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Featuring 349 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXII, NO.

INDIE

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REVIEWS

Like her protagonist, Florence Ladd learns to go her own way. p. 142

FICTION

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken These powerful, quietly disturbing tales are the author's first fiction in 13 years. p. 22

on the cover

Molly Antopol took her time with her debut collection, The UnAmericans, and that's not a bad thing. p. 14

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

Gravity

by Jason Chin No defiance here—just a brilliantly lucid, strikingly beautiful picturebook exploration. p. 89

NONFICTION

War! What Is It Good For? by Ian Morris A disturbing, transformative text that veers toward essential reading p. 68


a note from the editor

A Writer Who Makes Hollywood Work for Him B Y C la i b orne

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

Smi t h

Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N mkuehn@kirkus.com

Photo courtesy Michael Thad Carter

“If my books had been any worse, I would not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I would not have come,” Raymond Chandler once quipped. Chandler, of course, is the creator of Phillip Marlowe and the writer of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. He may be the greatest detective writer ever. Kem Nunn knows Chandler’s observation well; he quoted it to me when I met up with him in San Diego right after Christmas. Nunn’s brooding but slyly comedic novel Chance, about a psychiatrist in San Francisco who falls for the wrong woman, is just out now. Claiborne Smith Chandler couldn’t stand Hollywood (he wrote in 1945 that screenwriters “devote their entire time to work which has no more possibility of distinction than a Pekinese has of becoming a Great Dane”), but Nunn, who is often cited as the heir to Chandler and the other legendary hard-boiled California writers, does well by it. It’s an indication not just of the sea change between the old studio system and its more malleable current incarnation, but also Nunn’s talent that he’s managed to make Hollywood work for him and not vice versa. Sure, he has to show up on set every day (he writes for FX’s Sons of Anarchy, where he’s also an executive producer, and has written for HBO’s Deadwood and the late lamented John from Cincinnati) but “I’ve always bankrolled my novel Kem Nunn habit with Hollywood,” he says. “It’s given me freedom.” If he had a career based solely on publishing novels, Nunn would probably find it harder to break out of the “surf noir” tag that has stuck to his work. He’d be beholden to making a living giving readers more of what they’ve already read by him. Only three of his six novels are surf-set, but his language about the sport in those books is seductive; his characters’ nostalgia for a life lived close to the water and sand is rueful, not facile; and he creates violent, suspenseful plots that suck you in. He will probably never wrestle himself out from under the surf noir designation. But Chance might change, or at least complicate, that shorthand. The novel isn’t purely a psychological thriller, literary novel, medical mystery or fatalistic love story. It’s all of those things. “Everything is fair game in pursuit of a voice that’s your own,” Nunn says. “The tropes of any particular genre are up for grabs.” Nunn compels you to care about a character who is aware that he is “in the midst of some profound disintegration,” as Nunn writes, and seems to be doing everything he can to stupidly get hunted by the ruthless, vindictive ex-husband of the woman he loves. Hollywood has allowed Nunn the freedom to write about what he wants to, and it’s a delight watching him run with it in Chance.

Photo courtesy Ulrike Nunn

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This Issue’s Contributors

Elfrieda Abbe • Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis Joseph Barbato • Adam benShea • Amy Boaz Dave DeChristopher • Kathleen Devereaux Bobbi Dumas • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Julie Foster • Peter Franck • Bob Garber • Amy Goldschlager • Michael Griffith • Walter Heymann • April Holder • Robert M. Knight Christina M. Kratzner • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Georgia Lowe • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Carole Moore • Clayton Moore • Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • John Noffsinger • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • William E. Pike Gary Presley • Sarah Rettger • Karen Rigby • Sean Rose • Rebecca Rubenstein • Lloyd Sachs • Leslie Safford • Bob Sanchez • Rosanne Simeone • Linda Simon • Elaine Sioufi • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Bill Thompson Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Pete Warzel Carol White • Chris White • Kimberly Whitmer

Cover photo by Wenjun Miakoda Liang


you can now purchase books online at kirkus.com

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 Molly Antopol’s ambitious stories........................................14 Mystery.............................................................................................. 33 Science Fiction & Fantasy......................................................... 44 Romance............................................................................................45

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................47 REVIEWS...............................................................................................47 A Baltimore belle becomes French royalty......................62

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews......................................................... 81 REVIEWS.............................................................................................. 81 Essay: Unsafe Practices............................................................92 Andrew Smith’s iconoclastic YA novel.............................98 Interactive e-books...................................................................130 continuing series...................................................................... 134

indie Index to Starred Reviews.........................................................135 REVIEWS..............................................................................................135

Elizabeth Kolbert returns with a deft examination of the startling losses of the sixth mass extinction occurring at this moment and the sobering, underlying cause: humans. Read the starred review on p. 65.

Florence Ladd returns her advance................................ 142 indie books of the month........................................................ 154 Appreciations: Randy Shilts....................................................155 |

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

Veteran true-crime writer Harold Schechter delves into the life and times of Robert Irwin in his new book The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model and the Shocking Crime That Shook the Nation. On Easter Sunday 1937, Irwin committed a triple homicide. The victims were not his intended targets but people at the wrong place at the wrong time—just the sort of details the tabloids of the time ate up. It was an era when people were tried by newspapers, which aroused and satisfied the public’s hunger for salacious details—whether true or not—with police feeding the beast by sharing every suspect and every lead with the public. While Schechter is critical of the press at the time, it’s clear the public’s thirst for grisly stories hasn’t changed. Joe Maniscalco interviews Schechter on our site in February, talking, among other things, about why we need stories of monsters. The lives of three teenage Chinese friends are irreversibly altered by the horrible and lingering poisoning of an older girl in Yiyun Li’s Kinder Than Solitude. Li, who won the PEN/Hemingway award for her debut story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, tracks three friends as they scatter across the United States and China. The catalyst of the story is 15-year-old Ruyu, an empathy-free orphan sent to a family in Beijing to prepare for college. There, she lives with an older girl named Shaoai, who is hostile to Ruyu and sexually molests her. Shaoai is poisoned after visiting a laboratory and suffers through 21 more brain-damaged years. Opening with Shaoi’s death, the whodunit of the poisoning is less mysterious than the interconnected fates of Li’s characters as they become isolated in different ways. We chat with Li this month about her unsettling yet impressive insights into family legacies and cultural dynamics.

Don’t be fooled. Karen Perry is not a single person but actually the pen name for two accomplished Irish writers: Karen Gillece and Paul Perry. They teamed up to write The Innocent Sleep, a dark mystery about unimaginable loss and irrevocable choices. The story is centered on Harry, a character who can be difficult to find sympathy for. When he leaves his 3-year-old son, Dillon, in a drug-induced sleep in order to retrieve a gift for his wife, Harry returns minutes after an earthquake’s end to find his son, and the entire building, vanished. He deals with his grief through alcohol and meaningless affairs. But when Harry believes he’s sighted Dillon, now older, on a crowded street in Dublin, his quest to track down the young boy consumes him and puts even greater strains on his life and marriage. Ultimately, the authorial duo serve up a thriller that is more introspective than action-oriented; it’s an intriguingly emotional and unconventional debut. Look for our interview with Karen Perry this month at kirkusreviews.com.

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.

w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m / i s s u e Don’t wait on the mail for reviews! You can read pre-publication reviews as they are released on kirkus.com—even before they are published in the magazine. You can also access the current issue and back issues of Kirkus Reviews on our website by logging in as a subscriber. If you do not have a username or password, please contact customer care to set up your account by calling 1.800.316.9361 or emailing customers@kirkusreviews.com.

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fiction THE MIRACLE THIEF

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Anthony, Iris Sourcebooks Landmark (336 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4022-8531-8

FRIDAYS AT ENRICO’S by Don Carpenter with Jonathan Lethem....8 PUSHKIN HILLS by Sergei Dovlatov; trans. by Katherine Dovlatov.............................................................. 11

Three women seek answers to their prayers at Rochemont Abbey, in this appealing novel set in the Dark Ages. In a well-paced and interwoven story, Anthony’s (The Ruins of Lace, 2012) main characters relate their tales as they each face challenges of faith and hope for miracles. Sister Juliana left her lover and young daughter years ago and found refuge caring for Saint Catherine’s chapel and protecting the saint’s relic, which lies in a small casket. Disturbed by a promise she made to her dying mentor to assume leadership of the abbey, she’s racked with unresolved guilt about her past and doubts her ability to honor her promise. So she remains silent as another usurps control and plunders the pilgrims’ offerings and the chapel’s modest treasures. Anna is a young girl who has rarely ventured beyond her home due to her physical deformities. But now her mother’s death has left her homeless and destitute, and she desperately yearns to be healed. With no other possessions save her mother’s pendant and the clothes on her back, Anna begins her journey to Saint Catherine’s chapel. Abandoned by a group of pilgrims, she wanders into danger, and Godric, a sympathetic Saxon traveling with a group of Danes, becomes her protector. When Gisele learns her father, King Charles, has agreed to marry her off to a barbaric chieftain of the Danes to fulfill the terms of a treaty, the princess begs to travel to Saint Catherine’s relic to ascertain that the marriage is God’s will. Although her father decides to let her go, her plans are thwarted. She tries to enlist help from others, including the valiant knight who safeguards her, but she encounters unexpected problems, including wild animals and an uncooperative horse. The three women’s stories converge into a logical, though not necessarily happily-ever-after, closure, as Anthony creates a narrative that subtly educates, poses stimulating questions and entertains. Readers who enjoy historical fiction and romance will find this a worthwhile journey. (Agent: Natasha Kern)

NATCHEZ BURNING by Greg Iles.......................................................19 THE OTHER LANGUAGE by Francesca Marciano..............................21 THUNDERSTRUCK & OTHER STORIES by Elizabeth McCracken.......................................................................22 THE SECRET LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE by Jude Morgan.....................................................................................23 THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS by Daniel Price.................................25 SLEEP DONATION by Karen Russell..................................................27 THE WHISKEY BARON by Jon Sealy................................................. 28 THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS by John Spurling............................. 29 THE RED ROAD by Denise Mina.........................................................39 THE PLAYER by Brad Parks.................................................................41 THE TROPIC OF SERPENTS by Marie Brennan............................... 44 THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X by Eloisa James................................ 46 THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X

James, Eloisa Avon/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-06-222389-0

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A FAIRY TALE

a new life in California. Now, 16 years later, Kate asks Emmy to return to Bethany, who is childless after many miscarriages, to take part in a healing ceremony to bless her latest pregnancy. Shy, relocated to relatives she never knew existed, Emmy finds herself in a rural community where she feels a sense of belonging and is befriended by Reuben, a Native American boy. Narrated, sometimes distractingly, from multiple perspectives, the novel considers several relationships—Bethany’s solid marriage, tested by her religious beliefs and yearning for children; Kate’s struggle to accept a permanent relationship; Emmy’s discovery of mutuality with Reuben. Bergstrom’s emphasis on sentiment and issues lends a downbeat note to the storytelling, which is intensified when tragedy strikes and only partly dissipates by the drawn-out but happy conclusion. A carefully crafted family drama that dwells more on the difficult journey than the glad arrival.

