legislative maneuvering required to corral enough Republican votes to shut down the inevitable filibuster by southern Democrats and bring about final passage. After this point, however, the author’s exposition loses its way. He needlessly follows Martin Luther King for the remainder of his life, then delves into a tedious summary of the various renewals and amendments to the act as it evolved from controversial enactment to legislative sacred cow. So successful has it been in enabling the registration and participation of hundreds of thousands of minority voters that controversies surrounding its application and even relevance in an era with a black president of the United States have become increasingly subtle and complex. May reviews a number of difficult issues at the core of the act’s present significance, including the drawing of appropriate electoral district boundaries, the intent and effect of voter-identification laws, and the continuing legitimacy of pre-clearance provisions applicable only in certain jurisdictions guilty of discrimination half a century ago, but they deserve more thoughtful treatment than the uncritical acceptance of current liberal dogma that May offers. Superb history combined with superficial punditry.

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MR. AND MRS. DOG Our Travels, Trials, Adventures, and Epiphanies McCaig, Donald Univ. of Virginia (208 pp.) $22.95 | $22.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8139-3450-1 978-0-8139-3451-8 e-book

Novelist and essayist McCaig (The Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club, 2007, etc.) chronicles his experiences training sheepdogs for companionship and competition. The author took his two dogs, June and Luke, to Wales to compete in sheepdog trials, where they won. Most of the book, however, is a detailed account of dog psychology and the sheepdog way of life. McCaig discusses his conversations with various trainers and dog psychologists who had different theories about effective methods for training dogs. One trainer advocated the use of the e-collar, which shocks dogs when they misbehave. Another used “behaviorism,” a combination of positive and negative reinforcement of different behaviors, and one even believed in positive reinforcement only. One of the more interesting training methods involved an evaluation of dogs based on their personality, giving dog owners a series of questions that determined whether “prey” drive or “pack” drive was more dominant in each dog. The trainer then recommends a series of exercises to make the pack drive the predominant one. Almost all of the trainers emphasized reading the dog’s behavior over blind practices. McCaig talks about his dogs in an amusing and affectionate way. While the author mentions that Luke is not the best sheepdog, his other attributes, such as being a good companion, make up for his lack of skills. The author provides plenty of information about dog habits and breeds, sheepdog competitions and coaching for them, as well as tidbits regarding the joys of having a dog (or multiple). A straightforward but unremarkable book for dog lovers or those considering a dog.

DIGITAL DISCONNECT How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

McChesney, Robert W. New Press (320 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-59558-867-8 978-1-59558-891-3 e-book

A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States. Writing from a liberal viewpoint, McChesney (Communication/Univ. of Illinois; Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media, 2007, etc.) argues that an

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economic system designed to produce “endless profits by any means necessary” has undermined the democratic potential of the Internet. “For all of the digital revolution’s accomplishments, it has failed to deliver much of the promise that was once seen as inherent in the technology,” he writes, echoing words that many readers will recall hearing about the failed early promise of TV broadcasting. Rather than becoming a noncommercial zone that builds greater political participation and ends widespread inequality and corporate monopolies, the Internet has been commercialized and monopolized. Drawing on the research of critics and scholars, the author traces the many ways in which wealthy interests have shaped the Internet and adversely affected American society, promoting inequality and hypercommercialism. Specific topics include the decline in enforcement of antitrust laws, the increase in patents on digital technology, and the dominance of Google, Microsoft and other firms. McChesney builds on his earlier work to detail the many ways in which the Internet has harmed professional journalism and limited the vital watchdog role of American newspapers, which have lost their allure for profit-seeking investors. The author concludes that reforms will not save the democratic promise of the Internet; rather, Americans must spur the rise of a new political economy based on nonprofit and noncommercial institutions. A valuable addition to the literature on the digital age.

AND HELL FOLLOWED WITH HER Crossing to the Dark Side of the American Border

Neiwert, David Nation Books/Perseus (336 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-56858-725-7

A scouring investigation of the unorthodox methods of the anti-immigration Minuteman Project. Journalist Neiwert (The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, 2009, etc.) probes the underworld of anti-immigration vigilante justice. Beginning with the murder of a drug trafficker and his family in an Arizona border town, the author reveals that neither a rival drug gang nor illegal immigrants were responsible for the crime, but rather, members of the Minuteman Project themselves. The narrative soon expands outward, tracing the tangled web of circumstances that led America’s so-called anti-immigration defenders down a murderous path. Featuring a complex assortment of characters and an occasionally difficult-to-follow storyline, Neiwert examines the various routes men and women took to becoming Minutemen. As he proves, not all were motivated by unrelenting patriotic fervor or xenophobic tendencies; economic prospects, as well as the desire to restart otherwise unremarkable lives also played a part. These motives were particularly important for Shawna Forde, a beautician-turned-vigilante extremist who took part in the aforementioned murders. A lifetime of swindling and petty 66

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theft prepared her for the ultimate crime. As Neiwert reports, Forde’s personality likely predisposed her for her actions, or at least her involvement in the Minutemen organization. “What movements like the Minutemen most offer psychopaths like Shawna Forde is the opportunity to remake themselves into their own hyperinflated view of themselves as Heroes with a capital H,” he writes,” “all without the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication that usually comprise the foundations of real heroism.” Forde never received her hero status; her cowardly crimes caught up with her in the Arizona courtrooms in 2011. A sweeping account of some of the major players in the Minuteman Project, though the ambitious narrative occasionally becomes unfocused.

FAST TIMES IN PALESTINE A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland Olson, Pamela J. Seal Press (256 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-58005-482-9

A moving memoir of a young woman’s political awakening under occupation. Having lived an unusually sheltered life even by American standards, Olson was dangerously naïve when she first arrived in Jordan. Curious about what the situation was really like, beyond the confusing headlines, and attracted by the “chance to witness history as it was being made,” she nearly chartered a taxi to Baghdad before she was convinced to head to the West Bank instead. A fortuitous decision, this unplanned voyage led the author to connect with a diverse and generous group of individuals navigating the daily challenges of security patrols and checkpoints. Spending much of her time in Jayyous, a small farming community not entirely dissimilar to the Oklahoma town where she grew up, Olson lived in Palestine for more than two years, quickly adapting to and assimilating the shifting reality on both sides of the Green Line. In warmhearted, evocative prose, she recounts her numerous adventures, from the everyday (harvesting olives, attending weddings) to the more unusual (her work as an adviser to Mustafa Barghouthi as he ran for president of a nonexistent country). She never entirely lost her air of the ingénue, and her political analysis is sometimes debatable, but the strength of the narrative lies in Olson’s investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends, “the atmosphere of mute shock expressed only in sidelong glances…of knowing something few people knew, and of genuine connection and collective struggle.” Where paradox is as common as breathing, Olson discovers a kind of freedom amid the barbed wire. An empathetic, intriguing memoir.

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FIERCE ANGELS Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman

Parks, Sheri Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review (320 pp.) $18.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-504-5

In this thorough study of popular icons and real women, an update of the 2010 edition, Parks (American Studies/Univ. of Maryland) finds the myth of the strong black woman—variously known as the Sacred Dark Feminine, Black Madonna, Mammy, Angry Black Woman—both slippery and resonant. On the one hand, black women lived their struggle of keeping the family together, protecting the fragile ego of their man and caring for the elders while striving to achieve in their own right. On the other hand, they have had imposed on them the constricting and frankly insulting stereotypes forged by society’s fascination with blackness since ancient times and by perversions of slavery and racism. Sometimes, as Parks shows through myriad examples, the two camps of myth and reality dovetail, such as in the ancient notion of the cosmic Dark Mother sounded by (blind) poet Milton in Paradise Lost and later in the depiction of the Black Mother so beloved in America and which evolved from the real, painful emotional survival of the black woman through slavery. From these evocations, Parks separates the fantasies and caricatures, like the wise, ample, omnipotent Mammy of stage and screen, “created as a piece of nostalgic propaganda to reconstruct the slaveholding South into a peaceful, loving place with contented slaves,” and various pop goddesses and Angry Black Women—e.g., the exquisite Oprah, the fist-bumping Michelle Obama. Resilience in riding out difficult situations, being a strategist and activist—all are rich, deep components of the black woman’s survival. New, urgent awareness of seeing black women as, in the words of BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, “fully human and fully powerful.” (21 b/w photos)

CONSTITUTIONAL MYTHS What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right

Raphael, Ray New Press (320 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-59558-832-6 978-1-59558-838-8 e-book

In his latest populist reality check, Raphael (Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive, 2012, etc.) demonstrates how objectively studying the original broken political system lends insight into ours. |

Take off your rose-colored glasses, people: The Founding Fathers embraced a strong federal government, at the risk of falling into anarchy and disintegration. Therein lies the kernel of the author’s readable demystification of some of the ongoing crusades by conservatives touting the supremacy of “originalism.” From the beginning, the fledgling republic was plagued by what George Washington observed as “illiberality, jealousy & local policy” by the states’ tendentious representatives in Congress under the Articles of Confederation. The Articles were scrapped, and so-called nationalists like Washington, Robert Morris, John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton pushed for a “national and supreme” government with teeth to provide for the common defense and levy taxes—albeit with plenty of argument about direct taxation. Raphael reminds us that the tax burden was allowed “to fall more heavily on the rich…a long-standing tradition dating back to early colonial times.” Thanks to the notes taken by Madison, whom Raphael elegantly calls the “scribe” of the Constitution rather than its “father,” we see the roiling jealousies and bickering of the delegates in Philadelphia in 1787—e.g., in the battle between small states and large states over representation and in the manner of selecting a president, among other things. Raphael carefully sifts through the subsequent Federalist Papers delineating the ratification debate, and he shows the framers’ fluidity of argument, rather than inflexibility. With documents amply provided at the close of the text, Raphael provides a truly accessible teaching tool.

DEAR MARK TWAIN Letters from His Readers

Rasmussen, R. Kent—Ed. Univ. of California (296 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-520-26134-1

Just when we thought there was nothing else to learn about Twain, another facet of that literary jewel appears. Well-known Twain scholar Rasmussen (Critical Companion to Mark Twain, 2007, etc.) has selected 200 letters from among the many thousands Twain's fans and foes wrote to Twain during his career. Even more impressive is the fact that the editor has researched the lives of the correspondents, relying heavily on online sources like Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com to help him supply information about the writers—a number of whom, often autograph hounds, were not who they claimed to be. Twain seemed to have a keen nose for smelling the bogus and often noted his distrust and/or disdain on the letter before filing it. The letters range from adoration to disgust, the latter occurring more during Twain’s later years when his writings darkened and he satirized his targets more savagely—especially religion and imperialism. It’s surprising how many writers sent Twain poems they had composed in his honor (not much is memorable), and many wanted to tell him stories—about their reactions to his books, their own childhood experiences and,

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“A stirring account of where American Middle East policy has gone wrong.” from beyond war

later, how his works enriched their lives. Some wrote to console him on the losses of his wife and daughter. A few, hearing he was dying, wrote to tell him how much he’d meant to them. There are smaller moments, too. A boy collector wants some of Twain’s cigar bands. A little girl wants Twain to write about Tom Sawyer as an adult. Some folks want money; others want to meet him. Although most are common folks, Twain also heard from poet James Whitcomb Riley and former president Rutherford B. Hayes. Well-selected, thoroughly researched and thoughtfully annotated—a surprising, welcome addition to the apparently endless Twain shelf. (25 b/w photos)

GOSPEL OF FREEDOM Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation Rieder, Jonathan Bloomsbury (224 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-62040-058-6

A tight, academic focus on the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” offers a fresh perspective on Dr. King’s message. Few lives of the 20th century have been more richly, deeply and exhaustively explored than that of Martin Luther King Jr., and this study by Rieder (Sociology/Barnard Coll.; The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr., 2008) draws heavily from that biographical literature. What distinguishes this work is the author’s close reading of King’s letter and his explorations of its origins and aftermath. By the time of King’s jailing in Birmingham, it had been six years since he was featured on the cover of Time and generally proclaimed the leader of black America. The movement he led seemed to have stalled, and King felt besieged by criticism from both liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, that he was too much of an extremist, too moderate, that his campaign of nonviolence was pushing too hard, too fast or was accomplishing too little. “Right up to the minute of his jailing, he felt disappointed and betrayed by blacks and whites alike,” writes Rieder. Everyone from the New York Times to the Kennedy administration to local Alabama clergy was telling him that now was not the time for massive protest. Responded King in the letter, “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ ” The letter provided the “moral and philosophical foundations” for the movement and, in some ways, contrasts sharply with the more often invoked “I Have a Dream” speech: “On the surface, the ‘Letter’ and the ‘Dream’ could not have differed more: the rebuke to white inertia on one side, the joyous refrain of brotherhood on the other.” By analyzing the “Letter” as both literature and moral imperative, Rieder adds to his subject’s considerable legacy.

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STREET SMARTS Adventures on the Road and in the Markets Rogers, Jim Crown Business (272 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 5, 2013 978-0-307-98607-8

International investor and worldwide roamer Rogers (A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing, 2009, etc.) recounts his vibrant life and provides significant insight into the financial system. The author begins with his first significant voyage: from the Alabama Canebrake to Yale University and on to Oxford’s Balliol College, cutting a voracious intellectual swath. This leads to his first piece of advice on financial issues: At a lecture in 2010, “I explained how the study of philosophy and history were indispensable to me as an investor….It taught me to think around corners, to see what is missing…and in doing so it teaches you to doubt.” Rogers’ personal life gives considerable warmth to the story, but he is never far from investing. He explains how Wall Street requires judgment, research, curiosity and skepticism; emphasizes the importance of international investing; describes the rise of hedge funds; and examines why American universities are in precarious financial shape. Rogers started the Quantum Fund with George Soros, worked like a dog and retired when he was 37. He was disenchanted with Quantum and ready to ride his motorcycle around the world. There are numerous digressions in the narrative—boat racing at Oxford, hosting Mardi Gras parties at his New York City home, why tenure is a disaster—and an energetic survey of America on the brink, awash with overwhelming debt and no savings to fight it, the government continuing to buy “bonds on what have already proved to be losing ventures run by mediocre people.” He satisfyingly rips into Alan Greenspan, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, and he offers advice on commodities and currency investing overseas. The author now lives with his family in Singapore, and he includes a sensitive portrait of that city. A satisfying combination of serious gusto and sharp thinking.

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BEYOND WAR Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East

Rohde, David Viking (240 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 22, 2013 978-0-670-02644-9

A stirring account of where American Middle East policy has gone wrong. Two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Rohde (Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, |


1997, etc.), a Reuters and Atlantic Monthly columnist, has covered the Middle East for more than a decade and survived as a Taliban hostage for seven months. His experience informs this impassioned discussion of the need to rebuild shriveled and atrophied institutions of foreign policy and diplomacy. Detailing the slashing of the State Department’s budget and personnel, Rohde argues that the country has things upside down, with contractors and the military replacing diplomats. The author discusses the different ways in which this reversal came about. In Afghanistan, Rohde compares previous strategies—e.g., during the Cold War—with current strategies led by private contractors like Chemonics and DynCorp. He writes that contractor-based policies are “a symptom of the decay in American civil institutions,” and he draws from the most recent Iraq war to show how policing and training of police ended up in private hands. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, profit-driven contractors grew stronger in the vacuum left by crumbling civilian institutions. In the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s watershed 2009 Cairo speech on Islam and the Middle East, one investigation, conducted one year later, found that nothing had been done to transform the president’s promises and initiatives into institutionalized commitments. Failures of this sort, Rohde insists, undermined the way the United States was able to address the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia. Potentials for transformation are not developed consistently, and the field is left to Islamic radicals. A clarion call for change and more—not less—engagement with Islam.

THE GENIUS OF EARTH DAY How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation

Rome, Adam Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (368 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-0-8090-4050-6 The story of how April 22, 1970, began the tradition of Earth Day and helped to create the modern environmental movement. On that date, Rome (Environmental History and Environmental Nonfiction/Univ. of Delaware; The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism, 2001) writes, a national teach-in took place, involving more than 12,000 events and many thousands of people from all walks of life. The prime mover was Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson, who issued the call for the event in November 1969, established a bare-bones national coordinating operation and secured funding. However, he refused to set any all-encompassing agenda or single national objective, leaving the direction of events and form of activities in the hands of local organizers. They succeeded beyond all expectations. The author has interviewed more than 120 participants, employing materials crosschecked through meticulous archive work. Rome discusses |

the relation between the Earth Day teach-in and the anti-war movement, as well as the women’s movement. In those days, nuclear fallout from atmospheric testing was one of the main drivers of campaigns to clean up water supplies, ensure the safety and wholesomeness of milk, and protect children. The author details the political coalition that backed Nelson and its relation with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. He profiles selected events and speakers, the press corps relations to events, and the interaction with the Nixon administration, which later passed groundbreaking legislation. Activities on campuses were the major focus, and student organizing was the primary, but not exclusive, energizer. A fascinating treatment of both environmentalism and the structure of activism at the time.

HABITATS Private Lives in the Big City

Rosenblum, Constance New York Univ. (256 pp.) $19.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8147-7154-9

A collection of recent newspaper columns on the homes of New York residents illuminates the ways in which the city has (and hasn’t) changed. The byline of Rosenblum (Boulevard of Dreams: Heady Times, Heartbreak, and Hope along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, 2009) may not be familiar even to regular readers of the New York Times, and the column she was the last to write no longer exists. Yet these 40 pieces have greater staying power than many collections of newspaper columns and show the ongoing fascination with the subject of how, where and why people live where they live. These expanded selections from the newspaper’s Real Estate section are less concerned with that market—prices and square footage, though such details occasionally highlight the pieces—than they are with the stories of the inhabitants. “I wanted to use the column to write stories,” writes Rosenblum. “I wanted to use the physical nature of a home as a wedge to delve into personal history, and to produce, as one reader nicely put it, biography through real estate.” The results, she continues, “offer a mosaic of domestic life in one of the great cities of the world.” There are examples of shelter voyeurism that will leave readers in other parts of the country amazed at how much some are willing to pay to live in New York (often for so little space). But mainly, the interest in the home reflects the interesting people who inhabit it: the two clowns who must combine living quarters and rehearsal space (so many of these stories find residences serving double duty), the woman who rescues and nurses ailing kittens, the artists in their communal building, the stepdaughter of a famous author. Whether the living space in question is a fresh start or a link to the past, the thread of continuity throughout is that “the story of urban renewal has been written, rewritten, and rewritten yet again.” Some intriguing stories better read the way newspaper columns are published—one at a time—than as an extended series in one sitting.

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“Stylistically simple yet structurally complex, Salisbury’s latest installment reads as a final chapter to a long, lauded literary life.” from so far, so good

SO FAR, SO GOOD

Salisbury, Ralph Univ. of Nebraska (288 pp.) $19.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8032-4592-1 In the autumn of his life, a writer reflects on the poignancy and power of minor moments in a changing world. Salisbury’s (English Emeritus/Univ. of Oregon; The Indian Who Bombed Berlin, 2009, etc.) memoir, which won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, defies easy classification. Inspired by his daughter’s request to “put some of our family’s realities down, with no fictionalizing and no poeticizing, just things as they were,” Salisbury strives to live up to the challenge. But it proves challenging, indeed, particularly for a writer with roots in poetry and influenced by the oral tradition. Salisbury’s unconventional stream-of-consciousness style shatters any semblance of a tightly wound narrative. Instead, his unapologetically indulgent work is populated by remembrances of a bygone era, depicting a version of rural America long lost. Yet readers will forgive Salisbury his trespass and embrace his work for its humanity. The author’s America reveals a landscape overflowing with hogs, cow pies and corn silks, novelties for the 21st-century urbanite. From birth to adolescence to war and back again, Salisbury hones in on the quieter moments of life. Steering clear of melodrama, he depicts a world captured in sepia tones, in which understated prose and humble observations best reflect the world that passed him by. “Whatever is here I offer to the world,” he writes, “knowing that my life is but one of a multitude of lives, all doomed to undergo change and, I believe, to go on and on, in the Great Plan, which, perhaps, we humans can, in our best moments, somewhat sense.” Stylistically simple yet structurally complex, Salisbury’s latest installment reads as a final chapter to a long, lauded literary life.

THE GODS ARE BROKEN! The Hidden Legacy of Abraham Salkin, Jeffrey K. Univ. of Nebraska (176 pp.) $19.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8276-0931-0

A rabbi delivers a thoughtful homily on the iconoclasm of Scripture’s proto-Hebrew. The old story is comfortably familiar: Young Abraham destroyed the idols that were his father’s stock in trade and became the world’s first monotheist. That early episode served as foreshadowing of the subsequent career of the biblical patriarch, yet the Abrahamic back story, a primal tale as integral to Christianity and Islam as it is to Judaism, is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the tale originated with 70

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a rabbinic expository narrative dating from the first century of the Common Era. The shattering of those graven images is a foundational legend essential to the Abrahamic faiths, but particularly for Jews, whose religious job description, as noted by Salkin (Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens, 2012, etc.), entails the smashing of icons. The mission of the Jews, as outsiders, is to act as exemplars. The author sees that, today, the false gods of consumerism and materialism need to be broken, and the vocation of Abraham’s co-religionists, “the Other,” is still the setting of standards. That may explain, in part at least, anti-Semitism. In passionate prose (that often switches tense, even in mid-sentence), Salkin follows the theme of fire, as a form of punishment, and the theme of shattering, from Creation to the destruction by Moses of the first edition of the Ten Commandments to Kristallnacht and the glass-shattering by the Nazis. Remarkably, and despite all the evidence, the author declares that the Holocaust was not a war against the Jews or Judaism. It was a war, he asserts, against God. His sermon purports to call all the monotheistic faiths to renewed iconoclastic spirit, though it appears most urgently and clearly directed to members of his own faith. An earnest exegesis of a powerful legend of the first Jew, designed for the faithful—not for atheist or pagan readers.

THE SECRET LIFE OF A SUBMISSIVE A True Story

Sarah K Harper/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $12.99 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-00-750621-7

A British woman’s epiphanic transformation from bored divorcee to kinky, sensual slave. Anonymous author Sarah K’s novelistic memoir begins sheepishly enough with the author querying her best girlfriends for creative sex scenes to incorporate into an erotic story she’d been writing as “the perfect escape from the realities of a crumbling marriage.” But when she found herself a 40-something, divorced, single mother of three grown children, the writing project effectively stoked the flames of a latent fascination with bondage. Intent on finding the “hero” of her sexual fantasies, the author fumbled through online dating and then met Max, a tall, handsome, entrepreneurial “Dom” who immediately asserts respectful authority with a consensual docility contract and “safe words.” The dom/sub dance began, awkward and fumbling at first, with the placement of an ownership collar, dungeon play and a lingering scene at a kinky dinner party. Yielding to Max’s brinkmanship eventually neutralized her physical insecurities, and the memoir unfurls further through episodes of explicitly described, unbridled surrender. No stranger to the game, Max cautioned her at the onset of their arrangement that a BDSM relationship “changes your life forever.” As her transformative journey progressed, it dramatically redefined the author’s psychological |


and sexual boundaries, changes she initially found herself resistant to grasp. These boundaries became blurred, however, when the author allowed her romantic love to sully their hierarchal dynamic. Written with verve, Sarah K’s narrative bolsters an already provocative story that is thankfully allowed to play out organically without overextrapolating the base semantics of the BDSM lifestyle. A titillating story for the Fifty Shades set that plumbs the complex, intimate head space of the sexually submissive.

A STRAIGHT ROAD WITH 99 CURVES Coming of Age on the Path of Zen

Shepherd, Gregory Stone Bridge Press (176 pp.) $14.95 paper | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-61172-011-2

A memoir of Zen study in the 1970s. There are many books showing how the Zen experience translates into the West, but this debut book by Shepherd (Music/Kauai Community Coll.) is as much about falling away from the path as following it. When he came to meditation during the latter stages of the hippie era, it was during a time of drugs, hedonism and excess. A long-distance runner with a more ascetic older brother (who adhered to the path and has become a Zen monk), the author came to his practice with a combination of innocence, idealism and competitiveness. “I would be a Zen Man extraordinaire, of this I was certain,” he writes of a path that would take him from his native New Jersey to a meditation community in Hawaii and a more dedicated, disciplined commitment in Japan. When he arrived there, he thought of the “Eightfold Path as Easy Street or the Yellow Brick Road. It would take several more years, but I would gradually go from wide-eyed naivete to gimlet-eyed disenchantment. For now, though, I was drowning in milk and honey.” The milk curdled as he grew increasingly resentful of being considered a “foreign weirdo” by so many Japanese, who felt that Zen was their birthright and that for an American to practice was like “a dog trying to master verb conjugations.” Shepherd also discovered that as the meditation practice might help him dissolve the ego, it was leaving him with nightmares and neuroses. Ultimately, he took a different path as a music professor, where meditation has continued to enrich his life. Shepherd’s experience with Zen is not everyone’s, but it should prove helpful to those struggling with spiritual practice.

SIMPLE Conquering the Crisis of Complexity

Siegel, Alan; Etzkorn, Irene Twelve (256 pp.) $26.99 | $12.99 e-book | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4555-0966-9 978-1-4555-0968-3 e-book Brand-identity consultant Siegel and colleague Etzkorn make a strong, appealing case for simplicity. Who but those who make their living off such monstrosities hasn’t been bamboozled by the tax code, credit-card agreements, insurance policies, hospital bills, car loans or mortgages? The authors believe in the promise of simplicity: clearness of intention, accessibility, trust and satisfaction. To achieve simplicity, they emphasize three principles: empathy—“a willingness and ability to look at a contract, application, product, or service with a sense of the person on the other end”; distillation—the Google home page is a good example; and clarity, which requires organization and visualization. Siegel early on identifies himself as the writer of the book, and his voice rings throughout as brash, but not bullying, trustworthy and easy to agree with. He brings loads of case studies, including JetBlue, Southwest, Oxo, Google, Apple, Philips, IBM, the Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. The authors get into a bit of a twist trumpeting social media as a grassroots tool for bringing simplicity into the mainstream—the clog and bloat of Facebook and the endless blogs is often anything but simple. Readers may have had vastly different experiences with some of his examples of simplicity, including, for example, the budgeting software Mint, hardly “simple” to begin with and praised for the fact that “users view their own data, but they can compare their financial habits with others in the same city, state or country”—i.e., beginning to enter the world of complexity. Nonetheless, the authors provide a mostly cleareyed assessment of the importance of simplicity in business. The authors make their case simply but with vigor and dash.

THE SECRET LIVES OF SPORTS FANS The Science of Sports Obsession Simons, Eric Overlook (320 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 4, 2013 978-1-59020-864-9

In this often heady blend of science, philosophy and sociology, Simons (Univ. of California Graduate School of Journalism; Darwin Slept Here: Discovery, Adventure, and Swimming Iguanas in Charles Darwin’s South America, 2009) tries to get at the root of fandom, that sometimes appalling display of irrational behavior, which appears to be “a species-level design flaw.” |

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“[E]mpathy, action, language, pride, identity, self, reward, relationships, love, addiction, perception, pain and happiness,” writes the author—“all this stuff is frothing around on the inside trying to beat its way out of your body like an alien chestbuster.” In the course of his investigation, Simons touches on each of these and more: the hormonal changes sports provoke and the malignant force of the endocrine system; the part played by mirror neurons in empathy and in addiction and violence; the emotional push that keeps us coming back; the possibility that defeat can physically warp your brain; dopamine, the brain’s reward system, inciting passion or addiction; the human need for belonging and the deep meaning that comes in being part of the enterprise; the biological, cultural and individual motivations for going to war on the field or court. The book is mostly enjoyable not least of all since so much is nebulous and untethered but achingly real to any sports fan. Simons is open and patient to intelligent theories but skeptical and willing to trust in his own experiences. He is also a bit of a tempered hepcat— “Plato’s rigging the thing so that Socrates goes last and blows everyone away with his crazy philosophical skills”—informal amid all the lab work and theory building, yet diligently fashioning a window through which to witness the arch of human emotions and, surprisingly, the degree of choice and control we possess over those emotions. An intriguing ride through “all the wondrous quirks and oddities in human nature.”

TIME REBORN From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe

Smolin, Lee Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (352 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-547-51172-6

A distinguished physicist delivers a thoughtful, complex re-evaluation of the role of time in the universe. Smolin (The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, 2006) points out that no one doubts that space is real. If the cosmos were empty, space would exist, but there would be no time. So time is inextricably bound up with the material universe, a real phenomenon at the heart of nature. This turns out to be controversial since the great thinkers from Plato to Newton to Einstein taught that time is an illusion that humans must transcend to achieve true understanding. Smolin disagrees, maintaining that embracing its reality is the key to solving the great problems in physics. He makes a case that Newton’s paradigm— knowing the forces acting on any system allows us, following natural laws, to predict its future state—is a fallacy. It works for limited areas and short periods but fails on universal scales. In fact, natural laws themselves are less immutable than time. For a straightforward popular introduction to time, read Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here (2010). Smolin has bigger fish to fry as he muses over great issues in his field as they relate to time, 72

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such as the stubborn refusal of relativity to mesh with quantum theory, pausing regularly for detours into cosmology, economics and climate change. This is a work as much of philosophy as science. Despite the absence of mathematics, it requires close attention, but readers who make the effort will absorb a flood of ideas from an imaginative thinker.

INTELLECTUALS AND RACE

Sowell, Thomas Basic (192 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-465-05872-3

A conservative professor of economics and public policy argues that conventional attitudes about racism and social injustice are not only wrong, but harmful as well, in an analysis that will spark outrage among the liberal intellectuals that

he targets. Sowell (The Housing Boom and Bust, 2009, etc.) understates the case when he writes that he has arrived at “many conclusions very different from those currently prevailing in the media, in politics or in academia.” The result of that common liberal consensus, he charges, “has been a steady drumbeat of grievance and victimhood ideologies, from the media, from educational institutions and from other institutions permeated by the vision of the intelligentsia.” As a member of the media, an educator, an intellectual and a black man (who often writes about racial issues from a conservative perspective), Sowell relishes his role as provocateur. Of course, the author’s version of truth serves an agenda suggesting that the black community might have been better off before initiatives such as civil rights and affirmative action and that blaming society for the inequities suffered by minorities represents “a long tradition of intellectuals who more or less automatically transform differences into inequities and inequities into the evils or shortcomings of society.” Even if blacks have less opportunity than whites, achieve less and commit more crime, he writes, these are not the results of oppression, and they can’t be resolved by “a lifestyle of dependency.” Instead, “those who lag, for whatever reasons, face a daunting task of bringing themselves up to the rest of society in knowledge, skills and experience—and in the attitudes necessary to acquire this knowledge and these skills and experience.” In other words, the problem isn’t white racism but black attitudes. The benefit of slavery is but one of the firebombs lobbed within a book that more are likely to find infuriating than enlightening.

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GOD AND THE ATOM

Stenger, Victor J. Prometheus Books (300 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-61614-753-2 978-1-61614-457-9 e-book An emeritus professor of physics and astronomy traces the roots of modern science, including the discovery of the Higgs boson, to the materialist Greek and Roman philosophers 2,500 years ago. Stenger (God and the Folly of Faith, 2012, etc.) once again picks up the cudgels for radical atheism: “[A]toms and the void indeed are all there is….Atomism is Atheism.” Identifying his philosophical stance with that of Democritus and Epicurus, whom he considers to have been closet atheists, he rejects any notion of divine creation or purpose in the universe. Stenger traces the search for the ultimate particle from the earliest notion of the atom up to the present time. The search began with the discovery of the laws of motion by Galileo, Copernicus and Newton and continued with Faraday and Maxwell’s unification of electromagnetism and more, culminating in the theory of relativity and quantum physics. Today, writes the author, scientists believe electrons, photons and quarks to be elementary. With the discovery of the Higgs boson, “modern science has fully confirmed the model of the world first proposed 2,500 years ago,” he writes, and “the atomic model exemplifies the notion that we can reduce everything to its parts.” Stenger brushes aside the philosophical importance of the quantum paradoxes such as the wave/particle duality. Admitting that the description of most complex systems, such as neuroscience or political science, cannot be derived from particle physics, he nonetheless dismisses the notion that “new laws of nature operating on the collective scale must come into play.” Readers unfamiliar with the scientific issues will find this difficult reading. A disappointing rehash of the science-vs.-religion debate.

SNAKE OIL The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling

Stevens, Becca Jericho Books/Hachette (224 pp.) $21.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4555-1906-4

A memoir of hands-on healing. Concerned that abused women and victims of prostitution, sex trafficking and drug addictions often have no place to turn for help, Rev. Stevens founded Magdalene and Thistle Farms, a program named by the White House as one of 2011’s “15 champions of change.” The author provides women with two years of “housing, food, medical and dental expenses, therapy, education and job training—all at no cost to them.” The residents have ready-made employment creating healing oils and |

natural body-care products that are sold across the United States. No stranger to sexual abuse herself, Stevens feels deeply that a hands-on approach is necessary to help these battered women on a lifelong journey toward recuperation. “The Magdalene homes needed to be creative, practical, and joyful,” she writes. “They needed to be sanctuaries where women were absolutely safe, not just physically, but safe enough to follow their own instincts toward healing.” Stories of Stevens’ past and her determination to become a minister blend with stories of some of the women who have lived and thrived in the Magdalene program. The author spends considerable time analyzing the origins of the term “snake oil” and how, over time, it morphed from meaning something having healing properties to the more current connotation of something shifty or shady. But her program is anything but underhanded. Christian readers will connect with Stevens’ philosophies, and those interested in creating healing oils will find the included recipes helpful. A simple, comforting reflection on one woman’s crusade to make a difference in the world.

