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Featuring 248 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXI, NO.

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NOVEMBER

2013

REVIEWS INDIE

FICTION

I Shall Be Near to You

Jane Lotter

makes readers laugh, even after her death. p. 112

By Erin Lindsay McCabe The author's debut novel echoes with the Civil War battlefield’s earshattering noise and gut-wrenching smells, but its heart is a shining story of enduring love. p. 13

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

Hansel and Gretel

by the Brothers Grimm Sybille Schenker’s gorgeous illustrations and inventive design make this old tale creepy all over again. p. 83

NONFICTION

Duke

by Terry Teachout Like most Ellington albums, Teachout's in-depth, wellresearched, loving study of this American treasure is an instant classic. p. 72

on the cover

Doris Kearns Goodwin unearths a dramatic new angle to an old story. p. 56


Gulag Archipelago 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

“It all ends in Gulag.” So read a headline in a 1977 profile, in the Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso, of the French nouveaux philosophe Bernard Henri-Levy, who, with a few like-minded ex-communists, had begun to mount a sophisticated new critique of a doctrine of freedom that had so far produced only tyranny. BHL, as he’s now familiarly known today across the water, had as both inspiration and evidence a massive trilogy whose first volume had appeared just four years before that headline: The Gulag Archipelago. Written in 1968, it had been published in Germany, shepherded by the novelist Heinrich Böll after having been smuggled out of the Soviet Union just a step ahead of the KGB, which took revenge by hounding unto death or despair those who had helped the book escape, not least the famed poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the author of The Gulag Archipelago, was well- acquainted with his subject. He called his book “an experiment in literary investigation,” but his furious denunciation of the Soviet system of far-flung prisons, into which men and women disappeared to be worked to death, was in part autobiography, opening with his arrest as “an enemy of the people” during the last months of World War II. He spent the next 11 years in work camps, mostly in Kazakhstan. Released after Nikita Khrushchev’s “secret speech” of 1956 denouncing the crimes of Stalinism, Solzhenitsyn set about settling scores with novels that horrified Western readers and were widely circulated in samizdat editions within the Soviet Union, among them The First Circle and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Solzhenitsyn was finally expelled from the USSR at about the time Gulag appeared in an American edition in 1974. Solzhenitsyn had an established reputation as both nag and gadfly, but it wasn’t until he arrived in this country that he showed himself as quick to criticize the West as the Soviet state. He had the ear of the Republican establishment, championed by none other than Dick Cheney, but he steadily lost the interest of Western readers by professing nostalgia for the good old days of czarist oppression and the supremacy of Russian Orthodoxy. He found a few defenders, some unlikely. “A West expansive enough to permit the fiction of Spiro Agnew to be published by Ladies Home Journal and Playboy Press is surely permissive enough to swallow the witness of Solzhenitsyn,” John Leonard wrote in the New York Times. Leonard’s conciliatory words came at a time when most Americans had pretty well given up paying attention to Solzhenitsyn at all; he returned the favor by withdrawing to a walled compound in Vermont from 1976 until 1994, when he returned to Russia. Solzhenitsyn died in 2008, and it seems that he is not much read these days for many reasons. Yet his greatest work, The Gulag Archipelago, repays reading today, if only to remind the alarmists among us what a real tyranny looks like. The work greatly overshadowed the author, in other words, and when the Berlin Wall fell 16 years later, it was in at least some measure the weight of those massive books that caused it to collapse.

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This Issue’s Contributors

Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Joseph Barbato • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart Marnie Colton • Perry Crowe • Dave DeChristopher • Kathleen Devereaux Bobbi Dumas • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott Julie Foster • Peter Franck • Amy Goldschlager • Alan Goldsher • Jessie Grearson • April Holder • Robert M. Knight • Christina M. Kratzner • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch Angela Leroux-Lindsey • Elsbeth Lindner Georgia Lowe • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Carole Moore • Clayton Moore Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • John Noffsinger • Mike Oppenheim • Derek Parsons • Jim Piechota • Christofer D. Pierson • William E. Pike • Gary Presley Evan Rodriguez • Rebecca Rubenstein Lloyd Sachs • Leslie Safford • William P. Shumaker • Rosanne Simeone • Linda Simon Elaine • Sioufi Arthur Smith Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg Andria Spencer • Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Pete Warzel • Steve Weinberg Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White

Cover photo by Eric Levin


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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 McSweeney’s is all grown up..................................................14 Mystery..............................................................................................27 Science Fiction & Fantasy..........................................................36 Romance............................................................................................ 37

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................41 REVIEWS...............................................................................................41 Enemies: a political love story..............................................56

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................75 REVIEWS...............................................................................................75 Matt de la Peña asks “What if?”............................................92 interactive e-books...................................................................103 Continuing series...................................................................... 104

indie Index to Starred Reviews........................................................ 105 REVIEWS............................................................................................. 105

Joyce Carol Oates returns with a knotted, tense, digressive and brilliant new novel. Read the starred review on p. 20.

A viral sensation’s posthumous debut............................. 112

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on the web Check out these highlights from Kirkus’ online coverage at www.kirkus.com 9 Photo courtesy Travis Jensen

Street-wise, honest in its admission of trials and punctuated with vernacular swagger, Roy Choi’s debut, L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food, pays tribute to family and his enduring fascination with the melting pot of Los Angeles, a patchwork megalopolis defined by unlikely cultural collisions. LA raised and shaped Choi, the boundary-breaking chef who decided to leave behind fine dining to feed the city he loved— and, with the creation of the Korean taco, reinvented street food along the way. Named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2010, the author is the co-founder and co-owner of Kogi BBQ, Chego! and other restaurants. Filled with over 85 inspired recipes that meld the overlapping traditions and flavors of LA—including Korean fried chicken, tempura potato pancakes, homemade chorizo, and kimchi and pork belly stuffed pupusas—L.A. Son embodies the sense of invention, resourcefulness and the hybrid attitude of the city from which it takes its name as it tells the transporting, unlikely story of how a Korean-American kid went from lowriding in the streets of LA to becoming an acclaimed chef. Roy Choi talks to Kirkus writer Nidhi Chaudhry in November.

9 And be sure to check out our Indie publishing series, featuring some of today’s most intriguing self-published authors. Each week, we feature authors’ exclusive personal essays and reported articles 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.

Photo courtesy EV Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson’s novel, Someone Else’s Love Story, perfectly captures the flavor and rhythm of Southern life as a young woman preparing for college finds herself caught up in a real-life drama. Jackson draws on her own Southern roots to paint a pitch-perfect portrait of a girl from a small town in Georgia. Jackson’s protagonist, Shandi Pierce, has got enough to deal with before she gets caught in the middle of a stickup in a minimart and falls in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who steps between the armed robber and her son to shield the child from danger. Now, William and Shandi are about to meet their socalled destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life and the world they think they know. Wrapped in a thoughtful, often funny and insightful narrative that brings Shandi and those in her satellite to life, Jackson presents the reader with a story that is never predictable and is awash in bittersweet love, regret and the promise of what could be. Read more about Joshilyn Jackson and her latest, Someone Else’s Love Story, on the web.

Having helped define Iranian prickliness for American readers in his previous works, Hooman Majd, born to Iranian diplomats who left the country when he was young, resolved to take his blonde American wife and small child to live in Iran for a year. He chronicles Iran’s authoritarianism in his latest, The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran. The book opens ominously as Majd is stopped at the airport by intelligence officers who show him a 4-inch thick security file about his books and journalism and warn him not to write about Iran during his stay. At the time of their yearlong visit, in 2011, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still very much in power, the Green Movement was definitively quelled, and sanctions by the international community tightened to make inflation a living hell for most Iranians, with the sense of government tentacles felt everywhere. The author offers useful suggestions on finding an apartment, navigating the reconfigured currency, setting up Internet and TV connections, securing a steady liquor supply and finding his wife’s organic baby goods, among other essentials. Hooman Majd talks to Kirkus this November about his year spent relishing the irrepressible quirks of the Persian character. Photo courtesy Ken Browar

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fiction THE BEAR

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Cameron, Claire Little, Brown (240 pp.) $25.00 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 11, 2014 978-0-316-23012-4 978-0-316-23010-0 e-book

JOYLAND by Stephen King..................................................................10 ON SUCH A FULL SEA by Chang-rae Lee...........................................12 I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU by Erin Lindsay McCabe....................... 13

In Cameron’s second novel (The Line Painter, 2011), a 5-year-old girl relates her struggle for survival after a bear kills her parents while they’re camping on Bates Island in Canada’s Algonquin Park. Any contemporary writer depicting extreme events through the eyes of a child must contend with the formidable precedent of Emma Donoghue’s Room (2010), and Cameron bears the comparison fairly well. In contrast to Donoghue’s multilayered portrait of adaptation and resistance, Cameron crafts a more straightforward adventure with a narration that nicely captures an ordinary child’s way of thinking—and of blocking out unwelcome knowledge. In the slam-bang opening, Anna Whyte wakes in the tent she shares with her 2-year-old brother, Stick, to hear their mother yelling. Their father rips open the tent and hustles the children into the animal-proof chest where they keep their food. A big “black dog” sniffs around the closed chest but can’t get in; some time later, Anna emerges to find her father’s severed foot in a shoe and her dying mother on the ground, urging her to “[g]et into the canoe and paddle away.” Anna lures Stick into the canoe with cookies, and they manage to float across to the park mainland. They have no food or water; their pajamas are soaked; at one particularly scary moment, Anna spots the bear at the island’s shore sniffing the air for their scent. Her guileless account shows her trying to be brave and take care of Stick, even though “I am not old enough to be a babysitter.” One darkly funny scene shows Anna acting like a typical older sibling as she keeps all the berries for herself, until finally prompted to share with Stick by the vague understanding that this time, food is a matter of life and death. Anna’s recovery is rather sketchily developed in the post-rescue scenes, but a touching epilogue 20 years after the ordeal brings home just how traumatized she was yet suggests that she can achieve some sort of closure. Harrowing but ultimately hopeful.

VATICAN WALTZ by Roland Merullo................................................. 17 FOREIGN GODS, INC. by Okey Ndibe...............................................18 CARTHAGE by Joyce Carol Oates....................................................... 20 THE QUIET STREETS OF WINSLOW by Judy Troy...........................22 LUMINOUS CHAOS by Jean-Christophe Valtat................................ 24 BILLIONAIRE BLEND by Cleo Coyle.................................................. 28 YEAR’S BEST SF 18 by David G. Hartwell........................................36 ON SUCH A FULL SEA

Lee, Chang-rae Riverhead (368 pp.) $27.95 Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-59448-610-4

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SOY SAUCE FOR BEGINNERS

of the novel, also receives short shrift. Her on-again, off-again relationship with Rhode Island governor William Sprague, a rich man with vices; her endearing friendship with John Hay, the president’s assistant secretary, who falls in love with Kate and fills her in on all the White House gossip; her interactions with her sister, her in-laws and her father—all the aspects of Kate’s life that hold potential fascination for the reader—are pushed into the background amid dull, heavily detailed paragraphs about historical events, political machinations and prominent names. Although Kate provides endless commentary, Chiaverini never seizes the opportunity to fully develop her main or secondary characters into engaging, well-rounded individuals. Even Abraham Lincoln comes off as flat.

Chen, Kirstin Amazon/New Harvest (256 pp.) $23.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-544-11439-5

East or West, music studies or the family business, authentic soy sauce or a cheaper modern alternative? These are the choices facing droopy Gretchen Lin in a pleasant if generic tale of roots and romance. Cheated on by her husband, 30-year-old Gretchen needs a break from life in San Francisco, her home for 15 years, and flies back to Singapore. Killing time, she helps out at the family’s artisanal soy sauce factory, Lin’s Soy Sauce, where stability has been threatened by the introduction of a cheaper line and also by the ready-to-cook sauces marketed by heir-apparent cousin Cal, which cause food poisoning. In need of distraction, Gretchen hooks up with a peculiarly casual new boyfriend and also happily welcomes an old college friend who has arrived for a year’s consultancy at the factory, but she also finds herself being sucked back into family dilemmas, including her mother’s heavy drinking, which has resulted in kidney failure. Forced to act, Gretchen helps get her mother into rehab, then takes a trip back to San Francisco to represent the firm at a food trade convention where a lucky meeting with a high-profile talk show host helps Gretchen finally make up her mind about her future. Comparisons with Lin’s new-fangled sauce—short on depth and complexity—are inevitable given the conventional flavor of Chen’s readable but lightweight debut.

THE GODS OF GUILT

Connelly, Michael Little, Brown (400 pp.) $28.00 | $14.99 e-book | $30.00 Lg. Prt Dec. 2, 2013 978-0-316-06951-9 978-0-316-06950-2 e-book 978-0-316-06949-6 Lg. Prt. The fifth in the best-selling Lincoln Lawyer series. A former newspaper reporter, Connelly (The Reversal, 2010, etc.) has moved into the territory dominated by former lawyers John Grisham and Scott Turow in this series of novels featuring defense attorney Mickey Haller, a hustler whose office is the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car and whose approach to the legal system prizes pragmatism over idealism. For Haller, there was a “fine line between seeking the truth and seeking a verdict in your client’s favor. They weren’t always the same thing.” Doing a good job as a defense lawyer sometimes finds him at odds with a law-abiding society, including his estranged daughter, devastated when one of his clients freed on a technicality caused a tragic death. “I had to have faith that Hayley would eventually come to realize that the world was not black and white,” explains the protagonist. “That it was gray and the gray area was where her father dwelled.” Such prose belabors the obvious, and the frequent invocation of the title (in reference to juries in particular and to all others who would pass judgment on Haller) is heavy-handed. Yet the narrative momentum sustains itself, as Haller investigates a case that doesn’t look like it will change his daughter’s opinion of him. He’s defending a cyberpimp (a sign of the times; he designs websites) accused of murdering a prostitute who not only had a close relationship with Haller, but who had recommended him to her suspected killer if he ever needed a lawyer. Pretty quickly, it becomes plain who the good guys and bad guys are (by the standards of the series), with few surprises along the way. There is also a perfunctory romance, a few issues on the table and some plot developments that suggest that this isn’t the end of the series. Not much of a thriller or a mystery, but illuminating about the ways in which the law works and doesn’t.

MRS. LINCOLN’S RIVAL

Chiaverini, Jennifer Dutton (352 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-0-525-95428-6

Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, 2013, etc.) examines Civil War politics and battles, this time through the eyes of Washington hostess Kate Chase Sprague. Readers expecting a tug of war for social dominance between Mary Todd Lincoln and the daughter of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase may be disappointed to discover the moments of contention are few and far between. Kate serves as her father’s closest confidante and hostess as he pursues the presidency and settles for a Cabinet position, which Kate believes will help Chase one day achieve his goal and establish her as the first lady of Washington society. Furnishing a home for her thrice-widowed father, younger sister Nettie and herself, Kate serves him well, but the “Belle of Washington” is spurned by Mrs. Lincoln both for an inadvertent slight and because she’s the daughter of Lincoln’s political rival. Apparently, the so-called rivalry’s not such a big deal since it’s rarely addressed, but Kate’s personal story, which should be at the heart 6

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THE SACRIFICIAL MAN

character—doesn’t fully believe the story Alice is telling. Austin must recommend to the court whether or not Alice should serve an active prison sentence or commitment to a mental hospital, but it becomes clear once Austin starts examining Alice’s past life and talent for the dramatic that the beautiful college lecturer is more interested in avoiding a punishment she doesn’t feel she deserves than real justice. In addition to the book’s research flaws, Dugdall’s characters fail to ring true. Alice, in particular, is entirely without redeeming characteristics, making it difficult for readers to empathize with her. Dugdall also piles on so many shocking revelations that instead of raising the interest of readers, all of the depravity weighs down the rather thin plot and sinks it. The author compounds the tale’s problems by again opting for an odd structure that switches back and forth between points of view and tenses. Ultimately, what’s left is a convoluted story about a woman whose fate, while interesting, is not very compelling. Dugdall’s fans may find this effort pleasing, but the author’s choices will turn off some potential readers.

Dugdall, Ruth Arcade (288 pp.) $22.95 | Jan. 2, 2014 978-1-61145-898-5

Dugdall continues to explore the intersection of damaged people and the British legal system in her latest thriller. When a man named Smith meets a woman named Robin, the two conspire to end his life. Smith is fully on board; he even advertises for a beautiful woman to help him commit suicide. That leads him to Alice Mariani, who chooses the pseudonym “Robin” in her dealings with Smith. After Smith manages to commit the deed with Alice’s help, she steps forward and takes credit, not only for helping him kill himself, but also for one final defiant act: She has eaten Smith’s penis. Alice says it was what Smith wanted and that he desired that his flesh live on in hers, but probation officer Cate Austin—Dugdall’s stock go-to

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“A chilling contemporary ghost tale that will make you think twice about braving the elements to buy a carton of milk the next time it snows.” from snowblind

SNOWBLIND

that her father will be murdered by her mother, she rushes with Cassandra’s lovers to her parents’ rooms in time to save Cassandra but not her father. Electra and her brother Orestes flee the palace along with Cassandra and her lovers and set off for Delphi. Electra, who has been brought up as a chaste maiden sheltered from the world, is shocked by her companions’ lifestyles but continues with them on the dangerous journey, all the while plotting revenge against her mother. The Sybil gives good news to Cassandra, Chryse and Eumides and tells Orestes that when Mycenae, like Troy, lies in ruins, he will find his rightful place. Electra, however, gets only a cryptic message promising a long, painful journey. In Delphi, Electra meets her cousin Pylades, who takes her and Orestes to live at his farm. Still plagued with painful dreams, Electra reveals that she was raped as a child by her mother’s lover and that Orestes is her son. While Electra tries to find a new life with Pylades, her three companions set off to find a place they can all live in happiness. They will all meet again before their fates are finally decided. The last in Greenwood’s Delphic Women series (Cassandra, 2013, etc.) again presents exciting, cleverly detailed ancient stories from a feminist viewpoint that seems just as likely to be accurate as the versions that came before.

Golden, Christopher St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-250-01531-0 978-1-4668-4090-4 e-book Something icy this way comes in Golden’s latest ghostly thriller, in which the Massachusetts town of Coventry is never the same after a massive snowstorm leaves behind spectral presences. The storm upends the lives of a Stephen King–like cross section of residents. Hardest hit is Afghanistan-widowed school teacher Allie Schapiro, whose 10-year-old son, Isaac, is bizarrely yanked through his bedroom window to his death and whose love interest, Niko, runs off for help and never comes back. Isaac’s older brother, Jake, who had dismissed Isaac’s fears over seeing ice monsters in their backyard, and Niko’s daughter, Miri, were on the verge of their own teenage romance. But following the tragedies, she moves to Seattle—only to be drawn back 12 years later when she receives an unsettling phone call from her father. At least she thinks it’s him. With another giant snowstorm gathering force, strange behavior is spreading in Coventry, where a little girl begins acting and sounding eerily like her late grandmother, and, at the same time that a young boy goes missing, a frighteningly altered Isaac appears before Jake begging for his company. “They’re coming,” warns one character. Who is coming, and why, is deftly handled by Golden, who keeps things on edge from start to finish. As in The Birds, the supernatural attackers signify psychic unrest as much as physical threat. The book falls short of King-ian frights largely because Golden errs on the side of restraint in his employment of the evil spirits. But the book—which leaves itself open to a sequel—still has its full share of tingling moments. A chilling contemporary ghost tale that will make you think twice about braving the elements to buy a carton of milk the next time it snows.

SYCAMORE ROW

Grisham, John Doubleday (464 pp.) $28.95 | Oct. 22, 2013 978-0-385-53713-1

A long-after sequel, of a sort, to A Time to Kill (1989), in which dogged attorney Jake Brigance fights for justice in a Mississippi town where justice is not always easy to come by. That’s especially true when the uncomfortable question of race comes up, and here, it’s a doozy. When local curmudgeon and secret millionaire Seth Hubbard puts an end to a lingering death, he leaves a holographic will placing the bulk of his fortune in the hands of the black woman who’s been taking care of him, cutting his children and ex-wives out of the deal. That will also alludes to having seen “something no human should ever see”—a promising prompt, that is to say, for the tangled tale that follows. When Jake brings the housekeeper, Lettie Lang, news of the extent of her newfound wealth, her world begins to unravel as her husband brings in a battery of attorneys to join the small army of lawyers already fighting over Hubbard’s will. Grisham, as always, is spot-on when it comes to matters of the bar, and the reader will learn a thing or two from him—for instance, that Mondays are the busiest days for divorce lawyers, “as marriages cracked over the weekends and spouses already at war ramped up their attacks.” This being 1988, there’s casual sexism aplenty in Grisham’s tale; it being the flatland Deep South, there are heaping helpings of racial tension, and it’s on that fact that the story turns. Grisham, as ever, delivers a vivid, wisecracking and tautly constructed legal procedural from which the reader might draw at least this lesson:

ELECTRA

Greenwood, Kerry Poisoned Pen (250 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | $22.95 Lg. Prt. Dec. 3, 2013 978-1-4642-0211-7 978-1-4642-0213-1 paper 978-1-4642-0212-4 Lg. Prt. Troy is in ruins, but the gods are not done playing games with men and women. Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, is among the captives taken to Mycenae by King Agamemnon. She’s followed by her faithful lovers, the healer Chryse and the Trojan sailor Eumides. As they attempt to enter the palace, they meet Electra, daughter of Agamemnon, and his faithless spouse, Clytemnestra. When Electra hears of Cassandra’s prophecy 8

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AN OFFICER AND A SPY

You never want to wind up in front of a judge, even one as wise as the earwig-welcoming Reuben V. Atlee, and if you do, you want to have Jake Brigance on your side. Trademark Grisham, with carefully situated echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird. A top-notch thriller.

Harris, Robert Knopf (464 pp.) $27.95 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-385-34958-1

Labyrinthine machinations having to do with the Dreyfus Affair, the late 19thcentury spy case that disclosed a latent anti-Semitism in French culture. The main character and narrator of Harris’ novel is Col. Georges Picquart, former professor of topography at the École supérieure de guerre in Paris. While on the surface, topography might seem a peripheral issue to the military, according to Picquart, it involves “the fundamental science of war,” since it requires surveying terrain and generally looking at landscape from a military perspective. Chosen to head a counterespionage agency looking into the crimes allegedly committed by Dreyfus, Picquart has already been rewarded with a nice promotion and seems convinced of

THE LAST GIFT

Gurnah, Abdulrazak Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 1, 2014 978-1-62040-328-0 An immigrant father’s silence about his background roils the life of his family in England; in this awkward eighth novel, Gurnah (Desertion, 2005, etc.), a Briton of Zanzibari descent, revisits the theme of alienation. It was almost love at first sight. In 1974, they were working in the same factory in the English town of Exeter. Maryam was 17; Abbas was 34. Maryam was a dark-complected foundling, abandoned outside a hospital. Her foster parents, Indian immigrants, after some initial kindness, began treating her like a slave, so it was an easy decision to elope with Abbas, though she knew virtually nothing about him. He proves a good husband, and they have two children, Hanna and Jamal. Though he is loving with them too, Abbas never opens up about his background, and this becomes a source of frustration for Maryam and the kids. Who is this gentle, withdrawn man? He was born in Zanzibar. His family were Indian Muslims, dirt poor. His father, a subsistence farmer, was a tyrant, but Abbas escaped to a teacher training college. A bright future was doomed when he was tricked into an arranged marriage; his bride was already pregnant. At 19, Abbas fled Zanzibar and became a sailor for 15 years before settling in England. It is his irrational shame at abandoning his deceitful wife that has kept his lips sealed. The novel begins with the 62-year-old Abbas collapsing at home: It’s the first of three strokes. Maryam pressures him to tape-record his memories. Gurnah moves jarringly between past and present, in which the grown children, better at life than their parents, are discovering sex and confronting racism. More damagingly, the author disregards fiction’s first commandment: Show, don’t tell. So the family stays out of focus, less a unit than four individuals struggling with their own destinies. The talking cure has come almost too late for the oddly prim ex-sailor and his family. There is nothing to involve the reader in this protagonist’s dilemma.

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THE SPLENDOUR FALLS

Dreyfus’ guilt. But in investigating the case, Picquart begins to have doubts about this guilt and is fairly sure espionage is continuing through Maj. Esterhazy, a Germany spy who’s been passing along the secrets Dreyfus has been accused of disclosing. Military officials are not pleased that Picquart is coming up with evidence that might exonerate Dreyfus since, by this time, Dreyfus has already been convicted and condemned to spend time on Devil’s Island, recently reopened solely for him. Gen. Gonse, for example, cautions Picquart not to be overly enthusiastic in his inquiries concerning Dreyfus since, after all, he’s already been convicted and so his guilt is proved. Public opinion, alas, is on the side of Gonse, for much of the population, inflamed by the popular press, already sees Dreyfus as a traitor and delights in conveying their virulent anti-Semitism. Espionage, counterespionage, a scandalous trial, a coverup and a man who tries to do right make this a complex and alluring thriller. (100,000 first printing)

Kearsley, Susanna Sourcebooks Landmark (384 pp.) $16.99 paper | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-4022-5861-9 Into an enchanting village steps Emily Braden, a young Englishwoman who has lost all belief in romance. Long ago, young Queen Isabelle, captured and awaiting rescue, hid a treasure in the vicinity of the Moulin Tower of the Chateau Chinon. Centuries later, another Isabelle found starcrossed love with a German soldier, and she, too, is rumored to have left a treasure behind. Now, Emily’s unreliable yet lovable cousin, Harry, has convinced her to go on holiday with him to Chinon. Naturally, despite all promises to the contrary, Harry does not meet her at the train station nor at the hotel. Yet the moment Emily steps through the doors of the Hotel de France, Paul and Simon Lazarus offer her a drink, and she joins a cast of characters simply waiting for her to begin this romantic, mysterious adventure tinged with gothic elements. Her motley crew of supporting characters includes the Lazarus brothers; Jim Whitaker and his insufferable wife, Garland; Christian, a German painter; and Martine, a gallery owner whose ex-husband recently fell to his death on the steep chateau steps. Yet it is the violinist Neil Grantham, with his midnight blue eyes, who captivates Emily’s hesitant heart. Soon, Paul and Emily begin to explore Chinon, and as soon as Emily shares the tale of Queen Isabelle, Simon joins the treasure hunt. An invitation to the elegant vineyard Clos des Cloches leads to more than a flirtation between the darkly handsome owner, Armand Valcourt, and Emily as the hunt for the treasure shifts to the tunnels underneath the wine cellars. Streets are labyrinthine, motivations obscure, and mysteries abound, including the identity of the gypsy man shadowing Emily’s steps as well as the whereabouts of Harry. A master of gothic romance, Kearsley (The Firebird, 2013, etc.) deftly plants clues, strews red herrings and toys with her readers’ predictions. The journey is thrilling. (Agent: Shawna McCarthy)

BUYING IN

Hemphill, Laura Amazon/New Harvest (309 pp.) $24.00 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-5441-1457-9 Debut novelist Hemphill successfully portrays life working at a big bank. It’s October 2007, months before the subprime lending crisis, and Sophie Landgraf is a fresh-out-of-college Wall Street analyst working on her first big deal. Overtired, overcaffeinated and overworked, Sophie is still adjusting to the dog-eat-dog world of banking. Vainly, and in typical The Devil Wears Prada mode, she attempts to balance work and home life, especially her relationship with Will, the shaggy-haired college boyfriend, who helped her grieve when her mother died in an auto accident. Growing up poor and lacking financial support are Sophie’s motivations for working in the financial sector. But she’s also smart, good with numbers and actually likes her job; it’s with mixed feelings that readers will watch her strive toward success. The other people on Sophie’s account are Vasu, the vice president who never sees his wife and child; Ethan, the sharklike head of their group; and Jake Hutchinson, a mostly wholesome CEO client. None are particularly nuanced, but all are more sympathetic than one might expect, and by telling parts of the story from each of their points of view, Hemphill goes deep into the murky moral waters in which they all swim. Other bleak themes, precisely brought to life, are the excessive dedication that banking expects of its employees, institutional sexism and the impossibility of friendship in business. The deal itself is arguably the real protagonist and the reason readers will eagerly turn pages. Hemphill pulls off the neat trick of making the complex financial transaction clear to lay readers without dumbing down her characters. A solid, suspenseful Wall Street tale.

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JOYLAND

King, Stephen Hard Case Crime (283 pp.) $12.95 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-78116-264-4

Great. First we have to be afraid of clowns. Now it’s the guy who runs the Ferris wheel. Yes, clowns are scary, and so are carnies—and if you didn’t have this red light in your mind already, it’s never a good idea to climb (or ride) to great heights during a lightning storm. King (Doctor Sleep, 2013, etc.) turns in a sturdy noir, with just a little of The Shining flickering |


A satisfyingly warped yarn, kissing cousins of Blue Velvet. Readers may be inclined to stay off the Tilt-a-Whirl for a while after diving into these pages.

at the edges, that’s set not in the familiar confines of Maine (though his protagonist is from there) but down along the gloomy coastline of North Carolina, with places bearing such fitting names as Cape Fear and the Graveyard of the Atlantic. His heart newly broken, Devin (Dev, to pals) Jones has taken a summer job at a carnival called Joyland, run by an impossibly old man and haunted by more than a few ghosts. Dev takes a room with crusty Emmalina Shoplaw, “tall, fiftyish, flatchested, and as pale as a frosted windowpane,” who knows a few secrets. Hell, everyone except Dev knows a few secrets, though no one’s quite put a finger on why so many young women have gone missing around Joyland. Leave it to Dev, an accidental detective, urged along by an eager Lois Lane—well, Erin Cook, anyway. As ever, King writes a lean sentence and a textured story, joining mystery to horror, always with an indignant sense of just how depraved people can be. The story is all the scarier, toward the end, not by the revelation of the bad guy but by his perfectly ordinary desires, even though Joyland is anything but an ordinary place. Even to the last page, though, the body count mounts.

ROAD TO RECKONING

Lautner, Robert Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $24.99 | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-4767-3163-6 On the road in 1830s Pennsylvania, a boy comes of age with brutal suddenness; a twisty, gripping first novel from British author Lautner. Thomas is a bookish only child in Manhattan, home-schooled by his aunt. Everything changes for the 12-year-old narrator in 1837. His mother dies of smallpox, and the financial panic forces his father, a mild-mannered salesman of eyeglasses, to visit the

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“Welcome and surprising proof that there’s plenty of life in end-of-the-world storytelling.” from on such a full sea

young Samuel Colt’s firearms company. (Colt’s pernicious influence haunts the work.) Thomas’ dad will take orders for pistols, traveling with horse and wagon through Pennsylvania settlements before venturing further West. Their expedition ends when a ruffian, Thomas Heywood, and three trashy accomplices follow father and son to their camp, take their guns and money, and shoot the father dead. The boy returns to the store where they met Heywood to report the murder and runs into the redoubtable Henry Stands. The hell-raising, gun-loving old timer was once a ranger; his latest mission is to round up escaped prisoners for a price. A good man or a bad? Thomas, reeling from the actions of a villain, must now learn there are shades of gray. Henry ignores the boy’s plight, but Thomas is persistent, and Henry becomes his reluctant protector. The pairing may remind readers of the grizzled curmudgeon and needy youngster in Charles Portis’ True Grit and its two movie versions, but this novel does not have the straightforward trajectory of the revenge quest. Thomas just wants to go home; Henry is after his bounty. Then Heywood and company ambush them, and Henry has a score to settle. In a further complication, Thomas is threatened with removal to an orphan asylum. There will be two shootouts, with different sets of adversaries, but Lautner offers more than action. There’s a quiet, exquisite moment when Henry, preparing a rabbit for their dinner, stoically recalls his son, who died in infancy. Despite some loose ends and an unsatisfying framing device, a robust debut that wears its meticulous research lightly.

she encounters or hears about people who are actively brokering or sacrificing human life to survive. Lee’s imagination here is at once gruesome and persuasive: A family of circus-type performers who kill people and feed them to their dogs, a cloistered Charter housewife with a group of adopted children who are never allowed to leave their rooms, a doctor who accepts poor patients only to the extent they’re willing to prostitute themselves to him. The potency and strangeness of these characters never diminish the sense that Lee has written an allegory of our current predicaments, and the narration, written in the collective voice of B-Mor, gives the novel the tone of a timeless and cautionary fable. Welcome and surprising proof that there’s plenty of life in end-of-the-world storytelling.

THE DAYS OF ANNA MADRIGAL

Maupin, Armistead Harper/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 21, 2014 978-0-06-219624-8 More “Tales of the City” (Mary Ann in Autumn, 2010, etc.), with the former residents of 28 Barbary Ln. still fluttering around their erstwhile landlady. Anna Madrigal is now 93 and very frail, but she’s still got the gender-crossing panache that led her away from the whorehouse her mother ran in Winnemucca, Nev., and from the unwanted appendages associated with her youth as a boy named Andy. Having had one of the earliest sex-change operations in the U.S., Anna is a legend in the transgender community, and her young caretaker, Jake, has built a special float for her to ride at this year’s Burning Man festival to receive what everyone knows will probably be her final accolades. He is ultimately persuaded by others in their San Francisco circle that it’s too risky, and indeed, the closing chapters’ vivid depiction of the “mosh pit in the desert,” as Michael Tolliver calls Burning Man, makes it seem an unlikely place for an elderly lady. But while Michael, husband Ben, bisexual celebrity Shawna (who’s looking for a sperm donor) and many others are cavorting in the Nevada desert, Anna has unfinished business in not-too-far-away Winnemucca, to which she has persuaded Shawna’s father (and Michael’s close friend), Brian, and his new wife, Wren, to drive her in their airconditioned RV. So it’s no surprise when Anna finally ends up at Burning Man after the not-terribly-dramatic resolution to a conflict laid out in flashbacks to the year she left home at 16. Readers not up to speed on the series may have trouble sorting out all the relationships (and genders), but Maupin spins his usual goodhearted web of intrigues involving people who have created their own community to shelter them from disapproving straights. The plot is as soap-operatic as usual, though thankfully, Maupin has abandoned the lurid improbabilities that marred Mary Ann in Autumn in favor of touching reunions and reconciliations. Sweet, undemanding entertainment most suitable for longtime fans. (Author tour to Albuquerque, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Santa Fe and Seattle)

ON SUCH A FULL SEA

Lee, Chang-rae Riverhead (368 pp.) $27.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-59448-610-4

A harrowing and fully imagined vision of dystopian America from Lee, who heretofore has worked in a more realist mode. Lee’s oeuvre is largely made up of novels about Asians assimilating into American society (The Surrendered, 2010, etc.), and in many regards, this one is no different. Its hero is Fan, a young woman of Chinese descent who leaves her native Baltimore to find her disappeared lover, Reg. However, the near-future America she travels through is catastrophically going off the rails: The wealthy (or “Charters”) live in protected communities, the lawless “counties” are highly dangerous, while those like Fan in the struggling middle live and work in highly regimented communities designed to serve the Charters’ needs. (Fan worked in a fishery in Baltimore, renamed B-Mor.) Typical of dystopian literary novels, the circumstances that brought the country to this ugly pass aren’t clear (though social concerns about the environment and carcinogens are high). What Lee adds to the genre is his graceful, observant writing, as well as a remarkably well-thought-out sense of how crisis stratifies society and collapses morality. As Fan travels north from B-Mor, 12

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“…an extraordinary novel…” from i shall be near to you

BEDROCK FAITH

I SHALL BE NEAR TO YOU

May, Eric Charles Akashic (420 pp.) $16.95 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-61775-196-7

McCabe, Erin Lindsay Crown (320 pp.) $24.00 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-8041-3772-0

In this debut, May (Fiction Writing/ Columbia College Chicago) walks the streets of Parkland on Chicago’s South Side, exploring race, community and religion. May writes of a town settled by African-Americans fleeing Jim Crow’s South. 1990s Parkland is a stable, middle-class community, with hardworking families long acquainted, each house known to all; redbrick two-flats, large wooden foursquares. May writes of Mrs. Motley, a retired school librarian and insurance agent’s widow, with a son in the Army, stationed at Fort Sill; Mr. Davenport, a teacher and block-club president; Erma Smedley, divorced, beautiful enough that “the men perked up,” who is hiding a secret; the Powells and Hicks; and 1960s radical Mrs. Butler, raising grandson Reggie. The familiar tranquility is fractured by Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves, still young after nearly half a lifetime of imprisonment. Under the prison tutelage of Brother Crown, Stew Pot’s seen “The Light,” and he’s intent on exposing the devil in Parkland. Stew Pot’s witnessing soon flames into jeremiads, and as he exposes hidden transgressions, Parkland’s perception of him changes “from the weird-but-harmless category to the crazy-dangerous-hot-list.” Stew Pot discovers Erma is a “lesbianite.” Erma’s shamed and flees. Stew Pot drives the Davenports away and then frightens Mrs. Hicks, who later dies after collapsing from heatstroke. May writes with meticulous detail, seemingly tedious in listing clothing, houses, shops and churches, but as the complex saga unfolds, his detailed viewpoint lends credence to the humanity of Parkland’s people. Stew Pot’s exposure of secrets causes lifelong friendships to implode, and in a misdirected strike at Stew Pot, Mrs. Motley’s treasured home is burned. With wounded veteran Mr. McTeer and Alderman Vernon Paiger as suitors, May’s Mrs. Motley is a superbly rendered, evolving character and the narrative’s heart: intent on dignified kindness and generosity, on propriety and perspective, yet plagued by unintended consequences and forced to ask herself, “what do you say to the pain of someone who felt horribly wronged by your right?” A perceptive and entrancing meditation on friendship and family, love and forgiveness.

McCabe’s debut novel echoes with the Civil War battlefield’s ear-shattering noise and gut-wrenching smells, but its heart is a shining story of enduring love. In 1862, Jeremiah Wakefield, New York country boy, hears the Union’s call and the lure of an enlistment bonus that will finance a farm. Friends too are eager to join the 97th New York Volunteers. Rosetta Edwards will have none of it. Rosetta may be a tomboy and her father’s farmhand, but she’s shared kisses and promises with Jeremiah. If he’s intent on soldiering, they’ll marry first. They wed and enjoy a few weeks of housekeeping in a cabin. It’s there that Jeremiah stumbles over Rosetta’s rock-hard stubbornness, a quality that later inspires

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

The Best of McSweeney’s

In 15 years, Dave Eggers’ press has gone from an impish startup to publishing powerhouse By Rebecca Rubenstein books as art objects: Almost everything the press puts out exists solely in print format, designed to highlight the importance of tactility and the general beauty of paperbound books themselves. In addition to Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the literary magazine for which the press is perhaps most well-known, McSweeney’s publishes a host of fiction titles, nonfiction, comics and art books, and humor books. A few years ago, the press introduced children’s books into its repertoire, with McSweeney’s McMullens, and just last year launched the McSweeney’s Poetry Series, showcasing emerging poets like Zubair Ahmed alongside seasoned champs like Victoria Chang and Matthea Harvey. There’s also Believer Books, an imprint dedicated to publishing the best work featured in The Believer, the press’s magazine of long-form literary and critical journalism; Voice of Witness, a “nonprofit series of oral histories documenting contemporary social injustice”; and the Collins Library, a series focused on reprinting forgotten classics. The press is also responsible for Lucky Peach, a quarterly journal that captures the intersection between food and writing. And then, of course, McSweeney’s wouldn’t be McSweeney’s without the Internet Tendency, its online humor site, which is run by people who “remain small and irresponsible, and afflicted with moldborn allergies.” To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Quarterly, which predates the press and began in Eggers’ apartment in Brooklyn in 1998, McSweeney’s is now publishing The Best of McSweeney’s, a collection of more than 50 pieces featured over the years. Co-edited by Eggers and current Quarterly editor Jordan Bass, the collection aims to represent a range of short stories found in the pages of the magazine’s 43 issues (Issue 44 was only

Photo Courtesy Dave Eggers

Think, for a moment, of the last book you read that felt utterly new. Its characters, its language, even its narrative constructed in a way that felt uncharted, as though no one had ever thought to combine those elements with such precision before. How does it make you feel, to recollect the experience of reading that particular book? Does your heart palpitate a little? Do you find your jaw locked, unable to stop smiling? McSweeney’s, the San Francisco–based independent press and brainchild of writer Dave Eggers, has now been publishing books and magazines that have elicited these visceral reactions for 13 years. Though we continue to live in a fraught economy, with belts tightening around book-project budgets, McSweeney’s remains, as ever, committed to publishing wholly original work—work that speaks to the excitement of our times and to a love of strange, brave and compelling literature. It also remains committed to the idea of 14

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released in September) as well as a glimpse at various projects that have influenced past issues. These include selections from a comics issue guest-edited by Chris Ware (No. 13), pantoums from a dead forms issue, an issue edited by interns (No. 31), and a disturbing and thrilling tale of a man’s double life, from a genre-fiction issue guest-edited by Michael Chabon (No. 10). “There really isn’t any quintessential McSweeney’s story,” says Eggers, when asked to find the common ground among the various fiction pieces published in the Quarterly. “We look for great writing. We try to cast a big net, and we try to surprise our readers and subscribers with something new every time out.” This sentiment is echoed throughout The Best of McSweeney’s, which began as an idea in late 2012 and begat a several-month process in which big lists of favorites were made, pieces were chosen and then scrapped in favor of others. One thousand pages were eventually whittled down to just over 600. As Eggers cautions in the collection’s introduction, make no mistake—the selections that made the final cut are the best but only some of the best. “We’re really looking for stories that feel exciting on a lot of different levels at once,” Bass says of the editorial process behind each Quarterly issue. “A story…that can be very literary, very ambitious, and also shows some real attention to craft and style and voice.” In The Best of McSweeney’s, these include everything from Zadie Smith’s “The Girl with Bangs,” an intimate tale of a collegiate affair, to A.M. Homes’ “Do Not Disturb,” a funny and morose story in which a man tries to care for his abusive wife after she develops cancer, to Kevin Moffet’s “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events,” which, in its simplest form, is about a writer’s complicated relationship with his father. There is also fiction from other shores, as well as a few nonfiction selections; writing from South Sudan, Norway and Australia appears alongside Andrew Sean Greer’s adventures in NASCAR country, mapped out in his wry, journalistic account, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines.” The Best of McSweeney’s is not just a giant tome to read and admire—it’s a thing to behold. In addition to a hardcover printing, McSweeney’s is offering a deluxe edition, which features custom objects from the run of the Quarterly, including playing cards, comics and lost novels. These objects reflect the press’s belief in the importance of tactile design. “We try really hard not to make it feel disposable,” says Bass.

“That’s our office-wide philosophy, in a way, with the books we publish,” adds Laura Howard, McSweeney’s publisher. Bass agrees: “I think the ideas behind the Quarterly and the ideas behind McSweeney’s, I feel like they still have resonance. [The creation of a physical book] doesn’t feel like an archaic approach. It still feels like a pretty vital one other people are standing behind.” And what about the Quarterly? As he’s working on Issue 45 (suspense fiction culled from found Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Bradbury anthologies), Howard surmises about the future: “When I think about 15 years from now, I hope that our 100th issue is a time capsule that we all celebrate together and bury in the ground.” “It will be edited by robots,” Bass adds, with that famous dose of McSweeney’s humor. “We’ll have Matrixstyle feeding tubes attached to us, to fuel the robots as they work on the magazine. But we’ll still give our two cents to weigh in on the tough decisions.” 9

Rebecca Rubenstein is a freelance writer and editor and the Interviews Editor at The Rumpus, an online literary and culture website. She is a former intern at McSweeney’s and resides in San Francisco.

The Best of McSweeney’s Eggers, Dave; Bass, Jordan—Eds. McSweeney’s (624 pp.) $28.00 | $50.00 deluxe edition Dec. 17, 2013 978-1-938073-59-5 978-1-938073-60-1 deluxe edition

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A little slower-moving and more diffuse than many of the 13 preceding volumes in this celebrated series (The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, 2012, etc.), but it’s no more than you’d expect from a heroine whose fleetness has never been as big a draw as her wisdom.

her to chop her hair, dress in men’s clothing and become “Ross Stone.” Rosetta passes a “you’ll do” physical and lands in Jeremiah’s unit, telling her stunned husband, “I signed on for this and there ain’t a thing I have ever been made to feel proud of in my life but the doing of a job that needs doing.” Sketching a hardscrabble portrait of subsistence farm life, McCabe portrays Rosetta brilliantly—think True Grit’s Mattie Ross—as she narrates her story with energy, self-perception, courage and unremitting love for Jeremiah. McCabe’s thorough research lends verisimilitude to army life, all cook fires, salt pork, hardtack, thin blankets and marches into terror. McCabe’s descriptions of battle’s chaos and mayhem—“I just want to walk into that water, any water, and wash myself clean, my clothes and all, letting the blood and everything swirl away”—is reminiscent of Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. Rosetta echoes the period perfectly, playing off against gender expectations in letters home and in conversations with the company commander’s wife, the first to suspect her disguise, and with Will, a gentle, religious boy confused about his sexuality. Based on often overlooked history, McCabe offers an extraordinary novel, one creating a memorable character through which we relive our national cataclysm.

THE PIECES WE KEEP

McMorris, Kristina Kensington (464 pp.) $15.00 paper | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-7582-8116-6

Two narratives, one concerning Nazi spies and the other a troubled boy in contemporary Oregon, begin to converge at the halfway point in this novel of espionage, reincarnation and doomed romance. For the first 100 pages, there is little to connect the two stories, told in alternating chapters. Recently widowed veterinarian Audra is coping with her 7-year-old son’s increasingly erratic behavior. Audra hopes moving cross-country will distance them from the pain of her husband’s death. The other story concerns Vivian, an American diplomat’s daughter, living in London on the eve of World War II. The independent Vivian is conducting an illicit affair with Issak, an American of Swiss descent, who is at university in London. As war becomes inevitable, Issak begs Vivian for help in relocating his family from Germany to Switzerland (he confesses to a lot of holes in his life story: His family is actually German, where they returned after his childhood in America; they’ve been forced by the Nazis to cooperate) by getting information from her father’s intel reports. Vivian is suspicious, but her love for Issak outweighs concerns for international security. As it happens, Vivian is sent back to America, and Issak, who promised to accompany her, is stuck in Germany trying to help his family. Back in Portland, Audra has read a book on the effects of reincarnation on children. The whole thing seems crazy to her, but then the details (Jack’s drawings of Nazis in electric chairs, his obsession with flying, his mumblings in what seem to be German) build a compelling case to a mother at wit’s end. When Audra shares her theories with Jack’s paternal grandparents, they sue her for custody of Jack. Audra feels that her only hope is to research the German name she has, with the help of wounded veteran Sean Malloy, a man Jack is inexplicably drawn to and, unbeknownst to everyone, Vivian’s grandson. Back in the States, Vivian works on a military base as a telephone operator, where she begins a romance with charming military intelligence officer Gene Sullivan. But then one day, Issak contacts her. He is in New York, sent by the Nazis as the head of a secret force sent to invade America. And he asks her to risk everything and trust him again. McMorris’ strong pacing keeps the two stories zipping along and all its many strings connected for a gratifying conclusion.

THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON

McCall Smith, Alexander Pantheon (272 pp.) $24.95 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-307-37841-5

Two and a half new cases for Precious Ramotswe, who presides over the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The first case is both straightforward and tricky. Sheba Kutso, the lawyer Edgar Molapo hired to execute the will leaving much of his estate to his late brother’s son, Liso, suspects that the young man calling himself Liso Molapo isn’t her late client’s nephew, even though he’s supplied with all the proper identification. Mma Ramotswe can imagine several different scenarios that would explain the possible imposture, as well as some that would indicate that the claimant isn’t an imposter at all, but it’s hard to find evidence that supports any of them and excludes the others. In the second case, which asks who’s spreading malicious rumors about Mma Soleti, the proprietor of the newly relocated Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, identifying the culprit seems almost too easy, but this inquiry too turns out to have unexpected twists. What occupies Mma Ramotswe most deeply, however, is the absence of her secretary and associate detective, Grace Makutsi, who, only days after finally acknowledging her pregnancy, is delivered of a son whose arrival brings a most unwelcome extended visit from her husband Phuti Radiphuti’s aunt. In the tale’s most effective episode, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, getting the idea that he needs to work harder at being a good husband to Mma Ramotswe, signs up for the Modern Husband course at the University of Botswana, with gratifyingly predictable results. 16

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VATICAN WALTZ

that only Dad has much invested in the end of the world, and that might be because he’s lost his job again; there isn’t any other apparent reason he has insisted that the family drive from their home in Alabama to experience the rapture in California. Mom is listlessly along for the ride (readers may well feel the same), and oldest daughter Elise aggressively challenges Dad’s professions of faith at every opportunity. She’s the family’s designated bad girl, although at present, only her sister Jess, Miller’s 15-year-old narrator, knows that she’s pregnant. As they meander across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, staying in crummy motels and eating in bad restaurants, Jess worries about her weight, her sister’s pregnancy and the unanswerable enigma of why Elise is prettier and more popular than she is. The religious angle mostly gets dropped in favor of Jess’ adolescent angst; two sexual encounters with boys who actually do think she’s cute seem intended to show Jess gaining some self-respect, but they’re mostly sordid and sad. The Metcalfs witness a fatal car accident, Jess and Elise encounter some strange fellow motel visitors, but there’s no narrative drive to the events; even the rapture’s failure to happen

Merullo, Roland Crown (304 pp.) $24.00 | Dec. 3, 2013 978-0-307-45295-5

A young Massachusetts woman is prompted to share her messages from God with the Catholic Church hierarchy in Merullo’s warmhearted addition to his series of unusual religious novels (American Savior, 2008, etc.). Cynthia Piantedosi attends nursing school and lives quietly with her taciturn, widowed father in Revere, Mass.; the constricted yet nurturing working-class milieu she describes in the novel’s early chapters will be familiar to readers of In Revere, in Those Days (2002). Since she was a child, Cynthia has had “spells,” visions carrying her away from the everyday world. “You are being asked by God to do something,” says Father Alberto, the unconventional priest who becomes her mentor. After his death in a traffic accident, Cynthia grows to believe that God is calling her to be a priest. She’s aware, as the unsympathetic local Monsignor tells her, that this is against church teachings, but Cynthia is impelled by the increasing force of her visions (beautifully depicted by Merullo as experiences of the world’s divine harmony and unity) to press her case all the way to the Vatican in Rome. There, she is accosted at her hotel and then followed on the street by a mysterious man who may have been sent by forces within the Vatican hostile to the changes Cynthia believes are necessary to keep the Catholic Church as a living spiritual force in people’s lives. These thriller elements provide additional narrative energy as Cynthia goes from Rome to Genoa to meet with a reform-minded cardinal, and the denouement is decidedly dramatic. But the real drama here is in the heroine’s relationship with God—and secular-minded readers who think such matters don’t interest them will think again if they give half a chance to Merullo’s loving portrait of a quiet, unassuming woman impelled by faith into deeper engagement with sorrowful, suffering humanity. A fresh, moving portrait of religion as it could and should be. The cliffhanging finale offers hope that we will see more of Cynthia’s odyssey in future books.

THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA

Miller, Mary Liveright/Norton (256 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 20, 2014 978-0-87140-588-3 Miller (Big World, stories, 2009) puts a family on the road but doesn’t give them much to do in her aimless first novel. You’d think that people expecting to be taken up by the rapture in three days would be a lot more cheerful than the Metcalfs are when we first encounter them in Louisiana. But it soon becomes clear |

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SCENT OF BUTTERFLIES

is greeted with a shrug. This lack of affect may be the point of Miller’s deadpan narrative, which substitutes the brand names of junk food and Hollywood movies for social observation, but it doesn’t make for compelling fiction. Drab and dreary. (Author tour to Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Oxford, Jackson and Greenwood, Miss.)

Mossanen, Dora Levy Sourcebooks Landmark (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4022-8443-4 Mossanen (The Last Romanov, 2012, etc.) presents a dark novel steeped in international traditions about a woman, betrayed by those whom she holds dearest, who teeters on the brink of sanity. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and professional photographer Soraya’s reaction to her husband’s infidelity is no exception. The only daughter of privileged upper-class Jewish Iranians, she marries soul mate Aziz when she’s 15 years old. Soraya’s crazy about him—and that’s no exaggeration. During their 20 years of marriage, Soraya’s loved Aziz so obsessively she’s secretly taken birth control pills because she can’t stand the thought of sharing him with anyone, even their own child. So when Soraya spies Aziz in bed with her best friend, Parnaveh, she comes unraveled and plans her own convoluted payback on the unsuspecting couple. Telling Aziz she needs to fly to LA for a photo shoot, Soraya buys a creepy old home—the mansion’s atrium harbors a grave containing the cremains of the previous owner’s husband and provides a fertile environment for a foul-smelling, rare and toxic plant—and begins gathering the tools for her revenge. Soon, fluttering wings swoop into the courtyard as legions of butterflies (Parnaveh means “butterfly”) and an owl (similar to one her grandmother once befriended) appear and begin to roost in the trees. Soraya views these as good omens, but the author’s venture into magical realism bodes ill for readers hoping for a more straightforward, down-to-earth approach. As Soraya compiles a photo album for Aziz and readies her house for her former BFF’s arrival, flashbacks of her family’s life before and after the Islamic Revolution dominate her thoughts. The author awkwardly weaves these sections into the story seemingly at random, but the contrasts are nevertheless interesting and relevant to understanding Soraya’s mental state. By the time Parnaveh arrives in LA with Aziz in tow, most readers will already have pieced together what Soraya is about to discover. Although Mossanen’s prose is at times sensual and haunting, the overall narrative never effectively transitions beyond the caterpillar stage.