Bengtsson, Jonas T. Translated by Barslund, Charlotte Other Press (464 pp.) $16.95 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-59051-694-2 Dad knows best. Or does he? A boy’s unconventional upbringing skews his worldview in this Danish author’s third novel (but first U.S. publication). Dad is upset. He’s sobbing. He is reacting to the news that a progressive Swedish politician has been murdered. This is how we first see the young father with the shoulder-length hair—through the eyes of his 6-year-old son, the narrator. (Neither father nor son is named.) The politics, the violence, the emotional vulnerability, they all presage the novel’s key moment. It’s 1986. The novel’s first and longest section follows father and son through the next three years, in dozens of short takes. Life is not easy. In Copenhagen, they are constantly moving. Dad is a jack-of-all-trades, working as a butcher, a gardener, a bouncer at a strip club, a stage manager at a failing theater, though never for very long. His son takes it all in stride, though, as kids do, and Dad is affectionate, protective and fun. He tells the boy a fairy tale, in installments; disturbingly, for the reader, it shows a paranoid streak. He encourages the boy’s talent for drawing though resists his pleas to go to school. His life lessons are unorthodox: Steal from stores if you’re in need; don’t save money, spend it. Eventually, Dad loses it. At a rally, he threatens a politician with a knife and is wrestled to the ground; his motivation goes unexplained. We move forward. In a topsy-turvy middle section, the boy is 16, living with his mother and stepfather, and is now a gifted but troubled high school student. There’s a visit to a dying grandfather, who hints darkly that he abused the boy’s dad. By 1999, he’s a profile in alienation. He has adopted a Turkish identity and has a nothing job; his only hope of salvation is his painting talent. Is this the father’s story or the son’s? Bengtsson’s ambivalence proves fatal, yielding a broken-backed narrative.

ABOVE THE EAST CHINA SEA

Bird, Sarah Knopf (336 pp.) $25.95 | May 27, 2014 978-0-385-35011-2

The devastating Battle of Okinawa looms large in the lives of two young women—one who lived through the carnage, another who is absorbing its spiritual aftereffects. The ninth novel by Bird (The Gap Year, 2011, etc.) alternates between two narrators at two points in time. One is Tamiko, a teenage girl who, during World War II, was separated from her family thanks to both the Japanese soldiers who ran roughshod over the island of Okinawa’s native culture and the American soldiers who brutalized its landscape. The other is Luz, a teenage Air Force brat who, in the present day, has just moved to Okinawa with her mother. Luz’s grandmother was Okinawan, but she feels disconnected: The abrupt change of scenery, combined with mourning the death of her sister in Afghanistan, has left her listless and wayward. So when she sees a horrifying vision of a dying woman and child one night at the beach, is she hallucinating or witnessing something more serious? It’s the latter, as Bird’s braided narrative slowly makes clear, and her novel is rich with detail on Okinawan religious lore about lost souls. Tamiko’s and Luz’s narratives make for interesting tonal counterpoints to each other. Tamiko’s story is foursquare and mordant, focused as it is on war’s devastation; Bird writes potently of her being thrust into the role of a Princess Lily girl, a young nursing assistant helping the demoralized Japanese soldiers. Luz’s story is no less concerned with loss, but it’s lighter on its feet, making room for her comic banter with friends and a growing crush on one of her new Okinawan acquaintances. Though the novel occasionally feels bogged down by Bird’s research, she sensitively connects her two sharp narrators. An admirable study of war’s impact on and legacy in an underdiscussed place.

STEAL THE NORTH

Bergstrom, Heather Brittain Viking (336 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 10, 2014 978-0-670-78618-3 Young love springs up in a place where older hearts were bruised, in Bergstrom’s debut saga. Raised motherless under the influence of a fundamentalist Baptist church in eastern Washington state, sisters Kate and Bethany Nolan grew up close, and when Kate needed help after a teenage love affair left her pregnant and alone, condemned from the pulpit and prostituting herself at a local truck stop, Bethany helped her and her baby, Emmy, leave for 6

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RUBY

with her. Bond presents Ruby as a symbol of a century’s worth of abuse toward African-Americans; as one local puts it, “Hell, ain’t nothing strange when Colored go crazy. Strange is when we don’t.” The echoes of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison are clear, but Bond is an accomplished enough writer to work in a variety of modes with skill and insight. She conjures Ruby’s fun-housemirror mind with harrowing visions of voodoo ceremonies and the ghosts of dead children, yet she also delivers plainspoken descriptions of young Ruby’s experience in a brothel, surrounded by horrid men. And Bond can be sharply funny, satirizing the high-toned sanctimony of Liberty’s churchgoers (especially Ephram’s sister Celia) that’s really a cover for hypocritical pride and fear. Some of the more intense passages of the novel lapse into purple prose, and the horror of Ruby’s experience (which intensifies as the novel moves along) makes her closing redemption feel somewhat pat. But the force of Ruby’s character, and Bond’s capacity to describe it, is undeniable. A very strong first novel that blends tough realism with the appealing strangeness of a fever dream.

Bond, Cynthia Hogarth/Crown (336 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-8041-3909-0 Voodoo, faith and racism converge in an East Texas town—particularly within the troubled titular heroine—in this bracing debut novel. When we first meet Ruby Bell, she’s a symbol of local disgrace: It’s 1974, and a decade earlier she returned to her hometown of Liberty seemingly gone crazy. The local rumor mill (mostly centered around the church) ponders a host of reasons: the lynching of her aunt; her being forced into prostitution as a child; a stint in New York, where she was the rare black woman in a white highbrow literary milieu. The only person who doesn’t keep his distance is Ephram, a middle-aged man who braves the town’s mockery and the mad squalor of Ruby’s home to reconnect

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“Do we need another work about the struggles of writers? Sure we do.” from fridays at enrico’s

THE ORENDA

separate struggles. Take Jaime Froward, a 19-year-old native of San Francisco. In 1959, she’s studying at the state university, where she meets Charlie Monel, 10 years her senior. Charlie is a Korean War vet and former POW working on a big war novel. At Jaime’s urging, they jump into bed. After she gets pregnant, bighearted Charlie insists they marry. Perfect timing, since Jaime’s father has just died in his mistress’s bed, and her mother, drunk and disoriented, is selling their home. Meanwhile, up in Portland, Ore., young Dick Dubonet is the toast of the town. He has sold a story to Playboy and scores again when he hooks up with Linda McNeill, a voluptuous free spirit who has hung out with the Beats. Charlie, along with Jaime and their baby daughter, moves to Portland to teach at a community college (his novel is proving intractable). One of his students is Stan Winger, a jewel thief. Stan writes really good drugstore pulps and will soon start selling them. As for Jaime, she throws herself into a novel based on her family. It devastates Charlie; his wife is the far better writer. However, as Carpenter makes clear, Stan and Jaime are equals in the republic of letters, though working in very different genres. Doing time at San Quentin, Stan shows heroic discipline, memorizing whole chapters of his new project. Both Stan and Charlie gravitate to Hollywood, which Carpenter treats with surprising generosity as he takes his story up to 1975, when the future still beckons invitingly. This publication is an important event: Welcome back, Don Carpenter.

Boyden, Joseph Knopf (448 pp.) $26.95 | May 13, 2014 978-0-385-35073-0 Violent tribal warfare and disagreements about dogma abound in a historical epic set in 17th-century Canada. This sprawling novel by the Gillerwinning Boyden (Three Day Road, 2005, etc.) alternates among three narrators. Bird is a Huron leader who strives to fend off attacks from enemy Iroquois while establishing a trading relationship with French settlers; Snow Falls is a young Iroquois woman captured by the Huron and claimed as a daughter by Bird; and Christophe is a young French Catholic priest, also captured by the Huron but determined to convert his keepers to Christianity. Boyden doesn’t explicitly signal who’s speaking in each chapter, but who’s who is quickly clear: Bird is sage but ruthless, Snow Falls, spirited and independent, and Christophe is prayerful yet frightened. And Christophe has good reason to be scared: One of his fellow missionaries has been badly tortured by the Huron, his hands now fingerless stumps, and Boyden includes plenty of harrowing scenes of the dayslong torture the tribes would inflict on each other. (In a cruel irony, the Huron term for it is “caressing.”) Yet the overall tone of the book is contemplative; violent scenes are matched by those about the nature of God in such a violent milieu, particularly in terms of Christophe’s mostly unsuccessful attempts to turn the Huron to the “great voice.” (“Orenda” is the life force the natives believe inhabits everything in nature.) For all the high-action savagery and brutality that Boyden details (even friendly lacrosse matches get bloody), the novel can feel slow and static, particularly when it cycles through each narrator’s perspective on a single incident. But the tighter prose in its climactic chapters gives the novel sharpness and lift. A well-researched tale that mostly strikes a shrewd balance between thinking and fighting.