A NEW NEW TESTAMENT A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts Taussig, Hal—Ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (688 pp.) $32.00 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-547-79210-1

A culminating work of the Jesus Seminar era and of others influenced by it, this collection of manuscripts serves to complete and update the standard Christian New Testament. In addition to the established canon of New Testament books, this book includes 10 “recently discovered” works, varying greatly in form and content. The book also features extensive introductory matter written by Taussig (Union Theological Seminary; In the Beginning Was the Meal: Social Experimentation and Early Christian Identity, 2009, etc.). The work of choosing which manuscripts to include, and guidance in translation for all the texts, was accomplished by “a council of wise and nationally known spiritual leaders,” somewhat pretentiously referred to throughout the book as the New Orleans Council. While the “Council” does indeed include some well-known progressive Christian scholars—e.g., John Dominic Crossan and Barbara Brown Taylor—it also consists of several less-credentialed individuals, a charge often lobbed against the Jesus Seminar itself. It is, indeed, laudable to make any ancient manuscript more readily available for widespread study. However, what this collection attempts to do is to present these newly discovered texts as equal to established New Testament writings in virtually every way, without viewing them critically. While some texts, such as “The Acts of Paul and Thecla,” are certainly important and relevant to modern Christian study, others, such as “The Thunder: Perfect Mind” and “The Secret Revelation of John,” are simply bizarre and scream of Gnostic and mythic underpinnings. Though that

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“A grab bag well worth dipping into and a testament to the still-thriving art of book design.” from the onion book of known knowledge

DOGFIGHT The 2012 Presidential Campaign in Verse

does not make them without merit for study, it does mean they are not equal to the established New Testament, in that they may not even be considered “Christian” in origin. Not a substitute for the real thing.

THE ONION BOOK OF KNOWN KNOWLEDGE A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information The Onion Little, Brown (256 pp.) $29.99 | Oct. 23, 2012 978-0-316-13326-5

The irreverent crew from the longrunning satirical newspaper and website present a compendium of mock encyclopedia entries, lavishly illustrated. Much like any recent episode of Saturday Night Live, this faux textbook serves up a fair share of both hits and misses, although those designations will undoubtedly vary according to readers’ particular interests. Those who don’t find a graph of family relations hilarious (“Son: Male child who slowly turns into his father by not living up to his father’s expectations”) may snicker at the pithy definitions that line the margins of each page (“IMAX: Type of widescreen cinematography that makes some nothing suburb feel like it’s getting somewhere”). There is plenty of political satire, entertainment satire and incredibly detailed medical diagrams that could fool the unwary at first glance but that upon closer scrutiny contain labels like, “Podiatry: Field specializing in those afflicted with feet,” and “Iris: Thin tissue whose pigment actual careers and livelihoods have been based on.” While much of the text provides the sharp wit and oddball ramblings that The Onion has made its bread and butter, the true standout feature of the book is its artwork. This volume begs to be read in actual book format instead of on an electronic reader; miraculously, for the digital age, it manages to capture some of the thrill of skimming encyclopedias, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! collections and other beloved fact/trivia books from the mid-to-late 20th century. And when you do come across a glimmer of the heartfelt, as in the entry on how Frank Lloyd Wright lost the love of his life, it makes the browsing experience that much richer. A grab bag well worth dipping into and a testament to the still-thriving art of book design.

Trillin, Calvin Random House (176 pp.) $16.00 | Nov. 20, 2012 978-0-8129-9368-4

Longtime New Yorker staff writer Trillin (Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, 2011) puts his patented poetic spin on the 2012 presidential election. Again exercising an uncanny knack for producing poetical discourse on the political playing field, Trillin (Deciding the Next Decade: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme, 2008) offers pithy ruminations and droll observations on the Obama-Romney race. He justifies the canine-inspired title with a short opening rhyme comparing Romney’s 1983 road-tripping vacation with pet Irish setter Seamus strapped to the roof of the family car to Obama’s Indonesian boyhood when he sampled dog meat. Sprinkled in between Trillin’s play-by-play analyses of both campaigns are encapsulated poems borne from media headlines. These snarky, bite-sized morsels skewer the likes of Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell (“Until you came along one day, old witchcraft jokes had been passé”), Rick Perry (“with even more impressive hair than Kerry”), “holier than thou” Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich (“a crafty wheeler-dealer. His baggage, though, would fill an eighteen-wheeler”) and Donald Trump (“once he’s had his say…and say…and say, he, blessedly, will finally go away.”) Not all the couplets and cadences churn smoothly; a few clunkers feel overly trivial and forced, as if the author became bored with the political semantics. As a collective work of creative nonfiction, his harmlessly sarcastic poetry is skilled, and the book will serve as a good complement to Elinor Lipman’s uniformly clever election-season poem-a-day chronicle, Tweet Land of Liberty (2012). An easy, breezy, pocket-sized slice of political humor.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CLEOPATRA

Trow, M.J. Running Press (288 pp.) $13.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-7624-4801-2

Not so much a biography of the queen as a basic history of the rise of Rome. Crime writer and historian Trow (Ripper Hunter: Abberline and the Whitechapel Murders, 2012, etc.) admits that the sources for learning about Cleopatra are few; there are no letters, not even a bit of gossip. The Egyptians were fantastic record keepers, but only for the purpose of knowing their wealth and the tax rolls. The story begins with Alexander the Great clearing the Persians out of Egypt, but the narrative focuses more on his general, Ptolemy, who stole his corpse and founded Alexandria 74

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and the 300-year dynasty that ended with Cleopatra. Ptolemy’s Egyptian kingdom was rich and Alexander’s library already worldfamous while Romans were still living in mud huts on the Tiber. Cleopatra lived in a civilization where women owned property in their own right, were educated alongside their brothers and ran their own businesses. The expansion of the Roman Empire through the feats of Julius Caesar (as extolled by himself) proves to be a marked contrast to the playboy image that Trow paints of Mark Antony. The two men Cleopatra cleverly persuaded to protect her empire both forfeited their lives for her. The author writes in a conversational, rarely pedantic style, freely quoting authors such as Joann Fletcher and Stacy Schiff, and the book is a painless primer leading up to the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt Cleopatra film.

OPPORTUNITY, MONTANA Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape

Tyer, Brad Beacon (264 pp.) $25.95 | $29.95 e-book | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-8070-0329-9 978-0-8070-0330-5 e-book Journalist Tyer deftly weaves memoir and reportage in a tale of the reclamation of a river and the failed reclamation of a father’s love. The Clark Fork River in southeastern Montana, writes the author, was “the most fucked up river I’ve ever met.” The culprit was copper. The river’s watershed had plenty of it, and as Edison’s light bulb ushered in the age of electricity and hence the need for copper, millionaire owners and hardscrabble workers mined the area literally to death. A century of mining and smelting had left behind a river poisoned by tons of lead, arsenic, toxic heavy metals and other detritus of a blind “attachment to progress, and estrangement from consequence.” In the 1980s, reclamation of the river and region began and is ongoing downstream near Missoula. But the issue remains: where to put the tons of waste dredged up. The answer was upstream, at Opportunity, Mont., a town of apparently no particular consequence already surrounded by 4,000 acres of dumped mine waste. The new poison would simply go on top of the old waste, and Opportunity would unfortunately be collateral damage. Tyer explores how and why this happened, as well as the lives and disappointments of Opportunity’s residents. He also turns to thoughts of his father, a man he didn’t like and who didn’t like him, and whose death a decade earlier made reconciliation an impossibility. Waste, as with regret, never goes away. The debt owed Opportunity, and the debt owed a father who perhaps gave his son more than the son realized, maybe cannot be paid: “Better perhaps to just bury the debt….You can’t save everything.” In lesser hands, such a story could be maudlin or gimmicky, but Tyer’s evocative prose of quiet melancholy and gentle humor avoids such pitfalls.

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INSTANT MOM

Vardalos, Nia HarperOne (256 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-06-223183-3 A humorous celebrity parenting story. Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc.) had a successful career writing and acting in films, a loving husband, a closeknit family and good friends, but she was missing one thing many women find impossible to live without: a child. Years of fertility treatments left her exhausted and distressed—until she decided to investigate the “fost-adopt” system: the option to adopt a child in the U.S. foster-care program. Within hours of a match, the inexperienced author found herself the mother of a nontalking toddler. “Of course there isn’t a baby shower,” she writes. “It’s not just that there isn’t time for one, it’s because I hate them. I have left one too many stuffy houses on a Sunday afternoon with a throatful of egg salad and an empty aching uterus to inflict this same abuse on others.” Suddenly, Vardalos’ life was turned upside down as she learned to navigate the laugh-out-loud and painfulin-the-shins moments of raising a scared 3-year-old child. The author holds nothing back as she chronicles the years leading up to the adoption, and she recounts the minute details of the first year of life as a mother, as her daughter began to learn how to love and trust her new surroundings. Vardalos provides solid information on the foster-care system and includes an appendix of questions and answers on all types of adoption. Parents will relate but may find the situation too similar to their own childrearing adventures to consider the author’s experiences unique. A heartwarming tale of adoption and unconditional love.

SHOCKED My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me

Volk, Patricia Knopf (304 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 4, 2013 978-0-307-96210-2

The spirited account of how an encounter with a memoir by couturier Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973) transformed a young girl’s view of what it meant to be

a woman. Novelist Volk (To My Dearest Friends, 2007, etc.) adored her movie-star gorgeous mother Audrey. However, even as a child, she could never quite countenance the “blind adherence to the mystifying virtue of ‘seemly’ [female] behavior” that Audrey demanded of her. She unexpectedly found another, more subversive model for feminine behavior in Schiaparelli, whose autobiography, Shocking Life (1954), Volk read at age 10. Like the author, “Schiap” was a much-loved child. But she was also one her parents “thought of as ‘difficult,’ " who could never buy into the idea that

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“Walker’s ‘recipe[s] for difficult times’ provide a heartfelt response to a new generation’s yearning for public service.” from the cushion in the road

there was “a right way and a wrong way” to do things. Schiap was no great beauty, something Volk also understood. Yet she still managed to create an enduring legacy as an avant-garde fashion designer with a genuinely artistic flair. Schiaparelli’s remarkable story provided Volk the “shock” she needed to grow away from Audrey’s certitudes—about everything from clothes to men to life itself—and into her own, unique sensibilities. If Schiap could be successful designing dresses that mimicked skeletal forms or hats that looked like shoes, then anything was possible for creative women who couldn’t fit the pre-existing gender mold that Audrey both touted and exemplified. Generously illustrated with images from the two worlds Volk depicts—that of her family and of Schiaparelli—the narrative that emerges from Volk’s deft interweaving of lives is as sharp-eyed as it is wickedly funny. Her attention to detail, especially in her evocations of 1950s New York, is nothing short of delicious. Witty, tender and vividly nostalgic. (8 pages of full-color photos and 118 photos in text)

THE CUSHION IN THE ROAD Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm’s Way

Walker, Alice New Press (384 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-59558-872-2 978-1-59558-886-9 e-book

In a new collection, Walker (The Chicken Chronicles, 2012, etc.) once again shows herself to be a deep and compassionate participant in global humanitarian efforts. Beginning with a meditation on the promise wrought by the first inauguration of Barack Obama, the author’s essays, poems and letters are infused with a quiet grace and gentle resolve to act responsibly. Although now in her 60s and looking forward to a time to “withdraw from the worldly fray,” Walker was prodded off her meditation “cushion” in Mexico by world events and sent flying to far-flung places in the world that required her keen, writerly eyewitness. For example, one essay was inspired by finding herself in Cape Town, South Africa, as a juror at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. She also headed to Gaza with CODEPINK and the Freedom Flotilla II, and she composed another essay about her “overcoming speechlessness” after the horrors witnessed in Rwanda and Eastern Congo. Brave, resilient and upbeat, Walker offers unbending meditations on injustice wherever she has met it. The “womanist” author explains why she supported Obama over “Mrs. Clinton” (“if he wins the presidency we will have not one but three black women in the White House…none of them carrying the washing in and out of the back door”) and offers reflections on her early teacher Howard Zinn and her early work for the freedom movement in Mississippi. Walker’s “recipe[s] for difficult times” provide a heartfelt response to a new generation’s yearning for public service.

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BOY 30529 A Memoir

Weinberg, Felix Verso (192 pp.) $22.95 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-1-78168-078-0 An unusually good-natured memoir about life in the Nazi camps and the travails of being a postwar refugee. Weinberg, now a British physicist, had not planned to write a memoir, until a spate of well-publicized fake Holocaust survivor memoirs came out a few years ago. He does no specific debunking here but instead writes from the point of view of a privileged young man, barely a teenager, whose natural mode is playfulness, not meditation, and who has a quick, curious mind. Born into a Jewish family that also celebrated Christmas—the good timing of his brother’s birth, he writes, “brought me a three-year extension of Christmases” before the Nazis came into his native Czechoslovakia. On the Nazis, Weinberg waxes sardonic: He writes, for example, that Heinrich Himmler began the program of medical experimentation in the camps after failing to breed chickens successfully enough to make a living as a poultry farmer. “The most inventive of satirists could not have invented that one,” he writes. “It would be hilarious were it not for the millions of lives lost.” Weinberg does allow that the Nazis had one good idea, namely throwing him out of school and putting an end to “the only conventional school education I ever had.” Sent to Terezin and then Buchenwald, Weinberg endured long enough to see, most satisfyingly, the liberation of the camps by black American soldiers—and just in time, since the prisoners were bent on hanging their SS guards, who departed so quickly that “they left their uniforms and weapons in the barracks for us to play with.” Minor, perhaps, but a revelation all the same, told with both candor and odd innocence.

HOLDING SILVAN A Brief Life

Wesolowska, Monica Hawthorne Books (200 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-9860007-1-3 A mother explores, morally and emotionally, her decision to forgo medical help and allow her newborn son to die. Within hours of giving birth to a son, Silvan, Wesolowska learned that he was not the healthy baby they had hoped for. Silvan was plagued with physical problems requiring intervention: a blood clot followed by a seizure. After falling into a coma, he was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, a condition in which the brain doesn’t receive sufficient oxygen. Silvan was kept alive over the following weeks with |


“Interconnected autobiographical essays from a poet whose life in New York City has bestowed both blessings and heartbreak.” from an enlarged heart

a feeding tube. Though this heart-wrenching book revisits scenes from the author’s Catholic childhood, during which she was consumed with fear of losing her mother, and includes present-day musings on raising the sons she subsequently had, the majority of the narrative unfolds over the month of Silvan’s life. Wesolowska describes the grave difficulty of the choice she and her husband faced and, weighing Silvan’s “extremely grim” prognosis, why they decided to remove his feeding tube. They were required to meet with the hospital’s ethics committee, and their choice to let their son die was met with reactions ranging from outrage to compassion. They took Silvan home, where his system gradually shut down. “Love outlasts grief,” Wesolowska concludes. “Though we can’t say for certain we made the right choice for Silvan, our love for him has survived.” Written in the present tense, the book is an achingly beautiful and honest chronicle, sure to incite mixed reactions. This isn’t a memoir aimed to comfort, but rather to reveal one family’s experience, and Wesolowska presents her story with grace. Sad, controversial and illuminating.

SMOKY JOE WOOD The Biography of a Baseball Legend

Wood, Gerald C. Univ. of Nebraska (432 pp.) $34.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-8032-4499-3

In baseball’s long history, only two men have started a World Series as a pitcher and as a position player: Babe Ruth and, easily, among the best players not in the Hall of Fame, Smoky Joe Wood (1889–1995), the subject of this biography. For eight years with the dead ball era Red Sox, Wood played with the future Hall of Fame outfield of Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper, with the old Cy Young and the young Babe Ruth. He played against and was considered every bit the equal of Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Christy Mathewson. His spectacular 1912 regular season (34-5, 1.91 ERA, 258 strikeouts) featured a classic duel with strikeout artist Walter Johnson, who once said of him, “there’s no man alive that throws harder than Smoky Joe Wood.” After injuring his arm, Wood followed up his remarkable pitching exploits with six more years as a Cleveland Indian outfielder, where he rated among the game’s best hitters. The author never quite gets to the heart of the man—Wood’s jack-of-all trades, peripatetic father emerges as the most interesting personality—but Wood’s minor league beginnings (including a stint, believe it or not, with the Kansas City Bloomer Girls), his bifurcated major league career and his 20 seasons coaching baseball at Yale all receive exhaustive attention. Wood (English Emeritus/Carson-Newman Coll.; co-author: The Voice of an American Playwright: Interviews With Horton Foote, 2012, etc.) skips lightly over any negatives—his subject’s role in the Catholic/Protestant divide among those 1908-1915 Sox teams, his part in a betting scandal featuring |

Speaker and Cobb—and he hurries through the retirement years. However, most readers will come for the baseball and the stories of this almost-mythic figure from the game’s earliest days, the only man other than Cole Porter for whom Yale’s president left the college grounds to award an honorary degree. A serviceable biography for hard-core fans of early baseball. (41 photographs)

AN ENLARGED HEART A Personal History Zarin, Cynthia Knopf (240 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 12, 2013 978-1-4000-4271-5

Interconnected autobiographical essays from a poet whose life in New York City has bestowed both blessings and heartbreak. In gauzy yet substantial prose, Zarin (The Ada Poems, 2010, etc.) takes readers on a journey through a lifetime’s worth of homes, relationships and landscapes, displaying wry humor and an endearing sense of uneasiness with the tropes of memoir. Far from an exhibitionist’s tell-all, this collection instead grants us entry into the world of a private person, a woman who acknowledges that she is “entirely unsuited to selflessness” and who doles out tantalizingly cryptic bits of personal information. Zarin often depicts herself as a dreamer gazing out of windows, pretending that the spire of a metropolitan church resembles one in Prague or conflating the characters in films and books based on shared imagery. Indeed, one of the great pleasures of the book is the recurring nature of its images: Yellow stockings, blue bowls of strawberries, diaphanous curtains, familiar restaurants and drinking straws flit through these essays like the dragonflies that the author describes cyclically swarming at her favorite beach. None of this should suggest frivolity, however, for Zarin also excels at tackling difficult subjects with grace; “September” simply begins, “The Thursday before I received a telephone call from the children’s school.” The date that remains absent from that sentence permeates the rest of the essay. She treats the Holocaust, childhood fears and her youngest daughter’s illness with similarly powerful restraint, which makes her reaction to the latter especially potent: “I think, If this child dies, I will go mad. I think of a woman who wishes me ill, and I think, If something happens to this child, I will kill her.” Pulses with a life force that illustrates why this poet “had also begun to love the shape that prose made in [her] head.”

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“A bright light within a dark, deeply distressing time in history.” from père marie -benoît and jewish rescue

PÈRE MARIE-BENOÎT AND JEWISH RESCUE How a French Priest Together with Jewish Friends Saved Thousands During the Holocaust Zuccotti, Susan Indiana Univ. (280 pp.) $35.00 | $29.99 e-book | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-253-00853-4 978-0-253-00866-4 e-book

Zuccotti (Holocaust Odysseys: The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vesubie and Their Flight through France and Italy, 2007, etc.) pursues the undercover work by a French priest in aiding the Jews in Marseille and then Rome elude capture and death by the Nazis during World War II. While Père Marie-Benoît’s (1895–1990) activities have been widely celebrated since the war, the extent of his network was not well-documented, and his benevolent motivation toward the Jews was not explained. Born in western France, an isolated, Catholic agricultural area twice overrun by radical republicans in French history, leaving the inhabitants tending toward monarchist views, he early on empathized with the state of being a “persecuted minority within a hostile state” and was attracted to the simple lifestyle of the Franciscan friars. After he served with distinction during World War I, his scholarly, reflective life was again interrupted by strife. Between May 1940 and June 1943, he lived and worked in the monastery of the Capuchins in Marseille, building a secret network, with associates Joseph Bass and Angelo Donati, to shelter the foreign Jews taking refuge in France. Transferred to Rome, perhaps because his work was growing too dangerous and visible, Marie-Benoît helped Jews secure documents and funds to elude roundup and deportation, earning the epithet “father of the Jews” by his protégés, as he called them. Also known as Padre Benedetto, he helped save the lives of at least 2,500 people, acting out of a true loathing for anti-Semitism. “Above all,” writes Zuccotti, “his wartime experience reveals much about the phenomenon of Jewish rescue during the Holocaust.” A bright light within a dark, deeply distressing time in history.

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children’s & teen LEFT BEHIND

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Adderson, Caroline Illus. by Clanton, Ben Kids Can (132 pp.) $15.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-579-8 Series: Jasper John Dooley, 2

LEFT BEHIND by Caroline Adderson; illus. by Ben Clanton..............79 HOW TO BICYCLE TO THE MOON TO PLANT SUNFLOWERS by Mordicai Gerstein........................................................................... 88 WHEN WE WAKE by Karen Healey................................................... 90 THE GIRL OF THE WISH GARDEN by Uma Krishnaswami; illus. by Nasrin Khosravi......................................................................97 P.K. PINKERTON & THE PETRIFIED MAN by Caroline Lawrence...........................................................................97 QUINTANA OF CHARYN by Melina Marchetta..............................102 HIDING OUT AT THE PANCAKE PALACE by Nan Marino............102 MY NEIGHBOR IS A DOG by Isabel Minhós Martins; illus. by Madalena Matoso.................................................................102 HOW TO BE A CAT by Nikki McClure............................................. 103 NOT A CHANCE by Michelle Mulder...............................................106 IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch.................................................106 PICTURE A TREE by Barbara Reid....................................................108 I AM BLOP! by Hervé Tullet............................................................... 115

After Jasper John Dooley’s beloved Nan goes on vacation without him, he goes pththth. It feels just like when the air leaked out of his beach ball. At school the next day, he writes a story about a snake that gets stepped on a lot. The story is so long that it needs staples, but he accidentally staples it to his stomach. That eventually somehow necessitates a full 28 Band-Aids, since it just keeps feeling like the air is escaping from his sad body, possibly through the staple holes. Jasper and best friend Ori, who is given to prefacing his statements with, “The thing is...” (a phrase that neatly captures his amiable take on the world), try to build a cruise ship out of leftover lumber, not altogether a success. Ori gets a bit bossy. A final trial comes when Jasper gets to bring home the class hamster for the weekend but accidentally loses it in his house. As in Jasper’s first outing (Star of the Week, 2012), nothing truly compelling happens, but the concerns of this early grade schooler are so aptly, charmingly and amusingly depicted that it’s impossible not to be both captivated and compelled. Clanton’s simple black-and-white illustrations feature skinny bodies, oversized heads—and lots of smiles. Early chapter book or read-aloud, this effort will leave its audience with lots of smiles, too. (Fiction. 5-8)

THE LAST TRAIN A Holocaust Story

CENTER OF EVERYTHING by Linda Urban....................................116 OCD, THE DUDE, AND ME by Lauren Roedy Vaughn.....................116

Arato, Rona Owlkids Books (144 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 15, 2013 978-1-926973-62-3

BLACK HELICOPTERS by Blythe Woolston...................................... 118

Arato fictionalizes the painful, true story of brothers Paul and Oscar Auslander, 5 and 10 respectively, along with their mother, Lenke—Hungarian Jews who survived Nazi concentration camps during the final years of World War II. The story follows the family as they are forced to move repeatedly, ending up at the horrifying Bergen-Belsen camp. They are transported in cattle cars packed with terrified fellow |

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“Can Maya continue her romance with Rafe when he becomes jealous of her deep friendship with Daniel? How will Maya’s newfound twin brother Ash fit in? Armstrong delivers…” from the rising

Jews. The clarity of specific recalled events crystallizes their reality. Tiny Paul, momentarily separated from his family, is shoved onto a different train than Oscar and his mother; miraculously, they find one another again. The book has three distinct parts: the inhumane camps, the dramatic rescue and the powerful reunion in 2009 of Paul and his American liberators. Most revealing are the photographs and author’s notes, conveying both historical details and the personal conflict of remembering—Paul is the author’s husband. Less successful is the delivery of the narrative itself; an emotionally flat writing style and awkward shifts in perspective from young Paul to an omniscient narrator serve to distance readers. The maladroit placement of a sheaf of images, the first of which reveals the happy family reunited in 1947, in the middle of the titular journey is especially unfortunate. Nevertheless, this is a good introduction to a difficult topic—give it to readers for whom a “true” survivor’s story will carry more weight than a wholly fictional account. (introduction, photographs, author’s notes) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

THE RISING

Armstrong, Kelley Harper/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-179708-8 978-0-06-220298-7 e-book Series: Darkness Rising, 3 This final book in the Darkness Rising trilogy resolves the issues introduced in the first two and continues to expand the large cast of characters. Sixteen-year-old Maya can turn into a mountain lion, although not at will. Stress and anger cause the change, which can come at inconvenient times, and the more time she spends as a cat, the harder it is to control her anger. Nearly every time seems inconvenient while Maya and her friend Daniel and boyfriend Rafe, both also endowed with paranormal gifts, are on the run from a wealthy cabal that wants to capture them. In an earlier installment, the cabal faked the teens’ deaths in a helicopter crash, severing them from their families and the small Canadian town that had sheltered them for years. Maya wants her former happy life and family back. The plot thickens when Maya learns that her own biological father runs the cabal and that other, rival cabals have entered the picture. Can Maya continue her romance with Rafe when he becomes jealous of her deep friendship with Daniel? How will Maya’s newfound twin brother Ash fit in? Armstrong delivers, although only those who have read the previous books will understand everything that’s going on. Maya’s confusion over her romance and friendship resolves with some maturity, breaking with conventions in a nicely effective way. A satisfying conclusion for those following the series. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

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LEGACY OF THE CLOCKWORK KEY

Bailey, Kristin Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4424-4026-5 A young woman is drawn into a secret society of inventors in this derivative debut. Meg Whitlock, a merchant’s daughter, is forced to take a job as a housemaid when her parents are killed in a fire. The only thing she has left of them is a disguised clockwork key. Through a series of tediously convenient coincidences, she discovers that her family were all members of the Secret Order of Modern Amusmentists , an organization that created clockwork creatures for their own pleasure. The key is the only object that will allow Meg to finish the job her parents started: destroying a time machine built by Lord Rathford, an Amusmentist gone rogue. With the help of handsome stable boy Will and sympathetic Amusmentists Oliver and Lucinda, Meg uses the key to activate a series of automatons that each hold clues to the location of the time machine. Rathford’s other opponents have all turned up dead, but even the suspense of Meg’s potential demise is not enough to overcome lines like “If I had died in that moment, I wouldn’t have noticed, because heaven couldn’t have been any more wonderful than the feeling in my heart.” True aficionados of steampunk will find this simplistic tale far too tame for their tastes, but readers new to the subgenre may exit the pages with a basic understanding of the convention’s quasi-Victorian world in spite of the limp linear plot, clichéd prose and stock characterizations. Mediocre. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

GROVER AND BIG BIRD’S PASSOVER CELEBRATION

Balsley, Tilda; Fischer, Ellen Illus. by Leigh, Tom Kar-Ben (24 pp.) $16.95 | $6.95 paper | $12.95 e-book Feb. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-8491-5 978-0-7613-8492-2 paper 978-1-4677-0995-8 e-book The well-known Sesame Street characters visit Israel and impart information about the Passover holiday and story while on their way to a seder at the home of friends Avigail and Brosh. After a flat tire on the bus, Grover and Big Bird decide to walk, only to get lost. On the way, they help a boy catch his runaway dog, carry groceries for an elderly woman, and convince the grouchy Moishe Oofnik to finally give them a ride to the seder with the promise of eating bitter herbs. “My favorite! Hop in.” Forced segues within this light-as-a-feather plot lead to snippets of information about the holiday and the celebratory kirkus.com

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dinner’s traditions, such as the Four Questions, the afikomen ritual and the theme of freedom. For example, worried about being late, Big Bird frets, “Yes, but now we’d really better hurry.” Grover replies, “Did you know…that the Jewish people were in a hurry when they followed Moses out of Egypt?” Familiar Muppet figures fill the commercial-looking illustrations. Bold primary colors depict Grover and Big Bird’s journey; thoughtbubble sequences of the ancient Exodus are populated by bewildered-looking generic Muppet faces. Once the seder is complete, an enlightened Big Bird expresses his appreciation and wish to celebrate next year in Jerusalem. Utterly artless but familiar; good for families whose children are nuts for Muppets. (Picture book. 3-5)

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LOVE WINS For Teens

Bell, Rob Harper/HarperCollins (160 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-06-222187-2 Christian inspiration for dudes and dudettes. Hey, it’s not complicated: God has invited you to a party! Distilling messages from his similarly titled book for adults (2011), Bell offers general attitudes for living a Christian life, rather than a specific set of rules, in a combination of prose, Q-and-A’s and occasional free verse. He repeatedly rejects the validity of any “system of sin management” imposed by “spiritual bullies” or organized religions that limit free questioning or envision God as anything but loving. He also acknowledges the lure of risky behavior (with an anecdote featuring his butt cheeks and a BB gun) and the natural confusion that arises from seeing evil in

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the world—but promises that the party has already started right here and that God’s love (which encompasses everyone, including atheists and non-Christians) is an open invitation to join the festivities. Using the parable of the Prodigal Son, he argues that it’s all a matter of what kind of personal stories we tell ourselves and also that “[h]ell is being at the party but refusing to join it.” Easily digestible, a little glib, but reassuring: “God is there, / standing there in the driveway, / arms open, / ready to invite you in.” (Q&A with author; recommended reading) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

WHAT’S IN THE GARDEN?