THE SERPENT OF VENICE

Moore, Christopher Morrow/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $26.99 | $16.99 e-book | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-06-177976-3 978-0-06-219487-9 e-book Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello, Antonio, the titular merchant of Venice, and Monstressor Brabantio from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” walk into a bar…. It’s a joke but it’s quite a complicated one in the latest historical farce from Moore (Sacre Bleu, 2012, etc.). In this followup to Fool (2009), Moore brings back Pocket of Dog Snogging, his prodigious companion, Drool, and pet monkey Jeff for another round of satirizing the Bard of Avon by way of the Marx Brothers. After trouncing King Lear, Moore has decided a mashup is in order, reconciling its multiple inspirations to a mythical Venice circa 1299. Pocket starts his new adventure poorly, having been walled into Poe’s fictional prison by Brabantio, where he’s reduced to talking to the Chorus (there’s always a bloody chorus). “I am not bloody mad, you berk,” he exclaims, to which the Chorus replies, “You’re shouting at a disembodied voice in the dark.” Bid by his queen, Cordelia, to travel to the sunken kingdom of Venice to help the Moor, Othello, and stop a conspiracy forged in greed from prosecuting a crusade, Pocket fumbles his way through a complicated adventure buoyed by Moore’s half-cocked Shakespearean dialogue, puerile humor and ceaseless banter. The setting helps the author’s cause, lending a rich historical backdrop that includes trade disputes, political intrigue and Shakespearean spectacle. Readers who are steeped in Shakespeare and aren’t too sensitive will enjoy outrageous lines like, “Cry havoc, and let slip the trousers of most outrageous bonkilation!” Purists are better advised to stick with safer adaptations, where they’re less likely to encounter Marco Polo lollygagging in a Venetian prison, the prodigious use of perennial Moore vulgarities (“Fuckstockings!”) or our hero shagging a dragon. It is, as the author himself calls it, an abomination, but fans who enjoyed the rollicking play within a play of Fool or the historical whimsy of Sacre Bleu will find many of the same gifts here. Fool’s gold, replete with junk jokes, from one of America’s most original humorists. (Author tour to Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.)

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FOREIGN GODS, INC.

Ndibe, Okey Soho (336 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-61695-313-3

A Nigerian living in America has a moneymaking scheme—to return to his native village, steal the statue of a war god and sell it to a tony New York dealer who deals in such deities. |


Ikechukwu Uzondu (or Ike for short) has high expectations. Although he’s a cum laude graduate of Amherst with a degree in economics, he’s working as a New York cabbie because his accent won’t get him in the door at a Wall Street firm. Recently divorced and hounded by creditors, Ike talks to Mark Gruels, owner of a gallery called Foreign Gods, Inc. that traffics in Asian and African statues of gods—and well-heeled collectors are willing to part with hundreds of thousands of dollars for the best specimens. Ike borrows some money from a friend to purchase a ticket back to his home village of Utonki and carefully lays the groundwork for stealing a statue of Ngene, the village war god still worshiped by Ike’s uncle Osuakwu. Meanwhile, Ike’s mother has come under the spell of Pastor Uka, a stern Protestant who sees Ngene worship as inspired by Satan. Not so coincidentally, the pastor believes that any person returning to the village from America must be rich, so he’s looking to Ike to “sow” a considerable sum for a new chapel. Caught between his overly pious and gullible mother on one hand and his “heathen” uncle on the other, Ike eventually steals the statue but still must smuggle it through Nigerian customs, a task made somewhat easier by corrupt customs officials willing to look the other way, but when he returns to New York, he finds the market for African deities has gone colder than he had expected. Ndibe writes of culture clash in a moving way that makes Ike’s march toward disaster inexorable and ineffably sad.

Chuck Palahniuk’s transgressional narratives. Christian becomes obsessed with dying, confronting “The White” and then being revived again. Christian soon meets Dr. Cordoba, defrocked physician/researcher working part time treating injured fighting dogs. Christian persuades her to kill and then revive him, which she does in her hidden laboratory, but the cost she exacts is demented. Nelms writes in first person, with sardonic, distanced second-person chapters scattered about, with an intensity and focus that will keep the reader wondering. Christian—“I am an amorphous id in jeans and a tee shirt moving quickly through structures of glass and marble with a single focus”—isn’t a sympathetic character, but he’s the engine of the demented narrative. Allegories and symbolism—Christian dying, being revived—perhaps should be taken as ironic in this postmodern breakdown saga.

THE LAST TIME I DIED

Nelms, Joe Tyrus Books (256 pp.) $16.99 paper | Jan. 18, 2014 978-1-4405-7180-0

Nelms debuts with a dark psychological drama tracing Christian Franco’s spiral into madness. Christian’s the son of a New York cop and a homemaker, strictly middleclass borough folk. Then Christian’s father kills his mother. Despite sloppy foster care and sexual abuse, Christian won’t be denied, and so it’s law school honors and the fast track at a prestigious law firm. There’s money, major partner mentoring and then marriage to beautiful, irresistible Lisa. Life’s perfect, except that Christian’s a tightened-down pressure cooker fueled by rage and suppressed memories of his mother’s murder. Lisa leaves. Christian self-medicates with alcohol and drugs, neglects work and instigates fights: “There was nothing like a good beat down to take the edge off.” Soon, he’s out of second chances, fired after the night he’s beaten almost to death and narrowly revived. Unconscious, Christian experienced what he calls “The White...bright and clean and perfect... yet soothing and comfortable,” with flashes of suppressed childhood traumas on display. After Christian awakens, he sketches memories in manic episodes—dozens of drawings. Christian’s rage-fueled quest to know the truth of his childhood comes in strobe-light snapshot chapters, flashes of manic action much like |

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“An unexpected pleasure…” from pioneer girl

PIONEER GIRL

uncharacteristically visiting a local bar. The next day, Kincaid appears, hung over and largely inarticulate, and blood is found on the seat of his Jeep. Although his mother defiantly defends him as a war hero, Kincaid eventually confesses to having murdered Cressida. The scene then shifts to Florida, seven years later, when an eccentric psychologist is interviewing Sabbath Mae McSwain for an intern position. She’s defensive about a name that seems obviously made up, though she carries a birth certificate around with her, and becomes visibly nervous when the psychologist starts probing about her past. The psychologist has been writing a series of exposés entitled SHAME! and is currently working to expose conditions on death row. The novel then shifts once again, this time back to the past, to reveal how Cressida transformed into Sabbath, what horrors Kincaid experienced in Iraq and how Cressida got entangled with Kincaid on his return home. Knotted, tense, digressive and brilliant.

Nguyen, Bich Minh Viking (304 pp.) $26.95 | Feb. 6, 2014 978-0-670-02509-1 A Vietnamese-American scholar finds familiar ground when she stumbles across a lost fragment in the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and daughter Rose Wilder Lane. The third-person perspective of the author’s novel Short Girls (2010) lent that work some distance. This more intimate first-person narrative is by Lee Lien, who has a newly minted doctorate in 19th-century literature but few job prospects. The book contrasts Lee’s life with that of journalist and Little House on the Prairie collaborator Rose Wilder Lane. Lee, who has moved back in with her difficult mother and works at her mother’s coffee/noodle house, has a combative relationship with her mother, much as the talented journalist Rose had with her own. “You are alike,” Lee’s grandfather tells her, much to her dismay. The discovery of a mysterious gold pin, etched with a little house and possibly abandoned by Rose in Saigon in 1965, leads Lee toward the book’s pivot point, a mystery about a potential descendent of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The subject of that investigation is the weakest part of the narrative, leaning toward rom-com meet-cutes and a dubious liaison. That said, it’s clear that Nguyen has a perceptive understanding of the tension between mothers and daughters and the troubling insights to be gained from digging into the past. An unexpected pleasure, with a well-drawn and compelling narrator.

STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS

Quindlen, Anna Random House (272 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-1-4000-6575-2

A photographer retreats to a rustic cottage, where she confronts aging and flagging career prospects. Rebecca Winter is known for her Kitchen Counter series, black-and-white photographs capturing domestic minutiae, taken as her marriage to a philandering Englishman is foundering on the shoals of mistaken assumptions. But, as her laconic and un-nurturing agent, TG, never fails to remind her, what has she done lately? Her photo royalties are in precipitous decline. Divorced, living in a high-priced Manhattan apartment, Rebecca, 60, finds herself unmoored. Her filmmaker son, Ben, still requires checks from Mom. Her mother, Bebe, is in the Jewish Home for the Aged and Infirm, where she spends her days playing piano pieces on any available surface, except an actual piano. Since the collapse of the family business, Rebecca has supported both her parents and now pays Bebe’s nursing home bills. She figures that it will be cheaper to sublet her apartment and rent a ramshackle woodland cabin upstate than to continue to ape the NYC lifestyle of her formerly successful self. She meets the usual eccentrics who people so many fictional small towns, although in Quindlen’s hands, these archetypes are convincingly corporeal. Sarah runs the English-themed Tea for Two cafe, not exactly to the taste of most locals. Until Rebecca came to town, Sarah’s only regular was Tad, ex–boy soprano, now working clown. Sarah’s ne’er-do-well husband, Kevin, sells Rebecca subpar firewood and is admonished by Jim, an upstanding local hero. After helping Rebecca remove a marauding raccoon, Jim helps her find work photographing wild birds. Like Rebecca, Jim is divorced and has onerous family responsibilities, in his case, his bipolar sister who requires constant surveillance. As

CARTHAGE

Oates, Joyce Carol Ecco/HarperCollins (496 pp.) $26.99 | $14.99 e-book | Jan. 21, 2014 978-0-06-220812-5 978-0-06-220814-9 e-book Dark events in Carthage, a town in upstate New York—a war hero returning from Iraq, a broken engagement, a mysterious murder—but not everything is as it seems. Carthage seems to embody the values of small-town America, for its citizens are independent and patriotic, but in early July 2005, things start to go dreadfully wrong. Juliet Mayfield, older daughter of former Carthage mayor Zeno Mayfield, is planning her wedding but finds her fiance, Brett Kincaid, broken and strangely different when he returns from duty in Iraq. Cpl. Kincaid is on a passel of meds, walks with a limp and has obviously experienced a severe trauma while on active duty. Meanwhile, Juliet’s cynical and smart-mouthed younger sister, Cressida (the “smart one” as opposed to Juliet, the “beautiful one”), disappears one Saturday night after 20

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THE LONGEST RIDE

Rebecca interacts with these townsfolk—and embarks on a new photo series—she begins to understand how provisional her former life—and self—really was. Occasionally profound, always engaging, but marred by a formulaic resolution in which rewards and punishments are meted out according to who ranks highest on the niceness scale.

Sparks, Nicholas Grand Central Publishing (416 pp.) $27.00 | Sep. 17, 2013 978-1-4555-2065-7 Love means never having to say you’re dead. Sparks (The Best of Me, 2011, etc.) fans know the drill: sweetness and light, darkness and despair, kissing and making up. And always, always, intertwining storylines. Got the template? Here, Sparks opens with a grim scene that soon turns as sappy as a maple: Old Ira Levinson (there’s a signal there) has driven off the road in black ice and snow, and now he’s feeling, as he says, “the Grim Reaper tapping my shoulder.” Now, it stands to reason that up there in the Southern highlands, a tow truck is likely to arrive less expeditiously than the nearest friendly ghost, in this case, that of Ira’s beloved wife, Ruth. If you’ve seen that Patrick Swayze/

WHAT WE’VE LOST IS NOTHING

Snyder, Rachel Louise Scribner (320 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-4767-2517-8

Snyder’s debut novel takes place in the two dramatic days following a series of burglaries in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. Residents of Ilios Lane in Chicago’s Oak Park neighborhood wanted to believe they were helping change attitudes toward diversity, but when someone breaks into the homes in this more affluent area bordered by mostly minority-occupied homes and apartments, subtle changes begin to take effect. The ones who see the most change are the members of the McPherson family: daughter Mary Elizabeth, who is skipping school when the break-in happens, tripping out on ecstasy with her Cambodian friend, Sofia; her mom, Susan, a true believer in diversity who has worked her entire adult life to integrate local neighborhoods; and her father, Michael, who sees a chance to step up to the plate and be the liaison between the violated families and the police. The others involved in the break-ins have various reactions to the crimes. Mary Elizabeth finds her proximity to the burglars has made her the target of Caz’s attention. Caz, a boy at school who has ignored her in the past, seems smitten by her. Sofia finds herself in hot water with her parents. Susan is determined not to let the incident scare off prospective tenants. Alicia and Dan must return from a vacation in Florida to visit her indulgent parents. A semiblind neighbor finds himself beseeched to move in with his sister, and a French chef discovers his authenticity questioned. Snyder’s book encompasses a time period beginning with the discovery of the crimes to a final, life-changing showdown that takes place at the end of the emotionally and physically exhausting experience. Snyder’s writing is crisp and clean and the premise is unique, but readers may find the characters less than compelling.

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Demi Moore movie, you’ll know how this part works. But Ira isn’t just any old Southern Jew expiring in the cold: He’s had a hobby that’s morphed into a grail. Exit stage right; enter Sophia and Luke. Sophia’s a sorority sweetie with a brawler of a boyfriend whom she’s trying to ditch, and Luke is the cowboy hero who comes loping along to save the day. But let Sparks explain: “The cowboy’s words were clear and slow, as if he were addressing a dimwit.” Indeed. Well, bad boyfriend is conflict No. 1, and Luke’s nerves are conflict No. 2, especially when it comes to a session with the monster bull of his darkest dreams. All that remains to be done is to lasso these two couples together, jerk some tears: “My plea to you is this: despite your sadness, do not forget how happy you have made me; do not forget that I loved a man who loved me in return, and this was the greatest gift I could ever have hoped to receive.” To which, in cowboy-speak, the proper reply is: “Aw, shucks.” Just the sort of thing for Sparks buffs.

a long and productive career, is still best known for her novella The Light in the Piazza (1960) and the ensuing movie and musical. In Spencer’s world, the emotional debt ceiling is always on the rise.

THE QUIET STREETS OF WINSLOW

Troy, Judy Counterpoint (272 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 11, 2014 978-1-61902-239-3

Within the framework of a murder mystery set in small-town Arizona, Troy (From the Black Hills, 1999, etc.) has written a tightly constructed psychological study about a family and community. Fourteen-year-old Travis and his younger brother Damien find a woman’s body while walking their dog in Black Canyon City, Ariz., where their father, Lee, is a veterinarian. Lee’s best friend, Sam, is the local sheriff investigating the case, which soon points uncomfortably close to home. It turns out the dead woman is Jody, a waitress whom the boys met with Lee when he took them to visit their much older half brother Nate, the son Lee had in his troubled, alcoholic youth before he became the upstanding citizen, family man and father he is now. Raised by his single mother and now in his early 30s, Nate had a rough time growing up and has become an underachieving loner who manages a trailer park in Chino Valley, where he met Jody. Drawn to her physically—as is every man she meets—and sympathetic to her grief over giving up her daughter to the Indian parents of the baby’s father, Nate let Jody live in his trailer for six months. Although he was clearly in love with her and she was giving her sexual favors elsewhere, their relationship remained platonic until she moved back to her hometown of Winslow to be closer to her mother. Nate visited Jody at least once, but no one, including the reader, wants to believe he was the murderer; certainly not Travis, who is having his own coming-of-age experience of unrequited love, or Lee, feeling guilty that he failed Nate as a father. Trying to remain objective, Sam finds navigating through the evidence particularly difficult. And soon, he finds other men who had questionable relationships with Jody and who lack alibis for the murder. As each of the primary characters tells his version of events, Troy’s subtle but emotionally wrenching prose raises deeply provocative questions about loyalty, morality, human frailty and the power of choice.

STARTING OVER Stories

Spencer, Elizabeth Liveright/Norton (192 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 13, 2014 978-0-87140-681-1 Spencer’s elegant stories are more about what doesn’t happen than what does. Although this collection occasionally bespeaks a South right out of a Horton Foote play, what Spencer explores is less the histrionics so often associated with Southern domestic fiction than the muted desperation generated by imploding marriages. Adult children still displaced by divorce constitute a major motif in “Blackie” and “Sightings.” In “Return Trip,” a newly wealthy friend visiting Asheville (ostensibly to see the arson-ravaged Thomas Wolfe House) reminds a couple that a long-ago night of drinking at a family reunion has forever cast the parentage of their only son into doubt. In “Rising Tide,” a divorcée, working as an adjunct professor, meets an Indian student who poses a courtly contrast to her prickly and still needy ex-husband. As its title insinuates, “On the Hill” is a horror story but of a very different sort—a glamorous couple, their origins carefully concealed, moves to town and gives sparkling dinner parties. Then why does their son keep appearing on the narrator’s doorstep? After the family moves away, the narrator, herself about to give birth after a long reproductive drought, is haunted by her failure to intervene in a menacing situation, the exact nature of which she fails to grasp—thanks mostly to good manners. In “The Wedding Visitor,” a congressman’s aide, formerly a poor or at least unwelcome relation, returns to the family compound where he spent summers as a child for a cousin’s wedding. He finally secures his status in his extended family when, a true Washington insider in training, he averts a fiscal scandal. Quiet and spare prose ferries tiny but explosive clues which point to powerful insights lurking between the lines. This collection should garner new readers for Spencer, who, despite 22

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A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT

plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed

Twain, Mark Chwast, Seymour—Adapt. Bloomsbury (144 pp.) $22.00 | Feb. 18, 2014 978-1-60819-961-7

Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England. Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible,

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“…a breathless adventure…” from luminous chaos

THE FREE

annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms. Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven. (2-color throughout)

Vlautin, Willy Perennial/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $14.99 paper | Feb. 4, 2014 978-0-06-227674-2 Vlautin’s fourth novel (Lean on Pete, 2010, etc.), about damaged people caring for each other across a spectrum of society. Vlautin creates a community of survivors through a handful of well-wrought characters, each linked to the others through the attempted suicide of Leroy Kervin, a disabled Iraq war veteran who seizes a moment of clarity to escape his irreparable life. Freddie is a night caretaker at the group home where Leroy lives with his fear while fighting desperation at not being able to support his family. At the hospital, Pauline nurses him and another new patient, Jo, a runaway from a harsh world beyond her comprehension. The broken, the poor and the desperate fill this book—with dignity. Each one cares for another with grace and humility. Set in motion by Leroy’s deliberate plunge down the stairs onto a wooden stake, the book examines the characters’ individual humanness, peculiarly American in spirit. This is a story of our times—about the lack of work, the cost of health insurance, the demonizing of war and the damage to life in the working class. At first odd and magical, the narrative becomes more violent and hate-filled. “The Free” of the novel’s title appear in a Cormac McCarthy–like vision of a demonic wasteland. Vlautin writes cleanly, beautifully about the people who hang on despite odds. This is a fine novel, grim but bounded by courage and kindliness. (Author tour to New York, Portland, Ore., Reno, San Francisco and Seattle)

LUMINOUS CHAOS

Valtat, Jean-Christophe Melville House (416 pp.) $27.95 | Oct. 15, 2013 978-1-61219-141-6

The second mind-bending installment of The Mysteries of New Venice. Valtat’s (Aurorarama, 2010, etc.) second entry in his series beggars description; it can loosely be classified as steampunk due to its Victorian-era setting and fascination with fanciful technology, but its literary ambition, dazzling stylistic panache and richly drawn characters elevate it beyond the bounds of genre fiction. The action concerns the efforts of Brentford Orsini, former regent of the polar utopia New Venice, his louche confidant Gabriel d’Allier and a small band of colorful associates who return to their beloved home after a mysterious diplomatic mission goes awry and strands the group in 1895 Paris, dislocated in time, years before the founding of their mysterious city. Paris proves most inhospitable, ravaged by apocalyptic winter weather and beset by political unrest, scheming occultists and dangerous gangs of killers attired alternately as ravens and wolves. Valtat complicates the story deliciously, limning (in prose that is by turns lyrical, arch and earthily witty) a complex society built on secret alliances and technological marvels that give the characters endless opportunities to discourse on art, science and mysticism while engaging in all manner of classic adventure-story intrigue and action. Characters who include a dyspeptic disembodied head, a willful Eskimo mechanic, a half-mechanical ex-military man, and a guillotine-toting, wheelchair-bound refuse baron are the order of the day, but Valtat’s intellectual excitement and clear affection for his creations prevent the proceedings from ever devolving into merely clever conceits or sci-fi silliness. The novel demands close attention and real work from the reader; there is an elusive quality to Valtat’s worldbuilding, a sense of much left unexplained just beneath the surface of his beguiling tale. The luminous chaos of the title refers to the amorphous bodies of light that can sometimes be perceived when one’s eyes are shut tightly, suggestions of shapes that, with some imagination and concentration, can be forced to cohere into recognizable objects. Not a bad metaphor for the experience of entering Valtat’s allusive, evanescent world. A sui generis contraption, rhapsodic and strange; a breathless adventure for bent intellectuals.

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THE VANISHING

Webb, Wendy Hyperion (304 pp.) $15.99 paper | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-4013-4194-7 Now that her husband, Jeremy, has bilked thousands of people out of their life savings and committed suicide, Julia Bishop finds herself without friends or prospects, unless you count angry reporters and prison sentences. When a mysterious but clearly wealthy stranger named Adrian Sinclair offers Julia a job as companion to his mother, she has to consider it. When he mentions that his mother is Amaris Sinclair, she cannot refuse. After all, the famous writer of horror stories inspired Julia’s own novel. And she supposedly died 10 years ago. Adrian offers Julia a chance to vanish, just as his mother did, to the Havenwood estate. Just days after accepting Adrian’s offer, she learns her own home has been burned to the ground, presumably with her in it, and Julia begins to question her decision. Everyone is exceedingly nice to |


BEFORE WE MET

her, as if she were a close friend of the family, and she has full run of the place—Amaris even encourages her to snoop. Drew McCullough is certainly enticing, too. He’s the descendent of Andrew McCullough, who originally built Havenwood as an exact replica of his ancestral home in Scotland. Rumors swirl about his relationship with a spiritual medium, Seraphina, who performed her final séance at the estate and was never heard from again. Pushing her misgivings aside, Julia hopes Havenwood will inspire her to write again. The mansion is clearly home to a few ghosts, such as the little girl singing in the library. It isn’t long, though, before the ghosts become threatening, and Julia’s sense of déjà vu escalates. A brisk thriller tinged with gothic elements, Webb’s (The Fate of Mercy Alban, 2013, etc.) latest builds excitement but neglects tension. Careening through séances and ghostly encounters leaves the reader breathless but wishing for a slower, spinetingling swell of suspense.

Whitehouse, Lucie Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-62040-275-7

Whitehouse’s latest (The House at Midnight, 2008, etc.) examines the relationship between two newlyweds following the husband’s disappearance; the wife knows little about his past. Hannah was a career girl in New York. Though English by birth, she moved to the U.S. to work in public relations and found her dream job, but what she didn’t find was her dream mate. Hesitant to get too involved with anyone she met, Hannah hit her mid-30s without finding the right guy. Then, mutual friends introduced her to a fellow Brit, the handsome Mark Reilly, who founded his own wildly successful company. Following a whirlwind courtship and a quick marriage, he and Hannah returned to London, where she began job

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hunting. Unhappy with staying at home, even though the home is a posh place that’s been painstakingly refurbished with the finest finishes, Hannah’s been unable to find a job. But being unemployed really hits home when Hannah’s unable to find Mark while he’s off on a business trip. Although he leaves voice mails claiming to be in New York, his colleagues think he’s with Hannah in Rome. After snooping through his office, Hannah discovers something disturbing: Mark’s pulled the equity out of their home and drained both of their bank accounts, leaving her with a couple of pounds on which to survive. Why has Mark acted this way? Is he having an affair, or is the reason much more sinister? These are questions Hannah tries to answer in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that follows each twist and turn in Hannah’s search for the truth behind Mark’s odd and off-putting behavior. Whitehouse cleverly builds the suspense bit by bit, taking the reader deftly from the couple’s initial newlywed bliss to Hannah’s growing realization that things may not be what they seem. Astute readers will pick up on clues that things aren’t right before the hapless Hannah, but they’ll still enjoy this well-drawn, taught thriller all the way to the end.

her sexuality; she both adores and deplores Steadman. Forced to see the train wreck through Laurel’s eyes, the reader cannot ignore her role in the affair. Nor can the reader ignore Laurel’s heartbreaking naïveté. Their flirtation ignites into a doomed affair, which both try to exalt onto a mythic scale. Sadly, their relationship is merely sordid. An anxious, uneasy and despondent anti-romance novel.

WHAT NORA KNEW

Yellin, Linda Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-4767-3006-6 When an online magazine writer is assigned an article about love, she tries— and fails—to emulate Nora Ephron but ends up starring in her own romance. Molly Hallberg’s a divorced writer who’d rather do anything than end up working in her family’s upholstery business—and she has. Employed by EyeSpy, an online magazine, she’s chomping at the bit to get her own column and tries to prove her worth with her latest assignment, a piece about romance with a Nora Ephron slant. But Molly’s the penultimate cynic, and researching the article’s a struggle. She shares her life with a few close friends, a slightly eccentric but supportive family and a bland chiropractor boyfriend, Russell, who doesn’t exactly set off any bells and whistles where Molly’s concerned, but he’s reliable. Molly spends three weeks interviewing people: strangers in Central Park, customers at Tiffany’s, clients at a speed dating get-together and guests at her friend’s posh party in the Hamptons. It’s there that she meets celebrated author Cameron Duncan, and she’s pretty sure he’s a self-serving egotist. Although she fails miserably with the assignment, Molly runs into Cameron at almost every turn and verbally jousts with him about the nature of romance. Meanwhile, Molly’s clinging to her comfortable relationship and researching some pretty crazy assignments that have her leaping out of planes, bicycling around New York City and sneaking well-disguised vibrators past security checkpoints. And as she watches classic Ephron movies for the zillionth time, she stubbornly continues to ignore the obvious—until her dreams begin to come true. Yellin’s (The Last Blind Date, 2011, etc.) tribute is lighthearted amusement, a witty and entertaining story that holds no surprises but has plenty of laughable moments. She puts readers at ease with her comfortable writing style as she takes them on a whirlwind tour of New York from an ambitious and single female writer’s point of view. Funny, fresh and written with flair.

THE WOOD OF SUICIDES

Woollett, Laura Elizabeth Permanent Press (192 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 23, 2014 978-1-57962-350-0

Electra meets Lord Byron. Daphne meets Apollo. Insecure girl with eating disorder meets predatory teacher with dashed ambitions. Woollett’s debut novel casts Laurel Marks as the brilliant yet underachieving, beautiful yet repressed protagonist. Her disturbed eyes view her voluptuous, free-spirited mother with horror and her frail, intellectually gifted father with reluctant reverence. Suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, her father’s passivity draws Laurel closer while his ardent love for her mother repels her. His early death leaves her feelings for him unresolved and eager to be rid of her mother. Consequently, she jumps at the chance to attend St. Cecelia’s Catholic School as a boarder, although she pockets a vial of her father’s opiates. Suicide insurance. Enter Hugh Steadman, Byronic, charismatic teacher of Romantic poetry. Married to a successful doctor and father to teenage twins, Steadman’s academic ambitions have dwindled from attending medical school to enticing barely mature young women. Soon, Steadman’s virility and Laurel’s desire for a new god figure have her manipulating her body language, changing her locker and wearing black bras under white blouses to attract his all-toowilling attention. Quite the schoolgirl, Laurel rejoices in every morsel of information gained: his first name, his birth date, his wardrobe. An unexpected visit from his wife to the classroom provokes Laurel’s interest and possessiveness. Laurel’s unrelenting focus on Steadman makes for an uncomfortable reading experience. She simultaneously desires and despises 26

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comes while watching Hector, the tenth Earl of Fairhaven, and his wife’s brother, Oliver fforde-Beckett, seventh Marquess of Morborne, get into a midair wrestling match before both land safely. Oliver is a nasty customer whose relatives all dislike him, and Tom gets a bird’s eye view of his enmity not only with Hector, but also with his half sister Lucinda, his cousins Dominic and Jamie, Viscount Kirkbride, and his sleuthing wife, Jane. When Tom finds Oliver strangled in Eggescombe’s labyrinth, there is no shortage of suspects, all of them lying about their whereabouts on the night of the murder. Even Tom, who was being seduced by the stunning Lucinda, falls under suspicion, along with his former verger Jamie Kirkbride’s brother, a man with a secret who vanished after an earlier murder case (Twelve Drummers Drumming, 2011, etc.), emerges as a suspect. After the dowager countess’s artist in residence and lover is murdered, more motives emerge from Oliver’s past. Tom, helped by Jane, needs to figure out who is the guilty party. A strong mystery reminiscent of P.D. James, with many well-developed characters, local color and a sensitive, intelligent investigator.

TEN LORDS A-LEAPING

Benison, C.C. Delacorte (512 pp.) $25.00 | Dec. 3, 2013 978-0-385-34447-0

A church fundraiser at a stately home goes horribly wrong. The Rev. Tom Christmas, vicar of St. Nicholas Church, Thornford Regis, is understandably nervous about jumping out of a plane. But he’s pleased that the Leaping Lords are using their celebrity sky diving to help raise money to repair the church. Landing on the grounds of Eggescombe Park, he sprains an ankle, forcing him to stay over with his daughter, Miranda. The first indication of trouble

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PURGATORY

Ann Falconer (nee Martina Svobadova), may be headed down the same road, Karen asks Nastos and Kevin Carscadden, the lawyer who’s his partner in a private detective agency, for help. That turns out to be too late for Falconer, who runs out of Karen’s apartment and into big trouble. Nastos’ involvement, however, puts him in the middle of the action when the Devil Dogs Motorcycle Club’s murderous president, Angelo Moretti, whom Falconer was slated to testify against, hires professional killer Vince Druer to teach his son Christian the fundamentals of the business and Vince, who senses that his days in Toronto are numbered, decides that it would be more lucrative and interesting to set his would-be allies against each other. Constables Jake Radix and David Morrison, a pair of crooked cops who seem to be auditioning for Joseph Wambaugh’s LAPD, keep the pot boiling until the climactic last-man-standing shootout at the Boom Boom Room. The atmosphere is suitably noir, the dialogue tough and the characters hard-bitten to a fault, though you do keep wondering who’s on first.

Bruen, Ken Mysterious Press (272 pp.) $24.00 | Nov. 4, 2013 978-0-8021-2607-8 Galway ex-cop Jack Taylor, whose main job these days is keeping himself clean and sober, goes up against a vigilante whose targets richly deserve to die. You might feel sorry for Joseph, the teenager shot off his skateboard, if you didn’t know he was dealing dope to kids even younger than him. But no one mourns the passing of Tim Rourke, the accused rapist who’d be rotting in prison instead of the grave if a dewy-eyed social worker’s testimony hadn’t freed him to meet his maker. Or Peg Ramsay, the moneylender’s widow who’s been determined to squeeze her clients even harder than her late lamented husband ever did. Or Dolan, the landlord who neglected to make sure all his tenants had made it out of his properties before he burned them down. Jack wouldn’t waste a tear on any of these victims if their killer, calling himself C33, weren’t sending notes to Jack (The Devil, 2010, etc.) inviting him to join the festivities. Soon enough, Jack and his mates, Zen-spouting entrepreneur Stewart and lesbian Sgt. Ridge Ní Iomaire, are up to their necks in C33’s lethal games. The case brings Jack bumping repeatedly against dot-com billionaire Daniel Reardon, with each new collision producing fresh eruptions of bile—is there an angrier narrator in the genre than Jack?—but precious little in the way of plot development, until the obvious suspect gets identified and does a runner, turning Jack from reluctant detective into nemesis, a role that suits him much better. For all the furious energy of Jack’s throwaway riffs, the title of this installment, which would have fit most of Bruen’s pitch-noir dispatches equally well, isn’t the only thing that feels recycled here. (Agent: Lukas Ortiz)

BILLIONAIRE BLEND

Coyle, Cleo Berkley Prime Crime (384 pp.) $26.95 | Dec. 3, 2013 978-0-425-25291-8 A coffeehouse manager’s opportunity to expand her business starts with a bang. A mysterious stranger has been plying Clare Cosi’s baristas with questions. Just as she gets to talk to him herself, a car bomb almost kills them and does serious damage to the Village Blend. It turns out that the inquisitive pest is billionaire tech-genius Eric Thorner, who offers Clare and her ex-husband, Matt, a globe-trotting coffee hunter, the chance to create a blend so special that only billionaires can afford it. Eric not only provides the money for quick repairs, but also buys the shop a top-of-the-line espresso maker. Neither Matt nor Clare’s boyfriend, NYPD detective Mike Quinn, is pleased, since Eric, who has a bad reputation with women, obviously has more than coffee in mind. But the business is so short on cash that Clare takes the plunge despite reservations of her own. Eric’s chauffeur, who was killed in the blast, had been working undercover for the family of a former girlfriend they suspect Eric of killing. But when the bomb squad talks to Eric, he accuses his business rival, an Aussie billionaire who wants to cash in on the app business that’s made Eric rich. Eric, Matt and Clare travel the world looking for that special coffee while the fatalities related to Eric’s company pile up back in New York. With Mike working for a special task force in D.C., Clare’s on her own against a dangerous adversary. Coyle’s long string of coffeehouse mysteries (Holiday Buzz, 2012, etc.) are always good value for the coffee lore and appended recipes. This is one of her best.

THE FILTHY FEW

Cain, R.D. ECW Press (256 pp.) $14.95 paper | Nov. 1, 2013 978-1-77041-007-7 Widowed of the wife who provided one of his few tethers to anything like a normal life (Dark Matter, 2012, etc.), a disgraced Toronto police detective gets into the line of fire among a biker gang, their ailing chief executive and the hit man determined to shake them all up. Steve Nastos’ old partner Karen Grant, who was also bounced from the force, is working on an exposé for the Toronto Tribune that’s taken her into some pretty dark places. But not as dark as the final destination of Rob Walker, an accountantturned-informant-turned-corpse in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Worried that her second source for the story, prostitute/addict 28

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STONE COLD DEAD

much less willing to take no for an answer. Poking around quickly persuades Via that a full-scale war among the heads of Chicago’s three leading criminal families—Brassi, Al Salerno and the aged Carmine Delacante—is just around the corner and that both of Brassi’s rivals would love to have the latest facts and figures on his organization. Via’s investigations provoke such wholesale violence that readers may forget for long stretches that he’s supposed to be looking for Annette Brassi. And the body count, whose numbers rival those of the national debt, prevents any one mobster from emerging as an individual before he’s riddled with bullets. Too many mobsters, too many corpses—most of them mobsters—too many plot twists that cancel each other out: Doeden (The Crux Ansata, 2010), who writes a mean scene, offers much too much here.

Dilts, Catherine Five Star (332 pp.) $25.95 | Dec. 18, 2013 978-1-4328-2743-4

A woman inherits her brother’s rock shop only to find that it comes with a lot of trouble. When Morgan Iverson agrees to come to Golden Springs, Colo., to help out in her brother Kendall’s rock shop, what happens next is completely unexpected. Not only do Kendall and his wife, Allie, immediately take off on an indefinite mission to Central America, leaving Morgan in charge, but Morgan has to keep chasing down Houdini and Adelaide, the two escape-artist donkeys she’s inherited. On one of her many trips to round up her charges, Morgan stumbles upon an unconscious goth girl on a mountain path. She goes to get help, but by the time she returns, the girl is gone. Morgan feels like a fool as she talks to her new community about a girl who may or may not be dead and who may not have been there in the first place. She tries to refocus her attentions on the failing Rock of Ages shop. Her only hope seems to be convincing Piers, owner of Faerie Tales, to put up a sign on his property advertising Rock of Ages, but he’s more interested in talking pleasure with Morgan than business. The one bright spot in all the small-town drama is Morgan’s new friendship with Bernie Belmont, a woman who’s determined to help find the truth of what Morgan saw, even when her questions seem to lead straight to danger. Lacking the appeal of interesting characters, Dilts’ debut is about as fun as collecting rocks.

LEVERAGE

Doeden, Dan Five Star (270 pp.) $25.95 | Nov. 20, 2013 978-1-4328-2732-8 Just because the Chicago mob has already used a man up and spit him out doesn’t mean they can’t use him again. Back in the day, Frank Via was a trusted mob lawyer. But his success in getting his clients off after Operation Monkey Wrench led to his disbarment. Now, he works with his often unpaid associate Nicky Fratelli to eke out a living as a private eye. Via, already in debt to loan shark Charlie Pignotti, can’t afford to turn down jobs, but there’s one he wants no part of: finding Annette Brassi, the 17-year-old daughter of Tina Brassi, who took off with her much older boyfriend after copying the financial records of Tina’s ex, mob boss Tony Brassi, onto a thumb drive. The boyfriend, Tommy Getti, has already been found dead, and Via’s eager to stay out of the line of fire between Brassi and his stepdaughter. But his refusal simply forestalls the inevitable. Soon, he’s facing Brassi himself, who’s |

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“...another charming valentine for fans of classic British mysteries.” from heirs of the body

HEIRS OF THE BODY

one step ahead of him. But it’s hard to circle the wagons when you’re on the run and even harder to keep under the radar when every little town your road trip takes you through leads to more unsought mayhem. “That was just the way in the Delta,” muses Nick in one of his rare reflective moods. “You ask a guy a simple question, and you end up in a fight.” Eventually, Nick and Desmond’s shambling odyssey, which takes them and Barbara, a hound dog in T-shirts, through Louisiana and Mississippi into Alabama, leads them to a confrontation on a tornado-ravaged golf course that ends along blissfully predictable lines. But the journey, as Gavin’s hilariously Zen-like approach to redneck culture suggests, is more to be treasured than the destination. It just never ends for Nick and Desmond and their nemesis, and on the evidence of this latest rematch, it doesn’t look as if it ever will.

Dunn, Carola Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | Dec. 10, 2013 978-0-312-67549-3

In 1920s England, a family mystery offers the aristocratic wife of a police officer new scope for her sleuthing. The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher’s family is currently headed by her childless cousin Edgar, Lord Dalrymple, a former schoolmaster with a passion for butterflies and moths. Upon the death of Daisy’s father and brother, Edgar inherited the title and estates. Now, he’s trying to find the male heir who will eventually succeed him. After advertising worldwide, the family lawyer has come up with a list of possible claimants, all descended from one man, and gives the ever-inquisitive Daisy permission to sit in on the interviews. The four possible heirs are a South African diamond merchant, a Scarborough hotelier with a French connection, a mixed-race boy from Trinidad, and a Jamaican sailor whose pregnant wife has come to England to forward his claim since he is currently not to be found. All the prospective heirs are invited to join Daisy, her husband, Scotland Yard detective Alec Fletcher, their children and other relatives at Fairacres to celebrate Edgar’s 50th birthday. A series of unsettling incidents reaches a climax with the death of one of the possible heirs. Was it accident or murder? The lucky sailor arrives just in time to come under suspicion, leaving Daisy and Alec to discover which of the claimants is the true heir and which is willing to kill to forward his claim. Perhaps not the strongest of Daisy’s period mysteries (Gone West, 2012, etc.), but another charming valentine for fans of classic British mysteries.

MURDER AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

Hess, Joan Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | Dec. 17, 2013 978-1-250-01196-1

An Arkansas bookseller discovers the perils of literacy. After carefully removing the dead bodies from her dream house in greater Farberville (Deader Homes and Gardens, 2012), newly married Claire Malloy finds herself unexpectedly bored. Her husband, Deputy Police Chief Peter Rosen, has open cases to investigate. Her daughter Caron is preoccupied with her best friend Inez’s transformation from frump to vamp. Jacob, her clerk, runs the Book Depot with an iron fist, leaving Claire little more to do than file invoices. And her foray into French cuisine leaves her family howling for takeout pizza. So she allows Judge Wilhelmina “Willie” Constantine to pressure her into joining the board of the Farberville Literacy Council, whose mission is to teach English to the foreign-born. Her fellow board members are a motley crew. In addition to Willie, there’s banker Rick Lester, corporate executive Sonya Emerson, wry academic Drake Whitbream, dipsomaniac Austin Rodgers and stodgy board president Frances North. But they’re not nearly as motley as the students, from tiny Asian student Miao to enormous Polish student Ludmilla, who terrorizes her fellow students with her multilingual tirades, reserving extra venom for executive director Gregory Whistler. As if dealing with feuding board members and polyglot students weren’t enough, program director Keiko Sakamoto inveigles Claire into filling in for FLC’s receptionist. Once Claire arrives, it’s only a matter of time before murder follows, and sure enough, Keiko arrives one morning to find a corpse in the copy room. Claire’s 19th case goes on too long, but freed from penury and domestic drudgery, she sparkles.

NOWHERE NICE

Gavin, Rick Minotaur (288 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 19, 2013 978-0-312-58319-4 When a meth lord escapes from a Mississippi prison and heads for the crackers who put him away, vowing revenge, the ensuing complications include every plot twist imaginable except revenge. Repo man Nick Reid and his friend and colleague Desmond never went looking for Guy Baptiste Boudrot, but their quest for the Ford Ranchero Nick had been driving (Ranchero, 2011) ended up sending Boudrot to Parchman. Now he’s walked away from the prison camp, eluded the alligators who were supposed to stop him from escaping, killed an inoffensive passerby and helped himself to his ride. Nobody has to guess where “that Boudrot” is going. So the two repo men have to warn the friends and neighbors who were originally involved in Boudrot’s apprehension and make sure they all stay 30

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DARK TIMES IN THE CITY

people. In fact, they seem to be objects of interest to two different Basque strongmen, Rodrigo Mariñelarena and Joselito Gorrotxategi, and the FBI, all of whom have very different agendas. Arthur and Natsumi’s hunt for the reasons Florencia got involved with such heavy hitters would be seriously anticlimactic if it weren’t at the same time a scenic tour of possible places to hide from the crossfire. The hero and heroine fight off the advances of a pair of London swingers, rent a series of apartments and villas in Spottsworthy Mews, Lake Como, and sunny Spain, worm their way beneath their enemies’ defenses and ultimately turn them against each other. The nearest fictional analogues are popcorn movies like Mission: Impossible and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. A high-spirited but ultimately exhausting romp with more exotic locations than the last three James Bond films.

Kerrigan, Gene Europa Editions (320 pp.) $17.00 paper | Nov. 1, 2013 978-1-60945-144-8

One moment, Dublin ex-con Danny Callaghan is minding his own business; the next, he’s back in the cross hairs of both cops and criminals. Recently released from prison after a nine-year stretch for manslaughter, Danny, 32, is grimly determined to stay out of trouble. But fate intervenes when prematurely gray Walter Bennett appeals for help during his drubbing by a pair of leather-jacketed thugs in a pub. Almost instantly, Danny curses himself as a blasted idiot for stepping in, even as he wonders why anyone would want to kill the feckless Walter. As Danny has feared, his scuffle sparks interest from police and local gang members. Pub owner Novak, who sympathizes with Danny, lies ineptly to DS Michael Wyndham when he’s questioned about the incident. And lady’s man Karl Prowse, whom Danny bested, has an awkward debriefing with his boss, kingpin Lar Mackendrick (a central figure in Kerrigan’s debut novel). Before long, the police interest in Danny and Mackendrick naturally puts Danny in the hot seat with both groups. Unfortunately for him, Walter is not the innocent victim that he played for his rescuer. All this threatens Danny’s budding relationship with the levelheaded Hannah. And once he has his toe again in criminal waters, is there any turning back? Kerrigan’s fourth crime yarn (The Rage, 2013, etc.) captures a landscape of moral ambiguity with a crackling pace and terse, apt dialogue. His world suggests an Irish Elmore Leonard whose compromised men struggle to tread water in a treacherous sea.

FINDERS, KEEPERS, LOSERS, WEEPERS

Levinson, Robert S. Five Star (400 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 22, 2014 978-1-4328-2781-6

When a rock star crashes and burns, he takes his best friend with him. Rocker Nat Axelrod thinks he’s found the ideal groupie in Mae Jean Minter, whom Nat’s roadie procures at a concert in Indianapolis. The dream turns to a nightmare when Nat groggily awakens the next morning to Mae Jean’s accusation that he beat and raped her. Even though Nat’s childhood friend Danny Manings, manager of the record label Nat headlines, hires a crack attorney, the rock star is convicted and sentenced to concurrent 25-year sentences, and a cutthroat rival fires Danny. Nine years later, with Nat believed dead, a photojournalist covering his story—his rise to stardom, his demise in prison—uncovers clues that not only suggest Nat was framed, but that he might still be alive. Danny gets a second chance with an unknown singer, Patrice Malloy, whom he hopes to steer toward stardom if he can just find a good songwriter. As the various plot points, slowed by tedious flashbacks, converge in a bloodbath, only one character shows much integrity. He joins the other men, however, in using four-letter words that show they’re tough, while the women use sex to get what they want (and strew endearments like “honey buddy”), and the mystery fades in and out. Levinson (Phony Tinsel, 2013, etc.) avoids romanticizing either rock ’n’ roll or the recording industry. He could, however, have found a better balance between crudeness and sentimentality—and a sharper focus on his main story.

CRIES OF THE LOST

Knopf, Chris Permanent Press (288 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 22, 2013 978-1-57962-332-6 Back from the dead after a hit man executed him and his wife (Dead Anyway, 2012), market researcher Arthur Cathcart continues to probe the mystery of her death. And not just probe, but shake, rattle and roll. Florencia Etxarte may be dead, but her insurance agency lives on, along with the several million dollars she embezzled from it before she and Arthur were shot, her fatally, him not quite. Swimming in ill-gotten gains and enjoying his new romance with blackjack dealer Natsumi Fitzgerald, Arthur still can’t rest till he finds out “why she did the things that got her killed.” A trip to Florencia’s safety deposit box at a Cayman Islands bank discloses a stubbornly undecodable thumb drive but also brings Arthur and Natsumi to the attention of some very dangerous |

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DEATH COMES TO THE VILLAGE

version of the death ray, and clearly, it’s a job for Jason Peters. Even though he says he’d rather be painting at his home in the Channel Islands and he knows his pacifist girlfriend, Maria Bergenghetti, would disapprove, Jason’s been a sucker for antiterrorist jobs ever since he was widowed by 9/11; when Momma, the Haitian-born owner of Narcom, the freelance group of operatives tasked with saving the world annually, offers him $1 million to fix the problem, he sets out to recruit his team. Many pages and many thrill-free scenic interludes later, he’s gathered together Emphani, a veteran of the Foreign Legion; munitions expert Viktor Karavich; and Native American James Whitefoot Andrews, who’s retired from the U.S. Navy. Readers will just have to guess whether this crack team, beset by remarkably few obstacles, actually succeeds in its mission against the nondescript villains. Generic and toothless.

Lloyd, Catherine Kensington (304 pp.) $15.00 paper | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-7582-8733-5

Burglary and a missing person report disrupt the quiet of Kurland St. Mary in 1816. Maj. Robert Kurland may be a hero of the Battle of Waterloo, but his broken leg leaves him helpless as a baby. On a sleepless night, he thinks he sees a dark shadow carrying something to the church. His overly solicitous valet, who saved his life in battle, thinks Kurland was seeing something that wasn’t there, thanks to the laudanum that’s been easing his pain. Only Lucy Harrington, the rector’s oldest daughter, takes Kurland seriously. As a substitute mother for her siblings and a general caregiver to the community, she’s already worried since one of her servants has disappeared. Although Lucy doesn’t shrink from the less savory aspects of life, her suspicion that one of her brothers might be involved in a series of burglaries is hard to face. She and Kurland collaborate to find out how a snuffbox, an opened grave, an impoverished curate and a jilted lover are linked to what Kurland saw in this slow-paced Jane Austen imitation that doesn’t omit a single cliché of the genre, including the sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of Lucy’s nose. A Regency Rear Window whose chair-bound hero and the woman who civilizes him generate a few sparks worthy of Darcy and Elizabeth. But even the harder-edged elements of gambling, drug use and suicidal obsession can’t set this period debut on fire. (Agent: Deidre Knight)

THE RAVEN’S EYE

Maitland, Barry Minotaur (336 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-1-250-02896-9

The financial pinch has come to the Metropolitan Police’s Homicide and Serious Crime Squad, along with all manner of cutting-edge technology that’s supposed to allow the police to do more with less. And it would be hard to say which of the two is the bigger problem. Cmdr. Fred Lynch is furious that DI Kathy Kolla and DS Mickey Schaeffer have been called to the death scene of Vicky Hawke, who must have gotten a fatal dose of carbon monoxide accidentally from the heater on her narrowboat. Nor is he mollified by DCI David Brock’s feeling that if Kolla thinks the death looks suspicious, it probably is. Not even the news that Vicky Hawke isn’t at all who she seems, or that her sister was killed in an even more suspicious hit-and-run accident last year, encourages him to give Kolla and Brock (Chelsea Mansions, 2011, etc.) the green light. Instead, Lynch seems determined to keep every member of Homicide and Serious Crime focused on Operation Intruder, devoted to the capture of Jack Bragg, a vicious gang leader who fled England to avoid prosecution but has now been drawn back home by his wife’s infidelity. (His decision to stake out Kolla as a double for Patsy Bragg leads to the first time in the case, though hardly the last, that Kolla incurs grievous bodily harm.) So, naturally, Kolla and Brock proceed on their own, questioning the owners of neighboring boats docked in Regent’s Canal, investigating the research of the dead sister, checking hundreds of digitized files and miles of video footage, and linking the murder of the woman calling herself Vicky Hawke to the return of Jack Bragg. The complications may be far-fetched, but Maitland’s ability to root them deeply in the psychology of his characters and spring surprises that seem as inevitable as they are unexpected make for another deeply satisfying case.

THE FIRST CASUALTY

Loomis, Gregg MysteriousPress.com (296 pp.) $14.99 paper | Nov. 19, 2013 978-1-4804-2682-5 Soldier of fortune Jason Peters (Hot Ice, 2013, etc.) is back in the saddle to neutralize the terrorists who’ve armed themselves with a laser beam that can play havoc with airliners around the world. Not many people know this, but shortly before his death in 1943, Nikola Tesla, who discovered alternating currents and built the first Tesla coil, was so desperate to get his nephew out of military service that he offered the Nazis his design for a death ray in return for a deferment. It’s more commonly known that the Reich, unequipped with a death ray, went on to lose the war, and nobody’s seen hide nor hair of Tesla’s rumored invention since then. Until now, that is, when the only explanation investigators can devise for the crash of an Air France flight is that it disintegrated in midair. Clearly, nefarious Middle Eastern types shot it down with a modern-day 32

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“…provides plenty of excitement…” from show me the deadly deer

THE WONDER CHAMBER

left behind, Sgt. Delia Carstairs has been brooding over the case with nothing to show for her sleepless nights. But that all ends when Delia’s friend, clothing-store manager Ivy Ramsbottom, takes her to a salon at Busquash Manor, the palatial home that Ivy’s brother, designer Rha Tanais, nee Herbert Ramsbottom, shares with his partner, dancer Rufus Ingham, nee Antonio Carantonio IV. The stars are out at Busquash Manor, and Delia gets a snootful of actors, singers, producers and artists before she goes home. The real attraction, however, is the tangled back story of the Carantonio family, which features irregular liaisons, family feuds, disinheritances and yet more disappearances dating back to 1925. Meanwhile, back in the present, Delia and Ivy’s friend Dr. Jessica Wainfleet, director of the Holloway Institute for the Criminally Insane, preens herself on her success in curing her aide, Walter Jenkins, of his homicidal tendencies even as McCullough (Naked Cruelty, 2010, etc.) provides growing evidence that Walter’s cure may not be quite complete. If you want to find out how the mind-boggling, murderous plots are connected to each other, you’ll just have to read the book, maybe two or three times to make sure. (Agent: Michael Carlisle)

Malloy, Mary Leapfrog (280 pp.) $15.95 paper | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-935248-42-2

A professor’s dream assignment turns up some disturbing details. Lizzie Manning (Paradise Walk, 2011, etc.) has been assigned to arrange the centennial exhibition for St. Patrick’s College. The college’s founder was a wealthy Boston Irishman whose daughter, Maggie Kelliher, married Lorenzo Gonzaga, an Italian prince whose family has amassed a fantastic collection of everything from world-class art to stuffed alligators, much of it dating back to the Renaissance. When the family offers St. Patrick’s whatever items they want from the family home in Bologna, Lizzie researches the college’s collection of family papers and travels to Italy to make her choices. The only inhabitant of the house is the last of Maggie’s children, the mentally unstable Patrizio, who segues from welcoming Lizzie to attacking her. His nephew Cosimo, who’s financing the exhibit, has Patrick removed to a hospital, giving Lizzie the run of the house. With the help of the conservator Cosimo has hired to preserve, pack and ship the pieces, Lizzie soon makes difficult choices among the thousands of available items. But unexpected complications await her. While she’s working, Lizzie reads Maggie’s letters to her brother in Boston, which reveal much about the family’s struggles during World War II, when the Nazis raped and murdered Maggie’s daughter, a resistance fighter. When one of Lizzie’s first choices, a mummy case sans mummy, is mistakenly sent along with the mummy included, it turns out to contain the body of a young woman shot in the head and mummified in modern times. Lizzie must solve this murder before all her hard work is ruined. History buffs fascinated by the wealth of historical information Lizzie unearths will forgive the long wait for the mystery to appear.