FOUR FRIENDS

Carr, Robyn Harlequin MIRA (368 pp.) $14.95 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-7783-1681-7 In a Marin County neighborhood, four women help each other amid marital strife, personal crises and life-altering epiphanies. For years, Mill Valley, Calif., neighbors Gerri, Andy and Sonja have started most of their days with a brisk walk, but one early spring morning, Andy has had enough with her younger second husband, and she skips the walk and throws him out. It is a loud, angry event, but it is a long time coming, and it sets off a series of surprising upheavals in the lives of her friends. Gerri takes an unplanned trip to her husband’s office in San Francisco, and a conversation with his co-worker makes her question everything she knew about her marriage. Sonja, dedicated to New-Age strategies for health and wellness, is thrown off balance by Andy’s marital strife, then spirals into lifethreatening depression when her husband leaves her. As each woman deals with her own personal crossroad, they are collectively drawn to newcomer BJ, who has never shown interest in socializing before but becomes the fresh new pair of eyes that notices change at crucial moments and steps in to help when help is most needed. Hugely popular romance author Carr (The Wanderer, 2013, etc.) steps into women’s fiction territory with this quietly powerful exploration of friendship, marriage and

FRIDAYS AT ENRICO’S

Carpenter, Don with Lethem, Jonathan Counterpoint (352 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-61902-301-7

Do we need another work about the struggles of writers? Sure, we do—if it has the warmth and charm and sexy vibe of Carpenter’s (From a Distant Place, 1988, etc.) novel. This recently discovered, not-quite-final draft has been lovingly shaped for publication by author Jonathan Lethem. Carpenter (1932–1995), author of 10 novels, was a veteran of the West Coast literary scene. He offers us four young writers—four 8

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A SINGLE BREATH

midlife crisis. The characters are realistic and compelling, facing life after 40 with grace, courage and a fierce interpersonal loyalty that is convincing and inspiring. The storyline sounds familiar, yet Carr handles the plot and characters with a deft hand and enough unique twists that we are invested in the characters’ well-beings, and we are touched by their struggles, especially since we see each of them at their best and their worst. A thought-provoking look at women of a certain age and the choices they make when they realize their lives aren’t exactly what they expected—or thought they were.

Clarke, Lucy Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $15.99 paper | $11.65 e-book Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-4767-5015-6 978-1-4767-5016-3 e-book In an intensely emotional story of love, loss and deception, a recently widowed woman reaches out to her late husband’s family in Tasmania and discovers she never really knew the man she married. Newlyweds Eva and Jackson are visiting her mother along the English coast when Jackson slips out and goes fishing early one morning and drowns. Eva is devastated. She and Jackson, a native of Tasmania, met two years ago aboard a flight to London, and they were married eight months ago. She’s a midwife and he worked as a brand marketer for a drink company, and his love gave her a sense of completeness. Now Eva’s loss is so deep, she yearns

THREE SOULS

Chang, Janie Morrow/HarperCollins (496 pp.) $16.99 paper | $11.99 e-book Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-06-229319-0 978-0-06-229321-3 e-book Revolutionary and domestic politics collide in this tale of a woman’s ghost attempting to understand her life decisions and make amends for her transgressions. Set against the Chinese civil war, Chang’s debut novel explores the frustrations of intelligent women valued only for beauty and obedience. A young woman’s consciousness awakens at her own funeral, surrounded by her three souls: her yin, manifesting as a dancing schoolgirl; her yang, manifesting as an elderly scholar; and her han, manifesting as a silhouette of light. Until she can remember her sins, she cannot ascend to the afterlife and reincarnation; she runs the risk of becoming a hungry ghost, roaming the Earth for eternity. To help her remember, Song Leiyin’s souls make her watch her own life unfold again, beginning with the evening of her sister’s engagement party, the night she met Yen Hanchin. Born into a traditional and prosperous family, the three Song daughters realize their dreams are circumscribed. Leiyin’s eldest sister, Gaoyin, already married, worries that if she doesn’t conceive a child soon, her husband will take a concubine. Leiyin’s second sister, Sueyin, is betrothed to a well-connected young man far more interested in opium than the business world. Leiyin’s eldest brother, Changyin, waits in the wings to become the family patriarch, while her second brother, Tongyin, squanders his educational opportunities at college to drink and mingle with friends. Leiyin herself longs to continue school, to become a teacher, to make a difference in China. When she meets Hanchin—poet, translator and political agitator—Leiyin’s aspirations gain a romantic edge. Her plans to escape her father’s oppressive household, however, quickly land her in an unexpected marriage. Still, her ambitions and her desire for Hanchin simmer, waiting for a startlingly tragic opportunity. Now, her ghost must find a way to repair the damage wrought. Historically and politically compelling, yet the threesoul plot device is contrived.

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“Cohen is finely attuned to family dynamics.” from no book but the world

to be near those who knew him best—his father, Dirk, his brother, and friends who grew up and worked with her husband. Flying to Tasmania, Eva first meets with Dirk, who spends much of his time in an alcoholic haze and doesn’t exactly embrace her presence. Although disappointed, Eva travels to Wattleboon Island, off the coast, to meet Saul, Jackson’s estranged brother. Once again, she gets the cold shoulder as Saul remains closemouthed about his brother and tries to hurry her off the island. When Eva has a sudden fainting spell, though, Saul ends up taking her to the local hospital and allows her to stay in a shack that belongs to his friend. She extends her visit to the area, suffers another devastating loss and finds herself becoming attracted to Saul. Through a fluke meeting, she also finally gets what she seeks—stories about her late husband’s life—but they’re not at all what she expects, and she discovers her husband’s deception is more pervasive than anyone realizes. Clarke (Swimming at Night, 2013) skillfully envelops readers in a delicate, romantic story tinged with intrigue and set in a breathtakingly exotic locale. Although the many revelations in the final chapters sometimes stretch the otherwise tight plot, the author creates an entertaining narrative.

put the family narrative into some kind of meaningful whole, though Fred’s arrest and incarceration severely challenge this attempt to find coherence. Cohen is finely attuned to family dynamics here, both the quiet inner workings of Ava’s successful marriage and her genuine bewilderment about Fred’s fall from grace.

BUBBLE

de la Motte, Anders Emily Bestler/Atria (480 pp.) $16.00 paper | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-4767-1294-9 The finale of a trilogy that presents an unlikely sibling alliance against a mysterious social media game. In the latest novel from IT security director and police officer–turned–Swedish crime writer de la Motte (Buzz, 2014, etc.), we find aimless adrenaline junkie HP and his security specialist sister, Rebecca, still combating the far-reaching controls of a shadowy game. The unique talents offered by each sibling make them especially attractive for the various operators of the game. When close friends expose themselves as tools in the larger agenda of the game, HP and Rebecca continually scramble to find a vision of clarity in an increasingly murky world that is shadowed by a struggle for control of the virtual exchange of information currency offered by social media outlets. Building on an Orwellian theme of owning the future through control of the past, this mysterious game utilizes a host of seemingly sinister characters to gain access to the information supplied by an individual in the past as a means to control their decisions in the future. While HP uncovers the far-ranging capacity for control that this premise offers, Rebecca discovers that their father may have been involved with top-secret affairs within Sweden. Issues of family and unresolved emotions loom in the background as the story jumps from one endorphin-charged scene to another. An interesting concept developed into an exciting read.

NO BOOK BUT THE WORLD

Cohen, Leah Hager Riverhead (320 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 3, 2014 978-1-59448-603-6

A brother and sister with unconventional childhoods grow into adulthood, with predictably quirky results. Ava and Fred Robbins grow up under the tutelage of their parents, June and Neel, the latter of whom had established an experimental school in upstate New York in the late 1940s. Neel is 20 years older than his wife, and they both believe in a Rousseau-ian ideal of freedom for their children as well as for the students in their school. (In fact, the title of the novel comes directly out of a quotation from Emile, Rousseau’s novel of education.) As a consequence, both Ava and Fred grow up making major choices about their own upbringings. As a child, Ava’s best friend is Kitty, whose older brother Dennis becomes enamored of Ava when she’s a coltish 14-year-old, and years later they marry. Ava’s placid domestic life is severely disrupted when she finds out that Fred has been arrested on several charges involving the disappearance and death of a 12-year-old boy named James Ferebee, whose body was recently found. Counsel for Fred is an overworked and underexperienced public defender who can scarcely be bothered with the details of the case, including finding time to visit his client in jail and get his side of the story. Growing up, Fred had always been strange and alienating, exhibiting symptoms of Asperger’s or perhaps something further on the autism spectrum, though Ava can hardly imagine him as a killer. Through substantial flashbacks to their childhoods, adolescences and early adult lives, Ava is always looking to 10

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VIVIANE

Deck, Julia Translated by Coverdale, Linda New Press (160 pp.) $19.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-59558-964-4 This debut by a French novelist puts a mystery inside a narrative puzzle. An epigram from Samuel Beckett introduces this slim novel about the titular protagonist and occasional narrator, a 42-year-old woman who recently gave birth to her first child. She suffers from severe panic attacks and receives medication. Within the narrative, Viviane is more often referred to as “you,” though sometimes as “I” or “we,” and occasionally she refers to herself as |


At one point, even the baby is “trying to solve the mystery of causes and consequences,” which puzzled readers will immediately find relatable.