Berkes, Marianne Illus. by Arbo, Cris Dawn Publications (32 pp.) $16.95 | $8.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-58469-189-1 978-1-58469-190-7 paper Berkes’ latest is a departure from many children’s gardening books, combining rhyming verses with recipes celebrating the garden’s bounty. Rectos present readers with a rhyming challenge to name what is growing, providing textual clues as well as gorgeously detailed and realistic illustrations, which often feature the flowers, insect pollinators and at least the beginnings of the fruit or vegetable. “It grows on a vine with skin that is green. / It’s sliced in a salad; it’s long and it’s lean. / But sometimes it’s shorter with soft little prickles / And placed in a jar for real tasty pickles.” (Deathless poetry this is not.) Versos show close-ups of a child enjoying or preparing a dish featuring that fruit/vegetable, the recipe at the bottom of the page—sweet-and-sour cucumber salad in this case. From the popular ants on a log to the more daring French onion soup, breakfast-y carrot muffins to a dessert of blueberry pie, young chefs are likely to get a wide introduction to both the products of the garden and the culinary arts. The recipes include thumbnail pictures next to the ingredients, and the steps are well-written. Two recipes specify that children should ask for adult help, and closing notes reinforce this, but there is no prominent, introductory note to underscore cooking safety. While the children are sometimes oddly proportioned, they do represent a nice mix of races and cultural backgrounds. A celebration of growing and eating that is just in time for spring planting. (facts about the featured foods, how seeds start, what plants need, plant parts, glossary of cooking terms, list of garden songs, books and websites) (Informational picture book/recipe book. 3-8)

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DEAR LIFE, YOU SUCK

Blagden, Scott Harcourt (320 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-547-90431-3

Dear story, you rock. Seventeen-year-old Cricket Cherpin (yes, his real name) has lived in a Catholic orphanage in Maine since he was 8 and his little brother died. He has a deep facial scar, the legacy of a prostitute mother and a drug-dealing father, and he hides an even deeper, internal scar through constant fighting and irreverence for authority (he’s not afraid to tell it like it is), religion (he hates Jesus), language (f-bombs land) and sex (he thinks about it a lot). Although Cricket is deemed a bully, his punches keep younger boys and school nerds safe. In this debut, his first-person narration, loaded with biting sarcasm and never-ending nicknames for his oppressors, reveals the push and pull of his soul. Cricket loves old movies, feels comfortable with his feminine side and relishes telling stories to the younger orphans, yet emotions surrounding a potential romance, guilt over his brother’s death and an uncertain future make him ready to jump off the local cliffs. While a slow build of hints to Cricket’s past helps explain his current state, a sudden chain of events forces him to confront his violence, relationships and the direction of his life. Only fellow classic-movie and -television buffs will understand all of the teen’s references, but all readers will appreciate Cricket’s complex, lovable character and the strong adults who nourish it. (Fiction. 14 & up)

12 DAYS OF NEW YORK

Bolden, Tonya Illus. by Ford, Gilbert Abrams (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4197-0542-7

A class trip to the Big Apple is played out as a variation of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” The teacher and five children cover the must-see sights of New York City, but they find its exciting quirkiness even more fascinating. Each day and sight has its own double-page spread with the rhythmic text prominently placed. A few word bubbles allow additional comments. Only the Statue of Liberty is actually named in the song, while all the other sights are indicated by something noticed there. They see “Two Folks in Love” in a buggy in Central Park and “Eight Babes a-Bawling” in Grand Central Station, along with the nine other places that add up to 12 days of sightseeing. (One can only begin to imagine at the budget that allows this lengthy a stay.) Ford’s illustrations, rendered in a variety of media including India ink, gouache, dyes and Photoshop, depict the city in bright, glowing tones that are cartoonlike but manage to capture the essence of the people kirkus.com

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“The funny, melodramatic prose is cleverly extended by Bloch’s cartoonlike illustrations that emphasize the emotions of the little boy who is desperately trying not to yawn.” from i dare you not to yawnt

and places. Unfortunately, they also include some disturbing elements underneath the lightheartedness. One child uses a slingshot at the Statue of Liberty, another young visitor gets into the dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, and ethnic and class stereotypes abound at several of the places visited. Skip this tour. (Picture book. 5-8)

I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN

Boudreau, Hélène Illus. by Bloch, Serge Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 12, 2012 978-0-7636-5070-4

Those sneaky, sneaky yawns—just one and it’s lights out for you. In this clever, appealing offering, Boudreau describes what happens when a yawn hits: “your arms stretch up, your eyes squish tight, your mouth opens wide, your tongue curls back, and—mmm…rrr…yarwwrrrrr—a yawn pops out.” Moms never fail to spot them, and soon enough, it’s time for pajamas, goodnight books, lullabies, and tucking into bed with hugs and kisses. If one doesn’t wish to fall prey to these consequences, then the following rules should be observed: Don’t, for any reason, look at anyone else who is yawning, and avoid, at all costs, stuffed animals, pajamas, cozy blankies, books about sleepy baby animals, songs about sheep-counting and images of sleepy baby orangutans. The funny, melodramatic prose is cleverly extended by Bloch’s cartoonlike illustrations that emphasize the emotions of the little boy who is desperately trying not to yawn. He looks absolutely distraught when put to bed, hilariously focused and determined as he runs away from snuggly, yawn-inducing items, and finally, happily asleep on the final page. The boy’s cat appears in many of the illustrations, mimicking his behaviors and emotions to great comic effect. Just the ticket for nap-time or bedtime sharing. (Picture book. 4-8)

WHAT GOES UP

Bowles, Paula Illus. by Bowles, Paula Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $12.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-58925-119-9

perching in a tree...until the law of gravity intervenes. The same unhappy result occurs when he tries to wrap himself in dandelion fluff in order to behave like a cloud. Martin is at his lowest point ever, but the children come up with an idea: “You just have to believe.” Inexplicably (if sensibly) modeling exercise rather than sheer faith, they run and flap their arms, sometimes holding colorful leaves, and Martin follows. Day after day they practice, and Martin’s wings become stronger and stronger. (He rides a tricycle to go faster.) His wings become big and beautiful, and one day, he goes up but doesn’t come down. He can fly with a little help from his friends. Bowles’ visual message is strong, but it’s too bad she relies on bromides in her prose. (Picture book. 4-7)

UNREMEMBERED

Brody, Jessica Farrar, Straus and Giroux (320 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-374-37991-9 What should a 16-year-old girl with no memories trust: her own instincts or the cryptic words of a boy who insists she knows him? Our heroine washes ashore when the book opens, apparently the sole survivor of a plane crash. Dubbed Violet by a nurse after her (yes, violet) eye color, she becomes a national news story and is quietly sent to a foster family in northern California when no one steps forward to identify her. The only person she meets who claims to know her is a boy who appears mysteriously when she’s alone and warns her that she’s in danger. Short, dramatic, presenttense sentences move the action forward, and the book’s central questions (who is Violet? who is following her? when will she start believing the boy who is clearly the romantic lead?) provide plenty of suspense. Although the mysterious boy is more of an archetype than a character in his own right, Violet’s 13-year-old foster brother Cody is pleasingly funny, suspicious and competent. There are intriguing sci-fi elements at play, but analytical readers will notice holes in the workings of genetics and the logistics of time travel. Fast-paced and sure to satisfy romance-oriented readers, if not skeptics. (Science fiction. 12-18)

DEEP BETRAYAL

Brown, Anne Greenwood Delacorte (352 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-385-74203-0 978-0-375-98909-4 e-book 978-0-375-99037-3 PLB

It takes a village of curious children to cheer up a sad dragon. Three children find Martin, a big green dragon with drooping yellow wings, at the bottom of a hill one day. He longs to fly, but he explains that his wings are too small. Just then, a bumblebee buzzes by. Martin figures that stripes must be the key to flying, so he paints himself some sloppy stripes and leaps into the air. Luckily, the children are there to help him when he takes a fall. Martin notices the floating leaves and tries |

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“Entrancingly eccentric prose, a protagonist ‘jam-packed with awkward’ and a military sister missing in action coalesce into a memorable romance…” from fat angie

Hancock and Calder White return to Lake Superior, where Lily first discovered Calder was a merman and that his adoptive sisters were bent on the destruction of the Hancock family. With one of the sisters dead, Lily and Calder tell Lily’s father he is the true sibling of the merpeople and gradually introduce him to life underwater—just as bodies start washing up on the lakeshore. Lily knows that mercreatures hunt, but her father knows what being human is and doesn’t need to feed on human emotions, does he? Switching the narration from fishy Calder to a love-struck, half-fish teen girl doesn’t enliven the emotional dullness that marked the first work. Brown does attempt to link back to the Native American legends halfheartedly explored earlier, with little success. There’s very little by way of plot, despite piles of bodies and many red herrings. Lily and Calder’s romance continues to be defined by his controlling and obsessive behavior, while Lily experiments with her mutant abilities to fit into Calder’s watery world. This is the same bait as the last novel, but it’s been left in the sun even longer. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

FAT ANGIE

Charlton-Trujillo, e.E. Candlewick (272 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-6119-9 Entrancingly eccentric prose, a protagonist “jam-packed with awkward” and a military sister missing in action coalesce into a memorable romance that’s rockier than might be expected— and more realistic. Fat Angie’s sister, “the fulcrum of their family machine,” was captured nine months ago and shown “on Iraqi television, tied to a chair, blindfolded and bruised.” Family, national news and everyone in Dryfalls, Ohio, presume she’s dead—except Fat Angie. After a very public meltdown, Fat Angie faces bullying at school and “all kinds of weird sadness” at home, including maternal comments like “No one is ever going to love you if you stay fat.” Into this anguish materializes KC Romance, a slangtalking new girl in combat boots and skull-and-crossbones fishnets. She defends Fat Angie; she likes Fat Angie; she calls her, simply, Angie. Angie falls “heart-forward into KC’s dark eyes,” and the girls are “gay-girl gay” together (their affectionate term). But Angie’s tongue-tied, and KC has secret pain; a “sad awkward” keeps cropping up. Like their relationship, and like Angie’s lionhearted attempt to emulate her missing sister’s backbone on the basketball court, Charlton-Trujillo’s prose has a peppery flavor, pointedly carbonated (“You break it. You know? My heart”) and wryly funny. Unfortunately, fatness is a misery symbol—it’s post–weight-loss, “not-so-plump Angie” who finds happiness. Creative prose and sharp interactions, marred only by some stereotyping; a fresh read nevertheless. (Fiction. 12-16)

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BREEZIER, CHEESIER, NEWEST, AND BLUEST What Are Comparatives and Superlatives?

Cleary, Brian P. Illus. by Gable, Brian Millbrook/Lerner (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-5362-1 978-1-4677-1053-4 e-book Series: Words Are CATegorical

Cleary and Gable, those relatively cool cats, continue their Words are CATegorical series with this entry about comparatives and superlatives. Taking comparatives and superlatives in turn, Cleary walks readers through the basic rule of adding -er/-est, then branches out to state that sometimes “more” or “most” is added at the front instead, and there are some words that have no set rules (good, bad, far). “Try taking a / describing word, / like bright. / Now add e-r. / You’ve made it a comparative / to name the brighter star.” Gable’s illustrations are the true stars here, his feline characters brimming with personality. The “brighter” spread features a sunglasses-clad, red-carpet star preening for a camera. The facing page shows the spotlights and cameras trained on a flashier diva, the original looking on in consternation. Bright backgrounds provide contrast for the cats’ hues, while the comparatives and superlatives are printed in color, contrasting with the black text. While Cleary nails his rhythms and rhymes for the most part, the sheer implausibility and craziness of some of his choices (the “longest curl” on a cat?) may give readers pause and interrupt the flow. Too, readers will want to savor the zaniness introduced by Gable’s pictures: “quietest” and “queasiest” sit side by side on a ride, the one a mime with a finger to his lips, the other a shocking shade of green. Perhaps not the best, but better than many grammar books—definitely one to check out. (grammar rules) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

GENIE WISHES

Dahl, Elisabeth Amulet/Abrams (288 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4197-0526-7 A fifth-grade girl, who under the moniker Genie Wishes becomes the official class blogger, must negotiate the world of preadolescence as she grows away from her BFF. Ten-year-old Genie Haddock Kunkle has been best friends with Sarah White since “what felt like forever.” But over the summer, Sarah went to camp with a girl named Blair Annabelle Lea, and now she’s in their class. Blair, 11, is more advanced than Genie: She’s interested in boys, shaves her legs, has a cellphone and wears makeup. Usually this type of situation is presented kirkus.com

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as a painful betrayal, but author Dahl’s take is more nuanced, and Genie is no one’s rejected suitor. Although Genie initially feels bad, she has her own set of values, which Dahl (too) clearly thinks are superior, and she is willing to move on and find more compatible friends. Dahl knows what it’s like to be 10, and telling details, such as the fact that Genie and Sarah’s future plans include living together within walking distance of their jobs as dolphin trainers, are spot on. She also nails the many decisions, both moral and practical, of preteenhood. Should Genie buy a bra? Plug a line of makeup Blair is selling on her blog? Girls should identify and mothers should approve of this gentle tale of growing up. (Fiction. 8-12)

THE CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FOREST

de Lint, Charles Illus. by Vess, Charles Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-316-05357-0

take him there. Hugo is able to delay her without confessing his fear of flight, suggesting a tour, a snack and other activities. It is only when he realizes that his fear may limit not just his dreams, but also his friendships that he swallows his pride and asks for help. The front endpapers depicting Hugo’s solo amusements are neatly complemented by the back endpapers, which feature Hugo and Lulu together. The book charms from the start, but Dominguez excels with her slow revelation of Hugo’s qualms. When readers first meet Hugo, his on-the-ground life appears to be one of choice, not one forced by fear, so this neatly introduces children to the truth that people find ways to hide their fears out of shame. The tissue-and-ink artwork presents surprising textures and rich colors, certain to make a Parisian out of any willing reader. A story that could have been pinned to the ground by didacticism instead soars. (Picture book. 4-8)

PANIC

Rather than let Lillian Kindred die of a snakebite, the titular cats turn her into a kitten, and thereby hangs this sweetly magical tale. Tanglewood Forest is inhabited by cats and cat spirits, talking animals and the Apple Tree Man. Kitten Lillian meets Jack Crow, Old Mother Possum and the fox T.H. Reynolds (whose initials stand for “Truthful and Handsome”) in her quest to regain her girl form—but that precipitates yet another snakebite and a different twist to an already twisty story. The tale is infused with Native American and European folk motifs as it meanders along. While it sometimes seems to be held together by little more than verbal gossamer, it is clearly written on a level even a young middle grader can easily follow. Vess’ many and varied illustrations will be in color in the final version (only black-and-white sketches and some full drawings were seen). While Lillian grows in both grace and stubbornness, she also learns to listen and even to see the fairies she longs for. A satisfyingly folkloric, old-fashioned–feeling fable. (Fantasy. 8-12)

LET’S GO, HUGO!

Dominguez, Angela Illus. by Dominguez, Angela Dial (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 7, 2013 978-0-8037-3864-5

Draper, Sharon M. Atheneum (272 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4424-0896-8 A troupe of high school dance students is rocked when one of their number disappears. The Crystal Pointe Dance Academy is a refuge for the group of students who take classes and participate in dance recitals. Each of them—Diamond, Layla, Mercedes and Justin, the only boy in the group—has a different reason to dance, but they all want to earn a role in the upcoming production of Peter Pan. When Diamond disappears during a routine trip to the mall, the close-knit group is thrown into emotional turmoil that mounts as the days go by. As it turns out, Diamond has been lured by a sexual predator dangling the promise of a movie audition and finds herself in a dire situation. While the four main characters alternate narration, this is really a two-sided story: Diamond’s story of abduction and exploitation, and the everyday concerns her friends face back home. The other dancers face tough situations, from relationship conflicts to a parent returning home after a long incarceration. Diamond’s story, though, with elements of suspense and sexual horror, is the more interesting of the two, and readers will find themselves impatient to get back to her ordeal, which is depicted frankly but with sensitivity. Threading through it all is the importance of the arts as a vehicle to get through tough times. By turns pulse-pounding and inspiring. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Tone and artwork mix beautifully in this endearing tale about overcoming a debilitating fear. Sporting a jaunty scarf, a little yellow bird named Hugo lives on the grounds of a park in Paris. One day, Lulu, a fellow bird, notices him building a sculpture of the Eiffel Tower and offers to |

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MILA 2.0

will win the day (and the hearts of Joop-like readers everywhere) in this addition to Dunrea’s diminutive gosling series. A winning tale of opposites attracting in spite of the odds. (Picture book. 4-8)

Driza, Debra Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (480 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-06-209036-2 A fast-paced sci-fi adventure complete with artificial intelligence, military intrigue, secret societies and a hint of romance. Mila is shocked to learn—by falling out of a truck and discovering wires and high-tech gadgetry where blood and bones should be—that she is not a teenage girl, but a military weapon. Her mother is actually one of the scientists who created her; she then spirited her away when it was decided that Mila should be scrapped in favor of a newer model, as her too-genuine emotions proved an unacceptable vulnerability. When Mila and her mom are caught, Mila must face a series of tests to save her mother and herself from elimination. To survive, she’ll have to figure out how to make the most of her military hardware and training as well as her human emotions. While it definitely raises interesting questions about identity and memory, this offering depends much more on the fastpaced plot to keep readers engaged. It eschews for the most part the deep philosophical musings on what it means to be human that elevate otherwise similar titles such as Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox (2009), for example, beyond thrills. With likable characters and nonstop action, this one will please readers who prefer adventure to ethical exploration. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

JASPER & JOOP

Dunrea, Olivier Illus. by Dunrea, Olivier Houghton Mifflin (32 pp.) $9.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-547-86762-5 Series: Gossie & Friends

Meet a Felix and Oscar of the feathered variety in this pitchperfect tale of friends as different as different can be. Roommates (or, rather, coopmates) Jasper and Joop could not be more unalike. Where Jasper is meticulous and tidy, Joop is carefree and messy. Where Jasper murmurs a disapproving “Muddy mud” or “Dusty straw,” Joop will honk a thrilled “MUDDY mud!” or “DUSTY straw!” But when Joop goes sticking his beak into a beehive, it’s Jasper who has the presence of mind to suggest that they run. Fortunately, even as they escape, Joop is able to show his best friend that sometimes getting dirty and wet can be a lot of fun. Few will be able to resist Jasper in his striped hat and matching tie, though scruffy-feathered Joop is the one kids will identify with the most readily. In Joop, the sheer joy of existence flows readily from the page. His is a life of exploiting pleasure in the here and now. Opposites may attract, but it’s clear that Joop’s carefree embrace of all things mucky 86

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TAKE ME TO YOUR BBQ

Duval, Kathy Illus. by McCauley, Adam Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4231-2255-5

Many people boast that their barbecue is out of this world, but Willy’s fine-smelling and lip-smacking meal attracts visitors from outer space. McCauley chooses a sweltering palette of yellow, brown and peach to cast the hardworking farmer on a hot Texas day. Observant readers will spot the flying saucer approaching as twilight falls. Soon, the inky black of space descends with the spaceship: “Some colored lights from outer space / Are lightin’ up the whole dang place!” Here, pastel shots of color serve to spotlight the alarmed animals on the farm, while a sinuous, pale yellow, wavy band of smoke wafts through the scene. The amazing aroma has drawn the “small green men” out to sample the fare and dance a “DO-SI-DO…a-fore [they] go.” They claim, “We don’t want your leader, Willy, / Just your BARBECUE and chili.” Duval chooses just the right amount of Texas twang to spice up the lively rhyming text. But soon, the aliens have taken over like unwanted party guests. They have had fun, wreaked some havoc and left the farm damaged. So Willy and his pet cat and dog board the UFO. A gatefold opens to show a map of their travels in space. The other side reveals the destination—a planet where various ET’s are enjoying a meal and some music at Willy’s new restaurant. The knee-slapping humor, retro feel of the illustrations and the included recipe for Willy’s special sauce serve up some spicy preschool fun. (Picture book. 3-6)

LIGHTNING DREAMER

Engle, Margarita Harcourt (192 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-547-80743-0

An inspiring fictionalized verse biography of one of Cuba’s most influential writers. Newbery Honor–winning Engle (The Surrender Tree, 2008) here imagines the youth of Cuban-born Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-73), a major 19th-century writer who was an abolitionist and feminist opposed to all forms of slavery, including arranged marriage. From Sab, her subject’s 1841 abolitionist novel, Engle loosely deduces her artistic development, not only including the two arranged marriages she refused in real kirkus.com

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“Daisy is affable enough to be an appealing protagonist as she navigates some of the minor perils of grade school.” from daisy ’s defining day

life, but the budding writer’s struggles at home. There, “Tula” was subjected to the discriminatory views of her mother and grandfather, who sought to educate her only in the domestic arts since, according to Mamá, “Everyone knows that girls / who read and write too much / are unattractive.” Denied the education her brother received, Tula laments, “I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.” Engle’s clear, declarative verse animates the impassioned voice of Tula as well as other major figures in her life—her sympathetic brother, Manuel, the orphans she comes to love and entertain with grand plays meshing themes of autonomy and racial equality, and her family’s housekeeper, Caridad, a former slave who is eventually inspired by Tula’s wild tales of true emancipation to leave her confining situation. Fiery and engaging, a powerful portrait of the liberating power of art. (historical note, translated excerpts from Avellaneda’s work, bibliography) (Historical fiction/verse. 12 & up)

DAISY’S DEFINING DAY

Feder, Sandra V. Illus. by Mitchell, Susan Kids Can (96 pp.) $14.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-780-8 Series: Daisy, 2

What’s a girl to do when her young next-door neighbor, Grant, who has just discovered the joy of rhyming, starts calling her “Lazy Daisy” every time he sees her, even at school? For Daisy, who absolutely adores words, the perfect solution to her problem with pesky Grant is to create a new and much better name for herself—something to replace “Lazy Daisy.” Daisy has been learning about alliteration in school, so her new name ought to feature a word that starts with the letter D, and if one word is wonderful, then a whole series of words must be even better. After a lot of experimentation, which of course exposes readers new to chapter books to a little challenging vocabulary, Daisy finally settles on Dynamite Dramatic Determined Dazzling Daisy. Unfortunately, that name is too long for many people to remember, and it proves especially discouraging for her best friend. Eventually, Daisy finds a better way to make peace with Grant. As in Daisy’s first outing, not much happens, but the pages look inviting, with minimal, generously leaded print and ample, charming black-and-white illustrations. Daisy is affable enough to be an appealing protagonist as she navigates some of the minor perils of grade school. Transitioning readers, particularly girls, will enjoy seeing Daisy navigate the familiar shoals of elementary school in this better-than-average early chapter book. (Fiction. 5-8)

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COWBOY UP! Ride the Navajo Rodeo

Flood, Nancy Bo Photos by Sonnenmair, Jan Wordsong/Boyds Mills (48 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-59078-893-6

Narrative poems, expository writings and the voice of a lively announcer combine to introduce a sport largely unknown outside of the West: the rodeo. To many, a rodeo can seem frightening and even cruel. Flood, however, shares the excitement, athleticism and tradition of it all. From the morning, as the arena is set up at sunrise, until night falls and the dust settles, readers are taken on a journey through every rodeo event. The youngest compete in the “woolly rider” category: They sit atop a sheep and hold on for as long as they can. There is also roping, barrel racing, bucking broncos and, of course, riding the big Brahma bull. There is no denying the power of these animals—“hooves scraping dirt, / blocks of muscle / waiting to explode / out the chute”—nor of the riders: “I lean, lean, lean, / get positioned just right, / then split-second leap / on top his shoulders, / hold on to his horns, / crank his neck around / to twist him / down.” Sonnenmair’s quick-snapped action shots show simultaneous struggle and determination on every competitor’s face. Though Flood asserts the importance of the rodeo in Navajo culture, aside from the competitors’ faces (which are worth the price of admission), there is little here to differentiate this rodeo from others. Whether or not readers are swayed by Flood’s enthusiasm for the sport, there is one universal lesson in the rodeo: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying. Cowboy up! (afterword, resources) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

I SEE THE PROMISED LAND

Flowers, Arthur Illus. by Chitrakar, Manu Groundwood (156 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-55498-328-5

A new edition of a 2010 graphic telling of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. via Patua scroll paintings. In this rather disjointed patchwork of pictures and prose—the art by Bengali artist Chitrakar, and the text by poet Flowers—the main points of King’s life are depicted in the traditional Indian art. Flowers doesn’t shy away from any aspects of King’s life, describing his accomplishments and foibles straightforwardly (“Boy got a weakness for the flesh”). Chitrakar’s characters are often portrayed with onecolor apparel (that often look like Nehru jackets) against monochromatic backdrops, negating any feel for the 1960s Southern setting. The accompanying text varies in size and typeface, wandering almost drunkenly over pages in a free-form style that makes for a complicated path. Consistent with Flowers’ |

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“Full-page watercolor paintings on textured paper create a charming little world inhabited by very personable creatures. The pig’s outsized face only makes his smile more endearing.” from ribbit!

blues-based approach, the actual prose doesn’t adhere to grammatical conventions, easily mixing in contemporary slang like “oldschool” and “mack.” King’s actual words march across black double-page spreads in alarmingly huge white font (at times used for the author’s words as well). These components all combine for an effect that is distracting and disjointed. With many choices of works about King, there are certainly better selections to be made. In the end, it feels more like experimental performance art than biography. (editorial notes) (Graphic biography. 15 & up)

RIBBIT!

Folgueira, Rodrigo Illus. by Bernatene, Poly Knopf (32 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 26, 2012 978-0-307-98146-2 A cheerful pink pig is out to make new friends but causes confusion in the frog pond. One morning, the frogs discover a smiling and very bigfaced pig perched high on a rock practicing his ribbits. The frogs are not exactly unwelcoming, but they do not know how to handle this conundrum. Pigs don’t ribbit; frogs ribbit. Finally, after confusion and raised voices, they and their neighbors go off to consult the wise beetle. The beetle returns to the pond only to find an empty rock. What has happened to the ribbiting pig? He is located high in the branches of a tree, happily tweeting, where he is joined by all the animals in a rousing chorus. Full-page watercolor paintings on textured paper create a charming little world inhabited by very personable creatures. The pig’s outsized face only makes his smile more endearing. The font size grows larger as the ribbits grow louder. Young listeners will enjoy this tale by an Argentinian duo and noisily join in the fun. A warm and gentle story about finding new friends and reaching out to others who may croak and warble to the beat of a slightly different drummer but who sing in the same friendly key. (Picture book. 2-6)

AWESOME DAWSON

Gall, Chris Illus. by Gall, Chris Little, Brown (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-316-21330-1

An inventive reuser builds a cleaning robot that threatens to eat his town. Awesome Dawson repurposes everything. From his earliest childhood, he has made new things from old, including, most importantly, his best friend, Mooey. Together, boy and talking cow-head (Dawson likes to switch Mooey’s bodies around) save the town from 88

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the young inventor’s overachieving vacuum cleaner; on the final pages, they’re poised to save humanity from space invaders. The inspiration for this adventure is revealed in mostly sepia-toned endpapers showing a sea of household junk and a broken sign that reads MacGyver St. But the real appeal comes from Gall’s intriguing illustrations. These digitally colored prints made from engravings on an ink-covered clay board are crowded with things—robots, toys, Mooey’s ever-changing body, even furniture and airplanes—made out of discarded materials. Everything is carefully labeled. Old surfboards, plastic bottles, lobster claws and even cat food find new uses. Though his workshop is jumbled, tools (also carefully labeled) hang neatly on a pegboard. The text appears in boxes and speech bubbles, as in a graphic novel or comic strip. Even more than his monster cleaner, Dawson’s final constructions—a new car for his parents, yet another body for Mooey and an alien-chasing airplane—will remind readers of the author’s Dinotrux (2009). Aimed squarely at small boys, this is action, adventure and imagination with a positive message. (Picture book. 4-7)

HOW TO BICYCLE TO THE MOON TO PLANT SUNFLOWERS A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps Gerstein, Mordicai Illus. by Gerstein, Mordicai Roaring Brook (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-59643-512-4

Sensing that the moon needs cheering up, a young inventor provides instructions for an expedition to plant sunflowers there. Gerstein, who profiled The Man Who Walked Between the Towers in 2003, had begun by imagining an even greater challenge, which he describes here. Addressing readers directly, his busy narrator offers a “simple but brilliant” 24-step plan for space travel using 2,000 used truck inner tubes for a slingshot; 238,900 miles of garden hose for a tightrope to the moon; and a suit borrowed from NASA. Special clamps will help the bicycle stay on the hose, which serves double duty; it’s also a conduit for water for the plants. Step by step and sub-step, the boy explains the process. His instructions are straightforward but cheerfully outlandish. They include details with special appeal for listeners (the “really cool sound” of the launch). The pacing is perfect, and illustrations add to the humor. (Pay careful attention to the moon’s changing expressions.) Pen-and-ink and oil-painted panels expand to show the journey. Captions, which had been securely attached to the edges of the frames while the boy was earthbound, float around on full-bleed double-page spreads until they sink back to the bottoms of the concluding panels. The whole is a grand flight of fancy perfect for a new generation of dreamers and planners. (Picture book. 5-9)

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RILEY MACK STIRS UP MORE TROUBLE

Grabenstein, Chris Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-06-202622-4 978-0-06-220297-0 e-book Series: Riley Mack, 2

This latest installment in the continuing comic adventures of 12-year-old fix-it artist Riley Mack (Riley Mack and the Other Known Trouble Makers, 2012) finds Riley trying to expose environmental polluters. Megaclever Riley rights wrongs and thwarts evildoers. That’s good, since his town contains an assortment of evildoers, such as Mr. Paxton, the pompous head of the local country club and owner of Xylodyne Dynamics, a company that supplies pancake mix to American forces overseas. Riley’s helped in his endeavors by a trio of confederates. An actress and singer, Briana provides convincing voices that fool bad guys. Nerd extraordinaire Jamal supplies information, and Hubert, alias Mongo, adds the muscle. First, Riley needs to deal with Paxton’s daughter, who is trying to keep Briana out of a talent contest. Then the gang learns that their favorite swimming hole has been polluted by chemical runoff from Paxton’s golf course. Finally it’s revealed that the pancake mix in Afghanistan has been deliberately tainted. The authorities accuse Riley’s soldier dad, but Riley learns that the evidence lies buried in the golf course. Can Riley devise a plot to help Brianna win the talent contest, reveal the truth about the runoff and get his dad off the hook? Grabenstein keeps the comedy flowing and the pages turning. His characters are just goofy enough to entertain but not completely strain credulity—except, of course, for the overthe-top villain. A lighthearted caper. (Fiction. 8-12)

SPELLCASTER

Gray, Claudia HarperTeen (400 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-06-196120-5 978-0-06-220130-0 e-book Three wounded but valiant protagonists confront a monstrous evil with human roots in this promising series opener. Nadia’s mother’s abrupt departure left her family bereft and her training in the Craft unfinished. In Captive’s Sound, the New England village where Nadia moves with her dad and little brother to make a fresh start, evil has had 400 years to grow. Too late to avert the car crash that coincides with their arrival in town, Nadia’s rescued by Mateo, the mysterious local boy whose prophetic dreams foretold the crash. His dreams arise from the ancient family curse that prompted his |

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mother’s suicide. Breaking a central rule of the Craft, Nadia confides in Verlaine, the odd social outcast who caught her working magic; a tentative friendship develops. With Mateo’s family history well-known, his only friends were Elizabeth, a beautiful, longtime ally, and Gage, a new boy in town. Now a supernatural bond strengthens Nadia and Mateo’s mutual attraction. Determined to lift the curse, Nadia’s horrified by what she discovers—her antagonist could easily defeat a fully trained witch. Rooted in unswerving devotion, this evil was chosen. Yet knowing it didn’t have to be this way only makes it scarier. Gray switches the third-person narrative viewpoint among four compelling characters, keeping readers glued to the page. This riveting tale will keep readers up late and clamoring for the next installment. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

MAYBE I WILL

Gray, Laurie Luminis (212 pp.) $26.95 | $14.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 15, 2013 978-1-935462-71-2 978-1-935462-70-5 paper 978-1-935462-72-9 e-book Before the sexual assault, Sandy was an upbeat, Shakespeare-loving teen with two close friends and ambitions of pursuing theater at Juilliard. After, nothing makes sense. Sandy’s friend Cassie, whose boyfriend Aaron perpetrated the assault, believes Aaron’s story over Sandy’s, and Sandy’s other friend, Troy, sides with Cassie. Sandy’s attempts to cope with the depression and anxiety brought on by the incident range from positive (joining new friend Shanika’s taekwondo class) to destructive (stealing vodka from a local store to support a very quickly developed psychological dependency). Reactions to Sandy’s situation also run a believable gamut: Cassie and Troy’s rejection, Shanika’s disclosure of information about another assault on Aaron’s part, a police officer’s essential accusation that Sandy is lying, Sandy’s parents’ display of support and concern. Sandy is written so as to be readable as either male or female, and while this device is somewhat effective, it also robs the story of some valuable specificity. Might not Cassie react differently to hearing that her boyfriend has assaulted a female friend versus a male friend? Wouldn’t a male Sandy question or consider his sexual orientation after the incident differently than a female one? Despite some gaps in Sandy’s internal experience, however, the book’s portrayal is largely successful, and the note it hits at the end is hopeful without being unrealistic. A careful treatment of a difficult topic. (Fiction. 14-18)

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MY SUMMER OF PINK & GREEN

Greenwald, Lisa Amulet/Abrams (272 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-4197-0413-0

In this sequel to My Life in Pink & Green (2009), 13-year-old Lucy returns, industrious, resourceful and determined to succeed. Instrumental in devising a plan to preserve her family’s business with the creation of an eco-spa, Lucy is proud of her accomplishments. With development of the spa underway at their family pharmacy, Lucy is eager to immerse herself in the preparations. However, Lucy’s schemes for summer quickly go awry. Greenwald explores the myriad challenges in Lucy’s life with a discerning understanding of pre-adolescence, addressing universal themes that will resonate with readers. One of the many quandaries Lucy faces is her conflicting emotions surrounding her evolving relationship with buddy Yamir. Also, although Lucy proposed the eco-spa concept, the adults in her family have taken over the operation of the project. Despite these obstacles, Lucy diligently persists in her endeavors—surreptitiously attending a meeting designed to help owners of small businesses and continuing to seek out opportunities for the spa. Ultimately, when the opening-day plans are in jeopardy, it is Lucy’s clever ingenuity that resolves the dilemma. Through Lucy’s perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit, Greenwald reminds readers that dreams are worth pursuing. (Fiction. 10-14)

AESOP IN CALIFORNIA

Hansen, Doug--Adapt. Illus. by Hansen, Doug Heyday (48 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 15, 2013 978-1-59714-235-9

North to south, east to west, across mountain, valley, ocean and desert, California’s flora and fauna illustrate adapted Aesopian fables. Hansen brilliantly transposes the ancient tales to contemporary and historical settings artistically rendered in bright, finely detailed transparent watercolors. The Hollywood sign and a prospector running from a grizzly bear slide easily into the tales of old with wit and humor. In keeping with the fable tradition, they close with a moral. In “The Fox and the Grapes”––how very Californian—the fox decides that “[i]t’s easy to find fault with what you cannot have.” A full-page illustration faces text, one fable per opening. Hansen’s introduction gives a biography of Aesop, and the “Fabulous Facts” section provides greater details about flora, fauna and settings, along with suggestions to young readers for specific things to look for in each picture. The tales themselves read aloud easily, wry 90

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textual details complementing the illustrations’ humor. It is an imaginative and creative reworking in text and art—a gift not only for Californians, but for others far beyond its borders. From this golden gift, Heydey may perhaps consider releasing the art in poster sets. This affectionate, glowing collection will be hard to resist. (Fables. 4-8)

WHEN WE WAKE

Healey, Karen Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-316-20076-9

In a fast-moving and carefully built science-fiction story, Tegan Oglietti attends a climate change rally in 2027 and wakes up in a hospital just over 100 years later. Soon after waking, Tegan learns that a sniper shot her at the rally, and her body was frozen using an experimental technique. Tegan is the first person to be awoken from a frozen state and is, as she discovers when she tries to flee the hospital, the subject of much journalistic curiosity. Although her government handlers try to keep her out of the public eye, she is allowed to live with one of her doctors as well as to attend school. There, she meets a cast of well-drawn characters, including Bethari, a savvy aspiring journalist; Joph, a chemistry genius who creates legal drugs; and Abdi, a singer from Djibouti in Australia on a rare visa. As Tegan’s handlers become increasingly sinister, the teens begin investigating the project that brought Tegan back. The worldbuilding is thorough and expressed easily without ever lapsing into tiresome exposition. Tegan’s friends are a fully realized multiracial and substantially LGBT cast, and even Tegan’s whiteness is reflected upon thoughtfully. The ending is complete enough to provide some closure, but readers may hope to learn more about this world and its characters in a second volume. Accessible, thoughtful and compelling—science fiction done right. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

DOGGONE FEET!