SHOW ME THE DEADLY DEER

Mulford, Carolyn Five Star (324 pp.) $25.95 | Dec. 18, 2013 978-1-4328-2752-6

Small-town Missouri again proves almost as dangerous to a former CIA agent as European back alleys. Phoenix Smith is still recovering from being shot on a mission in Istanbul. She’s staying with her lifelong friend Annalynn Keyser, who’s acting sheriff because her husband, the former sheriff, was killed in a complex drug case the gal pals solved. Out of that case (Show Me the Murder, 2013) came her new companion Achilles, a Belgian Malinois who was shot and left to die, and a better relationship with another high school friend, music teacher Connie Diamante. When a local farmer is found dead with a deer antler embedded in his back, the whole county joins a frenzied search for rabid deer, but the duo is unconvinced that this is a case of death by deer. The state police, busy looking for the cattle rustlers who shot a trooper, leave Phoenix and Annalynn free to explore their own leads even though many locals think Annalynn lacks the skills to be sheriff. The widow seems devastated, but the farm was in major financial trouble. Phoenix and Annalynn discover links to ecoterrorists, pot growers and unhappy neighbors. In the course of their investigation, they’re shot at by someone who seems very professional and soon kills again to cover his tracks. Keenly aware of the boost that solving this case would give to Annalynn’s political ambitions, Phoenix, Connie and even Achilles play their parts in tracking down a coldblooded killer. Mulford’s second provides plenty of excitement as readers wend their ways through a slew of suspects.

SINS OF THE FLESH

McCullough, Colleen Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $26.00 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-1-4767-3533-7 1969. Someone is kidnapping, castrating and starving beautiful young men to death in suburban Connecticut. And wait, there’s more. If Capt. Carmine Delmonico, of the Holloman Police Department, doesn’t catch this new killer soon, he threatens to eclipse the record set by whoever was behind the disappearance of the Shadow Women, half a dozen 30-ish ladies who vanished from Holloman at the circumspect rate of one a year between 1963 and 1968. Inspired by the studio photographs the Shadow Women |

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BEST DEFENSE

loathing directed indiscriminately at her relatives, her groundskeeper, the estate manager, her deceased husband Bernie’s former partner and a visiting nurse. A cookie jar full of wadded-up cash, a gun collection and a hidden treasure cause even more confusion when Millicent turns up dead in her tower. All the people in her life have a reason for wanting to kill her, and so will many readers, even when the plot takes an unexpected and implausible turn. The clunky dialogue, cartoonish characters, weak humor and awkward transition from cynicism to sentimentality provide additional grounds for skipping this amateurish entry. Whether Rikel’s debut adult mystery is intended as a gothic parody or an Agatha Christie homage, it falls well short of either mark. Even the children are unconvincingly drawn—hardly an endorsement for an author whose previous volumes (The Windmill, 2013, etc.) have been aimed at a young audience.

Rawls, Randy Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | Nov. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3461-3 A Broward County PI’s second meeting with her client takes an unexpected turn when the client turns up dead. Her maid, too, though she’s scarcely mentioned thereafter. Certain that her husband, John, a successful Fort Lauderdale attorney, is cheating on her, Sabrina Hammonds has hired Beth Bowman (Hot Rocks, 2012) to get the goods on him. When Beth comes to her house with photos and a report about the woman John met the night before, she finds Sabrina shot to death and her maid, Carmina, strangled. Beth’s insistence that Detective Dick Bannon and Maj. Sargent of the Coral Lakes PD arrest the cheating husband falls flat when Hammonds produces a courtroom alibi and proves that the woman he spent the evening with was his sister Madeline. But he’s not one to hold a grudge, and to prove it, he not only hires Beth to recover his daughter Ashley, 5, who was taken from her school around the same time her mother was killed, but orders the Coral Lakes cops to turn over every scrap of information they have on the killings to Beth and then stay out of her way. The improbabilities mount, though this time in a nice way, when Beth enlists the help of her bar-owner friend Bob Sandiford’s legion of homeless buddies to gather evidence of Ashley’s whereabouts before her kidnapper, who sends a series of disarmingly good-natured ransom notes, can sell her into sexual slavery instead of collecting $1 million ransom. Meanwhile, Beth’s mother arrives from Texas, followed closely by Lanny Strudnocker, a former date who’s been stalking her. Fast-moving, genial, surprise-free and utterly routine. Not the best airplane read but definitely one to consider if you’re stuck on the tarmac for three extra hours.

LIMESTONE GUMPTION

Robinson, Bryan E. Five Star (314 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 22, 2014 978-1-4328-2778-6

Love, death and sisterhood along the Suwannee River. When a late-running appointment keeps Brad Pope from a diving lesson in Suwannee Springs, he arrives after someone has cut the support line and left diving instructor Jake Nunn dead. Even though Big Jake made All-American with the Florida Gators, he wasn’t a hero to everyone in the northern Florida town of Whitecross, particularly not to his widow, Gladys. As her psychologist, Brad Pope knows why: Big Jake abused her and stirred Brad to anger because of his equally abusive father. Now, Brad’s left his city practice to hang a shingle in Whitecross, confront his past and be company for his feisty grandmother Gigi Pope, founder of the Women’s Preservation Club. The club’s “sisterfriends” have made an enemy of mortuary cosmetologist Myrtle Badger, who spreads rumors that the WPC is an evil cult, offering in evidence Gigi’s friendship with midwife Voodoo Sally. The more Brad learns about the sisterfriends, the more afraid he is to find out what their role might have been in Big Jake’s murder. But he has his secrets, too, in a tale so cozy that it includes some appended sisterfriends recipes. In his fictional debut, psychologist Robinson (The Smart Guide to Managing Stress, 2012, etc.) can’t quite integrate crime and small-town Southern life, especially those comic residents who slide into caricature. Even the likable, voiceof-reason protagonist has his cornball moments, best swallowed quickly or skipped altogether.

MILLICENT’S TOWER

Rikel, Rosalyn Five Star (312 pp.) $25.95 | Jan. 22, 2014 978-1-4328-2780-9

A batty old woman fears that everyone’s after her for her money. And you know what? She may be right. When Rochelle Gallagher brings her husband, Rick, and their children, Robbie and Shelly, to see her aunt, Millicent Perkins, she’s shocked that the beautiful estate she remembered from an earlier visit is overgrown and untended. Even more disturbing is Aunt Millicent, who has gone from the glamorous woman who entertained Rochelle and Rick 15 years ago to a withered, slovenly hag. Although she has moments of lucidity and even civility, her predominant emotion is an intense 34

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THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS

SOLID CITIZENS

Spencer-Fleming, Julia Minotaur (368 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-312-60684-8 978-1-250-02265-3 e-book

Wishart, David Creme de la Crime (224 pp.) $28.95 | Nov. 1, 2013 978-1-78029-054-6 What happens in Bovillae stays in Bovillae...until a prominent politician is found brutally beaten there, mere steps from a brothel. In late December A.D. 39, Marcus Corvinus (No Cause for Concern, 2012, etc.) is enjoying a getaway at the villa his adopted daughter Marilla shares with her new husband, Cornelius, in the Alban Hills outside Rome. Self-proclaimed city boy Corvinus finds this change of pace during the Winter Festival highly satisfying. But, of course, his contentment is short-lived. Corvinus is summoned to investigate the death of local censor-elect Quintus Caesius in the nearby gated town of Bovillae. Caesius’ corpse, its head bashed in, has been found near the rear entrance of the local cathouse. Corvinus finds suspicious behavior both at the victim’s home and all over the town. Caesius’ wife, Vatinia, is only two months dead, both his brother Lucius and his nephew Aulus have less grief for the departed than motive to kill him, and his chief slave, Carillus, implausibly pleads complete ignorance of any household discord but repeatedly professes his master’s intention to free him. These sketchy circumstances are matched by the amorality and venality Corvinus finds around Bovillae. Businessman Lucius Ampudius and antiques dealer Quintus Baebius are carrying on a petty dispute over a valuable figurine that has turned up missing, and there’s much gossip about the victim’s household. When the brothel owner is killed, Corvinus begins to take this raucous rogue’s gallery of suspects more seriously. Corvinus’ wry first-person narrative holds his 15th whodunit together. Wishart adds his usual evocative historical touches, including a detailed map of the gated Bovillae.

Now that they’re married and pregnant—not in that order—Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Millers Kill Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne (Once Was a Soldier, 2011, etc.) are in for the honeymoon from hell. Mikayla Johnson has gone missing. The outlook is bleak, since whoever took her evidently shot her foster parents, retired federal agents Ted and Helen MacAllen, and torched their house, making sure to do an especially thorough job. Since Mikayla, 8, had a liver transplant not long ago, she’s on a complicated regimen of immunosuppressants, and if she doesn’t keep up with them, she’ll die. As the Millers Kill Police Department begins their ticking-clock search for the missing child who’s been abandoned by her meth-head mother, Annie, and her abusive ex-con father, Hector DeJean (whose name is a broad wink to industry insiders), they pick up chilling hints that her disappearance may be linked to Annie’s well-connected drug supplier Tim LaMar. Meanwhile, there’s trouble aplenty on the homefront. Russ learns that the state police, backed by some budgetconscious local officials, are looking to disband the Millers Kill department and take over its duties. Officer Kevin Flynn, a mainstay of the force whose relationship with Officer Hadley Knox is foundering, is offered a tempting job with the Syracuse Police Department. Hadley’s smarmy ex-husband, Dylan, pops up from California demanding money she doesn’t have or their children. Clare’s bishop, scandalized by her premature pregnancy, asks her to resign her pulpit at St. Alban’s or face disciplinary charges. There’s barely room for the once-in-a-lifetime ice storm that strikes just as Clare and Russ are hunkering down in an isolated cabin in Cooper’s Corner to get some quiet time for themselves. Spencer-Fleming, whose record has shown that she’s not afraid to pile on the plot complications, ladles out threats, betrayal, redemption and seriously bad weather until Clare loses track of how many times her honeymoon has been interrupted by bad guys who’ve held her husband at gunpoint.

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science fiction and fantasy

of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mashup of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury. A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds. (Author events in Seattle and Los Angeles)

TO DANCE WITH THE DEVIL

Adams, Cat Tor (352 pp.) $14.99 paper | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-7653-2875-5

Another outing for the supernaturally powered professional bodyguard Celia Graves (The Isis Collar, 2012, etc.). She should have stayed home. Celia has plenty of problems, few of them having anything to do with her latest case. Long-time assistant Dawna Han Long has developed boyfriend troubles and can no longer be relied upon. Powerful mage Bruno DeLuca, Celia’s boyfriend, blows his top when Celia refuses to hire him even though he’s happy with his college career and doesn’t really want to work for her. Younger sister Ivy, a persistent ghost since being unpleasantly murdered years ago—and the cause of one of Celia’s several guilt trips—finally convinces Celia that her death wasn’t Celia’s fault. Unfortunately, though, Celia’s nasty, alcoholic mother, confined in detox on Sirens’ island, still won’t discuss the matter. And the potential client, Abigail Andrews, proves to be lying about everything, so Celia refuses to take the case—until Abigail vanishes. Turns out that the real client is Michelle, Abigail’s daughter, against whom psychotic mage Jack Finn and his even more powerful and psychotic father, Connor, the latter presently confined in the supposedly unbreakable prison known as the Needle, are pursuing some sort of magical vendetta, of which the dystopian or existential details make little sense. And although Celia’s Siren abilities are strengthening, her vampire part keeps forgetting to wear a hat and put on sunscreen and fails to take even elementary precautions against vampire bloodlust—how hard would it be for Celia to keep some blood handy in the refrigerator? Frazzled and annoying. It is likely even dedicated fans will be rolling their eyes.

YEAR’S BEST SF 18

Hartwell, David G.—Ed. Tor (416 pp.) $27.99 | $15.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Dec. 10, 2013 978-0-763-3815-0 978-0-7653-3820-4 paper 978-1-4668-3818-5 e-book

Award-winning editor/anthologist Hartwell rounds up a sparkling selection of science-fiction stories from 2012. Standouts: Gregory Benford’s “The Sigma Structure Symphony,” about a future where CETI’s problem is no longer detecting alien signals, but interpreting them; Yoon Ha Lee’s “The Battle of Candle Arc,” a splendid space-warfare yarn; Gwyneth Jones’ “Bricks, Sticks, Straw,” in which virtual personalities become cut off from their human primaries; and Aliette de Bodard’s “Two Sisters in Exile,” covering the wrenching death of an intelligent spaceship. All four cry out to be expanded into novels and perhaps will be. Not far behind are Paul Cornell’s unusual and thoughtful time-travel variant; Linda Nagata’s chilling look at a future where it may be a crime not to die; Sean McMullen’s charming Napoleonic steampunk yarn; and Eleanor Arnason’s clever and subtle “Holmes Sherlock: A Hwarhath Mystery,” wherein an alien who understands human literature investigates a mystery—no prizes for guessing what the inspiration is. Elsewhere, Megan Lindholm looks at the future of smart cars; Robert Reed ponders smart guns, artificial intelligence and war; a young female investigator enters an ultralibertarian future. Also here: AIs as human therapists; a tidally locked planet with alien life; artificial reality; future medicine; humor

RED RISING

Brown, Pierce Del Rey/Ballantine (400 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 18, 2014 978-0-345-53978-6 Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power. In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life 36

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“A worthy, rich and thoughtful sequel.” from dreams of the golden age

DREAMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE

from Lewis Shiner (a PC’s revenge), Catherine Shaffer (an exCIA operative joins a literary society and gets more than she bargained for) and C.S. Freidman (virtual reality); Andy Duncan stomps on the traditional advice not to write about UFOs; Ken Liu extrapolates humanity into the far future; Paul McAuley observes Antarctica as the ice retreats; plus precognition, satire, physics, ecological collapse, the nature of marriage on Mercury (it’s stranger than one might think) and more. Almost uniformly excellent—but then when was an anthology from Hartwell ever less?

Vaughn, Carrie Tor (336 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-7653-3481-7 978-1-4668-1545-2 e-book

Is covert manipulation a better parental and corporate tactic than overt pressure? Vaughn’s superpowered sequel to After the Golden Age (2011) attempts to answer that. Celia West wasn’t born with superhuman abilities like her parents were, but her dedication to her home, Commerce City, is no less fierce. She did inherit the family business, West Corp, and she works tirelessly to use her wealth to better the city, not merely to profit from it—to the dismay of her rivals. She also keeps a keen but surreptitious eye on all of the descendants of Commerce City’s superhumans, waiting for them to show powers of their own and secretly encouraging their vigilantism when they do. Naturally, she’s wondering if her teenage daughters by telepath Dr. Arthur Mentis, Anna and Bethy, will be among them. Meanwhile, Anna struggles with figuring out how her ability to psychically locate people fits in with the more battle-ready powers of her friends (all members of the vigilante team she’s secretly formed) and concealing her activities from her parents. As in the previous volume, the superhero narrative is a framework to explore the different ways in which children establish their independence from their parents and the degree to which parents can actively support that endeavor—and to what extent parents can and should accept support from their children. The story also examines the considerable reach of financial and legal power and how one’s good intentions when wielding those powers may not be enough to justify one’s actions. Finally, it serves as a strong argument for open, honest communication—even, or perhaps especially—in a milieu of disguises and secrets. A worthy, rich and thoughtful sequel.

BLOODSTONE

Philip, Gillian Tor (401 pp.) $24.99 | Nov. 19, 2013 978-0-7653-3328-5 Series: Rebel Angels, 2 Second in the Rebel Angels series (Firebrand, 2013), an otherworld fantasy nominally for young adults, that first appeared in the U.K. The Veil separating the mortal realm from that of the Sidhe is failing. Previously, sociopathic Sidhe witch-queen Kate NicNiven provoked a quarrel with rebellious Sidhe warriors Seth MacGregor and his half brother, Conal, as an excuse to exile them to the mortal world, where she charged them to seek the Bloodstone, a talisman she needs to manipulate the Veil. But Kate’s real ambition, as Seth knows all too well, is to destroy the Veil and enslave the mortals. In the mortal realm, time has moved on to the present day, though Seth and Conal have found no trace of the Bloodstone. During one of their frequent illicit forays into the lands of the Sidhe, one of their friends is killed, and his wife, Stella, swears bitterly that her baby daughter, Finn, shall be told nothing of her heritage. Seth, meanwhile, becomes involved with a mortal woman, Mila, who pays little attention to her feral young thief of a son, Jed, and slowly descends into drug addiction. Jed becomes friends with Finn, who can’t understand why everybody either ignores her or treats her cruelly—until she suddenly discovers she has the ability to manipulate their minds. Soon, Finn discovers a way through the Veil and, astonishingly, brings Jed with her. This developing story, with its ferocious tangle of family politics and passions, sometimes grows unintelligible to anyone except the characters themselves. An unnecessarily complicated narrative structure, with multiple first- and third-person points of view, doesn’t help. Still, patient, persistent readers will be rewarded with a conclusion of terrifying savagery and reassuring precision. Demanding, sometimes unreasonably so, but on balance, worth the effort.

r om a n c e SUGAR

Jameson, Jenna; Tarr, Hope Skyhorse Publishing (288 pp.) $22.95 | Oct. 21, 2013 978-1-62636-101-0 A retiring adult entertainment icon leaves Los Angeles for New York City to take care of her sick best friend and winds up in a sexy new relationship that ultimately makes her yearn for more. |

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Sarah Halliday, aka Sugar, the most famous porn star ever, has just wrapped her 100th film. Ready to move on, she still lets her manager convince her to announce an extended vacation rather than retirement, then heads back to her roots in NYC, where her best friend is suffering from breast cancer and struggling to take care of her 7-year-old son. Sarah settles into a modest SoHo apartment within walking distance of Liz and Jonathan and then meets the sexy-yet-troubled Cole in dramatic fashion after he chases down her snatched purse. Intrigued and attracted, she finds out quickly that he’s the son of a wealthy old-money family. Despite some reservations, she enters into a friends-with-benefits, no-emotional-attachment sexual relationship with him. Of course, things get complicated as they grow closer. Navigating sex, family, reputation, cancer and external friendships involves a complex cocktail of emotions, especially once genuine affection and protective instincts kick up on both sides. Can they put pride and fear aside in order to work toward the shared future that might save them both? Adult entertainment icon Jameson pairs up with Tarr—a romance author known for sexy yet emotional stories—to co-write her first erotic romance. There are obvious parallels to Jameson’s real life, as well as sizzling sex scenes and a spectrum of heart-wrenching elements, including an endearing child, a war hero and a stalker. Well-done and intriguing for the right audience, but it’s more graphic than typical light erotica. Tarr and Jameson create an engaging, touching, blazing hot story that packs a lot of sex, action and emotion. (Agent: Louise Fury)

suddenly feeling like he’s the only one who can truly make her dreams come true? With this first installment in Jordan’s Ivy Chronicles series, the author enters the popular new-adult genre, offering a passionate, compelling story that captures the confusion and giddiness of young-adult romance and sexual experimentation. Reece is the superhot bad-boy-exceptnot-really who captures the wounded heart of the virginal Pepper, who’s waited her whole life for the wrong guy. Readers may have been down this road before, but in Jordan’s expert hands, they are given a sexy, textured and satisfying ride. An affecting, successful foray into the new-adult genre.

PELICAN POINT

Kauffman, Donna Kensington (368 pp.) $14.00 paper | Oct. 29, 2013 978-0-7582-9277-3 Renowned lighthouse expert Alex MacFarland has come to Blueberry Cove, Maine, to renovate and heal; sexy lighthouse owner Logan McCrae is resistant to change, but the interfering community may be what they both need to find peace—and each other. Alex, the last of a long line of lighthouse keepers and renovation experts, has left everything she’s ever known behind in an attempt to restart her life after a traumatizing accident has her floundering personally and professionally. Driving across the country to take a job in Maine, she gets there only to discover that the man who owns the tower has no intention of hiring her—or anyone—for the job. As chief of police, Logan is used to taking care of other people in Blueberry Cove, and he’s not comfortable asking anyone for help, be it his uncle, his community or a vulnerable lighthouse specialist. But there’s no denying an electric attraction between the two of them, and as Alex falls under the spell of Blueberry Cove, Logan might have to recognize emotions he’s kept locked away for much too long. Kauffman pens a touching romance that offers healing and redemption to two lonely hearts who fall into a love they don’t even realize they’re looking for. The first of a series, the book introduces a quirky community and secondary characters with enough personality to make readers want to come back. A light romance with a touch of heat, a pinch of intensity and a dash of mysterious small-town magic.

FOREPLAY

Jordan, Sophie Morrow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $13.99 paper | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-06-227987-3 When the boy she’s loved forever finally notices her, bedroom novice Pepper decides to get some love tips from a sexy “player”; trouble is, sexy, tempting Reece seems to be everything she needs in a man, despite what she thought she always wanted. Pepper has loved Hunter, her best friend’s brother, since the first moment she met him. She even followed him to renowned Dartford College, where her first year was spent studying very hard and watching him be the perfect boyfriend to an undeserving girl. Now Hunter is unattached, and success seems within reach, but Pepper is embarrassed that she’s barely even kissed a boy. Her roommates Emerson and Georgia take her to the popular Mulvaney’s bar in order to hook up with someone and gain some foreplay experience, pointing her toward the popular bartender with a reputation for being a player. There’s no denying a blazing chemistry between Pepper and bartender Reece. For as long as she can remember, Pepper’s wanted everything Hunter represents: normal, successful, happy and uncomplicated. Reece is broodingly enticing and has a past about as troubled as Pepper’s. So why is she 38

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“…emotionally satisfying…” from awakening

DEVILISHLY WICKED

However, imagining her with any other man, especially a potentially destructive dom who would hurt her, fills him with dread and, to his shame, jealousy. For her part, Claire tells herself that the sexy store owner—who is delightful to everyone but her—is an arrogant jerk and not worth her time, but for some reason, the erotic daydreams she has regarding her emerging sub tendencies always seem to star the enigmatic bookseller. She has a few sexual and emotional hang-ups of her own, and despite the caution her brain urges her to maintain, her emotions don’t want to listen. When Evan approaches her with a tantalizing proposition to help her discover her true sexual nature, she jumps at the chance, not realizing that his physical dominance and generosity will lead to a different kind of challenge—one that risks her vulnerable heart. Sallinger brings potent storytelling and characterization to the erotic romance table, offering an actual BDSM novel (as opposed to the BDSM-lite of the Fifty Shades series) with emotional depth and a sweeping romantic sensibility. A few character annoyances—Evan’s self-flagellation over his “betrayal” gets a little old, given his general emotional wisdom; Clare’s transformation seems a little uneven—don’t ultimately sabotage a strong, compelling effort. An emotionally satisfying tale for the BDSM romance crowd.

Love, Kathy Kensington (320 pp.) $9.95 paper | Oct. 29, 2013 978-0-7582-6589-0

Demon Tristan McIntyre has led a successful coup to get the job of top editor at HOT! magazine, as well as being the leader of an underworld takeover of the soulless fashion industry–if only he can stop getting distracted by Georgia, his lush, delightful personal assistant. Of all the women in the world—and the underworld, for that matter—Tristan is never quite sure why his assistant, Georgia, whom he’s nicknamed Peaches, is the woman who sets his temperature rising and his body tightening. She’s quirky, sweet and easily a size 14, completely out of place in the HOT! world of svelte supermodels and power-hungry professionals. But for whatever reason, she’s the one human who makes Tristan dizzy with lust and frustration. Determined to get her out of his system, he sets out to seduce her with a beautiful night on the town, but in the end, it’s Tristan who winds up beguiled by Georgia’s very humanity. Sorting emotion from desire is pretty difficult when the girl you want more than anything in the world is completely at odds with who you think you are, especially when she trusts you even less than she should. Georgia knows Tristan’s flirting is second nature to him. Getting involved with him would be the worst idea in the world. Wouldn’t it? Love creates a fun, quirky set of characters and lets them loose in a strange but oddly plausible repurposing of the fashion publishing industry. She asks the reader for a good deal of suspension of disbelief, but readers know what they are getting into from the start. A little silly but ultimately, a lighthearted and entertaining, sexy romantic romp. (Agent: Amy Moore Benson)

ALWAYS ON MY MIND

Shalvis, Jill Grand Central Publishing (352 pp.) $8.00 paper | Sep. 24, 2013 978-1-4555-2110-4 After yet another spectacular life failure, Leah Sullivan comes back to Lucky Harbor to help her grandmother and embroils herself in a pretend relationship with her best friend that she wishes more than anything could be real. Leah spent a miserable childhood listening to her father tell her she’d never amount to anything, so why is anyone surprised that she’s lived down to his expectations? She knows she’s a screw-up, and she’d be so happy, thank you very much, if everyone would stop trying to convince her that she can do something with her life or that she just might be worth loving. Then there’s firefighter Jack Harper, the best friend she’s always loved but isn’t going to risk hurting, again, because she can’t be depended on for anything. So why she decides to try to cheer his ailing mother up by announcing the two of them are a couple—when they definitely aren’t—she’ll never know. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking. But when the white lie takes on a life of its own, Jack and Leah have a real challenge on their hands. Attraction between them has never been a problem, and being forced to spend time together to keep up appearances is like setting a match to a mountainside of dry brush. Frankly, Lucky Harbor has enough fires going on, what with a serial arsonist on the loose. Jack finds the investigation a welcome distraction from dealing with Leah, the girl who broke his teenage heart. He knows her better than anyone, and

AWAKENING

Sallinger, Elene Sourcebooks Casablanca (224 pp.) $12.99 paper | Nov. 5, 2013 978-1-4022-8950-7 A bookstore owner with dominant tendencies meets a customer who clearly needs a firm hand, and so he decides to help her explore her submissive side despite his own emotional limitations. From the moment Claire walks into his bookstore, Evan is aware of her, a state of affairs that does not sit well with him, since he feels it’s a betrayal to the memory of his wife, Marianne, who died of cancer two years ago. Evan and Marianne had been soul mates, perfect for each other in every way, including their dom/sub sexual relationship. So meeting Claire, and realizing she is subconsciously begging for a dom, isn’t a welcome realization. Nor is the raging attraction he feels for her and the overwhelming desire to have her as his sub. |

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the second he makes her feel like he wants her for good is the second she’ll turn and run. Shalvis pens a best-friends-to-lovers winner with Leah, a wounded, deer-in-headlights heroine who must first believe she is worthy of love before she can accept the devotion of hunky Jack, the hero who can have any woman in the world but chooses her—and would do anything to help her save herself. A sexy, textured winner.

PROMISE ME TEXAS

Thomas, Jodi Berkley (320 pp.) $7.99 paper | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-425-25074-7

Just minutes after discovering her fiance is the last person she wants to marry, Beth McMurray survives a train crash through the brave actions of a shadowy character who might be an outlaw; claiming she’s married to him seems the best way to save them both. Sneaking off her family’s Texas ranch to marry her fiance early sounds like a fine idea, until Beth boards the train disguised as a man and listens as the senator brags about landing the wealthy heiress and lays out his plans to get Beth and her fortune under his thumb. Planning to quietly head back home once the train reaches Dallas, she retreats to the rail car where her horse is stalled and witnesses a group of men breach the train, obviously intent on robbery. Unfortunately, the train jumps the tracks, but one of the men grabs Beth and propels them both clear of the wreckage, bearing the brunt of a hard landing and falling unconscious. When he wakes up in the hospital with only vague memories of the incident, writer Andrew McLaughlin follows Beth’s lead and supports her story that they are married, which proves to be important, since the senator has caught sight of Beth and is trying to get her under his influence. A young woman traveling alone in Texas in 1879 has few rights, and Andrew quickly understands that the senator does not have Beth’s best interests at heart. However, other odd events are going on at the hospital, and when Beth and Andrew leave, they have assembled an entourage of vulnerable souls that they take with them, first to Fort Worth and then on to Beth’s family’s ranch. They’ve also created enemies, and Andrew is distrustful of love—two major obstacles in their winding road to happily-ever-after. The novel has a lot going on and keeps readers engaged and entertained despite a few elements that strain suspension of disbelief (including the ridiculously idiotic senator). Though flawed, a generally fun adventure.

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nonfiction UNCHARTED Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, MASTER OF MODERNISM by Thomas Brothers............................................................................. 44

Aiden, Erez; Michel, Jean-Baptiste Riverhead (256 pp.) $27.95 | Dec. 26, 2013 978-1-59448-745-3

I’LL TAKE YOU THERE by Greg Kot................................................... 60 ARIK by David Landau....................................................................... 60 MY AGE OF ANXIETY by Scott Stossel................................................ 71 THE INTERNAL ENEMY by Alan Taylor.............................................72 DUKE by Terry Teachout.......................................................................72

LOUIS ARMSTRONG , MASTER OF MODERNISM

Brothers, Thomas Norton (720 pp.) $39.95 Feb. 3, 2014 978-0-393-06582-4

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The story of a remarkable scientific tool that uses big data sets to examine cultural trends in human history. In this debut, Aiden (Genetics/Baylor Coll. of Medicine) and Michel, founder of data science company Quantified Labs, describe research with big data that led to their teaming up with Google to develop the Ngram Viewer, an online tool that searches more than 30 million digitized books to reveal how words and phrases have been used over time. Launched in 2010 as part of Google Books, the viewer’s search of ngrams (letter combinations) serves the needs of lexicographers and historians while providing endless diversion for others. Calling Google’s digitized data “an unprecedented précis of humanity’s cultural record,” the authors show how such data can be made to reveal important changes over time, from when the early expression “the United States are” gave way to “the United States is” to how censorship can cause the sudden disappearance of particular words and phrases, such as “Tiananmen Square.” Having met at Harvard, the authors began seven years ago to experiment with their new scope on historical trends to learn how English grammar changes, how people get famous, and how societies learn and forget. While recounting the copyright, privacy and other issues they faced in developing their tool, they offer fascinating insights into how dictionaries work, the half-lives of irregular verbs and the most famous people of the last two centuries (Hitler heads the list). In an appendix, some two dozen charts graph the relative frequency of use of certain words, such as “London” and “New York,” since 1800. (New York began its ascendancy in 1911.) The authors also consider the moral issues raised by the prospect of a future in which personal, digital and historical records reveal more and more about human experience. A fun, revealing exploration of a new way to view the past.

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“A captivating study of male camaraderie and competition, more like the story of an indie rock band than one of the world’s most ubiquitous corporations.” from hatching twitter

BLUE FUTURE Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever

Barlow, Maude New Press (240 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-59558-947-7 978-1-59558-948-4 e-book

Blue Planet Project founder Barlow (Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water, 2008, etc.) reports on a significant victory in the fight to establish the human right to water but warns that there is much left to do. In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly passed a “historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation,” but implementation still remains a problem. According to a recent World Health Organization document, “every three and a half seconds in the developing world, a child dies of waterborne disease.” Lack of adequate sanitation services fosters the spread of diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Barlow explains that the U.N., despite the resolution, does not consider the right to drinking water a priority. It is considered a “third-generation” human right. These also include the conservation of natural resources for the use of present and future generations. The U.N. directs most of its focus to “first-generation” rights, such as freedoms of speech and religion and the right to a fair trial. Historically, Canada and the United States have led the opposition to implementing second-generation rights—e.g., the rights to employment, health care, housing and social security. The author attributes this to the power of global corporations, including Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and others. “Privatization of drinking water and wastewater services was deliberately imposed on the Global South by international institutions and water companies” as a condition for financing from the World Bank, which demands that they are “open to dealing with private utilities, most of which were based in Europe.” Nor are water resources being conserved, despite the danger that within the next three decades, demand will outstrip supply “by 40 percent.” A somewhat strident but important call to action.

HATCHING TWITTER A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal Bilton, Nick Portfolio (304 pp.) $28.95 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-1-59184-601-7

Novelistic rendition of Twitter’s contentious origins in the techie subculture of San Francisco. New York Times Bits Blog columnist Bilton (I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted, 2010) 42

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reconstructed this history from interviews and the digital trails (i.e., emails and Twitter timelines) of his four principals: blogger, founder and chief investor Evan “Ev” Williams and his friends and employees Noah Glass, Christopher “Biz” Stone and Jack Dorsey. Each contributed an important share in the invention of the platform that, unbeknown to them at the time, would revolutionize the way the world communicates and interrelates. Williams provided the funds and the space for his colleagues to brainstorm startup and application ideas. Dorsey came up with the idea for a simple “status updater.” Glass pulled the company name, which suggests the vibrating sound a phone might make when it receives an update, from the dictionary. Stone pushed for the company’s light-touch, user-centric ethical and moral dimensions. Almost immediately, Bilton reports, there was tension among the co-founders. Within months, Glass would be pushed out of the circle, denied any glory or much fortune from the company’s future success, and Dorsey, the company’s tentative and inexperienced first CEO, was ousted in a coup just as Twitter was becoming a phenomenon following successful exposure at the 2007 South by Southwest festival. Neither man took these turns well, but whereas Glass eventually made peace with his fate, according to Bilton, Dorsey plotted revenge. The narrative sometimes gets so inside the heads of its subjects, it can seem to blur the line between reporting and fiction, but Bilton insists every thought in the book is based on interviews and “not assumed.” A captivating study of male camaraderie and competition, more like the story of an indie rock band than one of the world’s most ubiquitous corporations.

THE DEATH OF PUNISHMENT Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst

Blecker, Robert Palgrave Macmillan (320 pp.) $28.00 | Nov. 19, 2013 978-1-137-27856-2

Arresting fusion of memoir and jeremiad, arguing for a punitive approach toward the worst perpetrators of social violence, amid a general overhaul of attitudes toward criminality. Blecker (New York Law School), subject of the aptly titled documentary Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead, terms himself a “retributivist,” one who advocates “relating a criminal’s moral blameworthiness to the punishment he deserves.” He believes that in the morass of contradictory arguments regarding crime and violence since the Supreme Court’s 1972 Furman decision invalidating state death penalty laws as inconsistent, we have forgotten that when the most depraved pay the most severe penalties, the social contract is strengthened. Blecker spent 12 years interviewing imprisoned murderers near Washington, D.C., and he shows them a surprising degree of empathy: “Searching for genuine remorse among convicted killers these decades, I found it rare but real.” He believes such popular

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legal distinctions as “felony murder” have made incoherent notions of culpability, so that a drug murder may be regarded similarly as the actions of sadistic serial killers or rapists who murder their victims. While he respects the views of death penalty abolitionists, the author repeatedly counters their arguments with real-world examples concerning both horrific crimes and the disturbing observation that the most vicious criminals often have the most privileged circumstances in prison, the scary sound of “life without parole” notwithstanding. Given that he recognizes that abolitionists are gaining ground in many states, he advocates for “permanent punitive segregation,” “a more restrictive quality of life inside…a perpetually unpleasant punishment of life.” Blecker is unapologetic regarding his determination to avoid sophistry in considering the context of social violence. While fascinated by the “street code” of the career criminals he met, he feels bottomless contempt for the likes of mass murderers Anders Breivik and James Holmes. While many will dismiss his viewpoint, Blecker presents a strong case with legalistic rigor on some of the darkest questions facing society.

editor Sari Botton—while often poetically rendered and emotionally affecting, blend into an undifferentiated stew of bittersweet longing and regret. The writers represented here share so many common stories and feelings about their experiences in New York that perhaps they should have foregone the essays and just formed a support group. Variations on a theme with too little variation; Joan Didion said it all and more memorably.

GOODBYE TO ALL THAT Writers on Loving and Leaving New York

Botton, Sari—Ed. Seal Press (224 pp.) $16.00 paper | Oct. 8, 2013 978-1-58005-494-2

Twenty-seven female authors on their breakups with the Big Apple. This collection of essays on the theme of leaving New York reads like a manifesto of ambivalence, as the contributors hold forth on the metropolis’s charms and challenges. Unfortunately, the treatment of this theme lapses into monotony, as the observations, both celebratory (the culture, opportunity and excitement) and rueful (the expense, danger and status obsession), are largely uniform across the board. The particulars of the authors’ experiences similarly sound repetitive notes: Sensitive young outsider arrives full of literary ambition and naïve romantic notions about the city only to suffer through a series of tiny, overpriced apartments, humiliating day jobs, romantic misadventures, and senses of dislocation and crushing insignificance. The collection’s title comes from Joan Didion’s landmark essay (not included) on having “stayed too long at the fair,” and this raises the question of whether that famous work examined all that is necessary on the subject. There are standouts, however: Valerie Eagle offers a chilling remembrance of crack addiction, sexual abuse and homelessness, and Meghan Daum’s piece, “My Misspent Youth,” assesses the dangers of romanticizing the New York experience with superior wit and a compelling and original voice. The remainder of the essays— including pieces by Hope Edelman, Maggie Estep, Ann Hood, Cheryl Strayed, Emma Straub, Dani Shapiro and collection |

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“A masterful performance that displays the author’s vast archival research, musical knowledge, familiarity with cultural history and profound sensitivity to America’s vile racial history.” from louis armstrong, master of modernism

GUARDIANS OF PROSPERITY Why America Needs Big Banks

Bove, Richard X. Portfolio (288 pp.) $28.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-59184-578-2

Bank analyst Bove defends the largest American banks, and bankers in general, in a controversial counternarrative to the dominant theories about the causes of the financial crisis of 2008. Not only have they been unfairly singled out as the culprits, writes the author, but many of the proposed remedies will only make the situation worse. He cites the massive Dodd-Frank legislation and capital guidelines for the Bank of International Settlements as exemplifications of his view. Bove insists that proposed remedies from Richard Durbin, Larry Summers, Barney Frank and others “did not do what they intended to do. They did the opposite, rendering harm to everyone.” The author compares the most recent financial excesses with earlier versions of what he considers a syndrome. One of his examples is “Jackson’s Folly,” when President Andrew Jackson’s opposition to the issuance of paper currency brought on the banking crisis of 1837 and a frenzy of statelevel wildcat banking and real estate speculation. Bove considers that the expansion of paper money and new avenues for credit in the 1830s was the equivalent of today’s electronic derivatives, since it allowed the debt to increase beyond the income available to pay for it. He argues that it is the government, rather than the banks, that bears the major responsibility for the most recent crisis. In the 1990s, the turning points included the elimination of GlassSteagall regulations and the loosening of Fannie Mae’s credit standards. Bove truly believes that large, globally active banks have a vital part to play in maintaining America’s worldwide competitive position, and he fears that weakening the banks undermines the international role of the dollar and will ultimately benefit China. The author’s purpose is “to re-establish balance.” A well-written, lively and provocative argument that may not sway everyone but is certainly worth consideration.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG, MASTER OF MODERNISM

Brothers, Thomas Norton (720 pp.) $39.95 | Feb. 3, 2014 978-0-393-06582-4

The author of Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans (2006) continues his stellar account of the great trumpeter’s life (1901–1971), focusing on the 1920s and ’30s. Brothers (Music/Duke Univ.), who has also edited a collection of Armstrong’s prose (Louis Armstrong, in His Own Words, 1999), composes a multilayered work comprising biography, 44

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cultural and racial history, and musicology. The author begins in 1931 (Armstrong was on tour), showing us two principal themes that will reappear throughout the work: Armstrong’s artistry and American racism. Brothers then takes us back to 1922 (Armstrong was on his way to Chicago and a new musical life) and marches steadily forward, more or less, to the 1930s, when Armstrong, a major musical star, participated in some degrading roles in motion pictures—performances that sullied his reputation. The author also examines Armstrong’s complicated love life (he’d been married three times by book’s end) and his fondness for marijuana (he smoked it throughout his adult life—spent some time in jail in 1931), his relationships with fellow musicians and managers and even the Chicago mob (Capone liked him). Brothers introduces us to Armstrong’s musical mentors (King Oliver was a major one), takes us along on Armstrong’s tours, into the OKeh recording studios (he eventually moved to RCA Victor), and describes the neighborhoods he lived in and the clubs he played. We learn about the advent of the microphone, the primitive recording conditions, the celebrity Armstrong earned from records—but even more from his radio appearances. We see Armstrong, the singer, the cornetist (and, later, trumpeter), the dancer, the comedian and the artist nonpareil (Brothers rhapsodizes about his technique, his upper range). The text becomes dense for general readers only when Brothers waxes analytical about particular songs, recordings and techniques. A masterful performance that displays the author’s vast archival research, musical knowledge, familiarity with cultural history and profound sensitivity to America’s vile racial history. (65 illustrations)

OXYGEN A Four Billion Year History Canfield, Donald E. Princeton Univ. (256 pp.) $29.95 | Jan. 19, 2014 978-0-691-14502-0

Nordic Center for Earth Evolution director Canfield (Ecology/Univ. of Southern Denmark; co-editor: Fundamentals of Geobiology, 2012 etc.) delivers “the history of atmospheric oxygen on Earth.” The author’s project is directly relevant to efforts to discover life elsewhere in the universe. He explains that geobiologists are currently attempting to correlate the evolution of life on Earth to transformations in the levels of atmospheric oxygen that began somewhere around 580 million years ago. He sets the stage by looking back to the earlier history of life, beginning with the first organic molecules. The evolution of oxygen-producing cyanobacteria, which released oxygen into the atmosphere through photosynthesis, was a major step along the way. Around 2.3 billion years ago, the rate of oxygen production exceeded the flux of hydrogen. Canfield, however, believes that this is only part of the story. The question remaining to be answered is, “when and how did oxygen become more than

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a whiff and a permanent feature of Earth’s atmosphere?” The author claims that a crucial element in our current understanding of the abundance of oxygen in our atmosphere is the process through which it was concentrated in the oceans. He explains that scientists believe this process began with “the evolution of tiny animal plankton, so-called zooplankton, [which] completely changed the carbon cycle and the distribution of oxygen in the oceans.” They produced “fast-sinking fecal pellets” that slowly dissolved as they sank to the bottoms of the oceans. In the author’s opinion, it was animal activity that created a major “redistribution of oxygen in the oceans…rather than an increase in the levels of atmospheric oxygen”—and that created a tipping point. Canfield’s text will be illuminating for scientificminded readers but difficult for those not already somewhat familiar with the concepts. A mixed-success attempt at a popular treatment of the complexities of a fascinating subject. (8 color illustrations; 20 halftones; 35 line illustrations)

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JAMES AND DOLLEY MADISON America’s First Power Couple Chadwick, Bruce Prometheus Books (450 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-61614-835-5 978-1-61614-836-2 e-book

Another entry in the always-fascinating stories of Dolley and James Madison, showing the broad influence they had on

American history. James Madison, the “little man,” truly struck gold when he fell for and married Dolley Todd. She was politically wellinformed, writes Chadwick (History and Journalism/New Jersey City Univ.; Lincoln for President: An Unlikely Candidate, An Audacious Strategy, and the Victory No One Saw Coming, 2009, etc.), and advanced his views in the social settings for which she was justly famous. She was a dazzling, iconic figure dressed to the nines

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but in the guise of an ordinary Washington hostess, and she was the social leader for more than 15 years, first as Thomas Jefferson’s hostess and then during Madison’s terms. Co-founder of the Republican Party in 1791, Madison was a quiet, thoughtful man not given to rash judgments. In opposition, the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, were characterized by statesman William Eustis as having an “overbearing and vindictive spirit.” The embargo against the British in response to impressment led the New England shippers to fight Madison at every turn. They railed against “Madison’s War” and even held a secession convention in Connecticut. One of the great strengths of this book is the author’s attention to the details of life in the growing new city of Washington D.C., as well as at Madison’s home in Virginia. Chadwick’s explanation of the slave economy versus the new industrial revolution taking place in the North shows how easily the large plantations came to failure. The Madisons’ losses were exacerbated by Dolley’s son, John Payne, a sociopath who gambled and drank away James Madison’s considerable fortune. An enjoyable, gossipy book exploring the birth and the rebirth of the nation.

E.E. CUMMINGS A Life

Cheever, Susan Pantheon (256 pp.) $26.95 | Feb. 11, 2014 978-0-307-37997-9 978-0-307-90867-4 e-book

Biography of the irreverent modernist poet, who was apparently a sad, troubled man. Cheever (Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography, 2010, etc.) met E.E. Cummings (1894–1962) when she was a junior at the Masters School in Westchester, where he had come to give a reading. After his “electrifying and acrobatic” performance, the author and her father drove Cummings back to his home in Greenwich Village, regaled all the way by the poet’s mockery of the school, teachers and stultifying pedagogy. John Cheever, who had known Cummings in the 1930s, was as enchanted as his daughter. “Cummings,” she writes, “was our generation’s beloved heretic, a Henry David Thoreau for the twentieth century.” Drawing on letters, archival material and several more comprehensive biographies, Cheever distills the major events of Cummings’ life along with reflections on the challenge of interpreting her subject’s self-destructive behavior, anti-Semitism, sexuality and egotism. Throughout his life, Cummings berated himself for not being manly enough. Slight, delicate, almost feminine in physique, he felt “overwhelmed,” Cheever writes, “by his father’s great, masculine bulk.” Edward Cummings, besides being large, was authoritarian, prudish and demanding, and his son rebelled messily and noisily. From the time he was a disgruntled undergraduate at Harvard until his death, the poet who exalted spring and flowers and balloons and clowns was an angry man, “an anger that became more of an 46

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irritation with the entire world when he drank and as he aged.” He hated phonies, politicians and anyone in authority, and he loved children and nature: “The young were wiser and purer, more innocent and more beautiful than the self-appointed elders of the world. Nature with its indecipherable glories was where true enlightenment could be found.” Cummings’ literary innovations elicited both adulation and disdain. After a dip in his reputation in the 1940s and ’50s, “the poet of chaos, playfulness, and topsy-turvy rule breaking” was celebrated again in the ’60s. This sympathetic life may win Cummings a new generation of readers. (28 pages of b/w images)

HEART An American Medical Odyssey

Cheney, Dick; Reiner, Jonathan with Cheney, Liz Scribner (352 pp.) $28.00 | Oct. 22, 2013 978-1-4767-2539-0

The former vice president shares a detailed history of his heart attacks, alternating sections with the doctor who has supervised the surgeries to keep him alive despite multiple near-death experiences. Cheney (In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, 2011) experienced his first heart attack in 1978. During his varied career in politics—as a representative, secretary of defense, chief of staff and vice president—Cheney’s bosses and associates generally knew about his weak heart, as did attentive members of the general citizenry. Perhaps, however, few understood how often the balky heart kept Cheney on the sidelines or slowed his performance. Reiner (Medicine/George Washington Univ.) inherited Cheney as a patient from a retiring doctor. The two men formed a close bond as repeated heart attacks, suspected attacks and the resulting fallout in compromised health forced them into proximity. Cheney rarely examines his partisan politics within the text, and Reiner eschews politics completely. Instead, they lean toward the teaching mode, hoping readers will grasp the importance of preventive medical care and appreciate the vast progress made in recent decades in the field of heart surgery. For the most part, the patient and the doctor explain themselves clearly and strike the appropriate didactic tone. At times, the details from Cheney range from self-indulgent to tiresome, and it’s unlikely that Democratic readers will pay any attention to this book. For the most part, however, Cheney’s survival instincts come across as admirable, whether he is admired or despised by readers for his political decision-making. Also open to question: whether President George W. Bush and his advisers should have asked Cheney to serve as vice president for eight years knowing his health history and possible future dangers. Gives meaning to the phrase “a heartbeat away,” especially when applied to an official who could possibly ascend to the highest office in the land.

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A BIG FAT CRISIS The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic—and How We Can End It Cohen, Deborah A. Nation Books/Perseus (272 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-56858-967-1

What can be done about “the public health crisis of our time”? The national conversation about obesity, childhood or otherwise, has been a bus mired in the mud and spinning its wheels to get out. No matter that the first lady of the United States has been driving the bus or that the critical mass of diet/obesity books ensures that nearly every obese American could have their own individual text. RAND senior natural scientist Cohen (co-author: Prescription for a Healthy Nation: A New Approach to Improving Our Lives by Fixing Our Everyday World, 2005, etc.) acknowledges as much—she

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consigns healthier eating guidelines to the appendix—but her work, with one foot in science and the other in culture, instead examines the driving forces behind the obesity epidemic. Specifically, she poses the challenge as twofold: human nature and the unconscious and/or irrational decision-making process around what and how much to eat, and “the modern food environment”: inexpensive, high-calorie, convenient, low-nutrition foods, crafted in labs to push all the right “tastes good, give me more” buttons. Cohen takes a behaviorist approach to identifying the antecedents for eating choices, suggesting that the focus on self-control as a key element actually undercuts efforts to make change, given people’s assumptions about human nature and our genetic makeup. Studies indicate that biological imperatives, coupled with increasingly complex methods of marketing, hobble even the best intentioned plans. The author makes a compelling case. If an “epidemic” of obese people are finding it too difficult to achieve their health goals, it’s a societal imperative to address the environmental factors that undermine these attempts. Think of it as preventative care rather than knee-jerk reactionary responses.

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“Evocative ruminations on getting older and discovering the links between nature and self.” from out of the woods

OUT OF THE WOODS A Memoir of Wayfinding

If Cohen’s book can get more obese people onboard that aforementioned bus, perhaps the conversation can finally move forward.

Darling, Lynn Harper/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-06-171024-7

THE PARTHENON ENIGMA

Connelly, Joan Breton Knopf (512 pp.) $35.00 | Jan. 30, 2014 978-0-307-59338-2

Get out the dictionary and brush up on your Greek. Classical archaeologist Connelly’s (Classics/New York Univ.; Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece, 2007, etc.) history and analysis of every square inch of the Parthenon requires close attention. “Never before in human history has there been a structure that is at once so visible to the world, so celebrated, so examined, so invested with authority, and yet, at the same time, so strangely impenetrable at its core,” writes the author, who devotes the first third of the book to a deeply detailed history of the gods and myths of the Acropolis. The Parthenon is a portrait of the Athenians, their identity and perception of belonging. Greece had no sacred text and no culture media, but they stressed the importance of myth, landscape and memory. Myth and history were one and the same. When Connelly gets to the story of the founding family of Athens—Erechtheus, his wife, Praxithea, and their three daughters—the book picks up considerable speed. Much more than a sacred space, the Parthenon is the symbol of Athens’ democracy, and the East Frieze explains the meaning of that democracy, the language of images paralleling the language of text. It shows how Erechtheus and Praxithea were prepared, even willing, to sacrifice their youngest daughter to avert an impending siege. Unknown to them, their daughters had pledged that if one died, so would they all; thus, the two remaining sisters threw themselves off the Acropolis. When Erechtheus was swallowed by the Earth, Athena instructed Praxithea to build the two temples we now see. It is not their sacrifice that illustrates democracy but the fact that no life is above another or the common good. The carvings of the Parthenon, the greatest masterpiece of Greek art, teach us the meaning of democracy. A book for all who seek direction and are capable of seeing the bigger picture—erudite if esoteric, edifying if somewhat exhausting. (132 illustrations, 8 pages of color)

One woman’s melancholic search for herself amid the woods of Vermont. Darling (Necessary Sins, 2007) takes readers on a slow journey of self-discovery, chronicling how she learned the ins and outs of living in rural Vermont. Once her daughter had started college, the apartment they shared in New York City after Darling’s husband had died seemed too full of past memories. The author was ready to try her hand at a new adventure: “I would move to Vermont, to the little house I bought. I would buy a dog and live in the country. I would reinvent myself, a woman alone, solitary and self-contained.” With that spirit, Darling packed up some belongings and moved to a small, owner-built, somewhat funky house tucked into the woods. Alone and dependent on her own resourcefulness, the author had to learn to navigate the tricky solar-power system and cranky generator, the mice in the ceiling and the collapsing roof on the woodshed. But she was stuck in limbo, unable to unpack, unable to write, unable to face the task of doing, so she ventured outdoors instead. The forest around her was an alien and unreadable landscape, as foreign as the woman she was trying to discover in herself. She stuck to the known paths while the narrow deer trails beckoned to her, egging her on to venture past the safe and narrow roadways. A routine doctor’s visit and the unexpected diagnosis of cancer quickly catapulted Darling into foreign territory. From that point, she slowly and methodically discovered her route back to health and self-awareness. Haunting and lyrical, Darling’s journey through unknown forests, both physical and emotional, resonates with longings, hopes, fears and a stalwart courage to conquer them all. Evocative ruminations on getting older and discovering the links between nature and self.