“Elisabeth.” Viviane is plainly mad, which means “you” are as well, as “you” (the reader) attempt to discern the motivation behind the crime that the protagonist may (or may not) have committed. “[T] hat’s just what she wants, to bring some order to her memory,” says the narrative at a point where Viviane has become “she.” “Instead of coming to light, however, events are retreating ever deeper into darkness.” This much is relatively clear: Viviane’s husband has separated from her, perhaps because of a younger woman, perhaps because Viviane is crazy, perhaps because the marriage was a mistake from the beginning. Or perhaps all of the preceding. She feels that younger women are a threat to her in the workplace as well as in her marriage: “You know that you’re not twenty anymore and that young women are lying in ambush, ready to take your place and wring your neck.” Affairs abound in the novel, generally between older men and younger women, complicating the plot and adding to intrigue on various levels. At one point, a man who may or may not be having one of these affairs is described (presumably by Viviane) as “either really handsome or absolutely not.” The plot’s mystery resolves itself in surprising fashion, but mysteries of language, consciousness, identity and perspective remain impenetrable.

PUSHKIN HILLS

Dovlatov, Sergei Translated by Dovlatov, Katherine Counterpoint (160 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-61902-245-4 Soviet émigré Dovlatov died in New York in 1990, and since then, his reputation in America, bolstered late in life by the New Yorker and by fans, including Kurt Vonnegut, has faded. With luck, that reputation will be restored and enhanced by the first English publication (with a lively, playful translation by his daughter Katherine) of this brief, fabulous, partly autobiographical 1983 novel.

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A black comedy of eyes-wide-open excess in the vein of Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes or David Gates’ Jernigan. And a fine rumination on being Russian, besides.

Hard-drinking Boris Alikhanov, unable to win publication approval from the authorities and set adrift by his ex-wife and their daughter in Leningrad, repairs to the countryside and takes a ridiculous but appealing summer gig as a literary tour guide at the Pushkin estate. There, he encounters a marvelous gallery of rogues, washouts and eccentrics like himself, exemplars of the 19th-century Russian type known as the “superfluous man”—smart, alienated, determined wastrels of their so-called potential. For a time, he seems to regain a grip on his life in this weird, intermittently hilarious rural idyll, but after his ex-wife comes to visit and asks him to sign a form permitting their daughter to emigrate with her to the West, Boris embarks on an epic bender. The portrait of Boris that emerges is of a man who seems most pitiable in that he asks no pity, offers no face-saving excuses, can’t even muster the small consolation of self-delusion. He’s simply stuck: “Any decisive step imposes responsibility. So let others be held responsible. Inactivity is the only moral condition.” Told mainly in barbed, surprising dialogue—Dovlatov’s trademark technical flourish was never to have two words in any sentence begin with the same letter, and the result here is a breezy, angular, associative style that seems almost Grace Paley–ish—this is an odd, dark, idiosyncratic little dazzler.

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THE LOST SISTERHOOD

Fortier, Anne Ballantine (528 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-345-53622-8

Fortier (Juliet, 2010, etc.) presents the intertwining stories of a young English philologist, tutored by her grandmother in the ways of Amazon warriors, and an Amazon queen of pre–Trojan War days. Diana Morgan, a professor at Oxford, has been haunted by memories of her grandmother, whom her parents thought mentally unbalanced. All Diana has left of Granny is the old lady’s notebook—filled with indecipherable scribbles in an archaic

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alphabet—and the bronze, jackal-headed bracelet that Diana somehow has never been able to remove from her wrist. Lately, Diana has been similarly unable to resist researching rumors of an Amazon treasure somewhere in Turkey, which has put her in contact with some shady characters. Soon, Diana is trekking from the Algerian desert (where she found samples of Granny’s script in the ruins of an Amazon temple) to Crete (where she’s mugged while snooping in the famous labyrinth) to the putative site of the city of Troy itself. Accompanied by her best friend, Rebecca, and international man of mystery Nick (known to be involved with al-Aqrab, a quasi-terrorist organization dedicated to recovering ancient artifacts stolen by colonialists), Diana finds herself torn between reconnecting with her Amazon heritage and falling in love with a man. Her ancient counterpart, Myrina (traces of whom Diana has found in various ruins and writings), lands in a similar predicament. After Greek raiders sack the temple of the Moon Goddess (the ruin investigated by Diana), Myrina follows her abducted sisters all the way to Crete, and then to Mycenae, where, aided by Paris, crown prince of Troy, she rescues the women from the clutches of King Agamemnon. After a brief sojourn in Ephesus, Myrina and Paris admit that their destiny is to rule Troy together. Aficionados of Greek mythology and Homeric lore will find much to admire here, although the modern-day sections are encumbered with too many characters and overly intricate plot scaffolding. Readers patient enough to soldier through to the payoff will not be disappointed.

the man who dominates a period in Mary’s life before she leaves him. There’s Eli, a married professor, and her birth father, Daniel, a handsome wastrel and former junkie currently living in a Mexican mansion. She becomes so sick while visiting Daniel that she returns to a hospital in the U.S., where she reunites with Geoff, the college student who rescued her and Nix in Mykonos. He’s now an expert on her disease, as if he had been waiting for her. They settle down and, safe in the calm of matrimony, Mary goes to Amsterdam to meet her half brother Leo for the first time and finds both Sandor and Yank there too. For the last hundred pages, Leo, Sandor, Yank and Mary are in Morocco, under their sheltering sky, walking to Mary’s death. Throughout the novel, Mary writes endlessly to Nix, though early on we learn she was killed not long after Mykonos in the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie and that Mary’s whole short life has been a living tribute to the friend who saved her. A stunning novel—Frangello’s broken characters live in a world of terror and redemption, of magnificent sadness and beauty.

A LIFE IN MEN

Frangello, Gina Algonquin (320 pp.) $14.95 paper | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-61620-163-0 Frangello’s ambitious second novel travels the world—to Kenya, London and beyond—searching for the kind of experiences that will validate two short lives. In the late 1980s, college sophomores Nix and Mary leave Ohio to summer in Greece. Mary has just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and though it’s unusual to be diagnosed so late (the disease kills most people in childhood), her prognosis is grim—she won’t live to 25. Nix wants her to embrace what little life she has, but things go horribly wrong on Mykonos, and the two part ways. A few years later, Mary is in London, having an affair with Joshua, a South African acrobat, and living in a place one notch above a squat. Among the charismatic drifters of Arthog House are Sandor, an artist, and Yank, a photographer who involves Mary in petty crime to support his heroin addiction. None of them know about Mary’s CF. One day, while out with Yank, Mary begins coughing up copious amounts of blood, their secrets now binding them in a kind of romantic nihilism. Nevertheless, Mary leaves with Joshua; they tour the world with his circus, ending up in Africa, where they work as safari guides. Having outlived her prognosis, Mary decides she wants normality and returns to the U.S. There are more men—as the title promises—each chapter named for |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Molly Antopol

The debut writer’s stories reveal that the only thing worse than being watched is being ignored By Rebecca Rubenstein sentee parents and their children. Selected by Jesmyn Ward as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 in 2013, 35-year-old Antopol’s words hum with the electricity of a writer who approaches the art of narrative with a fearless gait. Though it exudes such confidence, The UnAmericans was not, Antopol insists, written in a feverish haze over the course of several productive nights. Instead, the stories came slowly: Each of them took a year or more to write, and the collection took 10 years to put together, Antopol’s pacing tempered by her own revision process. “For me, there’s just something so demoralizing about waking up and staring at a pile of rubble every morning,” she says. So she tinkers as she goes. “Once I’m completely done with the draft, then I print it out, and I mark it up, and I do that for months and months and months, and I reshuffle it, and I just think about my characters in these situations for a long time.” Antopol is also a die-hard fan of research, which adds to the meticulous nature of her process. “Whenever I read interviews with other authors, they talk about how, oftentimes, they write the thing, and then they research to fill in the blanks, and they just fact check against their own imagination,” she says. “But for me, that would just be impossible.” Antopol will sometimes conduct research for years at a time, homing in on the details. She’ll often apply for grants and visit the places she’d like to write about. Her ongoing residency at the Summer Literary Seminars in Lithuania, for instance, helped her craft “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story,” a harrowing confessional about partisan fighters and questions of morality in times of war. “I can’t imagine writing about a place without really knowing about it as well as I can,” she notes. “I

Photo courtesy Debbi Cooper

Molly Antopol is a writer who takes her time— and that’s not a bad thing. The UnAmericans, Antopol’s remarkably polished and self-assured debut, is a collection as diverse in its emotional scope as it is in its geographical wanderings. Featuring a cross-pollination of characters from the U.S., Israel and Eastern Europe, The UnAmericans embraces both the sprawl of history and the intimacy of human relationships, with stories that observe macro-level themes alongside microlevel tragedies. The defeat of Communism and the morally ambiguous behavior of World War II resistance groups are given weight equal to the fraught, personal connections among siblings, lovers, and ab14

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just feel like people are so informed by their environments and their histories, and that’s, to me, how character is created.” Since the intersections between character and plot are so prominent in Antopol’s work, the research that went into The UnAmericans was key. Though the stories are not, Antopol contends, autobiographical, many of them were borne from an interest in her family’s history. Growing up aware of her family’s roots in the Communist Party, Antopol always wondered what life was like for her mother, living under surveillance, especially “when it wasn’t her choice to live that way, and it wasn’t her choice to be political.” Antopol’s grandfather, who worked as a shipping clerk in a cardboard box factory, joined the Communist Party in New York prior to World War II, and the FBI monitored his activities—which led to several arrests—from the 1930s through the ’60s. “One thing that was important to me, when writing my McCarthy-era LA stories,” Antopol says, “was to highlight the distinction between the working-class Jewish communists in LA [as in “Duck and Cover”] and the wealthier Hollywood liberals, like the Hollywood Ten [as in “The Unknown Soldier”]. That was hard on my grandfather: that so many people assumed Jewish communists in LA had money and were in the industry, when in reality he felt so far from—and ignored by—that world.” The title, The UnAmericans, is a riff on the House Un-American Activities Committee, but it’s also a nod to identity politics and to this same idea of being ignored, of being made invisible in a place where you’re supposed to be anything but. “In so many ways, it’s this idea of…being considered an unAmerican as an immigrant, especially a refugee from Europe,” Antopol says, “where you were so political and so vocal in your own country, and then you come to America and you realize, people aren’t surveillance-ing you—they’re not even noticing you.” Many of the stories in The UnAmericans were also inspired by Antopol’s time split between living in the U.S. and living in Israel. “I’m not Israeli, but I’ve never spent so much time or energy trying to understand a place as I have Israel,” she says, noting that her investment has nothing to do with religion or her family. “Politically, it’s really interesting to me. It’s such a young place. It’s such a mess, and there are so many things that are so heartbreaking about it.”