Helakoski, Leslie Illus. by Helakoski, Leslie Boyds Mills (40 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-59078-933-9 A smiling, spotted dog relates to her owners only through their legs and feet in this visually appealing but rather confusing story about a dog’s place in the world. The unnamed dog narrates the rhyming text, beginning with the dog’s adoption as a stray when she is found in a park. The dog’s new owner is a kind, youngish man (judging by the footwear), called Legs by the dog. Soon, there is a feminine pair kirkus.com

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of feet in the house, called Toes, followed over time by children called Socks, Boots and Slippers. The dog attributes the people’s personalities and behavior to their legs and feet, as she apparently never makes eye contact or interacts with them face to face. The story tries hard to be funny but ultimately becomes confusing as the dog refers to the five people by their names. (“I wash up Legs’ hands with Toes in my hair.”) Bold illustrations on golden yellow backgrounds offer an amusing main character with expressive eyes. Additional zest is added with varied perspectives and lots of motion with all the feet dangling down from chairs or dancing around with the dog underfoot. Alas, that perky pup can’t quite save the limping story, doggone it. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE WEB

Hilton, Nette Illus. by Millard, Kerry Kane/Miller (80 pp.) $5.99 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-61067-087-6 A well-intentioned but preachy chapter book about a girl, her failing greatgrandmother and a spider. Jenny loves to visit her great-grandmother, who is 89 and who likes to have Jenny call her “Violet-Anne,” as her beloved and long-departed husband Edward did. Jenny enjoys listening to Violet-Anne’s reminiscences, exploring her button box and playing with Edward’s toy soldiers. Violet-Anne likes to name her household wildlife: There’s Misty the opossum and Saffron the lizard, and soon Jenny discovers Sam, the seven-legged spider. Violet-Anne loves to see Sam’s webs, which remind her of her wedding veil and her diamonds. Jenny’s mother, however, comes regularly to clean Violet-Anne’s home and to convince her to move into a nursing home. Although Jenny does not love spiders, she loves how her great-grandmother responds to them with memories, and she not only tries to save Sam from her mother’s bug spray, but carries the spider to the nursing home when Violet-Anne is moved there. Violet-Anne dies after only a few days, separated from her memories, but Jenny manages, with hairspray and determination, to preserve the last web that Sam spun for Violet-Anne, complete with a tiny flower in its center. The full-page and spot illustrations are squiggly and vibrant and have more energy than the sentimental and slightly simplistic story. (Fiction. 6-10)

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WOOLLY JUMPERS

Hilton, Nette Illus. by Quay, Emma Kane/Miller (150 pp.) $4.99 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-61067-050-0 Twins Mikey and Jake and their baby sister, Sally, move to the country from the city, with interesting results, in this middle-grade tale touched lightly with fantasy. Mikey narrates, except for the chapters in which the sheep, the lizards and Emma the rescue dog tell part of the story. Mikey is not at all sure this country business is worth it: no email, no corner store, no dishwasher. “When you don’t want to be someplace, it takes a lot of time to be there.” He talks a lot about missing his cool friend, Justin, and what he might tell him about this strange new life. When a snake turns up, it is Mikey who gets to choose Emma, an Old English sheepdog rescued from a puppy mill, to keep it away. She does, too, and although she is hopeless at the neighbor’s sheep, she does rescue Sally from a muddy drowning. The boys’ plan to get the sheep to mow their lawn is told both from their point of view and that of the sheep, and it is pretty hilarious, especially when both sheep get locked in the car sitting on the horn (don’t ask). Mikey’s efforts at winkling out what his parents mean, exactly, are very much on target, and seeing how adult actions look to the boys is amusing and sometimes wise. Readers who might be miffed at the anti-city, anti-computer bias will be much mollified by hearing the animals’ conversations, which make it all worthwhile. (Fiction. 8-11)

NOISY BUG SING-A-LONG

Himmelman, John Illus. by Himmelman, John Dawn Publications (32 pp.) $16.95 | $8.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-58469-191-4 978-1-58469-192-1 paper

The illustrations are a feast for bug lovers’ eyes, but the text could be so much more. The opening page tells readers that bugs sing day and night, loudly and softly, and that they should sing along. Turn the page, and the bugs get up close and personal, the detail wowing readers, though they are a simplified version of lifelike. Each doublepage spread is devoted to one insect and its sound, a sentence telling the name of the creature and what it does, followed by the sound the bug makes—in a huge display type that spreads across and fills the pages. “Field Crickets sing from beneath leaves. CHIRP CHIRP CHIRP.” Mole crickets call “dirt-dirtdirt,” while a tiger moth emits a high-pitched “SQUEAKA.” Not all the sounds are particularly identifiable, however: The bumblebee and cicada have the same sound—zzzzzz—and saying that tree crickets “ring like a telephone” is not helpful for modern children used to an infinite variety of ring tones. The |

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“Hughes’ pitch-perfect text captures the minimelodrama of loss, remorse, regret and blissful reunion sparked by Lily’s actions.” from bobbo goes to school

most serious flaw of the text, however, is its failure to provide a why or how for the bugs’ sounds. While this is provided in the backmatter, along with information about and visualizations of sound waves, many children may not sit through all this text presented in one chunk. Bug devotees may pick this up for a glance, but it is not likely to be a repeat favorite. (activities exploring sounds, link to audio file of bug sounds (not heard)) (Informational picture book. 3-6)

KATIE AND THE PUPPY NEXT DOOR

Himmelman, John Illus. by Himmelman, John Henry Holt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-0-8050-9484-8

enormous blue whale shows up to carry him safely to shore and to Paul. Based on Peter’s incomplete descriptions of Paul, the whale takes him to funny and noisy parrots, black-and-white penguins, and a toucan with a colorful beak that dwarfs Peter’s, in turn—but not to Paul. What to do? Peter becomes very sad, but the whale lets him ride again, and they drift on the open sea for days. Finally, in the distance, they see...a black-and-white figure...with a colorful beak...very noisy...it’s Paul! Both friends are overjoyed, and the wise whale points out what’s been obvious to the reader: “He’s...just like you!” Horácek’s story is a bit of a jumble, but his beautiful mixed-media illustrations have vibrant, bold colors and simple shapes that will appeal to young listeners and also provide a few basic lessons on ocean life. A sweet tale of friendship and persistence. (Picture book. 3-5)

BOBBO GOES TO SCHOOL

A jaunty hound learns to share and play nicely with her next-door-neighbor dog in this sequel to Katie Loves the Kittens (2008). This time, Katie has to learn to get along with Ruby, a boisterous dachshund new to the neighborhood. When Ruby comes over for visits, her pushy personality is in full display, as she steals Katie’s toys and food and the attention of the three kittens Katie considers her special friends. Gradually, Katie and Ruby work through their issues and become friends, concluding with a charming, wordless final page that portrays the two dogs and three kittens curled up together on Katie’s dog bed. The text is rather wordy and too often tells rather than shows what is developing between the two dogs, but the animated illustrations in watercolor and pencil elevate the text with depictions of the spirited encounters between the two dogs and the kittens. Readers see Katie shake with frustration and sigh with resignation, with the letters s-i-g-h cleverly spelled out on the carpet in front of her. Katie’s emotions are amusingly on display as she learns to grin and bear it, with touching results as Ruby becomes her friend. Katie and Ruby and their kitty friends enjoy themselves; young readers will enjoy them too. (Picture book. 3-6)

PUFFIN PETER

Horácek, Petr Illus. by Horácek, Petr Candlewick (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7636-6572-2

Hughes, Shirley Illus. by Hughes, Shirley Candlewick (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-07636-6524-1

The plot is a familiar one: A young child and her favorite stuffed friend are separated and then joyously reunited. Hughes makes her story fresh by endowing her inanimate hero with just a pinch of emotion and awareness while still retaining a realistic tone. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Lily, the round-cheeked, tousle-haired little girl who appeared previously in Don’t Want to Go (2010), is immediately recognizable as a typical preschooler—and utterly adorable. Bored and just a bit fractious, Lily noodles around, disrupting her mom’s chores and even practicing a bit of passive resistance by going limp when it’s time to leave the house. Once outside, it’s Lily’s casual toss of her stuffed dog Bobbo that lands him on top of a school bus and off on an adventure. While the events are nothing terribly out of the ordinary, Hughes’ pitch-perfect text captures the minimelodrama of loss, remorse, regret and blissful reunion sparked by Lily’s actions. Bobbo, meanwhile, enjoys the feeling of flying like a bird and the experience of being fussed over by a classroom full of kids once he’s found. As always, Hughes’ facility with facial expressions makes her characters especially appealing, with Bobbo in particular benefiting from wide-open eyes and a sweet smile. Another satisfying domestic drama from veteran author Hughes, this will please old fans and make new ones. (Picture book. 3-6)

When a storm separates two best friends, the other sea creatures step in to try and facilitate a reunion. Puffin pals Peter and Paul look identical, from multicolored beaks to brilliant blue tail feathers. One day, when they’re diving, a storm comes up, blowing Peter out to sea and separating him from Paul. Just when Peter is wondering where he is, an 92

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NURSE CLEMENTINE

James, Simon Illus. by James, Simon Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Feb. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-6382-7

Clementine receives a first-aid kit (complete with otoscope, tongue depressor and reflex hammer!) as a birthday present and assumes a new identity:

Nurse Clementine. Minor injuries and ailments (her dad’s stubbed toe and her mom’s headache) require thorough examinations and generous application of bandages. Pen, ink and watercolor illustrations appear on roomy white pages that flatter James’ gestural black lines and palette of muted terra cottas, sandy yellows, and subdued blues and greens. Multiple scenes surface on double-page spreads, floating cheerily in a placid white ocean. Eyes move easily between these islands of image and the well-placed (and -spaced) text, making this read fast and loose—a lot like the nimble artwork. Clementine’s quick exchanges with little brother Tommy, shown scattered across the page, work particularly well as visual banter. Tommy has no use for Nurse Clementine, but he quickly calls for his big sister when he gets stuck in a tree. Brothers and sisters will appreciate authentic family friction (Tommy’s “Leave me alone!”) and the kindness exchanged after Clementine’s rescue mission and Tommy’s scrape (“You can bandage it if you like”). Pleasant pictures for pretend-play fanatics; a sweet story for siblings. (Picture book. 3-5)

SNEAKY ART Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight

Jocelyn, Marthe Candlewick (64 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-7636-5648-5

First there were guerrilla knitters, now sneaky artists. Folks who want to create fun, temporary works of art for public places will have plenty of inspiration here. Novelist and picture-book writer Jocelyn turns her talents to crafty things. Using everyday objects, preferably things pilfered from a recycling bin, people can unleash their inner artists to make whimsical creations out of buttons, twist ties, old magazines and cards, paper plates and other common items. Introduced with the proviso that these objets d’art be “easy to install and effortless to remove,” each project is designed for fun. With photos showing faces made of cut-out noses, eyes and mouths from magazines, amusing speech bubbles, adorable paper creations in matchboxes, tiny paper clotheslines, and Swedish fish hanging off of coffee cups, among others, this is an April Fooler’s dream come true. Wouldn’t it be fun to sneak a little cork |

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boat into a public fountain and watch the reactions? Or leave a penny on colorful paper and see if someone picks it up? Teachers could adapt some of the ideas for the classroom, like making encouraging locker tags or leaving funny speech bubbles inside favorite books. Scout leaders will find new ideas here as well. Good fun, even for those who do not consider themselves artists. (Nonfiction. 8 & up)

SHAKING THE FOUNDATION Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

Johnson, Sylvia A. Twenty-First Century/Lerner (88 pp.) $24.95 e-book | $33.27 PLB | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-4677-1055-8 e-book 978-0-7613-5486-4 PLB A concise, informative overview of how Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution shook the foundations of religious beliefs and long-held scientific views. Making excellent use of primary sources throughout, Johnson devotes the first half of her book to discussing the intellectual, philosophical and societal changes brought by the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution that would make people receptive to Darwin’s ideas. She notes the development of Georges Cuvier’s catastrophist view of Earth history, Lamarck’s theory of transmutation, Lyell’s Principles of Geology and Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population as influences on Darwin’s thinking and research. The second half chronicles how Darwin formulated his theories from the voluminous notes recorded during the voyage aboard the HMS Beagle and how the publications of On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man ignited fierce ongoing controversy. Johnson discusses the role of Thomas Henry Huxley as Darwin’s principal defender and William Paley’s alternative theory of natural theology, a precursor to intelligent design. Biographical information is included throughout in the text and sidebars, but the focus is on the development and influence of Darwin’s theories and their regrettable misappropriations to social Darwinism and eugenics. A finely crafted introduction to Darwin’s theories and the controversies they spawned. (photographs, maps, glossary, source notes, bibliography, suggestions for further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

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DEATH, DOOM AND DETENTION

Jones, Darynda St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $9.99 paper | Mar. 15, 2013 978-0-312-62521-4 Demons, prophets, possession, hot Angels of Death! Sixteen-year-old Lorelei’s parents were killed by a vicious demon, an act she witnessed at age 6. After the demon took care of her parents, he jumped straight into Lorelei’s body, and she’s been possessed by him ever since. Now she’s living with her grandparents in Riley’s Switch, N.M., and discovers that she’s a prophet, descended from a long line of tough, powerful women who help safeguard the world from the forces of evil. In her first novel for teens, Jones struggles to strike a balance between the everyday lives and conversations of her teen characters and the supernatural plot trajectory she sends them on. Dialogue takes precedence over plot just as saving the world takes a back seat to school, crushes, pizza, studying and other blasé activities in the lives of Lorelei and her friends. Things do pick up when Jared, the dark, misty-eyed Angel of Death whose job is to protect Lorelei, disappears. But the action dissipates soon afterward. Additionally, Jones makes some awkward jumps in setting that make it hard to tell where the action is taking place. Things get especially confusing when all the characters (Lorelei, her BFF Brooklyn, a half-human/half-angel boy named Cameron and their tech-nerd friend Glitch) all show up together in places teens normally wouldn’t be, such as asleep on the floor of Lorelei’s bedroom in the middle of the night. What results is a contrived, confusingly fluffy stopand-start supernatural romance that’s best left on the shelf. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

FLOWERS IN THE SKY

Joseph, Lynn Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-06-029794-7 978-0-06-223642-5 e-book A coming-of-age story chronicles the challenges of moving to a new land. Nina Perez loves her life in Samana, Dominican Republic, but her mother wants her to move to Nueva York, the land of opportunity, so 15-year-old Nina immigrates to Manhattan to live with her older brother, Darrio. Adjusting to life in the United States is hard, and through her idealized descriptions of life in Samana, readers feel Nina’s distress at trading her lush, tropical homeland for the concrete jungle. Though Nina is glad to reunite with Darrio, she soon begins to question his lifestyle. Deftly painting her feelings of helplessness, Joseph ensures readers sympathize with the confusion and fear that hold Nina 94

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in paralysis. The story also offers romance in the form of handsome Luis Santana. Despite her feeling something’s not quite right, Nina falls for Luis, though her reasons for doing so aren’t entirely clear, as readers aren’t privy to the majority of their conversations until late in the book. Luis’ often demanding tone toward Nina is distressing, not to mention a worrisome example. Though imperfect, this story is a tale that needs to be told, its quiet, unflinching portrayal of a girl struggling to grow up in less-than-perfect circumstances an important one. (Fiction. 12-17)

NOW I’M BIG!

Katz, Karen Illus. by Katz, Karen McElderry (32 pp.) $14.99 | Mar. 19, 2013 978-1-4169-3547-6 There’s a lot to like in this book about all things “big kid.” The first-person voice seamlessly shifts from one spread to another, attributing itself to characters of different races and genders. A pattern emerges through page design that shows a baby on the verso with text starting “When I was a baby…” and an older child on the recto with text reading “NOW I’M BIG” and expounding on how he or she can now do things that were impossible during babyhood. Katz’s signature, colorful, stylized characters rendered in watercolor and gouache romp through the pages, culminating with a little girl reveling in her new status as big sister to the new baby in her family. Earlier, one scene showing a baby in a playpen (who grows up to run around the park with friends) might seem a bit dated given rising concerns about the safety of such baby gear, but the real safety no-no comes at book’s end when the aforementioned big sister jumps on her bed while holding the tiny new baby by the arms. It’s a joyful scene, to be sure, but the sight of a teddy bear falling off the bed as the sisters spring up and down bespeaks a doubtlessly unintended sense of peril in this otherwise gentle book. Faux pas aside, it’s a sweet celebration of leaving baby days behind. (Picture book. 2-5)

A NARROW ESCAPE

Kerrin, Jessica Scott Illus. by Armstrong, Shelagh Kids Can (136 pp.) $15.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-642-9 Series: The Lobster Chronicles, 2 Norris is a boy kids love to hate— with good reason. The second of a planned trilogy that explores the same event from the viewpoints of three children in a Nova Scotian village, each in a separate book. This one focuses on Norris, a clever bully who spends his time thinking of kirkus.com

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“Unvarnished storytelling, a solid back story and a strong cast of characters ground the tale.” froms garden princess

ways to dodge around others’ wishes to satisfy his own instead. He’s the son of the town’s largest employer, an arrogant man who’s raising the boy in his own image. Chosen to care for his teacher’s plants while she’s on maternity leave, Norris has accidentally destroyed her prized cactus. He hides the evidence, then schemes to pass the blame. He enlists the reluctant aid of Graeme, a smart boy strongly focused on marine biology, with the implication that Graeme’s father, a lobsterman who has caught a giant lobster, will end up with enough money by auctioning it to Norris’s father that Graeme will be able to visit Big Fish, a major aquarium. During the auction, Norris realizes how his father’s actions are souring the community; he rethinks his own course, but it’s far from clear that he’s reformed—no doubt a believable result. Told from Norris’ unpleasant point of view, it’s all but impossible to warm to his character, even though it’s fairly clear that he walks in his father’s shadow. A tough but realistic view of the inner workings of a rather nasty boy. (Fiction. 8-11)

WASTELAND

Kim, Susan; Klavan, Laurence Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-06-211851-6 978-0-06-211853-0 e-book This trilogy opener imagines a postapocalyptic, adult-free world in which the life expectancy is 19, due to desertification and disease. Irresponsible, flighty Esther doesn’t fit in with the rest of Prin, her town of adult-acting teenagers. She skips out on assigned duties to play games with her best friend, a member of the hermaphroditic “variant” tribe that suddenly attacks Prin. Inexplicably, Esther fails to question why her best friend’s people are attacking and is instead furious at the townspeople’s desire to retaliate with war. To fight, Prin needs two things: weapons and instruction. Caleb, a mysterious newcomer whose wife is dead and baby has been kidnapped, arrives just in time to take the role of hero and to teach others. Esther and Caleb’s romance is inevitable. But for Prin to obtain weapons, the town must make a deal with Levi, a teenager who sits with a personal army on a large cache of supplies. A conspiracy renders the variants the least of Prin’s worries. While the ruined buildings and desert climate make an imaginative setting, and the idea of a population without adults in such a ravaged world poses intriguing questions, incomplete worldbuilding keeps readers from entering it. While Esther grows as a character and the story comes to an actual conclusion, the narrative shortcuts spoil the impact; whether readers stick around for the next two books is an open question. (Post-apocalyptic romance. 14-17)

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GARDEN PRINCESS

Kladstrup, Kristin Candlewick (272 pp.) $15.99 | $15.99 e-book | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-5685-0 978-0-7636-6379-7 e-book Princess Adela’s great-great-great grandfather thought he had declared an end to magic. In fact, the powerful Hortensia had driven all other practitioners away, leaving the field fertile for her own purposes. Now it is up to Adela to rescue the youth Hortensia has bewitched. Hortensia regularly hosts parties where she turns the most beautiful young women into eternally blooming flowers and men into besotted servants. Their bespelled families believe their children have chosen to stay and soon forget them. When plain Adela, an aspiring gardener longing to see Hortensia’s gardens, crashes a party and witnesses Hortensia at work, she must take up the mantle of another of her ancestors. Informed by stories of King Ival’s battles against evil and aided by a talking magpie, Adela discovers the root of Hortensia’s power. The mythology of Ival’s deeds is nicely interwoven with Adela’s tale. Unvarnished storytelling, a solid back story and a strong cast of characters ground the tale. Children will readily identify with Adela’s painful doubts about whether anyone will see the beauty and strength within her. For those willing to dig deeper, the magpie is the more interesting, complex character. If, ultimately, the message is a bit didactic, all will still cheer Adela’s growth. An original fairy tale that will suit young romantics to a T. (Fantasy. 9-12)

SCOWLER

Kraus, Daniel Delacorte (304 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Mar. 13, 2013 978-0-385-74309-9 978-0-307-98087-8 e-book 978-0-375-99094-6 PLB A meteor shower forms the backdrop for a teen boy’s Donnie Darko–like nightmare in 1981 small-town Iowa. Haunted by his past, 19-year-old Ry Burke strives to survive on a slowly deteriorating Midwestern farm with his mother and his precocious sister. Nine years before, Ry took a baseball bat and bashed in the face of his aggressive, abusive father, Marvin, after he discovered his dad had sewn his mother’s naked body into the sheets of their bed. His subsequent ordeals are grisly and bloody. He’s aided by three totemic objects that he calls the Unnamed Three: a blue teddy bear named Mr. Furrington, a statuette of Jesus Christ, and an antique wooden doll with sunken eyes and metal insides that he calls Scowler. All three make a timely return to the Burke household on the |

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Awaiting the Longed-For Word of Freedom b y

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty Bolden, Tonya Harry N. Abrams (128 pp.) $24.95 Jan 1, 2013 978-1419703904

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“This book is my sort of making amends…for the flippancy of my youth,” says author Tonya Bolden. Bolden, who has written numerous award-winning books for young readers, came of age after the ’60s, when Lincoln “was being dethroned as the great emancipator.” In her work over the years, though, the author kept encountering the fact that “people like Frederick Douglass greatly respected the Emancipation Proclamation….And it started to dawn on me that if people like Douglass respected this document, who am I to dismiss it?” Her new book, Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, makes it clear that it was not the language of the roclamation itself that she was drawn to (in the book’s epilogue, she refers to it as a “dull document that makes our eyes glaze over”). Instead, she came to think “that it’s the spirit of the proclamation we should…celebrate.” Bolden’s task—as she saw it, as she always sees it—was to “tell a good story. I’m trying to engage young people, to engage anyone! So how can I make it fresh?” In an effort to make this material “strange and unfamiliar” again, Bolden put herself in the shoes of Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists, breathlessly waiting for the longed-for word of freedom, the “dawn of a new day.” What if, Bolden asked, emancipation had never happened? The book transports readers back to the moment, when nothing was certain and everything was at stake. Rather than employing the objective, neutral tone of a historian, Bolden uses a personal voice; her unapologetically partisan use of “we” is a choice that Kirkus says “infuses the narrative with urgency.” Plunging readers into the drama of the times, Bolden surrounds them with a collage of contemporary documents, including political cartoons, editorials, photographs and paintings that capture the outraged and anguished voices of abolitionists reacting to history as it unfolds. Bolden knows this approach is unusual. “We live in a sound-bite world, a give-it-to-me quick, what’s-the-takeaway world.” But history, viewed in all its messy complexity, doesn’t really offer that. And Bolden loves inviting young readers to immerse themselves in this complicated history. Though Bolden has written books and articles on many subjects for a variety of readers, the challenge of making history vital for children and young adults energizes her. “I don’t think about this audience so much when I’m first drafting as when editing,” she explains. “I see my challenge as writing while knowing that they may have little prior knowledge but assuming they’re intelligent and smart.” Bolden strongly believes that part of her job is to give young people a reason to be curious.

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“I don’t explain every little thing—I give them a reason to go to the dictionary or glossary,” she says. “I want to encourage them to go look things up or ask a teacher what something means. Sometimes I’ll get an editor’s note: Will kids know that word? Kids DO know some things! Some more than others. I want them to puzzle, think, re-read a passage if need be. Because aren’t we trying to stimulate their minds, not just impart information?” Bolden sometimes wonders whether we talk too much about the awful and the tragic and forget to celebrate the mavericks, the heroes who stood outside of their time, people like Thaddeus Stevens or Wendell Phillips. Even better-known figures like Douglass get reduced to a one-sentence description. “Did you know he played the violin, that he loved to travel, that his second wife was a white woman? Can you imagine what their lives must have been like?” Bolden wants to take as much time to “celebrate these incredible, but little-known people—to hold them up before the children.” Even her very lengthy acknowledgements are written with these young readers in mind. “I’m so grateful to museums, historical societies…lawyers, the people I can bounce ideas off of,” she acknowledges. “I want to model that for young people too— we do not know everything, but go and find people who know more than you do. It’s all part of the process!” She pauses. “My passion is writing for the young. That’s how I have hope.” Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty was originally reviewed in the December 1, 2012 issue on page 2704.

9 Jessie C. Grearson is a freelance writer and writing teacher living in Falmouth, Maine. She has co-authored two books and several essays on intercultural subjects and reviews art, books and audiobooks for a variety of publications. When she isn’t reading, writing or teaching, she enjoys dreaming up new recipes, some of which she enters into cooking competitions and all of which she tries out on her husband and two daughters. She is a graduate of The Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

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eve of a meteor shower to defeat his father, who has broken out of prison and threatens their family once again. Weird? Yes. Compelling? Mostly. Kraus’ latest will challenge both readers’ patience and their ability to suspend disbelief as they follow Ry through the harrowing evening and following few days. The plot walks the line between believable and over-the-top, and the devoted—sometimes distractingly so—attention to detail may thrill critics but underwhelm teens. A Midwestern gothic family saga that will hook readers—or scare them away. (Horror. 14 & up)

THE GIRL OF THE WISH GARDEN

Krishnaswami, Uma Illus. by Khosravi, Nasrin Groundwood (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-55498-324-7 Text that sings like poetry narrates a gorgeous re-envisioning of “Thumbelina.” Lina’s mother discovers her “in a silken flower / in a garden of wishes.” She blesses her new daughter, and she worries, “for many dangers wait upon a girl / no bigger than a thumb.” This piece shares Hans Christian Andersen’s plot but not its old themes of marriage and Thumbelina’s prettiness, powerlessness and self-sacrifice. Instead, with lyrical elegance, Krishnaswami gives Lina agency. When a frog traps her, Lina sings: “Windswish, bird-flutter, / fish-bubble and all, / come to me now, / come when I call.” Lina shows these fish “how to snip and where to chew, / and soon they cut the leaf free of its stem, / so it floated like a raft.” When weeds and bugs mire her leaf-raft, tenacious Lina “kicked and paddled with all her might, / until her lily pad pulled free.” Left-hand pages feature text on white background; right-hand pages have exquisite, full-bleed paintings in acrylic and tissue. Using sumptuous colors, luscious paint texture, patterns, smudges and delicate lines, Khosravi places characters in arresting, abstract compositions that recall Marc Chagall. “[B] irdsong and lonely fear” are part of Lina’s journey, alongside discovery and strength—and her mother, reappearing in “the map of [Lina’s] own life / spread out like a carpet” before Lina’s next departure. A must. (author’s note, publisher’s note) (Picture book. 5-10)

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FREAKS

Larwood, Kieran Chicken House/Scholastic (256 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-545-47424-5 978-0-545-52062-1 e-book Debut novelist Larwood introduces Sheba, a 10-year-old crime-fighting Victorian werewolf. Sheba’s lived in a dilapidated freak show as long as she can remember, displaying her furred snout and clawed hands alongside Flossy the two-headed lamb. Her purchase by a new master introduces her to the first friends she’s ever had: Monkeyboy, a foulmouthed and foul-smelling tailed boy; Sister Moon, a Japanese ninja girl; Mama Rat the rat trainer; and the enormous Gigantus. Newly introduced to London, Sheba’s lupine nose is nearly overwhelmed by the city’s legendary stench—but it comes in handy when she and her new friends embark on a detecting mission. The poor trash-pickers of the Thames mudflats are losing their children, and only Sheba and her freak-show friends—the Peculiars—can find them. They must rescue the children from a nefarious fiend, aided only by Sheba’s nose, Sister Moon’s ninjitsu skills, Mama Rat’s rodent sidekicks, Gigantus’ fists and Monkeyboy’s putrid odor. Their adventures bring them from wretched sewers and taverns to the Victorian optimism of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. There’s a little too much reliance on stale tropes of fat villains and exotic (and unrealistic) foreigners, but this mystery, peppered by gentle gross-out humor, will appeal to young steampunk fans. (historical note) (Steampunk. 11-13)

P.K. PINKERTON & THE PETRIFIED MAN

Lawrence, Caroline Putnam (320 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 18, 2013 978-0-399-25634-9 Series: Western Mysteries, 2

In this quick-on-the-draw funny follow-up to The Case of the Deadly Desperados (2012), 12-year-old P.K. Pinkerton still roams the seedy streets of Virginia City of 1862…and he’s still up to his eyeballs in trouble. The good news is his dream of setting up shop as a private eye has come true, even if the “eye” in his newspaper ad does look more like a potato. His first client is a runaway slave girl who witnessed the strangulation of a Soiled Dove named Short Sally Sampson and thinks Sally’s killer is stalking her. P.K. is so absorbed in the case it’s easy to forget his foster parents were murdered just two weeks before. As in the last Wild West adventure, our half-Lakota hero records his suspenseful story on ledger sheets and struggles with his “Thorn”—his inability to show or read emotion that today might be called high-functioning |

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“Despite [the] dark backdrop, Lennon’s work feels less heavyhanded than readers might expect. His vibrant characters and their realistic repartee keep the work from getting too mopey.” from when love comes to town

autism. P.K.’s straight-shooting personality, integrity and good heart make readers want to follow him to the ends of the Earth… if not directly to Short Sally’s killer. Run-ins with the truthtwisting Sam Clemens and Civil War references tether this lively mystery to a colorful, if grisly time in U.S. history. A warm, wise, wild and woolly second offering in the Western Mysteries series. (1862 maps of the Washoe and Virginia City, glossary) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

NEW YORK IN PAJAMARAMA

Leblond, Michaël Illus. by Bertrand, Frédérique Trafalgar (32 pp.) $15.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-907912-23-8

A low-rent Scanimation-knockoff import features a small sheet of finely barred plastic that creates moiré patterns and streams of movement when slid across a set of large, garish abstracts. Aside from a mention of Central Park in the text and a “Broadway” street sign in one illustration, there is nothing here specific to the Big Apple. Instead, a carrot-nosed cartoon figure in striped pajamas floats over swirls of short, bar code–like lines. These are transformed, by sliding the plastic sheet very slowly across the page, into aerial views of dots, circles and spinning wheels moving through intersections or vaguely urban settings. Some scenes toward the end become fields of flashing lights intense enough to make the cautionary note on the back cover (“WARNING: CONTAINS FLASHING IMAGES”) a good idea. After delivering commentary that runs to inane lines like “The traffic speeds in a tangled race, / but all roads lead to much the same place,” the PJ-clad guide flies back to bed with a “Wakey, wakey, rise and shine! / Goodbye my friend, / Until next time.” A “next time” is unlikely for most readers. A one-trick pony—and the visual trick is much better presented in Rufus Butler Seder’s actual Scanimation series. (Picture book/novelty. 6-8)

WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN

Lennon, Tom Whitman (304 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8075-8916-8

Coming out in 1992 Dublin. Seventeen-year-old Neil is a rugby star at his Catholic school, loves Sinead O’Connor and harbors a heavy secret: He’s gay. His coming-out process isn’t unlike that experienced by other characters from more recent young-adult novels (this was first published in Ireland in 1993). He takes his first trip to a gay bar. He eludes a persistent older man. He crushes on a cute waiter at a 98

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local bar. He falls in love, gets involved and gets dumped. What does make Lennon’s novel stand out is its 20-plus–year-old setting. The Troubles of Northern Ireland, the looming, grim presence of AIDS, the early 1990s Irish music scene and the negative stigma of homosexuality effectively turn this work into historical fiction. Despite this dark backdrop, Lennon’s work feels less heavy-handed than readers might expect. His vibrant characters and their realistic repartee keep the work from getting too mopey. Plotting is the novel’s only real fault. Some scenes feel prolonged while others move too quickly, and the end wraps up at a remarkable speed—not one, but three redemptions take place within the last three pages. Still, it’s a mostly solid novel of identification that’s entirely capable of speaking to today’s youth. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

WORLD RAT DAY Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of Lewis, J. Patrick Illus. by Raff, Anna Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-5402-3

The Children’s Poet Laureate takes a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the weird and wacky holidays that never quite make it onto commercially printed calendars. The vast majority of the holidays here celebrate animals: from turtles, pigs and worms to pink flamingos, skunks and sloths, among others. While many of the above may not seem celebration-worthy, a few holidays are even stranger: International Cephalopod Awareness Day (Oct. 8) and two that many will instantly add to their personal calendars: Yell “Fudge” at the Cobras in North America Day (Jun. 2) and Chocolate-Covered Anything Day (Dec. 16). But while the subject matter is certainly fascinating and amusing, the poetry can be uneven, though the riffs on English spellings shine, and the wordplay is consistently clever, especially in “Eight Table Manners for Dragons.” But there is also an element of grimness and edginess—“Play with your food, but don’t let it run around screaming.” Raff ’s heavily anthropomorphized watercolor critters here include one rat with tail aflame and another pinned to the floor between the tines of a fork. Limerick Day’s five poems are equally weak, while Frog Jumping Day’s verse has nowhere near the creativity and sheer reading pleasure of the similar “Puddle Paddle Battle” from Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks. And parents who don’t want to explain might want to skip Mule Day’s poem, “Jack A.” Though it’s bumpy, it’s still a novel way to add some zany celebrations to the family or classroom calendar. (Poetry. 5-8)

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ELLIE’S LOG Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell

Li, Judith L. Illus. by Herring, M.L. Oregon State University Press (112 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2013 978-0-87071-696-6 After a huge tree falls in the forest behind her home, fifth-grader Ellie explores the area with her classmate Ricky, mapping and sketching and learning about what lives, dies and changes there. Chapters describing seven trips into the forest (one at night) constitute the narrative here, couched as fiction but clearly primarily intended to convey information. Each opens with a spread illustrating the part of the woods they visit and closes with two pages from Ellie’s field notebook. The children are lucky: Ellie’s father is the forest manager, and her mother is a naturalist; they can identify and explain, but the two also consult appropriate references and explore on their own. Ellie’s drawings are distinctly childlike in style, less accurate and detailed than Herring’s colored pen-and-ink sketches that grace the margins of the story. In both, the plants, animals, insects and lichens are carefully identified. One chapter deals with moss and the tiny creatures that inhabit that Lilliputian world. Another looks at the ways trees rot. The author is clearly very knowledgeable about this ecosystem, but readers beyond the Pacific Northwest may find it hard to visualize. Several times, for example, she mentions salal, a bush that grows only in West Coast states. Still, this combination of science and storytelling models good nature journaling and would be a helpful addition to a home or classroom in the region where such work is being encouraged. (suggested reading) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

THE NEW NORMAL

Little, Ashley Orca (232 pp.) $12.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-4598-0074-8 A low-key portrait of grief and endurance. Tamar is smart, jaded, blunt and 16. On top of the usual indignities of high school life, she must cope with losing all of the hair on her body, a side effect of stress following the death of her younger sisters in a car accident. As her shellshocked parents spiral inward (her mother retreats to yoga, her father to beer), Tamar experiences a succession of further humiliations—sexual harassment, bullying, threats of violence—while trying to make sense of her fractured family life. Roy, her fellow chess-club MVP, is the only constant in her life. It’s enough to make anyone stay in bed all day, but with dogged persistence, Tamar confronts her demons, real |