THE MONKEY’S VOYAGE How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life

de Queiroz, Alan Basic (304 pp.) $27.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-465-02051-5

An evolutionary biologist disputes the hegemonic theory of how animals have populated the planet, challenging prevailing assumptions about the time frame in which species separations necessarily occurred. De Queiroz suggests that in many instances, species migration has occurred much more recently than has been commonly accepted. He and his associates have taken advantage 48

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“A revealing and definitely not dumbed-down overview of what we know about consciousness.” from consciousness and the brain

of modern methods of genetic sequencing to improve on previous estimates. They have refined the notion of a molecular clock—previously dependent on retrieving DNA from fossils and correlating this with geological evidence—to determine the evolution of new species more accurately by estimating the rate of mutation separating the genomes of presently related species. He cites his own studies of related species of garter snakes and similar research on monkeys, which indicate that they evolved over a much shorter time span. At the time, when these land-based species began to evolve independently (presumably because their habitats had diverged), there were no continental connections, such as land bridges, to account for their migrations. The author collected garter snakes from two species found on opposite sides of the wide Sea of Cortez. After sequencing their mitochondrial genes, he determined that they would have separated approximately a few hundred thousand years ago rather than the generally accepted estimate of 4 million years ago. Therefore, he suggests—judging by ocean currents and winds—that one or more snakes must have traveled from the mainland over a 120-mile sea by clinging to a naturally formed raft. Other recent genetic studies of two similar monkey species lend credibility to the author’s unlikely hypothesis that such ocean crossings can account for long-distance colonization, despite the statistical improbability. De Queiroz disputes scientific theories based on outdated evidence and offers an in-depth critique of intelligent design. An intriguing window into the ongoing academic debate about evolution. (b/w figures throughout)

CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE BRAIN Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts

Dehaene, Stanislas Viking (352 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 3, 2014 978-0-670-02543-5

Dehaene (Experimental Cognitive Psychology/Collège de France; Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention, 2009) delivers a detailed popular account of what he and fellow researchers have discovered about how perceptions become thoughts. Scientists once agreed with laymen that consciousness was a mystical phenomenon beyond the reach of experiments. Though many laymen still believe in that idea, scientists changed their minds more than 30 years ago. We pay attention to one thing at a time. Life would be impossible if the brain didn’t suppress almost everything our senses detect. This makes “eyewitness” testimony unreliable, and the Internet teems with clips of experimental subjects blithely ignoring the obvious. LSD users describe deeply profound perceptions, but they are simply overwhelmed with information since the drug turns off the brain’s suppressive function, making everything equally important. The unconscious is 50

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not merely a Freudian conjecture. Its operations are visible on brain imaging procedures and amenable to experiments. Furthermore, humans overestimate the power of consciousness. We routinely select a fraction of our unconscious pictures, amplify, name, memorize them, and use them to plan our actions. Consciousness research is turning up useful information. Catastrophic brain damage often reduces victims to vegetative or locked-in states during which they sleep and wake but remain unresponsive. New tests reveal a few whose brains (but not their bodies) respond to questions as if they were conscious. Barely conscious patients with relatively intact cerebral cortexes occasionally improve dramatically during electrical stimulation of the thalamus, a deep brain structure that regulates vigilance. “What is certain,” writes the author, “is that, in the next decades, the renewed interest in coma and vegetative states…will lead to massive improvements in medical care.” A revealing and definitely not dumbed-down overview of what we know about consciousness.

THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM DYING A Book About Life Dow, David R. Twelve (288 pp.) $25.00 | $12.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4555-7524-4 978-1-4555-7523-7 e-book

A memoir examining the complicated nature of death. Although death-row defense lawyer Dow (Houston Law Center; The Autobiography of an Execution, 2011) is no stranger to the throes of death, when the Grim Reaper knocked on his own family’s door, the reality of the situation hit much harder. Thoughtful and full of a pensive sadness, the author intertwines the difficulties of his work, of trying to save a model inmate destined for execution, with reflections, memories and conversations with his dying father-in-law and the painful process of watching his beloved dog, Winona, die. “Time does not heal all wounds,” writes the author. “Some pain becomes part of who you are.” His pain, born of a profound love for his family and pet, cascaded over into Dow’s work, where the need to save a life, regardless of the crime committed, has forced him to try any measure to stay the execution. Meanwhile, his father-in-law struggled with the physical and emotional realities of suffering from a terminal disease and the desire to live life in his own way while trying to juggle the needs of a devoted wife and daughter. The final piece to the triplet of death fell into place when the elderly Winona suffered acute liver failure. The pace of the writing is slow and steady, inexorably moving toward predetermined and unavoidable conclusions. No amount of heroics on the parts of Dow to save the inmate, the doctors to save his father-in-law and friend, or the vet to help the dog can change the outcomes. Hope, love, anger, guilt and despair are some of the emotional waves the author faces head-on and presents to readers in a moving testimony to the will

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A FEATHERED RIVER ACROSS THE SKY The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction

to live. “Our lives end before others notice,” writes Dow, “and the time that spans the distance is the inverse of the grief your loved ones will suffer when you leave them behind.” Sad and inspiring reflections of what it means to live, love and die.

THE LETTERS OF ROBERT FROST, VOLUME 1 1886-1920

Frost, Robert Sheehy; Donald; Richardson, Mark; Faggen, Robert—Eds. Belknap/Harvard Univ. (822 pp.) $45.00 | Feb. 10, 2014 978-0-674-05760-9

Letters illuminate the life of an iconic American poet. As Sheehy (English/Edinboro Univ.), Richardson (English/ Doshisha Univ.) and Faggen (Literature/Claremont McKenna Coll.) note, in the 1980s, Robert Frost (1874–1963) received a blow to his reputation from a castigating biography by Lawrance Thompson. The publication of Frost’s letters, which follows collections of his prose (2007) and notebooks (2006), contributes to a reassessment of the poet’s stature and significance. The collection begins with 12-year-old Frost’s endearing note to a “childhood sweetheart” and ends with the poet at 46, his prestige established by acclaim from such critics as Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats, whom Frost met in England in 1913. He liked Yeats: “[H]is manner is like that of a man in some dream he cant [sic] shake off.” Pound, though, tried to bully him. “The fact that he discovered me gives him the right to see that I live up to his good opinion of me,” Frost remarked. The best among these hundreds of letters reveal candid self-reflections. Feeling like a “fugitive,” he retreated to farming “to save myself and fix myself before I measured my strength against all creation.” He brought to his writing “an almost technical interest” in the cadences and rhythms of people’s speech. If he was not gregarious, still his friendships were deep: When poet Edward Thomas was killed in battle in 1917, Frost was disconsolate. Thomas, he told British writer Edward Garnett, “was the only brother I ever had.” Frost shows himself to be playful, sly, caring and supremely serious about his art in his letters to poets Amy Lowell, Louis Untermeyer, Edward Arlington Robinson and Harriet Monroe; publishers Alfred Knopf and Henry Holt; former students; his daughter; and many friends. Judiciously annotated with a biographical glossary of correspondents and an indispensable chronology, this volume may well inspire a Frost renaissance.

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Greenberg, Joel Bloomsbury (304 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-62040-534-5

A shocking account of how the passenger pigeon, a bird found only in North America, became extinct. The year 2014 marks the centenary of the death of the last passenger pigeon known to be alive. In 1860, the bird’s population was estimated to be somewhere between 1 billion and 3 billion. Four decades later, they were on the verge of extinction. More than 150 environmental institutions are involved in Project Passenger Pigeon, an effort that Chicago Academy of Sciences research associate Greenberg (Of Prairie, Woods, and Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing, 2008, etc.) helped spearhead. The group works to spur consideration of current environmental issues, and the author hopes that his chronicle of the tragic events leading to the pigeon’s extinction will “act as a cautionary tale so that it is not repeated.” When Europeans arrived in North America, the passenger pigeon was the most abundant bird species, and it was a significant food source for Native Americans. The number of pigeons increased as European diseases decimated the Indian population. The pigeons were also a source of high-quality protein for the early colonists. Up until the post–Civil War period, a modus vivendi seemed to have been established between bird and human, and Greenberg cites a report of “a pigeon flight along the Ohio River that eclipsed the sun for three days.” At the time, a record nesting of pigeons covered 850 miles. The author even hypothesizes that the white oak predominates in America because of the pigeon’s preference for red-oak acorns. However, with the advent of railroads across the continent, it became profitable for commercial enterprises to sweep them up from prairie nesting sites and ship them by the tens of thousands to distant markets. Young squabs were particularly desirable, writes the author, but older live pigeons were also captured for trap-shooting contests, which were an occasion for significant gambling. A grim reminder of the many “reasons why species should be preserved.” (b/w illustrations throughout; 16-page color insert)

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IF KENNEDY LIVED The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History

PING PONG DIPLOMACY The Secret History Behind the Game that Changed the World

Greenfield, Jeff Putnam (256 pp.) $26.95 | Oct. 22, 2013 978-0-399-16696-9

What would have happened if Lee Harvey Oswald had been off by a hair on Nov. 22, 1963? For one thing, Greenfield (Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan, 2011, etc.) hazards in this counterfactual history, the 1960s might not have been the ’60s—at least not the ’60s of the Weather Underground, since some of the things the movement fought against might not have happened. The author supposes that Kennedy survived Oswald’s bullets, though not unscathed—no thanks to “carelessness, negligence, and ineptitude on the part of the CIA and the FBI that bordered on the criminal”—and that in his second term, he made efforts to correct a couple of courses that were clearly astray. The first was Vietnam, a quagmire in the making that Kennedy manages, in Greenfield’s vision, to extricate himself from. Vietnam falls, doing him some political damage but much less than would be inflicted on Lyndon Johnson. As for LBJ, the author observes that JFK’s successor “saw political threats and opportunities through an intensely personal prism,” while JFK was more detached and analytical. Greenfield supposes that something like the civil rights reforms that LBJ saw through would have come about but with a different tone. The noncounterfactuals that would have been brought to bear on JFK’s second term are of particular interest, particularly the calving off of the South from the Democratic Party. Greenfield also does good service in demythologizing JFK to suggest that, had he indeed lived, his second term might have been marked by scandal and controversy, a Camelot undone by the president’s own proclivities as much as by the events of the time. Yet, as Greenfield suggests as well, JFK might also have dismantled the Cold War—even if, nightmare of nightmares, Ronald Reagan might have become president in 1968. Well researched and thought through—an interesting, plausible exercise in pop history that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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Griffin, Nicholas Scribner (352 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4516-4277-3

A quirky, thoroughly enjoyable trek through the implausible beginnings of international table tennis and the colorful characters-cum-diplomats behind it. Griffin (Dizzy City, 2007, etc.) has the dexterity and cleverness to take on the story of British aristocrat Ivor Montagu, son of an English baron who was schooled at Cambridge, where he took up Ping-Pong at the end of World War I. An imperial British entertainment on the wane at the time, “teetering between sport and punch line,” Ping-Pong would get its boost when Montagu renamed it table tennis (he discovered that Ping-Pong was trademarked by a toy manufacturer) and established its rules and regulations, organizing the Table Tennis Association and promoting championships, first across Europe, then behind the Iron Curtain and into Asia. He wrote: “I saw in Table Tennis a sport particularly suited to the lower paid,” he wrote. “I plunged into the game as a crusade.” Indeed, Montagu became a devoted communist; he also worked in film, importing the work of Soviet filmmakers and helping Alfred Hitchcock “weave outlandish plots into ordinary settings.” Shadowed by MI5, Montagu traveled seamlessly from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War to the world tennis championship in Prague. After the war, he lobbied to include the Soviets in international competition, as well as Japan and communist China, where the sport was highly popular and political. Griffin delineates the significant championship matches held in Tokyo in 1956 and in China in 1961, at the height of Mao Zedong’s catastrophic famine, which the world did not yet fathom. The same Chinese players disgraced during the Cultural Revolution were quickly rehabilitated in 1971 in order to act as convenient instruments of détente for the two frosty antagonists, Mao and Nixon. Griffin bites off a huge story but manages to maintain lively interest in the array of personalities involved. (8-page b/w insert)

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“Entertaining and occasionally moving tales from the wilds of showbiz.” from ham

HAM Slices of a Life: Essays and Stories

Harris, Sam Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-4767-3341-8 One of America’s first reality stars taps his way through five decades of life on stage filled with the highest highs and

the lowest lows. Harris is best known to most readers as the first winner of Star Search and/or Liza Minnelli’s BFF, depending on whom you ask. It turns out that the pop singer has the writing chops to tell a good tale, but be prepared for a slew of name-dropping: “I lunched with Lucille Ball! I shared a dressing room with Al Green and improvised with him! I discussed playwriting backstage with Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner! I was just about adopted by Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera! I was given song ideas from Bette Midler!” And that’s just half of that paragraph. Two stories about Minnelli are more revealing about the author than the superstar. In “Promises,” Harris examines how he helped her recover from her ill-advised marriage to “The Man Whose Name Shall Go Unmentioned.” Far less whimsical is “I Know, Baby. I Know,” in which Harris plumbs the depths of his own alcoholism during a visit to Minnelli in rehab. Another, “Comfort Food,” elegantly crosses the terror of 9/11 with the author’s appearance on Oprah. When the stories leave behind the lights of Broadway, most can be very touching, as Harris recounts stories of growing up gay in rural America, the story of meeting his longtime partner, the perils of modern-day parenthood, and the tale of his childhood home burning down not once, but twice in “Drilling Without Novacaine.” There’s melancholy aplenty, but most of the stories are uplifted by Harris’ quirky sense of humor. In the cringe-inducing “I Feel, You Feel,” the author is virtually abandoned on stage by a noticeably overdue Aretha Franklin. A standout is the navel-gazing meditation “Liver,” an examination of blind optimism that ends well: “In the end, I would rather be bruised than cynical, trusting than suspicious, disappointed than apathetic.” Entertaining and occasionally moving tales from the wilds of showbiz.

GLORIOUS WAR The Civil War Adventures of George Armstrong Custer Hatch, Thom St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $27.99 | Dec. 10, 2013 978-1-250-02850-1

Before he became the most famous man in America, George Armstrong Custer was…only moderately famous. |

By the end of the Civil War, very few cavalry commanders’ reputations stood higher than Custer’s. From First Bull Run, where he was cited for bravery, to Appomattox, where he observed Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Custer enjoyed a glittering war, distinguishing himself in battle and earning the love of his troops and the adulation of the public. Hatch (The Last Outlaws: The Lives and Legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 2013, etc.) offers a bit about Custer’s boyhood and more about his West Point years, where the prank-loving youth famously piled up demerits and endeared himself to fellow cadets, but the author mostly focuses on the battlefield exploits and Custer’s wartime, tortuous courtship of Libbie Bacon. He won the woman (she remained devoted to polishing his reputation until her death in 1933) and did as much as any Union officer to win the war. In his gold-looped, velveteen jacket and red tie, with his long hair flowing from under his soft hat, Custer’s flamboyance was exceeded only by his bravery, demonstrated at places like Williamsburg, Gettysburg and Culpeper. He had mounts shot out from under him, received wounds and appeared on the cover of Harper’s Weekly. His horsemanship, stamina, intuitive grasp of cavalry tactics, talent for sensing the enemy’s weakness and propensity to lead from the front impressed his superiors and accounted for his astonishing rise through the ranks. By 23, he was the youngest general in the Union army; by war’s end, a genuine national hero. Still ahead lay Little Bighorn and his curious transmutation in history from hero to martyr to object lesson to object of ridicule. An admiring, fast-paced, thoroughly readable account of Custer at war.

THE DEATH CLASS A True Story About Life Hayasaki, Erika Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-4516-4285-8

In the genre of uplifting books about inspiring people, former Los Angeles Times reporter Hayasaki (Literary Journalism/ Univ. of California, Irvine) offers a portrait of Norma Bowe, a psychiatric nurse and teacher at Kean University, whose “Death in Perspective” class has changed the lives of some of her most vulnerable students. The author, who has faced death and loss in her own life, uses “immersion” and “participatory” journalism, following Bowe for four years, enrolling in the class and conducting extensive interviews. In addition, she read books and articles about death, dying and mental health, especially works by Erik Erikson, whom Bowe champions. Hayasaki structures her narrative by focusing on several students whose lives were in dire crisis when they met Bowe. One’s mother was a drug addict; another, whose father murdered his mother, cared for his schizophrenic younger brother; another struggled to wrest himself from a gang. Although reluctant to talk about herself, Bowe, too, revealed a dark past: She was an unwanted

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“An absorbing read that is well-structured to pull readers through the narrative.” from vanished

child, repeatedly battered by her cruel, narcissistic parents. Her grandmother raised her for part of her childhood. Indeed, besides Bowe, whom Hayasaki portrays as selfless and tireless, the heroines of this book are the many grandmothers who raised children their own offspring could not, or would not, care for. Bowe seems to have “radar hardwired inside her” that alerts her to people in need. Cheerful even while traipsing through a cemetery or visiting a halfway house, she emitted “an air of invincibility” and “a feeling so magnetic” that students flocked to her. At the end of every chapter, Hayasaki includes an assignment from Bowe’s syllabus—e.g., write your own eulogy, pretend you are a ghost and record your observations, write a goodbye letter to someone or something lost. These assignments invite readers to consider the essential question of Bowe’s course—and Hayasaki’s book: How can we learn to celebrate life?

NOISE A Human History of Sound and Listening Hendy, David Ecco/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $27.99 | Oct. 15, 2013 978-0-06-228307-8

A breezy history of our complicated relationship with sound, from echoes in prehistoric caves to elevator music. Written to accompany a BBC series, the book sails swiftly across the surface of human history, slowing occasionally to show us something we had perhaps never thought of. BBC journalist Hendy (Media and Communications/Univ. of Sussex; Life on Air: A History of Radio Four, 2007, etc.) begins with the discovery that many prehistoric cave paintings appear in places where the sounds are most intriguing. Then off we go on a rapid sonic tour, listening to African drums, the sounds of nature, the sonic features of megaliths, the soundrelated techniques of shamans and the art of ancient oratory. Here, the author pauses to praise President Barack Obama’s eloquence, noting that he is “someone who transcended race,” a comment that will surprise some readers. Hendy also takes us to ancient Rome and to the subject of urban noise, a subject to which he returns continually throughout. He notes the significance of bells in the Middle Ages, telling us that some believed that the pealing distributed about the community the very words engraved on the bells. Then Hendy moves on to religious chanting (with some grim details about the Flagellants), the soundscapes of religious buildings and the history of the insistence that children be seen, not heard. He describes the association of sounds with social class and comments on the musical traditions of American slaves and the union of sound and revolution. We visit Walden Pond (where trains disturbed Thoreau’s quiet), witness the invention and modification of the stethoscope, journey through the wilderness with John Muir, experience the sounds of war (and shell shock), and learn the history of recordings and the omnipresence of Muzak. 54

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The chapters, like fine hors d’oeuvres, ignite the appetite for the entrees, listed in the endnotes.

VANISHED The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II Hylton, Wil S. Riverhead (288 pp.) $27.95 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-1-59448-727-9

The story of the quest to discover the fates of the 56,000 American servicemen who served in the Pacific theater during World War II and were declared to be missing in action. New York Times Magazine writer Hylton picked up the story in the wake of scuba diver Pat Scannon’s successful efforts to find evidence in the waters around Palau. The diver found the underwater wreckage of three bombers shot down during the battle for Palau, one of the bloodiest in the whole war. One of those shot down was tail gunner Jimmie Doyle, whose family was informed he was missing in 1944 but never had definitive knowledge of his fate. Thanks to Scannon—who sought to “honor the military tradition in his family without abandoning his sense of self ”—and the team he established, Jimmie’s son, Tommy, and his wife eventually discovered what had happened to the father declared missing many years ago. Scannon’s investigations into the submerged wrecks led to the development of his own expertise and the organization of the “BentProp” team of divers, which took on responsibility to help account for the MIAs lost in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Cooperating with the military’s Central Identification Laboratory and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command enabled Scannon and his team to successfully track down the story of the sunken B-24s. Hylton draws from a treasure trove of Doyle’s letters, which later provided the impetus for Tommy to seek out Scannon and his investigators. The author skillfully weaves these strands together against a dramatic account of the Pacific theater, particularly the action in the air over Palau and its surroundings. An absorbing read that is well-structured to pull readers through the narrative. A perfect complement to Bryan Bender’s You Are Not Forgotten (2013).

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“A well-written, compelling read begging for a warm fireside and a hot cup of cocoa.” from chasing shackleton

A CURIOUS MADNESS An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II Jaffe, Eric Scribner (320 pp.) $30.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-4516-1205-9

Atlantic Cities contributor Jaffe (The King’s Best Highway: The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, the Route that Made America, 2010) provides a dual biography of a Japanese nationalist ideologue and the American psychiatrist who examined him at the Tokyo war trial after World War II. The rise of Japan on a mission of pan-Asian supremacy, culminating in its ruthless militarism during the war, was largely the idea of a “philosopher-patriot” who was never prosecuted at the war trials due to his presumed insanity. The psychiatrist who examined Okawa Shumei in 1946 was the medical officer Daniel Jaffe, the grandfather of the author of this probing work of research. With his familial insight into his grandfather’s own troubled childhood and adolescence with an often hospitalized mother and his cachet that invited the Japanese to speak freely about Okawa with him, Jaffe had access to dark secrets long hidden. Jaffe’s grandfather was a brilliant, taciturn doctor who did not elaborate about his report on Okawa’s condition at the trial, when he caused a spectacle by slapping Gen. Tojo Hideki’s bald head and otherwise acting up; the author hoped to find some confirmation of his grandfather’s diagnosis that Okawa was “unable to distinguish right from wrong” at the time of the trial. Jaffe delves into Okawa’s early association with the Asianist movement, prophesying to Japanese youth about another world war as a means of shaking off the shackles of the West. Okawa gave public talks about the need for resolving the “Manchurian problem” two years before Japan annexed the Chinese provinces in 1931, thus embarking on its militaristic track to world war. While Okawa served as the Japanese military’s “brain trust,” Daniel Jaffe cut his teeth as a combat psychiatrist, tending to shellshocked young soldiers. His experience as a neuropsychiatrist allowed him to recognize Okawa’s symptoms as “tertiary syphilis.” War criminal or hero? Jaffe reads carefully between the lines to get at the truth.

CHASING SHACKLETON Re-creating the World’s Greatest Journey of Survival

Jarvis, Tim Morrow/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $35.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-06-228273-6 978-0-06-228274-3 e-book

Polar explorer Jarvis (Mawson: Life and Death in Antarctica, 2008, etc.) takes on the re-creation of one of the most difficult treks imaginable. Trying to “double” Ernest Shackleton’s (1874–1922) desperate trip 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean in a 23-foot boat followed by a 35 kilometer trek across South Georgia’s heavily glaciated mountains requires a tight team with a strong leader. Shackleton had no choice as he altered his planned adventure of crossing Antarctica on foot from the Weddell Sea coast to the Ross Sea. After his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in the ice for more than a year, Shackleton set off in a reconfigured lifeboat with five men in search of rescue. It was the greatest survival journey of all time. After he was “asked by Shackleton’s granddaughter to undertake this journey and was inspired to want to do it as the greatest survival story of the heroic era of exploration,” the author’s attempt to repeat this desperate journey began with finding sponsors, which took three years. The author was lucky in finding TV sponsors, although the trek was limited by filming requirements. They also had to travel three months before the period Shackleton’s crew did due to permit requirements. The story of their journey is bone-chilling at the least and breathtakingly frightening. There are certain elements that will confuse nonsailors and nonclimbers, particularly terms never explained—e.g., katabatic winds, nunatak and bergschrund. The author’s description of icy seas soaking the crew as they tried to sleep like sardines in the hold is not reading for the claustrophobic. Surely it was difficult enough to attempt this voyage, but as they accomplished it without modern (waterproof) clothing or navigational aids, it was a most remarkable feat. A well-written, compelling read begging for a warm fireside and a hot cup of cocoa. (163 full-color photos)

FLYOVER LIVES A Memoir

Johnson, Diane Viking (288 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 20, 2014 978-0-670-01640-2 A European’s challenge inspires a family history. Essayist, novelist and biographer Johnson (Lulu in Marrakech, 2008, etc.) became interested in her ancestors when a French friend remarked that Americans care so little about their pasts. Taking the criticism as a kind of dare, the author set |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Doris Kearns Goodwin

The historian resurrects a time when politicians of different stripes managed to get along—and have some fun doing so By Gregory McNamee

Photo Courtesy Eric Levin

A note to the 113th United States Congress: It is actually possible for people of different temperaments and political viewpoints to work together toward some common good—the economic health of the country, say, or, for that matter, the physical health of the citizenry. Just ask Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose 2005 book Team of Rivals (and Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film Lincoln, based on Goodwin’s work) chronicles the way in which Abraham Lincoln skillfully united contending political factions to pass the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in this nation once and for all. Goodwin’s new book, The Bully Pulpit, extends the lesson to a similarly volatile political period at the beginning of the 20th century, when Theodore 56

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Roosevelt set out on an ambitious period of progressive reforms to improve the conditions of working people in the United States while breaking the economic stranglehold of large corporations and their domination of political life. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’re having the same arguments today. Our discourse today is splintered and rancorous, but Roosevelt, as Republican as they come, was able to marshal a broad spectrum of political supporters to work for his cause, among them his lieutenant, the much more conservative Secretary of War William Howard Taft. The latter was the dictionary definition of “rockribbed Republican,” as Taft’s great-grandson recently reminded readers in a New York Times op-ed, but yet he and the blustering progressive Roosevelt worked together so effectively that Roosevelt anointed Taft to be his successor in the White House. That was a generous gesture, but, as Goodwin reminds us, it was not exactly what Taft—better known today for his massive girth than for his political views—might have wanted. If Roosevelt loved pounding on, yes, the bully pulpit, using the power of the presidency to enlist popular support for his programs, Taft was a quiet, scholarly man who never seemed entirely comfortable in the public eye and who, as history has shown, was much more inclined not to shake up the status quo. And yet the two worked together, just as Roosevelt worked with so many different kinds of allies, even as the country bumped through a tumultuous period that saw a sharp division of political beliefs and plenty of unkind talk. As Goodwin puts it, “I wish the people in Washington could appreciate those of different viewpoints, if for nothing else than that it was fun for

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these people to get to know each other.” She pauses for a moment, then adds, “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of fun going on in Washington right now.” Indeed. Most Americans have at least heard of Taft and Roosevelt, even if they might not know much about the ups and downs of their political and personal relations. But other figures play strong roles in The Bully Pulpit, including pioneering investigative reporters Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens, most of them nearly forgotten today. “I wanted to write about a cast of characters rather than write just another book about Roosevelt,” Goodwin says. It was through them that Roosevelt managed to push through his ambitious agenda during his time in office, leveraging journalists and social reformers along with politicians, labor leaders and even a few big-business types. Taft and Roosevelt’s alliance disintegrated during the latter’s presidency, when Roosevelt came to believe that Taft’s administration was part of an “unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.” Running against his former protégé and friend in 1912, Roosevelt led a dissident movement that split the Republican Party so profoundly that it handed the election to Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. There’s another lesson to be learned from Goodwin’s account: When cooperation becomes calumny, the law of unintended consequences takes over. And yet, for all the acrimony, one of the most striking images in The Bully Pulpit comes at its very end, when, by chance, years later, Roosevelt and Taft run into each other in the dining room of a Chicago hotel, embrace, and sit down together to talk, even as their fellow diners throughout the room burst into applause, feeling the significance of the encounter. It’s hard to imagine that, 20 years from now, Barack Obama and, say, Ted Cruz might do the same. If they did, though, says Goodwin, “one hopes that a reporter would be on hand to spread the news.” And, one hopes, as skilled a student of presidential politics as Goodwin to put that moment into context for time to come.

Birth of a Bull Moose

A nasty, personal campaign. A Republican Party riven by populist dissent. Charges of corruption, brokered by figures in the media, themselves with much political influence. Everywhere, a politics awash in money from corporations and interest groups. If that sounds like the last presidential race, it also describes the presidential election of 1912. William Howard Taft was in the White House. He had served in Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabinet as secretary of war, and Roosevelt handpicked Taft to run for the presidency in 1908. Roosevelt promised that he would then abstain from politics. “Never would an alcoholic swearing off drink have more problems in keeping that promise than poor Roosevelt did,” Taft quipped. When Taft fired a good friend of Roosevelt’s, it was enough to break the conservatives and progressives within the Republican Party into warring factions. After a nasty primary, Taft squeaked by to secure the GOP nomination. Roosevelt’s followers demanded a recount, then formed the Bull Moose Party, a name taken from Roosevelt’s boast, “I feel as fit as a bull moose”—in pointed contrast to Taft, who weighed 350 pounds. The Bull Moose contingent took a huge chunk of the Republican vote with it, enough that neither Taft nor Roosevelt could match the numbers posted by the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, who beat them both. – G.M. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism Goodwin, Doris Kearns Simon & Schuster (960 pp.) $40.00 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-1-4165-4786-0

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Gregory McNamee is a contributing editor at Kirkus Reviews.

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out to unearth her origins in the Midwest, dismissively called “the Flyover.” Growing up in Moline, Ill., in the 1940s, she admits, was uneventful. Her father was a school principal, her mother an art teacher; her extended family abounded in aunts, uncles and cousins. However, no one cared about the family’s old-world roots. “We were Default Americans, plump, mild, and Protestant,” writes Johnson, “people whose ancestors had come ashore God knew when and had lost interest in keeping track of the details….” Details, though, are what Johnson was after, and she found a treasure in a diary written in 1876 by her great-great-grandmother Catharine Perkins Martin. The diary, along with earlier letters and deeds, informs Johnson’s narrative of her family’s 18th- and 19th-century experiences. Catharine, newly married to a physician, settled in Illinois in 1826. Her life was hard; within five years, she had three daughters. In 1831, scarlet fever swept through the country, and within two weeks, all three were dead. Out of five more children, only one daughter survived; she married a man who fought in the Civil War. Johnson complements Catharine’s memoir with her own recollections: summers at the family’s cabin; afternoons at the movies; teachers’ encouragement of her writing talent; a stint at Mademoiselle alongside Sylvia Plath, who “wore a merry face and a perfect pageboy bob”; marriages, motherhood, career. Some brief chapters seem like hastily recorded impressions, and a few are a bit shapeless. Nevertheless, Johnson, twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, is a felicitous writer, cheerfully alert to irony and absurdity. The unfailing deftness of the prose makes this book a pleasure.

LOVE SENSE The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships Johnson, Sue Little, Brown (352 pp.) $27.00 | Dec. 31, 2013 978-0-316-13376-0

A self-help book from a clinical psychologist promoting a model of treatment called Emotionally Focused Therapy. Johnson (Clinical Psychology/Alliant International Univ.; Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, 2008, etc.), one of the founders of EFT in the 1980s, credits her approach to couples therapy to the theories concerning attachment patterns in infants developed by psychiatrist John Bowlby decades earlier. In the first part of the book, the author argues that through clinical studies, laboratory experiments and applied therapies, science has now revealed that love, vital to our existence, is not only understandable, but also repairable. In other words, love makes sense, hence the title. In a chapter on the brain, Johnson looks at research into the neurochemistry of love, especially the so-called cuddle hormone, oxytocin. In another, on the body, she examines the connection between attachment and sexuality. In the second 58

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part of the book, the narrative’s core, Johnson shows EFT in action, with the author, a practicing couples therapist, presenting the cases of various distressed couples in therapy who are learning how to recognize their attachment issues, understand their emotions, and work to repair and enhance their relationships. All chapters conclude with exercises for readers to try either alone or with a partner. In the third part, Johnson offers readers a sweet love story with a happy ending and then broadens her perspective to a view of love in the 21st century. It is, she opines optimistically, a time when a growing awareness of humanity’s interdependence on this small planet is leading people to find ways to connect and cooperate—or as the author would put it, to love and be loved. A readable combination of research findings and case studies, filled with good cheer and practical advice.

JONY IVE The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products Kahney, Leander Portfolio (320 pp.) $27.95 | Nov. 14, 2013 978-1-59184-617-8

The life and creative influence of Apple’s unassuming design savant. Former Wired.com news editor and Apple authority Kahney (Inside Steve’s Brain, 2008) examines the company’s senior vice president of industrial design, Jonathan “Jony” Paul Ive, a 46-year-old British expatriate and technological whiz. Born in a conservative London suburb and raised by an intuitive, innovative silversmith father and a psychotherapist mother, Ive’s penchant for tinkering wasn’t hampered by a dyslexia diagnosis in his teens (a dysfunction shared with Steve Jobs, the author notes). Emboldened by his father, Ive excelled in drawing and sophisticated technical design throughout college and, upon bonding with the Apple’s Mac platform, worked through an escalating series of high-profile assignments and co-partnered his own firm. In 1991, he scored an Apple consultancy and induction into then–Chief of Industrial Design Bob Brunner’s “dream team.” Ive’s induction into the computer hardware culture was seamless since he had already taken several exploratory jaunts to northern California, an area that attracted him for its embrace and cultivation of emerging tech talent. Through an impressive roster of interviews with a variety of authors, design experts, and former and current Apple employees, Kahney conveys the urgency and the demand for Ive’s immense talent within the tech universe. In the endnotes, the author takes delicious delight in describing Apple’s notoriously steely reputation for secrecy and remarks that while those same forthcoming interviewees are more than likely bound by Apple’s stringent nondisclosure agreement, the book wouldn’t have been possible without their risky participation. From his award-winning work with the Newton MessagePad to the iMac, iPad Mini and a seventh-generation operating system, Ive has become an indirect preceptor on how the world exchanges information.

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HEIR TO THE EMPIRE CITY New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt

An adulating biography of Apple’s left-brained wunderkind, whose work continues to revolutionize modern technology.

Kohn, Edward P. Basic (272 pp.) $27.99 | Dec. 10, 2013 978-0-465-02429-2

SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC AMERICA

Kenworthy, Lane Oxford Univ. (224 pp.) $27.95 | Jan. 2, 2014 978-0-19-932251-0

Can America adopt a Scandinavianstyle social safety net? Kenworthy (Political Science and Sociology/Univ. of Arizona; Progress for the Poor, 2013, etc.) believes that the cure for America’s ills is more social democracy, which he defines as “a commitment to extensive use of government policy to promote economic security, expand opportunity, and ensure rising living standards for all.” To this end, the author sets out a list of a dozen or so policies he considers desirable, including wage insurance, universal health care and government as employer of last resort, which he would pay for with greatly increased taxation, including a value added tax. Kenworthy’s purpose is not to argue for the desirability of social democratic policies. He assumes that the trajectory of American government is inevitably and appropriately toward more social services and disposes of objections that big government may result in corruption, incompetence or excessive restrictions on liberty. The author focuses almost exclusively on economic considerations. Using a plethora of graphs and charts, he demonstrates that other countries, particularly in Scandinavia, have managed to balance high levels of government taxation and services with healthy economies, and he argues that America could do the same. His intent is to help “shape the timing, scope and nature of future policy” by analyzing which approaches are most likely to work based on multinational economic statistics. The heart of the book is a thoughtful, detailed exploration of such issues as whether a higher minimum wage is preferable to increased earned income tax credits and the relative efficacy of various services and income transfer programs. Even so, some of Kenworthy’s observations are questionable; for example, he contends that the U.S. economy could support higher levels of government taxing and spending without considering that we borrow much of the cost for current levels of social services. Recommended for policy wonks that accept the author’s belief in the inevitable expansion of government social spending. (15 b/w illustrations)

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Kohn’s (American History and Literature/Bilkent Univ.; Hot Time in Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt, 2010, etc.) latest study of Theodore Roosevelt focuses on the influence of his hometown, New York City, in shaping his political legacy. The legacy of Roosevelt most commonly conjures the image of a “Rough Rider” on horseback storming San Juan Hill in Cuba or of a similarly macho cowboy on the vast Western frontier. These images are part of the mythology that paints a portrait of the president as a man of rugged individualism and self-determination. While the West remained a fixation for Roosevelt, Kohn is apt to point out that this idea of Roosevelt as a man of the range is a product of his own retrospective self-mythologizing and that the most important influence on Roosevelt’s life and political career was not the West but his hometown. “The West did not ‘make’ Theodore Roosevelt, but Theodore Roosevelt surely helped to make the West,” writes the author. Born and raised into a well-respected family, Roosevelt followed the example of his charitable and honorable father by cultivating himself as a reformer. Quickly rising through the ranks of local Republican leadership, he asserted himself as a public official willing to stand up to the rampant, if not institutional, corruption of the spoils system and earned a reputation as a gruff enforcer while serving as a New York police commissioner before becoming governor, then president, following William McKinley’s assassination. Kohn rightly corrects many assumptions about Roosevelt’s life and ambitions, but in doing so, he also draws out a narrative too reductive in its looking back to New York to justify Roosevelt’s actions. Roosevelt always admitted to being a New Yorker, despite Tammany Boss Thomas Platt being an ever-present thorn in his side, yet Roosevelt’s life and legacy in American politics and culture is too critical to be so selectively drawn. An intriguing portrait of Roosevelt’s ascendance to power that will leave readers wanting more of his life and work.

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“Splendid reporting, comprehensive research and probing analysis inform this unblinking view of a complicated man and a sanguinary geography.” from arik

I’LL TAKE YOU THERE Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway

Kot, Greg Scribner (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-4516-4785-3

A biography that will send readers back to the music of Mavis and the Staple Singers with deepened appreciation and a renewed spirit of discovery. Chicago Tribune music critic Kot (Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music, 2009, etc.) mines one of that city’s greatest musical treasures, showing how the Staple Singers developed from one of the leading acts in gospel (when the voice of the preteen Mavis, “a pocket-sized dynamo,” was so husky that those who heard her on record thought she was a man), through their ascent to the top of the charts as pop/soul crossover sensations, and up to the career revival that Mavis Staples has recently enjoyed as a solo artist. As the title suggests, the book is more than a biography of Mavis, capturing the competitive, cutthroat nature of the gospel business, the pivotal influence of the civil rights movement and the complexities of patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples. He shaped the group’s sound, selected its repertoire and protected the family’s financial interests with a gun that unscrupulous promoters would learn to fear. His tremolo guitar and his family’s rural-style harmonies have exerted a profound influence on such rock heavyweights as The Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival. As the group moved its music from the church to the charts, it faced a backlash from the gospel community and ultimately saw Pops’ signature guitar supplanted in the studio by session musicians. The book is particularly revelatory on the transition that saw the Staple Singers recording in Muscle Shoals, sessions highlighted by the hit that gives the biography its title. Yet it ultimately treats the recent solo releases of Mavis Staples—produced by Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, the subject of an earlier book by Kot—almost as a tacked-on afterthought in comparison with the more thorough treatment given albums that made little impression upon release and have long been forgotten. Through it all, the ebullience of Mavis Staples and her music shine through.

ARIK The Life of Ariel Sharon Landau, David Knopf (656 pp.) $35.00 | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-4000-4241-8

Economist Israel correspondent and former Haaretz editor in chief Landau (Piety and Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism, 1992, etc.) offers a thorough, extremely candid description and assessment of the military and political lives of the controversial Sharon, who has been in a vegetative state since a massive stroke in 2006. The author, who has also collaborated with Shimon Peres on his memoir (Battling for Peace, 1995) and on a biography of David Ben-Gurion (2012), displays a deep familiarity with the details and contexts of Sharon’s career. Throughout, he prepares us for the stroke in 2006: He calls Sharon “corpulent” in the preface, titles the first chapter “Poor Little Fat Boy” and describes Sharon’s considerable appetite and girth. The early chapters are full of military lore. Landau describes battles and strategy in great detail, clearly examining Sharon’s roles and unafraid to judge. He mentions, for example, a “heinous act of violence” involving some Bedouin in 1972. The author continues to hold Sharon’s feet to the fire right to very end, suggesting things the fallen leader might have accomplished had he been less, well, Sharon-ian. Landau is also adept in the descriptions of the labyrinthine political world of Israel during Sharon’s era. We see, as well, his questionable financial dealings (prosecutors took hard looks at his behavior more than once), his gifts as a politician and his failures as a human being. The author does not focus so much on his personal life, though we learn about the accidental death of his son and his wife’s succumbing to cancer. We also see the softening, leftish moves he made late in his career— moves that pleased many and infuriated others—especially the decision to close 21 settlements in Gaza in 2005. Splendid reporting, comprehensive research and probing analysis inform this unblinking view of a complicated man and a sanguinary geography. (16 pages of photos. First printing of 60,000)

CRASH AND BURN

Lange, Artie with Bozza, Anthony Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 29, 2013 978-1-4767-6511-2 A tedious tale of substance abuse told by a self-admitted opiate-addicted, selfloathing slob. Comedian Lange (Too Fat to Fish, 2008), best known as a co-host on Howard Stern’s radio show, has made a lucrative career of being obnoxious. The author explains he was driven to make listeners laugh by “busting people’s chops” and boasts

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that his cocaine- and heroin-fueled tantrums on the air and train-wreck TV appearances were legendary. Written with the assistance of former Rolling Stone writer Bozza (co-author: Slash, 2007, etc.), Lange’s story has careened from bender to binge, with a few half-hearted attempts at getting straight. Considering his severely altered state during his two-year slide, his recall of how many Vicodin pills he smashed and snorted, and every prostitute he hired is remarkable. Throughout this overlong book, he remains aware of the grief he caused loved ones who tried to help him get better, but he’s also proud of the heights of obnoxiousness he reached. To his credit, Lange doesn’t blame others for his becoming an addict, nor does he expect anyone to clean up the mess he made. But he is a contradiction, aware he feels equally shameful and proud of his wasted condition, and explains that he was driven by both greed and love for the drugs he hates. Ultimately, his stories of countless blackouts and emergency room visits become tiresome. Reading the book is like watching a fly bounce off the window screen after you open it, refusing to escape despite your encouragement and exasperation, and Lange’s selfindulgence makes it tough to feel much sympathy for him. He describes feeling “paralyzed with depression, guilt and embarrassment” after he moved in with his mother, but his repeated refusals to stay in treatment programs try readers’ patience. For Howard Stern devotees, the stoners who harassed members of the school band in the high school cafeteria, and all their buddies doubled over with laughter beside them.

THE WIFE OF JESUS Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals Le Donne, Anthony Oneworld Publications (208 pp.) $20.00 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-1-78074-305-9

Refreshingly balanced and sober look at the controversial question, “Was Jesus married?” While authors both popular and scholarly have spent the past several years taking heated sides on this controversial topic, Le Donne (Historical Jesus, 2011, etc.) smartly walks a middle road. He is clear from the outset that given what little we have in solid, original texts, no one can ever know with certainty if Jesus had a wife. The best we can do is to make educated guesses. However, the author also wisely points out that some theories are more valid than others. Early in his work, Le Donne does readers a service by tracing the history of Mary Magdalene’s reputation, arguing that modern writers abuse her memory as much as misogynistic medieval churchmen did when branding her a prostitute. The idea that Magdalene may have been Jesus’ wife—a theory made tremendously popular by Dan Brown—had its origins in Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ (1953). It is a thoroughly modern interpretation of Magdalene’s role, and Le Donne believes that various ancient sources backing up this assertion are easily rendered moot when viewed in their historical contexts. |

Nevertheless, the author points out that there are many reasons for assuming that Jesus was, at some point at least, married. Quite simply, it would have been highly unusual for a Jewish man in that period not to be married, and in fact in an arranged marriage. A cultural ideal of “civic masculinity” would have dictated this course of action. Still, Le Donne allows that Jesus’ many countercultural stances make it quite possible that he may have eschewed marriage altogether. Despite a subject matter that is sure to be provocative, Le Donne manages not to take sides but also reminds readers that our ideas on Jesus’ sexuality and marital status show more about us than they do about him. A welcome resource and fresh voice. (11 b/w illustrations)

ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND LIVES! A World Without World War I Lebow, Richard Ned Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $27.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-137-27853-1

An alternate history of how the world would have emerged if World War I had not occurred. World War I brought devastation on the 20th century, mowing down an entire generation of young men, dismantling empires, introducing ethnic cleansing, disease, revolution and civil war, and, ultimately, sowing the rotten global political and economic yield that gave rise to Adolf Hitler. Yet seasoned political scientist Lebow (International Political Theory and War Studies/King’s Coll. London; The Politics and Ethics of Identity, 2012, etc.) reminds us that WWI was entirely avoidable and indeed reluctantly embarked upon by the prevailing powers: The retaliation by Austrian hawks against Serbia in 1914 after its directed assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand forced Germany’s hand. Caught between France and Russia, the German military was determined to knock out the former before the latter could mobilize. Russia, ripe for revolution and resolved not to appear weak, came to Serbia’s side, while France, bound to the Franco-Russian alliance, supported Russia. Germany invaded Belgium to get at France, thereby bringing Britain into the maelstrom. The assassination thus encouraged a “psychological environment” in which war was deemed necessary, yet what if it had been thwarted or at least avoided for a mere three years more? Lebow posits a plausible set of what-ifs: The 99 years of peace in Europe since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 could have gone on; the anti-war movement was strong; famines had subsided and economic progress was growing. Further, Germany would probably have evolved into a constitutional democracy, and the military spending would instead have been channeled into social and economic growth. However, writes the author, the survival of the various empires faced an uncertain future, and the United States would not have emerged as a world power. Astute, challenging exercises in consequence and contingency.

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THE LIBERTY AMENDMENTS Restoring the American Republic

Levin, Mark R. Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $26.99 | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4516-0627-0 Ronald Reagan stalwart and conservative radio host Levin (Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America, 2012, etc.) punts one for the Gipper in the showdown with the dreaded statists and their “century-long march to disfigure and mangle the constitutional order.” Forget for a minute that Reagan expanded the federal government plenty even while talking about the evils of big government. Forget for a minute that a little more than century ago, it was the Republicans who pushed the 17th Amendment, which Levin attributes to “a Progressive populism promoting simultaneously radical egalitarianism and centralized authoritarianism.” For those needing to brush up their constitutional law, the 17th Amendment is the one that lets you vote for your U.S. senator rather than having your legislature appoint one, which Levin proposes restoring. Indeed, much of this book, a set of prescriptions and proscriptions to restore “the republic,” is really a reformulation of the old anti-federalist argument against the likes of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, who, one presumes, would bristle about Levin’s idea that taxing an estate is somehow evil. The author has a few more notions that the liberal elite may find variously quaint or alarming, including the thought that the states should somehow have the authority to “check Congress.” The preference for states’ rights over federal ones is nowhere more apparent than here, though if Levin were to look closely at the doings of the legislatures of, say, Texas or Arizona, he might be glad to see that the system of checks and balances is in place at least somewhere—not in Phoenix or Austin, but in Washington, D.C. Levin at least doesn’t calumniate too pointedly against a single party, though the fact that his villain is Barack Obama and the hero is Saint Ronnie is a giveaway. For likeminded readers only.

THE ACCIDENTAL UNIVERSE The World You Thought You Knew Lightman, Alan Pantheon (176 pp.) $24.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-0-307-90858-2 978-0-307-90859-9 e-book

Lightman (Science and the Humanities/MIT; Mr. g, 2012, etc.) explores how our perception of the visible world is shaped by the invisible world, which we do not directly perceive. 62

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As both a novelist and an astrophysicist, the author bridges the cultural divide made famous by C.P. Snow in his iconic 1959 Cambridge lecture, “The Two Cultures.” Lightman contrasts lectures he gave when he first joined the MIT faculty: In the morning, he taught physics classes about a world “described to high accuracy by equations.” In his afternoon classes for would-be writers, he emphasized that good fiction deals with the unpredictability of human behavior. The author dismisses arguments for intelligent design that seek justification in the apparent fine-tuning of certain fundamental parameters in physics necessary for the existence of life (e.g., the speed of light). Citing the multi-universe hypothesis, he suggests that our universe was not specially designed for us. “From the cosmic lottery hat containing zillions of universes, we happened to draw a universe that allowed life,” he writes. If this weren’t the case, “we wouldn’t be here to ponder the question.” Lightman tells us that he is an atheist. He endorses “the central doctrine of science: All properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws,” and he rejects the notion of “a Being who lives beyond matter and energy.” Nonetheless, he stakes out a middle ground between evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and devoutly religious geneticist Francis Collins, and he explains his belief “that science is not the only avenue for arriving at knowledge, that there are vital questions beyond the reach of test tubes and equations.” He suggests that the mysteries of quantum physics (e.g., the particle/wave duality) become more explainable when we consider the increasing disembodiment of our social world, where virtual reality has become commonplace. A scientific and philosophical gem.

ADVENTURES ON THE WINE ROUTE A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France: 25th Anniversary Edition Lynch, Kermit Farrar, Straus and Giroux (288 pp.) $30.00 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-0-374-10097-1

Wine entrepreneur Lynch (Inspiring Thirst: Vintage Selections from the Kermit Lynch Wine Brochure, 2004) updates his 1988 original, winner of the Veuve Clicquot Wine Book of the Year Award. Toward the end of the author’s revisitation of winy haunts, he ventures a telling note on the difference between his native California and his adopted France: In California, there is a movement afoot to emblazon wine bottles with an image of “a pregnant woman and a giant wineglass with a slash through it.” Lynch recalls his pregnant wife’s French doctor offering the Gallic prescription: “Of course you do not want to drink five liters a day, but a glass of wine with lunch and dinner will be good for you.” Getting to that point requires traveling down some bumpy roads to wonderful vineyards deftly described, with all the notes on terroir that one might wish and then more. For who could not resist a glass of something that comes from “a parcel of vines that is shaped like a salted cod’s tail,” could

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“A solid combination of moving personal saga and thought-provoking research.” from stranger in my own country

prefer stainless steel to the oak barrels of yore, would not wish to head to Languedoc in fall, where, as vines “give their last gasp in November, a rush of jubilant color bursts into the dying leaves”? Loire, Bordeaux, Rhône, Provence: Where is the best wine in France made? There are arguments throughout for each, just as there are for the necessity for a winemaker (and many are interviewed here) to strike a fine balance between knowing how much to do and how much not to do—though Lynch repudiates the natural-wine orthodoxy that demands that the less a winemaker does, the better. A bonus is the book’s closing list of Lynch’s favorite wines, though, perhaps shocking to his hosts, not all of them are French. A gentle education in the fine art of wine and a treat through and through for the bibulous biblio/Francophile.

STATUS UPDATE Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age

Marwick, Alice E. Yale Univ. (368 pp.) $27.50 | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-300-17672-8

An examination of social media and how it has transformed interactive online communication. Marwick (Communications and Media Studies/Fordham Univ.) explores the attributes and social ramifications of online identities and the factors that affect how it is developed and perceived by others. The author developed much of the book’s material from a nearly five-year period she spent attending technology conferences and conducting “ethnographic fieldwork” and follow-up interviews with online networking informants in the San Francisco Bay Area, a buzzing hive of young Web gurus carefully cultivating the tech boom by nurturing name-brand strongholds like Google, Facebook and Twitter (the latter of which she dissects with exacting precision). Prior to online networking being encapsulated under the umbrella term “social media,” writes Marwick, the Internet underwent an innovative and idealistic upgrade christened “Web 2.0.” This historical event takes up the first chapter of her six-part assessment of how the Web’s reboot spawned an era founded on the principles of activism, entrepreneurialism, self-promotion and deregulated capitalism. She also focuses on how users of Twitter and Facebook, among others, primarily utilize strategic modes of self-branding in order to improve their online status, maximize their presence and increase their chances of becoming a fame-craving “micro-celebrity.” Marwick’s reportage on “lifestreaming” (“the ongoing sharing of personal information to a networked audience, the creation of a digital portrait of one’s actions and thoughts”) includes a humorous account of a dinner with friends whose “iPhones rarely left their hands, even as they ate.” The author brilliantly equates tech-world ideals with the incremental undermining of women’s advancement in the field. A self-admitted technological enthusiast, Marwick is a |

lively, vivacious instructor possessing an infectious passion for social technology where “the line between personal and work was hard to find” yet was firmly represented by “American entrepreneurialism and innovation, freedom and participation, and revolution and change.” Skillful spadework on the underpinnings of a thriving Internet community.

STRANGER IN MY OWN COUNTRY A Jewish Family in Modern Germany

Mounk, Yascha Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-374-15753-1

In this memoir/polemic, a young German-born, Cambridge- and Harvardschooled journalist finds that being a Jew in Germany still encapsulates searing attitudes the Germans hold about “the outsider.” The product of a family originally from Poland, decimated then scattered during and after World War II, The Utopian founding editor Mounk grew up fatherless and an only child to his mother, Ala, who had settled in Germany for music school and work and ultimately stayed. Until age 18, the author attended schools around Germany, and he gleaned clues from his mother and others that being Jewish was somehow irregular and indeed aroused reactions (such as in class or among friends) of disbelief, fawning insincerity or hostility. As he traces his own growing defiance, Mounk looks at the changing attitudes toward Jews of the Germans from the end of war onward. The early denazification campaign by the Allied occupiers and exposure of Nazi war crimes against the Jews at Nuremberg gave way to a “reverberating silence” during the Cold War as many former Nazis were allowed to slip back into power and influence. Then there was the 1960s activism, which drew out young people to question and accuse their parents about their actions during the war, engendering open discussion, a challenge to school curricula and the showing of the miniseries Holocaust on German TV in 1979, prompting “shock” by viewers who did not realize the extent of Nazi crimes. The ensuing philo-Semitism also had its counterreaction, as Mounk has discovered, in today’s growing sense that the Germans have reached the “finish line” and are fed up with being cudgeled by guilt over the Holocaust. Moreover, Germany’s tough stance against the “profligate” nations in the Euro zone underscores its troubling attitudes toward immigration and the treatment of “guest workers.” A solid combination of moving personal saga and thought-provoking research.

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GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination and the Politics of Pakistan

FROM GUTENBERG TO ZUCKERBERG Disruptive Innovation in the Age of the Internet Naughton, John Quercus (352 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-62365-062-9

Muñoz, Heraldo Norton (256 pp.) $26.95 | Dec. 9, 2013 978-0-393-06291-5

Former Chilean amba ssador to the United States Muñoz (The Dictator’s Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet, 2008 etc.) reports on the investigation into the facts and circumstances of Benazir Bhutto’s (1953–2007) assassination. Now with the U.N. Development Program in Latin America and the Caribbean, the author, along with fellow commissioners, investigated on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon after the Pakistani government’s 2008 request; the group produced their report in early 2010. In addition to his account of their report, Muñoz assesses modern Pakistan’s complex relations with the U.S. The narrative blends elements of a spy story with detective fiction and political thriller. Muñoz chronicles how the U.S. and British governments facilitated the return of Bhutto—scion of a leading Pakistani secularist and democratic political family who “had always wanted to be a diplomat and preferred intellectual debates rather than the corridors or smoke-filled rooms of power politics”—in order to broaden the political base of then-dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The author shows that the government did not deliver on promises to provide security assistance or escorts, even while people outside the country attempted to exert influence on Bhutto’s behalf. She was under attack from the day of her return to Karachi, when her convoy was bombed. After the assassination, authorities blamed Pakistan’s Taliban-linked fundamentalists; they also circulated misleading stories about the cause of death, failed to autopsy the body and power-washed the scene of the crime almost immediately. Muñoz points to the double game Pakistan’s intelligence service has played with the Taliban and al-Qaida and the mistrust that has prevailed between the U.S. and Pakistan, and he traces the roots of these conflicts back to the Cold War and the origins of Pakistan itself. An eye-opening political exposé of what has been described as the most dangerous country in the world.