Antopol first traveled to the country as an undergraduate, studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and later moved back after graduation, working for a year at a human rights nonprofit and also at an immigration absorption center with teenagers from Chechnya and Russia. Now, during summers off from Stanford University—where she was a Stegner Fellow in 2006 and has taught in the undergraduate writing program since 2008—Antopol will often swap apartments and estimates she has traveled to Israel at least 25 times. But despite the familiarity, she has always been aware of “the very thin piece of glass between me and the country”—the glass that exists when you’re considered an observer rather than a participant. Ridding the self of this metaphorical glass is mostly what makes reading Antopol’s work feel alive: Her stories are filled with full-blooded characters attempting to survive the inherent tragedy of being human, and though we’re not asked to forgive their flaws, we do find ourselves empathizing. “I really love every single person in my book,” she says. “Even the philanderers and the absent dads and the liars and all of these people. I feel like a story’s only working when I really feel the humanity for everyone in that story.” Rebecca Rubenstein is the interviews editor for The Rumpus and a contributing editor for STET. She resides in San Francisco and can be found thinking aloud on Twitter at @rrrubenstein. The UnAmericans was reviewed in the Dec. 1, 2013, issue of Kirkus Reviews. The UnAmericans Antopol, Molly Norton (272 pp.) $24.95 | Feb. 3, 2014 978-0-393-24113-6

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AND THE DARK SACRED NIGHT

readers know early on that adolescent Daphne’s lover was Malachy Burns, the AIDS-infected music critic from Glass’ 2002 National Book Award–winning novel, The Three Junes). Soon, Kit has gone to visit his former stepfather, Daphne’s first husband, Jasper. Jasper is a lovable creation, tough but gentle, worried that he was not much of a father to his own sons, let alone Kit. Daphne broke Jasper’s heart when she left him, but since he promised her he would keep her secrets, he is at first reluctant to share what he knows with Kit. Eventually he does share, and Kit is soon in touch with Lucinda Burns, wife of an aging New Hampshire senator and still-grieving mother of Malachy. A devout Catholic mother of two gay sons, Lucinda went against Malachy’s wishes in pushing Daphne to have Kit and then dedicated her life to encouraging single mothers to have their babies. Now she questions her rigid choices with the help of Malachy’s last friend, Three Junes character Fenno. While all of the characters Kit encounters have idiosyncratic charm, Kit himself is an overly sensitive, navel-gazing bore. Nevertheless, a new extended family develops, though not without trials and tears.

Glass, Julia Pantheon (416 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-307-37793-7

An unemployed former art history professor searches for his birth father’s identity in the newest from Glass (The Widower’s Tale, 2010, etc.). In his mid-40s, Kit Noonan, father of twins, has become an ineffectual househusband with no job prospects, a shrinking bank account and a marriage in deep trouble. But for reasons that never quite become clear, the unsolved question of his paternity takes priority, and prodded by wife, Sandra, a barely sketched character who shares no apparent chemistry with him, Kit sets out on a journey of discovery. Kit’s mother, Daphne, bore him at 18 and, now in her 60s, still refuses to divulge his father’s identity (although

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“Grant’s atmospheric evocation of London, seething with crime and grime, includes unexpectedly libidinous developments.” from sedition

BLACK HORIZON

Why Daphne keeps her secret in the 21st century is hard to fathom, and it’s just one of the creaking contrivances that fans of Glass’ empowering tear-jerkers will have to overlook. (Author tour to Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Portland, Maine, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle and Vermont)

Grippando, James Harper/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $25.99 | $14.99 e-book | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-06-210988-0 978-0-06-210989-7 e-book In Grippando’s fast-moving 21st, an oil-rig disaster drags Florida lawyer Jack Swyteck into lawsuits against everyone in the known universe. Since American corporations can’t enter into agreements to explore the Caribbean waters off Cuba, the Cubans themselves, partnering with Russian, Chinese and Venezuelan interests, have launched the Scarborough 8, a behemoth platform assembled in China, to search for oil deep beneath the seas. That search ends when an explosion aboard the rig kills derrick worker Rafael Lopez and 15 other workers and unleashes a massive spill American relief forces are powerless to stem. As oil slicks approach the Florida Keys, Jack, his honeymoon already

SEDITION

Grant, Katharine Henry Holt (320 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-8050-9992-8 The grooming of five young Englishwomen for the marriage market goes wildly off the rails in a debut that, although Austen-ish in outline, takes some surprisingly saucy turns. Already a successful children’s and YA writer, British author Grant now delivers a very grown-up novel set in late-18th-century London. There, new money in the hands of four members of the merchant class is to be spent on piano lessons for their privileged girls, to help them snare husbands from among the aristocracy. Grant’s atmospheric evocation of London, seething with crime and grime, includes unexpectedly libidinous developments, especially involving Alathea Sawneyford, the dark horse among the group of daughters. The others are variously distinguished by false teeth, anorexia, disappointing hair and a problematic nose while fair Alathea’s only shortcoming is her lack of innocence. At the other end of the social and beauty scales, Annie Cantabile, the long-suffering daughter of a coldhearted musical instrument maker, is burdened by her harelip and unrequited passion for piano instructor Monsieur Belladroit, hired to tutor the debutantes and planning to deflower them all. Grant’s tale, though fresh and spirited, sags in the middle before picking up some speed for the concluding concert, where the girls take matters into their own hands. “Girls shouldn’t be puppets,” asserts this cleverly seductive romp, which conceals, beneath its witty surface, some very dark comments on fathers and daughters.

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interrupted when his bride, undercover agent Andie Henning, is called away for another hush-hush FBI operation, reluctantly agrees to help Rafael’s widow, Bianca, prosecute her wrongfuldeath suit against the owners of Scarborough 8. In the story’s irresistible middle section, Jack dukes it out in a Key West courtroom with Luis Candela, the lawyer representing Petróleos de Venezuela, who throws up one roadblock and smokescreen after another, including a stunner: Bianca can’t have been legally married to Rafael at the time of his death because he was engaged to Josefina Fuentes, a boxer he’d known since his childhood in Havana. Candela’s allegation is the cue for legal quiddities to dissolve into a wild third-act scramble for the truth that takes Jack and his old friend (and ex-client) Theo Knight on a trip to Cuba, then to the Bahamas, where Theo is framed for murder. Think nothing else can go wrong? Think again. Perhaps the most successful of Jack’s 11 cases (Blood Money, 2013, etc.). As usual, the characters are sketched in only lightly, but readers immersed in the rewardingly complex tangle of political/legal problems sparked by the Deepwater Horizon disaster—sorry, the Scarborough 8 disaster—will never notice.

considerable skill as a writer, sometimes becomes more about the beauty of her words than the story she’s trying to tell. Hoffman weaves an intricate plot, but a tendency to overwrite shadows her story, leaving the reader to make a complicated literary journey that, for some, may not be worth the effort. (Agent: Rebecca Friedman)

THE CONTRACTORS

Hunsicker, Harry Thomas & Mercer (514 pp.) $14.95 paper | Feb. 4, 2014 978-1-4778-0872-6 Veteran mystery writer Hunsicker (Crosshairs, 2007, etc.) turns in an everso-timely tale of mayhem and murder set on familiar Texas turf. People will opine, orate and bloviate on the matter of border security without much encouragement. They’ll do anything, it seems, except read a serious book about it. So Hunsicker does good and useful work in sneaking a conversation about the international line into a whodunit. On the face of it, that story seems full of promise for disappointment: It’s got dishy dames, rogue government types, crooked politicos and all the usual makings of the usual procedural. But Hunsicker adds contemporary twists that enrich the story, some of them subtle, others not so much. He bangs home the point, for instance, that in order to save money, the government has for years been hiring private contractors to do everything from dump garbage to interrogate suspected terrorists. The supposed savings are chimerical, as it happens, but at least the contractors save time by dispensing with the usual legal niceties until things get too hairy, whereupon “[t]hey’ll wave the national security flag, and the pit bulls at Homeland Security will take over.” In such a scenario, selfsufficient, disgraced (naturally) ex-cop Joe Cantrell finds plenty of room to move—and plenty of obstacles, too, as he tries to get a trial witness across the Lone Star State in one piece while he faces all manner of feds, narcs, narcotraficantes, ops and enough assorted baddies to make Anton Chigurh think twice. Of course, the witness has ideas of her own, while Cantrell’s cool-as-a-cucumber partner is free-wheeling enough to make us wonder, at times, whose side she’s on. Indeed, the best part of Hunsicker’s story is its skillful blurring of the lines between good guys and bad; as one of the principals says, “Both sides, the narcos and the police, they think they are in the right,” adding, “It’s very…ironic.” It is, though the story is seldom subtle enough to explore those ironies.