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and imagined, and eventually finds her footing. A few early subplots (acupuncture, drug dealing) that ultimately lead nowhere weaken the narrative, and readers accustomed to spunky heroines might find it frustrating when Tamar, swamped by yet another wave of maltreatment, does not defend herself more vociferously. But Tamar’s wisecracking first-person voice adeptly conveys the complexity and grit of her emotional life as she learns to stand up for herself. Readers who tough it out with her on the journey will be rewarded by the destination. (Fiction. 14 & up)

STONES FOR GRANDPA

Londner, Renee Illus. by Avilés, Martha Kar-Ben (24 pp.) $17.95 | $7.95 paper | $6.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-7495-4 978-0-7613-7496-1 paper 978-1-4677-0991-0 e-book Writing a picture book about grief is a difficult job; Londner accomplishes it by writing about something else: life. This is a story that works because it has more detail than necessary. When the narrator is remembering his grandfather, he’s very specific: “Grandpa taught me how to tie six different Boy Scout knots.” When Avilés draws Grandpa in a cowboy hat (he’s marching in a parade for Purim), a gold star is pinned on the front. This is a book about gravestones and memorial services, but even a scene in a cemetery includes more than one emotion: “People smile when they see the name ‘Duke’ along with Grandpa’s real name. That was his nickname....Grandpa Duke and I watched John Wayne movies together, and he let me wear his cowboy hat.” This is a story about grief, but it’s also about cowboys and parades and the best way to catch a frog, and some readers may have the strange experience of missing a person they never knew. The story is so very packed with detail it’s as though the author wanted to write one that contained all of life. She didn’t succeed, of course. It would have been impossible. This is a book that celebrates a life, full of Boy Scout knots and costume parties, and that’s more than enough. (Picture book. 5-9)

REALITY CHECK

London, Kelli Dafina/Kensington (288 pp.) $9.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7582-8697-0 Series: Charly’s Epic Fiascos, 2 The uneven follow-up to Charly’s Epic Fiascos (2012) shows determined and headstrong Charly trying to balance her newfound star status with her roots and responsibilities. |

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Having escaped her Chicago-area hometown, Charly is living with her father in New York and auditioning for acting roles. Despite tactics readers will recognize as unprofessional (crashing a sitcom audition, Shih Tzu in hand, and improvising lines), Charly is invited to be part of The Extreme Dream Team, a reality show in which she and three other stars give “life makeovers” to deserving teens. The show takes Charly on a set of trips around the country, and there is plenty of boy drama as well as tension with a female co-star who may or may not have Charly’s best interests in mind. Charly is still connected to her friends and sister from home, and some of the book’s most poignant moments come as she tries to help her younger sister in the wake of their mother’s neglect. Some of Charly’s adventures, however, are a bit too predictable, and a conclusion in which one character’s underhandedness is revealed feels abrupt and unconvincing. A fizzy and warmhearted take on teen stardom, but readers will have to work hard to suspend their disbelief. (Fiction. 12-16)

WILD BOY The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron Losure, Mary Illus. by Ering, Timothy Basil Candlewick (176 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-5669-0

The well-documented case of a feral child who didn’t speak, ran on all fours, and was captured in post-Revolution France and studied by a succession of Enlightenment-influenced thinkers gets an interesting, well-informed retelling, but unlike his inquisitors, the boy never comes into focus. Two who studied him left detailed accounts of their observations: a teacher at a boys’ school, Pierre-Joseph Bonnaterre, and later, a doctor at a Paris school for deaf-mute children, Jean-MarcGaspard Itard, who undertook his education and gave him his name: Victor. Itard’s intelligent, compassionate housekeeper opened her home to him. Though Victor never learned to speak, Itard’s mostly humane, child-centered teaching profoundly influenced later educators. Inconsistencies in Losure’s take abound. Scenery and buildings merit detailed description, but historical and cultural context is lacking—the French Revolution isn’t mentioned. Readers are invited to judge “cold-eyed” scientists, especially Bonnaterre (“to him, the boy was only a specimen”) by contemporary standards. Itard’s harshest actions (knowing Victor’s fear of heights, Itard dangled him out a high window) escape editorializing. Text, syntax and vocabulary envision quite young readers, yet the eight pages of scholarly footnotes and academic bibliography are strictly for adults. Resources for children or teachers aren’t provided. Victor is known only through those who observed and studied him. Losure’s speculations on what he might have felt have a distancing effect and do not belong in a work of nonfiction. An interesting account, but Victor remains as inscrutable as ever. (author’s note) (Nonfiction. 10 & up) 100

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PLASTIC POLLY

Lundquist, Jenny Aladdin (240 pp.) $6.99 paper | Mar. 19, 2013 978-1-4424-5248-0 A popularity war heats to boiling when follower Polly Pierce has to take over the leadership of a middle school talent competition. Like old age, middle school popularity isn’t for sissies. It gives a girl power, prestige and pleasure, but it comes at a price. For Polly, achieving and maintaining popularity means never saying what you feel, instead tailoring your personality to please others—a mindset that has earned her the nickname Plastic Polly. Polly is the perfect popular girl number two. Unsure of who she is or what she believes in, Polly is happy to let others, particularly her determined and self-assured best friend, Kelsey Taylor, the queen bee of “the Court” at Winston Academy, tell her what to say, think and feel. When Kelsey injures herself, Polly reluctantly takes over as PlanMaster of Groove It Up, a hotly contested annual talent contest between two competing schools. No one believes Polly has the chops for the position, not her dog-eat-popular-dog school committee, the principal or even her hard-driving lawyer mother. Polly’s journey from rudderless follower to resourceful leader is heartfelt. Lundquist carefully sets up obstacles to showcase Polly’s step-by-step evolution, making the trip both dramatically and emotionally credible. Readers will surely be saying, ‘Polly, you go girl.’ (Fiction. 9-13)

GAME

Lyga, Barry Little, Brown (528 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-316-12587-1 Son of a notorious serial killer, Jazz Dent goes to New York City to continue his hunt for killers like his father—and maybe the old man himself. Seventeen-year-old Jasper “Jazz” Dent and his hometown of Lobo’s Nod have mostly recovered from the predations of the Impressionist, a serial killer who impersonated Jazz’s father, Billy, but Billy’s out there somewhere, killing again. When NYPD Detective Louis Hughes comes to Jazz’s door asking for help in catching the Hat-Dog Killer, Jazz says no—but he can’t deny that he’s an expert on serial-killer behavior, since his notorious father raised him to be one. Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, head to NYC to help, but they find themselves caught up in a grisly game with no idea of who the players are or whom they can trust. Jazz isn’t even sure he can trust himself. Lyga’s second serial-killer–hunting title is even more open-ended (and overstuffed) than the first (I Hunt Killers, 2012). Chapters from the perspectives of the various killers undercut the mystery kirkus.com

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“Majestic, maternal, suspicious, playful or placid, each cat is pictured in a pose and setting that reflect and illuminate the text.” from cat talk

aspects of the tale, and extraneous subplots distract from what could have been a complex thriller. Jazz is believable, but the other characters are mostly flat; Billy himself often comes off as more Bozo than Bundy. Even fans may balk at the closureless close, but there is obviously more to come. (Thriller. 15 & up)

THE THREE BEARS ABC An Alphabet Book

Maccarone, Grace Illus. by Hibbert, Hollie Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-08075-7823-0

Can the classic story of Goldilocks be parsed into an alphabet

book—successfully? The answer is yes and no. The adaptation singles out key words to construct an alliterative alphabet tale that follows the original plot, but not all are logical choices. Some are obvious, while some are forced. Successful examples include “B is for bears. There were three bears—Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear, who were in bed” and “G is for a girl named Goldilocks.” But it’s hard to stretch the conceit out over 26 letters. “E is for exit. Everyone exited.” “I is for inside, where Goldilocks went.” K is for kitchen; Q is for question; T is for ta-dah (upon Baby Bear’s discovery of Goldilocks); U is for up (Goldilocks jumps up); V is for very (frightened); X “marks the exact spot where she landed” (after jumping out of the window). The sprightly, vividly colored illustrations are comic in style, with the bears wearing clothing and Goldilocks sporting a wild mane of blonde hair (it is worth noting that her skin is light brown). Each alphabet letter is in a large, blocky display type with a faux– wood grain look. By no means is this an introduction to the fairy tale. The book would be best used as a guessing game or a writing device for kids who already know the story. (Picture book/ fairy tale. 6-8)

NOBODY’S SECRET

MacColl, Michaela Chronicle (248 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-4521-0860-5

First in a new series that, according to marketing copy, “imagines great literary figures as teenage crime solvers”— aye, there’s the rub. Fifteen-year-old Emily Dickenson encounters a young man she doesn’t know in one of the fields near her Amherst, Mass., home. Playfully, they call each other Mr. and Miss Nobody, not revealing to each other their names. They meet again by chance, and then once more when Mr. Nobody is |

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found dead in Emily’s family’s pond. While the rest of the town seems perfectly happy to bury the unknown man in the potter’s field, Emily persists in seeing his death not as accidental, but murder. She roams the town, uncovering secrets at every turn, until at last she’s solved the puzzle. But great literary figures aren’t often teenage crime solvers; the device does justice to neither the historic Emily Dickenson nor to mystery lovers. MacColl has done her research, which shows in a wealth of detail that often, as in the case of Emily’s father’s letter, stands out as odd and doesn’t advance the story. Various side characters seem mere puppets that bend themselves to Emily’s will: The town doctor, for example, doesn’t check for water in the deceased’s lungs until Emily asks him to. Even Emily doesn’t quite come alive: The novel captures her daily life and her poetry but not her living heart. MacColl’s previous books are better. A disappointment. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

CAT TALK

MacLachlan, Patricia; Charest, Emily MacLachlan Illus. by Moser, Barry Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-06-027978-3 As they did previously for dogs (Once I Ate a Pie, illustrated by Katy Schneider, 2006), MacLachlan and Charest give voice to a collection of charming pets beautifully rendered by veteran illustrator Moser. In 13 poems, each on a double-page spread, 16 cats (and one mouse) are lovingly described. Cat fanciers will immediately recognize the personalities of these particular pussycats. From the straightforward revelation of the delightfully outsized ego of Princess Sheba Darling, who declares “I love me,” to affectionate Romeo’s embrace of everyone and everything, to the wary, unwilling domestication of torn-eared Tough Tom, the poems speak in the cats’ voices. That they also manage with only a few words to create specific situations, sometimes even including a bit of a back story, is what makes these poems true portraits rather than the cute caricatures that sometimes inhabit collections like this one. Moser’s watercolor illustrations, of course, contribute significantly to the overall quality. Majestic, maternal, suspicious, playful or placid, each cat is pictured in a pose and setting that reflect and illuminate the text. Tuck’s toes and tail peek out from the covers beside two pairs of bare feet. Alice balances on the edge of the bathtub. Minnie slips through the night, almost invisible. Though published for the preschool audience, this will no doubt find enthusiastic fans of all ages. (Picture book. 4 & up)

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“Readers will have a hard time forgetting the complex, deeply human characters that populate this multifaceted narrative.” from quintana of charyn

QUINTANA OF CHARYN

the other young people she knows. No secret can be kept forever, but before Wares Grove is overwhelmed with paparazzi looking for Elvis, there is time for both of these appealing preteens to become more comfortable in their own skins. That this author knows and loves this part of her state is clear. Her audience will eat it up. (Fiction. 9-12)

Marchetta, Melina Candlewick (528 pp.) $18.99 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-7636-5835-9 Series: The Lumatere Chronicles, 3 Fans of Finnikin of the Rock (2010) and Froi of the Exiles (2012) will find deep satisfaction in this finale to the Lumatere Chronicles. This trilogy, taken as a whole, is stronger than each of its distinct parts. Marchetta, known for her mastery of character, shows herself here to have conquered the intricacies of plot, worldbuilding and theme. All three books demonstrate both the heights and depths of human nature. If the first two books depict two young men with depth and reality, this third applauds the growth and courage of Princess (or Queen, depending on who’s talking) Quintana—who is not immediately likable but becomes more admirable as the narrative progresses. Omniscient narration alternates three major stories: of Froi, who searches for Quintana in Charyn, of the residents of Lumatere, and of Quintana, who is in hiding to protect the life of her child. Peppering the tale are details of Quintana’s thoughts and longings, which broaden understanding of her personality. A multitude of plot twists and surprises bring together events that seemed complete in the first two books and emphasize the importance of Quintana’s story. Readers will have a hard time forgetting the complex, deeply human characters that populate this multifaceted narrative. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

HIDING OUT AT THE PANCAKE PALACE

Marino, Nan Roaring Brook (256 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-59643-753-1

A pair of not-yet-teenagers finds common ground searching for their personal music in New Jersey’s Pinelands. Pop culture, Pinelands’ folklore, the power of music and the short-lived nature of secrets are the ingredients of this satisfying story, told by an omniscient narrator. According to her loving parents, the scrubby pine trees sang when Cecilia was born. Now nearly 11, awkward and out of sync with classmates, she searches the woods for that song. When a new boy comes to stay with the owner of her small town’s only restaurant, she learns his secret and enlists his help. Aaron is actually superstar musician Elvis Ruby, hiding out after freezing on national television during what was supposed to be his winning performance on the TweenStar reality show. Aaron truly is a musical talent with star qualities, straining to pass as an ordinary kid; Cecilia can’t carry or recognize a tune and has no rhythm, but she, too, would like to be more like 102

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THE LONG, LONG JOURNEY The Godwit’s Amazing Migration

Markle, Sandra Illus. by Posada, Mia Millbrook/Lerner (32 pp.) $19.95 e-book | $26.60 PLB | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4677-1051-0 e-book 978-0-7613-5623-3 PLB

In four short months, a bar-tailed godwit chick becomes an adult that makes an incredible journey. Migrating 7,000 miles south from their breeding grounds, bar-tailed godwits flee the Arctic winter for the SouthernHemisphere summer, making the longest known nonstop flight of any bird. From fluffy hatchling on the Alaskan tundra to adulthood on the New Zealand mudflats, Markle describes one female chick’s experience for young readers and listeners. There is no anthropomorphization in this narrative, just gentle realism. The author introduces some predators: A fox sneaks up, but the adult birds shoo it away while the chick hides. Later, on the migration flight, the bird avoids a peregrine falcon. Though the text is simple, the author paints a clear picture. “The young female prances across the mud on her long legs.” Finally, “The young female swoops down with the flock to the New Zealand mudflats, where land mingles with the sea.” Posada uses painted papers and other fluffy materials for her collage illustrations, which fill the double-page spreads. The bird’s signature upturned beak and changing colors are clearly shown. Additional facts, resources for further exploration and an author’s note round out the package. Readers of Markle’s Snow School (2013) and Waiting for Ice (2012), both illustrated by Alan Marks, will welcome this additional account of a baby animal’s growth to independence. (Informational picture book. 4-9)

MY NEIGHBOR IS A DOG

Martins, Isabel Minhós Illus. by Matoso, Madalena Owlkids Books (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 15, 2013 978-1-926973-68-5 When animals begin to move into the narrator’s apartment building, she welcomes their differences, but her parents are uncomfortable. This simple story of discrimination and acceptance is kirkus.com

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recalled in a straightforward fashion. The little girl enjoys the saxophone-playing dog, the elephants who washed everyone’s cars and the gift-bearing crocodile, even though his yellow eyes shine in the dark. Her building “was becoming more and more fun to live in all the time,” she remembers. Her friendly new neighbors find her parents’ standoffishness strange. And so will readers when they notice that the sad human child rides off in a car with two giraffes when they move away. The stylized images—shapes in red, blue and pink on a white background— have no shading and few details. Yet both human and animal neighbors are distinguishable, allowing readers to track them through the events of this subtle parable. The parents’ fears are evident in their barricaded door and many keys. The more tolerant narrator looks forward to returning when she’s grown. First published in Portugal, this has been smoothly translated and will resonate with readers here as well. For the North American audience, the editors have removed all references to smoking in text and pictures; the dog now blows bubbles from his pipe. Stylish and understated, this argument for tolerance is a welcome one—just like that saxophone-playing dog. (Picture book. 5-9)

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH A History of American Environmentalism McCarthy, Pat Chicago Review (144 pp.) $16.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-56976-718-4

Brief biographies of early conservationists and environmentalists provide a look at the development of the movement. Readers meet John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Roger Tory Peterson and Rachel Carson, as well as less familiar names: Cordelia Stanwood, Gifford Pinchot, Aldo Leopold, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Margaret “Mardy” Murie. Each featurette is about six to eight pages long, offering enough detail to provide a flavor of the people’s lives and explain their significance to the movement. Each chapter includes one or more activities (mostly simple science experiments) themed to match the biography—not always successfully. The activity for the Muir chapter is to bake oatmeal scones, which seems strange when compared to others: bird identification, making a plaster cast of an animal footprint or a bird feeder, etc. The last section describes future challenges. The text is mostly written in short sentences that don’t jibe with the more complex content and may sometimes perplex readers: “For years, we’ve heard the cry, ‘Save the rainforest!’ This is another side of deforestation.” This effort offers an odd mix of complexity and oversimplification: “The rate of global warming can be slowed if people will take a few simple steps”—carpooling, using public transit, eschewing motorized transportation and limiting trips. More useful for the biographies than the environmental information. An only-serviceable collective biography for those interested in the history of the movement. (Collective biography. 10-13) |

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HOW TO BE A CAT

McClure, Nikki Illus. by McClure, Nikki abramsappleseed (40 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2013 978-1-4197-0528-1 A watchful kitten shadows a big cat to learn the fundamentals of feline life. A simple series of double-page spreads introduce kitty-cat basics (CLEAN, POUNCE, LISTEN, LICK, HUNT, CHASE, among others) in capitalized, periwinkle lettering and black-andwhite cut-paper illustrations. Two feline foils (one an adult cat that is black with white markings and the other a white kitten with black spots) dominate pages in mesmerizing, bold reliefs. Curvy cat bodies frame borders and cross gutters, creating pleasing puzzles of negative and positive space. While flat and certainly binary, these complex illustrations miraculously evoke the frisky, fluid physicality of feline movement. STRETCH spans both pages from furthest-most left to right, from the tips of tails, across elongated backs, all the way to fully extended paws and claws. Ah, the luxurious pull of flesh and fur! On STALK and CHASE, kitten’s body tumbles in duplication, rolling along in fitful pursuit of a blue butterfly (which adds a flicker of color on most pages). Looping lines lasso readers’ eyes and leave them swiveling their own hips playfully. Cat keenness comes through too. Kitten’s eye twinkles, especially alongside the black, expressionless mask of her mentor. Purrrrfect for beginning readers and little artists with an eye for fine cut-paper compositions and craftsmanship. (Picture book. 1-6)

BRIANNA ON THE BRINK

McInnes, Nicole Holiday House (176 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 15, 2013 978-0-8234-2741-3

A captivating opening and fresh, honest dialogue elevate this tale of teen angst run amok, making for a promising debut. The novel opens: “Here’s a list of what not to do when you’re sixteen (and a half) and the guy you just went all the way with keels over from a heart attack on the floor of your sister’s house.” Who could resist? McInnes does a superb job following the labyrinthine inner logic of a self-involved teen. Brianna Taylor is a cheerleader from the dirt-poor side of the tracks. She attributes her rise in status to her role as head sycophant to her school’s lead sociopath and top cheerleader, Jules Hill. The novel shines when Brianna offers access into the snarky, vicious world of teen put-downs. However, the luster wears off around midbook, when Brianna’s untethered lifestyle leads to disaster, yet she fails to learn the error of her bullying, selfish ways. While McInnes paces the plot like a mystery, the outcomes ultimately offer little intrigue. Brianna’s predicament feels like a surprise only to Brianna. |

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Though still a little weak on plotting, McInnes keenly captures the nuances of teen dialogue and the duplicity of high school alliances, making her an author to watch. (Fiction. 14 & up)

WAR BROTHERS The Graphic Novel

McKay, Sharon E. Illus. by Lafrance, Daniel Annick Press (176 pp.) $27.95 | $18.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-489-2 978-1-55451-488-5 paper A graphic format adds heart-rending images to McKay’s violent 2008 tale of children kidnapped and forced to become soldiers in Uganda. The book opens with an awareness-raising letter to readers from teen protagonist Kitina Jacob and a brutal preview to set the stage. The tale then takes him and schoolmates Tony, Paul and Norman into a sudden nightmare when soldiers of the Lord’s Resistance Army burst into their dormitory. After weeks of forced marches, vicious beatings and atrocities designed to turn them into uncaring killers, the captives escape with help from mutilated campmate Hannah and others—profoundly scarred but, ultimately, resilient enough to take back their lives. Switching from white to black borders between his panels during the time of captivity to intensify the atmosphere of terror, Lafrance puts shadows or at least a little visual distance between viewers and violent acts. Wrenchingly, though, he ramps up the immediacy and emotional intensity by cutting again and again to the wide-eyed, tear-stained faces of children forced to do or to witness those acts. Powerful storytelling based on documented experiences; despite being set in 2002, it’s as relevant as ever since the LRA is still all-too-active. (afterword) (Graphic historical fiction. 12-15)

LET THE SKY FALL

Messenger, Shannon Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4424-5041-7 A teenage boy discovers his magical heritage and falls in love with his protector. Vane Weston has no memories of his life before a tornado killed his parents, only dreams haunted by a beautiful girl. Audra’s been following Vane as his assigned protector from the Gale Force. Although Vane has no memory of it, he is an air elemental, or sylph, just like Audra—in fact, he is the key piece in a war against the stock villain, a power-hungry sylph tyrant who murdered Vane’s parents. Doing her duties, Audra accidentally 104

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reveals their location—in much the same way that, years ago, she unintentionally alerted enemy soldiers, called Stormers, to Audra’s parents’ location as they served as guardians for Vane’s family. This prior accident ended in numerous casualties. Vane must awaken to his heritage and powers, mastering the languages of the four winds (one for each direction), if they are to stand a chance when the Stormers come for them. Audra has only days to train him, adding temporal tension. Chapters alternate first-person narration between Vane and Audra, with Audra’s redemptive arc adding meat to the orphan-hero-discovering-his-magical-heritage storyline. While some early exposition is clunky, once the story settles into a character-driven rhythm, the prose smooths out considerably. The twists at the end are refreshing rather than cheap. Characterization elevates this romance over similar offerings in a crowded genre. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)

THE PROM BOOK The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need Metz, Lauren Zest Books (160 pp.) $16.99 paper | Mar. 15, 2013 978-1-936976-28-7

This slim guide, clocking in at barely 150 pages, will be helpful for prom neophytes who don’t get their questions answered by the prom issues of Seventeen and Teen Vogue. Split into four sections, this book covers planning, the day and night itself, and post-prom. The planning section is the most thorough, with useful information on making a budget for prom and how to rent a limo, among other topics. The beauty tips in the prom-day section are very basic and limited; there’s no advice on blush for girls with darker skin, and all but one of the suggested hairstyles is for shoulder-length or longer hair. It’s commendable that the prom-night section highlights doit-yourself after-prom events, and the post-prom section recommends donating or selling the prom dress. The note pages, fantasy boards and scrapbook pages feel rather quaint in this day of Pinterest and Tumblr, though they do add extra padding to this slight work. There’s limited value in this book, but teen girls who want to be part of the crowd will snatch up this cookiecutter guide nevertheless. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

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“Can the pilose protectors penetrate Balaclava’s icy fortress, fend off his army of laser-wielding robots and...put paid to the evil scheme? Do you doubt?” from operation robot storm

OPERATION ROBOT STORM

Milway, Alex Illus. by Milway, Alex Kane/Miller (224 pp.) $5.99 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-61067-074-6 Series: Mythical 9th Division, 1

Does the world, or at least Great Britain, need saving? Call on the hirsute heroes of the Mythical 9th Division! Not to be confused with their bigfoot rivals of the Yankee 6th Division, three shaggy, squabbling yetis known as Albrecht, Timonen and Saar are first responders when Britain calls for rescue. This time, the sudden disappearance of Wales beneath a fast-moving glacier brings the tufted trio flying in from Tibet to face evil mastermind Balaclava, aka Dr. Icepick—who has built a gigantic weather machine atop appropriately named Mount Snowdon and is holding the entire planet hostage for a ransom of $1 trillion. Can the pilose protectors penetrate Balaclava’s icy fortress, fend off his army of laser-wielding robots and (with, perhaps, a spot of help from a Welsh mum and a crew of miners) put paid to the evil scheme? Do you doubt? With occasional breaks for labeled looks at high-tech gear or scenes presented in cinematic sequential panels, Milway (Mousehunter, 2009) crafts a lickety-split set of chases, battles, captures and escapes culminating in the villain’s (presumed) death, the device’s destruction and a lot of defrosted victims. The author notes in a postscript that there actually are eight other mythical divisions, leaving plenty of fodder for sequels. Snow joke. (Fantasy. 9-11)

COOKIE THE WALKER

Monroe, Chris Illus. by Monroe, Chris Carolrhoda (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-5617-2 978-1-4677-0951-4 e-book A canine parable about the dangers of fame. Cookie is an ordinary dog, except that she walks on two feet instead of four. When questioned by her dog friend Kevin, she explains that being taller has helped her in many situations— especially reaching the candy dish. In fact, she likes walking on two feet so much that she keeps doing it. She walks on a treadmill, up the stairs, down a meandering country path, everywhere. Then she learns to walk on balls, railings and flaming boards across a pool filled with snapping turtles (the logical next step). Her bipedal walking causes so such excitement that she is asked to join the circus. She even gets her own television show! Kevin is excited for Cookie’s fortune, but he sees that she is exhausted. Cookie’s only chance at survival is to put all four feet on the floor and simply walk away. But can she do it? Monroe’s playful illustrations are filled with sly adult asides and plenty of |

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detail for sharp-eyed young readers. Similar to Monroe’s first animal hero, Monkey with a Tool Belt (2008, etc.), Cookie has an oversized head and spindly legs, which makes her upright walk all the more amusing. Moral: Fame isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, even if it does come with a fanny pack. (Picture book. 4-7)

1, 2, 3...BY THE SEA

Moritz, Dianne Illus. by Mitchell, Hazel Kane/Miller (36 pp.) $6.99 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-935279-94-5 At the beach, a counting book, some rhyme, and perhaps some questionable

visions. A curly-haired child, possibly a boy, and his mother ride on their bikes from their little cottage to the beach not far away, accompanied by Max, the dog. (No helmets.) “Striped umbrellas in the sun… / flapping, snapping. / We rent ONE,” with a big numeral “1” as well as the word. They go on to TWO towels, then THREE jellyfish, SIX surfers and TEN plovers in the beach grass. An unnumbered coda describes the denouement: the snack-shack, watching the sunset and back to the pretty cottage. The pictures are bright and colorful and lively of line, but some of them are a little odd. Mom, kid and dog seem to be in the water fully clothed and quite near the three jellyfish, and one would really not want to be so close to their stinging tentacles. The surfers (including a dog) are nicely multiethnic, but the waves and surfers are impossibly close to shore. The large numerals are often nearly the same color as the background (the blue 8 blends into the sky, the yellow 9 into the sand). This is not the counting book you were looking for, despite its sunny, salty tone. (Picture book. 4-7)

RED RIDING HOOD AND THE SWEET LITTLE WOLF

Mortimer, Rachel Illus. by Pinchon, Liz Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $12.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-58925-117-5

Misfit wolf meets mischievous lass in a red cape: Is she friend or foe? Sweet Little Wolf loves flowers and fairy tales, and she doesn’t want to grow up to be big and bad, to the great dismay of her parents. To nudge her back onto the correct path, they send her out to get dinner with a shopping list that includes “one little girl (tender and juicy).” She does want to please her parents, and serendipitously, who should skip by but Red Riding Hood, reading a fairy tale aloud. Sweet Little Wolf is enraptured, then angry at herself, then enraptured again. She creeps into Grandma’s cottage and tries to put on a scary face. But Grandma (who |

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“Mulder’s spare prose neither makes light of a delicate issue nor paints it with a broad brush.” from not a chance

fortunately is not home) has such beautiful clothes that Sweet Little Wolf can’t resist getting into a sparkly pink robe and dusting herself with powder. When Red Riding Hood arrives, Sweet Little Wolf doesn’t attack her but hides under the covers. The two become friends and eat cookies together. Red Riding Hood writes a lovely letter to Sweet Little Wolf ’s parents. Anxious about her daylong absence, Mrs. Wolf does an about-face that evening and tells Sweet Little Wolf that she loves her just the way she is. Pichon’s bright illustrations are a great match for Mortimer’s sunny story, told with charm and no skimping on text. Despite the forced plot, this is likely to bring a smile or three. (Picture book. 3-7)

PIP AND THE TWILIGHT SEEKERS

Mould, Chris Illus. by Mould, Chris Whitman (192 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8075-6553-7 Series: A Spindlewood Tale, 2

There are murky goings-on in Hangman’s Hollow and Spindlewood Forest as Pip, Frankie and Toad continue the tale begun in Pip and the Wood Witch Curse (2012). Fleeing from city warden Jarvis, who has been in cahoots with the malevolent creatures of the surrounding forest who seek the city’s young people, the three heroes (one’s a heroine) brave the forest and rescue all the captured children. Readers are advised to either begin with the earlier title, or skip to the end, where the publisher has kindly included the first chapter of the series conclusion, which provides a back story. Those who don’t will find themselves dropped into the middle of the action here, and they will be understandably confused by the children’s situation and the doll that fortuitously moves the plot along. Gloomy ink drawings add atmosphere but don’t really help readers picture either the characters or the setting. The words often seem to have been chosen more for their feeling than their meaning, and there is no apparent care for how they will sound together. “The clawed hands and spindly claws of the forest creatures had retreated into the barky holes of the Spindlewood trees. The thick white of the forest floor was free of their cloven hoof marks and lumbering footprints.” Children who read this wretched stuff may grow up to write like this—don’t let it happen. (Fantasy. 8-12)

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NOT A CHANCE

Mulder, Michelle Orca (160 pp.) $9.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-4598-0216-2 A Canadian teenager must decide if she knows what’s best for her Dominican best friend. Every summer, Dian travels to the small Dominican Republic village of Cucubano with her doctor parents. Now 13, Dian would like to enjoy a “normal Canadian teenager” summer, but they drag her along again nonetheless. Once there, she discovers that her best friend, 14-year-old Aracely, is engaged. Dian cannot understand why Aracely would choose a typical village life over the chance to study to become a doctor in Canada. As a socially aware only child, Dian is a believably mature, introspective narrator whose fears for her friend feel justified. But when her disapproval threatens their friendship, readers will wrestle along with Dian as she decides whether to trust her friend or to be her savior. Dian’s growth is succinctly chronicled as she evolves from a child struggling to form an identity apart from her parents (“parents like mine, who expect you to spend every waking moment saving the world”) into a confident young woman (“I’m trying to help people, but I’m not raging at the world and refusing to enjoy life....It’s about balancing”). Mulder’s spare prose neither makes light of a delicate issue nor paints it with a broad brush. Quietly perceptive and provocative. (Fiction. 10-14)

IF YOU FIND ME

Murdoch, Emily St. Martin’s (256 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-250-02152-6 978-1-250-02153-3 e-book Ten years after her abduction, 15-yearold Carey is returned to her father and must face harsh realities about her mother, her little sister and their life in the Tennessee woods. Carey and her younger sister live in a camper deep in a forest, away from anyone who might see and report two girls surviving with their drug-abusing, at-times absent mother, Joelle. It’s during one of her longer absences that the girls are found by a social worker and Carey’s father. Joelle reared Carey on stories of her abusive father, and the teen fears separation from her sister, Jenessa, who rarely speaks and is totally dependent on Carey. Now she finds herself snatched from a life of bare-bones survival to one of physical comfort with her father and his new family. Despite all she has done to raise and educate Jenessa and herself, Carey is hiding things about their life in the woods and the cause of her sister’s silence. This deeply affecting story is made all the more so by Carey’s haunting first-person narration. kirkus.com

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The portrait of a teen attempting to navigate a previously unknown world of family and school is well-drawn, especially the tension between Carey and her new stepsister, Delaney, and Carey’s budding relationship with a boy she knew before she disappeared. A compelling narrative that is both unflinching about life’s pain and hopeful about its possibilities. (Fiction 14 & up)

YELLOW CAB

Pfister, Marcus Translated by Morrison, Rebecca Illus. by Pfister, Marcus NorthSouth (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7358-4111-6

A taxicab on an everyday run suddenly finds himself in the middle of the rain forest, where it is up to him to save the ecosystem from destruction. Jack used to be the fastest, most admired taxi in the city. But his wheels are turning a bit slower these days. Mesmerized by an advertisement for Brazil, Jack suddenly drops off the edge of a bridge and lands smack-dab in the rain forest. A host of critters come out to greet him: monkeys, parrots, even a chameleon— which, of course, immediately turns checkered and yellow. Jack’s fun with the animals is cut short by three large excavators tearing a path through the forest. Jack commands them to stop and suggests that they follow him back to the city, where there are lots of construction sites. Magically, they are all transported back, where Jack believes it was all a dream. Or was it? Possibly due to a stilted translation, there is not much tension in the text. The environmental message falls flat due to the story’s arbitrary nature and bizarre ease with which Jack diverts the excavators. Luckily, the illustrations give added warmth. Pfister’s stamping technique (debuted in Questions, Questions, 2011) fills the fronds with texture and gives the monkeys an irrepressible fuzziness. Taxi-loving readers will be happy since the tiny, yellow car is the hero, but it is a title a little too easily won. (Picture book. 4-8)

MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHERWISE How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children

Pinborough, Jan Illus. by Atwell, Debby Houghton Mifflin (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-547-47105-1

“Miss Moore” was the primary force in establishing library service for children in 1906 at the New York Public Library. And a force she was. Beginning with her childhood, the story relays how her strong-willed nature and independence led her to challenge the societal taboos of the times and demand the rights of children to books and library services. To counter the argument that children would damage or forget to return books, she instituted a pledge for children to sign: “When I write my name in this book I promise to take good care of the book I use at home and in the library and to obey the rules of the library.” Pinborough’s affectionate portrait paints her hero as larger than life, an indomitable promoter of books and reading, and an inspiration for improved library service to children around the world. Atwell’s acrylic illustrations have a folk-art look, befitting the time period and conveying the spirit of this doyenne. The image of Miss Moore taking down a giant “SILENCE” sign in the children’s room speaks volumes. A must for school and public libraries and those who love them. (author’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)

STARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY

Prelutsky, Jack Illus. by Berger, Carin Greenwillow/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $16.99 | $17.89 PLB | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-06-201464-1 978-0-06-201465-8 PLB Prelutsky and Berger are back with 16 new specimens of poem and collage, meticulously rendered to excite and amuse. After traveling the globe for creatures of animal and inanimate origin, the master of verse returns to share his discoveries. Procrastinating pandas, self-adhering geese and cacophonous magpies are a few of the carefully selected creatures on display for readers’ enjoyment. Budding naturalists will relish the details both author and illustrator offer. From the dour to the delightful, Prelutsky describes each creature in detail, packing each line with punchy playfulness: “JOLLYFISH are radiant, / Ebullient blobs of mirth, / With merry dispositions / From the moment of their birth. / ... / Their humor is infectious, / And as aimlessly they drift, / Their buoyant effervescence / Gives the neighborhood a lift.” Berger’s cleverly designed assemblages— created from ephemera and digitally manipulated vintage etchings—offer the wonder and fascination of a curio shop. Her dioramas in particular, with their steampunk aesthetic, lend an aura of authenticity to these eclectic creatures. Whimsy takes flight in this humorous collection. (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)

Any library school student or librarian who doesn’t know the name of Anne Carroll Moore is greatly remiss; this book will set them right. |

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SUMMERKIN

Prineas, Sarah Harper/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-06-192106-3 978-0-06-220854-5 e-book A middle-grade fantasy sequel strives for lyricism but has to settle for earnestness. After Fer defeated the wicked, usurping Mór, she felt connected to the Summerlands, her mother’s magical domain, as Lady. Now she must confirm her claim in a series of contests or risk being barred from the enchanted realms forever. But the High Ones hold the half-human Fer in contempt, and they despise her best friend, the puck Rook, for the treacherous ways of his kind. Fer is determined to prove herself a worthy Lady; Rook, however, is equally set on demonstrating that no puck can be tamed. While this title shows flashes of the same quiet depth and lovely imagery of its predecessor (Winterling, 2012), it mostly adheres to clichéd fairy-tale formulas that promote simplistic morality. Fer becomes a less compelling heroine, displaying a naïveté that turns “compassion” and “trust” into demonstrable irresponsibility and stupidity; moreover, for all her professed acknowledgment of cultural differences between worlds, she not only stubbornly insists on the superiority of her own values, but eventually imposes them on others by force. A disappointment; but the beauty of the Summerlands and the graceful prose that captures it still bring hope for further books in the series. (Fantasy. 10-14)

BEYOND THE MOONGATE True Stories of 1920s China Quan, Elizabeth Illus. by Quan, Elizabeth Tundra (40 pp.) $21.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-77049-383-4

Anecdotal paintings and reminiscences of two childhood years spent in China, by an artist now in her 90s. Following up Once Upon a Full Moon (2007), an account of her family’s journey from Canada to Kwangtung province, Quan recalls 17 experiences or incidents during the stay. These include feasting on New Year’s Day (“Mama steamed a whole chicken inside a winter melon and made sweet red and green bean paste…”), gathering to watch a teen relative take a bucket shower (“We all laughed with glee”), and welcoming both a new piglet and, later, a new baby brother. Opposite each memory, a full-page, loosely brushed watercolor in a naïve style adds both cultural and comical notes with depictions of small, active or intent figures in village dress and settings. It’s a sunny picture, but there are references to the real dangers of pirates and brigands, as well as a comment about the author’s beloved Popo 108

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(grandmother) walking to church on bound feet. These, along with a final parting made particularly poignant since the baby, being foreign-born, had to be left in China for several years, keep it from becoming a sugary nostalgiafest. A fragmentary memoir, but warm, humorous and engaging overall. (afterword, with photo of Popo) (Illustrated memoir. 6-9)

PICTURE A TREE

Reid, Barbara Illus. by Reid, Barbara Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8075-6526-1

Master of Plasticine Reid returns with a celebration of trees and the people who love them. “There is more than one way to picture a tree.” So begins Reid’s sparsely written, lushly illustrated paean to trees. Written in the second person, the narrator allows readers to imagine trees in many different ways: from branches “drawing” in the sky to a tunnel of trees or an ocean of trees and anything in between. Though the gentle words will encourage readers to slow down and think about what they love about trees, it’s the art that’s the star here. The Plasticine is expressive, detailed and gestural, with emotions showing on each face and careful craft in even the tiniest leaf and twig. The background of each spread has been smoothed and textured, colored and filled with birds, leaves and airplanes. Readers will marvel at the amazing details she includes on each human and animal form—earrings, straw hats, melting ice cream—even eye-rolling teenage boys! The story arc takes readers from late spring to winter and through time. One spectacular double-page spread shows a modern barefooted child in a tree, but the reflection is an old-fashioned reader in socks wearing a rucksack. The varying perspectives shown make this a special book indeed. For Arbor Day and every day. (Picture book. 3-8)

ALL THROUGH MY TOWN

Reidy, Jean Illus. by Timmers, Leo Bloomsbury (32 pp.) $14.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-59990-785-7

Richard Scarry has some competition in this effort, which follows a toddler-age bunny and his mother around town on their errands. Filled with verbs that end in –ing, the rhythmic verses form a nice cadence and challenge readers to spot the characters that are performing each action. “Pancakes flipping. / Cutting, clipping. / Tossing, fetching, / bending, stretching. // Brushing, shaving. / Good-bye waving— / my town in the morn.” The bunny, usually in his pram, and his mother are easy to spot on each page as they watch the kids in the schoolyard, stare pop-eyed at the kirkus.com

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“What do you get when you mix chocolate, magic, dyslexia and immortality? Plenty of zany intrigue, that’s what.” from the whizz pop chocolate shop

rescue vehicles converging to put out a burning sausage, mail a letter, visit a hospital patient, read a book outside the library and take the bus, among other things. Once they get home, in a scene reminiscent of Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk’s ChuggaChugga Choo-Choo (1999), the living room floor displays a very familiar scene. The acrylic illustrations are bright and busy, full of details to spot, animals to identify and things to find and count. Similar animal characters to Timmers’ Who is Driving? (2007) populate this outing, their huge eyes dominating their giant heads, while tiny legs protrude from below stylish outfits, all adding to their charming appeal. Neatly encapsulates the three-ring circus that is a little tyke’s world and gives children an opportunity to practice all kinds of skills. (Picture book. 1-5)

THE NATURAL WORLD The World in Infographics Richards, Jon Illus. by Simkins, Ed Owlkids Books (32 pp.) $15.95 | Mar. 15, 2013 978-1-926973-74-6 Series: The World in Infographics

Kicking off a series, this spotty tour of the biosphere demonstrates both the possibilities and the pitfalls of infographics. Made up of realistically shaped silhouettes in a range of dizzyingly intense colors, the pictorial graphs packed into each single-topic spread are intended to highlight sequential or comparative relationships. Thematic groupings include the development of life on Earth, types of cells, the range of animal sizes and population trends in selected endangered species. At their best, as in a historical chart of mass extinctions or a silhouette of a sequoia next to a stack of 29 elephants, the visuals are both vivid and revelatory. More often, though, the graphics are poorly scaled (are chicken and turtle eggs really the same size, and what kind of turtle are we talking about?) or are really just stylized illustrations—a strand of DNA, an isolated slice of bread, a diagram of cell division. The accompanying captions and comments aren’t always enlightening either: Ostrich eggs “weigh about 3.5 lb. (1.5 kg)—nearly two bags of sugar.” A trendy instructional tool, applied with mixed success both here and in the co-published Planet Earth, which gives our geology and atmosphere the same quick once-over. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

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JASPER’S STORY Saving Moon Bears

Robinson, Jill; Bekoff, Marc Illus. by van Frankenhuyzen, Gijsbert Sleeping Bear Press (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 28, 2013 978-1-58536-798-6

Rescued and rehabilitated by the Moon Bear Rescue Centre near Chengdu, China, an endangered, abused bear becomes the ambassador for forgiveness and survival in this true story. Chinese moon bears sport a yellow band across their chests reminiscent of the crescent moon. Captured and imprisoned in small cages on bear farms, moon bears are exploited for bear bile, used in Chinese herbal medicines. When a truckload of rescued bears arrives at the Centre, caregivers notice one extremely thin, injured bear that they name Jasper. Following surgery, Jasper wakes up in a spacious cage where he can sit, stand and stretch. For the first time, he has plenty of food and water and is treated kindly. As he recovers, Jasper explores the indoor bear house and outside enclosure, where caregivers teach him to search for food, use his muscles and play. Eventually, Jasper becomes a “strong, robust, and happy bear,” able to forgive and trust humans. While focusing on Jasper and his rehabilitated spirit, the text alerts readers to Chinese bear farms and the good work Animals Asia has done to rescue and provide sanctuary for moon bears. With photographic realism, the luminous illustrations enhance this moving saga of Jasper’s journey, including amazing close-ups of his expressive face. Heartening peek at moon bear rescue. (author & illustrator notes) (Informational picture book. 6-10)

THE WHIZZ POP CHOCOLATE SHOP

Saunders, Kate Delacorte (304 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-385-74301-3 978-0-307-98034-2 e-book 978-0-375-99090-8 PLB

What do you get when you mix chocolate, magic, dyslexia and immortality? Plenty of zany intrigue, that’s what. When the Spoffard family inherits 18 Skittle Street, London, twins Lily and Oz are pleased to discover it includes a now-defunct old-fashioned chocolate shop. At first it’s just a lark, but soon the kids are drawn into a vortex of historical tensions involving their mysterious triplet relatives—greatgreat-uncles Pierre and Isadore and great-grandfather Marcel. Ongoing challenges range from fighting off the demands of the Schmertz Gang for magical chocolate and dealing with the Secret Ministry of the Unexplained to assuaging the immortal and evil Isadore’s pain over unrequited love for his sister-in-law, Daisy. Helpful cohorts include a skateboarding neighborhood |

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“A traumatized teen heals with the help of a Very Special Disabled Girl who exists to teach her an Important Lesson.” from the color of silence

boy named Caydon, with talking-animal assistance provided by a plump cat named Demerara and a rat named Spike. A TimeGlass that shows events from the past and magical postcards add to the fun. Light and fluffy when not bogged down in explanations, the narrative gives occasional overt or implied nods to Harry Potter, James Bond, Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. Infused with cheerful flecks of British humor, the characters eventually endear themselves to readers, especially as Isadore proves to be an incompetent villain tired of immortality. Readers may appreciate references to dyslexia as another kind of magic. A whizz-pop chocolate romp. (Fantasy. 9-12)

MONKEY AND ELEPHANT GET BETTER

Schaefer, Carole Lexa Illus. by Bernstein, Galia Candlewick (48 pp.) $14.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-4841-1

A fine follow-up to Monkey and Elephant (2012) follows two friends in sickness and in health. Comprising three short chapters, the book opens with Monkey feeling a bit put out that her friend Elephant seems to be copying her in a case of elephant-see-elephant-do. This culminates in Elephant sneezing after Monkey does. “Elephant, are you still copying me?” she asks, the picture showing her looking askance in his direction. “No,” the sickly looking pachyderm replies, “I don’t feel so good.” In the next chapter, Monkey rises to the occasion and takes care of her sick friend, a role he assumes when he recovers in the final chapter and must nurse the now-ill Monkey. Part of their caretaking includes entertaining each other in ways only they can: Monkey juggles rocks with not two, but four hands, and Elephant trumpets a song for her with his trunk. Their respective speedy recoveries then prompt them to practice their particular skills so they can “get better” at them just as they “got better” from their illnesses. Ultimately, the themes of individuality, health and friendship don’t come together quite as seamlessly as one might hope, but the cheerful, cartoonish digital illustrations help to mitigate this narrative failing. A sweet story that delivers a healthy message about individuality and friendship to new readers. (Early reader. 5-7)

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THE COLOR OF SILENCE

Shaw, Liane Second Story Press (266 pp.) $11.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-926920-93-1

A traumatized teen heals with the help of a Very Special Disabled Girl who exists to teach her an Important Lesson. Alex has barely spoken since the car accident that took the life of her best friend Cali. Traumatized and selfabsorbed, the former Broadway-musical buff has avoided school, singing and conversation for a year. Court-ordered community service introduces her to Joanie, whose neuromuscular disorder prevents her from speaking. Brief chapters reveal both girls’ viewpoints: Alex’s silent and empty present interspersed with flashbacks to her joyful friendship with the boisterous Cali; Joanie’s silent and friendless hospitalization similarly flashing back to her social life before her illness became so severe. Alex, arriving as Joanie’s court-mandated friend, is roped by an eager speech therapist into helping Joanie learn to use an eyecontrolled speech board. It doesn’t take long before Joanie’s eagerness, optimism and need draw Alex out of her grief and self-loathing. Tragedy strikes for Joanie, but she’s served her fictional purpose: Alex is cured. All Joanie’s endearing characterization is for naught, as the stale trope of disabled person dying to teach a life lesson overwhelms her personhood. Ultimately, this is Alex’s tale alone; Joanie could just as easily have been a Very Special Old Person or a Very Special Poor Person. For a nonverbal teen who is a character and not just a plot device, leave this aside and try Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind (2010). (Fiction. 12-16)

IN LUCIA’S NEIGHBORHOOD

Shewchuk, Pat Illus. by Colek, Marek Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-55453-420-3

This Canadian import, adapted from an animated film, is an earnest effort to paint a positive picture of an urban neighborhood. Unfortunately, it fails to bring the narrator and her surroundings to life. Beginning with a reference to Jane Jacobs, a mid-20th-century journalist, author and activist who focused on urban planning, the text is explicitly purposive. Lucia, the narrator, uses simple declarative sentences to describe her community and review a typical day’s activities. In the morning, “[m]y neighborhood is pretty busy”; at noon, the letter carrier comes by, and school kids like Lucia come home for lunch (“Grandmother made my favorite soup!”). There’s the excitement of a local parade in the afternoon, and at the end of the day, “things quiet down.” In meticulous, ebullient detail, Lucia faithfully describes kirkus.com

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everyday events and alludes to various friends and neighbors. The neighborhood is somewhat multicultural; apparently many residents (and possibly Lucia herself) are of Portuguese descent. The flat, digitally created illustrations have an appealing folk-art feel and offer more interesting detail than the bland text. Lucia’s life and location may be much more compelling in Montrose Avenue, the animated short in which she made her first appearance. Most readers, however, will find little reason to linger in her neighborhood. Good intentions and appealing artwork can’t overcome the vague descriptions and generic flavor of this narrative. (Picture book. 4-7)

YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO

Shimko, Bonnie Amazon Children’s Publishing (240 pp.) $17.99 | $7.99 e-book | Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-4778-1642-4 978-1-4778-6642-9 e-book Fifteen-year-old Maggie, or MaryMagdalene, as her flaky young mother Roxanne optimistically christened her, hears a didactic male voice inside her head instructing her precisely how and when to kill individuals who have wronged her friends. Maggie is compelled to obey the orders, and the murders come thick and fast. The first casualty is the abusive drunk father of her childhood friend and admirer, a nerdy boy named Lester Pint. Lester witnesses the (separate) murders of his father and an armed woodsman whom Maggie pushes off a cliff while they are on a nature walk, and he barely escapes being drowned in his own pool when the voice tells Maggie Lester may expose her crimes. By some miracle, she is never actually convicted of these inept and clue-laden murders. She does, however, suffer enough remorse to land in a mental hospital. Maggie has a checkered personal history to contend with. She describes herself flippantly as “the bastard memento a red-headed jackass named Lonnie Kraft left behind after he got tired of my mother’s affection.” On a visit to her father in prison, Maggie discovers that he is innocent of the murder of his deranged mother and that his mother heard voices in her head, just like Maggie. Maggie’s affectless first-person narration gives readers a frontrow seat to her every thought. It’s a fast-moving tale with an engagingly complex protagonist, but it suffers from its credibility issues. (Thriller. 12-17)

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EMBLAZE

Shirvington, Jessica Sourcebooks Fire (464 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-4022-6846-5 Series: Embrace, 3 The third installment of the Embrace series doesn’t shine quite as brightly as its predecessors, but fans will still find plenty to enjoy as Violet and her Grigori brethren prepare for a battle of apocalyptic proportions. Violet may have accepted the fact that she is half-human and half-angel, but nobody, not even she, knows the full extent of her ever-expanding powers. Finding the time to focus and gain control over them is no easy feat with a father who has decided to finally show up and parent, the temptation of a partner who is also a forbidden soul mate, and an ex who plans to use her to help him open up the gates of hell. Literally. While there is plenty for readers by way of high-stakes action, the novel (ironically, given its title) falls short in the romance department. First, Violet is prone to such hyperbole when describing the feelings that Lincoln ignites in her that it quickly shifts from steamy to comical. Second, the dark and alluring Phoenix is tragically absent. While Phoenix is frequently referred to, he and Violet have relatively few face-to-face encounters, depriving the novel of some of the complicated emotional layers that made the first two books so delicious. Still, Violet remains a compelling heroine, and another surprise ending will surely leave readers wanting more. (Paranormal romance. 14-18)

MY PARENT HAS CANCER AND IT REALLY SUCKS

Silver, Maya; Silver, Marc Sourcebooks Fire (304 pp.) $14.99 paper | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-4022-7307-0

A guide for teens who have a parent with cancer is chock-full of information and advice but sometimes misses the mark. The authors, the husband and nowadult daughter of a woman who had cancer, include advice and personal experience from social workers, teens whose parents have or have had cancer, and adults who were teens when their parents were diagnosed. One chapter explicates common cancer terms; others offer advice for finding support, communicating with family and friends, and dealing with the loss of a parent. Although the many voices offer a variety of perspectives, the book assumes a middle-class, suburban readership: All families are assumed to have cars, and a chapter on “parentification” assumes that any teen taking on a parental role after a parent’s diagnosis will be doing so for the first time. Gender-based |

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assumptions seem more harmful than helpful (why separate the “Risky Business” chapter into stories about “Bad Boys” and “Bad Girls” when the behaviors described are all very similar?), and a few of the bits of helpful advice are downright baffling (“Don’t spend [your time with a dying parent] down in the dumps. You don’t want to have false hope. Hope is an important thing to have”). There are some helpful ideas and anecdotes here, but it’s not for every teen. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

ALL KINDS OF FRIENDS

Simon, Norma Illus. by Zamazing, Cherie Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8075-0283-9

In the same vein as her classic All Kinds of Families (1976; illustrated by Joe Lasker) and All Kinds of Children (1999; illustrated by Diane Paterson), Simon now offers an unassuming exploration of friendship. The text conveys information in a straightforward, simple way: People have all kinds of friends—children, babies, grownups and pets; we are happy to see our friends, and they are happy to see us; we love our friends, and they love us; having friends is important. Readers also learn that sometimes friends fight and that it can be difficult to leave old friends behind and make new ones when a family relocates. The realistic and richly detailed illustrations enhance and extend the prose. For example, when the text explains that sometimes friends get upset with one another and have to apologize to make up, the illustrations depict two children with bicycles, one of whom is clearly upset; his equally angry friend pedals away. Children will enjoy discussing what they think might have happened as well as how the children make amends. The illustrations also make the point that friendships can thrive across gender, age and ethnic boundaries, and children are sure to recognize themselves and others they know in the diverse array of characters that populate the pages. A humble, heartening offering good for sharing one on one or discussing with a group. (Picture book. 4-8)

BRUISED

Skilton, Sarah Amulet/Abrams (288 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4197-0387-4 A taekwondo black belt struggles to forgive herself after failing to act when she witnesses the police shoot and kill a would-be robber. Disciplined, confident Imogen is shaken to the core when a man holds up the diner she’s eating in and she hides beneath a table rather 112

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than trying to disarm the perpetrator. She locks eyes with a boy who is also hiding while an acquaintance calls the police from the bathroom. Imogen winds up covered in the gunman’s blood. Realistically gut-wrenching weeks follow, as she tries to come to terms with nightmares, anxiety and, most of all, a deep sense of shame. Her fellow witness turns out to be Ricky, a new student at her school, and the two find themselves intensely bonded due to their shared experience. They eventually embark on a relationship that includes her training him in martial arts. Imogen is a refreshingly complicated and intense character, but her rigid refusal to forgive others, such as her kind but sexually promiscuous older brother and her father, a diabetic who is not taking care of himself, makes it hard to like her at times. However, her story is compelling, and readers will stick with her as new insights bring about a believable shift in her behavior. This distinctive debut will be appreciated by fans of contemporary fiction. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE DARK

Snicket, Lemony Illus. by Klassen, Jon Little, Brown (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-0-316-18748-0 Are you afraid of the dark? Laszlo is. The dark mostly keeps to the basement, but sometimes it hides in the closet or behind the shower curtain. Every morning Laszlo greets the dark when it is safely back in the basement, calling “Hi, dark,” down the staircase. He hopes that this acknowledgement will keep it from coming to him in the night, when a night light illuminates his bedroom as he goes to sleep. He keeps a flashlight at the ready on his pillow, just in case. And one night, the dark does come—presumably the night light has gone out. Laszlo answers the dark’s call to the basement, where he sees a small dresser. “Bottom drawer,” the dark says, and inside he finds light bulbs. The next scene shows his bedroom now illuminated by the returned soft glow of the night light, and Laszlo no longer fears the dark. Klassen’s artwork outshines the text, which, although poetic and begging to be read aloud, falters in its pacing and delivers an anticlimactic (if friendly) resolution to its initially creepy tone. The gouache-and-digital illustrations make the most of the references to light and dark, however, confining the palette to muted tones that contrast satisfyingly with the inky black. Laszlo, though a new creation for this story, somehow seems satisfyingly familiar. A lovely if uneven offering about a common childhood fear. (Picture book. 3-7)

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“The Israeli backdrop for this sweet scenario is enhanced by the diversity of the two characters, whose names hint at both Eastern European and Mediterranean heritage.” from the cats on ben yehuda street

THE CATS ON BEN YEHUDA STREET

Stampler, Ann Redisch Illus. by Carabelli, Francesca Kar-Ben (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7613-8123-5

A pleasant cat-loving elderly woman and her grumpy neighbor, a fishmonger who does not love the feline crowd, find friendship nonetheless. Mr. Modiano’s fish market on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv is popular with stray cats looking for discards, despite the cold welcome. “Messy, meowing, useless cats!” he complains. Each night he returns home to find Mrs. Spiegel’s two cats, Ketzie and Gatito, outside her door. Apartment-building rules dictate “Just One Cat,” so Gatito sleeps in the hallway at night. Mr. Modiano complains, “Your cats bring more cats!” She invites him for tea each night, and he always refuses: “Lo, lo, lo” (no, no, no). The fishmonger and his neighbor continue this daily ritual until Ketzie disappears, leaving Mrs. Spiegel worried sick. Mr. Modiano, despite his ailurophobia, sets out to find the missing Ketzie and returns with a newfound willingness to not only share tea, but the care of little puss Gatito. The Israeli backdrop for this sweet scenario is enhanced by the diversity of the two characters, whose names hint at both Eastern European and Mediterranean heritage. Stampler’s charming narrative deftly employs the traditional motif of three while upholding a level of suspense. Carabelli’s sunny palette and energetic perspectives add zing. In the end, readers will join in the smiles all around. (Picture book. 3-6)

OL’ MAMA SQUIRREL

Stein, David Ezra Illus. by Stein, David Ezra Nancy Paulsen Books (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 21, 2013 978-0-399-25672-1 Don’t let her size fool you: Ol’ Mama Squirrel is as fierce as any lioness when it comes to protecting her young. Nestled in the safety of a tree hollow, Mama’s babies are safe and sound as she fends off any perceived threats to their well-being. “Chook chook chook!” she scolds when a kite, a dog, an airplane or even an arborist come too close. She seems to meet her match, however, when a fearsome bear is undeterred by her scolding and even withstands being pelted by her hoard of acorns. “I’ll eat your whole family tree,” he threatens in a brilliant spread with an aerial view showing the bear trying to climb the tree to reach the squirrels’ nest. “Not on my watch, buster!” Ol’ Mama Squirrel declares, and then she calls to all of the area squirrels, who add their own scolding voices to hers in a scene reminiscent of the little fishes’ triumph in Leo Lionni’s Swimmy (1963). It takes a village, as the ol’ saying goes. Kids will go nuts |

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for this title—and in a metafictive turn, one can only imagine that Stein’s Little Chicken from his Caldecott Honor–winning Interrupting Chicken (2010) would love it, too, given its focus on keeping little ones safe. This effervescent tale brims with humor and vibrant characterization. (Picture book. 3-7)

PERMANENT RECORD

Stella, Leslie Amazon Children’s Publishing (288 pp.) $17.99 | $7.99 e-book | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4778-1639-4 978-1-4778-1639-4 e-book “I’m just Bud Hess, transfer student, underachiever, nobody.” Badi Hessamizadeh is clinically depressed, on the rebound from a suicide attempt and subject both to crippling panic attacks and fits of rage after years of ethnic bullying. Now, he’s trying for a fresh start with a new name (arbitrarily changed by his well-intentioned but overbearing father) and a new high school, Magnificat Academy. It’s not to be, as (in overt homage to a certain YA classic) he refuses to sell chocolate bars and so not only earns a restroom beating, but becomes a target of widespread suspicion when, coupled with rumors of his past, anonymous threatening letters begin to appear in the school paper. Playing out her crossover as a dark comedy, adult author Stella (Unimaginable Zero Summer, 2005) further stacks the deck by giving her Iranian-American protagonist a penchant for making lists of enemies, constructing small explosive devices and other provocative acts. She also outfits him with new friends who stubbornly like him despite both his issues and a preference for pranks that annoy the cast’s largely clueless adults but put only him at risk. Despite characters exaggerated to the point of caricature, an edgy, discomfiting attack on post-9/11 nerves and prejudices. (Fiction. 14-18)

LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER

Sternberg, Julie Illus. by Cordell, Matthew Amulet/Abrams (176 pp.) $14.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-4197-0190-0

Nine-year-old Eleanor discovers that it’s possible to like some things about sleep-away camp. She thought she would like Camp Wallumwahpuck. Her mother liked it, after all. But the big bus she has to ride from Brooklyn is scary, and the buggy, tooquiet woods even worse. There’s no food she likes, and she has to wear a life jacket to jump on the floating trampoline. The story of Eleanor’s gradual adjustment is believably told in short |

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“Sutton’s muscular rhyming text turns the tractor into a folk hero, and Belton’s watercolor illustrations add a dreamy quality.” from farmer john's tractor

lines of first-person narration and dialogue. Kids will find her worries familiar ones. Each short chapter describes a distinct episode and is liberally illustrated with Cordell’s line drawings, which sometimes show the unhappy camper and other times highlight small details. This title has the heft and substance of a chapter book but is surprisingly accessible. Its story stands alone. Readers will not need to have met Eleanor in Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (2011), but as in Sternberg’s earlier story, letterwriting plays an important role. Adults are sympathetic and encouraging, and even her cabin mates, at first thoughtless and indifferent, become supporters. In a note on the camp’s Wall of Feelings, she discovers that someone else shares her discomfort: “But I don’t need to love it / I just need to survive it.” Eleanor doesn’t just survive, she grows. Readers will celebrate and look forward to more. (Fiction. 7-9)

BARNABY THE BEDBUG DETECTIVE

Stier, Catherine Illus. by Sapp, Karen Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8075-0904-3

Barnaby is a rescue dog who is adopted and trained as a bedbug-searching detection dog in this informative story on a current, widespread woe. At the animal shelter, the appealing terrier is passed over for adoption by several families due to his rambunctious personality, but a pleasant woman named Martha selects Barnaby as her companion and potential detection dog. She sends Barnaby to a professional school for bedbug dog detectives, where he is trained, along with Martha as his handler, in how to sniff out the unwelcome pests. After graduation, they take on freelance jobs searching for bedbugs in a movie theater, a hotel and other locations. In their next job, they assist a family with three children in their home, where Barnaby finds bedbugs in the daughter’s bedroom. Information about bedbugs and how they are located and removed is skillfully woven into the text, which is narrated by Barnaby. Additional facts about bedbugs are included in the endpapers and backmatter, though a depiction of the actual size of bedbugs is lacking. Cheery illustrations painted in acrylics help to create believable, engaging characters and a positive atmosphere. Overall, a reassuring introduction to a potentially scary subject, and just the thing for a family that needs “something on bedbugs.” (afterword, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

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FARMER JOHN’S TRACTOR

Sutton, Sally Illus. by Belton, Robyn Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 26, 2013 978-0-7636-6430-5

Farmer John and his rusty (yet trusty) tractor come to the rescue when more conventional vehicles fall short. It’s been a very rainy winter. Farmer John and a flock of sheep, along with his vigilant sheepdog, watch as the riverbanks spill over. It’s a flood! Down the river, inside a bright yellow Volkswagen, a family of four sits stranded in the water. A man in a sturdy gray Jeep comes to help, but the vehicle rolls onto its side. Next comes a red tow truck—“strong as can be”—but its wheels spin around in the muck. The truck gets stuck, and the water rises a little higher. Even a fire engine can’t get through; the rain’s caused a slide, and there are rocks in the mud. All this time, Farmer John’s tractor has been locked in his shed, rusty but ready to work. He springs into action; the tractor splutters and starts with a roar. In short order, his big wheels plow through the water and right up to the sinking car. “Hop in!” he cries, and the family squeezes together. They’re safe. Farmer John has saved the day. Sutton’s muscular rhyming text turns the tractor into a folk hero, and Belton’s watercolor illustrations add a dreamy quality. Great for “rusty yet trusty” grandparents to read to adoring grandchildren. (Picture book. 4-7)

WHEN WE WUZ FAMOUS

Takoudes, Greg Henry Holt (320 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-8050-9452-7

Puerto Rican senior basketballer Francisco Ortiz can’t escape the past. At first glance, he seems to have it all: a smart and sassy girlfriend named Reignbow, a sports scholarship to an elite boarding school in upstate New York, supportive parents and a cadre of cool friends in his East Harlem neighborhood. His closest buddy, Vincent, however, has a chip on his shoulder that he can’t seem to shake. Things go awry one fall weekend when Francisco comes home from school, and Vincent gets arrested for a petty crime. Things escalate from there, and drama, lies and murder all ensue as Francisco is forced to decide between his own life and Vincent’s. Takoudes’ first teen novel, adapted from his indie film, Up with Me, moves quickly with sharp, true-to-life dialogue, well-drawn characters and a lively NYC backdrop that’s full of both life and poverty. Readers learn right from the start that there’s been a murder, and the story then moves back six months to tell how it all happened. This structure mostly works. The scenes in NYC feel much more fleshed out than the ones that take place upstate, kirkus.com

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where the plot takes some unlikely twists that don’t jell with Francisco’s character. That won’t keep readers from speeding through this quick read, however, or from picking up some carefully injected Puerto Rican culture. A fresh new voice in teen fiction. (Fiction. 14 & up)

FARMERS’ MARKET DAY

Trent, Shanda Illus. by Dippold, Jane Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $12.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-58925-115-1

pleasure and pain, beauty, the art museum, city and countryside, the universe. One spread asks questions to which there are no right or wrong answers: “What do Blops eat?” “Would you like to have a Blop?” “Can Blops fly?” Any child bored with standard activity-book fare will love using this open-ended, imaginative tool for creating their own universe. “Moi C’est Blop” (the original French title) taps directly into the heart of a child’s natural creativity by avoiding the didactic explanatory tone of similar books. Lighthearted, fun and original, this book will delight children and parents alike. (Picture book. 2-6)

JEMMY BUTTON

A Saturday at the local farmers’ market is more fun for a little girl than a

carnival. Already dressed to go, with a little yellow purse on her arm, she wakes her parents up very early by shaking her piggy bank. Next thing you know, she’s pulling her red wagon through aisles of fresh vegetables and fruits, parents trailing behind (and doing damage control). Sampling the produce is part of the adventure: “Juicy cherries in a bunch, Let’s buy a basketful to munch.” Next come the flowers, in myriad colors, then the Adopt-A-Pet stand. She’d like a kitten, but Dad starts to sneeze. There are bakery tables and fresh honey from a bee farm (“chewy, sticky, sweet, and runny”). Vendors sell a variety of craft items, from birdhouses to decorated watering cans. She picks one that’s just her size, decorated with pink flowers. When she reaches the end of the market, her wagon is full of purchases, and she’s very tired. Her parents have to carry her treasures so that she can ride. “Let’s bring a friend next Saturday.” Trent packs a lot of learning into her simple story, told in bouncy verse and attractively illustrated by Dippold in bright colors. A pleasant adventure that young readers will want to emulate. (Picture book. 3-6)

I AM BLOP!