So what’s the big deal with this Internet thing, anyway? Technology historian and writer Naughton (Vice President/Wolfson Coll., Cambridge; A Brief History of the Future, 2000) provides a mostly convincing answer. Former Talking Heads frontman and author David Byrne has lately been pointing out that the Internet is a terrible thing for music and culture, largely due to the fact that it’s made it impossible to sell what can be freely stolen—beg pardon, downloaded. Naughton takes a more forgiving view, invoking the Schumpeterian notion of creative destruction, which requires… well, destruction. In the case of the Internet, part of what is being destroyed is an old economy, though, as Naughton notes, in the case of the musical economy, it could have worked out differently had the record companies not been so greedy. And part, more ominously, are old ideas of freedom and privacy: “For governments of all political stripes—from authoritarian regimes to liberal democracies—the Internet is a surveillance tool made in heaven, because much of the surveillance can be done, not by expensive and fallible human beings, but by computers.” You are your clickstream, and therein, it must be noted, as Naughton does, lie Orwellian possibilities. Along the way, the author makes good points on the history of various Internet stalwarts, not least of them Facebook, and notes how the Internet defies some of the fundamental principles of economics, especially scarcity, since the Internet is an embarrassment of riches and too-muchness, if also an engine of decentralization. Most of this will come as no news to those familiar with, say, Malcolm Gladwell or Jaron Lanier, but Naughton’s optimism and easily worn learning makes this a pleasure to read.

THE BABY BOOM

O’Rourke, P.J. Atlantic Monthly (272 pp.) $25.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-8021-2197-4 What should have been easy picking for the satirist isn’t nearly as funny or perceptive as his best work. O’Rourke (Holidays in Heck, 2011, etc.) has made a career out of skewering his generation’s liberal pieties and highminded self-regard. Perhaps he has used up too much of his material or figured that the generational topic was so ripe for caricature that the book would write itself. Yes, the baby

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boomers are narcissistic, hypocritical, as materialist as they are idealist and obsessed with whatever stage of life they happen to be passing through. “We speak from the heart, and that’s not half of it,” he writes. “We speak from the gut, from the spleen, from the liver’s bile ducts, out our butts, through our hats, even our T shirts can’t shut up with the things we have to say, never mind social media and talk radio talk show call-in callers.” Point made and taken. O’Rourke’s long-windedness reinforces rather than punctures that tendency, as he describes the typical baby boomer’s (i.e., his own) family, maturation, sexual awakening, radical acculturation, substance experimentation (though he continues to prefer beer to illegal drugs), and ultimate need to cut his hair, buy a suit and get a job. He spends a surprising amount of time stuck in the 1950s, though it was the ’60s that would define this generation, and about which he belabors some obvious points: “It was not, of course, a decade. The Sixties as they are popularly remembered…was an episode of about 72 months duration when the Baby Boom had fully infested academia and America’s various little bohemian enclaves…and came to an abrupt halt in 1973 when conscription ended and herpes began.” He has the same memories of not attending Woodstock that so many others have, and he even recycles the ancient joke about what the Grateful Dead fan said when he ran out of pot. “Our genius is being funny,” writes the author of his generation, but such genius is in short supply here.

DEMON CAMP A Soldier’s Exorcism Percy, Jennifer Scribner (240 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-4516-6198-9

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop turns her sights on the dark story of a soldier with PTSD who is haunted by his demons. This odd blend of nonfiction, meditation, new journalism and self-expression by debut author Percy wants to be so many things that it becomes difficult to sort it all out. For such a gothic tale of horror, it starts sparingly. In a parking lot in woodsy Georgia, the author met a young man named Caleb Daniels, a traumatized veteran of the war in Afghanistan. As the young writer unraveled the soldier’s tale, she learned that Caleb’s illness manifests itself as an actual demon that he alone can see, a beast he calls “The Black Thing.” For Percy, it becomes a way into a culture that she can never fully understand. “In primitive cultures, if one is sick, it has to be a demon, and finding the one who cursed you is halfway to the cure,” she writes. “Does the exorcist ever require an exorcism? People see post-traumatic stress as a problem specifically of war, but it’s also a problem of our culture. A physical reaction is a sign of societal malaise. Their demons, and America’s demons.” The author became increasingly embroiled in the story of Caleb and a remote Christian camp where he and other |

veterans swore of liberation from demons like “the Ruling Level Demon of Antichrist,” as well as the dangled promise of salvation. The book suffers from its lack of perspective and straightahead reportage—names and details have been changed—but the story goes way over the top when Percy decided that she was suffering from the same conditions as Caleb. “I see the bat in the dark and the bat says suicide and the bat rapes me. But those are just the dreams,” she writes. Percy wields language with admirable restraint, but her poetic gifts might be better served in fiction.

THE TRIDENT The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader Redman, Jason; Bruning, John R. Morrow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $26.99 | $26.99 Lg. Prt. | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-06-220831-6 978-0-06-227843-2 Lg. Prt.

In a debut memoir, a young Navy SEAL describes his maturation as a military leader. Redman introduces himself as an arrogant junior SEAL officer who, ignoring contrary orders, went to the aid of comrades under fire in Afghanistan only to learn that his actions actually placed their lives at increased risk. Shunned as a showboating hothead, he was exiled to the Army Rangers for further training. During this time, he came to admit the reality of his shortcomings and acquired a more mature, humble and selfless approach to leadership. He redeemed himself fighting in Iraq until near-fatal injuries required him to take up the physical challenges of recovery and consider his motivations once again. An intensely introspective book, it is less about training and battles, though these are stirringly described, than about Redman’s evolving mental state. This is unusual for a combat memoir, as military men are not generally given to such self-awareness, at least in print. As a result, however, the narrative lacks dramatic conflict, as much of the story consists of the author describing his perceptions and internal changes rather than demonstrating them through events. While he is unstinting in his self-criticism, much of the writing otherwise adheres to the tiresome conventions of military adventure: His colleagues are always thoroughly dedicated “warriors” (or, more clinically, “operators”) and sterling fellows all, his lovely wife and children are unfailingly and wholeheartedly supportive of whatever he is doing, and so forth, none of which is either credible or perceptive. For all Redman’s declarations of newfound humility, it seems that everything is still ultimately about him, even as he struggles through his medical rehabilitation with the single-minded goal of leaving his long-suffering family behind once again to give himself another crack at his nation’s foes. A curiously unsatisfying memoir of personal development through service in an elite military team, introspective but not very insightful. (30 b/w photos)

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“A book from a man who clearly loved his job and, readers conclude, served the agency and his country well.” from company man

HIPPIE BOY A Girl’s Story

Ricks, Ingrid Berkley (304 pp.) $15.00 paper | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-425-27400-2

A memoirist’s account of growing up in a devout yet completely dysfunctional Mormon home. When Ricks’ (Focus, 2012) mother married fellow Mormon Earl, a twice-divorced mechanic with a sketchy past, the author knew that things would never be the same. Cruel and controlling, Earl lived off his new wife and abused her children with impunity. The one bright spot in Ricks’ life was her affectionate but at times unreliable salesman father, Jerry, whose “need to be free” she both understood and envied. She was his favorite, the daughter he called “Hippie Boy” for her long, tangled hair; he was her hero, the man with “the golden tongue…[who] could talk his way in or out of anything.” Before Earl’s arrival, she was able to travel with Jerry from time to time to escape the oppressive environment her “religious fruitcake” mother had created at home. But afterward, those trips became a bone of contention between Ricks and Earl, who used his churchgranted authority as head of household and “direct line to God” to deliberately thwart his stepdaughter’s efforts to be with her father. Ricks still managed to circumvent Earl’s tyrannical rules and spent summers working with Jerry on the road, washing up in gas-station bathrooms, sleeping in cars and living on fast food. When police arrested her father for suspected embezzlement, Ricks suddenly realized the dangerously fragile nature of Jerry’s bold but often reckless existence. Her hero was a charming sham; the only person who could save her from unhappiness was herself. In clear, graceful prose and in a voice that is refreshingly authentic, Ricks tells an uplifting story of heartbreak, hope and self-salvation.

PINKERTON’S GREAT DETECTIVE The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland

Riffenburgh, Beau Viking (400 pp.) $32.95 | Nov. 18, 2013 978-0-670-02546-6

Straightforward biography of a man famous in his day for his work with the infamous Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. In introducing the book, Riffenburgh (Encyclopedia of the Antarctic, 2006, etc.) notes that the legacy of his subject is murky, with history unable to decide whether James McParland (1843–1919) was a hero or a villain. “Thus, there is a clear need for a reassessment of the Great Detective,” he writes. “Only through thorough study can a deeper understanding be gained of a man whose public persona was so divergent....” The author 66

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immediately gets down to that business, first briefly laying out McParland’s early years before jumping into the history of his job with Pinkerton’s. Riffenburgh focuses on McParland’s two most sensational cases, both involving mining unions and violence possibly perpetrated by union members. The detective first infiltrated the Molly Maguires, a violent group that did not seem to be aligned with the union, and his informing on that group made him both famous and infamous. The case also seemed to cement for McParland that mine owners were upright citizens terrorized by violent employee factions, which informed his future work in union/mine cases. Later, in charge of Pinkerton’s offices in the Western United States, he oversaw investigations into many unions and alleged union violence. Though detailed in recounting the investigations and trials in which McParland was involved, there is little new information here, and the court cases, repetitive in nature, slow the narrative considerably. In the end, Riffenburgh admits that there really is no private persona to consult and that the “divergent” nature he previously acknowledged in McParland’s public persona leaves the mystery of who he actually was just as shrouded as in the beginning of the work. While no doubt true, it’s a disappointing conclusion for those hoping for fresh insights. Not quite a reassessment but a thorough consideration of two of McParland’s major court cases and the investigations that preceded them.

COMPANY MAN Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA Rizzo, John Scribner (320 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4516-7393-7

At the intersection of politics, law and national security—from “protect us at all costs” to “what the hell have you guys been up to, anyway?”—a lawyer’s

life in the CIA. Under seven presidents and 11 different CIA directors, Rizzo rose to become the CIA’s most powerful career attorney. Given the agency’s dangerous and secret mission, spotting and deterring possible abuses of law, offering guidance and protecting personnel from legal jeopardy was, and remains, no easy task. The author accumulated more than 30 years of war stories, and he tells most of them: his acquaintance with CIA legends Lyman Kirkpatrick and Cord Meyer; his dealings with KGB defector Yuri Nosenko; his espionage prosecution of CIA employee William Kampiles and the uncovering of agency turncoat Rick Ames; his role testifying before Congress during Iran-Contra; and his view of the Valerie Plame affair. How should the CIA deal with “dirty assets?” What policies should govern the scope and intent of its relations with the media, clergy, academia and the corporate world? By far, the greater part of this book deals with the war on terror and the legal and political issues that tormented the agency. With the enhanced interrogation program, with words like “rendition,” “black sites”

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and “waterboarding” making headlines, the CIA plunged into new controversy with Rizzo often at its center. He addresses his own controversial role—the uproar accounted for his withdrawn nomination to officially head the Office of General Counsel—frankly and with few regrets. Throughout, he assesses all the directors, including the deeply strange William Casey, the beleaguered Bob Gates, the “regular guy” George Tenet, and Leon Panetta, the only man with all the requirements for success: 1) access to and clout with the president; 2) credibility and influence with Congress; and 3) the trust of the agency workforce. A book from a man who clearly loved his job and, readers conclude, served the agency and his country well. (8-page photo insert)

BLESSING THE HANDS THAT FEED US What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us About Food, Community, and Our Place on Earth

Robin, Vicki Viking (352 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-670-02572-5

One woman’s experiment to eat only local foods. While grazing at a potluck table loaded with food, Robin (co-author: Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, 2008) decided to take up a local farmer’s challenge to eat only the food she could provide herself. But after some more consideration, the author realized that might be too limited, so the plan expanded to include any food produced within a 10-mile radius. She planned to live on that and a few “exotics”—tea, salt, spices, oil, lemons and limes—for a month and see what happened. What unfolds in Robin’s homey, conversational prose was far more significant than she ever expected. She sought to lose a few pounds, get healthier, make new friends, grow closer to nature, and gain a better understanding of the amount of physical, emotional and environmental energy required to produce food. The author encourages readers to explore their own relationships with food; examine how it was prepared and eaten during their childhoods; find what local sources of food exist in their neighborhoods; learn to cook from scratch for healthier and less expensive food; and figure out how to continue this new way of eating for far longer than just a month. Throughout the book, Robin includes helpful information on how to set up “Transition Towns…a citizen-led approach to bulking up community resilience, a tool for people who wake up to the power communities have to respond proactively as global resources, finance, and climate change prove ever more unstable.” Recipes from Robin’s local growers round out this call-to-action plan to buy local and live healthier and more responsibly. An entertaining and informative memoir/self-help guide to living well on locally grown food. |

A PATRIOT’S HISTORY OF THE MODERN WORLD, VOL. II From the Cold War to the Age of Entitlement, 1945-2012

Schweikart, Larry; Dougherty, Dave Sentinel (528 pp.) $36.00 | Dec. 5, 2013 978-1-59523-104-8

Schweikart (History/Univ. of Dayton) and Dougherty follow up the first volume of their Patriot’s History of the Modern World (2012) with a disappointing sequel, again stressing above all the unchallenged nature of American exceptionalism. The authors differentiate themselves from more traditional historians, who locate the American exception in the written Constitution, citizens’ self-government and the separation of powers. Instead, they adopt a pre-Constitutional frame focusing on “the four pillars of American exceptionalism.” These include “common law, a Christian (mostly Protestant) religious culture, access to private property...and free market capitalism,” and Schweikart and Dougherty boldly assert that without all four pillars, “no true American style republic could be developed.” Many historians would find the authors’ thesis unsupportable, and this volume is disappointing mainly since it fails to elaborate how the “four pillars” have played out across the history of the world since 1945. The authors fail to pursue the opportunities to link historical developments to their primary thesis. Chief among these missed opportunities regards Martin Luther King’s leadership of the civil rights movement. Schweikart and Dougherty present King as “an Atlanta-born Republican pastor who had a divinity degree from Boston University,” but they do not examine how a movement of mainly Protestant Christians, drawing from the nonviolent principles of Mahatma Gandhi, might affect the Protestant cultural requirement of their frame. Equally, they miss the references to King’s movement that were so common among Lutheran-influenced protesters in East German nonviolent demonstrations in the late 1980s, and they ignore the impact of U.S. constitutional thinking in post–World War II settlements in Germany and Japan. The authors provide an avalanche of facts, but the causes that could link to their underlying “four pillars” thesis are neither offered nor proven. They conclude with a story from the Bible and compare it to the state of America in 2013, “which wants a government to ‘fight our battles’ and take care of everyone, needy or not.” Right-slanted, monotonous historical reading offering little new, valid insight.

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“Put Greil Marcus and Susan Sontag ringside, and you get something approaching this book. A little too postmodern at times but an eye-opener.” from the squared circle

WATER 4.0 The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource

Sedlak, David Yale Univ. (352 pp.) $28.50 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-300-17649-0

A lucid primer on water technology. Civilizations appeared without many things, including iron, the wheel, domestic animals or writing, but water was critical. Providing it has always taxed human ingenuity, writes Sedlak (Civil and Environmental Engineering/Univ. of California) in this chronicle of “the essential ingredient of life.” Dividing its history into stages, the author begins 2,500 years ago with Water 1.0. Growing cities, with Rome being the supreme example, built complex pipes and channels to bring in water and carry away sewage—usually not very far. This remained the norm until 19th-century scientists understood that sewage spread disease, especially cholera and typhoid. This led to Water 2.0: treating drinking water, usually with filtration and/or chlorine. Clean drinking water is still considered man’s greatest public health achievement. Sewage continued to pour into rivers and harbors, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that the smell, visible filth and outrage from downstream cities led to Water 3.0: a vast infrastructure of sewage treatment plants. In the second half of the book, Sedlak discusses Water 4.0: technology in the works to deal with (and pay for) water shortages, which are already upon us. Conservation is only modestly effective. Desalinization remains expensive; drinking treated sewage produces horror from laymen and their representatives, but effluent already makes up a large percentage of our rivers and tap water. One possible solution is to abandon centralized systems to treat and recycle wastewater in our homes and neighborhoods. Our electrical and communication infrastructure is relatively cheap and often in the news. Water infrastructure is expensive and lacks enthusiasts, but in Sedlak’s hands, it isn’t boring. A solid popular examination of our most vital natural resource.

TEACHING ARABS, WRITING SELF Memoirs of an ArabAmerican Woman

Shakir, Evelyn Olive Branch/Interlink (224 pp.) $20.00 paper | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-56656-924-8

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Born to Lebanese immigrants, Shakir (Remember Me to Lebanon: Stories of Lebanese Women in America, 2007, etc.) was thoroughly Americanized, growing up outside of Boston, and even attended St. George’s Orthodox Church and later Wellesley College, where she embarked on her career as an academic. In this well-honed, posthumous memoir (Shakir died in 2010), consisting partly of childhood memories and partly of her experiences teaching English-language literature to young Arabs, the author sounds out her own character for what it means to be Lebanese and later recognizes many familiar traits in the old world of her parents: love of family, respect for the wishes of one’s parents, modesty, pride and generosity. Along with her brother, Shakir was surrounded by an extended Lebanese family, hard workers in the mills, presses and sewing shops of the Northeast. Her mother was a charter member of the Syrian Ladies’ Aid group and her uncle, a flamboyant co-owner of the iconic Cyclone roller coaster at Revere Beach. Shakir ventured on her Fulbright in the mid-2000s, long after the Lebanese civil war but just shy of an Israeli bombing campaign and well before the current civil war in Syria. Hence, her observations are pertinent and subtle, rather than political, and pertain especially to the various shades of Arabic diversity, such as accents and dress, especially women’s dress, between Beirut and Bahrain (jeans versus abaya) and religious piety—e.g., in the surprising reactions of many students to the perceived permissiveness of Arab-American literature that Shakir introduced in class. In her tight, witty prose, Shakir challenges easy assumptions about ethnicity, religion and belonging. One open-hearted teacher’s resistance to narrow definitions of identity.

THE SQUARED CIRCLE Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling

Shoemaker, David Gotham Books (352 pp.) $27.00 | Nov. 4, 2013 978-1-592-40767-5

Book designer and Grantland and Deadspin contributor Shoemaker offers a frontline report on a panem et circenses scene of power plays, big money and

spandex girdles. No, it’s not a KISS reunion, but instead the world of pro wrestling. Of course it’s fake; early on, Shoemaker introduces readers to the insider term “kayfabe,” which refers to “the wrestlers’ adherence to the big lie, the insistence that the unreal is real.” Consider this scenario: “Ravishing” Rick Rude insults a woman at ringside. She just happens to be married to Jake “The Snake” Roberts, one of Rude’s many bêtes noires. The Snake vows vengeance, while Rude places her image on various strategically located parts of his costume. Kayfabe? You bet, even if Shoemaker quietly goes on to describe how the whole Snake/Rude show “underscored the fundamentally homoerotic nature of the enterprise.” Good thing André

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the Giant isn’t around to ponder such possibilities, but he remains a hero of the narrative—and, for all the oddness of wrestling and the avariciousness of some of the men behind the curtain, Shoemaker finds in its narratives a bit of the old Joseph Campbell hero quest, as when, once upon a time, the Macho Man set down the burden of evil and shook hands with Hulk Hogan, whereupon his “transformation into good guy was complete.” The possibilities for hipster irony are endless in the fundamentally unironic display that is wrestling, just as in NASCAR or pro bowling, and Shoemaker is respectful even as he looks behind that very curtain to see how the odd dreams of pro wrestling and its discontents are shaped. A hint for would-be practitioners: It helps if you’re, yes, a giant in “a playground for literally outsized men to act out metaphorically outsized tropes and storylines for the technological gratification of the masses.” Put Greil Marcus and Susan Sontag ringside, and you get something approaching this book. A little too postmodern at times but an eye-opener.

MY STORY

Smart, Elizabeth with Stewart, Chris St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Oct. 7, 2013 978-1-250-04015-2 The inspirational and ultimately redemptive story of a teenage girl’s descent into hell, framed as a parable of faith. The disappearance of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002 made national headlines, turning an entire country into a search party; it seemed like something of a miracle when she reappeared, rescued almost by happenstance, nine months later. As the author suggests, it was something of a mystery that her ordeal lasted that long, since there were many times when she was close to being discovered. Her captors, a self-proclaimed religious prophet whose sacraments included alcohol, pornography and promiscuous sex, and his wife and accomplice, jealous of this “second wife” he had taken, weren’t exactly criminal masterminds. In fact, his master plan was for similar kidnappings to give him seven wives in all, though Elizabeth’s abduction was the only successful one. She didn’t write her account for another nine years, at which point she had a more mature perspective on the ordeal, and with what one suspects was considerable assistance from co-author Stewart, who helps frame her story and fill in some gaps. Though the account thankfully spares readers the graphic details, Smart tells of the abuse and degradation she suffered, of the fear for her family’s safety that kept her from escaping and of the faith that fueled her determination to survive. “Anyone who suggests that I became a victim of Stockholm syndrome by developing any feelings of sympathy for my captors simply has no idea what was going on inside my head,” she writes. “I never once—not for a single moment— developed a shred of affection or empathy for either of them…. The only thing there ever was was fear.” |

Smart hopes that sharing her story might help heal the scars of others, though the book is focused on what she suffered rather than how she recovered. (Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Orem, Utah, Murray, Utah, Salt Lake City, Chicago)

WONDER OF WONDERS A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof Solomon, Alisa Metropolitan/Henry Holt (432 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 22, 2013 978-0-8050-9260-8

Raising the roof on one of the most successful and resonant works in the history of Broadway. Solomon (Arts and Culture/Columbia Univ. Graduate School of Journalism; Re-Dressing the Canon: Essays on Theatre and Gender, 1997, etc.) presents a comprehensive history of the long-running and much-revived Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, the iconic production that broke box-office records, swept the Tony Awards, inspired a hit Hollywood movie, and, for many, defined and fixed the details of traditional Jewish life in the popular imagination. The author marshals impressive quantities of research to trace Fiddler’s history, beginning with its origins in the writings of Sholem Aleichem, a prominent Yiddish writer whose late-19th-century stories about Tevye the dairyman, which portrayed shtetl life in a warmly realistic style, served as the source material for what would become the musical institution. The Tevye material was adapted over the ensuing decades with varying levels of success—Solomon scrupulously documents every permutation, which becomes a bit tiresome—eventually finding its way to Broadway in 1964 in the form of Fiddler on the Roof, shepherded by director and choreographer Jerome Robbins and starring comic force of nature Zero Mostel. The creation of the Broadway show provides the book’s richest passages, as the anxious, insecure Robbins clashes with the obstreperous Mostel and a miraculous confluence of talents and personalities achieve the elusive alchemy of great theatrical art. The remainder of the narrative, which covers the show’s adaptation into the successful film version and subsequent reimaginings—including a controversial staging at a black junior high in racially fraught late-1960s Brooklyn and an embattled Polish production in the early 2000s—serves as an illuminating but comparatively lackluster footnote. Solomon has done her homework; unfortunately, homework is what this worthy but dryly academic chronicle too often feels like. Everything a Fiddler fan could hope to learn but with little to entice general readers. (20 b/w images)

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AMERICAN MIRROR The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell Solomon, Deborah Farrar, Straus and Giroux (512 pp.) $30.00 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-374-11309-4

An absorbing biography detailing the public and private hazards of being America’s favorite painter. Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) may seem an unusual subject for Solomon, who previously explored the abstract universes of Joseph Cornell (Utopia Parkway, 1997) and Jackson Pollock (1987) and “grew up gazing at a Helen Frankenthaler poster” in her bedroom. In her latest life story, the author is both scourge and defender. On a personal level, she doesn’t much like Rockwell—and he does come across as chilly. Wholly devoted to his work and given to bouts of depression, he was remote from his family, his friends and most of his subjects; even the accidental death of a young boy who posed for him drew little emotion. “Phobic about dirt and germs,” writes the author, “he cleaned his studio several times a day.” Although there’s no evidence that he was gay, he much preferred the company of men and boys in both life and art. His first wife fled, his second wife drank herself into an early grave, and his third (and happiest) wife slept in another room. His life was at odds with his image; he drew covers for a magazine, the Saturday Evening Post, which he couldn’t stand and was the official artist for the Boy Scouts of America even though he knew or cared little about Scouting. Was he a mere illustrator, as the critics claimed, or a skilled visual storyteller in the tradition of the great Renaissance painters he worshipped? For Solomon, his paintings are representational Rorschachs of a lonely life, dramas about being an outsider, essays on the act of watching—whether they involve diners staring at an old woman as she prays, a town-hall crowd looking at a speaker or a young girl gazing in a mirror. Is looking at a Rockwell less fulfilling than looking at a de Kooning? Solomon doesn’t think so; neither did de Kooning. A sobering but ultimately sympathetic portrait balanced by the author’s critical sense and buoyed by her engaging style. (8 pages of color illustrations)

CAIRO Memoir of a City Transformed

Soueif, Ahdaf Pantheon (256 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-307-90810-0 978-0-307-90811-7 e-book

A deeply personal, engaged tribute by the far-flung Egyptian novelist and journalist as she returned to witness the revolution in her hometown. 70

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When the conflicts broke out in Egypt at the end of January 2011, Cairo-born Soueif (Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground, 2005, etc.), having made her home largely in London since her marriage to the London critic and author Ian Hamilton (d. 2001), quickly returned to join the protests in Tahrir Square, as did her sons and many of her relatives. Tahrir is the Cairenes’ “Holy Grail,” Soueif writes, the locus for demonstrations against the government since 1972, when the author took part in protests against Anwar Sadat’s oppressive regime. It has taken the next generation, her children’s, to prevail, and Soueif declares gallantly: “We follow them and pledge what’s left of our lives to their effort.” Early on, the author offers an in-themoment account of the crucial first days of street action, often messy, confused and involving violent clashes with the police, though undertaken by friends, family and strangers alike with heartwarming camaraderie. Then she moves to October 2011 to show how the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces hijacked the revolution without keeping President Hosni Mubarak’s decapitated regime from “growing a new head.” Soueif then moves back in time to the period of February 1-12. While being jostled in crowds, blinded by tear gas, harassed by the paramilitary thug militias, the dreaded baltagis, the author passionately evokes the spirit of the beloved city where she was born, through neighborhoods and buildings long-suffering and dear to her—e.g., pleading with police to cease torturing prisoners in the iconic Egyptian Museum. Soueif offers both an extraordinary eyewitness document and a sense of the historical import of the revolution.

THE WATCHDOG THAT DIDN’T BARK The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism Starkman, Dean Columbia Univ. (368 pp.) $24.95 | $23.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-231-15818-3 978-0-231-53628-8 e-book

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist summarizes and analyzes the reasons the press, prior to the 2008 mortgage crisis, failed to pursue some obvious villains. Starkman—an editor at the Columbia Journalism Review and a veteran newspaperman (Wall Street Journal, among others)—has both historical and analytical items on his agenda. He begins with Ida Tarbell, who wrote massive investigative pieces about Standard Oil for McClure’s at the turn of the 20th century, then sketches the history of the muckraking tradition, which has ebbed and flowed over the past century. He also offers some history of financial journalism, including the history of the WSJ, Barron’s, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes and others. Among the sundry heroes who emerge is Michael Hudson, a journalist who has focused on poverty issues since the early 1990s and whose name, efforts and accomplishments appear continually throughout the final two-thirds of Starkman’s text. Throughout,

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“Powerful, eye-opening and funny. Pitch-perfect in his storytelling, Stossel reminds us that, in many important ways, to be anxious is to be human.” from my age of anxiety

as well, the author returns to the distinction between “access” and “accountability” reporting—between stories that basically profile business leaders and present their views and investigative stories designed to bring into the light information that some (many? most?) in the business community would prefer to keep hidden. These two approaches, he shows, have waxed and waned over the years; unfortunately, they were on the wane in the years leading up to 2008. Starkman is careful, though, to credit individuals and publications that did see the looming problem, but, he writes, these stories were neither prominent nor pervasive enough to have a salutary effect. He notes the numerous causes of the problem—the rise of the Internet (and decline of newspapers), the barriers facing investigative journalists and the complexity of economic issues—though he can be obscure when he tries to explain derivatives and mortgagebacked securities. As fair and balanced as a solar-plexus punch can be.

THE EVERYTHING STORE Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon Stone, Brad Little, Brown (392 pp.) $28.00 | Oct. 15, 2013 978-0-316-21926-6

Fair-minded, virtually up-to-the-minute history of the retail and technology behemoth and the prodigious brain behind it. Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Stone has covered Amazon, “the company that was among the first to see the boundless promise of the Internet and that ended up forever changing the way we shop and read,” and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, among other technology stories, for 15 years, and his inside knowledge of a company ordinarily stingy with information is evident throughout the book. In addition to speaking to Bezos several times over the years, including an interview for this book, Stone also spoke with employees across all levels of the company, from C-level officers and software developers to fulfillment center “associates,” including many who have moved on. The author’s research, which also included access to volumes of emails and other internal documents, revealed an extraordinarily difficult corporate culture for ordinary human beings to work in, one designed to forge (but not necessarily reward) people able to think like Bezos. The ultimate objective of this culture was to create the illusion for the consumer of a frictionless shopping experience, originally for books but ultimately for every product imaginable. The patented one-click shopping button, which enabled online customers to order, pay for and have shipped any item with a single click of the mouse, was the apotheosis of Amazon’s consumeroriented ethos. But this illusion required an enormous amount of friction behind the scenes. Bezos, a billionaire several times over whose ultimate dream is to blast himself into space from a launch pad he’s building on his enormous Texas ranch, is notorious for squeezing as much productivity out of his underpaid |

employees as is humanly possible. Stone presents a nuanced portrait of the entrepreneur, especially as he sketches in Bezos’ unusual family history and a surprising turn it took during the writing of the book. His reporting on the Kindle’s disruption of traditional publishing makes for riveting reading. A must-add to any business bookshelf.

MY AGE OF ANXIETY Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind

Stossel, Scott Knopf (416 pp.) $27.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-0-307-26987-4

In this captivating and intimate book, the editor of the Atlantic spares no detail about his lifelong struggle with anxiety and contextualizes his personal experience within the history of anxiety’s perception and treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in seven Americans currently suffers from some form of anxiety. Stossel (Sarge: The Life and Times of Sergeant Shriver, 2004), whose assorted phobias and neuroses began to manifest when he was a toddler, provides an exceptionally relatable and frequently hilarious account of a modern sufferer: the endless combinations of therapy and drugs, pharmaceutical and otherwise; the inevitable mishaps of a public figure who is terrified of flying, enclosed spaces and speaking in public; the delicate negotiation between managing psychological torment and being a husband and father. Alongside these anecdotes— one of which, involving the Kennedy family, is laugh-out-loud funny—the author explores how anxiety has affected humans for centuries and how there is still no “cure.” Instead, anxiety is a “riddle” with very personal and diverse factors and symptoms, and it affects people from all walks of life. Many great minds, including Freud and Darwin, documented their battles with anxiety. They also experimented with chemical interventions, testimony of a long history of sought-after relief from anxiety’s debilitating effects. Stossel deftly explores a variety of treatments and their risks and successes, providing unique insight as both a journalist (whose priority is impartial investigation) and sufferer (whose imperative is to feel well). Throughout, the author’s beautiful prose and careful research combine to make this book informative, thoughtful and fun to read. Powerful, eye-opening and funny. Pitch-perfect in his storytelling, Stossel reminds us that, in many important ways, to be anxious is to be human. (First printing of 100,000)

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“With this exhaustive, engaging study of the greatest jazz composer of his era, Wall Street Journal drama critic Teachout solidifies his place as one of America’s great music biographers.” from duke

BODY COUNTS A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS and Survival

THE INTERNAL ENEMY Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832

Strub, Sean Scribner (368 pp.) $26.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-1-4516-6195-8

A prominent activist and publisher ties his personal journey into the epochal events that have shaped the last 35 years of LGBT rights and AIDS education. Even growing up as a closeted Catholic Midwesterner, Strub knew that his gift for initiating progressive political change would someday bring him to Washington, D.C. Although he spent the late 1970s meeting congressional movers and shakers via his job as a Senate elevator operator, he soon realized that New York City provided a more congenial atmosphere for a young gay man beginning to explore and advocate on behalf of his sexuality. Strub paints a striking picture of the grittiness and exuberance of the Big Apple at this time, when the city was reveling in the last hurrahs of freedom that encompassed discos, singles bars and bathhouses. Amid all the revelry, however, disquieting references to a “gay cancer” began appearing, and sexually active gay men began to find suspicious lesions on their bodies. At first, Strub writes, many in the gay community chose to ignore or dismiss these signs; however, in 1982, an article written by two men who had contracted what came to be known as AIDS sparked controversy by linking the disease to the unfettered sexual activity that had characterized the post-Stonewall years. Well aware of the devastating effects of AIDS on so many Americans, the Reagan and Clinton administrations nevertheless neglected to provide the support or fund the research that might have slowed the epidemic. Thus began an intense effort on the parts of Strub and other activists to promote safer sex, demand access to treatment and give hope to those diagnosed with HIV. The author achieved the latter by founding POZ magazine in 1994 and later, after protease inhibitors halted the progression of his own disease, by creating the Sero Project to empower those who have been criminalized for having HIV. A valuable document that gives an insider’s view into AIDS activism and declares that compassion can mean just as much as cure.

Taylor, Alan Norton (624 pp.) $35.00 | Sep. 9, 2013 978-0-393-07371-3

Exemplary work of history by Pulitzer and Bancroft winner Taylor (History/ Univ. of Virginia; Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction, 2012, etc.), who continues his deep-searching studies of American society on either side of the Revolution. The world the slaves made was one of fear and loathing—on the part of the masters, that is, who indeed waited in a “cocoon of dread” for the day when their “internal enemy” would finally pounce. That day first came with a series of events that form the heart of the book: namely, the arrival of the War of 1812 in Virginia, a conflict that itself was a source of conflict, inasmuch as most Virginians were sooner inclined to fight New Englanders than Englanders. When the British arrived, though, they recruited male slaves to join their army and navy as free men, and they relied on them for their “intimate, nocturnal knowledge of the byways and waterways of Virginia.” The keyword is “nocturnal,” for the conflict between master and slave was so great, Taylor asserts, that they contested ownership of the night, when slaves would travel more or less freely to attend dances and other social events, sleeping it off during the day, even as the masters demanded ever more work from them precisely in order to tire them enough to keep them from going abroad at night. One of the great ironies of Jefferson’s ideal of white liberty, notes Taylor, was that as it expanded the middle class and with it the number of Tidewater slaveholders, it also broadened support for slavery itself. One of the ironies of the war, which would eventually produce just the uprising of the internal enemy the Virginians dreaded, was that, so inept was the federal response, it advanced the cause of states’ rights, which would lead to the broader Civil War two decades after Nat Turner’s revolt. Full of implication, an expertly woven narrative that forces a new look at “the peculiar institution” in a particular time and place.

DUKE A Life of Duke Ellington Teachout, Terry Gotham Books (496 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 21, 2013 978-1-59240-749-1

With this exhaustive, engaging study of the greatest jazz composer of his era, Wall Street Journal drama critic Teachout solidifies his place as one of America’s great music biographers. 72

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Many have cited jazz as America’s only true indigenous art form, so it is at once surprising and disheartening that major publishers are seemingly hesitant to champion books that tackle the subject—especially considering that when an author is allowed the freedom to dive into the life and music of a jazz titan, the results are often brilliant, something that Teachout demonstrated with his justifiably revered Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong (2010). After Armstrong, chronologically speaking, bandleader/composer/arranger/pianist Duke Ellington was jazz’s next game changer. Aside from his undeniably astounding ear, Ellington, like Armstrong, was a personality, one of the rare jazzmen who was able to combine heady music with showbiz panache without diminishing his art. With his vibrant prose and ability to get into his protagonist’s head and heart, Teachout captures this essence and charisma in a manner worthy of Ellington’s complex yet listenable classic “The Queen’s Suite.” One of Ellington’s most notable nonmusical qualities was his loyalty, and the author gives some of his longtime sidemen and compatriots—e.g., composer Billy Strayhorn and saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves—their due. Finally, as was the case in Pops, Teachout’s musical analysis is spot-on, at once complex and accessible. It will be appreciated equally by those who have 100 Ellington albums and those whose awareness of the Duke is limited to his best-known tunes like “Take The ‘A’ Train” and “Satin Doll.” Hopefully, the brilliance of Teachout’s treatment will compel the industry to let authors take a crack at the lives of, say, Ornette Coleman, Count Basie and Charles Mingus. Like most Ellington albums, Teachout’s in-depth, wellresearched, loving study of this American treasure is an instant classic.

GROWING A FEAST The Chronicle of a Farm-to-Table Meal Timmermeister, Kurt Norton (288 pp.) $24.95 | Jan. 6, 2014 978-0-393-08889-2

Creating a feast for friends from the bounty of your farm takes a variety of skills and plenty of dedication. In his second memoir, chef and author Timmermeister (Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land, 2012) chronicles the long journey of a farm-to-table meal. The author’s farm on Vashon Island, Wash., produces plenty of vegetables, but the stars of the show are the butter and cheese created through the teamwork of Timmermeister and his herd of beloved Jersey cows. The author begins with the birth of a calf, whose butter and cream will become ingredients in the feast two years later. “The idea that this calf, this young Alice, will produce rich, fatty cream that I can churn into a golden, grassy butter seems unfathomable today,” he writes. Timmermeister counts down the days until the meal, tracing the origins and preparations of the foods his guests will enjoy. He explains |

the process involved in making homemade hard cheese, planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables, breeding and milking cows, maintaining pastures, butchering a steer and preparing the meal for the author’s 20 guests. “The menu is neither arbitrary nor capricious,” he writes, “but it is casual. It reflects what is available for this time of year—the second week of October; the beginning of autumn—and what I had preserved from the past months of growing at the farm.” Timmermeister admits he is a perfectionist narrating the smallest details for readers, and this is most delightful during the author’s account of the final hours before the meal, including the reasons for the various utensils used, his attitude before and during the meal, and the multitude of steps involved in each recipe. A treat for anyone craving a point-by-point narration of how living off the land plays out for this former urban restaurateur–turned–cheese maker/farmer.

TOMORROW-LAND The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America Tirella, Joseph Lyons Press (360 pp.) $26.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-7627-8035-8

The story of New York’s second World’s Fair in the context of its tumultuous times. Robert Moses, the city’s bullish master builder who was responsible for several of its colossal bridges, tunnels, parks and parkways and who had a hand in the construction of the first World’s Fair in 1939, maneuvered his way to power for the entire 1964-1965 version. His ultimate goal was to turn the fair’s grounds in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens into a rival for the jewel in Manhattan’s crown, Central Park. But Moses’ Eisenhower-era sensibility and the park’s Kennedy-esque theme of “peace through understanding” would collide with the reality of post-assassination politics and a cultural revolution in mores inspired by the underground and popular arts. Signs of troubles ahead included a threatened opening day “stall-in” on the highways leading to Flushing Meadows by local civil rights groups to protest Moses’ poor record in hiring minorities to build, staff and administer the fair and a disastrous convocation speech by President Lyndon Johnson that was interrupted repeatedly by catcalls from college students, many of whom would go on to form the Students for a Democratic Society. First-time author Tirella, a former reporter for the New York Times, adroitly switches focus from Moses and the fair to external events in the city, nation and world and back again, following several disparate threads—the civil rights dialectic between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., a New York City obscenity crusade that targeted Lenny Bruce and the gay bohemian subculture, the parallel paths of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, the escalation of the Vietnam War—and never losing control of the narrative’s forward momentum. With a huge cast of characters that

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“The conspiracy crowd will love it.” from the hidden history of the jfk assassination

includes Walt Disney, Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali and the pope, the World’s Fair provides an excellent perspective on the 1960s in America. Top-notch popular history. (8-page photo insert)

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE JFK ASSASSINATION

Waldron, Lamar Counterpoint (400 pp.) $27.00 | Nov. 22, 2013 978-1-61902-226-3

The mob did it. In this updated, more compact version of his earlier Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination (with Thom Hartmann, 2008), soon to be a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, veteran investigative reporter Waldron (Watergate: The Hidden History: Nixon, the Mafia, and the CIA, 2012, etc.) fleshes out his argument that Mafia godfathers Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante ordered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Drawing on new interviews and declassified files, the author describes a small, carefully planned conspiracy orchestrated by Louisiana boss Marcello in retaliation for Robert Kennedy’s war on the mob. Building on the 1979 findings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations that JFK’s assassination was probably the result of a conspiracy and that Marcello and Trafficante had “the motive, means, and opportunity,” Waldron weaves a complex, highly readable narrative with many disquieting elements. These include Marcello’s meetings with Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby; Marcello’s recorded prison-yard confession to a fellow inmate and FBI informer (“Yeah, I had the son of a bitch killed. I’m glad I did….I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself ”); and striking similarities in the behavior of Oswald and designated fall guys in two planned attempts on JFK’s life during earlier motorcade visits in Chicago and Tampa. The author maintains that the godfathers took advantage of a planned U.S.-sponsored coup against Fidel Castro: They killed the president and managed to avoid detection in the subsequent coverup of the secret coup plans. Two European gunmen opened fire at Dealey Plaza, with Oswald as the fall guy, Waldron writes. Jack Ruby’s orders were to find a cop who would kill Oswald or to do it himself, which he did. The book offers much speculation and plenty of instances of “perhaps,” “probably” and “may have.” True or not, this makes one hell of a story and ties up all the pesky loose ends of events in Dallas 50 years ago. The conspiracy crowd will love it. (16-page photo insert)

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children’s & teen THE TRUE TALE OF THE MONSTER BILLY DEAN

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Almond, David Candlewick (272 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-7636-6309-4

THE TRUE TALE OF THE MONSTER BILLY DEAN by David Almond................................................................................. 75 SEARCHING FOR SARAH RECTOR by Tonya Bolden.......................76 FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! by Tim Federle......................................... 80 HANSEL AND GRETEL by The Brothers Grimm: illus. by Sybille Schenker; adapt. by Martin West................................83 NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU by Kathleen Hale........................... 84 WHY WE TOOK THE CAR by Wolfgang Herrndorf; trans. by Tim Mohr...............................................................................85 AND WE STAY by Jenny Hubbard.......................................................87 THOMAS JEFFERSON by Maira Kalman......................................... 88 THE GOSPEL OF WINTER by Brendan Kiely.................................... 89 A BOOK OF BABIES by Il Sung Na.....................................................95 BABY BEAR by Kadir Nelson..............................................................95 TSARINA by J. Nelle Patrick............................................................... 96 THE BLOSSOMING UNIVERSE OF VIOLET DIAMOND by Brenda Woods.................................................................................102

Billy Dean is the forbidden child of a priest and a hairdresser, born in the English village of Blinkbonny on a day of terrible destruction and locked away for all his 13 years. Much to the chagrin of his tempestuous, estranged father, Billy Dean struggles with words: “He wos a secrit shy & thick & tungtied emptyheded thing.” He’s a lonely boy, longing for his father’s rare visits, muddling through Bible stories, and scratching out letters and pictures on dried-out mouse skins with bloodmixed ink. When Billy’s lovely Mam finally exposes her son to the war-ravaged “shattad payvments” of Blinkbonny, Billy is overwhelmed…and utterly wonderstruck. Local medium Missus Malone has her own plans for Billy, and as rumors spread of “The Aynjel Childe” and his power to cure the sick and speak to the dead, the boy becomes another kind of prisoner entirely. Skelligcreator Almond’s books are always mystical—close to the warm, dark heartbeats of man and beast—but this one, spelled mostly phonetically to show how Billy Dean might actually have written it, is perhaps even more raw, sensuous and savage. Dark, unsettling and fluid as water, Almond’s suspenseful tour de force considers the cycle of life, themes of war, God and godlessness, and, as ever, “How all things flow into each other.” (Fiction. 14 & up)

SANTA CLAUS All About Me

SEARCHING FOR SARAH RECTOR The Richest Black Girl in America

Bolden, Tonya Abrams (80 pp.) $21.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4197-0846-6

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Atkinson, Juliette Illus. by Atkinson, John Minedition (96 pp.) $34.95 | Nov. 1, 2013 978-988-15126-5-9 Going back over his diaries, the jolly old elf himself presents an omniumgatherum of Christmastime lore, customs, history, literature, fond memories and personal notes. The text opens with an appreciation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and closes with the full text of Clement Clarke Moore’s renowned verses (though without addressing the controversy of their authorship). In between, the loquacious |

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“Drawing extensively on primary sources, Bolden has done an admirable job in simplifying a complex situation for young readers. ” from searching for sarah rector

memoirist wanders over the holiday map with disquisitions on elves, reindeer and seasonal foods; activities from snow festivals and winter sports to his own summer vacations; references to Christmas films and music; recipes for gingerbread and other treats; a tally of international alter egos and selected aw-shucks requests from children met in “grottos” all over the world. Santa’s narrative, printed in an elegant if not particularly legible script, comes decorated with headers in, often, silver ink, painted scenes both new and old, two big sparkly pop-ups and over a dozen detachable artifacts ranging from a real sixpence and a paper crown to an elf ’s union card and an instructional booklet for sleigh drivers. Along with full measures of holiday spirit, readers will come away with answers to such common questions as what Santa does with all the “tipple” left out for him (he recycles it into “a jolly useful biofuel” with a spell) and how reindeer can fly (hint: methane emissions). A ribbon tie adds an additional touch of class to this handsome, informative gift item. (dedicated website with full-page images) (Novelty. 8-12, adult)

DRAGONQUEST

Baillie, Allan Illus. by Harris, Wayne Candlewick (40 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-0-7636-6617-0 Robust prose and melodramatic art make this quest for the last dragon a thrilling one—despite closing remarks trumpeting its relevance for…boys. “Hey, you! Yes, yes, you with the book! Up, up, we have deeds to do!” So the Don Quixote–like narrator addresses a lad (in modern dress)—pulling him out of his chair, across a deadly desert and through sinister woods where “three dark witches coil evil spells.” They skirt an abyss where “thorned demons” and “a fright of vampire bats” dwell and finally make it to the top of Glass Mountain: “Dragon country, at last.” In Harris’ ruggedly atmospheric landscapes, snakes slither past dry bones on rippling dunes, hideous faces leer from leafy shadows, glimpses of centaurs and other magical creatures give way to steep, snowy peaks. Though the grizzled knight fails in the end to spot draconic quarry, his impromptu squire—and readers—has quite a different experience over a pair of wordless climactic reveals. Harris’ view of the underlying theme as “passing on the mantle of manhood,” echoed in a separate comment from his Australian publisher, is, to say the least, misguided; this adventuresome quest will richly reward any and all who undertake it. The book distills most of the quest tale’s archetypal elements into a heady brew that will rouse readers of both genders. (publisher’s, author’s, illustrator’s notes) (Picture book. 7-10)

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THE GREY STAR

Bartholomeusz, James Medallion Press (316 pp.) $9.99 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1605427-00-3 Series: Seven Stars Trilogy, 3 The imaginative, muddled conclusion to the Seven Stars Trilogy. Lots of things happen in the first 100 pages or so of Bartholomeusz’s final installment to the trilogy he created when he was a teenager. First, British student Jack Lawson and his pals Dannie and Ruth find themselves on a Goonies-like quest to find another missing star shard in a series of perilous underground caves. Meanwhile, his dwarf friend Bál finds himself lying facedown near the sea beside the elf Cire, whom he helped rescue in The Black Rose (2012). The two meet up with their Apollonian allies and become embroiled in a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix–like political revolt. At the same time, the evil Cult of Dionysus threatens resurgence. For fans of the series, Bartholomeusz probably packs way too much exposition into each chapter, but the exhaustive recapitulation of past events will no doubt help clear away the fog for new readers or those with weak memories. Mythological references run amok, and monikers like The Golden Turtle (the Apollonians’ ship), Übermensch (Jack’s mystical role) and many more show the story’s beginnings as juvenilia and will induce much groaning and eye-rolling. Still, Bartholomeusz’s wild imagination and ability to pen swift action sequences may spark the interests of dedicated sci-fi and fantasy readers. With experience and a firm hand, this author could be big. (Fantasy. 12-16)

SEARCHING FOR SARAH RECTOR The Richest Black Girl in America

Bolden, Tonya Abrams (80 pp.) $21.95 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4197-0846-6

In 1914, 12-year-old Oklahoman Sarah Rector attracted attention when it became known that the oil found on land allotted to her by treaty was worth a fortune. When Native Americans were forced from lands in the American South, many took their slaves with them to Indian Territory, where they became citizens after the Civil War and, as such, received land allotments. Most blacks farmed the land they received, even though it was often a difficult life. When oil was discovered in Oklahoma territory, the wrangling over the land and profits of minors like Sarah intensified as guardians, some unscrupulous, were appointed to oversee financial affairs. In Sarah’s case, the scrutiny included commentary in the black press and even questions raised by the NAACP. This kirkus.com

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little-known episode demonstrates the confluence of various threads in U.S. history, among them slavery, shifting policy toward Indians and westward expansion. Drawing extensively on primary sources, Bolden has done an admirable job in simplifying a complex situation for young readers. More importantly, she shows how intertwined seemingly disparate historical factors can be. As, unfortunately, there are no first-person accounts left by Sarah Rector, readers don’t really get to know the person who triggered the controversy, but the lively narrative makes clear the tenor of the period. This handsome volume with its many photographs is carefully sourced and has a helpful glossary, illustration credits and index. Bolden admirably tells a complex story while modeling outstanding research strategy, as her insightful author’s note attests. (Nonfiction 10-14)

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MUYBRIDGE AND THE RIDDLE OF LOCOMOTION

Braun, Marta Firefly (24 pp.) $19.95 | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1-77085-229-7

Lenticular plates add an appropriately eye-catching gimmick to this quick profile of the 19th-century photographer whose sequential photographs of a horse galloping established that during its stride, all four hooves left the ground. The four lenticular plates (one of which is duplicated for the cover) are based on Muybridge’s photos and more or less suggest what audiences who viewed the originals through his spinning Zoopraxiscope might have seen. Unfortunately, two are silhouettes, and none can be angled to offer a clean single image. More helpfully, the full sets of stills from which the plates are drawn along with sequences of other characteristic subjects—from the galloping horse that first made him famous to a flying bird and a winsome child picking up a doll—are included too. These, along with Braun’s terse but specific

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account of Muybridge’s career and achievements offer a clearer sense of why his photos are still worth studying for what they reveal about animal and human movement. Not to mention that they’re entertaining to pore over. As he regularly rates mention in histories of early filmmaking but almost never anywhere else, his work may be new to young readers and viewers, to boot. Low production values notwithstanding, a rare glimpse of a historically significant visual artist who also plainly had a well-developed sense of fun. (chronology, resource list) (Biography. 8-10)

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM BOOK OF ANIMAL RECORDS

Carwardine, Mark Firefly (256 pp.) $19.95 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1770852693

A terrific collection of animal curiosities, both sensational and illuminating. This handsome and compendious gathering of animal records will easily provide hours of enlightening entertainment, from its awesome, jaw-dropping photographs to its smart, conversational text. Carwardine obviously enjoys wowing his readers, but he also weaves into the text a good amount of the evolutionary circumstance and biology that has led to these outsized, miniaturized or seriously weird examples of animal physiology and behavior. Each page provides something to gawk at, from blood-drinking finches to the 55-year-old salamander to 13-foot-tall, 1,600-pound bears. Carwardine explains why a number of creatures—say, a white shark—get undeserved bad raps and how we human animals share much with other animals: “Male sea otters obtain as much as one-third of their food by stealing from females.” The degree of detail is deep, and the sheer number of creatures introduced to readers—aardvarks and axolotls to worm lizards and zebras—is wonderful, but it is knowledge of them that feels most lasting. And certainly don’t miss consideration of the vilestsmelling animal: polecat, skunk or stink badger— pick one. A top-drawer work of natural history, well-presented in a beguiling and truly humbling way. (Reference. 12 & up)

BIRD

Chan, Crystal Atheneum (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-1-4424-5089-9 Jewel Campbell’s life began the day her older brother John’s tragically ended, a coincidence that’s shaped and shadowed her family since. Her Jamaican-immigrant grandfather nicknamed John “Bird,” encouraging him to imagine he could fly with disastrous results. He hasn’t said a word since and, along with Jewel’s dad, blames the catastrophe on 78

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evil spirits from Jamaica, duppies. Both have gone to great lengths to repel future supernatural harm (Jewel’s white-Mexican mom retains some skepticism). Largely ignored, Jewel is equally in thrall to the family narrative. After the family visits Bird’s grave on her 12th birthday, she steals out to climb a tree in a neighbor’s field and meets a boy who tells her his name is John. Like Jewel, whose passion is geology, he’s a budding scientist with a complex heritage—African-American, adopted by white parents. They exchange secrets. Both feel out of place, moved by forces beyond their control, like the erratic granite boulder Jewel climbs. Jewel’s observant reflections on her rural-Iowa world give this debut its considerable charm. As brutal antagonism intensifies among the adults, the focus shifts to characters and events before Jewel’s birth, making Jewel less actor than bystander in her own story. For young readers especially, the resolution is uncomfortably vague. Though it loses momentum halfway through, the strong opening bodes well for future endeavors. (Fiction. 10-14)

INDEPENDENT STUDY

Charbonneau, Joelle Houghton Mifflin (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-547-95920-7 Series: Testing, 2

Having survived the gladiatorial university entrance exam in The Testing (2013), Cia and her childhood friends begin studying to become leading rebuilders of their post-apocalyptic society. Cia’s demanding academic schedule is punctuated by a series of inventive and harrowing hazing challenges that deliver a combination of physical and psychological dangers that are reminiscent of The Testing. Success (and survival) again requires physical strength, mental clarity and recall of academic information. Unsurprisingly, some of Cia’s fellow students resent her consistently strong performances and her steady refusal to win by sacrificing others. The school’s cutthroat culture breeds opportunities for betrayal, and Cia must constantly be wary, even of offers of assistance. However, because her potential enemies are basically strangers, the prospect of betrayal is less traumatizing than her experience during The Testing, when she suspected her childhood friends of treachery and violence. In fact, returning readers anticipating a fiery confrontation among Cia, Tomas and Will may be disappointed to find these previous conflicts largely relegated to the background. Regardless, a charged atmosphere still results from the compelling mix of new lies, double crosses and increasingly menacing government figures focused on destroying Cia. Though this novel feels at times a bit too much like an extended setup for the final installment, shocking lastminute revelations about a potential rebellion against the government will leave many readers eagerly anticipating the series conclusion. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)

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“A tangle of arms and legs and many smiling faces pressed in close—this is a cultural ride worth taking.” from off to market

OFF TO MARKET

Dale, Elizabeth Illus. by Pal, Erika Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.99 | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1-84780-338-2 A young boy comes up with a creative solution when an African minibus can’t make it up the hill. The bus is off to the market, and Keb is the first inside. But there are many more stops, and soon, everyone is squeezing in, carrying fruit, vegetables, baskets and even a few goats! Dale’s jaunty text follows the rhythm of the bus over the bumps and turns: “Some climb on the roof, and more squash inside, / If only the bus had been made twice as wide!” Packed to the brim, the bus comes to a hill and can’t go any farther. Someone has to get off! The passengers start squabbling. Little Keb volunteers, but since he’s in the back, everyone else has to get off too. The bus makes it up the hill, and everyone gets to the market on time. The setting is never specifically mentioned, but the dusty landscape dotted

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with zebras and giraffes, along with Pal’s brightly saturated PanAfrican–colored bus, gives a hint. It’s a lively trip and an equally lively text, but it’s too bad there’s no note on matatu minibuses beyond a reference in the author bio on the jacket flap. Adults may be charged with adding a bit more context. A tangle of arms and legs and many smiling faces pressed in close—this is a cultural ride worth taking. (Picture book. 3-7)

CRYSTAL FIRE

Dane, Jordan Harlequin Teen (336 pp.) $9.99 paper | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-373-21093-0 Series: Hunted, 2 This conclusion to the Hunted duet (Indigo Awakening, 2013) takes readers ever deeper into the workings of the paranormal abilities of the various Indigo children.