BE SAFE I LOVE YOU

Hoffman, Cara Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4516-4131-8 Hoffman’s (So Much Pretty, 2011) latest novel centers on a female soldier who comes home to a reality in which she feels alienated and out of sync. Lauren Clay didn’t follow the rest of the cream of her high school graduating class into college; instead, the gifted student with the beautiful, classically trained voice opted for the Army, where she ended up in a war zone, dodging bullets and losing her identity to a case of PTSD. But no one at home wants to acknowledge that the Lauren who has returned to Watertown isn’t the same girl who left. While her dad, Jack, and her boyfriend, Shane, puzzle over her changed behavior, Lauren experiences difficulty reintegrating into her old life. Although she loves her younger brother, Danny, more than anything or anyone, she takes him on a hazardous trip to a basin that has become the site of an oil field and seeks out her friend Daryl, another soldier. That trip turns into a race against time as her family tries to find Lauren before the unthinkable happens. For those who like their prose spare and unembellished, beware: Hoffman has nothing in common with the Hemingway school of writing. But she does an admirable job of conveying the confusion and helplessness of a returning warrior with PTSD who is trying to reintegrate into society and finds it makes little sense. And Hoffman has a knack for bringing her characters to life while providing readers with a reason to care about them. But in this instance, Hoffman’s talent may not be enough to keep readers focused on a tale that tends to drift and, despite her 18

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“Iles, a longtime resident of Natchez, knows his corner of Mississippi as well as Faulkner and Welty knew theirs.” from natchez burning

NATCHEZ BURNING

Using the historical framework of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in England, Jefferson’s debut novel imagines the romantic intrigues of the beautiful Frances Stuart. With her family recently returned to favor, Frances is eager to escape her mother’s suffocating attention. Walking a fine line herself, Sophia Stuart lives cautiously, knowing her secret connection to the Villiers family and her position in the queen mother’s court are precariously balanced on Frances’ behavior. Yet Frances seizes upon a chance meeting with the rakish Duke of Buckingham to arrange an escape. Through Buckingham’s influence, she gains a position as maid of honor to her friend, Henriette Anne, the new bride of Philippe, Duc d’Orleans. Philippe spends most of his time arranging trysts with the Chevalier de Lorraine, and Henriette Anne spends most of her time arranging trysts with Philippe’s brother, King Louis XIV, a powerful man who soon finds his attentions wandering to Frances. But rejecting his advances lands Frances in even hotter waters, as the queen mother and Louis send her to England to seduce King Charles II. Louis wants to secure a political alliance through Frances; the queen mother wants to advance Catholic interests; but

Iles, Greg Morrow/HarperCollins (800 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-06-231107-8 978-0-06-231110-8 e-book A searing tale of racial hatreds and redemption in the modern South, courtesy of Southern storyteller extraordinaire Iles (The Devil’s Punchbowl, 2009, etc.). Natchez didn’t burn in the Civil War, having surrendered to the Yankees while its neighbors endured scarifying sieges. It burns in Iles’ pages, though, since so many of the issues sounded a century and a half ago have yet to be resolved. Some of Natchez’s more retrograde residents find it difficult to wrap their heads around the idea that men and women of different races might want to spend time together, occasioning, in the opening episode, a “Guadalcanal barbecue,” as one virulent separate-butunequal proponent puts it. The Double Eagles, an even more violent offshoot of the KKK, has been spreading its murderous idea of justice through the neighborhood for a long time, a fact driven home for attorney/politico Penn Cage when the allegation rises that his own father is somehow implicated in the dark events of 1964—and, as Iles’ slowly unfolding story makes clear, not just of that long-ago time, but in the whispered, hidden things that followed. As Penn investigates, drawing heat, he runs into plenty of tough customers, some with badges, some with swastikas, as well as the uncomfortable fact that his heroic father may indeed have feet of clay. Iles, a longtime resident of Natchez, knows his corner of Mississippi as well as Faulkner and Welty knew theirs, and he sounds true notes that may not be especially meaningful for outsiders—for one thing, that there’s a profound difference between a Creole and a Cajun, and for another, that anyone whose first three names are Nathan Bedford Forrest may not be entirely trustworthy when looking into hate crimes. His story is long in the telling (and with at least two more volumes coming along to complete it), but a patient reader will find that the pages scoot right along without missing a beat. Iles is a master of regional literature, though he’s dealing with universals here, one being our endless thirst to right wrongs. A memorable, harrowing tale.

GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN

Jefferson, Marci Dunne/St. Martin’s (335 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 11, 2014 978-1-250-03722-0 978-1-250-03721-3 e-book Famously beautiful, Frances Stuart has been remembered throughout history as the woman who twice refused to be the mistress of a king. But what if she did submit to King Charles II? |

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MIND OF WINTER

Frances wants to honorably serve the new queen of England, the rather sad Catherine of Braganca. Once she meets Charles, however, it’s only a matter of time before she surrenders to him, sending the lovers on a course that leads to political and emotional disaster. Jealous women, competitive men, power struggles— the treacherous world of the court is familiar, predictable and disappointing.

Kasischke, Laura Harper/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-06-228439-6 Author and poet Kasischke (If a Stranger Approaches You, 2013, etc.) chronicles the ramblings of a woman snowed in with her adopted daughter on Christmas Day. Holly and her husband, Eric, adopted beautiful Tatiana from a cold, impersonal Russian orphanage when she was a toddler. The little girl with the blue-tinged skin, glossy black hair, and huge, dark eyes adjusted quickly to the love and attention showered upon her by her new family, but when they all oversleep on Christmas morning, the day grows exceptionally strange. Eric rushes out in a blizzard to fetch his elderly parents from the airport, while Holly and Tatty— as they call their daughter—try to put dinner on the table for their guests, which include Eric’s brothers and their wives and some family friends. But something is different about this day: Holly awakens to the idea that something followed them home from Russia, and she keeps trying to hold on to that idea in order to write it down. And Tatty, despite having overslept, keeps taking long naps. She also makes strange appearances in which both her clothes and personality change. Then there’s Holly’s phone, which rings often but conceals the identity of the caller and transmits odd messages. Holly, the sole narrator of the story, is a poet with writer’s block, but in Kasischke’s hands, she becomes a buzzing mosquito, obsessing over every decision, no matter how small and inconsequential. The story’s most fascinating moments occur when the author decamps to Siberia in the days before and during Tatty’s adoption. The rich and heartbreaking details surrounding the orphanage and the adoption process provide interesting insight into both Holly and Tatty. But the author’s favored technique of taking random thoughts and dwelling on them for pages on end makes for some thin and often frustrating prose. A prolonged exercise in navel-gazing, with a powerful ending that may be redemptive in the eyes of readers who stick around.

THE FULL RIDICULOUS

Lamprell, Mark Soft Skull Press (256 pp.) $15.95 paper | May 13, 2014 978-1-61902-295-9

A middle-aged husband and father endures a year of agonizing discovery in this humorous twist on the coming-ofage novel, Lamprell’s debut. Michael O’Dell, unemployed Australian movie critic, is hit by a car while jogging one summer day, and nothing is the same after. He dives into a depression that deepens as his wife, Wendy Weinstein, tries to mitigate his angst, while his children, Rosie and Declan, only heighten 20

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“Each of Marciano’s stories is a gem.” from the other language

Presented in a realistic, almost reportorial style, these stories are both unremittingly bleak and exceptionally powerful.

it by the simple act of being teenagers. Lamprell gets the dialogue, the interactions, the hopelessness-turned-ecstasy in families just right. The “full ridiculous” of the title is Michael’s description of the facts of his life in this story—most bittersweetly ridiculous is that it is a universal story for all families, anywhere. Lamprell uses a narrative technique that at first feels like stage direction. He has Michael narrate in the second person, where “you” is he, Michael. At first unnerving, over time, you, the reader, get the rhythm and, by the end, perhaps realize it is you, any one of us, whom this story is about. Michael says “[y]ou are an unremarkable man living an unremarkable life except for this single thing: you love and are splendidly loved.” To get to that realization, Michael takes one hilarious step after another, from his daughter’s potential expulsion from school to his son’s alleged drug use to Michael being criminally investigated for a toy pistol used in his son’s school film project. Michael, awash in depression and fear, does not see the joke, and while this story is a comic journey for us, it remains an angst-ridden discovery for Michael. Lamprell has written a lovely coming-of-age story about a middle-aged man who hurts, despairs, heals and comes to understanding. A very funny and truthful novel.

THE OTHER LANGUAGE

Marciano, Francesca Pantheon (304 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-307-90836-0

Nine closely observed stories of growing up, dislocation and family relationships. The first story in the collection gives the volume its title and presents a lovely reminiscence of childhood and adolescence, with all its fumbling awkwardness. Emma, Luca and Monica have recently lost their mother, and their father takes them to a Greek village for summer vacation and an opportunity to at least temporarily

BOMBAY STORIES

Manto, Saadat Hasan Translated by Reeck, Matt; Ahmad, Aftab Vintage (304 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-8041-7060-4 Manto, who died in 1955, explores the seamy underside of Bombay in 14 stories of economic exploitation with little personal redemption. “Khushiya,” the first story in the collection, introduces us to the eponymous title character and simultaneously plunges us into Bombay’s insalubrious atmosphere. Khushiya is a pimp who, at the beginning of the story, calls on Kanta Kumari, one of his prostitutes. Perhaps not unexpectedly, she greets him at the door wrapped only in a towel. At first embarrassed when Kanta thinks it’s no big deal, Khushiya next believes he should take her casualness as an insult. In the following story, “Ten Rupees,” we meet Sarita, a good-time girl of about 15, whose mother is prostituting her. Although Sarita is a carefree spirit, it’s sobering to hear her mother’s advice: “Look, my little girl, remember to talk like a grown-up, and do whatever he says.” So much for childhood innocence. “Barren” recounts a love story between Naim, a servant, and Zahra, the daughter of his master. Eventually, they marry and are happy despite the anger of Zahra’s father, but then tragedy strikes. Naim narrates this story to a character named Manto—perhaps the author himself, who appears as an interlocutor in several other stories. At the end, however, Naim reveals his story is not what he originally claimed it to be. In “The Insult,” we meet Ram Lal, who pimps 120 prostitutes all over Bombay, the most notable being Saugandhi. At least by the end of this story, we have a character who is able to find her own voice and become self-assertive. |

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HAPPILY EVER AFTER

put aside their grief. There, they meet Nadia, a Greek teenager with an almost adultlike self-possession, as well as Jack and David, two adolescents from Britain. Over several summers as they all grow up, Emma becomes intrigued by David’s uninhibited mother and has her first sexual experience with David. The story ends with Emma bumping into Jack years later in Rome and finding out David’s tragic end. “Chanel,” the following story, introduces us to Caterina, a documentary filmmaker, and her gay friend Pascal, who persuades Caterina to buy an expensive Chanel dress, in part since she’s always lived a life in which selfindulgence is seen as a catalyst for guilt. Years later, she still has the dress—and still hasn’t worn it—but learns a deeper lesson about its true worth. “Big Island, Small Island” takes us to subSaharan Africa, where Stella, a scientist with an interest in biodiversity, meets Andrea, her expat ex-lover, and discovers how far apart they’ve grown. In “An Indian Soirée,” a couple’s marriage unravels in the space of a single day. And so it goes—each of Marciano’s stories is a gem, with fully realized characters wistfully and beautifully captured through dialogue that is both pensive and poignant.