Tullet, Hervé Illus. by Tullet, Hervé Phaidon Press (110 pp.) $19.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-7148-6533-1

Uman, Jennifer Illus. by Uman, Jennifer; Vidali, Valerio Templar/Candlewick (48 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-6487-9

In this true story, an indigenous boy from Tierra del Fuego is transported to London in the early 1800s, where he encounters a vastly different world. Living on a “faraway island” a boy named Orundellico climbs the tallest trees, views the stars, listens to the ocean and wonders what’s “on the other side.” Strangers arrive in a ship, call him Jemmy Button and invite him to visit their land. Reaching the other side of the ocean, Jemmy finds houses made of rocks “stacked in towers taller than the tallest tree.” The people, colors, noises and costumes make him feel “very small indeed.” Soon, he’s wearing their clothes, attending concerts, and even meeting the king and queen, but he never quite feels at home. When the time comes, he returns to the island, announcing: “My name is Orundellico and I have come home.” The powerful, spare text contrasts Jemmy’s innocent island life with the isolation he feels in England. His alienation is cleverly reinforced by gauche, oil and collage illustrations using flat patterns and color to compare the island’s verdant vegetation and quiet, starry nights with the sterile, geometric shapes of urban London. Diminutive, flesh-colored, bemused Jemmy always stands out in a sea of repetitive, anonymous, faceless silhouettes. The ultimate home-away-home story, beautifully rendered. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Blop comes in many colors, but only one distinctive, easy-to-draw shape. The latest in a series of offbeat, imaginative creations by renowned French artist Tullet will intrigue children and encourage them to think outside the blop. Tullet takes a single shape, a puffy X reminiscent of a butterfly or a flower, and allows it to run wild through a colorful circus of abstract ideas. Using very few words and a homely, handwritten script, Blop visually explores many concepts encountered for the first time by young children, including up and down, single and plural, colors, individual and family, school and classroom, |

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PART-TIME PRINCESS

Underwood, Deborah Illus. by Evans, Cambria Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-4231-2485-6

By day, she’s a girl with spelling tests and a little brother who breaks her crayons; by night, a princess who can “slide down a fire pole in a frilly skirt.” |

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At midnight, when her crown appears, she slips out of bed to her coach to solve whatever problems have cropped up in her kingdom. She puts out a fire, invites the dragon (source of the fire) to tea, and studies magical beasts, fencing and circus arts. She hosts a royal ball with her mother, the queen, making sure the trolls get to dance. Trolls love to dance, it turns out. There is even a prince she likes. In the morning, she and her mom both find sparkles in their hair from the previous night’s adventures. The colors range from candy pink to lush purple and spring green, and the line is lightweight but lively. The details are pleasingly childlike; the combination of, for example, iced cakes, a royal mud puddle and a dolphin in the tub with “hot and cold running bubbles” is quite attractive. The part-time princess’ monogram, PTP, appears on her teapot, her fire engine and even her motorcycle in the last image. If there is to be yet another plucky-princess story, this one offers a pleasing blend of fancy and realism and allows mom to get into the act, too. (Picture book. 4-8)

CENTER OF EVERYTHING

Urban, Linda Harcourt (208 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-547-76348-4 Sixth-grader Ruby Pepperdine always used to be “good at figuring out what she was supposed to do,” but since her grandmother’s death, she’s lost the center of everything. Growing up in Bunning, N.H., Ruby always listened to her grandmother, Gigi, until the day Gigi died, and Ruby didn’t listen to her. Since Ruby does what’s expected, she thinks she should be back to normal after Gigi’s death. For three months, she’s pretended to be fine, not even telling her best friend “how out of balance she’s felt.” On her 12th birthday, Ruby makes a special wish that everything will be the way it’s supposed to be by the time she reads her prizewinning essay at the Bunning Day Parade. But when the day arrives, Ruby wonders if there’s any such thing as “supposed to.” Maybe listening and connecting are a lot more important. Written in the third person, present tense, Ruby’s story unfolds from her perspective on the day of the parade as she thinks back to what led to her obsessive wish to know what her grandmother tried to tell her. Ruby’s a credible heroine, and her response to her grandmother’s death rings true. Repetitive motifs of circles, centers and holes reinforce the theme of loss. A poignant, finely wrought exploration of grief. (Fiction. 9-12)

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OCD, THE DUDE, AND ME

Vaughn, Lauren Roedy Dial (240 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 21, 2013 978-0-8037-3843-0

There are good books, and there are great books, and then there are books with characters you’ll never forget. Vaughn’s debut about a high school senior whose struggle to fit in is compounded by the social quirks associated with her OCD is definitely one of those rare finds. Told through a brilliant collection of class assignments, journal entries, emails and “missives” to the school psychologist, Danielle Levine’s story is laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly honest. Hopelessly in love with the completely unattainable Jacob Kingston and plagued by body-image issues and insecurities about her position on the senior-class social ladder, Danielle lands herself in the school psychologist’s office and, even worse, a social-skills class. But just as things look like they couldn’t possibly get any worse, Danielle’s life gradually takes a turn for the better. An oddball collection of new friends, including Daniel, who’s not much taller than she is but has a “personality…well over six feet,” her amazingly supportive Aunt Joyce and Justine, an 80-year-old British tour guide, teach Danielle that there is plenty worth loving, and forgiving, about herself. Reminiscent of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Vaughn’s work avoids stereotypical pitfalls and deftly tackles the sensitive issue of a teen’s struggle with mental illness with humor and integrity. A must-read. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE MUSEUM

Verde, Susan Illus. by Reynolds, Peter H. Abrams (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4197-0594-6 Verde and Reynolds deliver a simple premise with a charming payoff. A lithe young girl (could she be the granddaughter of Jules Feiffer’s Village Voice Dancer?) gambols through a museum and responds to the art on the walls. Excited and enchanted, she almost dances through the galleries filled with work by such greats as Munch, Cezanne, Degas, Rodin and Van Gogh. Though the story unfolds in sometimes-awkward verse (“When I see / a work of art, / something / happens in / my heart. / I cannot stifle / my reaction. / My body just goes / into action”), Reynolds’ appealing pen-and-ink–with-wash illustrations are deceptively simple and wonderfully fluent. Employing a confident cartoony line that is at once elegant and eloquent, he adds subtle color to suggest and animate feelings and emotions. By the book’s close, primed by all the works of art she has seen, she projects her own imaginative images on a large, minimalist, kirkus.com

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“The handsome watercolors, blending a timeless Turkish landscape with more contemporary-looking signs, exaggerate the difference between the tall, proud Mustafa and the tiny, embarrassed Nasreddine.” from nasreddine

“blank” white canvas. As she regretfully leaves the galleries, she now knows that “The museum lives / inside of me.” Despite the missteps provoked by Verde’s verse, this “twirly-whirly” homage to a museum is, on balance, a sweetnatured and handsome celebration. (Picture book. 3-7)

LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!

Viau, Nancy Illus. by Vojtech, Anna Abrams (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-1-4197-0529-8

Baby animals strive to “stand up strong,” leap high and “spin a trap.” But learning is full of challenges, distractions and fun. In this message-driven tale, children see how various creatures struggle to develop and gain confidence. Viau chooses a single rhyming couplet to describe most spreads. A baby bird knows, “It’s not easy to leave the nest. / I flap my wings. I try my best.” Unfortunately each couplet strictly follows the same pattern, which grates by the end. A periodic chorus—“Friends of forest, / field, and stream, / Keep trying on your own. / Be proud today. / Have fun and play. / In time you will be grown”—comes across as a series of well-meaning but stale platitudes. The bright spot is Vojtech’s impressive illustrations. She chooses to zoom in on the animal pairs featured in each spread, which creates an exciting immediacy for those poring over the details. On the pages with the refrain, children will especially enjoy looking for each animal duo previously introduced. In the end, this all serves to remind kids to take things slowly and keep trying new things, be they walking, hopping or skipping rope. This title was clearly produced with the best of intentions, but regrettably, it does not quite coalesce into a successful reading experience. (Picture book. 3-5)

IMAGINE

Vivian, Bart Illus. by Vivian, Bart Beyond Words/Aladdin (32 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 16, 2013 978-1-58270-329-9 Children are invited to dream big in this title that doesn’t quite fly. In seven vignettes, a child holds or views an object or an animal while Vivian exhorts him/her to think expansive thoughts and be carried to great heights. A boy stands in a treehouse. Turn the page, and he is a king standing tall on a castle parapet. A girl looks through a glass window at a mechanical ballerina. Turn the page, and she is onstage in an elegant tutu. A boy sees a fire truck, and on the next page, he is a hero rescuing a child. See a horse, and ride the open range. Hold a toy boat, and travel the |

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seas. Draw a dragon, and become a dragon slayer. Walk a fallen log, and become a trapeze artist. The constant exhortations are more appropriate to an audience of adults in a motivation class than children. No dream depicted is out of the ordinary, and in too many instances, gender stereotyping prevails. The drawings, in black and white (for the prompts) or color (for the dreams), lack spark, and in too many of them, Vivian depicts the (mostly Caucasian) children and their grown-up counterparts from the back, precluding any attempts at empathy. Seek adventure elsewhere. This didactic effort lacks imagination and originality. (Picture book. 4-7)

NASREDDINE

Weulersse, Odile Translated by Merz, Kathleen Illus. by Dautremer, Rebecca Eerdmans (32 pp.) $17.00 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8028-5416-2 The beloved character of Nasreddin Hodja is usually portrayed as a man in Turkish and Middle Eastern folklore, but here, the wise fool is a youngster. This story presents a series of scenarios in which Nasreddine changes his behavior after hearing judgments uttered by various onlookers. Nasreddine tries to help his father get their products to market on their donkey, but a vizier sees him following the donkey and insults them by saying that Mustafa should allow the boy to ride the donkey. When they change places on their next ride into town, old women decry the boy’s selfish behavior. When Nasreddine decides that they should both ride, old men drinking frozen lemonade (what century is this?) are concerned about the animal. Children laugh at them when they allow the donkey to carry only watermelons while father and son both walk. With Mustafa’s gentle teaching, the boy realizes that he alone must judge the validity of other people’s criticisms. A little slower and more didactic than most Hodja stories, this may suffer from a stiff translation from the French original. The handsome watercolors, blending a timeless Turkish landscape with more contemporary-looking signs, exaggerate the difference between the tall, proud Mustafa and the tiny, embarrassed Nasreddine. This view of the Hodja as a child offers a different pathway into the popular stories. (historical note) (Picture book/ folk tale. 6-8)

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“A chilling exploration of the life, motivations and strategies of a young American suicide bomber.” from black helicopters

A GIRL’S GUIDE TO FITTING IN FITNESS

digital paints and Williams’ droll storytelling that it doesn’t matter. A measured counterattack for those parents planning on going anywhere with chronic complainers in tow. (Picture book. 4-8)

Whitehead, Erin; Walters, Jennipher Zest Books (126 pp.) $12.99 paper | Mar. 26, 2013 978-1-936976-30-0

Emphasizing a moderate approach to physical activity and balanced eating, this fitness guide for teen girls will be most useful to those who are already motivated. Easy-to-read chapters offer advice on topics such as the benefits of healthy habits, fitting activity into the regular school and weekend day, and stress relief. Sample workouts offer simple, illustrated instructions that often require little or no equipment. Likewise, tips about healthy meals suggest foods that can be eaten raw or prepared with a minimum of fuss. Beyond the basics, there is concise information offered about subjects that include organic produce, eating disorders and High Intensity Interval Training. Yet the distinctly positive tone of the guide does not always work. The authors’ suggestion that a good attitude is one of the most important elements to fitness is likely true, but it’s hard to imagine many teens suddenly being won over by the insistence that gym class can be fun. It’s also unlikely they will thrill to some of the more didactic maxims offered here: “By being committed to making yourself the best you can be, you’ll find that getting fit is empowering—not dreadful.” Concluding with an annotated list of online resources and an index, this guide will be a boon for teen fitness buffs, if not couch potatoes. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

ARE WE THERE YET?

Williams, Sam Illus. by Stojic, Manja Sterling (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-907967-46-7

If Make Way for Ducklings had been chock-full of whiny fowl, it might have looked like this thinly veiled metaphor of a family road trip. Mother Duck’s children Eeny, Meeny and Miney are sick of their old pond. While Little Moe protests that he loves it, his older siblings do nothing but kvetch. Mother’s solution is a trip, complete with duckweed sandwiches and lots of walking. As they journey, Mother Duck points out the various farm animals along the way (her children remain unimpressed, save her youngest, who dutifully supplies every animal noise). Yet by the day’s end, even the stalwart Little Moe is quacking a desperate, “Are we there yet?” while his siblings debate who pushed whom. Imagine their surprise when the destination turns out to be their original pond. The now-overjoyed ducklings quack high praise for the formerly detested spot, not a word of complaint out of them. The old story will be new to the young audience, and the simple language gives the book high read-aloud potential. There’s no guarantee the preschool audience will catch the car-trip analogy, but they may be so caught up in Stojic’s thick 118

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GONE FISHING A Novel in Verse

Wissinger, Tamera W. Illus. by Cordell, Matthew Houghton Mifflin (128 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-0-547-82011-8 A playful verse narrative of the joys and perils of a family fishing trip. In her poetic debut for primary graders, Wissinger tells the sweet domestic tale of a much-anticipated family outing from the viewpoints of young Sam, sister Lucy and Dad. Sam eagerly looks forward to fishing solo with his father—“It’ll be like playing catch or / painting the garage. / Just Dad and me. / Fishing”—when younger sis Lucy horns in and threatens to ruin the fun. First, Lucy disturbs the contents of Sam’s tackle box, then renders Sam despondent when her singing helps her catch a handful of fish even before Sam has caught one. But the trip vastly improves for Sam when he lands a sizable catfish, leading Lucy to gush with pride for him. The resolution to this muted sibling-rivalry plot is reached via a number of verse forms, from the kid-friendly acrostic, haiku and concrete poem to the purposefully silly double dactyl, a form so complex Wissinger admits her example here follows only in “spirit.” Alongside the poems, Cordell’s light yet expressive illustrations neatly capture the day’s shifting mood. Perhaps in a nod to teachers, Wissinger tacks on a note on writing poetry, adding definitions of literary terms and verse forms in language too sophisticated for many in the work’s intended audience. Appendix aside, this tender, well-crafted sibling story should hook many readers. (bibliography) (Verse fiction. 5-9)

BLACK HELICOPTERS

Woolston, Blythe Candlewick (176 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-6146-5

A chilling exploration of the life, motivations and strategies of a young American suicide bomber. Valkyrie (nee Valley) White is on a mission to wake up everyone. Her statement of purpose recorded and media-ready, she departs the survivalist camp where she and her brother Bo live, but when her driver detonates their truck bomb too early, Valkyrie sets off on her own to complete the mission. Through brief chapters alternating between the past kirkus.com

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and present, readers learn about Valley and Bo’s childhood in Montana’s backwoods, where their Da trained them to be selfsufficient and deeply wary of the world outside their land. After Valley and Bo’s mother, Mabby, dies in what they believe was a black-helicopter attack authorized by Those People in the government, Da insists that the children learn paramilitary and bomb-building skills along with chess and how to read. In the present, Valkyrie uses Da’s lessons to manipulate a teenage boy into driving to an opportune place for her to detonate her vest. Woolston’s slow, tense revelation of the full horror of what the adults in Valkyrie’s life have wrought in and through her is breathtaking. Readers who may have previously associated suicide bombers with religious fanaticism will be fascinated by Valkyrie’s totally secular but equally single-minded devotion to anti-government rhetoric and revenge. Harrowing and unforgettable. (Fiction. 14-18)

B.U.G. (BIG UGLY GUY)

Yolen, Jane Illus. by Stemple, Adam Dutton (328 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 21, 2013 978-0-525-42238-9

Some books are impossible to describe. Saying that B.U.G. is a teenage version of the golem legend would make it sound like Twilight-era supernatural fiction. And saying that the golem plays drums in a fusion band would make it sound like the Archies. In a way, this is a story about bullies. Sammy Greenburg and his friend Skink get beaten up several times before the end of the novel, so it starts to make sense for Sammy to build a golem who will protect him. At times, the story feels less like a fantasy than an old-fashioned problem novel, about fights and crushes and sitting alone at the lunch table—and as a coming-of-age story, it’s very involving. Once in a while, the book also turns into a musical about a teen band. This is unfortunate. Sample lyrics: “But power when it’s not in check / Can leave your life an awful wreck, / Turns success right into drek.” The genre finally doesn’t matter. It’s a story about a boy in trouble. It’s funny and scary and thrilling and—like most versions of the golem story—deeply sad. The Jewish legend works surprisingly well as a story about bullying. But there may be moments when readers scratch their heads and say: The golem is playing the drums? (Yiddish glossary) (Fantasy. 8-13)

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GRUMBLES FROM THE FOREST Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist

Yolen, Jane; Dotlich, Rebecca Kai Illus. by Mahurin, Matt Wordsong/Boyds Mills (40 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-59078-867-7

An intriguing idea becomes a thought-provoking collection of short poems from characters readers only thought they knew. Yolen and Dotlich have taken 15 well-known fairy tales (“Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” etc.) and written two short poems in various formats spoken from the point of view of a character. The Princess and the Pea each get a voice, and so do the Frog and the Princess. Tiny Thumbelina gets two tiny poems, a cinquain and a haiku. The frontmatter lists who wrote what, and a very brief summary of each tale is listed at the end. While short, these notes include tale variants, which is very nice indeed. The beginning poem, “Once,” is by Yolen; and the closing, “Happily Ever After,” is by Dotlich. While every poem is accessible, some are richer and darker than others. “Beauty and the Beast: An Anniversary” (Yolen) visits the couple in their old age and is wistful and touching; “Snide: An Afterthought” (Dotlich) is as the title states: “Ever after, I refused to call him / Rumpelstiltskin; / to me, he is a nasty little man.” Mahurin’s surreal images are layered with color, now matte, now iridescent, with exaggerated perspectives and dreamlike, occasionally nightmarish, elongated or oversized figures. The poets invite and may well entice readers to write their own fairy-tale poems. (Poetry/fairy tales. 5-9)

interactive e-books WELCOME TO THE VAMPIRE’S LAIR ...If You Dare! Buba Filmes Illus. by Buba Filmes LivoBooks $2.99 | Dec. 12, 2012 1.2; Dec. 12, 2012

Vampire Vladmir von Splatter introduces young users of this app to some ghoulish features in his castle. The vampire’s castle is in the “pleasantly dark and stormy realm of Darkonia,” and it is aptly rendered here with plenty of inky shadows and murky corners, but also with its share of bold color and terrific sound effects—Vincent Price would be proud. The app is very friendly to use, responding quickly to the touch, which is typically accompanied by a scream or a howl. There |

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are seven separate screens involved, each with multiple features and often involving a game as users poke about in the castle. On one screen, coffins are laid out on a stage and can be played like a piano; on another, a candy-striped Venus flytrap takes huge bites when touched; another breaks the Mona Lisa up into a puzzle—upon reassembly, she screams and her eyes fall out of her head. Its devilish fun, but it also has to be said that the staying power of this app has got to be limited. Once readers have figured out the puzzle, there is not much more to discover. Still, the theatrics and the sheer visual power of the app might well keep users coming back time and again. Vampires rarely come amiss, and von Splatter has a high time amusing and spooking users while it lasts. (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

PARKER PENGUIN

Nosy Crow Nosy Crow/Candlewick $4.99 | Dec. 12, 2012 Series: Rounds 1.0.1; Dec. 21, 2012

The second installment in Nosy Crow’s educational Rounds series. Every illustration in this series is made out of circles or parts of circles. Additionally, much like a rousing chorus of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” these stories follow the life cycles of living beings— so far, a frog (Franklin Frog, 2012) and a penguin. This adventure begins with Parker, an adult penguin who waddles and slides through his icy world. He spouts facts—in the first person— about penguins along the way. Tapping him prompts declarations like, “I rock from side to side as I walk.” Readers can help him do things like skid over snow and avoid predators while swimming. Parker finds a mate in Penelope. They do their awesome mating dance, and eventually, Percy is born, which starts the cycle all over again. Percy meets Pippa, and their mating results in Peter, who mates with Pearl. And so it goes. Navigation is super smooth, and the penguins’ charming discourse is likely to teach the adults a thing or two. All the interactions are both interesting and satisfying. The only oversight is that both stories in this series are told entirely from a male perspective. Could the tale not be told from Penelope’s, Pippa’s or Pearl’s point of view? It’s unfortunate that the females don’t exist until found by a mate. Gender issues aside, this app is definitely worth the price of admission. (iPad informational app. 2-6)

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continuing series PERFECT GAME

BATS

Fred Bowen Sports Stories Bowen, Fred Peachtree (144 pp.) $14.95 | $5.95 paper Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-56145-701-4 978-1-56145-625-3 paper (Fiction. 8-12)

Biggest! Littlest! Markle, Sandra Boyds Mills (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1 2013 978-1-59078-952-0 (Informational picture book. 5-8)

A PLACE FOR TURTLES

THE CASE OF THE MISSING DINOSAUR EGG

A Place for… Stewart, Melissa Illus. by Bond, Higgins Peachtree (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-1-56145-693-2 (Informational picture book. 6-10)

First Kids Mysteries, #5 Freeman, Marsha Holiday House (128 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-8234-2523-5 (Fiction. 8-12)

ANCIENT EGYPT

WELCOME TO AMERICA, CHAMP!

BIG CATS

IN ANDAL’S HOUSE

Explorers Johnson, Jinny Illus. by Bull, Peter Kingfisher (32 pp.) $10.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7534-6743-5 (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Tales of the World (England) Stier, Catherine Illus. by Ettlinger, Doris Sleeping Bear (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 1 2013 978-1-58536-606-4 (Picture book. 6-10)

Explorers Llewellyn, Claire Illus. by Bull, Peter Kingfisher (32 pp.) $10.99 | Mar. 1, 2013 978-0-7534-6744-2 (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Tales of the World (India) Whelan, Gloria Illus. by Hall, Amanda Sleeping Bear (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 1 2013 978-1-58536-603-3 (Picture book. 6-10)

This Issue’s Contributors # Alison Anholt-White • Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Marcie Bovetz • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Sophie Brookover • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Lisa Dennis • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Ruth I. Gordon • Melinda Greenblatt • Megan Honig • Julie Hubble • Jennifer Hubert • Shelley Huntington • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Megan Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Ellen Loughran • Lori Low • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Jeanne McDermott • Daniel Meyer • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Erika Rohrbach • Ronnie Rom • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Mindy Schanback • Stephanie Seales • Chris Shoemaker • Robin Smith • Karin Snelson • Rita Soltan • Edward T. Sullivan • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • Jessica Thomas • S.D. Winston • Monica Wyatt • Melissa Yurechko

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indie LIVING THE DREAM

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Brown, Richard Xlibris (382 pp.) $29.99 | $19.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 31, 2012 978-1462881475

LAWS OF DEPRAVITY by Eriq La Salle...........................................126 YOUR ENLIGHTENED MIND WANTS TO KNOW by J.M. Walsh...................................................................................... 131

In this novel inspired by his own experiences in Jamaica and England, first-time author Brown weaves a story of brotherhood, friendship and ambition gone awry. At the dawn of the new millennium, brothers Junior and Menny and their friend Moses are smoking marijuana and reading their favorite biblical psalms under an apple tree in St. Mary, Jamaica. They live hand-to-mouth lives, but the young men are dreamers; they all have hopes as high as the sky and a tremendous amount of ambition. The idea of moving to England is never far from their minds. Of the two brothers, Junior’s dreams revolve more around making money and having a big, beautiful house, while Menny, a talented singer, wants to use his gift to spread word of the Rastafarian movement and help continue the black struggle, in the tradition of Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King Jr. Eventually, the young men make their way to England, but their ambitions lead them down a dark path of crime, as they fall in with Kingston-born gangsters Reload and Serius, whose goal is to make money by any means necessary. The best part of Brown’s book is the dialogue, which is fortunate, since there’s a lot of it. He clearly has an ear for speech, and he adeptly captures voices for Jamaicans and Englishmen alike. Especially enjoyable are the phone conversations laid out on the page like a script without stage directions. The book becomes as much about personalities and voices as the fading dreams, and it’s all a pleasure to read. A memorable novel with an authentic voice.

YOUR ENLIGHTENED MIND WANTS TO KNOW

Walsh, J.M. CreateSpace (278 pp.) $14.95 paper Nov. 6, 2012 978-1478323419

RELIGION, CULTURE, HISTORY A Philosophical Study of Religion Brutus, Steven CreateSpace (206 pp.) $10.00 paper | Nov. 5, 2012 978-1479109685

Brutus (Lines of Thinking in Aesthetics, 2012, etc.) delivers an impressive introduction to global religions and the urge to worship, from ancient history to today. |

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In his concise introduction, Brutus writes that this book is merely meant to provide “some background for a study of religion in culture and through history.” That may seem like a tall order, but Brutus succeeds in packing a lot of information into his concise, readable summaries, helpfully broken into sections. Writers of grand-scale history can get themselves into trouble with this sort of summarization, lopping off the nuances that don’t fit their theses; but Brutus avoids this trouble via his extensive knowledge and his lack of polemics. While there are times when the reader may wish to know more about a subject, a part of the pleasure here is Brutus’s wide-ranging examination of the etymology of certain terms in various languages; faith traditions (focusing on Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam); and various approaches to religion (from biology to game theory). Unlike some polemical theist and atheist writers, Brutus sets out with a more modest thesis, which comes out most clearly in his conclusion: Approaching religion from a philosophical and humble standpoint provides gratification in the search for knowledge rather than its assumption. (It’s no surprise that Brutus’ main models are the gadfly of Athens, Socrates, and the nondogmatic Buddha.) With such a broad view of the subject, readers may find certain topics more interesting than others, but without cluttering the text with footnotes, Brutus gives plenty of direction for finding out more about particular topics. Those looking for material to use in arguments against their theistic or atheistic friends and family are better off looking elsewhere, as Brutus’s book primarily addresses the act of critical inquiry itself. As he notes, everyone can do philosophy, and philosophy’s main goal is to be the servant of life. Brutus ends with a warm, personal depiction of this during his own travels in Jerusalem. Far-reaching, erudite introduction to philosophy of religion without needless polemics.

the Murphys—looking for a firm to invest with—come across A.H. Brown and Company, but there’s something about young Miles Brown that Murphy just doesn’t like. The agent explains, “Maybe it was the way he almost wrapped himself in the flag when he talked about investing. Like the importance of, the beauty of, America was all about making money.” The Murphys go with another firm, but he asks Britney to run a sting: Pose as a wealthy investor and see if Miles and Andrew might be running a Ponzi scam. What Murphy doesn’t know is that Britney is already romantically involved with Andrew, and all her research about countries without extradition treaties might have an ulterior purpose. Burson (A Partner’s Hidden Life, 2011, etc.), partner in a CPA firm, makes good use of his financial background in constructing this tight, well-paced and well-researched story. Details—whether of investment schemes, FBI bureaucracy or the workings of small planes—are clear and contribute to the plot. Murphy makes for a likable narrator, though he is somewhat antediluvian in his approach to bright, ambitious young women: Britney’s “attitude could kindly be called a combination of strong willed and free spirited. Unkindly, she would be labeled as a bitch.” Is that unkind, or sexist? It’s hard to imagine a strong-willed and free-spirited man being “labeled” as anything. The novel’s substandard punctuation and spelling also need a cleanup to avoid looking sloppy. Sean Murphy’s adventures continue in A Partner’s Hidden Life. An intelligent, fast-paced and well-constructed novel about financial crime.

THERE’LL COME A TIME Cubbins, Terry CreateSpace (258 pp.) $9.85 paper | Oct. 25, 2012 978-1478104889

PONZI

The tale of a first-time marijuana smuggler finding love and searching for revenge on an East Malaysian island. Tim Williams owes money to the wrong people. In 1974, he seeks help from his younger brother, Sonny, an engineer with sea experience who agrees to help transport tons of marijuana from Thailand back to San Francisco. Sonny doesn’t mind waiting on Labuan Island for repairs and refueling thanks to the presence of beguiling nurse Kelli. The crew’s return trip is besieged by pirates and bad weather, but it’s a double cross that ultimately leads Sonny back to Labuan for vengeance. Cubbins (Smugglers’ Blues, 2007) packs a decent amount of information within very little narrative, and he does so quickly and admirably, solidifying the brothers’ shared history and setting up Sonny on the boat in under 20 pages. Sonny doesn’t seem to trust either the ragtag crew he’s stuck with or the dilapidated ship he’s on, but as a ship at sea is wont to do, the story changes course: Sonny comes to respect Capt. Cal and the crew, and he spends the bulk of his time with Kelli, a Labuan local. The narrative redirection is done with surprising ease, as the author gradually turns the story into what’s basically a love story. Yet

Burson, Robert CreateSpace (366 pp.) $13.25 paper | $0.99 e-book Dec. 21, 2009 978-1439268179 An FBI agent investigates a possible Ponzi scheme with the help of his new assistant, who may have an agenda of her own. Sean Murphy, a longtime FBI agent, is between assignments after having gained “quasi-star” status. Why only quasi? “I happened to have saved the Pope. Unfortunately, I did it only once,” he says in his typically wry manner. His new assistant, Britney Hyde-Woods, seems too young for her job, leading Murphy to wonder how she got where she did. When Murphy’s wife receives an unexpected overseas inheritance, it seems like a good opportunity to take a week off, check it out and assign Britney to report on a whitecollar crime question: whether a Ponzi scheme could actually succeed for the perpetrator. According to Britney, the answer is no: “It seems the perp always gets caught.” Back in the States, 122

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“[A]rrows zing and swords swing on nearly every page.” from the legend of atticus rex

new readers crave and rarely find on the bookshelves for their age group.

the novel comes back with heightened suspense when the ship is loaded with marijuana—so many bales that some sit in the shower—and an enigmatic old man, supposedly the employer, is shockingly absent when Sonny and company wind up in prison. The mystery deepens when it comes to light that there’s someone else behind the drug dealing, and a tragedy pits a vendettaminded Sonny against the most dangerous man of all. Cubbins’ straightforward writing style makes the book a quick read. At the same time, though, the narrative can be eloquently descriptive: Bob, one of the crew, looks as if “he could grow a beard in an afternoon.” Seafaring knowledge pairs well with a sharp, poised narrative voice.

TOBY AND TUTTER Therapy Dogs

DeBear, Kirsten Photos by Dwight, Laura Toby & Tutter Publishing (32 pp.) $17.95 | Oct. 15, 2012 9780984781201 Dogs and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly in DeBear’s picture book about therapy dogs. Toby and Tutter are therapy dogs who work with their “human mother,” an occupational therapist for small children. They perform many activities with the children—snuggle, play ball, show them how to walk on the balance beam and slide down the slide, and help them stay calm and focused during therapy. In DeBear’s (Be Quiet, Marina!, 2001) tale, first Toby narrates and then Tutter. Toby is a big, long-haired mutt, older and more experienced. Tutter is younger, a big-eyed Italian greyhound who looks up to Toby and hopes to be just as good a therapy dog someday. The prose is simple, clear and well-calibrated to her target audience of preschoolers. DeBear doesn’t shy away from using some words that will require explanation (like “occupational therapy”), and she surrounds these words with plenty of context clues. Bright photos of the dogs in the playroom accompany the text. Young audiences will love seeing pictures of kids their age with the dogs, and the photo of Toby coming headfirst down the slide is exactly the sort of thing kids beg to see over and over again. Unfortunately, the whole thing is about twice as long as it needs to be. It’s easy to imagine the preschool set—who, as a rule, love animals and love simple, true stories about the real world—sitting in rapt attention for most of the book but losing interest toward the end. There are often too many ideas and too many words per page. Keeping track of several storylines—what therapy dogs do, Toby and Tutter’s complicated sibling relationship, Tutter’s hopes to be a trained therapy dog—may be too much for some kids to take in on the first reading. But that just means there are more details for them to pick up on when they hear it for the second, third and 10th times. Dog-loving preschoolers will want to hear it again and again; a good addition to a library or school’s nonfiction collection.

THE LEGEND OF ATTICUS REX Book 1: The Amulet de Vosjoli, Philippe Illus. by Iborra, Santiago Advanced Visions Inc. (136 pp.) $17.99 paper | $5.99 e-book Nov. 19, 2012 978-0974297170

A colossal, mysterious dog protects an ancient Roman family from marauding Volgoths. Young Gabriel has his bow and arrow ready: He is proud to go with his father, Marcus, into the Crimson Forest, on the lookout for evil forces that have been terrorizing travelers. And he soon gets the action he is looking for: Terrifying Volgoths appear—stand-ins for the Visigoths who invaded the Roman Empire in the late fourth century. The Volgoths are deliciously frightening, with beating bat wings on their helmets, giant redeyed weasels at their command, and skulls and femurs clutched in their powerful hands. This will satisfy many young readers’ thirst for real action, for monsters and villains that are truly scary, and for dangerous, life-and-death situations. De Vosjoli (Popular Amphibians (Advanced Vivarium Systems), 2012, etc.) delivers all that and more—but leaves out the blood and gore: When a villain dies on the battlefield, he’s dragged underground, and when a spear dispatches a giant weasel, it melts into a black ooze. In the heat of the battle, an enormous dog appears—the eponymous Atticus Rex—to save the outnumbered Romans. While action—arrows zing and swords swing on nearly every page— takes precedence over character development, young Gabriel is very much like the 7-, 8-, and 9-year-olds the book is aimed at. He wants to fight alongside his father, but he also sleeps with the candle lit or while clutching the protective amulet of Atticus Rex his father unearths. Two minor quibbles: While Marcus and Titus are very believable names for Roman citizens in the 4th century, Gabriel, Miriam and Charlie are not. And when Marcus is called to “the front” (mostly out of narrative necessity), young readers are unlikely to understand that phrase without any context. Otherwise, the story is intelligently written and explains just as much as its target audience might need. This fast-paced chapter book has the action that many |

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TWO WEEKS IN VIEQUES

an advanced people whose life span and medicinal knowledge exceed those of the explorers. The team is particularly intrigued to learn that the Ashais’ lives center on a Kriziantu, a crystal bird whose eggs protect their people from the deadliest diseases. The bird and other Ashai magical items interest the archaeologists, who hope to use them to cure sick people around the world. The Ashais sense danger and strike back against the explorers, protecting their healing bird and their unique knowledge of history and humanity’s origins. Centuries of battles and discoveries come to a head as these two civilizations clash—a battle that escalates when one of the explorers falls for the Ashai king’s daughter. The explorers are torn between their respect and reverence for the land they’ve discovered and the potential cures they could bring back to the world, transforming this fast-paced adventure story into a much deeper and more complicated tale. Drayton’s lyrical prose contains poetic turns of phrase such as, “The music of whistling trees and the low pitched call of the crystal birds soared across the Blue Mountains, which were splashed with the light of the midnight sun.” A unique, engaging story of star-crossed love, history and mythical magic.