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Indigo children are an evolved strain of humanity endowed with strong psychic abilities, different for each individual. A few, such as Gabriel, have evolved even further into Crystal children, with gifts of enormous power. The hated Church of Spiritual Freedom, headed by Gabriel’s estranged father, seeks to eradicate the Indigo children. Although most of the children escaped from the streets of Los Angeles to the estate of Gabriel’s wealthy maternal uncle in the previous book, the Church manages to capture Oliver and Caila. The completely evil Dr. Fiona goes outside even the rules of the Church in brutally experimenting on the captives in the infamous Ward 8 of her mental hospital. Oliver and Caila struggle to resist, even as Gabriel and the free Indigo children plan an attack on the facility to rescue their friend Rafe, the most recent captive. While Dane works to create suspense, she spends far too much time explaining how various psychic powers work, what characters feel and why, and why they take various actions. Characterization is one-dimensional, but at least some fizz is provided by such secondary characters as Hellboy, Gabriel’s ghost dog, and his “life-challenged” ghost butler, Frederick. Superficial and clunky. (Paranormal thriller. 12 & up)

I HATCHED!

Esbaum, Jill Illus. by Corace, Jen Dial (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 23, 2014 978-0-8037-3688-7 A killdeer chick bursts from its egg raring to go. Pecking its way out of its shell in great good spirits, this little plover is seeing everything for the first time. “My feet are verrrry far away. / And WHOA. / The world looks BIG today.” As the chick explores, Esbaum’s verse rhymes and rollicks: “[O]nce my down is fluffed and dry, / I take off running. / Don’t know why!” It zooms through fields, circling cows and trees; it gazes into a pond, figures out the concept of reflections, describes its own features and breaks into song. Mama pauses it for lunch but not for long: “Uh-oh. Gotta run again. / See you later, / don’t know when. / I’m learning—quickly!— how to steer / while darting here // and here / and here.” Using ink, pencil and soft watercolors, Corace shows the killdeer chick from very close up and from far away across a landscape, emphasizing how quickly it zips back and forth. Predominant tertiary colors with only small splashes of bright primaries emphasize the natural environment and balance the text’s high energy. Certain biological discoveries will amuse young readers (“I stop because…look out below! / Something’s falling from my… / Oh”), while adults will appreciate this baby bird’s similarity to human toddlers. Invigorating and ebullient. (Picture book. 2-4)

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WHAT WE DID FOR LOVE Resistance, Heartbreak, Betrayal

Farrant, Natasha Scarlet Voyage/Enslow (208 pp.) $17.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-62324-028-8

Set against the backdrop of World War II, Farrant’s first for teens (After Iris, 2013, etc.) captures the whirlwind of first love and the complications of taking action during a most dangerous time. With great anticipation, Arianne and her cousin Solange watch Luc Belleville and his mother arrive back in town after a five-year absence. Rumors as to why they’ve returned abound in their small French town, Samaroux. Arianne and Luc were once childhood friends, but their last meeting ended in a fight. Now reunited, they fall in love, a romance that grows and blossoms during visits to an abandoned house. The novel unfolds like a movie, as readers are privy to the thoughts of other characters: There is Romy, who is hopelessly in love with Arianne; Paul, Arianne’s little brother, who spies for Romy; and Alois, the German soldier who grapples with wartime guilt and perhaps deserves to be the focus of his own novel. By the book’s third act, the plot centers on how Luc’s decision to help the Resistance and its consequences affect the whole town. While the final chapters are heartbreaking, Farrant manages to slip in beauty during a fearsome scene with Paul that offers hope to an unimaginable conclusion: “Sun danced on ash, a pillar of light.” A worthwhile addition to historical romance that honors one real French town’s tragic and true event. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE!

Federle, Tim Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-1-4424-4693-9 Goodbye, Jankburg…hello, Broadway! Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster is back (Better Nate Than Ever, 2013) in all his hilarious, vulnerable and heartwarming glory and headed “home” to the Great White Way. Cast as Alien Number Seven and the understudy to E.T.’s understudy in the hotly anticipated E.T.: The Musical, Nate is prepared to do whatever it takes to make his dreams come true—even if it means a lot more cardio than he’d ever imagined. Nate navigates the rocky terrain of pushy child stars, stage momzillas and secret admirers with a wit and charm well beyond his years. Readers of the first book will be delighted at the continuation of Nate’s practice of substituting names of Broadway flops as swearwords, which he kindly explains for the kirkus.com

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Journey to the stars with

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MARTIN & MAHALIA 978-0-316-07013-3 • ONCE UPON A MEMORY 978-0-316-20816-1 • THE CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FOREST 978-0-316-05357-0 • THE DARK 978-0-316-18748-0 • MR. TIGER GOES WILD 978-0-316-20063-9 • SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY 978-0-316-21058-4 • THE FIRST DRAWING 978-0-316-20478-1 • MARC BROWN’S PLAYTIME RHYMES 978-0-316-20735-5 SUGAR 978-0-316-04305-2 • PI IN THE SKY 978-0-316-08916-6 • THE TORTOISE & THE HARE 978-0-316-18356-7 THE SASQUATCH ESCAPE 978-0-316-20934-2 • LING & TING SHARE A BIRTHDAY 978-0-316-18405-2

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uninitiated. While humor is clearly one of Federle’s strengths, what sets this novel apart is how beautifully he explores Nate’s vulnerabilities, particularly with regard to his sexuality, his family and his own self-esteem. Lines such as, “I never sit when I’m on the phone with Dad, because it’s the only time I get to practice what it feels like to stand up to him,” speak volumes about Nate and will surely resonate with any reader who has ever felt out of place in his own home…or in his own skin. Nate will sing and dance his way right into readers’ hearts. This is an encore performance that will leave them standing in the aisles. (Fiction. 9-14)

WE CAN HELP PROTECT MOUNTAIN GORILLAS

Francine, Gabriella with Vayanian, Solara Illus. by Velikan, Phil BBM Books (32 pp.) $15.00 | Dec. 3, 2013 978-1-938504-02-0 Series: Let’s Make a Difference One of a string of unsubtle appeals for sympathy for rare animals, followed by appeals for money, aimed at recently independent readers (We Can Help Orangutans, 2013). The book opens by introducing baby gorilla Pikoe and his mother, Izuba (his father, Kunga, and other members of the family group put in a later appearance). The simply phrased narrative mixes basic facts about mountain gorilla traits and behavior with anthropomorphizing or sentimental lines like “Gorillas are sad that their homes are being destroyed,” and “All babies need their mother’s love.” The illustrations alternate photos of gorillas and human helpers in the wild with collaged scenes made by placing crudely drawn cartoon figures of children against painted or photographed streets and other backdrops. A tribute to Dian Fossey (not mentioning how she died) and her foundation leads to the suggestion that children create a collection jar and have an adult forward the proceeds to one or more of the zoos and wildlife conservation organizations in the long list at the end. Worthy of cause, openly manipulative in method. (Informational picture book. 5- 7)

ANGEL DE LA LUNA AND THE 5TH GLORIOUS MYSTERY

Galang, M. Evelina Coffee House (304 pp.) $12.00 paper | Nov. 5, 2013 978-1-56689-333-6

Adolescence, family issues, music and revolutionary politics all sink sharp hooks into a Filipino teenager at the beginning of the 21st century. Related with a rich mixture of English, “Taglish” and Tagalog dialogue, Angel’s tale begins with the sudden loss of her 82

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Papang (father) and the ensuing departure of her Ináy (mother) for America. Switching time and locale halfway through, Angel flies from Manila to Chicago two years later, just before her 16th birthday, only to discover that she has a new stepfather and baby brother. In a narrative rush propelled by grief and anger, Angel chronicles hard times struggling to support herself, her little sister, Lila, and her grandmother Lola Ani while attending a convent school run by activist nuns who lead politicized students out in demonstrations against the Estrada regime. In Chicago, she conducts a cold war at home while facing culture shock and sparking a student walkout at her new school. In both countries, Angel is deeply embedded in webs of close-knit community and extended family. References to then-current politics mix with explicit, shocking testimonials from elders who were brutally used as “Comfort Women” by Japanese soldiers in World War II. Along with these, Galang folds Filipino food, dress, sights and customs into her narrative. As a result, and particularly because the meanings of the non-English lines and expressions are not always clear in context, events and characters are often outshone by their milieu. The multilingual text will be a stumbling block for many readers, but it’s a vivid portrait of a culture, with particular focus on its women. (afterword, study questions) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

EUGENE BULLARD World’s First Black Fighter Pilot

Greenly, Larry NewSouth (160 pp.) $19.95 | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1-58838-280-1

At the beginning of the 20th century, a young African-American runs away to France and becomes heroically involved in both world wars. Eugene Bullard’s father’s stories about racial freedom in France resonated with the boy, and he left home determined to experience it. He stowed away on a ship to Aberdeen, Scotland, worked the docks and learned to box in Liverpool, England, and eventually made his way to Paris. As World War I approached, Bullard joined the French Foreign Legion, received aviation training and became a pilot in the French Air Service. Between the two world wars, Bullard remained in Paris, working as a boxer, a musician, and nightclub and gym owner, but once World War II began, he joined the Resistance. After being wounded, Bullard returned to the United States, where he remained for the rest of his life. Eugene Bullard had many fascinating adventures that will engage readers, but the scant sourcing and admittedly fabricated dialogue limit this as informational text. Greenly references a biography that used Bullard’s memoir and interviews, but readers have no way to determine what was supported by that work or by others. There is little explanation about the larger African-American expatriate community in Paris. kirkus.com

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“Silhouetted ferns, birds and trees appear and recede in spooky, disorienting fashion, visible in both directions through the many semitransparent pages.” from hansel and gretel

Though shaky as nonfiction, when read as historicalfiction, this is a worthwhile introduction to a decorated hero of two world wars who overcame obstacles in difficult times. (photographs, French pronunciation guide, index) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

HANSEL AND GRETEL

Grimm, The Brothers Illus. by Schenker, Sybille Adapt. by West, Martin Minedition (52 pp.) $29.99 | Dec. 1, 2013 978-988-8240-54-8

A sumptuous edition of the old fairy tale uses striking design to place readers in the forest with the children. The title is laser cut into the all-black cover in a Gothic script that, pleasingly, makes “Hansel and Gretel” look much like

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“Hansel und Gretel”—the first of many touches that tell readers this is no ordinary book. The stitching of the case is in orange thread that is visible through the clear plastic overlay that protects the cover. The orange appears again, through the die-cut window of the poor woodcutter’s cottage, seen in silhouette against a lowering sky. From the outside, it looks cozy, but with the turn of the page, readers see the wicked stepmother with finger crooked, talonlike, against the now-ominous orange background. This page is semitransparent; a flock of birds can be seen taking flight on the next page. Silhouetted ferns, birds and trees appear and recede in spooky, disorienting fashion, visible in both directions through the many semitransparent pages. Delicate pencil and ink drawings complement the heavy silhouettes, which are reminiscent of the work of Nikki McClure. The witch’s cottage itself is a wild crazy quilt of patterns (including a bit of digitally collaged candy bar) placed on a deceptively safe-looking chintz background. Adapted by West from a public-domain edition of the tale, the text has an appropriately old-fashioned feel that supports Schenker’s masterful interpretation. Gorgeous. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)

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“The grisly details are immediately offset by small-town quirkiness and a thick Wisconsin accent, don’tcha know.” from no one else can have you

TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM

line’s snarky tone. At this point, however, the story loses its steam as Mama wonders what will become of her once her offspring are independent, and the baby penguins reassure her that she will simply “be our Mama!” Despite the undeniable focus on the adult in the story, the uncluttered, whimsical watercolors are inviting to child readers throughout. A sweet, if uneven, penguin picture book. (Picture book. 3-5)

Grimm, The Brothers Illus. by Zwerger, Lisbeth Translated by Bell, Anthea Minedition (96 pp.) $29.99 | Nov. 1, 2013 978-988-8240-53-1

High production values give this mix of new and recycled translations and illustrations a suitably sumptuous air. Printed on coated stock and placed within spacious margins, the ruled blocks of text present as refined an appearance as the feathery, atmospherically detached scenes on most facing pages. Like Zwerger’s figures, which are nearly all small on the page and tend to look off into the distance, Bell’s translations are more often lyrical than intimate or earthy: “Once upon a time, when wishes could still come true, there was a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so lovely that the sun itself, although it had seen so much, marveled at her beauty whenever it shone on her face.” “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Bremen Town Musicians” and “Seven Ravens” were previously published in separate, somewhat different, English-language editions. In addition to these, the 11 tales here include “Hans My Hedgehog” and others rarely found outside much larger collections—and one surprise, the story of the Pied Piper, dubbed “The Children of Hamelin” after its German title in the Grimms’ Deutsche Sagen. A belated companion to Zwerger’s Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1992, 2006), similarly elegant of design and equally fine for reading alone or aloud. (introduction) (Fairy tales. 9-13)

BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA

Guion, Melissa Illus. by Guion, Melissa Philomel (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 2, 2014 978-0-399-16365-4

Mama Penguin loves her babies, but keeping up with all of their activities has her plain worn out. Playing the part of a contemporary soccer mom, Mama Penguin is “very busy taking care of everybody.” Subsequent pages reveal swimming, sliding and waddling lessons, which are then followed by preening practice and fishing. By the time the last activity arrives, a picture of a beleaguered-looking Mama seems to contradict the accompanying text: “And everyone loved Saturday squawking!” In fact, Mama takes a much-needed nap in a spread depicting her prostrate on the ground with one eye closed and a single baby penguin standing watchfully nearby. The text then assures readers that Mama, now refreshed, is very proud of her babies, and she muses about how one day they’ll be able to do all the things they’re learning as well as she can. “Maybe even better,” one of the babies pipes up; the sweetness of the accompanying picture mitigates the 84

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INTO THE WILDERNESS

Hager, Mandy Pyr/Prometheus Books (335 pp.) $17.99 | $11.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-61614-863-8 978-1-61614-864-5 e-book Series: Blood of the Lamb, 2 Volume 2 of any post-apocalyptic series is the epic journey from frying pan to fire, and Maryam’s harrowing adventure delivers. It was only sensible to flee the Holy City, where the white rulers were draining the blood of Maryam’s people to save their own lives. Now Ruth, Joseph and Lazarus must fight to survive as they sail though a potentially depopulated Pacific. They’re a mismatched set: “two brown Blessed Sisters, two white Apostles,” plague-stricken Joseph, believer Ruth, skeptical Maryam and Lazarus, whom Maryam had witnessed attempting rape in the first book (The Crossing, 2013). They’ll need to work together to survive the surprises that await outside the Holy City’s long isolation. In a land once known as Australia, they encounter violence, apathy, cruelty and foulmouthed racism oozing filth across every conversation. After the mystical colonialist violence of the Holy City, the dangers of the Confederated Territory for Christian Territorials (where unsubtle, occasionally explicit comparisons to present-day troubles abound) cast an unforgiving lens on the modern world. The new villainies Maryam encounters make more sense than her origin story—a modern indigenous population too-easily tricked by white missionaries—and make for a more thought-provoking dystopia. Though the focus too often shifts from Maryam’s quest to differentiating good white people from bad, ultimately this dystopia will please fans of the genre and leave them awaiting Maryam’s trilogy-ending heroics. (Post-apocalyptic romance. 13-16)

NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU

Hale, Kathleen HarperTeen (384 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-06-221119-4 978-0-06-221122-4 e-book Murder has hit Friendship, Wis., (population once 689, now 688) hard; Kippy Bushman hits back harder to find the murderer in this Fargo-like debut. kirkus.com

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The 16-year-old is still grieving her mother, who died years ago, when BFF Ruth Fried is found killed in a local cornfield. The grisly details are immediately offset by small-town quirkiness and a thick Wisconsin accent, don’tcha know. While the community’s long list of scorned female teens and the father of one of those teens, inept Sheriff Staake, are ready to indict the high school’s resident scoundrel, Kippy has other theories. When Ruth’s mother gives her Ruth’s journal “to redact the sex parts,” Kippy learns more about Ruth’s clandestine escapades, as well as Ruth’s sometimes-disparaging remarks toward her. The only person who shares Kippy’s desire for the truth and who understood Ruth’s difficult personality is Davey, Ruth’s older brother, who’s returned from active military duty, dishonorably discharged and without a finger. As Kippy goes undercover, her wry humor helps her cope with her touchy-feely, middle school–guidance-counselor father (whose pamphlets and self-help groups don’t seem to cover serial killers), her feelings for Davey, her complicated relationship with Ruth and some harrowing situations that leave the heart pounding. The small town’s big secrets provide enough red herrings to keep readers guessing. Can a murder mystery be funny? You betcha! (Mystery. 14 & up)

ANYTHING TO HAVE YOU

Harbison, Paige Harlequin Teen (304 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-373-21088-6

An insightful examination of a longtime friendship soured by romance and personality conflicts. Natalie, the serious one, has been best friends with Brooke, the wild one, for years. Natalie can’t get over her attraction to Brooke’s boyfriend, Aiden, but she does control her actions. When Brooke is finally able to drag Natalie to a wild party, Natalie drinks too much and blacks out, waking to realize that she had sex the night before—but she cannot remember anything about the encounter. She assumes she slept with handsome Eric, who seems truly attracted to her, and continues to spend innocent friendly time with Aiden. Brooke knows that Natalie’s more compatible with Aiden than she is, but she’s determined to defend her territory even as she flirts with other boys. Alternately related by Natalie and Brooke with real-world frankness, the plot covers events through both girls’ eyes, delivering full portraits of each. Readers will be able to spot the flaws in each character and perhaps will guess the book’s surprise, but the emphasis is on character development, not suspense. How do the girls react to undercurrents of emotions that each feels but cannot discuss? Harbison’s good, solid prose displays real insight into the dynamics of the girls’ friendship. With characters and situations readers will recognize, Harbison scores. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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SPIRIT OF A MOUNTAIN WOLF

Hawke, Rosanne Scarlet Voyage/Enslow (208 pp.) $17.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-62324-033-2

After a devastating earthquake, a Pakistani mountain boy is inadvertently sold into slavery. All 14-year-old Abdur-Razaq Nadeem wants in life is to herd goats and sheep in the Kala Dahka (Pakistan’s Black Mountains) in peace and to one day be married to the lovely Feeba. But when an earthquake wipes out both his immediate family and his bride-to-be, he remembers his father’s dying words urging him to find his Uncle Javaid in Rawalpindi. In the earthquake’s immediate aftermath, Mrs. Daud, Feeba’s mother, confusedly accepts money from a man promising to find Razaq a good job in the big city. Though he’s soon tangled in a series of horrific work situations, each worse than the last, Razaq never gives up hope of reconnecting with his uncle, and his uncle never gives up looking for him, despite the seemingly impossible odds of success. Telling her story in the third person, Hawke is unflinching and explicit in her descriptions of Razaq’s experiences with forced labor, sexual exploitation and violence. Readers will be drawn into Razaq’s predicament, and they will admire his mountainwolf–like determination to survive. This riveting story depicts the heartbreaking lives of children caught in a harsh world of trafficking and prostitution. (Fiction. 14-18)

WHY WE TOOK THE CAR

Herrndorf, Wolfgang Translated by Mohr, Tim Levine/Scholastic (256 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-545-48180-9 978-0-545-58636-8 e-book Social misfits hit the Autobahn. Mike Klingenberg has just finished another boring, socially awkward year in middle school and is staring down a solitary two-week stint at home, thanks to his mother’s latest round of rehab and his father’s “business trip” with a suspiciously attractive personal assistant. Just as he’s watering the lawn, imagining himself lord of a very small manor in suburban Berlin, class reject Tschick shows up in a “borrowed” old Soviet-era car, and the boys hatch a plan to hit the road. Mike’s rich interior life—he meditates on beauty and the meaning of life and spins self-mocking fantasies of himself as a great essayist—hasn’t translated well to the flirtatious physical swagger required by 8th grade. Tschick, meanwhile, is a badly dressed Russian immigrant who often shows up to school reeking of alcohol and who is also given to profound leaps of psychological insight. Their road trip (destination: Wallachia, a German euphemism for “the middle of nowhere”; also a region of Romania) is peopled by unexpected, often |

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bizarre, largely benign characters who deepen Mike’s appreciation for humanity and life. Each episode in the boys’ journey grows more outrageous, leading readers to wonder how far they’ll go before coming to a literal screeching (and squealing) halt. In his first novel translated into English, Herrndorf sits squarely and triumphantly at the intersection of literary tall tale and coming-of-age picaresque. (Fiction. 14-17)

BREAKAWAY

Hirsch, Jeff Scholastic (192 pp.) $12.99 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 1, 2014 978-0-545-52142-0 978-0-545-55871-6 e-book Series: 39 Clues: Unstoppable, 2 The Cahill kids continue their clue quest to save the world. Though still a teenager, Amy Cahill’s the leader of the rich and powerful Cahill family, so it falls to her and her younger brother, Dan, to decode the notebook of family founder Olivia Cahill. They need to find the ingredients to the antidote to the family’s special serum, which has fallen into the hands of evil media mogul J. Rutherford Pierce, thanks to Sammy Mourad, a distant Cahill cousin. Having secured the first ingredient (Nowhere to Run, 2013), the duo and a few friends and relatives jet off to find the second, a supposedly extinct grain called silphium. Pierce’s men (most of whom have taken the serum and now enjoy superhuman strength and intelligence) follow in hot pursuit, and Pierce’s media holdings spread lies about Amy and her cohorts. Can Amy and Dan get along, find the ingredients and keep their friends safe? Can they even survive? Hirsch picks up where Jude Watson’s first volume (of this new 39 Clues quartet) left off, with more improbable adventures and shallow characters. The series that has, in the past, been penned by some powerhouse authors wears a bit thin in this 19th book. Characters pop up with no introductions or backgrounding, and little time’s spent catching readers up on past events. Topping the online game and trading cards, look for a movie next year. Only for series fans who haven’t moved on. (Mutiplatform fiction. 9-12)

CRUEL BEAUTY

Hodge, Rosamund Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-06-222473-6 An absorbing, beautifully complex retelling of the “Cupid and Psyche” myth. Nyx Triskelion has been raised to marry and defeat the Gentle Lord, the tyrant held responsible for sundering her land from the rest of the world and 86

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controlling the demons that haunt it. Nyx is distressed to find herself attracted to her beautiful new husband, Ignifex, whom she has been taught to loathe, while simultaneously developing feelings for his servant, Shade. But this is no fairy-tale romance, and Nyx remains true to her promise, making several attempts on Ignifex’s life that only succeed in entertaining him and eliciting flirtatious responses. As Nyx unravels the truth behind the isolation of her land, as well as the very existence of both Ignifex and Shade, it becomes clear that only when she accepts her feelings can she face the truth: She must choose between following her heart and fulfilling her duty. A rather dramatic first encounter between Nyx and Ignifex belies what comes after— an intricate and arresting tale well worth readers’ time. Twining themes of self-awareness and the duality of human nature, Hodge succeeds in creating a refreshingly human and real protagonist and love interest. They are both strong and flawed, and they—even more strikingly—embrace those qualities in themselves and each other. Engrossing. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

1 YEAR, 100 POUNDS My Journey to a Better, Happier Life

Holcombe, Whitney Beyond Words/Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (208 pp.) $18.99 | $9.99 paper | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-58270-409-8 978-1-58270-408-1 paper The title promises a weight-loss memoir, but readers will find a flawed how-to

guide instead. At 14, Whitney Holcombe discovered she weighed 230 pounds and resolved to change. Starting by walking, she began the hard work and discipline to lose 100 pounds in a year. But after one chapter giving the basics of Holcombe’s story, this work shifts into a guide to losing weight, starting with the proverbial “wake-up call” and setting goals. Losing weight through exercise and eating healthily are addressed with some good information, including workout diagrams and primers on how to read nutrition labels. Unfortunately, Holcombe’s tone throughout the work may well put readers off; it’s an immature, “I know best” voice that evokes bossy trainers like Jillian Michaels. But there’s no empathy for readers’ struggles—her story about appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show and condemning her fellow guests for choosing weight-loss surgery over exercise and portion control is but one example. This blandly generic weight-loss guide doesn’t have enough heart to connect with readers. (weight-loss resources) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

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“The layered story evolves naturally as Emily’s creative courage first unravels and then reassembles her understanding of what has happened to her and what part she has played.” from and we stay

BUILD, DOGS, BUILD A Tall Tail

Horvath, James Illus. by Horvath, James Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $15.99 | $16.89 PLB | Dec. 31, 2013 978-0-06-218967-7 978-0-06-2186968-4 PLB

Those canines are at it again (Dig, Dogs, Dig, 2013), this time demolishing an old apartment building and constructing a new one in its stead. After meeting the crew on the endpapers, readers dive right into the project with the enthusiastic dogs, the rhythm and rhyme of the verses building momentum. The wrecking ball first does its job, then the crew clears the site and begins construction, each different task requiring a different type of truck—bulldozer, dump truck, crane, concrete mixer, forklift, pumper—though not all are named in the text. Great vocabulary will really test young builders’ knowledge, though those not construction-savvy may need an adult to help them master the terms: rubble, barricades, tier, girders, welding, riveting, fixtures, terrace. Small details in Horvath’s brightly colored digital illustrations will likely draw readers back for repeated looks: As in the dogs’ first outing, a black cat lurks on every page, joining the crew on the rear endpapers. The energy reaches a crescendo when a truck full of balls crashes near the site—“fetch, dogs, fetch!”—giving readers yet another thing to look for in the pages that follow. While the construction detail does not reach the level of Sally Sutton’s Roadwork (2008), this is a rollicking, energetic read that will pump up kids’ enthusiasm for building. Order, grown-ups, order. (Picture book. 4-8)

AND WE STAY

Hubbard, Jenny Delacorte (240 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-385-74057-9 978-0-375-89943-0 e-book 978-0-375-98955-1 PLB A strong, gentle, smart and powerful book about suicide’s aftermath. Emily Beam is no goody-goody. She breaks the rules of the Amherst School for Girls—a boarding school in Massachusetts where her parents have placed her after her boyfriend Paul’s suicide and her abortion—when she feels she needs to. But the rules are broken in the service of her agency. Emily is driven to write out her grief and horror (Paul shot himself in front of her in her former school’s library) in private poems she models after her inspiration, Emily Dickinson (another onetime Amherst resident). Teasing out strands of the past and the present, Hubbard masterfully twines together a story of one girl’s journey to self-identity. In past-tense flashbacks, readers learn the circumstances of Emily and Paul’s relationship, while the poems Emily writes in her present-day environment infuse those |

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same circumstances with newly realized perceptions. The narrative switches to present tense when it relates Emily’s current life in boarding school, a fresh and unexplored world with emerging possibilities as well as potential pitfalls. The layered story evolves naturally as Emily’s creative courage first unravels and then reassembles her understanding of what has happened to her and what part she has played. As graceful as a feather drifting down, this lyrical story delivers a deep journey of healing on a tragic theme. (Fiction. 14-18)

IT WASN’T ME

Jeffers, Oliver Illus. by Jeffers, Oliver Philomel (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-399-25768-1 Series: Hueys, 2 The Hueys are back, and this time they’re testy. Jeffers opens his latest story about a cast of stick-limbed, jelly-bean–shaped, multicolored characters with the line: “The thing about the Hueys… / …was that most of the time they got along.” With this setup, the art on the next page then illustrates a time when they don’t. Jeffers eschews background detail and places the Hueys on empty white or monochromatic pages with just scribbled indications of ground and shadow as they stand about talking. The fearlessly spare setting enables the Hueys’ simple forms to stand out; speech balloons visually describe their mounting anger. (These are filled first with whimsical flying creatures and objects, then with expressive abstract scribbling to indicate anger and finally with hand-lettered script.) Finally, when a Huey named Gillespie happens upon the scene and asks, “What are you fighting for?” the conflict escalates as one after another denies blame, which gives rise to the book’s title. Gillespie, a peacemaker to his Huey core, persists and asks, “WHAT ARE you Fighting ABOUT?” This stumps his peers, and a page drained of all color captures the chagrined silence of this shift in the story. Not one to gloat or rub his cohorts’ faces in their pettiness, Gillespie quickly distracts his pals with an enticing invitation: “want to SEE a DEAD Fly?” And who wouldn’t? Want to SEE a GOOD Book? Read this one. (Picture book. 4-7)

ALMOST SUPER

Jensen, Marion Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $14.99 | $8.99 e-book | Jan. 21, 2014 978-0-06-220961-0 978-0-06-220963-4 e-book Inventively tweaking a popular premise, Jensen pits two Incredibles-style families with superpowers against each other—until a new challenge rises to unite them. |

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“Impressive complexity put artfully and respectfully within the grasps of young readers.” from thomas jefferson

The Johnsons invariably spit at the mere mention of their hated rivals, the Baileys. Likewise, all Baileys habitually shake their fists when referring to the Johnsons. Having long looked forward to getting a superpower so that he too can battle his clan’s nemeses, Rafter Bailey is devastated when, instead of being able to fly or something else cool, he acquires the “power” to strike a match on soft polyester. But when hated classmate Juanita Johnson turns up newly endowed with a similarly bogus power and, against all family tradition, they compare notes, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Both families regard themselves as the heroes and their rivals as the villains. Someone has been inciting them to fight each other. Worse yet, that someone has apparently developed a device that turns real superpowers into silly ones. Teaching themselves on the fly how to get past their prejudice and work together, Rafter, his little brother, Benny, and Juanita follow a well-laid-out chain of clues and deductions to the climactic discovery of a third, genuinely nefarious family, the Joneses, and a fiendishly clever scheme to dispose of all the Baileys and Johnsons at once. Can they carry the day? A solid debut: fluent, funny and eminently sequel-worthy. (Adventure. 10-12)

WEEDS FIND A WAY

Jenson-Elliott, Cindy Illus. by Fisher, Carolyn Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-4424-1260-6 978-1-4424-4126-2 e-book Adaptable weeds find ways to spread themselves and their seeds, to grow in strange places, and to be loved and admired. Mixed-media digital collage illustrations on double-page spreads follow a girl and her dog through a world of weeds, from seeds to flowers. Sometimes—as in an image of milkweed seeds shooting from a pod—these pictures focus on the weeds themselves; sometimes they include parts of the girl or dog; and some are full scenes. Weed seeds wait through a winter snow. They bake on hot sidewalks. They sprout “in a tangle of tree roots” and flower into “umbrellas of the finest white lace.” Some shatter and spread when pulled; others avoid being eaten, thanks to thorns and poisons. The hand-lettered alliterative text provides a simple introduction to the idea of weeds. With very few lines to each page, it reads aloud smoothly. The author, a Californiabased nature educator, includes a “Meet the Weeds” afterword, defining them as plants growing where they aren’t wanted and describing 24 common U.S. weeds, from dandelions to wild oats. A small, suggestive image accompanies each description. Neither formal introduction nor field guide, this unusual reminder of weeds’ admirable qualities nevertheless merits a place on the nature-study shelf of preschool and early-elementary classrooms. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

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FULL CIRCLE

Jones, Allan Illus. by Chalk, Gary Greenwillow/HarperCollins (176 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 12, 2014 978-0-06-200639-4 Series: Six Crowns, 6 Completing their quest, Trundle and Esmeralda literally reconfigure their whole world. Five thin volumes ago, Trundle was a humble hedgehog working as a lamplighter on a cabbagefarming planet, and Esmeralda was the scrappy stranger who yanked him into a rough-and-tumble adventure (Trundle’s Quest, 2011). Traveling by skyboat across their archipelago of sky islands, which is called the Sundered Lands, the two hedgehogs seek the sixth hidden crown from an old legend. They don’t know exactly what reuniting the six crowns will do, but they know they have to accomplish it before the pirates do—not to mention Esmeralda’s evil aunt, who wants to run the world. Machinery has “cogwheels and gears and ratchets and sprockets”; bad guys carry “muskets and pistols and blunderbusses.” Loud explosions and thud-and-blunder battles supply plenty of bluster (though the text leans a bit hard on exclamation points) while moving quickly and predictably enough to suit fans of the formula. A few refreshing surprises break the mold without undermining the narrative structure’s comforting safety. As it has been for the whole series, ethnic stereotyping—“I’m a Roamany….I have the sixth sense”—is shameful. Trundle and Esmeralda sail “sunward beyond Nightreef ” and end up unwittingly recombining the Sundered Lands into a single planet so breezily that readers may not even question the whereabouts of, well, the archipelago’s entire population. A happily fanciful wrap-up, with a whole new adventure likely to come. (Animal steampunk. 7-10)

THOMAS JEFFERSON Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

Kalman, Maira Illus. by Kalman, Maira Nancy Paulsen Books (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-399-24040-9 Beautiful and a little sad: the complex, brilliant, flawed nature of the third U.S. president. Kalman’s rich, impressionist colors and lively lines offer glimpses: Monticello; the chamber where the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia; portraits of Jefferson’s wife and of Sally Hemings. The image of Jefferson on horseback riding along a lane at Monticello, redbud in bloom, seems both immediate and long past. Kalman’s poetic presentation conveys succinctly what a longer text might: Jefferson was a lover of books, an autodidact and an aesthete. His house was both functional kirkus.com

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and beautiful. His personal life was layered with sadness: Only two of six legitimate children survived past childhood; his wife died young. Kalman doesn’t speculate on the source of Jefferson’s passion for the ideals of democracy and liberty yet conveys clearly his contribution to the growing nation as founding father and president. But this intriguing man was a slave owner and father to children whose mother and aunts were severely oppressed. Kalman’s intimate address to listeners and readers works well here: A charming, earlier narrative acknowledgment that peas have their appeal (as they did for Jefferson the gardener) gives way to the thorny personal realization that someone admired fails profoundly to meet expectations: “Our hearts are broken,” is stated flatly next to a ledger of payments to enslaved residents of Monticello. Impressive complexity put artfully and respectfully within the grasps of young readers. (Picture book/biography. 7-11)

NUMBERS EVERYWHERE

Kaufman, Elliott Photos by Kaufman, Elliott Abbeville Kids (32 pp.) $12.95 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-7892-1157-6

In an elegant and original expression of a well-worn topic, renowned architectural photographer Kaufman scours the natural and man-made landscapes for accidental representations of numbers. A grain silo, a striking red plow, a mailbox, leaves, flowers, shadows, ice, wood, architectural details, even drains and cracks in the pavement; all are surprising and evocative photographic representations of the numerals 0-9, simple mathematical symbols and a few simple equations. No subject is too humble for Kaufman’s practiced lens. Recalling the I Spy photo books, this book encourages children to be observant and to look for numbers and mathematical symbols in the most unlikely places. In his introduction, Kaufman suggests children begin their “own hunt[s] for ‘accidental’ numbers and capture them with [their] own device[s].” The book assumes a close interaction with adults who can confirm children’s guesses at which number is depicted—a few would be tricky without help, but therein lies the fun. Unsullied by text, this purely photographic numbers book with its attractive die-cut cover is a visual feast and will be treasured by kids with an eye for detail. (Picture book. 3-6)

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THE GOSPEL OF WINTER

Kiely, Brendan McElderry (304 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 21, 2014 978-1-4424-8489-4

In a lyrical and hard-hitting exploration of betrayal and healing, the son of a Connecticut socialite comes to terms with his abuse at the hands of a beloved priest. From the moment readers see Aidan escape his mother’s Christmas Eve party to snort Adderall in his absent father’s opulent office, it is clear that the teen is unhappy. Some of the reasons emerge when Aidan witnesses Father Greg, a priest he greatly admires, in an intimate—and, refreshingly, not graphically described—moment with a younger boy. The first thing Aidan feels in reaction to the sight is hurt that Aidan himself is not the only boy to have received Father Greg’s attention. Only over time, and through the cracks of Aidan’s denial and attempts to ignore the truth, do readers begin to see other reactions: anger, disgust, the need to re-enact Father Greg’s coercions with his peers. The story is set in late 2001 and early 2002, and the news stories of the time—the 9/11 attacks, the capture of John Walker Lindh, and eventually, devastatingly, the Catholic Church abuse scandals—are woven in easily and seamlessly. Each of Aidan’s relationships is carefully and subtly drawn, revealed slowly through Aidan’s elegant, pained and often circumspect narration. Often bleak, eventually hopeful and beautifully told. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

SPELL ROBBERS

Kirby, Matthew J. Scholastic (272 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-545-50226-9 978-0-545-50229-0 e-book Series: Quantum League, 1 When 12-year-old Ben joins an afterschool science club, he has no idea that the price of membership will be the loss of everyone he loves. Ben has always been a science nerd, but when his abilities in quantum mechanics prove to be more than just academic, it is only a matter of time before his proficiency makes him a target for some very dangerous people. Ben and his new friend Peter are recruited into the Quantum League, a group of special agents with the ability to bend matter to their will or to “actuate.” Actuators can create fire from the air, manipulate another’s emotions, or “detach” a child from his or her family, severing all connections and even memories. When a rival group kidnaps Ben’s mentor and steals a dangerous device, he agrees to help the League if they will reattach him to his mother. This highenergy spy story is enhanced by the addition of scientific theory |

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(if rather unsteadily grounded) and authentic characters. Ben’s integrity, bravery and desire to forgo his special-agent status for his mother differentiate him from other familiar genre heroes. Unfortunately, uneven pacing, loose threads and a meandering plot are ultimately the story’s undoing. An open ending promises a sequel. Refreshingly different in some ways but ultimately unsatisfying. (Adventure. 8-12)

NO SURRENDER SOLDIER

Kohler, Christine Merit Press (208 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 18, 2014 978-1-4405-6561-8

Some serious moral choices confront a 15-year old Chamorro boy on Guam when he discovers a Japanese soldier still in hiding almost 30 years after World War II. It’s 1972, and Kiko has problems. He’s crazy about his classmate Daphne, but he can’t work up the courage to approach her. His grandfather appears to be developing serious dementia, and Kiko can’t control the old man when he’s assigned to watch him. He misses his brother, Sammy, an officer serving in Vietnam, and he doesn’t feel ready to go through with his upcoming confirmation into the Catholic Church. Worst of all, he learns from his grandfather that when Guam was occupied during the war, a Japanese soldier raped his mother. Meanwhile, Isamu Seto has been surviving in the jungle since the war, now living in a dugout tunnel near Kiko’s house. Seto feels unworthy because he did not commit suicide at the end of the war and still fears capture, having vowed never to surrender to the “Amerikans.” Both characters form new understandings when they encounter one another. Kohler alternates chapters between Kiko and Seto, writing Kiko’s dialogue, especially, in a dialect that rings true. Although written in simple language, the story gracefully weaves parallels between Kiko and Seto, giving it depth and complexity. An unusual, resonant debut. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

DEFY

Larson, Sara B. Scholastic (336 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-545-59758-6 978-0-545-59763-0 e-book Disguises, love triangles and magical battles are classic tropes in fantasy for teens, but this debut fails to lift them beyond the tiresome. Alex, the youngest and deadliest warrior in Prince Damian’s guard, has a secret: “He” is actually Alexa, hiding her sex to avoid the horrific “breeding houses” 90

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that supply fodder for Antion’s endless war. Damian also has a secret: He isn’t really a selfish brat, and he enlists Alexa in a dangerous game of intrigue, deception and betrayal. While she bemoans that pretending to be a boy has become second nature, Alexa’s behavior is stereotypically—unpleasantly—“girly”: throwing tantrums, crying, pouting, cowering, obsessing over her romantic prospects and (despite her vaunted fighting prowess) constantly needing rescue by men, all of whom see through her masquerade. The secondary characters are mere plot puppets; the villains are ludicrously evil-for-evil’s-sake, and the heroes exist only to be desperately in love with Alexa, if never articulating any reason for their devotion. The worldbuilding is equally sketchy; while the dank fecundity of tropical Antion is sensuously conveyed, the narrative timeline is confusing, the magical system arbitrary and the political structure nonsensical. Several subplots go nowhere. It takes more than good guys and bad guys to create an epic adventure; more than heated smooches to portray a resonant romance; and more than acting badass with a sword to be a strong female protagonist. (Fantasy. 12-18)

MANOR OF SECRETS

Longshore, Katherine Point/Scholastic (336 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-545-56758-9 978-0-545-56760-2 e-book Upstairs, Lady Charlotte pines for a more adventurous, purposeful life, while downstairs, kitchen maid Janie doesn’t allow herself to consider any possibilities other than servitude. The Manor is home to the Edmondses and all of the servants they require. Charlotte, age 16, understands that her mother, the icy Lady Diane wants her to marry dull Lord Andrew, but it’s a handsome footman who catches her eye and kisses her. She also forges a friendship with maid Janie, drawn to her adventurousness as well as her practical skills, though the admiration is not mutual. Alternating chapters reflect the two girls’ perspectives. The arrival of Charlotte’s cosmopolitan aunt, the Lady Beatrice, creates new questions in Charlotte’s mind about societal expectations and also about the mysterious coolness between Beatrice and Diane. References to corsets, airplanes, Worth gowns and “suffragettes” place the tale around 1910, as Old World values were beginning to shift. Longshore works in interesting details about period food and clothing, but characters’ speech and behavior often seem off, as, for instance, when servants riff on Shakespeare and the oh-so-proper Lady Diane refers to a “shiner.” The choppy prose style relies heavily on sentence fragments: “This was a test. Of her fortitude. But also of her ability to disregard the wall that separated mistress from servant.” Pitched for Downton Abbey fans but lacking both the style and the accuracy. (Historical romance. 12-16)

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“As always, the story is full of spot-on dialogue that captures every enthusiastic remark or bashful comment added by these winning second graders.” from gooney bird and all her charms

GOONEY BIRD AND ALL HER CHARMS

Lowry, Lois Illus. by Thomas, Middy Houghton Mifflin (160 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-0-544-11354-1 Series: Gooney Bird Greene, 6

Gooney Bird is back for the sixth volume in this cleverly engaging series with a likable yet eccentric heroine at its center who happens to wear a “silver bracelet jingling with charms.” March is the month when the children in Mrs. Pidgeon’s class will learn about the human body. In her ever-helpful way, Gooney Bird arranges for her anatomy-professor uncle to lend the class a skeleton. After gasps, giggles, rapid-fire questions and lessons about the skeleton, the class decides to share their new visitor with the rest of the school, choosing appropriate places for each different part of the body. A lesson on the brain takes place in the library, the digestive system display is in the cafeteria, facts about muscles are shared in the gym, and the respiratory system is tested outside. The principal, teachers and kids enjoy these surprise lessons—except for one parent, who complains that the skeleton is inappropriate. When the skeleton goes missing, Gooney Bird swoops in to lead her class in an investigation of the mystery. As always, the story is full of spoton dialogue that captures every enthusiastic remark or bashful comment added by these winning second graders. It combines with a compelling story structure that is not only highly readable, but entertainingly informative. Gooney Bird, ever charming, is still a winner for those graduating from beginning chapter books to longer fare. (Fiction. 7-10)

WANDERVILLE

McClure, Wendy Razorbill/Penguin (224 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 23, 2014 978-1-59514-700-4 In 1904, three children from New York City’s Lower East Side are sent to Kansas on an orphan train. Jack’s father drinks and does not want him. Frances and her little brother, Harold, have no parents to care for them. They meet while boarding the train at Grand Central Station and start out on a journey fraught with unanswered questions while under the supervision of two matrons, one sympathetic and one coldhearted. When rumors spread about their placements, the three children jump the train in Kansas and meet a boy named Alexander. He has fashioned a children’s-only town for himself called Wanderville, building it with his imagination and stolen food. (Alexander refers to taking food from the nearby town as an act of liberation, a usage more suited to |

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the latter half of the century.) As it turns out, the rumors were true; the other children have been delivered to a Dickensian work farm. A dramatic rescue and sympathetic townspeople put a stop to the horrors, and the three orphans and Alexander are ready for their next adventure and book as they set out for California. The tale is fast-paced but superficial, and beyond the immediate appeal of its subject, it offers no sure sense of place or character development. Perhaps it’s intended as a fiction tie-in to Common Core Curriculum studies, but it’s not at all successful, compelling or memorable. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

INFINITE

Meadows, Jodi Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-06-206081-5 978-0-06-206083-9 e-book Series: Incarnate, 3 With hostility among Heart’s oldsouls toward newly born, unreincarnated children increasing, original newsoul Ana leads a revolution (Asunder, 2013, etc.). Ana now knows that the virtual immortality of the people of Heart has come at the cost of countless souls that will never be born. Together with two staunch friends, she and boyfriend Sam journey to dragon country, where Ana hopes to find help in their upcoming final battle against the godlike being behind Heart’s atrocity. Ana’s difficult negotiations with an uberprickly dragon are a real highlight. Unfortunately, they are too few when compared to the page-filling trek through the wilderness, where snow falls constantly but never seems to accumulate. During the journey, Ana and Sam experience the genre’s now–de rigueur estrangement of affection due to an utterly artificial misunderstanding. Though this serves to minimize the pages-long swoony clinches also demanded by the genre, it will irritate readers. An attempt to buttress the series’ worldbuilding with a couple of laughably inadequate paragraphs is too little, too late. Most problematic, though, is a climactic maneuver in which Ana, Sam and Meadows seem to have their cake and eat it too; the conclusion is both confusing and morally ambiguous, to say the least. As the setup and storyline will be thoroughly impenetrable to readers new to the series, this trilogy conclusion has an audience only in the first two books’ most avid fans. (Dystopian fantasy. 14 & up)

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Matt de la Peña

The teen writer leaps from quiet novels to a new thriller, trying not to lose the literary quotient By Jessie Grearson

Matt de la Peña says his new book came to him gradually, in a series of what ifs. What if he wrote about “the Big One” finally hitting California; but what if his main character was at sea working on a cruise ship when this disastrous quake struck? What if this central character was “nobody special, just a kid from the border”? From such creative speculations arose The Living, an action-packed page-turner that may strike readers familiar with de la Peña’s previous work as a radical departure. The author describes his previous four novels as “very quiet, leaning toward the literary side.” They have depicted the lives of working-class characters. His technique has been to convey “moments of grace, the dignity of characters growing up on the wrong side 92

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of the tracks,” he says. But after writing those books, de la Peña felt a new ambition: to “take those characters into a bigger context” and to “mute the race and class issues, at least a little, behind a bigger plot.” The plot of The Living, with Mexican-American Shy Espinoza as its central figure, is nothing if not big, and it grabs the reader from the book’s opening pages as Shy tries (unsuccessfully) to stop a suicidal businessman leaping from the Honeymoon Deck of a cruise ship. Soon, Shy finds himself facing a tsunami, with a leaky life raft amid shark-infested seas and a fast-spreading pandemic—all while trying to understand why a mysterious pharmaceutical company might be interested in a “nobody” like him. Though The Living’s suspenseful plot and rapid pace will quicken readers’ pulses, de la Peña remains true to a theme that has consistently fascinated him: the collision of race and culture. Here, he says, by having Shy and his friend (and not-so-secret heartthrob) Carmen working on a luxury cruise ship, he places the “haves and have-nots” side by side. “I really did want to work with the idea of mixed-race kids from rougher neighborhoods interacting with the extremely wealthy for the first time,” he says. But as Shy comes to understand, wealth only determines the “costumes” people wear; disaster is the great leveler that “strips all that away.” To fully explore Shy’s experience, de la Peña decided to take a one-week research cruise, but to his surprise, he couldn’t get his wife or a single friend to come along with him, even when he offered to pick up the tab for the trip (“they all thought cruises were too cheesy,” he explains). So the author found himself alone on the Lido Deck, eyed with suspicion by parents of teenage daughters and seated for dinner each night at a table of kirkus.com

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boisterous “older wives” with kids nearly his age who were “killing the wine.” Once his dinner companions figured out what he was doing on the cruise, they plied him with suggestions and details (“You should put this in your book,” or “guess what I saw today?”). Just like his cruise experience, de la Peña says writing his first action-adventure novel was, at times, uncomfortable. “I’ve never written a book with so much going on, with that page-turning quality.” Though, he adds with a wry laugh, “when I turned in the first draft, my editor said, ‘Wow Matt, you’ve managed to write an action book—with no action!’ So I said, ‘I’ll show her, man!’ And I started to try to bring it.” Bringing it, he says, meant learning how to close chapters at a thrilling point or a mysterious moment. “It was very interesting to work outside my comfort zone,” he explains. “I still think real writing is revising,” he says. “When I finish a book? That’s when I really figure out what the book’s about.” Working through multiple revisions is difficult, but de la Peña is no stranger to that process—he calls himself a “working class” writer. He isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves. “I didn’t grow up in an educated family; nobody had gone to college,” he says. “But one thing I did take from them: They clocked in every day. My dad never took a sick day. Ever.” Like his character Shy, de la Peña says he grew up maintaining a tough exterior that hid a lot beneath its surface. Few would have suspected that he wrote poetry in high school; most people saw him as an athlete (de la Peña went to college on a basketball scholarship). “I wrote all through high school and never showed anyone,” he confesses. “The weird thing was I was not a reader and hadn’t yet fallen in love with books—that didn’t happen until college—but I was writing a lot of spoken-word, hip-hop–y poetry. Very shallow, very on the surface, but I loved the rhythm of language.” In his junior year in high school, de la Peña encountered a teacher named Miss Blizzard; for his English final, she gave de la Peña not the exam he was expecting but an opportunity that changed his life. “She passed out the test to everyone but me; when I asked her why, she said, ‘I gave you an A on the test.’ Then she handed me 12 sheets of blank paper and said, ‘Just write for two hours. You don’t know this, but you can really write.’ It was the power of suggestion.” Her words stayed with him in college, where he found himself gravitating toward writing. “I remember telling myself, ‘Hey, Miss Blizzard thinks I can write.’ ” |