Maxwell, Elizabeth Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $15.00 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4767-3266-4 What if a novelist’s characters object to their storylines? Worse, what if they hijack the plot? While other mothers in her posh neighborhood fill their days with Bikram yoga classes, Sadie Fuller secretly writes steamy romance novels. Divorced yet still friends with her gay exhusband, she’s raising their 11-year-old daughter, Allison, with the help of Greta, their German housekeeper. As far as her own love life, well, at 46, Sadie knows she’s past her prime, so she places an ad on Craigslist for a Friday-morning, no-strings-attached lover, and Jason responds. He’s a kind attorney, eager for a sexual relationship since his wife stole his confidence by cheating on him with the tile contractor. It’s a stable life, if a little lacking in excitement. Yet one morning, Sadie discovers an extra 1,500 words have mysteriously appeared in the novel she’s writing. She’s sure she didn’t write those words. She’s sure there was no witch named Clarissa in the story last night. And she’s sure she doesn’t know the impossibly gorgeous man who seems to be suffering from amnesia in the baby-products aisle at Target. The gorgeous man is, indeed, Aidan Hathaway, the hero of Sadie’s novel, and Sadie’s life turns upside down as she tries to explain him to nosy neighbors and jealous Jason, not to mention bewildered Greta. Allison is smitten and couldn’t care less where Aidan came from. As a romance novel hero, Aidan relies on steamy glances and suggestive comments, neither of which helps Sadie crack the mystery of why he’s here, much less how to send him back into the safe pages of her book. Debut novelist Maxwell and Sadie herself deftly bend the rules of genre fiction, letting the boundaries between reality and fiction shimmy and shimmer. Clever, engaging and sparkling with wit.

THUNDERSTRUCK & OTHER STORIES

McCracken, Elizabeth Dial Press (240 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-385-33577-5

These nine stories from fiction and memoir author McCracken (An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, 2008, etc.) excavate unexplored permutations of loss and grief. The volume starts and ends with bookending wallops. The opener, “Something Amazing”—combining a not-quite-ghost story about a grieving mother “haunted” by her dead child with the unfolding story of a mother unaware she is about to suffer her own loss—taps into every parent’s worst fears. The final story, “Thunderstruck,” follows a family in which the mother and father 22

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“Morgan recreates Shakespeare’s Elizabethan milieu, every place and person rendered with near-perfect realism.” from the secret life of william shakespeare

react in very different ways after their joint efforts to be good parents disastrously backfire. The rest of the volume deals with various forms of sorrow and coping. “Property” considers the stuff of grief as a newly widowed man moves into a rental house full of what he considers junk left by the house’s owner. In “Some Terpsichore,” a woman remembers an abusive former lover with horror and nostalgia. Memory also plays tricks in “The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston”: A store manager’s memory of helping a young boy he once discovered being starved by his grandfather sustains him through his own losses, but the boy, now grown, remembers the incident differently. In “Juliet,” the murder of a library patron causes a series of off-kilter reactions among the librarians, showing that guilt is not limited to perpetrators or sorrow, to those officially bereaved. In “The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs,” a foolhardy expat in rural France realizes his son, whom he’s raised with outrageous carelessness, has betrayed his trust and left him broke. “Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey” describes a different kind of betrayal when a dying man attempts to visit the former friend who ruined his life. In the surprisingly tender “Hungry,” about a woman caring for her granddaughter while the girl’s father (the woman’s son) lies in the hospital, food and a patriotic speech serve as metaphors for the power and limitations of love. McCracken’s skewed perspectives make this a powerfully if quietly disturbing volume. (Agent: Henry Dunow)

flow swiftly, easily from his pen. Woven into the tapestry of Will’s story is the thread of Ben Jonson’s life, a London mason’s brilliant stepson denied a Queen’s Scholarship. Morgan writes masterful characters—royals, patrons and players; Marlowe, reckless rake; Jonson, arrogant, envious, but great loyal friend; Anne, earthy, passionate, loyal, fractured after the death of their son, lost and found again after Will’s dalliance with the troubled Huguenot widow Isabelle Berger; and most of all, Will himself, great, gentle genius behind a placid, circumspect exterior, implacable, unknowable, all effortless burning brilliance. In a layered narrative with a richness that rewards measured reading, Morgan recreates Shakespeare’s Elizabethan milieu, every place and person rendered with near-perfect realism. A tour de force.

DEBBIE DOESN’T DO IT ANYMORE

Mosley, Walter Doubleday (272 pp.) $25.95 | $12.99 e-book | May 13, 2014 978-0-385-52618-0 978-0-385-53839-8 e-book A porn star experiences an epiphany of sorts in the wake of her husband’s death. Prolific novelist Mosley (Little Green, 2013, etc.) fielded his fair share of criticism for his X-rated one-two punch of Killing Johnny Fry (2006) and Diablerie (2007), and readers attracted to the equally explicit nature of this novel might be expecting more of the same. In truth, readers are likely to be more surprised by the depth of protagonist Sandra Peel, whom the author treats with tremendous compassion. Of course, when we first meet Sandra, she’s in the guise of Debbie Dare, an ivory-haired, black pornographic film star who, in the midst of a typical scene, experiences a rare and revelatory orgasm, causing her to pass out. She returns home to find that her husband, fellow porn-film actor and part-time pimp Theon Pinkney, has accidentally electrocuted himself and a 16-year-old runaway in a hot tub during a sex act. The book then follows the well-read and resolute woman through the next week or so as she tries to sort out her husband’s funeral, avoid the mobsters who want her to pay her dead husband’s debts, figure out a way to quit the business, reconnect with friends and family, and listen to the whisper of suicide sailing behind her cold eyes. Except for flashbacks and the novel’s opening scene, there’s not even any sex for the determined exile-to-be. “Thousands of us boys and girls had run screaming from the same filth and stink of poverty,” she says. “Black and white and brown and yellow and red had put out their thumbs and pulled down their pants, used lubricants and drugs and alcohol to escape these decaying ancestors and others just like them.” Mosley’s characteristically well-crafted cast also includes a kind police detective, a nonjudgmental shrink and a shy young architect with a crush on the nonglammed-out Sandra. A well-told redemption song about the most unlikely of heroines.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Morgan, Jude St. Martin’s (464 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-250-02503-6

Morgan (A Little Folly, 2013, etc.) draws restless young Will Shakespeare as he resists being trapped in apprenticeship to his glove-maker father. Will’s father, John, once respectable alderman and bailiff, has been disgraced by missteps into unlicensed wool trading. Will has no real prospects, but he will not be a glove-maker. At 18, he meets older Anne Hathaway and marries, with her pregnant. Morgan writes page-turning historical fiction, hearth to farm to London, following Will, who is stringing “his soul along posts of dream and fantasy and invention and imitation.” Will’s a loyal son, devoted father and husband, but when a troupe of traveling players loses a member, he captures his dream, becoming a player and ending up in London. Will settles in “the great stinking trading-crowded roofed-over first place of the kingdom.” In the great shadow of Christopher Marlowe, Will begins to write for theaters, his scribbling less than respectable but popular nonetheless. First are collaborations, plays Will doctors so that he might find stages to act upon, but his writing soon evolves into individual genius built upon folk tales and legends and cooperative stews, Will believing “there is no such thing as originality, except the originality that comes from synthesis.” Soon, however, original comedies, dramas and tragedies |

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TALKING TO OURSELVES

“affairs began to go awry.” Knights are spellbound. Peasants disappear and are found as corpses, “horribly wizened…skin… brown and harsh as bark…interior collapse along fault lines deep in the flesh.” Sir Jehan persuades Maeve to help Sir Odinell. After the journey to castle Chantemerle, Maeve glimpses evil emanating from Sir Tarquin and realizes “there’s a fell being that haunts this coast: something dire, something vast.” Nicholas is a marvelously descriptive writer, littering the narrative with images of table fare at inns (“cruppy-dows, cakes made of oatmeal and fish”), medieval dialects (“a few miles tae t’sooth, sithee”) and battledress (“mail hauberks and coifs, armored gloves, greaves, and helms”). Major character development comes as Hob matures into the futurequeen Nemain’s worthy betrothed and warrior-protector, and the dark, violent tale moves rapidly as Maeve’s troop journeys through desperate adventures and into Northumbria, meeting charcoal makers, slaying bandits and staying a “sennight” at Abelard Inn awaiting the summons of Sir Odinell to confront Sir Tarquin. And much like a more profound Harry Potter for adults, Nicholas’ fantasy-laced knights-ofold saga ends with opportunity for more to come. Nicholas weaves the magic of wizards and sorceresses —buidseach and cailleach phiseogach—so naturally into the medieval milieu that Maeve’s tale reads as entertaining historical fiction rather than a fey supernatural tale.