Dillon, Marie Suzanne iUniverse (164 pp.) $25.95 | $15.95 paper | Jul. 19, 2010 978-1450244398 978-1450244404 paper In her memoir and first book, Dillon tells of her 18-day trip with her two sisters to Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico, while reflecting on a life augmented by a loving, quirky family. A winter trip to the Caribbean seems like an ideal vacation, and with the exception of a few misfortunes, Dillon’s is. Scattered among Canada, the Dominican Republic and Florida, the three Dillon sisters long for some time together and agree to lounge on the beaches of Vieques. The author, the youngest of five, shares memories from the vacation, while the gorgeous beaches, restaurant music and board games spark memories of her family. Through her comforting, friendly tone, the author lulls the reader on a dreamy journey down Memory Lane. In fact, it soon becomes apparent that the book is less travelogue and more family memoir. Most of her memories center on her parents: her mother, who became completely deaf after her first child was born, and her father, a hobbyist boat builder and greenhorn sailor. Dillon brings the reader on trips to the family cottage, sailing debacles, trips to the theater and family swimming challenges. Occasionally struggling, the author ultimately succeeds in maintaining an admirably positive outlook on life, even when reflecting on illnesses and robberies that appear in the veritable paradise. By creating this comfortable world, Dillon hopes to inspire nostalgia in her readers, but she’s slow to develop the personalities of her sisters, parents and herself, making it difficult for the reader to feel invested. Limited dialogue and detail challenge the imagination for the first half of the book. As the personalities of the sisters and their parents develop, the payoff is pleasant immersion in Dillon’s enjoyable stories. A sunny Caribbean backdrop brightens this loving look at family.

MY ARAB SPRING MY CANADA Ghanem, Qais; Nasrallah, Elie M. CreateSpace (174 pp.) $12.00 paper | Oct. 8, 2012 978-1478387299

According to the authors, Canadians must seize the historical moment in order to re-examine and strengthen relationships between Arab-Canadian communities and the nation as a whole. Ghanem (Two Boys from Aden College, 2012) and Nasrallah believe that recent events provide an ideal opportunity to engage with mainstream Canadian culture and explore “the potential convergence of values owing to the Arab Spring struggle for democracy, dignity, and development.” The authors begin by offering a brief overview of Canadian immigration policies—both past and present—as well as current demographic information about Arab-Canadians: location, age, education, employment, income and gender. After laying this groundwork, the authors then address the cultural diversity within disparate groups lumped together under the broad category of Arab-Canadians. For instance, Ghanem, who hosts a radio show in Ottawa called Dialogue with Diversity, draws upon past interviews with guests from different backgrounds in order to present their distinct experiences, challenges and triumphs. Of particular note is the chapter titled “The Hot Issue of Women and Hijab,” in which the realities of a culture clash are perhaps most evident: acceptable modes of dress, the prospect of dating outside of the community and even the practice of female genital mutilation. In the final chapter, Ghanem and Nasrallah call for greater understanding between the generations and also suggest ways for Arab-Canadians to fully participate in all aspects of society, from sports to politics,

THE CRYSTAL BIRD

Drayton, Helen CreateSpace (386 pp.) $13.95 paper | Dec. 3, 2012 978-1475225075 Drayton (Passages II: Brown Doves, 2012, etc.) delivers an epic tale of an ancient civilization confronting the present. In 1999, archaeologists Allan Cline and Christopher Ward and their team traverse East Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Stunned by their discoveries of ancient artifacts dating back 50,000 years, the team continues its search until, after seeking protection from a snowstorm, its members find themselves among the Ashai tribe. The Ashais are 124

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THE GOLDEN ASHFRUIT

media, academia, business and the armed forces. As the authors posit in their central, overarching question: “[A]re we heading toward a new paradigm, a new phase of shedding that prejudicial state of mind that saw most Arabs as antimodernity, antidemocratic, and anti-assimilation to the mainstream Canadian value system?” Despite occasional editing issues, the book is well-organized and full of interesting factoids about Canadian immigration, both in general terms and specifically with regard to the Arab diaspora. An essential guide for Arab-Canadians and a fascinating resource for anyone interested in the dynamics of immigration and assimilation.

Harris, A.L. Harris Synergy Press (364 pp.) $12.80 paper | Dec. 16, 2012 978-0615733838

Harris weaves together a complicated but well-planned story in this sweeping fantasy based on Norse mythology. Set mainly in the “fairie” realm, this novel follows a cast of colorful characters that includes 900-year-old Mab, who becomes a fairie queen; Norse deity and eventual elven king Freyr; and mortal slave Nigel. Told from an omniscient point of view that allows readers to see the unfolding drama from a number of perspectives, the book begins with the arranged marriage of Freyr and Mab. But when Mab’s beloved father, Sargon, is murdered, the marriage plans are scrapped due to Freyr’s dissatisfaction with the way things are run in the fairie world. Mab spirals into a dark, violent insanity, as rival courts plot to strip her of her power. Political machinations and the endless accompanying deceits and unstable alliances help drive the novel forward, while action consisting mainly of battles and bloodshed—including Queen Mab’s many cruel and violent abuses of power—and colorful, detailed descriptions give the novel its sense of movement and place. Harris offers rich details of appearances and dress worn by the various players as well as lively descriptions of castles and other buildings: “Jaidev had decorated his castle with dozens of golden, red-tipped, orange and light green leaves in gray receptacles.” The huge cast of characters and ever-shifting alliances can be a bit overwhelming at times, but fantasy fans will likely have little difficulty following the different threads even if there’s a certain sameness to many of the interactions. An inventive new twist on some familiar mythologies makes for a fascinating, adventure-filled tale.

ONCE UPON A TEMPTATION Hallows, Kaye P. Kaye P. Hallows (168 pp.) $7.99 paper | $2.99 e-book Mar. 31, 2012 978-0615618029

A nuanced, deeply sensual fairy tale of erotica set in modern-day corporate America. Written in 100-word “drabble” chapters, the story revolves around the relationship between Juliana Crowne, a beautiful executive whose father is CEO of the company (she’s “de facto princess of the realm”), and Alexander Knight, a guy with midnight hair and penetrating eyes who works in the IT department. A single dominant into BDSM, Knight is searching for a woman to share his darkest desires. After a routine security review in which he inadvertently uncovers Juliana’s erased internet history—she’s viewed submissive photo galleries and posted dominance and submission stories on an erotica website—he devises a cunning plan to win the heart of the “heiress to the throne.” But with a holiday ball quickly approaching, not to mention that Juliana’s boyfriend is ready to pop the question, Knight must act quickly and decisively. This short novel’s charm comes from its fairy-tale tone and delightful fusion of unbridled sexuality and enchanting ambiance. (It even begins with “Once upon a time….”) Even though the sexual content tends to be understated—in an early scene, Juliana’s boyfriend is described thusly: “Thrusting politely, he climaxes”—the attraction and connection between Juliana and Knight is palpable. However, one major criticism of this unconventional love story is its drabble format, which, rather than adding to the reading experience, actually diminishes it by severely limiting the author’s ability to flesh out a scene, literally and figuratively. The short chapters keep the pacing brisk and the tone relatively light, but readers may wonder how much more penetrating the story could’ve been if the author lengthened and deepened the narrative. Pleasingly erotic and romantic, without being gratuitous.

AN ABDUCTION REVELATION The Comeback Kid Returns Hay, Thomas L. BalboaPress (192 pp.) $33.99 | $14.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 3, 2012 978-1452559551 978-1452559575 paper

Hay (The Comeback Kid, 2011) revises his first memoir in light of new extraterrestrial details. A life story that includes deployment with the Navy, two marriages and the staggering cultural changes of the latter half of the 20th century—that all seems exciting enough to merit a book. Indeed, Hay wrote that memoir, but he’s decided there’s more yet to tell. Here, he reveals the “intriguing and mysterious phenomenon buried within [his] subconscious.” On advice from his ex-wife, he adopted an ascetic lifestyle that removed blocks |

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“A delightfully twisting roller-coaster ride through light, dark and the shades between.” from laws of depravity

from his memory. What those blocks had hidden from memory was a string of alien abductions, beginning in his adolescence. With knowledge of his whole history, he realized how deeply these experiences shaped his body, his mind and his identity. The abductors had left him with “increased IQ, improved handeye coordination, eyesight, and a few other enhancements.” These heightened skills played a role in Hay’s Navy career and in his subsequent secret work with NASA to “develop an effective communication device” to facilitate contact between the abductors and humanity. This secret job led Hay to a series of realizations about the abductors, himself and the world. The end of the story comes with an unexpected twist that nothing had foreshadowed, making it as jarring as it is surprising. The prose isn’t especially sparkling, but Hay carries the story with a conversational style and passion. While it may be difficult for readers to believe tales of time travel, cloning and secret government conspiracies, it’s easy to believe that Hay is convinced, and his conviction makes for an oddly compelling book. An amusing sci-fi/memoir curiosity.

and her daughter’s well-being. In this fine memoir, the author’s voice is emotional and fervent, but her prose style is relatively unadorned. She conveys her story in simple but powerful language that consistently makes her account an absorbing read. A captivating story of one woman’s journey to spiritual freedom.

LAWS OF DEPRAVITY La Salle, Eriq CreateSpace (236 pp.) $15.00 paper | $3.99 e-book Jun. 1, 2012 978-1477582114

The surprises keep coming in La Salle’s twisting debut thriller, in which good and evil aren’t always black and white. Quincy Cavanaugh and Tavares “Phee” Freeman team up with FBI agent Janet Maclin in the pursuit of a serial killer who’s murdered 12 clergymen every 10 years for the past three decades. With the killings set to occur over a limited number of days, the investigators have to move quickly to catch the Martyr Maker before he takes more lives and goes back into hiding. In the process, they discover that he isn’t randomly pursuing men of the cloth—he’s targeting the ones who use their positions to keep lurid secrets safe, and he believes he’s on a mission from God. In addition to the absorbing, fast-paced plot that will keep readers guessing until the end, each wonderfully sculpted character has a distinct, lifelike personality. Some characters aren’t who they appear to be, and few escape the story unchanged. Crucial subplots revolving around the main characters’ family members and significant others, who struggle with their own demons— like Quincy’s brother, who’s a priest, and a mother whose son committed suicide on her father’s watch—add nuance, making the characters real, vulnerable and flawed. Without skimping on character development in exchange for action, the plot offers catalysts for change while raising spiritual questions and blurring the line between good and evil, which propels the story upward from being merely a solid, entertaining thriller to being a gripping must-read that could have readers pondering right and wrong long after they’ve finished. A delightfully twisting roller-coaster ride through light, dark and the shades between.

SAVED How I Survived a Religious Sex Cult Larkin, Leigh CreateSpace (324 pp.) $14.95 paper | $3.95 e-book Oct. 16, 2012 978-1478326069

In a compelling debut memoir, Larkin tells of her experiences in the Children of God cult. Growing up in the Bible Belt in the 1970s, Larkin was drawn to Christianity at a young age. However, her mother always actively discouraged her from joining a church and leading a religious life. When her mother finally took her to a church, Larkin found herself dissatisfied: “The people were nice to me, but they didn’t talk much about the Lord. They seemed more interested in talking about what was right and wrong—not a whole lot different than my mother.” Lost and despondent, the 13-year-old Larkin happened upon a poster in the nearby college town of Knoxville, Tenn., that read, “Free Food, Free Music, Free Love.” Larkin took the ad as a sign from God and went to the listed address, where she was greeted by the seemingly warm and generous members of the Children of God, also known as the Family. Larkin joined them and eagerly relinquished all her possessions to the group. The Family’s regular proselytizing, or “witnessing,” consisted at first of distributing leaflets and singing on street corners, but then began incorporating “Flirty Fishing,” in which female members persuaded outsiders to join the Family by flirting and eventually sleeping with them. Larkin’s spiritual journey took another unexpected turn when she gave birth to a daughter, Berta, with cerebral palsy. Her challenges as she tried to raise Berta in the Family—where no one member is allowed to receive special treatment—led Larkin to see her life in the Children of God as unsustainable and detrimental to her 126

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“[Loranger] presents his fictionalized history of the USS Indianapolis with meticulous detail, rich naval lore and bantering humor, and he infuses it with a poetic beauty.” from the odyssey of art o’hara

THE ODYSSEY OF ART O’HARA

WARS AT WORK An Action Guide for Resolving Workplace Battles

Loranger, John Xlibris (182 pp.) $29.99 | $19.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Sep. 29, 2012 978-1479724147

Mir, Kaveh AuthorHouse (222 pp.) $31.33 paper | $15.66 e-book Oct. 19, 2012 978-1477234150

A riveting tale of a World War II Navy man’s survival at sea, based on the true account of the USS Indianapolis. Radioman 3rd Class Art O’Hara, a brash radioman who’s always toting a cigarette on his lip, wakes in a seedy San Francisco motel room. Realizing he’s AWOL, he makes a mad dash to catch his ship just before it heads to sea. Readers ride pillion on this rapidfire opening to a novel that gains momentum with every page as O’Hara and his fellow sailors embark for the Marianas aboard the USS Atwood. At the outset, life aboard ship doesn’t seem too onerous: O’Hara finds opportunities to shirk work, badger underlings, ponder the mysterious crate in the cargo hold and watch newbies vomit over the railing. Within days of delivering its cargo, the Atwood leaves for the Leyte Gulf. It never reaches its destination. Just after midnight, two torpedoes strike, swiftly sinking the Atwood as men grab life jackets and jump ship. Ocean currents and confusion about whether the distress signal went out leave the survivors wondering if they’ll be rescued while treading water under a merciless sun. With each day that passes, more men die from their wounds or get picked off by ever-present sharks. Delusions set in: Some men bargain with the Almighty, while others retreat into their imaginations. O’Hara’s fantasy of driving to Montana with his parents gradually merges into memory, and we learn of his love for Atsuko, a young Japanese woman whom he’d met at a dance—a poignant subplot that encapsulates conflicted American attitudes in 1945. Author Loranger, a former Navy man, presents his fictionalized history of the USS Indianapolis with meticulous detail, rich naval lore and bantering humor, and he infuses it with a poetic beauty. Swimming toward warmth, O’Hara thought “he could swim off the edge of the earth and float into the solar surface,” even while dorsal fins circled the “ivory whiteness of his feet...and he did not fault the sharks for coveting them.” After four torturous days in the water, the acceptance of death brings forgiveness, even to predators. With harrowing suspense and an ending that is as satisfying as it is haunting, this seaman’s odyssey will leave readers pondering their own life choices and courage.

An authoritative, refreshingly different take on workplace conflict. Mir’s insightful book calls attention to the sobering reality: personnel conflict plagues most workplaces, and personality clashes cause the most conflicts. Mir’s assessment that “personality measurement could make a profound difference” is the philosophy behind his book, which cleverly demonstrates via vignettes the different types of workplace conflicts. In chapters that cover leadership, career, communication, decision-making, team building, learning and change, the author creates a conflict scenario, typically between two employees. He uses a character who reappears in all the scenarios: the “Admiral,” who’s a kind of organizational consultantcum-peacemaker. The Admiral uses various “psychometrics” (personality measurement tools) to analyze the conflicting parties’ behavior and to offer collaborative solutions. In each case, the employees are encouraged to enter the “Uncomfortable Zone of Debate,” where “creative conflict…is desirable, as it leads to positive change and development.” For example, in “The Battle of Communication,” the reader learns about outgoing, jokester Gordon and methodical, down-to-business Ian; both work in a warehouse. Their differing personalities clash and cause constant conflict, which comes to the attention of their supervisor. The Admiral administers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to Gordon and Ian to assess their personalities, and he creates an exercise to help them understand each other’s working styles. This scenario and others reveal much about workplace communication and show how to apply specific tools to help resolve disagreements among employees. In the concluding chapter, the author adds a full description of each of the personality-measurement tools referenced in the scenarios. Mir acknowledges that it takes an expert like the Admiral to interpret personality measures, but the end result is that “positive conflict is indeed possible.” Overall, Mir illustrates workplace problems with real-life examples and provides a road map to finding solutions. Well-written and researched, this highly useful guide addresses one of the most common productivity-killers in the workplace.

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Hollywood Wonderworld b y t om

The World According to Wonder: 1991-2012

Bailey, Fenton; Barbato, Randy World of Wonder Productions (396 pp.) $110 Feb 5, 2013 978-0-9855834-0-8 K i rk us M e di a L L C # President M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer MEG LABORDE KU E H N Chief Financial Officer J ames H ull SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2013 by Kirkus Media LLC. KIRKUS REVIEWS (ISSN 1948-7428) is published semi-monthly by Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Road, Austin, TX 78744. Subscription prices are: Digital & Print Subscription (U.S.) - 12 Months ($199.00) Digital & Print Subscription (International) 12 Months ($229.00) Digital Only Subscription - 12 Months ($169.00) Single copy: $25.00. All other rates on request. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Kirkus Reviews, PO Box 3601, Northbrook, IL 60065-3601. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, TX 78710 and at additional mailing offices.

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Everybody knows that video killed the radio star. Unsatisfied, it broke down the Wall, ended the Cold War and became the “planet’s Esperanto” before exploding onto screens of every size in an orgy of reality TV. And that’s just the beginning, according to Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato in their debut publishing venture, The World According to Wonder: 1991-2012. “TV is a medium not even a hundred years old,” they write in the book, assuaging those who fret over the decline of our culture. “Reality TV is just the hormonally raging teen.” To commemorate the first 21 years of doing what they love to do—which has consisted of alternately rattling and soothing that hormonally raging teen—Bailey and Barbato have formed their own imprint, publishing a colossal, full-color compendium that illustrates how they’ve played stopwatch with the ever-shifting zeitgeist, while thriving in an industry that operates on “NO.” Bailey and Barbato are the founders of World of Wonder Productions, a Hollywood purveyor of cuttingedge documentaries and eye-popping entertainment that nabbed an Emmy in 1999 for their documentary Party Monster. They’ve told the story of many an outré outcast of celebrity, as the titles of some of their documentaries attest: The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Inside Deep Throat and Becoming Chaz. Charting our highest aspirations and lowest common denominators, their work has explored (some might say, exploited) the arable land where the saccharine and the profane intersect. If, as they write, Warhol was the chief “architect of the time we live in,” then Bailey and Barbato lay claim to being its “architectural historians,” as they told me, using video (and film) to document the cultural builders of our time. The World According to Wonder: 1991-2012 features 290 stunning portraits of nearly all the people who have been part of the accomplished duo’s “post-Warhol era” factory, reflecting the company’s inclusive leanings. Stars behind the scenes, assistants, screenwriters, agents, directors and former acquaintances are given the same full-page Technicolor gloss granted the duo’s usual, more known co-conspirators: RuPaul (and her Drag Race posse), Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and the ubiquitous Pamela Anderson. Weighing in at 8 pounds, the tasty tome comes in a cardboard case that opens to reveal a 396-page burst of...well, wonder. Its cover, a play on television’s candycolored test pattern with a bar of Day-Glo orange inserted, signals the intentions of high-wire art director Trey Speegle and the vivid recollections that flow within, compliments of Bailey, Barbato and their inhouse wordsmiths, James St. James and Stephen Saban. “The book was never conceived as something of this magnitude,” says Bailey, sitting across a long conference table from Barbato, in a telephone interview from their headquarters on Hollywood Boulevard. “It was going to be a slim pamphlet with just a few photos.” “The book was like The Blob,” adds Barbato. “It just kept expanding.”

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Which would be a suitable way to explain their entertainment empire. The two met in grad school at NYU. Barbato, from New Jersey, was wearing a T-shirt picturing Marcia Brady with the words, “I’m sorry,” repeated across it. Bailey, just five days in America and not yet exposed to The Brady Bunch, thought, “What the hell is this?” Barbato laughs at the memory. “Fenton was wearing florescent lime/lemon leopard pants, hightop sneakers, hair in a bun like Catherine Deneuve. We clicked immediately.” The couple, romantic for a time, remain devoted creative partners, even though, as Barbato says, “we can barely stand to be in the same room with one another.” The writing process for the book consisted of drafts passed back and forth. For inspiration, they turned to the writing style of St. James, author of Freak Show and Disco Bloodbath, a book that World of Wonder produced (as both a documentary and feature film) as Party Monster. “In this age where everything’s going digital, it’s just such an anomaly,” says Bailey of their “big ol’ fashioned book,” so “perversely appealing,” they were “determined to self-publish it.” This determination to chronicle the perversely appealing has always been the couple’s calling card. Since they did not have the budget, or the backing, in their early days to make the documentaries they wanted to, Bailey and Barbato set up shop on Manhattan’s public access channel and created viral-worthy “clipumentaries” long before YouTube. With some early help from forward-minded decision-makers in British television, World of Wonder got the chance to pursue its own kind of programming, eventually gaining a foothold at a number of American networks, which now pursue them to create for the “disenchanted and disenfranchised outsider,” also known as their target audience. Despite their ratings, their real estate, their second Emmy for the nature documentary The Last Beekeeper and their seven Sundance-premiering films, Bailey and Barbato still encounter their share of no’s. They’re currently pitching a Real Housewives-style retelling of the real life of Jesus. “For some reason, everybody thinks we’re joking,” scoffs Barbato. “It’s not a sacrilege pitch. We’re thinking that the modern idiom of media now is reality television, so why not take that and apply it to The Greatest Story Ever Told?” There have been no takers...yet. And that’s all right in the World of Wonder. “I think losing is the new winning,” Barbato says. “Our best films are the ones that don’t get any recognition at all.”

9 Tom Eubanks is a writer and editor living in New York. In publishing for over two decades, he also represents authors and artists. He’s currently working with fashion icon Pat Cleveland on a long-anticipated memoir.


HOSTAGE OF PARADOX A Qualmish Disclosure

warning about an impending societal apocalypse. In reality, Naimi is offering the opposite: a pathway to personal fulfillment at the most elemental level. This journey to enlightenment is not without pain, however. “Unraveling” refers to a process that brings about “a pause in our thinking…and [an] unwinding of the movements that take us nowhere and bring us no joy.” But, as the author points out, trying to unravel a finished article of clothing is a tough proposition. Fortunately, although the author has a New-Age resume steeped in shamanic training and heavy on the mind-body-spirit connection, he presents tips that are surprisingly down-to-earth. His metaphysical tutorial on personal reinvention hinges on three basic questions: What do I want? How do I get it? Am I ma.king any progress toward getting what I want? Readers are expected and encouraged to devote some time to each of these questions, since, as Naimi points out, it often takes a person as long to get well as the person was sick. He writes that the three questions might smack of egocentrism, until one peels back the layers and discovers that the best questions one can ask are those that appeal to a higher level of consciousness. One may ask, for example, “How can I be more successful at my job?” But one could also ask, “How can I be of service to more people?” or “How do I become a more loving partner?” The author is a poet, and the fine verses he offers at the end of many of these chapters serve to enrich and deepen the text. An illuminating, practical guide to spiritual transformation.

Moore, John Rixey Bettie Youngs Book Publishers (505 pp.) $29.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 21, 2012 978-1936332373 A former Green Beret sergeant recalls at length and in vivid language how he survived the Vietnam War against heavy odds. Moore begins by lamenting that the “words of power” he could use to try to describe the “fundamentally non-transferable experience” of war have been “squandered on the commonplace,” and so, they cannot suffice to describe the dread and horror of Vietnam. Nonetheless, he then uses those words—as well as many others usually only found in vocabulary tests—to record a deeply personal, often minutely detailed account of his war experience as a clandestine operative. In a splendid narrative effort, worthy of the more than 500 pages he devotes to it, he defies the disclaimer and comes convincingly close to conveying what it was like be under attack or to move as soundlessly as possible through sweltering jungles on missions where discovery meant death. Moore writes that he was 25 when he arrived in Vietnam in 1968 and spent most of his tour at a Special Forces camp near Da Nang as a member of the 5th Special Forces Group. A highly trained member of a military elite but a somewhat reluctant warrior, he made survival for himself and his outfit his first priority. Once past the puzzling title, believing—independent of enjoying—the story depends on a reader’s acceptance that a faithful account can exist more than four decades after it happened. In this regard, there’s room to wonder if anyone could recall events at this remove with such excruciating exactness. Moore’s powers of observation seem least keen when turned to character development. In addition to its predilection for uncommon diction—a sound is described as “unworldly, chimeric, like the wheezing cry of something broken through a mis-weave in the weft of living things”—the writing style tends to take on a florid tone that can get in the way of easy reading. Deserves a place in the upper ranks of Vietnam War memoirs.

THE IMMACULATE DECEPTION A Tom Sullivan Mystery Royce, William James CreateSpace (232 pp.) $10.99 paper | $2.99 e-book Feb. 25, 2012 978-1468156300

A Chandler-esque noir detective tale featuring an ex-cop turned private eye, set among the gritty motels and palatial estates of Los Angeles. As Royce’s debut mystery begins, private investigator Tom “Sully” Sullivan is in a confessional seeking an absolution he doesn’t believe in. He’s bleeding after having taken a .38-caliber slug in his side. The remainder of the novel serves as a flashback to recount how he got in such a predicament. It starts when Virginia Collier, the wife of the immensely wealthy Sam Collier, hires Sullivan to track down her wayward daughter, Alicia. On the way to finding Alicia (and her boyfriend, Angel Romero), Sully stumbles upon a crime scene: the naked body of another young woman, found face down in a creek in the foothills. Sullivan finds out later that the dead woman was pregnant. As it turns out, Alicia Collier is pregnant as well. The mystery leads Sully to visit an OB-GYN clinic, where he begins a dalliance with its receptionist, Jenna Taylor. He also consults LAPD Lt. Wendy Slenzak, an old flame, and old friend Lt. Lou Cabresi, to get just enough information to do his own investigating. At the novel’s conclusion, readers finally discover who shot Sully and

THE BIG UNRAVELING Naimi, Sayed CreateSpace (166 pp.) $12.99 paper | $4.95 e-book Dec. 3, 2012 978-1477563564

A Far Eastern–flavored prescription for personal reinvention imbued with poetic beauty. At first blush, the title of Naimi’s book might sound like another dire |

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ABCs OF GETTING OUT OF DEBT Turn Bad Debt into Good Debt and Bad Credit into Good Credit

whom he shot in return. Sullivan is depicted as a first-person narrator in the Philip Marlowe mold—a smart-mouthed shamus, a gumshoe who’s seen it all. Like Marlowe, he’s at heart a decent, moral man in a world where such people are rare. Royce’s appropriately terse prose gets the job done, and the framing device of Sullivan in the confessional is clever, if somewhat surreal and unsettling. At book’s end, readers may wonder about Sullivan’s fate, but they can take heart in the book’s subtitle: A Tom Sullivan Mystery. Sully’s not going anywhere anytime soon. An enjoyable first outing that wraps an intriguing idea in a well-paced plot.

Sutton, Garrett BZK Press (220 pp.) $18.95 paper | Sep. 18, 2012 978-1937832070

In this guide, Sutton (Run Your Own Corporation, 2012, etc.) offers recommendations for avoiding and solving debt problems. The author begins by asserting that “the credit industry actively entices all comers, especially the young and inexperienced.” In the first part of this book, he goes on to offer some overall guidelines for dealing with consumer debt. In Chapter 4, he explains a 10-step strategy, along with sample worksheets, used by one couple who “never seemed to make a dent” in the amount they owed. The author makes recommendations about debt consolidation and includes a lengthy chapter, “Getting Help,” that thoroughly explains the different kinds of bankruptcy and the process of borrowing against a 401(k). The second part of the book looks at specific kinds of debt, ranging from current mortgage troubles to tax debt. A section on student loans, for example, includes eight remedies for dealing with overwhelming loan payments. Sutton’s chapter on debt collectors asserts that negotiating with collection agencies is “one of the most important skills you can learn and hone.” The handbook’s third part deals primarily with credit reporting agencies, credit reports and how they’re compiled, and credit repair. Throughout, the author presents stories of reallife predicaments that enliven what might have otherwise been bone-dry material. For example, “Credit Reports” describes the yearslong misery of a failed entrepreneur: “Roberto...had taken some risks on a restaurant that didn’t work out.” Finally, a chapter on credit scams and good uses of credit is followed by three appendices, including a list of other helpful books and websites. A fact-packed, easy-to-navigate resource for consumers concerned about debt.

PARADISE LOST

Stevens, Laird Paris Press (612 pp.) $2.99 e-book | Oct. 22, 2012 A young man struggles to find meaning in his life as he travels between Europe and Canada, finding new loves and new interests along the way in this nonlinear novel. Born in Canada, Lewis Sterne nevertheless comes to think of Paris as the place where his life begins. Learning to be French proves to be an excellent tool for exploring the city and bringing it to life through detailed description— not just of sights and sounds, but of the city’s rhythms. In Paris, Lewis develops an interest in two things that will continue to shape his life: music and girls. An accomplished pianist, he frequently reflects on the nature and beauty of music and what its pursuit means to him. These passages indicate what’s to come, as the book becomes increasingly reflective and inward-looking while Lewis grows up and the narrative bends philosophical as he struggles to understand the world in light of his deepening feelings. Stories of the many loves in his life—reconnecting with childhood friend Sheila, dallying with Arabella in Montreal, meeting older Ariadna on a student trip to Europe, falling for Grace back home, living with wild Niobe and Lily in London, etc.—provide the majority of the day-to-day narrative, which anchors Lewis on his travels throughout Europe. Much of the second half of the book explores philosophical ideas, with an occasional glimpse into Lewis’ life. The story can be confusing at times, since more clarity is needed around how old Lewis is and, in some cases, where exactly he’s living. This confusion is only enhanced by the fact that there aren’t any chapter breaks. Dialogue tends to be dramatic, and extra characters are often used as mouthpieces for philosophical ideas about women, sex, God, existence and ethics. Overall, though, the novel offers an impressively detailed, deep look at life that will especially appeal to readers interested in academic philosophy or literature. Intimate, reflective and worthy of a thoughtful read; don’t rush this one.

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MISSING IN MACHU PICCHU Velástegui, Cecilia Libros (344 pp.) $20.00 paper | Sep. 4, 2013 978-0985176945

A hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu leads a group of Ivy League women into the crux of deceit and debauchery in Velástegui’s novel. Taki and Koyam, street vendors in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru, overhear several ladies talking about a tour group. The two elderly locals are worried when they mention their prospective guide, Rodrigo, who’s notorious for his reputed involvement in child |


“Walsh doesn’t write Zen koans; he researches and investigates.” from your enlightened mind wants to know

trafficking and hasn’t shown his face in Cusco in two years. Taki, who has psychiclike visions, and Koyam trail the group as the women trek to meet up with Rodrigo, while revenge-seeking Violette, who once accused the corrupt man of sacrificing her baby, also shadows the hikers. The novel (Traces of Bliss, 2012, etc.) brims with historical facts, including recurrent allusions to Hiram Bingham, the explorer who claimed to have discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. Some of these passages, like specifics on mallquis (mummified remains used in worship), slow the novel’s tempo a bit. Still, they serve a narrative purpose and occur less frequently in the more intense second half, when Rodrigo’s plan comes to light. The five women of the group, all with hopes of overcoming the perils of online dating, are each given memorable personalities, including the dense but resilient Tiffany, who drives home points with “duh-uh.” The evolutions of the individual women provide some of the book’s pluses—their mutual dislike of one another is indisputable, but they gradually come to friendly terms during their ordeal. Rodrigo is an intimidating bad guy, complete with minions who do his bidding and a god complex; he quite literally believes he’s Illapa, the god of thunder. The novel does have comic relief, mostly in the form of Sandra, whose accented English is phonetically rendered. She insists that others pronounce her name “Zahndrah,” and she spends much of her time not spending money and even demanding a refund when she hasn’t paid anything at all. There’s also a considerable narrative bite—some characters end up battered and bloody, and others may not make it out alive. Fortified by vibrant characters and a tenacious plot; it packs a mean punch when readers least expect it.

timeline of world religions and the historical figures within the development of various strains of Buddhism are allowed to speak for themselves. Although Walsh eventually concludes that it’s unlikely the Mahayana texts were issued directly from the Shakyamuni Buddha (usually recognized as the historical Buddha), he nonetheless resolves to open-mindedly examine the real-world effects of doctrines in Mahayana Buddhism; ultimately, Walsh decides that these effects fortify the tradition, despite the path’s debatable origin. Though calm and relaxed, Walsh’s scholarly approach can sometimes seem dense and tangential in comparison to other writers on Buddhism, such as Alan Watts or Thich Nhat Hanh. Walsh doesn’t write Zen koans; he researches and investigates. Therefore, his book will primarily appeal to Mahayana Buddhists who seek to resolve the religion’s apparent inconsistencies while learning more about the history of their tradition. Nonetheless, any student of religious history will benefit from a reading. A sincere, penetrating history whose conclusions are both scholastically and spiritually sound.

YOUR ENLIGHTENED MIND WANTS TO KNOW Walsh, J.M. CreateSpace (278 pp.) $14.95 paper | Nov. 6, 2012 978-1478323419

Walsh investigates the origins of Mahayana Buddhism in his careful, honest search for truth on the spiritual path. Examining religious history can be a polarizing pursuit. The scarcity of tangible proof can lead to holes in the larger narrative, and faith can inspire both zealous belief and bitter skepticism. Walsh’s debut manages to avoid these pitfalls. His approach falls between scholarship and personal reflection; through investigating the many sources (but few facts) that surround the provenance of Mahayana texts—focusing mostly on the Lotus Sutra but also appealing to his own experience and the writings of his teachers within Nichiren Buddhism, the branch of Mahayana Buddhism he studies personally—Walsh triangulates a “middle way” between skepticism and faith. Where Walsh cannot be sure of a conclusion—for instance, whether Zoroastrianism and Mahayana Buddhism intermingled along the Silk Road in Persia and India—he calmly and rationally states his uncertainties. As such, the numerous fascinating details about the |

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 “Enchanting.”

—PW

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“[A] sweetly magical tale.” —Kirkus

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February 15, 2013: Volume LXXXI, No 4  

Featuring 330 industry-first reviews of fiction, nonfiction and children's & teen; also in this issue: Hollywood Wonderworld; The Disappeari...

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