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Critics agree. In a starred review, Kirkus called The Living “an addictive page-turner and character-driven literary novel” that will leave readers waiting for the sequel that de la Peña’s working on now. Though he was thrilled about the star, de la Peña confesses it was the word “literary” that made him want to “hug every single person at the company.” “My one fear of writing a more ‘commercial’ novel is that people would not see it as literary,” he acknowledges. “For me, the literary value of a novel is the absolute most important part of a book I’m reading or writing—I just love the stuff that resonates long after you finish the story.” 9

Jessie C. Grearson is a freelance writer and writing teacher living in Falmouth, Maine. She is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

The Living de la Peña, Matt Random House (320 pp.) $17.99 | $20.99 PLB | Nov 12, 2013 978-0-385-74120-0 978-0-375-98991-9 PLB |

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NEVERWAS

Moore, Kelly; Reed, Tucker; Reed, Larkin Levine/Scholastic (320 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-545-43418-8 978-0-545-57632-1 e-book Series: Amber House Trilogy, 2 In this sequel to Amber House (2012), the creepy atmosphere of its predecessor segues into full-blown terror when its heroine finds herself in a world where Nazis and racism prevail. Picking up where Amber House left off, Sarah Parsons finds herself in a new version of history, created when she altered time by saving her beloved brother, Sammy, and her aunt, Maggie. While the people in her life are the same, the backdrop is different: Racism reigns where she lives in Maryland, part of what is now known as the American Confederation of States. As confusing memories and an overwhelming sense of déjà vu set in, Sarah realizes what she has done—and what she must now do. With the help of Amber House, the “echoes” of her ancestors, and her clairvoyant love interest, Jackson, she vows to once again change history and right the wrongs she inadvertently caused. This installment presents a stark departure from the preceding volume; gone are the creepy ghost children and specters in mirrors, now replaced by Sarah’s confident knowledge that these ghosts are there to guide her. The authors’ vision of this alternate, broken United States slowly comes into focus, rather as a ghost might materialize in the background. Sure, ghosts are scary, but a world where the Holocaust lasted for 75 years and may continue? That’s inconceivably frightening. A wild ride that leaves its readers breathless for the final installment. (Supernatural thriller. 13 & up)

BEING SLOANE JACOBS

Morrill, Lauren Delacorte (352 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-385-74179-8 978-0-375-98712-0 e-book 978-0-375-99024-3 PLB

leaving her sweatpants and swagger behind. Chapters alternate between Sloane Emily’s and Sloane Devon’s perspectives, giving each teen her own voice, personality and the space to unpack her heavy baggage from home, which includes family scandal, parental substance abuse and anger management issues. Although it feels far-fetched in some sections and certain small details of the identity switch don’t quite line up, the two strong teens carry the text, providing an enjoyable, on-ice adventure. A thoughtful reminder that it is difficult to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes—or in this case, skates. (Fiction. 12-16)

TALES FROM MY CLOSET

Moses, Jennifer Anne Scholastic (304 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-545-51608-2 978-0-545-51875-8 e-book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2001) meets The Devil Wears Prada (2003) in this lighter-than-air chick lit about five young fashionistas in training. Each chapter showcases one of the girls and highlights her personal issue with a telltale item from her closet. New girl Justine tries to hide the fact that her parents’ marriage is crumbling behind her obsession with a paper dress from the 1960s. Model-perfect Becka may own a Donna Karan raincoat, but it doesn’t protect her from her therapist mom’s intrusive questions. Stylish Robin wears pajamas as regular clothes since her shopping addiction has left her penniless. Sporty Polly is a championship swimmer, but she’s afraid the white designer jeans she adores will only make her large posterior look even wider. Preppy Ann hopes that if she ditches her Gap duds in favor of her grandmother’s vintage threads, she will lose the academic pressure her parents put on her as well. When they all come together in the same New Jersey high school, predictable drama ensues. And even though the endings aren’t all happy, the girls learn that they can depend on each other, and on their wardrobes, in times of crisis. While the voices are virtually indistinguishable from one another and the writing leans heavily toward the stereotypical and the clichéd, this artfully designed package doesn’t seem to care about general audiences. For junior Project Runway wannabes. (Fiction. 12-15)

An on-ice case of traded identities. When Sloane Emily Jacobs, the competitive figure skater from Washington, D.C., literally bumps into Sloane Devon Jacobs, the hockey jock from Philadelphia, the teens see it as more than a freaky coincidence; it’s an opportunity. The chance meeting happens in a Montreal hotel lobby the evening before each teen is to report to an intensive sports camp for her own discipline. However, both girls are dreading their camps, which prompts Sloane Emily to suggest an identity swap. Hilarity ensues as Sloane Emily foregoes leotards and spins for body checking and slap shots, and Sloane Devon adopts toe picks and tights, 94

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“Undulating rainbow colors, circular patterns and fibrous textures swirl across leaves, animal bodies and sky, creating a lively natural world.” from a book of babies

THE SITTIN’ UP

Moses, Shelia P. Putnam (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 9, 2014 978-0-399-25723-0 Moses presents a tale of sorrow and hope that recalls the simple pageant of life in a close-knit community of tobacco sharecroppers. Bean got his nickname after folks in Low Meadows began calling his best friend, Martha Rose, Pole, as in, “skinny as a beanpole.” Narrated by Bean in a folksy vernacular, the tale examines the two children as they approach a rite of passage for young people in their community—the right to participate in the weeklong mourning ritual known as “the sittin’ up.” The death of revered former slave Mr. Bro. Wiley at the beginning of the work turns the community on its ear and provides the backdrop for Bean and Pole’s coming-of-age. Through her quiet exploration of the ritual, Moses illustrates how people in desperate times find dignity and joy amid their trouble. The National Book Award winner and Coretta Scott King honoree folds the harsh reality of sharecropping into poetic language that is easy on the ear. That said, the book’s slow pace ultimately feels dreary. The constant filling in of back stories bogs the plot down, and the frequent colloquialisms begin to grate, like an affected Southern accent. Ultimately, the story is a victim of its own charm. Like sweet tea with sweet-potato pie, it’s too much sugar, not enough spice. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

A BOOK OF BABIES

Na, Il Sung Illus. by Na, Il Sung Knopf (24 pp.) $15.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-385-75290-9

Spring arrives, and a neighborly duck leaves his own nest of ducklings to greet new animal babies far and wide. He pops up in unexpected locales, observing infant fish, monkeys, zebras, lions, kangaroos, sea horses, polar bears and lizards—all snuggling with mommies and daddies in their habitats. Children never cease finding pleasure (and embedded reassurance) in domestic scenes brimming with love, which this cozy book provides in spades while also offering up some zoological facts in wonderfully plain language. Every double-page spread highlights differences in animal baby characteristics: Some babies arrive alongside their siblings, some come solo, some ride in their mommy’s pouches, some nestle in their daddy’s, some can walk right away, some get carried around, some have fur, and some have scales. Undulating rainbow colors, circular patterns and fibrous textures swirl across leaves, animal bodies and sky, creating a lively natural world. Here’s evidence that digital tinkering can yield richly layered, cohesive artwork |

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that captures the kaleidoscopic beauty of the animal kingdom, its shadows, lights, colors, textures and shapes. Night falls and finds all the newborns ready for sleep, nudging little readers to shut their eyes too. Sweet, stimulating illustrations offer up baby basics for bedtime. (Picture book. 2-4)

BABY BEAR

Nelson, Kadir Illus. by Nelson, Kadir Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-06-224172-6 The award-winning Nelson turns from nuanced treatments of historical subjects to this exploration of a classic preschool trope: a lost animal’s search for home. Baby Bear wanders before a huge, rising full moon, encountering a succession of forest animals. Each—whether a frog caught midmunch or a towering, pensive moose—offers a bit of gentle advice. Strung together, these gems could stand as a guide to life for readers of all ages: Retrace your steps. Trust yourself. Hug a tree. Listen to your heart. Climb a little higher. Sing a song. Look up and keep going. Yet owing to Baby Bear’s childlike vulnerability, all this imparted wisdom can be psychically tough to implement in the moment. There’s poignancy in certain spreads, in which Baby Bear tries enacting just-received advice. When Moose asks “Hello, Baby Bear. / What are you doing?” Baby Bear demurs: “Uh, nothing.” (The cub’s hugging a tree, on counsel of a couple of squirrels.) Nelson’s marvelous oils play with light and alternating perspective. Against the starlit, velvet-blue sky, the luminous moon picks out the whiskers and tawny fur of Mountain Lion. It’s dawn when Salmon leads Baby Bear through the final leg of the journey home. Integral endpapers frame the story: At front, golden moonlight pools in a river bend; at back, the sun’s rays pour over the ridge. Children will enjoy spotting several of the narrative’s animals in miniature. Resonant. (Picture book. 4-7)

APHRODITE Goddess of Love

O’Connor, George Illus. by O’Connor, George Neal Porter/First Second (80 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 paper | Dec. 31, 2013 978-1-59643-947-4 978-1-59643-739-5 paper Series: Olympians, 6 O’Connor spotlights the goddess of beauty and love in this solid addition to his Olympians series. Aphrodite’s three attendants, the Charites, narrate a slightly-too-long recap of the origin of the Titans and Olympians, leading up to the goddess’s birth. This telling emphasizes the power of Eros as an independent force in order to highlight |

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“Romance, adventure, magic and history blend seamlessly into a story that is not just historically sensitive and gloriously thrilling—it’s essential moral reading.” from tsarina

the dangerous potential of Aphrodite, Eros’ embodiment. After a series of shorter myths, various affairs and the introduction of Aphrodite’s capricious son (a mischievous cherub she names Eros, of course), the story concentrates on the beauty contest of the goddesses Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, judged by the mortal Paris. The problematic female stereotypes inherent in a story of powerful women fighting over looks are brought to center stage and addressed by the characters. They find the contest “beneath” them and “debasing” even while participating and reframe the contest as one of power by offering Paris boons—Hera would make him a rich king, Athena a conquering hero. Aphrodite offers him the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen of Troy. Graphically, O’Connor compensates for the lack of action in Aphrodite’s myths by taking advantage of the comic-book format for humor, with quick lines of dialogue and humorous reaction shots. This neatly nuanced take on Aphrodite shows respect for the ultrafeminine heroine. (author’s note, character profiles, “G[r]eek Notes,” discussion questions, bibliography) (Graphic mythology. 8-14)

TSARINA

Patrick, J. Nelle Razorbill/Penguin (352 pp.) $17.99 | Feb. 27, 2014 978-1-59514-693-9 A Russian countess, Natalya Kutepov passionately fights the Red revolutionaries in an attempt to save her country, her heart and a precious Fabergé egg. When their gentle world is turned upside down one cold night by a mob on a rampage, Natalya and her friend, Emilia, try to flee St. Petersburg for the safety of Paris. They are thwarted by a young Red named Leo, who tries to use them as a way to get to the powerful Constellation Egg. Given magic, mystical powers by Rasputin before he died, it keeps the royal Romanov family in power and protects those they love. Beloved of the tsarevitch, Natalya has a personal investment in the egg, and to protect it, she taps into internal reservoirs of strength and cunning she’s never been required to access before. Caught in the frozen landscape of Russia during the revolution, the three young adults embody the hope, terror, conviction and patriotism seething in the warring crowds that surround them. Eventually, Natalya comes to understand the deeply personal reverberations of the revolution: “[T]he rioters in St. Petersburg weren’t Leo any more than the nobles who fled the country early on were me.” Patrick treats her heavy subject with welcoming, graceful prose. Romance, adventure, magic and history blend seamlessly into a story that is not just historically sensitive and gloriously thrilling—it’s essential moral reading. (Historical fantasy. 12 & up)

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CODE NAME KOMIKO

Paul, Naomi Scarlet Voyage/Enslow (285 pp.) $18.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-62324-023-3 A teenage hacktivist and her online comrades encounter danger and betrayal when they begin investigating a fashion mogul’s business operations in Hong Kong. Lian leads a double life. Offline, she is her parents’ “Little Panda,” the studious, obedient daughter of an affluent family; online, she is Komiko, a trusted member of 06/04, a pseudonymous group of hackers dedicated to exposing government and corporate wrongdoing. Her two worlds collide with a vengeance after a corpse washes up on Big Wave Bay Beach, as Lian soon stumbles upon a link between the dead girl and one of her father’s business partners, Rand Harrison. Her situation becomes even more complicated when Harrison’s smarmy son, Matt, transfers into her school, where their paths cross regularly. Lian’s readiness to risk her own safety to secure evidence of Harrison’s crimes makes for a fast-paced story, marked by narrow escapes and high-speed chases. Alas, the technological action fizzles in comparison, as Lian’s elite hacker research appears to consist mostly of basic Web searches. In addition, the novel’s Hong Kong feels more like a movie set than a lived-in city, and it doesn’t help that even the non-American characters often speak colloquially American dialogue. This bland techno-thriller has plenty of action but not quite enough style. (Thriller. 13-18)

ENDERS

Price, Lissa Delacorte (288 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Jan. 7, 2014 978-0-385-74249-8 978-0-307-97524-9 e-book 978-0-375-99061-8 PLB Series: Starters, 2 Teenagers with microchips that enable people to borrow their bodies evade those

who would use them. Using an inheritance from Helena, the elderly woman who rented Callie’s body in Starters (2012), Callie’s carved out a life and safety for herself, her younger brother and her best friend, Michael. Then the first book’s main villain, the Old Man, reaches out to her to demonstrate the deadly danger the chips pose if the chip-implanted teenagers, Metals, don’t obey him. He commands Callie to meet him, but she’s intercepted and rescued by a boy claiming to be the Old Man’s son. Genius Hyden, who helped develop the chips, explains how to block the signals his father uses to track and control Metals. The developing romance stays in the background, as Callie and Hyden set about keeping the Metals from his father in the slow first half. kirkus.com

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Predictably, there is a raid, and all except Callie, Hyden and Michael are conveniently captured, launching an action-oriented rescue storyline and a series of plot twists. Some glossedover twists stretch believability, though the threat (and villain’s secret plan), smaller-scale than in Starters, is personal in a creepy way. Metals can be controlled remotely, and Callie’s modified chip keeps her awake and aware, leading to a delightfully disturbing climax. It’s not as intense as Starters, but it offers some answers and a solid conclusion that will repay readers. (Science fiction. 12-18)

CHAMPIONS OF BREAKFAST

Rex, Adam Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Feb. 11, 2014 978-0-06-206008-2 978-0-06-206010-5 e-book Series: Cold Cereal Saga, 3

Sorceress Nimue’s mad scheme to transport the Seelie Court to New Jersey with help from swarms of breakfastcereal sugar zombies comes to fruition in this capper to the Cold Cereal Saga. Readers are best advised not to start with this episode. Picking up the multistranded plot roughly where it left off in Unlucky Charms (2013), Rex sends one band of doughty heroes off to face the pink but deadly dragon Saxbriton and another to bring the rescued, if now-miniature, queen of England back to this world despite such challenges as a monstrous “ronopolisk” whose “mere glance can turn a man to stoat!” Meanwhile, a third group falls (back) into the clutches of the sinister sorceress, and a fourth that includes pixie princes Fee, Fi, Fo and Denzil take on a troll guarding a gateway to magical Pretannica. None of these efforts ultimately prevent Nimue from opening a massive rift that threatens to destroy more than just the Garden State, but a climactic scramble at the Goodco cereal factory leads to a dramatic if messy save in which Merlin, Excalibur and its long-lost scabbard figure prominently. King Arthur, were he dead, might spin in his grave, but Rex brings his cereal serial to a close with snap, crackle and pop aplenty. (plethora of illustrations not seen) (Fantasy. 11-13)

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UNDER THE SAME SUN

Robinson, Sharon Illus. by Ford, A.G. Scholastic (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-0-545-16672-0

Eleven relatives from two countries gather under one sun for a wild (literally) birthday bash. Robinson, author of many acclaimed books about her famous father, Jackie Robinson, writes in this true story about her mother, Rachel (known as Bibi to the grandchildren). Here, she celebrates her 85th birthday on safari in Tanzania with her son and daughter-in-law and their seven children. Though David Robinson (the author’s brother) grew up in Connecticut, he has made his home in Tanzania since 1984, making this celebration a rare opportunity for family togetherness. Over its course, readers will absorb a few words of Swahili, the mother tongue of the grandchildren, and also learn about slavery in Tanzania’s history. The gazelles, lions, giraffes and elephants the family sees on safari, though, will likely upstage the book’s history lessons. Given the number of children and the unfamiliar names of several of them (Nubia, Busaro, Saburi), readers would do well to study the photographs that appear in the backmatter prior to reading the story. In fact, the photographs of the family’s shopping for and cooking a Tanzanian meal may appeal to some readers more than Ford’s acrylic-and-oil illustrations since they vividly represent the beauty of the country and feature mounds of freshly cut pineapples and heaps of interesting market-fresh fare. A worthwhile snapshot of a family that delights in its international and cross-cultural ties. (Picture book. 4-8)

IN THE RIVER DARKNESS

Röder, Marlene Translated by Reichel, Tammi Scarlet Voyage/Enslow (224 pp.) $17.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-62324-010-3

Readers will likely have difficulty connecting with this clunky translation of German author Röder’s story about a young city girl who moves to the country with her family and quickly finds herself wrapped up in an otherworldly mystery when she befriends the two boys next door. Told from the three alternating perspectives of Mia, Alex and Jay, the novel follows the teens as their friendships grow and secrets from their pasts are revealed. The heart of the story centers around Alex and Jay’s mother, who mysteriously disappeared when the boys were young, leaving them to be raised by a strict Catholic grandmother. While Alex clings to the pictures that come once a year on his birthday, Jay seeks comfort in Alina, who lives by the river and fiercely demands his complete |

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and undivided loyalty. When Mia threatens to become a distraction, Alina will stop at nothing to keep Jay all to herself. Unfortunately, Röder’s efforts to create a real sense of mystery or credible, likable characters are thwarted by clunky dialogue and a narrative that feels both forced and foreign. This is not a translation that helps readers lose themselves in the story, as it never feels authentic. This novel is, well…lost in translation. (Fiction. 13 & up)

FREAK CITY

Schrocke, Kathrin Translated by Reichel, Tammi Scarlet Voyage/Enslow (224 pp.) $17.95 | Jan. 1, 2014 978-1-62324-005-9 Hormones, hearing and “Deafness 101” collide to form Schrocke’s offbeat novel. When a beautiful girl ignores the catcalls of Mika’s horny friend, Claudio, and walks into traffic, Mika stops obsessing about his breakup with catty aspiring singer Sandra for a second. When he meets the girl at the Freak City cafe, he realizes that Leah is deaf. Undaunted, he begins learning sign language in hopes of a relationship, but the stress of negotiating the Deaf and hearing divide might send him running to Sandra. Boys particularly might relate to Mika’s alcoholand-hormone–fueled insights, and his exasperated love for his little sister, Iris, lends a realistic touch of humor. Trivia buff Leah’s portrayal is less successful, mostly accomplished through the device that finds other characters reciting facts about deafness. Still, she’s agreeably feisty, and her frustration with her nonsigning family rings painfully true. Subplots, such as Mika’s father’s extreme disdain for signing and hints of an affair, dangle. Numerous clichés and awkward slang, perhaps a result of translation from German, frequently distract from the narrative, but insertions of apropos We Are Heroes lyrics and a performance by real-life deaf rapper Signmark enliven the proceedings. Antony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb (2010) expresses the Deaf/hearing culture clash with more attitude, but this outing adequately captures the aches and dilemmas of new relationships. (Fiction. 14-18)

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I HEART BAND

Schusterman, Michelle Grosset & Dunlap (208 pp.) $6.99 paper | Jan. 9, 2014 978-0-448-45683-6 Series: I Heart Band, 1 Slightly driven seventh-grader Holly is a serious band geek, through and through. Like most of her kind, she finds her friends in the band, her best—and worst—experiences come in band, and the unique camaraderie of band is a critical feature of her life. But that isn’t to say that there’s not plenty of young-teen drama outside of the band room. In Holly’s case, there are a couple of other major sources: Her best friend, Julia, has come back from a stay at a summer band camp with a new very good friend, Natasha, and Holly’s in danger of failing science—but if she does, then band events are off-limits to her. Wracked with jealousy, Holly suffers from a serious lack of insight. It’s true that Natasha, like Holly, plays French horn, and they are both very competitive, but Holly manages to unfairly read malevolence into almost everything Natasha does. Can her supportive band friends help her gain a little perspective before she does something to really embarrass herself? Believable, age-appropriate conflict and a plausible resolution make for an entertaining outing in the first of this band-related series. A cacophony of the emotional bumps of early adolescence that also perfectly captures the merits of band programs, this effort should appeal even to middle school girls who aren’t already musicians. (Fiction. 10-14)

SEVEN STORIES UP

Snyder, Laurel Random House (240 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Jan. 28, 2013 978-0-375-86917-4 978-0-375-89999-7 e-book 978-0-375-96917-1 PLB A 12-year-old in 1987 time travels a half-century into the past and meets her own grandmother at the same age. Annie Jaffin and her mom visit Annie’s grandmother, a woman she barely knows. The dying older woman still resides in the once-grand hotel her family owned and where she and her daughter, Annie’s mom, grew up. The reunion is grim: Her bitter, angry grandmother hurls recriminations at the two. That night, Annie dons a sleep mask, her world goes dark, and…next morning, she’s shocked to awaken in the hotel room of a girl called Molly who gradually reveals that it’s 50 years earlier—and that her given name is Mary Moran: Annie’s grandmother’s name. Annie wisely keeps the relationship a secret. Molly, kept almost completely sequestered for health reasons, relishes this new “friend’s” company, and the pair embark on a series of kirkus.com

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“The book begins with a sensational scene from its climax and the intimation that Emma will kill her best friend, but the story is much more character-driven than the opening suggests.” from afterparty

whirlwind adventures beyond the hotel’s environs. The novel’s premise is tantalizing, but its execution lacks true spark. The girls are likable, but characterizations are superficial; certain plot details are confusing; the Great Depression barely registers; and readers may wonder why neither girl is more curious about each other’s time and lifestyle than she is. Youngsters may also wonder how the vivacious though depressed and lonely young Molly grew up to be such a tartar; they will see that some circumstances in her childhood seem to have changed so as to presage a happier future. A surprise at the end disappoints and doesn’t resolve matters. Overall, there are some pleasures, but this is time travel lite. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 9-12)

THE QUIRKS IN CIRCUS QUIRKUS

Soderberg, Erin Illus. by Light, Kelly Bloomsbury (225 pp.) $13.99 | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-59990-790-1 Series: Quirks, 2

A family with diverse magical powers gains a surprise ally in this sequel to Welcome to Normal (2013). Though Soderberg continues to play the Quirks’ plight as a sitcom, readers are less likely to chuckle than wince at their behavior. Forced to move 26 times for fear of exposure in the nearly 10 years since twins Molly and Penelope were born, the family’s efforts to settle quietly in Normal are complicated both by an obsessively snoopy neighbor, Mrs. DeVille, and by their own strong tendency to abuse their powers. Five-year-old bad boy Finn, for instance, takes advantage of his selective invisibility to play annoying pranks and to steal from Mrs. DeVille, while scatterbrained mother Bree keeps her job as a waitress by controlling customers’ minds. Fortunately and as before, the supposedly ungifted Molly works her own brand of magic: She cleverly reins Finn in, keeps her neurotic sister (whose every mental image becomes real, willy-nilly) distracted and even convinces a TV news crew that there is nothing more notable about the Quirks than their backyard circus. And, rather than being the villain she seems, Mrs. DeVille turns out to be the sort who (literally) winks at the Quirks’…quirks. More episodic catastrophes without lasting consequences, in a tale that shares a premise with, but bears only a superficial resemblance to, Ingrid Law’s brilliant Savvy (2008). (illustrations not seen) (Light fantasy. 8-10)

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AFTERPARTY

Stampler, Ann Redisch Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $17.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4424-2324-4 After years of moving from place to place with her overprotective dad, Emma Lazar is thrilled that her dad’s latest job brings the two of them to Los Angeles. When vicious mean girl Chelsea Hay insults Emma at her new swanky private day school, the equally sharp-tongued Siobhan Lynch stands up for Emma. Thus begins a friendship that is both compelling and harrowing. Siobhan is a master manipulator, and her charm, persistence and denials of wrongdoing lead Emma to forgive and forget ever-crueler behavior and actions. Siobhan wants the pair of them to go to Afterparty, a notorious yearly party that “beyond defies description.” To get sheltered Emma ready, she proposes a list of activities, mostly involving substance use and hookups with boys. The book begins with a sensational scene from its climax and the intimation that Emma will kill her best friend, but the story is much more character-driven than the opening suggests. At the center are Emma’s relationships: navigating her father’s rules and his disappointment when she breaks them, crushing on and getting close to dreamy Dylan Kahane, debriefing with her even-more-sheltered friend Megan, and being drawn into Siobhan’s increasingly reckless agenda. Aside from a few avoidable misunderstandings between Emma and Dylan, this is a gripping and sometimes downright scary look at friendship and manipulation. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE NIGHT WANDERER A Graphic Novel

Taylor, Drew Hayden Illus. by Wyatt, Michael Annick Press (112 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1-55451-573-8 978-1-55451-572-1 paper A troubled young girl and an old vampire cross paths in a graphic-format adaption of a 2007 novel by the same name. Sixteen-year-old Tiffany lives in Otter Lake, Toronto, an Anishinaabe reserve, with her father and paternal grandmother. With times being tough, her father decides to take in a boarder. Brimming with teenage angst, Tiffany isn’t thrilled with the situation. In fact, she’s not thrilled with her life in general: Her mother abandoned her to start a new life, and she’s pretty sure her boyfriend, Tony, is cheating on her. Enter the shadowy and mysterious boarder, Pierre L’Errant, who’s returning to Otter Lake to settle unfinished business and unexpectedly helps Tiffany toward an important realization. L’Errant and Tiffany’s relationship is refreshing: They are not romantically involved, |

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“…vivid storytelling and steady focus on the human element exert an appeal that hasn’t aged a bit.” from the story of mankind

LET THERE BE LIGHT

and he, thankfully, doesn’t sparkle. Taylor’s story is engaging in its mixing of diverse elements, especially his synthesis of the tales of the Anishinaabe with vampire legend. However, the lackluster black-and-white art (with bursts of emphatic red spattered about) doesn’t add anything to a narrative that already feels rushed. Readers may feel as though they’ve just seen a filmed adaptation of a book that had to scramble to cram in the best parts. An intriguing mix of vampires and Native lore with a whisper of Gothic charm, ultimately bogged down by a cramped abridgement and then squeezed into an ill-chosen format. (Graphic paranormal suspense. 13 & up)

Tutu, Desmond Illus. by Tillman, Nancy Zonderkidz (32 pp.) $16.99 | Dec. 19, 2013 978-0-310-72785-9

THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE

Turetsky, Bianca Illus. by Suy, Sandra Poppy/Little, Brown (256 pp.) $18.00 | Dec. 3, 2013 978-0-316-22488-8 Series: Time-Traveling Fashionista, 3

Continuing her winning strategy of combining history with fashion, Turetsky this time takes her 12-year old heroine to Cleopatra’s palace in ancient Egypt. Louise, a dedicated follower of vintage fashion, thoroughly enjoys the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton film Cleopatra when her substitute history teacher screens it in class. She’s even more enthusiastic when she again visits Marla and Glenda’s latest Fashionista Sale and is transported back in time to the Cleopatra movie set. Louise revels in the beautiful costumes and in meeting Elizabeth Taylor herself, but then she makes a serious mistake. Putting on an Egyptian-style necklace, she suddenly travels even further back in time to ancient Egypt, from which she fears Marla and Glenda cannot rescue her. Worse, Louise soon realizes that any servant of Cleopatra’s lives in danger of death at any time. Her fortunes grow darker when she cannot find the necklace that will enable her to return to the movie set and eventually to the present. Will Louise have to live out her life in ancient Egypt? The author delivers another suspenseful and exciting plot that serves as an immersive history lesson for her young audience. She defies convention and depicts Cleopatra as she really was: Greek not Egyptian, and not terribly pretty, but highly intelligent and shrewd. Suspense, history and fashion add up to plenty of fun. (Fantasy. 8-12)

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Abstract washes of light give way to equally lambent peaceable-kingdom scenes to illustrate Tutu’s rhapsodic retelling of the Bible creation story. Drawn from his Children of God Storybook Bible (2010), the author’s simply phrased text highlights God’s love—which “bubbled over when there was nothing else”—as the motivating force behind each day’s acts of creation. The indistinct shape of a robed, standing figure can be discerned within the initial burst of radiance and also in later illustrations amid clouds and waves, at the heart of a flower and in the subtly modulated colors of various skies. Along with showers of sparkles in some scenes, Tillman recycles a visual element from her own The Crown on Your Head (2011) by clapping shiny crowns atop the heads of a racially diverse group of smiling children in the final illustrations. Further piling on the sentimentality, she transforms the magnificent, exactly detailed elephants, lions and other animals that pose grandly in earlier pictures to toylike figures at the children’s feet. “Isn’t it wonderful!” concludes God, clapping his hands. Yes, but here the wonder comes with a generous coating of goo. (Religion/picture book. 6-8)

THE STORY OF MANKIND Ninth Edition

van Loon, Hendrik Willem; Sullivan, Robert Liveright/Norton (800 pp.) $35.00 | Dec. 9, 2013 978-0-87140-715-3

Further cementing its status as a living classic, the first Newbery winner (1922) returns sporting an eighth update. Following the practice of van Loon himself and subsequent co-authors over the years, Sullivan leaves the original text, with its often puckish line drawings, virtually untouched and seamlessly appends topical chapters (12 in all) written in the same conversational style. The previous update having appeared in 1999, Sullivan covers major events from the Y2K panic and 9/11 to Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. He also glances at China (in a chapter characteristically titled “China Is Back / Not that it ever went away”) and offers overviews of the Arab Spring and the late worldwide economic “Downturn.” On more thematic notes, he also comments in a cautionary way on the rise of new social media and more approvingly on how the notion that governments owe official apologies for historical atrocities committed against minority or other groups has recently taken hold. Readers of the 77 chapters that precede the new content will find that though some of the language (“Wherever food was plentiful, thither man has travelled”) and, surprisingly rarely, attitudes are kirkus.com

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dated, the vivid storytelling and steady focus on the human element exert an appeal that hasn’t aged a bit. Still valid in broad outline if not detail and, as ever, a grand and thought-provoking read. Those early Newbery voters knew value when they saw it. (timeline) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

From going completely vegan to simply eating meat that is produced relatively ethically, nutritionist Warren breezily suggests that teens take her short quiz to determine what eating style works best for them. She addresses her audience directly and offers a bit of her own background, including a decision to become a vegetarian as a teen that resulted in less-than-optimal nutrition due to a tendency to view French fries and rice as foods around which to center her diet. The guide is particularly useful in the care it takes in elucidating the myriad terms that exist in labeling food, the breakdown of what foods are good for vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians at ethnic and chain restaurants, and the potential pitfall of an animal product showing up in food where it would be least expected (fish sauce in “vegetarian” pad Thai; anchovies in Caesar salad). Warren also provides plenty of information on optimal vegetarian nutrition, veg-friendly colleges, online resources, as well as easy recipes and practical but polite ways to talk with adults about eschewing meat. An upbeat, informative resource that will come in handy for many a teen—a shame that teen boys will almost certainly avoid it due to the title. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

PROFESSOR ASTRO CAT’S FRONTIERS OF SPACE

Walliman, Dominic Illus. by Newman, Ben Flying Eye Books (64 pp.) $24.00 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-1-909263-079

Conducted by a cat in a retro-futuristic space suit, this tour of the solar system and beyond earns style points for both its illustrations and its selection of “Factoroids.” Diverging from the straight-line course such tours usually take, Professor Astro Cat begins with the Big Bang and the subsequent formation of stars and galaxies. In single-topic spreads, he then sails past the sun to present the Earth and moon, space travel from Apollo to the International Space Station, and the other planets in succession with their major moons and distinctive features. Going beyond the solar system, he explores constellations and telescopes and finally speculates in free-wheeling fashion about alien life and our future travels to other worlds. In blocky, mid-last-century–style cartoon pictures printed on rough paper, Astro Cat and his mouse sidekick point and comment as the smiling sun, cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites, heavenly bodies of many sorts and (toward the end) googly-eyed aliens sail past. Though claims that gas giants have a “surface” and that astronauts wear “armour to protect against flying space rocks” are, at best, misleading (and the text could have stood another round of copy editing), Astro Cat’s digestible bursts of information are generally accurate—and wellsalted with memorable notes about, for instance, diamonds on Uranus or how dirty laundry on the water-poor ISS is consigned to fiery destruction in the atmosphere. A lively jaunt over well-traveled territory. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

THE SMART GIRL’S GUIDE TO GOING VEGETARIAN How to Look Great, Feel Fabulous, and be a Better You

Warren, Rachel Meltzer Sourcebooks Fire (240 pp.) $12.99 paper | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-4022-8491-5

Detailed yet concise, this guide to vegetarianism encompasses a broad range of possible choices for teens interested in adopting plantbased diets. |

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DINOSAURS ON MY STREET

West, David Illus. by West, David Firefly (64 pp.) $19.95 | $6.95 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1-77085-220-4 978-1-77085-221-2 paper

A 30-member dino gallery, with clumsily Photoshopped scenes, founded on the well-worn “if dinosaurs came back” premise. Said premise does have enduring child appeal—though West manages to dim even that by assembling pictorial elements without using them in any imaginative way or even integrating them. With notable lack of visual logic, for instance, he shoehorns into busy street scenes life-sized, realistically detailed T. Rex and other toothy predators that don’t appear to notice the human prey at their feet. Furthermore, in his sometimes–washed-out pictures, a herd of Protoceratops runs across beach sand without leaving tracks, several figures appear to float slightly above the ground, and a huge Carnotosaurus rams headfirst into a car without denting it. Nor do the people looking on, all of whom have the generic plastic look of figures from midbudget video games, usually show more than mild anxiety. On facing pages, two to four sentences of general notes on each dino’s size, diet and special features include an unproven claim that Altirhinus could blow up its nose like a balloon, repetitious phrasing (three dinos are found in “quieter parts of town”) and a reference to a busker who has been trimmed out of the accompanying illustration. There’s a fair lot of dinosaurs for one volume, but low production values push this to the back of the herd. (summary fact chart) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

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THE BLOSSOMING UNIVERSE OF VIOLET DIAMOND

Woods, Brenda Nancy Paulsen Books (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 9, 2014 978-0-399-25714-8 Violet’s a bright, engaging biracial preteen, resigned to a “predictable summer of boring nothing” in small-town Washington; happily, for her and for readers, she couldn’t be more wrong. Violet, 11, appreciates her loving family—busy neonatologist mom; sister, Daisy, 17; mom’s lively, ex-hippie parents—she’s just tired of explaining she belongs. She wouldn’t have to if her dad, an African-American doctor, hadn’t died in a car accident before her birth. In mostly white Moon Lake, Violet’s a rarity; her one black friend attends a different school. Adopting a kitten is fun, but lightening her hair? Big mistake. (It was supposed to look “sun-kissed,” like Daisy’s—not orange.) Although Roxanne, her dad’s mother, a famous artist, has refused contact (she has her reasons), Violet engineers a meeting at a Seattle gallery, persuading her mom to take her. Rebuffed at first, Violet persists until Roxanne invites her for a visit, and what was frozen begins to thaw. Both families are stable, intelligent and wellintentioned, but forgiveness and trust require contact; healing can’t happen at a distance. Violet’s no tragic mulatto—she’d survive estrangement, but in reconnecting with her dad’s family and cultural roots, she’ll thrive, fulfill her vast potential and, in doing so, enrich both families’ lives across the racial divide. Infused with humor, hope and cleareyed compassion— a fresh take on an old paradigm. (Fiction. 8-12)

WEIRD INSECTS

Worek, Michael Firefly (64 pp.) $19.95 | $9.95 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-1-77085-235-8 978-1-77085-234-1 paper In glittering, chitinous splendor, 59 insects, from an elegantly dappled Mexican dobsonfly to an 8-inch Macleay’s spectre pose for close-ups in this eye-widening photo gallery.

Arranged in no particular order and enlarged to roughly the same size, the cast of beetles, bugs, ants, mantids and caterpillars all seems to be sitting directly on the plain white pages, with pale shadows added and the occasional twig or bud for a prop. Nearly all not only bear vividly colored patterns or coats of shimmering armor, but display as astonishing an array of exotic forms as ever was—these bugs are decked out with baroque spikes, palps, antennae and other features. Worek supplies common and scientific labels for all this eye candy, as well as enough information on each subject’s size, diet, geographical range and life cycle to please even larval entomologists. Resplendent. (index) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

GOLDY LUCK AND THE THREE PANDAS

Yim, Natasha Illus. by Zong, Grace Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jan. 7, 2014 978-1-58089-652-8 978-1-60734-629-6 e-book

Goldy Luck, not an especially lucky child, is awoken by her mother one Chinese New Year and sent to the neighbors’ to wish them “Kung Hei Fat Choi” and deliver a plate of turnip cakes. Tired and hungry, and thinking of the neighbor boy who doesn’t share, she is reluctant, but she takes her mother’s advice seriously: To avoid bad luck in the new year, she must resolve arguments and be kind. Though no one is home at the Chans’, she enters—and drops the cakes. In trying to clean up, she follows the typical “Goldilocks” storyline, eating the Chans’ congee, breaking a chair, falling asleep in a bed. When the Chans (anthropomorphized pandas) return home, the embarrassed Goldy runs away, but her conscience gets the better of her. In a moral addendum, Goldy returns to the Chans’ to put things right, forming a friendship with Little Chan in the process. Zong’s acrylic illustrations bring Goldy’s culture to life through small details in the households as well as the Chinese New Year parade glimpsed through the doors and windows, though some of the details (Mr. Chan’s massage chair) may seem stereotypical. An author’s note explains more about Chinese New Year and is followed by a chart, unfortunately yearless, of the Chinese zodiac and concludes with a recipe for turnip cakes. A welcome Chinese addition to the fairy-tale shelf. (Picture book. 4-8)

This Issue’s Contributors Alison Anholt-White • Sophie Brookover • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Elise DeGuiseppi • Andi Diehn • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Carol Goldman F. Lee Hall • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Jennifer Hubert • Shelley Huntington Kathleen T. Isaacs • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • Joy Kim • K. Lesley Knieriem Megan Dowd Lambert • Angela Leeper • Susan Dove Lempke • Peter Lewis • Lauren Maggio Hillias J. Martin • Michelle H. Martin PhD • Shelly McNerney • Kathie Meizner • Deb Paulson • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Melissa Riddle Chalos • Amy Robinson • Ronnie Rom • Leslie L. Rounds • Stephanie Seales • Karin Snelson • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • S.D. Winston • Monica Wyatt • Melissa Yurechko

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“Millie’s misadventures could continue indefinitely if the exuberant storytelling and attention to detail hold to this level of quality.” from millie’s crazy dinosaur adventure

interactive e-books

Switch” feature that adds a reader-selected fork in the road leading to games that are part of Millie’s adventure. The navigation tray that slides up from the bottom of the screen is unobtrusive but genuinely handy. Other extras include a “Bedtime Mode” (which dims the screen and tones down the games) and clear instructions for parents, two app essentials that should be standard across the board. At the end of her first Indiana Jones– inspired adventure, it wasn’t clear whether her appeal would wear thin, but this latest story shows she’s still a great canine companion. Even the short video clips of Millie do not diminish the series’ homespun, handcrafted feel or lessen its playful touch. Millie’s misadventures could continue indefinitely if the exuberant storytelling and attention to detail hold to this level of quality. She’s a good dog with a great set of apps. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

TERRI AT THE MARKET Hohol, Ancsa; Boris, Juli ONCE Digital Arts $1.99 | Sep. 29, 2013 1.0; Sep. 29, 2013

Two trips to the farmers market upend a picky eater’s veggie perspective. Four year-old Terri’s parents are unhappy that she’s such a persnickety eater. She loves sweets of every sort, but the sight of a pork chop and peas does nothing to please. Having had enough, her mother drags Terri to the market, where Charlie the chubby grocer introduces her to a colorful array of characters: Buster Brussels Sprout, who is scared of the dark despite being the son of Courage Cabbage; Bravo Broccoli, who has a microphoneshaped body; Carol Carrot, a spinster who was “left…to stew” at the altar; and a number of other anthropomorphized vegetables. When pranksters Spinach and Sorrel cause the “pea-ramid” of the Fantastic Tumbling Peas to topple, Terri gathers them up to save them from a tragic Dumpster demise. This colorful iPad app features whimsical animations throughout (Buster’s bedtime antics and the Tumbling Peas all askew, for example), original music and sound effects, along with four minigames to help young ones with basic shapes, colors and simple math skills. The story itself simmers a bit too long, with entirely too much text per page at times, and clunky prose rises to the surface: “Here, only the most unfortunate ended up, those who weren’t bought, and were left to wither and wilt sadly on the stand.” All soups considered, Terri’s veggie adventure is decent fare for patient picky eaters. (Requires iOS 6.1 & up.) (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

MILLIE’S CRAZY DINOSAUR ADVENTURE

Taylor, Jennifer; Lowenstein, Randy Illus. by Taylor, Jennifer; Lowenstein, Randy MegaPops $1.99 | Sep. 12, 2013 Series: Millie Was Here 1.0.1; Sep. 26, 2013 Canine explorer Millie here builds a time machine to avoid running late with a friend’s birthday gift, but she soon finds herself chased by a baby T-Rex. The first Millie Was Here app (Millie and the Lost Key, 2011) was a giddy mix of plain dog photos, overlaid graphics and hyperbolic storytelling that made the everyday life of a dogabout-town seem epic. That aesthetic continues here, but it’s been refined. There are still levers, dials, ribbons and springs that beg to be played with on well-built pages. But the story elements themselves have evolved nicely, especially a “Story |

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MAHATMA GANDHI INTERACTIVE BIOGRAPHY

Touchzing Media Touchzing Media $4.99 | Sep. 27, 2013 1.0; Sep. 27, 2013

An earnest survey of the life and thoughts of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known to the world as Mahatma. This app is broken up into several distinct sections per the developer’s standard approach: a gallery of photographs, a selection of narrated video shorts, a collection of quotes and a narrative text. Readers can engage by touching various highlighted words to learn more; these elaborations can range from squibs to longer sidebars. As introductions to historical figures go, this is a fairly solid one. Readers new to the man will be impressed by how many fronts he was active on: struggling against the injustices of colonialism as experienced in both South Africa and India; advocating nonviolent resistance to all forms of indignity and barbarity; promoting sacrifice, truth, lifelong learning, selfreliance, respect, simplicity and understanding. The text can skirt close to monotony at the endless mention of congresses and conventions attended, and some of the more challenging passages could stand additional investigation: “Insistence on truth makes no distinction between means and ends as they are inseparable....A follower of the principle of insistence on truth does not seek to destroy the relationship with the antagonist, but seeks to purify it.” The video clips are the strong suit here, with real transporting power. Although it lacks a sense of passion, this app does a yeoman’s job of bringing Gandhi and his philosophy into focus. (Biography. 12 & up)

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continuing series WISE ACRES The Seventh Circle of Heck Basye, Dale E. Illus. by Dob, Bob Random House (448 pp.) 16.99 | $20.99 PLB | Dec. 24, 2013 978-0-307-98185-1 978-0-307-98186-8 PLB Series: Circles of Heck, 7 (Fantasy. 9-13)

FIRE AND FURY

JUSTINE MCKEEN AND THE BIRD NERD Brouwer, Sigmund Illus. by Whamond, Dave Orca (64 pp.) $6.95 paper | Nov. 1, 2013 978-1-4598-0394-7 Series: Justine McKeen (Fiction. 7-9)

LEOPARD’S GOLD

Holt, Christopher Illus. by Douglas, Allen Little, Brown (336 pp.) $17.00 | Nov. 5 , 2013 978-0-316-20013-4 Series: Last Dogs, 3 (Dystopian adventure. 8-12)

Nimmo, Jenny Scholastic (353 pp.) $16.99 | Nov. 1, 2013 978-0-545-25185-3 Series: Chronicles of the Red King, 3 (Fantasy. 8-12)

THE SANDMAN AND THE WAR OF DREAMS

Polansky, Daniel Scholastic (144 pp.) $6.99 paper | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-545-57655-0 Series: Profiles, 7 (Collective biography. 9-14)

Joyce, William Illus. by Joyce, William Atheneum (240 pp.) $15.99 | Nov. 5, 2013 978-1-4424-3054-9 Series: Guardians, 4 (Fantasy. 7-11)

Stilton, Thea Scholastic (176 pp.) $7.99 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-0-545-55627-9 Series: Thea Stilton (Fantasy. 7-10)

KEIRA THE MOVIE STAR FAIRY

Meadows, Daisy Scholastic (192 pp.) $6.99 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-0-545-53285-3 Series: Rainbow Magic (special edition) (Fantasy. 7-10)

THE LOST GOLD

Harrison, Paula Scholastic (128 pp.) $4.99 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-0-545-50920-6 Series: Rescue Princesses, 7 (Fantasy. 7-10)

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WAR SPIES

THEA STILTON AND THE JOURNEY TO THE LION’S DEN

McKay, Emily Berkeley (432 pp.) $9.99 paper | Nov. 5, 2013 978-0-425-26412-6 Series: Farm, 2 (Science fiction. 12-16)

Epstein, Adam Jay Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $16.95 | Dec. 23, 2013 978-0-06-212029-8 Series: Familiars, 4 (Fantasy. 8-12)

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Nielsen, Jennifer A. Scholastic (192 pp.) $12.99 | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-545-38701-9 Series: Infinity Ring, 6 (Adventure. 8-12)

THE LAIR

PALACE OF DREAMS

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Harrison, Paula Scholastic (128 pp.) $4.99 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-0-545-50922-0 Series: Rescue Princesses, 8 (Fantasy. 7-10)

THE LONG ROAD

Blade, Adam Scholastic (192 pp.) $5.99 paper | Dec. 1, 2013 978-0-545-36153-8 Series: Chronicles of Avantia, 4 (Fantasy. 8-12)

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indie WEDDING WIPEOUT A Rabbi Kappelmacher Mystery

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: I, PARIS by Rick Garnett...................................................................110

Appel, Jacob M. Cozy Cat Press (250 pp.) $14.95 paper | $2.99 e-book Aug. 27, 2013 978-1-939816-14-6

THE ALEXANDRITE by Rick Lenz.................................................... 115 THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY by Felicity Neale................. 117 The Wrong Kind of Muslim by Qasim Rashid......................... 118

In Appel’s (The Biology of Luck, 2013, etc.) mystery novel, an unusual rabbi seeks the truth about a local woman’s death. Kappelmacher isn’t your typical rabbi. He has a faithful congregation but also a mind for riddles, a nose for the mysterious and a distinct love for pastrami sandwiches. When his former assistant rabbi, lawyer Marshall Green, tells him about the suspicious death of Florence Eisenstein, an elderly client with a complicated will, Kappelmacher and his current assistant, Steinmetz, snap to action to get to the bottom of it. It turns out that Florence and her sister, Lorraine, were bound by a caveat in their wealthy father’s will that neither would ever marry; if either did so, the newlywed would be disinherited and the other sister would receive her share. But strangely, Florence died the day after her wedding. A doctor says that she passed away due to an asthma attack, but some people aren’t so sure. Was someone trying to kill Florence’s sister, in a case of mistaken identity, to come into some quick cash? Or did Florence’s cousin, Agatha, or nephew, Fred, kill her to settle an old family grudge? Using lies and clever tricks, Kappelmacher and Steinmetz try to quietly solve Florence’s murder before someone finds out they’re not professional detectives. Appel’s novel is funny, thoughtful and fiercely entertaining, but it does run into a few bumps along the way. For example, Kappelmacher’s use of Yiddish at every turn is somewhat overwrought; he insults Steinmetz with so many “dumkopfs” and “nudniks” that readers may start to feel a little bad for the guy. That said, Kappelmacher largely comes off as a stimulating, perfectly idiosyncratic frontman throughout this tale. The well-paced plot neither plods nor races to the finish as some other whodunits do, and the final resolution is both surprising and refreshing. Appel, a prolific writer in other genres, would do well to continue writing such suspenseful prose, as he apparently has a knack for it. A rousing religious mystery—pastrami not included.

THE WRONG KIND OF MUSLIM An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance

Rashid, Qasim Self (254 pp.) $14.95 paper $9.95 e-book May 28, 2013 978-0-9893977-0-4

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SAN FRANCISCO BOATS ON THE BAY A Voyage in Riddles

THE NEWEST STORY OF O How to Legally Pay 0% Interest on the Money You Owe & Eliminate Your Debt in a Fraction of the Time— Secrets to Making the Credit System Work in Your Favor

Benedetti, Donna Photos by Thornton, Jeremy CreateSpace (80 pp.) $16.95 paper | Aug. 13, 2013 978-1-4849-5800-1

Berman, Daniel K. CreateSpace (274 pp.) $19.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-4776-0933-0

A lively book of children’s verse that captures the excitement of seeing boats of all sizes. Two dozen riddles, all written as poems, introduce the many kinds of boats that readers might see on a trip around San Francisco Bay, from floating homes to oil tankers to the historic tall ship Balclutha. After each riddle, the book reveals the name of each type of boat, accompanied by a list of facts. Some descriptions are fairly straightforward: “Speedboats can travel as fast as 60 miles per hour in choppy waters and 90 miles per hour in calm waters.” Others are thought-provoking and complex: “Crabbers want to make sure crabs are protected and plentiful. So when they pull up their traps, they keep only the ‘legal’ crabs…and throw the others back.” (“Legal” crabs, the author explains, are male crabs at least 6 1/4 inches in diameter.) This photo-filled book will likely hold the attention of little landlubbers reading aloud with their parents, as well as that of older kids with a sustained interest in all things maritime. Benedetti (Tip Top Thinkamajigs, 2012, etc.) includes specific pointers on where to see each boat in the Bay Area—cruise ships at San Francisco’s Pier 35 and tugboats at Pier 50, for example—making it a fun guide for both visitors and residents. The verses vary in energy and quality, sometimes stilted but sometimes peppy and light, as in a description of a rowboat, for example: “I sit low in the waters / Near seals, fish and otters. / I’ve never needed motors / Or wheels, gas or rotors.” Parents of younger children will find them to be fun read-aloud introductions; older readers, however, will likely page right past them to get to the facts. It’s easy to imagine a boat-obsessed kid dreaming of a first trip to the ocean and poring over the photos, verses, trivia, maps, nautical terminology and activities provided here. A witty introduction to boats and a useful reference for youngsters.

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This engaging, practical consumer credit guide emphasizes a zero-interest technique that may make some readers (and banks) a bit apprehensive. Berman, a consumer credit expert and credit counselor, positions his book differently than the typical riffs on consumer credit. He focuses on a self-developed formula for “how to legally pay 0% interest on the money you owe & eliminate your debt in a fraction of the time”; hence the book’s title, a somewhat arcane reference to the controversial 1954 erotic novel, The Story of O. For some consumers, Berman’s method may be too good to be true: It involves applying specifically for credit cards that offer zero-interest balance transfers for a period of time, then transferring high-interest debt to those credit card accounts for the duration of the zero-interest offer. Reporting that his father’s reaction was that the scheme “amounted to ‘gaming the system’ and was therefore unethical,” Berman devotes several paragraphs to justifying zero-interest balance transfers. Part of the author’s rationale is that financial institutions have been gaming the consumer for years—now it’s the consumers’ turn. The crafty consumer who doesn’t disallow this concept on ethical grounds may indeed find that it works; yet it’s sure to create discomfort among others and, no doubt, many bank executives. Too bad, since zero-interest balance transfer, despite being the book’s hook, is really just a small part of what Berman covers. The rest of the book is, in fact, exceedingly useful. Berman offers an informed overview of the credit system in layman’s language; savvy advice on how to obtain credit scores, repair bad credit and build good credit; and a sensible perspective on credit cards. Credit, Berman writes, “is nothing more than a tool for achieving financial objectives. It can be handled correctly or incorrectly, just as the same hammer that can be used to build can be used to destroy.” His tips for making and saving money are inventive, and his observations about bankruptcy and foreclosure are helpful and wise. A highly readable book likely to help consumers—as long as they approach the author’s primary debt-busting tool with eyes wide open.

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“These accounts of grand collaborations are skillfully nuanced with moments of devotion and humility.” from sets, lights, & lunacy

SETS, LIGHTS, & LUNACY A Stage Designer’s Adventures on Broadway and in Opera

DARK ENTITIES

Campbell, R. Scott FriesenPress (296 pp.) $36.99 | $23.99 paper | $5.99 e-book Jun. 28, 2013 978-1-4602-1011-6

Burlingame, Lloyd CreateSpace (210 pp.) $25.99 paper | $7.99 e-book Sep. 9, 2013 978-1-4895-8752-7

A sci-fi/horror YA novel that focuses on a small town in the shadow of an ancient phenomenon known as the Tor. When 14-year-old Jackson moves to his aunt’s old house in the tiny town of Boswell, things get off to a rather ominous start. His mother accidentally hits a strange creature with her car as they drive into the town during a storm. Soon, Jackson learns of a series of murders plaguing Boswell and of a legendary hill known as the Tor that looms over his new house; the hill stands in the middle of a lifeless wasteland that no one has ever braved without dying. The mystery deepens when Jackson discovers a chest buried on his aunt’s property containing papers and coded messages that imply that the Tor may not be as abandoned as it seems. When Jackson and his new friend Carl finally dare to take a journey up the hill, they discover a terrifying extraterrestrial life form that could threaten the entire town. Could it be connected to the murders? Debut author Campbell has a knack for creepy and gory details, and several ominous passages may give goose bumps to even the most levelheaded readers. The Tor, with its soupy, sulfuric smog, and the surrounding town, with its eerie, abandoned storefronts, are reminiscent of something out of The Twilight Zone. Jackson is a smart, enjoyable protagonist with a healthy amount of attitude, but the story occasionally feels a tad old-fashioned; Carl’s sister Cheryl, for example, spends most of her time watching the boys through a telescope instead of joining them on their adventures. As the first novel in a planned series, readers won’t expect everything to be wrapped up, but the ending still may be more open-ended than some might like. The mysteries are not really solved, but readers will likely be eager for future installments. A pleasing, atmospheric YA adventure.

Former stage designer Burlingame (Two Seeing Eye Dogs Take Manhattan, 2012) recalls the highs and lows of his time on Broadway. “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and I had to design,” the author confides in the opening chapter of this elegant, amusing memoir. In 1940, when he was 5 years old, his father took him to see a performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado, after which the author returned home to build his own version of a Japanese garden in a shoe box. His destiny was set, and in his teens, he studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now part of Carnegie Mellon University), drawn there by its prestigious drama department. By 19, he’d taken over set design at the acclaimed Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The author recounts many humorous calamities during this period of developing his skills; for example, during a production of W. Somerset Maugham’s Rain, a beaded curtain made of macaroni fell gradually in pieces to the floor, leaving the actors crunching hard pasta underfoot. In 1956, Burlingame was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to the Signal Corps’ Army Pictorial Center in Queens, N.Y., but he received a reprieve from duty in Korea, which allowed him to begin a dazzling career on Broadway. He details his Manhattan beginnings, during which he set up a makeshift scene shop in a Greenwich Village warehouse using tools from the Army. Much of the book reads like a Who’s Who of 1960s and ’70s theater, with appearances by such luminaries as Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli and English theater director Peter Brook. One pull-no-punches chapter is devoted to the author’s work with the “devil of Broadway,” producer David Merrick. These accounts of grand collaborations are skillfully nuanced with moments of devotion and humility; at one point, for example, the author was forced to search the Bowery at night for plans he had lost, and when he kneeled in a snow-filled gutter, he was hit by a car. Overall, Burlingame is a skillful raconteur who transposes his experiences to the page with an understated wit, poise and grace. A consistently intriguing backstage glimpse of Broadway’s brighter past and a must for theater buffs.

LIVE HAPPY (...DAMN IT) A Memoir of Stubborn Illness and Perennial Hope Cramer-Miller, Jennifer Self (236 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jun. 24, 2013 978-0-615-81311-0

An inspiring debut memoir about one woman’s years of illness, during which she forged a rich life full of achievements. Cramer-Miller was diagnosed with kidney disease soon after her college graduation, and she saw her promising career in marketing and public relations painfully grind to a halt. Forced to leave her beloved Seattle and her vibrant circle of friends, she reluctantly returned to her native |

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“On top of its wit, Crowley’s book delivers high and frequent thrills.” from hack

Minnesota for years of treatments, transplants, procedures and medications. Instead of submitting passively to the relentless disease, however, Cramer-Miller developed a personal philosophy centered on gratitude and positivity that helped her build a “normal” life. Her joyful persistence came about, in large part, due to the unflagging support of her family—especially her mother, who acted as Cramer-Miller’s health advocate (or “Avocado,” as they cheerfully nicknamed the role). Decades later, the author looks back at her journey with great clarity, remembering not only the medical experiences themselves, but also her emotional and psychological responses to them. When she describes her dangerous levels of fluid retention, for instance, she poignantly notes the numbers’ intangible impact: “For every upward notch on the scale, I lost my desire to be in the world. Each additional pound of water retention felt like a visible measurement of disease.” The author engagingly articulates these complex emotions in simple language, without self-pity, which may give some readers hope. Incredibly, the narrative never gets bogged down in obscure or unpleasant medical detail, and the occasional somber tone is balanced by the author’s sense of humor and attention to happier subjects, such as dating, career ambition, friendship and building a family. The short, readable, well-paced chapters allow the book to cover decades of memories evenly and naturally. A remarkably upbeat memoir, ideal for readers seeking to understand and support loved ones with serious illnesses.

author, creates an endlessly witty, cheerful and capable protagonist. Humor pervades even in violent scenes, setting the book apart from similar crime novels. On top of its wit, Crowley’s book delivers high and frequent thrills, as Shepherd runs and never walks toward danger, skating through the hiccups in his investigative reporting, sometimes a bit too easily. The tabloids act as a sort of Mafia-like family, and “human resources” takes on a sinister new meaning. The final reveal will illicit both a gasp and a laugh. A rollicking, sharp-witted crime novel.

AMBASSADOR TO EARTH Dugall, Gallen CreateSpace (488 pp.) $11.99 paper | $2.99 e-book Jun. 14, 2013 978-1-4904-4739-1

Humanity is finally contacted by aliens—or at least one, a self-proclaimed ambassador named Ech, whose surprise landing in Orlando, Fla., ushers the planet and a local woman into a new era of incredible technology, opportunity and danger. Coming across at times like a hybrid of Kurt Vonnegut and L. Ron Hubbard, first-time author Dugall dusts off the shopworn premise of alien contact, though there’s little of that Spielberg-ian sense of awe and wonder. In fact, the prime consideration by cynical humans—and one particularly Type A woman—seems to be how it will affect career aims and bank accounts. The theme park mecca of Orlando is the touchdown site for Ech, a member of the Ka’Hath race armed with relics of the Gardeners, a godlike, now-vanished alien civilization from galactic prehistory. Presenting himself—surgically altered to approximate a human appearance—at the airport with minimal ceremony, Ech begins negotiations with slightly put out local officials, including Sarah Thompson, a jaded-beyond-her-years consultant and troubleshooter for Orlando’s corrupt City Hall. Giving Earth a (misleadingly incomplete) picture of the galactic “Consortium” he represents, the cagey Ech only marginally reveals that our planet is in grave danger. According to alien scientific dogma, intelligent life here should not even be possible; therefore, Gardener-worshipping alien fanatics might determine to annihilate Earth. Recruiting Sarah as his primary human liaison—for her, it’s either that or go back into sales— Ech uses Gardener gadgetry to erect an awesome, automated embassy/fortress/weapons factory on an island in the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the Association, humanity’s world-dominating secret society, regards Ech and Sarah as annoyances to the status quo and conspires against them using the media, anti-alien pressure groups and considerably deadlier means. Even with a foreshadowing of dire peril and mayhem, the tone is more urbane and slightly tongue-in-cheek than gee-whiz. Prose seems to take its attitude from the heroine, who doesn’t seem overwhelmingly impressed with anything going on, least of all Ech’s inscrutably indifferent, hands-off management style. But the narrative is as

HACK

Crowley, Kieran Omicron Press (241 pp.) $4.99 e-book | Sep. 23, 2013 In Crowley’s (Almost Paradise, 2005, etc.) ruckus of a crime novel, a pet columnist on his first day as a tabloid journalist becomes embroiled in a conspiracy-fueled murder spree. Before taking a bite of his highly anticipated chicken souvlaki sandwich, Francis Xavier Shepherd is interrupted on his first day at the New York Mail by a call from the city desk, and he’s off to report on a “good murder” uptown. Neil Leonardi, husband of infamous reality TV star and celebrity chef Aubrey Forsythe, lies dead in their kitchen, a piece of his flesh expertly removed, cooked and dressed with parmesan cheese. An angry Siberian husky guards him. Shepherd calms the dog, assists in dissecting the events of the crime scene and befriends attending officer Izzy Negron. Before Negron realizes he has mistaken Shepherd for an actual crime reporter with a similar name, Shepherd files an exclusive report, earning singing praises from his manic tabloid bosses as well as the fury of rival cutthroat journalist, Ginny MicHilone. As the case develops, Shepherd’s exclusives pile up, and he delves deeper and deeper into the story of a serial killer nicknamed “The Hacker” by the New York Mail. Shepherd adopts Skippy, the dog from the crime scene, and his life becomes a revolving door of dog walks, dates with beautiful but dangerous women, and trips to murder scenes dotted with the killer’s signature: Altoids mints. Crowley, a seasoned true-crime 108

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CRAZY FOR ITALIAN FOOD Perdutamente; A Memoir of Family, Food, and Place with Recipes

witty as it is laid back, and the pages easily turn. Along with a cliffhanger ending that may be a springboard into a multivolume series, the story leaves clever clues for readers about how a transformed Earth fares down the line. Dysfunctional mankind finally makes contact, and the results here are pleasantly entertaining, with muted satirical overtones.

Famularo, Joe Xlibris (354 pp.) $29.99 | $19.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Jun. 14, 2013 978-1-4797-9071-5

THE CONSERVANCY

Famularo’s (Viva La Cucina Italiana, 2012, etc.) debut memoir uses family recipes as a paean to the culture—and kitchens—that shaped his childhood. The life of a first-generation Italian immigrant in New York City emerges slowly from this series of loosely connected vignettes, each providing another insight into the author. Sometimes the subject matter is light—the malapropisms of Famularo’s mother, the way she rolls and cuts her own pasta, or his brother’s choice of girlfriends. But this is no soppy memoir. It begins in the gap between the two world wars, following a loose chronology until Famularo and a friend trek to postwar Italy to visit his mother’s home village of Accettura, bearing gifts of chocolate, cigarettes and coffee. “I feel we forget about the food that grounds us,” Famularo writes. But it’s obvious that it’s not just the food that binds his family together, stretched as they are across both the East Coast and the ocean. It’s the process of making the meals—the love, the caring, the competition and the gossip that goes into it. Famularo’s sketches have no unifying plot or tension, but each stands on its own as a full chapter, punctuated by recipes—pleasant rambles through kitchens strewn with drying sausages, basements filled with jars of homemade tomato sauce and the iconic ethnic businesses found down the street. Through it all, eating is the family’s conduit to understanding and participating in the world around them. As Famularo writes of his father’s aunt, “As you entered her kitchen door, she would go to the ice-a-box, open the door slowly, dramatically, with a smile and say, ‘C’e tutta cosa—tutta’ (There is everything here—everything).” By sharing not only his family’s recipes, but the stories behind them, he invites readers into the fold. Short, true accounts set largely in the kitchen and populated by rich, opinionated characters with formidable cooking skills.

Escurel , T. T. CreateSpace (256 pp.) $12.99 paper | Aug. 11, 2013 978-1-4910-9316-0 Entertaining, plot-driven YA sci-fi that blends time travel with ethics and humor. Joshua Fox is a bright kid, but lately, school has been one big bore. Plus, it’s just Josh and his mom trying to make ends meet, which means no extra funds for a school more tailored to Josh’s academic and social needs. So when Miss Agnes shows up at the Foxes’ front door, offering a free ride at the Conservancy, an idyllic boarding school on a rambling estate, Josh and his mother are intrigued. As they’re led on a tour around the school by Becca, a pretty fellow student, Josh and his mother begin to sense something amiss among the leafy gardens, well-appointed stables and impressive buildings. One teacher is particularly odd, becoming especially pushy to Josh and his mom when they decide to turn down the school’s offer. Things start to get really creepy when Josh wakes up groggy in his dorm room at the Conservancy with no memories of either accepting the offer or moving in. His classes are equally strange: The lessons consist of reading Wikipedia pages out loud, and many of Josh’s classmates seem exceptionally out of place—and time. Unsupervised interaction with other students is prohibited, and those who have tried to leave have been punished in temporally creative ways (dinosaurs make an imaginative appearance). In his own attempts to escape, Josh begins to uncover a plot that will change not only the future, but the present and the past. Escurel takes on the time-travel/ sci-fi genre with aplomb, adding some light philosophy perfect for young and even teenage readers looking for a bit of thoughtprovocation in their fast-paced, inventive fiction. While occasionally Escurel relies too heavily upon exposition to flesh out the plot and further the action, the dialogue is sharp and believable, and the descriptions are concise and effective. Suspenseful, efficiently written YA.

INVENTED AUGUST An Imperfect Escape to Capri Farnsworth, Melissa; Frisbee, Genie CreateSpace (326 pp.) $13.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Aug. 7, 2013 978-1-4825-1140-6

An exotic vacation turns into a nightmare in Frisbee and Farnsworth’s novel. Lily, Grace, Penn, Deedee, Cat and Amelia have been friends for over 12 years, leaning on each other for support as they weather marital |

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“The prose can be quite sad but frequently funny as well, reminiscent of author Tao Lin’s detached self-deprecation.” from epic sloth

woes and challenging children. Their husbands—golfing buddies who initially introduced the wives—are all flawed in their own unique yet unappealing ways. The men are inattentive, cheaters, liars, self-absorbed, immature or alcoholics. The wives are largely long-suffering traditionalists who outwardly accept the lot they have been given and attempt to maintain their marriages by placating their husbands. Internally, the women struggle with their own unhappiness and insecurities. Yet the lives they work so hard to maintain begin to crumble during a spontaneous trip to the Isle of Capri, Italy. Lily, a fashion designer, can’t turn down an exciting professional opportunity and invites her friends to accompany her to Italy. They depart for Capri, anticipating a relaxing escape from the responsibilities of daily life. Despite high expectations, their vacation quickly turns into a battleground as the women square off and friendships begin to fracture. Each woman is forced to face the reality of her unhappy home life, and rather than pull together, the friends make moral choices whose consequences drive them further apart. Frisbee and Farnsworth use the lovely Isle of Capri as a backdrop for their story of friendship, offering a gorgeous villa and stunning scenery to complement the beautiful women. Yet the authors deliver a surprise narrative; rather than settling for light and frothy chick lit, they delve into the difficult dynamics of women’s friendships, tackling the costs of unhappiness and unrealized expectations. Set in the late 1970s, the stories of these six friends represent a changing culture for women that begins to embrace independence instead of settling for the roles of unhappy wife and frustrated mother. The story is narrated from multiple perspectives, and Frisbee and Farnsworth provide a diverse set of characters whose interactions are entirely believable while the changing dynamic of their friendships reflect reality. An engaging novel written by women, about women whose flaws are as appealing as their strengths.

makes Gaber’s self-described “damaged, angry, lovable hustler hero” sympathetic in spite of himself. The absurdity of a breakup caused by the narrator’s lifelong habit of falling asleep when being yelled at by a woman, for example, is tempered by the plainspoken vulnerability of the chapter’s final line: “It was the saddest day of my life.” Although the author sometimes struggles to maintain momentum over the course of this brief novel and his prose is much more impressive than the sentimental poems scattered intermittently throughout, his book is never boring—it moves forward quickly, never dwelling too long on any one subject or scene. The writing innovates and surprises throughout, incorporating film scripts, lists and other nontraditional forms, although sometimes with mixed results; occasionally, however, his insights into the existential paralysis so prevalent in contemporary life are startling. Overall, Gaber’s second effort is as fulfilling as it is entertaining. Readers easily exasperated by characters with Peter Pan complexes may find the book a bit grating, but fans of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson will likely be drawn to this free-wheeling antihero’s exploits and musings. Often engaging dispatches from the edge of postmodern alienation.

I, PARIS

Garnett, Rick BookBaby (106 pp.) $4.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2013 A retelling of Homer’s Iliad from the point of view of Paris, seducer of Helen. Homer’s millennia-old story about the abduction of Helen from Sparta and the resulting 10-year Greek siege of Troy is given a fresh retelling in Garnett’s fiction debut, this time centering on the character of handsome, exiled Trojan prince Paris, a simple woodsman who one day encounters a miraculous vision: three goddesses, each of whom offers him a prize. He can choose to have wisdom, power or the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta, wife of King Menelaus. Paris picks Helen, re-introduces himself to his royal family at Troy, sets out for Menelaus’ palace, and there finds Helen every bit as bewitching as her reputation foretold (“Words to describe her make no sense unless you see her, in which case no words are needed”). She’s also unhappy and willingly goes with Paris back to Troy. The Greeks soon follow. Readers familiar with Homer’s Iliad will know what happens next: coastal raids, battles and 10 years of conflict, during which, as Helen bitterly points out, the Trojans turn from welcoming to blaming her. They also blame Paris, who’s constantly upbraided for his blithe, carefree nature in the midst of war (as Hector puts it, “Who can blame them if they cannot endure the sight of you, so calm and cheerful in the presence of their pain?”). Garnett treats all this familiar subject matter with vivid, gripping freshness. He largely demythologizes the story (apart from Paris’ initial fever-dream of goddesses, Homer’s host of interfering immortals is absent from the book) and, instead, fills it with acute, dramatically

EPIC SLOTH Tales of the Long Crawl Gaber, Philip Self (176 pp.) $12.99 paper | Jun. 15, 2013 978-0-615-72648-9

Gaber (Between Eden and the Open Road, 2012), in his latest novel, offers up a portrait of a lost, disaffected young man. A man in New York City ambivalently searches for meaning in a series of short vignettes about his misadventures in love, work, friendship and family. The book doesn’t have the arc and structure of a traditional novel, nor do its elliptical, episodic parts seem like discrete short stories. Gaber’s deadpan tone instead straddles the boundary between creative nonfiction and autobiographical fiction. The prose can be quite sad but frequently funny as well, reminiscent of author Tao Lin’s detached self-deprecation and the Thought Catalog website’s unfiltered, monologuelike posts. The narrator possesses a charming self-awareness that 110

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“Unapologetic and unconcerned with gracefulness, Haber’s writing spares not a moment in burrowing to the core of multigenerational trauma.” from i didn’t kill jesus

I DIDN’T KILL JESUS The Holocaust, 3 Generations

convincing psychology. He narrates events from Paris’ point of view, and although the young prince is always feckless and selfabsorbed, the reader somehow never hates him—and the book’s other characters are equally and refreshingly complex. Fans of Sarah Franklin’s Daughter of Troy and Marian Zimmer Bradley’s The Firebrand will find this an outstanding addition to the ranks of Trojan War novels. A lyrical, outstanding modern reshaping of the ancient Homeric epic.

Haber, Naomi Daniela Self (126 pp.) $9.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Feb. 20, 2013 978-0-615-63361-9

Haber, a first-time author and child of Holocaust survivors, memorializes the hardships her family faced during World War II. Beginning by lamenting the loss of the fading generation of Holocaust survivors, Haber frames her story as a plea to never forget the atrocities of the war. By the end, however, it’s apparent that Haber wrote this book for her father, both as a comfort to him in his old age and as assurance that his story would not be forgotten. But more than focusing on her father’s suffering, Haber details her parents’ deep love for each other, her mother’s long and complicated process of Jewish conversion, and the consequences of her parents’ decision to stay in Germany after the war. Their lives, Haber writes, were poisoned not only by post-traumatic stress from surviving genocide, but also by Germany’s unextinguished anti-Semitism. For the family, staying in Straubing after the war meant living as outsiders. Haber recalls being bullied not just by the kids in her class, but also by teachers and her friends’ families. Yet even as she catalogs her vexed upbringing in postwar Germany with interfaith parents, Haber describes growing up in what ultimately registers as a very loving though insular home. In describing her parents’ relationship, Haber writes, “They were like Adam and Eve,” repopulating their lives and families with loved ones. “I’m still resentful of what happened to my father,” she says, and even as an adult, after moving overseas to build a new life away from the land where such violence undid her family, “I also feel that I am being held hostage by the Holocaust,” illustrating the cycle of paranoia and emotional damage she unwittingly passed down to her own children. Especially moving is the inclusion of old photographs of Haber’s family who perished in concentration camps. Rather than overstating what was already strikingly described in the writing, the photos take on symbolic meaning as the feeble remains of lost relatives. Unapologetic and unconcerned with gracefulness, Haber’s writing spares not a moment in burrowing to the core of multigenerational trauma. Her account itemizes the suffering not just of her family, but of all those touched by the brutalities of Nazi Germany. An elegy, a gift, a poignant record.

DIVINITIES, ENTANGLED Eve of Light Book II Grey-Sun, Harambee K. Manuscript

With civilization—and reality itself—on the verge of chaotic collapse, Robert Goldner, a secret agent and tormented carrier of a virus granting superhuman powers, confronts interdimensional conspiracies. Author Grey-Sun launched his visionary Eve of Light sci-fi series with Broken Angels (2012), to which this is a sequel. Hallucinatory, nightmarish yet weirdly beautiful, this volume is a mind-spinner even for readers who grokked the complex back story established in the first volume. Under an unpopular female president, near-future America is a decaying surveillance state, with ghastly acts of mayhem and anarchy broadcast online, typically by damaged packs of unwanted or exploited juveniles. A game-changer in this dystopia is the sexually transmitted WhiteFire Virus, a closely guarded government secret that grants its victims altered consciousnesses—including criminal insanity— and superhuman abilities, like casting illusions and invisibility. Many White-Fire Virus carriers consider themselves to be angels, either trying to save the world or hasten its end. Trying to save it is Robert, an undercover agent and virus carrier who survived the traumatic events in Broken Angels with Ava, a beautiful religious zealot (and “born-again virgin”) suffering partial amnesia. Robert knows she’s a sleeper agent or hypnotized cult terrorist, primed for a trigger signal that will fulfill some ominous mission. Various confrontations tend to make the exposition a bit tangled, as Robert’s secret-ops organization waits for Ava to reveal her true nature, and Robert and Ava must make a pilgrimage to XynKroma, a dimension of “polluted light,” described as the last mad thoughts of a dying God, where sinister entities are preparing to take over once earthly reality checks out. Grey-Sun’s rococo mythology embraces gnosticism, Armageddon, philosophy, magic, poetic wordplay (which, readers are told, is also magic) and anger over the plight of at-risk children. It’s no easy task to comprehend all the swirling events, including the abrupt reintroduction of a few key characters from Broken Angels. Readers will need to do their homework. Intrepid readers will enjoy this ride, however puzzling, through the fever-dream sequel to a metaphysical action-adventure.

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Interviews & Profiles

Jane Lotter

The indie writer and viral sensation is still reaching people, even after her death By Tom Eubanks four paragraphs, I was laughing out loud. By the end of Chapter 2, I was thoroughly engaged in the madcap adventures of “fifty-some” Margo Anna-Louise Just and the much younger, more sober Tully Benedict, the jilted groom of Margo’s mercurial niece, Georgia Illworth (of the Hollywood Illworths). Lotter was a lifelong Seattle resident, “aside from eight memorable months lived in New York City” at the age of 19, but her book, winner of the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, is a classic American road novel. It begins in Malibu and ends in Manhattan, with comedic rest stops throughout flyover country as Margo and Tully hunt Georgia down in a candy apple red 1955 MG TF convertible—the very car in which a 7-year-old Margo rode with Cary Grant to get ice cream. “You don’t get over it,” Margo laments to Tully about this seminal experience. “No woman could.” Of course, Margo is simply a character, a stand-in, perhaps, for the author’s “own feelings about culture and values and spirituality,” according to Marts. “A little decadence, a little drinking, a little Zen, all those aspects, you know?” Lotter seemed to “get over” many of life’s great challenges with aplomb. In the obituary that pushed her novel into the spotlight, she advised her two grown children: “Always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.” Her advice rises above platitude when one remembers it was written by a woman enduring grade 3, stage 3c endometrial cancer, which had recurred and metastasized to her liver and abdomen, while forging her own route to get The Bette Davis Club finished and into the hands of readers. At first, she went through what Marts calls “the various stages of trying to find an agent and publishers.”

I first encountered the wit of Jane Lotter in the paid death notice she wrote for herself, published on July 28, 2013, in the Seattle Times, 10 days after her passing. Touching, funny and inspiring, the obituary was liked, re-tweeted, Googled and shared across the globe, creating its own social media whirlwind. “There’s hundreds of comments on all the various articles about her,” says Bob Marts, her husband of 29 years. “Even though we don’t know these people, Jane communicates to them.” Like all smart writers, Lotter took the opportunity in the obituary to plug her debut novel, The Bette Davis Club. Intrigued by her humorous yet humble voice— and always up for anything with Bette Davis in it—I downloaded the title to my Kindle. Within the first 112

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Lotter’s critique partner, Steve Jaquith, recalls that she completed both the manuscript and her first round of chemo in 2011. She was ready to submit the manuscript to agents and editors who had expressed interest. “The rest of us, who were a little more tortoiselike, said, ‘Wait, don’t you have to go over it like 14 times? Get an editor?’ ” Jaquith recalls. “No. I’m an editor myself,” she told them. “I’m ready.” “I eventually convinced her to let me read through it,” he says. During their first meeting, the two spent an hour and a half going through editorial suggestions, “basically structural issues and things that came off a bit differently than how she meant them.” She was a pleasure to work with, he says, “so open and receptive.” She went back through the book again then submitted it to some agents. Even from the first diagnosis, Jaquith thinks that Lotter was aware the cancer was “going to get her sooner or later.” She thought she might live long enough to publish The Bette Davis Club traditionally; she wanted a New York agent. In 2012, one of her top picks wrote her, saying, “I’ve been on the fence with this for a while. There’s a couple of things I’m not sure about.” Lotter then did another rewrite and resubmitted it. “She never heard back from him,” Jaquith says. Lotter refused to wait for some nebulous green light and published The Bette Davis Club as an e-book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing on April 23 of this year. A print-on-demand paperback, through CreateSpace, came out the first week in July. Yet still, in the press that followed her autoobituary—press that helped triple sales of the book, according to figures provided by Lotter’s sister, Barbara—there were some who sought to portray Lotter’s accomplishments as a dream deferred or even denied. This elitist attitude toward independent authors appears in the story the New York Times devoted to Lotter on August 5. “Ms. Lotter’s dream” the reporter writes, “was to get a novel published, but she ran out of time and self-published it as an e-book,” which makes both selfpublishing and e-books sound illegitimate, permissible only under impending death. The truth is, Lotter ran out of patience, not time. Not only did she self-publish The Bette Davis Club as an e-book, she made sure it was available in paperback—both of which are two popular forms for a published novel in 2013.

“She was slow to come to self-publishing,” says Jaquith. “Once it did happen, she was so happy she had. But it was not an easy sell for her.” Sure, he agrees, it may have been “the lack of time, but she wanted people to be able to read it.” Before she passed away at the end of July, she had been “able to hold that book in her hand and sign some copies,” according to Jaquith, “which I know must have been really great for her.” After the Kindle edition appeared in May, the two made a deal. “I’m going to keep calling you and ask if you want me to come over,” he told her. “At some point, you’re not going to respond, and that’s OK.” A month before she died, Jaquith stopped hearing from her. He kept checking her website and ordered three copies. “The day I got the call from Barbara, telling me Jane had passed away, I took my dogs out for a long walk,” he remembers. When he returned home, a cardboard box with a smile on the outside was waiting for him, Jane Lotter’s books inside. 9

Tom Eubanks is a freelance writer, editor and consultant with 25 years of experience in magazine and book publishing. He can be followed @tomusphere.

The Bette Davis Club Lotter, Jane CreateSpace (272 pp.) $10.28 paper | $3.99 e-book July 1, 2013 978-1-490-47197-6 |

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LET’S PRETEND WE’RE CHRISTIANS AND PLAY IN THE SNOW The Adventures of a Jewish Dad

TOADIES Creepers Mysteries, Book 2

Kingrey Anderson, Connie Movies for the Ear, LLC (142 pp.) $7.99 paper | $2.99 e-book | Jan. 3, 2013 978-1-935793-03-8

Harris, Ed Fifty Tales Media, LLC (200 pp.) $13.99 paper | $5.99 e-book Aug. 15, 2013 978-0-9898076-0-9

Kingrey Anderson (Haunted Cattle Drive, 2013) offers a fun second installment in her kid-friendly Creepers Mysteries series. Readers familiar with Kingrey Anderson’s previous work will welcome the returns of Gillian, Harry and Arvin—three kids who can sniff out a spooky mystery faster than Scooby-Doo. This book finds the friends planning a Halloween party at the historic Hamstead Farm. According to legend, the farm was once cursed by an evil witch to spite her sister—the Goodwife of Hamstead Farm, a good witch who owned the property. It’s said that the Goodwife locked her evil sister in a gnarled old tree to end the curse and save the farm. Gillian, Harry and Arvin, while decorating the location for their party, soon realize that the old tale is more than just a scary story. After they remove a vine from around the tree, the evil witch escapes. She tasks her toads with capturing three humans to take her place inside the tree and completely nullify her sister’s spell. The trio is forced to flee from a hoard of croaking, hopping “toadies” and their floating magic brooms that can imprison human souls. The ancient witch legend provides a solid backdrop to this latest series mystery, and although the toads may not be satisfyingly creepy enough for some readers, they will likely deliver a scare to a younger audience. In the course of her tale, the author also touches on larger concepts such as bullying and self-esteem, but the heart of her story is, appropriately, the mystery. As with her first installment, Kingrey Anderson also includes a “Movie for the Ear” script that helps children to stage their own play; she breaks down the narrative text into a basic screenplay, complete with dialogue and staging instructions. She also encourages sound effects, and her clever, practical noise-making suggestions are guaranteed to have young audiences rooting through their pantries for props. A great creative activity for kids and their families, arriving just in time for Halloween.

Heartfelt, funny reflections on parenting and family life from a Jewish father. Harris (Fifty Shades of Schwarz, 2013) treats readers to a book of tales that feels like sitting at a family dinner in his home. The anecdotes follow his life, from meeting his wife to the present day, covering plenty of ground in between. They have three children, two of whom were adopted from Latin America, and the middle son is gay—“just your average American family,” Harris says. The way in which their two adopted children came to join their family is lovingly and humorously detailed, as Harris delves into the experience of traveling to a foreign country, with its slow bureaucracy, in hopes of bringing home a new child. There’s the all-night screaming from his second son and the frustrating but necessary path through the court systems to speed up the adoption. Harris has led an interesting life, traveling internationally after high school and eventually making a career in the finance industry as a very young married man, but throughout the book, it’s obvious his love for his family is paramount; in fact, his family devotion has occasionally cost him career advancement. “Having reached my forties,” he says, “I wasn’t willing to advance my career by working the kind of long hours chained to a desk the way I had twenty years earlier, before I had kids, when the sacrifice seemed worth it.” Elsewhere, he amusingly conveys the titular anecdote and how Harris’ elder son convinced the family to embrace vegetarianism. Harris isn’t shy about making his opinions known or sharing philosophies and tactics that have worked for him as a father, making the book valuable beyond entertainment. The relevance of Judaism to parenting, family life and moral conduct is a recurring theme in the work, too, and Harris seems uniquely qualified to speak of a modern understanding of Judaism, as a father to children of three races and varying sexualities. A charming, moral work about family life in modern America.

YESHU A Novel for the Open-Hearted Kleymeyer, Charles David CreateSpace (600 pp.) $22.95 paper | Jul. 17, 2013 978-1-4903-5300-5

A fictionalized account of Jesus’ life, told from the perspective of a young disciple. Kleymeyer’s (Cultural Expression and Grassroots Development, 1994) debut novel leads readers through young Daavi’s journey—both literal and metaphorical—with his neighbor Yeshu, a 114

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“Lenz—himself a veteran actor—cunningly blends time travel, LA noir, Hollywood glitz and self-discovery, making for a uniquely appealing read.” from the alexandrite

carpenter from Nazareth. The novel’s plot closely follows biblical accounts of Jesus’ life, with many familiar characters and episodes appearing throughout the book. Flashbacks recount early stories told by Yeshu, his mother and his grandmother to the children of Nazareth, but the book mainly focuses on Daavi’s formative years and Yeshu’s adulthood. Although Daavi eagerly follows Yeshu’s teachings on peace and humility, he remains an ordinary boy, with occasional bursts of temper and impatience that demonstrate that, although Yeshu may be divine, his followers retain their humanity. Daavi and Yeshu’s other adherents travel the lands sharing stories, ministering and healing people—until Yeshu’s execution by the Roman government. Daavi’s story continues after Yeshu’s death as he deals with his grief and anger, reconciles with his family and finds a way to continue Yeshu’s work. The book features a well-developed cast of supporting characters; some have Latinized names (such as Maria Magdalena), while others retain their Hebrew names. Yohanan, the novel’s version of John the Baptist, is one of the strongest figures here, with a finely drawn sense of spirituality that guides Daavi’s own religious development. Despite occasionally awkward prose, the story moves at a rapid pace that belies the book’s considerable length. The plot remains simple and focused despite the novel’s large cast of characters, making it easy for readers to follow. A compelling take on a famous Bible tale.

Hollywood offers an intriguing glimpse into Monroe’s tragic life and death. “We turned her into an icon,” says Cade, in Richard’s body, “then a vessel of our hopes and dreams, and finally a human sacrifice.” Like Monroe, the novel is impressively complex. Lenz—himself a veteran actor—cunningly blends time travel, LA noir, Hollywood glitz and self-discovery, making for a uniquely appealing read. A stellar story illuminated by a star’s light and a man’s search for himself.

THE LONE WOLF MURDERS A Motorcycle Adventure

Littrell, Wayne AbbottPress (204 pp.) $33.99 | $14.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Mar. 6, 2013 978-1-4582-0827-9 In Littrell’s debut thriller, a biker witnesses a murder and flees, but he must contend with two killers who leave more bodies in their wakes as they search for him. John “Wolf ” Trotter ends a late-night ride on his bike by witnessing a man and a woman killing another man. He narrowly avoids a gunshot and later learns that the dead guy is the now-missing mayor of Whiteville, Ala. Wolf ’s not sure he’d recognize the killers, and the killers, 45 and Blondie, didn’t get a clear look at him. So the killers start offing bikers with a specific model—a Vulcan Nomad—and realize that Wolf, outspoken against the mayor’s noise ordinance, would make a perfect patsy when the mayor’s body is discovered (though they still don’t know Wolf witnessed one of their previous murders). In Littrell’s first-rate thriller, the two villains are an ever-present threat, particularly Blondie, whose chameleonic changes—from wearing wigs to switching genders—prevent Wolf from positively identifying her even when they speak to one another at a bar. Wolf can be an uneven character, though, with an apparent distaste for nonriders sometimes nullified by his own life or behavior: He dismisses a “middle-class neighborhood”—the same one in which he resides—and shows contempt for a careless driver on a cellphone, even though Wolf often drinks or smokes weed before hopping onto his bike. But Littrell constructs a world of bikers whose mutual trust makes them almost a family: Wolf is wary of all cops except the one who’s also his biker friend, Lute; a sympathetic mayor and former biker (different from the aforementioned mayor) helps Wolf ’s pal, Mark; and two DEA agents, whom Wolf encounters while fearing that the FBI wants to question him, are trustworthy because they “love to ride.” Readers may long for a stronger love interest, however, since the only one of significance is Wolf ’s wife, Sue; Wolf often seems more content with a ready, hot meal than with Sue’s companionship. Blondie, on the other hand, is an extraordinary character with a back story so titillating it could be its own novel. The ending doesn’t quite tie up details of the murder, though it leaves a clear opening for another Wolf adventure.

THE ALEXANDRITE Lenz, Rick Self (243 pp.)

Lenz’s mesmerizing, multifaceted debut novel is both an intriguing timetravel/past-life adventure and a subtle homage to Marilyn Monroe. Initially set in Southern California in 1996, the storyline follows Jack Cade, a 40-year-old struggling actor who’s inexplicably given a valuable alexandrite ring by an unknown benefactor. But the strange gift doesn’t change Cade’s run of bad luck: He loses a job he desperately needed, and his wife finally leaves him. When a woman named Maggie Partridge, who claims to be a psychophysicist, contacts the down-and-out actor with “extremely important” information, he decides to meet with her and hear her out. Her story is incredible: She believes that Cade used to be a man named Richard Blake, a gemologist who lived in the San Fernando Valley in the 1950s—and she has a way to send him back in time to prove it. Cade agrees and indeed finds himself back in 1956 as the gemologist. Blake’s existence is as bleak as Cade’s. He lives with his wife and her mentally challenged sister, with whom he’s having an affair. Blake, an aspiring actor, has the opportunity to meet Marilyn Monroe, who has just started filming Bus Stop. Meeting Monroe helps Cade/ Blake begin to unravel the mystery surrounding the alexandrite ring, and the pieces to an incredibly intricate puzzle start falling into place—until Blake’s wife takes umbrage with his infidelity. Along the way, this fascinating look at the underbelly of |

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This thriller’s full-throttle pace leaves minor plot points and characters in the dust, but most readers will enjoy the ride nonetheless.

Greece, but unique for our age. He starts with an Indian conflict between the Gupta Empire and the invading Ephthalite Huns in the year 515, then moves on to the 1759 French and Indian War. Next he depicts a World War I battle at Amiens in 1918, followed by an undated global nuclear Armageddon, as viewed on computer screens in a Jerusalem bunker. Although widely disparate in time and place, some narratives share important threads: Brothers fight one another or participants see power, ambition and greed as the causes of conflict but stand by as the blood flows. Change is the only constant as empires rise and fall and one disaster foreshadows the next; for example, in the third poem, a priest blesses the body parts of British soldiers “blasted to atoms,” a prelude to the splitting of atoms in the fourth and final poem. In that nuclear disaster, a fictional U.S. secretary of state and his family fly into Israel to try to defuse the threats of a Middle Eastern leader, but even the leader’s brother can’t talk him out of starting a war. Lyons walks a high wire with this ambitious, difficult project—particularly with the rhyming couplets, which don’t always sing—but he successfully conveys a tragic picture of human depravity and ultimate self-destruction. Overall, it’s a work of great scholarship; not an easy read but not overly difficult, either, as ample footnotes and maps explain historical context when necessary. A sometimes-brilliant and often moving poetic exploration of humanity’s warlike ways.

IN A CHICAGO MINUTE

Lubow, Mike Two-Fisted Birdwatcher Books (142 pp.) $8.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Nov. 5, 2012 978-0-615-62681-9 A debut collection of short reflections on time, life and being a regular guy. In this collection of 64 “literary tidbits,” Lubow, a former creative director at an ad agency, reflects on a wide range of topics. The pieces are each meant to be read in about a minute; the author provides word counts for each one, with the highest hitting just 160 words. All originally appeared as part of a series on the “Guy Page” of the Chicago Tribune from 2004 to 2008. The author draws on his background as a writer of short television spots to succinctly express deep, meaningful ideas throughout this collection. The tone is conversational and direct, often addressing subjects in everyday life. Some are short stories that reflect on particular points (a father and son roll malted milk balls into a crowd to see which get stepped on, leading the father to think about the nature of luck); others are short reflections about such subjects as how hard it is to feel nostalgia when things keep coming back into style. Still others use a second-person perspective to draw readers into the experience; one begins, “[Y]ou’re with your dog in the vet’s crowded waiting room,” and goes on to describe how dogs accept their differences more readily than humans do. Some themes come up repeatedly, including various aspects of being a “guy” and the nature of a minute (what one can do in 60 seconds or how a minute can feel long or short depending on what’s being done). The book also critiques specific TV shows and books, such as Blue Collar TV, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (2005). Most of these wise little pieces, however, are general and relatable for both sexes, who will likely find truth, comfort and humor in them. A clever, humorous collection.

AKROPOLIS

McCallum, Catherine Self (271 pp.) $2.99 e-book | May 29, 2013 An engaging, fresh take on sci-fi that educates while it entertains. It’s 2020 in Tasmania, and 17-yearold Nat and his older half brother, Seb, live a relatively uninteresting, small-town life—until, after talking about a “portal,” Seb’s friend Rick disappears during a storm at sea. Seb decides to leave Tasmania to investigate Rick’s mysterious disappearance, as well as his own involvement in a series of strange, perhaps even otherworldly events. Although he cautions Nat not to follow him, Seb leaves Nat a cryptic note that leads Nat to Yoshiki, an elderly man who lives nearby, and his granddaughter, the beautiful but bossy Norika, who agree to help Nat find Seb. After Yoshiki gives Nat a rock that has some unusual powers, Nat finds himself in danger from the Ascendants, people from another planet who intend to reprogram human DNA in order to alter the course of history. In their quest to find Seb, Nat and Norika must use their knowledge of science, linguistics and history to decipher a series of diagrams that open portals through time and space, from 1930s Japan to ancient Athens to far-flung corners of the universe and back to Earth. As Nat, Norika and Seb learn more about the Ascendants, they discover a network of resistance that includes Survivors, the original settlers of Earth, and their Descendants. All are drawn into an intergalactic war that may end not only life as

BUT BY THE CHANCE OF WAR Lyons, Richard C. Lylea Creative Resources (484 pp.) $26.99 | $16.99 paper | $10.99 e-book Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-615-53205-9

A chronicle of mankind’s destructive urges through the ages, rendered in four epic poems spanning four wars and 1,500 years. In his debut, Lyons offers a tetralogy—a group of four related plays written as epic poems in rhyming couplets, based on a style used in classical Athens, 116

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I THINK I WENT TO LONDON

they know it, but life as it has always been known. McCallum’s debut blends the fast-paced excitement of a classic time-travel novel with well-rounded characters and imaginative locations; the titular setting, including a colorful scene featuring Greek politicians, is particularly rich. Without sacrificing realistic dialogue and emotion in service of plot, McCallum remains keenly aware of an obligation to both entertain and emote. Efficiently told and imaginatively plotted, this debut will delight both teens and adults.

Pick, Ernest CreateSpace (176 pp.) $7.50 paper | $3.49 e-book Dec. 28, 2012 978-1-4782-8635-6

Debut author Pick’s Kafkaesque postwar tale about an American student at the University of London who’s a highly unreliable narrator. In 1956, Paul Scudery, a young man from Rhode Island suffering from chronic anxiety but a healthy libido, travels to London to study British history. Impressionable and insecure, he gets caught up with England’s fading Communist Party while joining rioters in firebombing the offices of the Daily Worker. Soon, the American Embassy recruits him to spy on the local party leader, Jane Falmouth, whose daughter or niece—it isn’t made clear—becomes his lover. But was he recruited? Did his girlfriend dump him? And did he accompany fellow boardinghouse student Rolf to Vienna to volunteer at the Hungarian refugee camps, or did he stop in Mannheim and spend the week with another lover? Paul obviously has a problem separating reality from fantasy—or, perhaps, he is living in parallel universes, as Dr. Victor, his unaccredited analyst, suggests. As the young man’s accounting of events is increasingly at odds with that of his friends, it becomes clear the reader can no longer trust him. He is studious and polite; he is sexually aggressive and explosively violent. Which is the real Paul? Even his landlord’s dog alternately cozies up to him and attacks his ankles. Maybe he has a doppelgänger, as the hapless Dr. Victor speculates, or perhaps he’s simply suffering from an identity crisis. Author Pick has concocted a twisting narrative that reveals secrets and then tears them apart. His writing style is alternately lush and clipped, full of sentence fragments: “With the thought, I felt the first drums. Not drums. Something pounding in my head. Beyond my head. My heart struggling to remain confined within itself.” He has deftly created an atmospheric England in the 1950s—a setting that is the most reliable aspect of the book. Fittingly, toward the end, Paul’s philosophy professor turns to Jean-Paul Sartre and his theory that “reality is what the individual makes of it.” Readers may find themselves nodding their heads in agreement as the story flits from dream to reality to a climax that rapidly plunges to an existential conclusion. Strangely compelling despite (or because of) the unreliable narrator, this novel will intrigue fans of the unconventional and exasperate those who expect tidy endings.

THE PATH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY Neale, Felicity CreateSpace (182 pp.) $14.95 paper | $4.99 e-book Jan. 22, 2013 978-1-4791-8699-0

Australian Neale writes her first book, a self-help guide to spiritual development. Neale, a lifelong spiritual seeker, puts forth a distinct, detailed plan for attaining fulfillment. Borrowing from many wisdom traditions from across the world and her own personal experience, Neale writes a warm, engaging account that gives concrete steps for reaching spiritual maturity. Penned for those who are exploring different directions and who are not concerned with doctrinaire stands, this little book should perhaps have been titled, The Bridge to Spiritual Maturity, as a bridge metaphor continues throughout the book, offering an image that leads the reader through the spiritual growth process. “Each person’s relationship to God is in private and is for no other person to interfere with,” writes Neale, whose carefully considered system of guidelines and principles are meant to foster presence without alienating the reader. Neale provides examples of low-, middle- and high-level development. Understanding the effect of personality on awareness, cultivating mindfulness, and using different types of prayer are some of the specific techniques that Neale offers. “We labor under the illusion that external factors dictate the kind of life we have,” Neale says, but, ever the advocate of personal responsibility, she urges the spiritual seeker to exercise free will and to take responsibility for thoughts, words and actions. Anyone who is open-minded and curious will find in this volume a wealth of information that can be applied to his or her own growth and to the inevitable pitfalls and challenges. A detailed, approachable handbook to mindfulness by a knowledgeable, experienced spiritual guide.

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“Rashid deftly mingles personal anecdotes with polemical fire.” from the wrong kind of muslim

THE WRONG KIND OF MUSLIM An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance

BETRAYAL IN BROOKLYN Reeves, W.J. William Reeves (268 pp.) $10.25 paper | $1.99 e-book Dec. 29, 2011 978-0-9836865-0-7

Rashid, Qasim Self (254 pp.) $14.95 paper | $9.95 e-book May 28, 2013 978-0989397704

In this debut thriller, Reeves’ Brooklyn is a dark, desperate world populated by gangs, lechers, bums, addicts and murderers. Richie Bucceroni is not your typical aging Italian from Brooklyn. He is a professor of chemistry at a Brooklyn college and an expert on the sometimes-deadly effects of chemicals and drugs. When a student is found murdered with a sickly smile on his face, Richie knows it may be the result of ingesting brucine—a chemical that was recently the topic of one of his student lectures. Realizing that someone has broken into his chemical locker, Richie turns to his childhood friend detective Dominick Mancini to help solve the case. The problem is, people keep turning up dead: first a fellow professor and then the owner of the local liquor store. When Richie narrowly avoids catching a bullet himself, he realizes that he’s now the killer’s target. The only other person Richie can trust is his laboratory assistant, Candy, who teams up with him to help identify and track the murderer. Reeves’ Brooklyn is not pretty: Richie witnesses several instances of street violence, and his students, who “could not really read, write or figure at any acceptable grade level,” are seemingly all involved in gangs and drugs. The borough of Brooklyn figures so prominently that it almost becomes a character itself and provides a vivid, if desolate, sense of place. In this world of violence and apathy, it’s understandable that Richie only trusts two people. He uses humor to offset the bleak environment, and while it can be heavy-handed and repetitious (he jokes several times about the smell of a set of workout clothes), Richie is an affably self-effacing protagonist. But even the most desensitized readers may be offended by Richie’s and Mancini’s racist and sexist remarks. The ending is left wide open for a sequel, and those who don’t mind a little grit and gloom will likely want to spend more time with the sardonic chemistry professor. Reeves’ tenebrous world should appeal to ardent fans of hard-boiled fiction.

A heartfelt memoir of Muslim-onMuslim discrimination and oppression. On April 26, 1984, the government of Pakistan issued a comprehensive law rendering criminal the expression of the Ahmadi sect of Islam. Ahmadi leaders who continued to address their congregations in their official capacities were arrested; mosques were tightly policed or shut down; Ahmadi Muslims caught “acting Muslim” were subject to summary imprisonment and worse. Widespread discrimination by the nation’s Sunni majority focused not only on Ahmadi Muslims, but also on Shia Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Hindus and atheists. Rashid’s family was caught up in the violence and confusion of these so-called blasphemy laws. Yet when the members moved to the United States in 1987, they faced similar, though not as intense, discrimination and suspicion. The heartbreak of both worlds is movingly captured in Rashid’s memoir, in which he relates not only his own experiences, but those of the many victims he interviewed. “I visited blood-splattered mosques, touched scars left by gunfire, grenades, and shrapnel, and prayed for the departed at their final resting places,” he says. Embarking on a “Jihad—of the pen,” Rashid effectively dramatizes some of these stories—including that of his cousin Danyal (not his real name), whose imprisonment and torture provide the book’s most memorable passages— to raise readers’ awareness of the plight of religiously persecuted minorities in Pakistan. Rashid deftly mingles personal anecdotes with polemical fire, outlining the history and nature of the Ahmadi sect, detailing the claustrophobic bigotry of Pakistan’s ruling mullahs and authorities, and convincingly broadening his scope to encompass “the millions, or rather, the billions around the world who live under the veil of oppression of conscience.” Stories of graphic violence—for instance, gunfire erupting during prayer services crowded with children—alternate with the author’s repeated calls for understanding, tolerance and free inquiry. “The antidote, therefore,” he writes, “is education and compassion. Education combats the ignorance, and compassion melts away fear.” Although his memoir offers a penetrating look at the strange specifics of a terrorist mindset, it is equally insightful on the psychology of the religiously oppressed. Along the way, the vivid narrative avoids easy answers, since there are none. A harrowing yet hopeful story of modern-day religious persecution.

This Issue’s Contributors # Rachel Abramowitz • Paul Allen • Kent Armstrong • James Burbank • Sarah Burghauser • Sean Campbell • Darren Carlaw • Charles Cassady • Tricia Cornell • Lisa Costantino • Simon Creek Lindsay Denninger • Steve Donoghue • Jameson Fitzpatrick • Shannon Gallagher • Leila Jutton • Daniel Lindley • Lisa Maloney • Brandon Nolta • Sarah Rettger • Barry Silverstein Heather Talty • Emily Thompson • Carrie Allen Tipton • Kimberly Whitmer

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SIGNED CONFESSIONS

programs as Hee Haw, All in the Family, MacGyver and Who’s the Boss?, among others. Along the way, he picked up two Emmys and doubled his salary with each new job, but he never lost his humility or his desire to learn and refine his craft. For example, after he won his first Emmy Award for Hee Haw, he moved down to an assistant editor position when the show was canceled: “Always be willing to learn by going back and doing beginner jobs. You might learn something new or remind yourself of something you may have forgotten.” On the subject of learning new systems, he writes, “Once again I’ll remind you that it is very important that you learn the tools of your craft…you can edit with confidence and concentrate on the creative side of editing.” Along the way, he also presents a brief history of the evolution of video editing, from film reels to digital devices. Zappia’s asides and simple writing style may be off-putting at first, but they quickly become endearing and occasionally inspiring. However, he includes relatively few stories about his family, which makes their rare appearances feel disjointed; at one point, for example, he mentions that his son became a TV writer, without ever previously mentioning that his son had an interest in writing. However, he also includes original letters and photographs from his editing life that add a personal touch. A pleasant read that espouses the merits of dedication and gives thoughtful advice to burgeoning editors.

Walker, Tom Fomite (312 pp.) $15.00 paper | $9.99 e-book Feb. 18, 2013 978-1-937677-36-7

Hidden guilt, festering sins and the need to bring old wounds into the cleansing sunlight drive the protagonists in Walker’s collection of stories that explores ideas of responsibility and forgiveness with a critical but compassionate eye. In this universe, men face aspects of themselves of which they were once proud, but those aspects have now cost them a great deal. A tough former assistant district attorney mourns his son’s suicide and looks into his past to find an incident with another boy that helped form a hardness in himself; a community college English instructor becomes ashamed of his proclivity for insulting others and seeks atonement through an unusual form of bingo; a retired naval officer, reeling from the death of his wife, tries to reconnect with his daughter while dealing with his fear of being alone. Circumstances force each of these men—which all of the protagonists are—to confront themselves, and in Walker’s cleareyed, unsentimental prose, they emerge from their experiences changed, though not always for the better. The thematic links are obvious almost to the point of being simplistic, but through his precise construction and observant point of view, Walker saves his stories from tilting into patronization. Although his protagonists have specific ideas about themselves—and in the cases of Milton from “Making Amends” and Phil from “The Lap Dancer,” sometimes delusional ones—they each manage to open their eyes, albeit with significant help in some cases. They take steps to rectify their faults or at least acknowledge them. While Walker’s prose is never flashy, his careful grounding of details and patient efforts in constructing character and setting create a universe of flaws and possibilities, and his stories unfold with a cumulative, occasionally wrenching emotional effect. A compelling look at guilt and absolution and the cost of each to wounded men.

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 M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N Chief Financial Officer J ames H ull SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny

SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM Zappia, Marco CreateSpace (184 pp.) $11.95 paper | Jul. 18, 2013 978-1-4826-0400-9

SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2013 by Kirkus Media LLC. KIRKUS REVIEWS (ISSN 1948- 7428) is published semimonthly 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.

Former video editor Zappia’s debut memoir gives readers a look behind the scenes of some of America’s iconic TV shows. Born to Italian immigrants, Zappia worked his way up from TV repairman to CBS engineer to one of the most sought-after television editors of his time. During his career, Zappia worked on such classic TV

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Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner. It’s jam, not blood, though I don’ t think I need to tell you the difference. New from Annabel Pitcher , a novel about finding the beauty in the mess of life.

★“Introspective and

surprisingly humorous.”—PW

★“There’s no denying the emotional

resonance of this bittersweet novel.”—Booklist 978 -0-316-24676-7

★“Authentic emotional responses and unyielding wit.”—Kirkus

New novels by acclaimed authors from Little, Brown Books For Young Readers

Hi Roomie! I can’t wait to meet you and spend the next year of our lives as BFFs.

New from SARA ZARR and TARA ALTEBRANDO,

978 -0-316-21749-1

a tale of two teens on the verge of a roommate meltdown. And they haven’t even met.

★“Two great novels in one.” —PW

“Authentic and drama filled.” —Booklist


November 15, 2013: Volume LXXXI, No 22