Neuman, Andrés Translated by Caistor, Nick; Garcia, Lorenza Farrar, Straus and Giroux (144 pp.) $23.00 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-374-16753-0 This fifth novel, and second in an English translation (following Travels of the Century, 2012), from the Spanish author, born in Argentina, explores an impending death from cancer and how it affects three family members. Mario has terminal cancer. He and his wife, Elena, have kept it a secret from their 10-year-old son, Lito. The three take turns voicing their thoughts. Neuman keeps context to a minimum, never even identifying the Latin American country in which the story is set. Mario was a travel agent who later joined the family trucking business. Since he is enjoying a temporary respite, he indulges Lito by taking him along in the truck on his last business trip (merchandise unknown), hoping this will create a beautiful memory for the boy. Lito enjoys traveling, but it’s a remarkably uneventful long haul, save for a brief encounter in a bar with a guy claiming to be a magician. The boy is fascinated, but Mario hurries him out of there, suspecting the guy is a pedophile. The real action is on the homefront. Elena begins having sex with Ezequiel Escalante, the doctor who is treating Mario and who is separated from his wife. She loves her husband but not his ravaged body. She needs a buffer against mortality, and Ezequiel provides it; her orgasms are “monstrous.” Opposing sex to death is nothing new, of course, and Neuman provides no insights of his own, preferring to rely on the words of the many writers Elena cites. But it’s clear that this is Elena’s story, and the monologues of her husband and son distract from it. A slight work, on both the personal and metaphysical level.

HIGH CRIME AREA Tales of Darkness and Dread Oates, Joyce Carol Mysterious Press (256 pp.) $23.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-8021-2265-0

From Oates (Carthage, 2014, etc.) comes this collection of eight stories, seven previously published, that explore the depths of human despair and cruelty. A retired nun is found dead with a muslin veil over her face in “The Home at Craigmillnar.” Although the nun was a cardiac patient, the orderly who reports her death knows enough about her dark past to suggest that she might have died from something other than natural causes. In “High,” a lonely widow seeks escape from her grief even as she opens herself up to exploitation by those she once tried to help. A 13-year-old girl has to protect her half brother from an indifferent world and their alcoholic mother in “Toad-Baby.” “Lorelei” is a needy woman who searches the subways for love and hopes that people will notice her. In “Demon,” a mentally challenged youth goes to extremes to eliminate the sign of the devil in his own body. The would-be heroine of “The Rescuer” is a cultural anthropologist who leaves her ivory tower to save her brother from a terrifying local culture and is slowly pulled into it. “The Last Man of Letters” is an arrogant author who thinks he’s receiving the adulation he deserves until he realizes how much he’s hated. Finally, an idealistic young teacher in 1967 Detroit has to face the fears that are personified by the man

THE WICKED

Nicholas, Douglas Emily Bestler/Atria (368 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-4516-6024-1 Nicholas’ sequel to his historical saga, Something Red (2012), continues the haunting tale of exiled Irish queen Maeve and her cohorts in medieval north England. Maeve’s troop rests at the castle of the Sieur de Blanchefontaine, Sir Jehan, the place where she defeated an evil presence, one appearing as a fox “the size of a small horse.” Maeve is with her granddaughter, Nemain; former crusader Jack Brown; and the orphan Hob, now Squire Robert under Sir Jehan’s patronage. Word of trouble comes from lands of the Sieur de Chantemerle, Sir Odinell. A Northumbria newcomer, Sir Tarquin, is “secretive,” “barely civil,” and soon after his arrival, 24

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THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVERS

following her in “High Crime Area.” Oates is at her best here when she’s writing about floundering academics thrust into situations for which they’re hopelessly ill-prepared. Oates’ mastery of imagery and stream of consciousness enhances the gritty settings and the frailties of her grotesque and pitiable subjects.

Price, Daniel Blue Rider Press (608 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 4, 2014 978-0-399-16498-9 Both the innovative and the enjoyably familiar mark this hefty, intriguing introduction to a multivolume, multiversal saga. An apparently omniscient, oddly threatening trio place silver bracelets on a small group of people in San Diego; the jewelry protects these “Silvers” as the sky comes crashing down and our world is utterly destroyed. The Silvers find themselves in an alternate San Diego in an isolationist America, where scientists have gained mechanical control over some of the forces of time—cars fly, and serious injuries can be instantly healed, but the Internet isn’t nearly as cool a place. Oncology nurse Amanda and her actress sister Hannah, sardonic comic-book artist Zach, awkward teen Mia, burnt-out

THE IDEA OF HIM

Peterson, Holly Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-06-228310-8 New York Times best-seller Peterson (The Manny, 2007) presents the tale of a PR executive who experiences a wakeup call when a mysterious woman challenges her to face reality and rearrange her priorities. At 34, New York City resident Allie Crawford strives to balance a career and family, but lately, she’s been doing the lion’s share of the work. Husband Wade, an ambitious magazine editor, is constantly busy. Allie’s disturbed by his behavior but says little: She’s always validated her self-worth through the eyes of others, particularly the men in her life. Allie’s dad, once her rock, died years ago in a tragic accident, and the circumstances still haunt her. She pushed away best friend and would-be lover James, but she still has unresolved feelings for him. Murray, Allie’s boss, expects her to be available 24/7, and Allie usually accommodates his demands. And Allie’s sick to death of Wade’s endless parties for clientele, but she continues to play the obliging hostess. Wade and Allie have survived rough patches in their marriage up until now, but when a poker chip tumbles out of his pocket and beautiful blonde Jackie shows up and disappears in their lives with genielike dexterity, Allie suspects there’s hankypanky afoot. But Jackie’s not what Allie expects. Although she dresses to the nines in last year’s runway fashions, she has a head for business and warns Allie that her family’s financial future is in jeopardy. Throwing logic and any semblance of good dialogue and well-defined plot to the wayside, Peterson’s female protagonists embark on a vague cloak-and-dagger investigation encompassing an ex-con parking-lot mogul, a computer networking company, a film festival and some ominous looking SUVs. And, of course, there are other problems: Allie’s having trouble developing a scene for her screenwriting class until Tommy, a fellow student, takes control and encourages Allie to spill her guts about her past, especially all the explicit sexual details, and make out with him. After several more revelations—about Tommy and everyone from Murray’s gardener to the guys in the SUVs—Allie experiences an epiphany: A strong woman doesn’t need a man’s approval to move forward! Readers who make it to the end of this book might experience an epiphany of their own: To engage the reader, stronger writing and a certain degree of credibility are necessary. Not every idea’s a good one.

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CITY OF JASMINE

genius Theo, and dangerously precocious, possibly sociopathic David don’t know why they were saved, but it all becomes somewhat clearer when they begin displaying their own personal abilities to control time. They’re forced to hone those powers quickly when they face threats from a rival group of chronokinetic adepts, a vengeful stranger from our world, government authorities and an even greater danger that they only gradually come to understand. It all reads like a better-written combination of the defunct TV series Sliders, The Fugitive and the novel Escape to Witch Mountain, plus a healthy pinch of an exotically conceived vision of time travel and its implications. Usually, stories of this kind involve a search for the way home, but that possibility is apparently eliminated within the first 30 pages, adding a nice, dark jolt to a well-established trope. Price (Slick, 2004) is occasionally guilty of some inappropriate word choices (“leer” doesn’t quite mean what he thinks it does), but on the whole, he provides an absorbing adventure with a fresh take on both the parallel-universe and the paranormal subgenres. You’ll get pulled in.

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Raybourn, Deanna Harlequin MIRA (368 pp.) $14.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-7783-1621-3 978-1-4603-2705-0 e-book Feisty, famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke finds adventure and love in the deserts of Damascus as she hunts for her husband, presumed dead for the last five years. Since Gabriel Starke wasn’t found after the Lusitania sank, Evangeline has struggled to keep him off her mind—after all, he did abandon her in Shanghai after only four months of a passionate, tempestuous marriage (Whisper of Jasmine, 2014). To be fair, she had just asked for a divorce. Since then, to keep the bills paid, she’s relied on her skills as a barnstormer, staging a series of privately sponsored flights over the seven seas of antiquity. Accompanying her are her gay friend Wally, heir to the Viscount Walters

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“One of America’s finest fiction writers returns with an allegorical novella about sleep deprivation in an age of sensory overload.” from sleep donation

An appealing attempt to wed the weird and everyday in a newsroom setting—it’s a cousin to Renata Adler’s Speedboat (1976)—that never quite finds solid footing.

and a whiz-bang mechanic; her sassy Aunt Dove, an adventuress in her own day; and Dove’s spoiled parrot. As the final leg of the gig approaches, however, Evangeline is sent a photograph of Gabriel, who is evidently not dead after all. Impetuously, Evangeline detours to Damascus, intent upon finding Gabriel. Soon she finds herself courted by the dashing Mr. Halliday, an English diplomat, while her thoughts turn frustratingly and inexorably to Gabriel. Did she come to the famed City of Jasmine to give Gabriel a piece of her mind or her heart? Is he really just an adventure-seeking archaeologist? Surprisingly, Gabriel is in disguise and after a priceless artifact hidden at an excavation. Other, unsavory characters are after the artifact as well, sending the Starkes on a grueling journey across the Badiyat ash-Sham, punished by the desert elements and taunted by murderous villains. Raybourn deftly weaves together humor and suspense with sharp, sparking repartee and unexpected plot twists. A little romance, a little mystery, a little exotic travelogue and a lot of screwball comedy add up to a delightful tale.

SLEEP DONATION A Novella

Russell, Karen Atavist Books (101 pp.) $3.99 e-book | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-937894-28-3 One of America’s finest fiction writers returns with an audaciously allegorical novella about sleep deprivation in an age of sensory overload. As a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the author of a critically acclaimed novel (Vampires in the Lemon Grove, 2013, etc.) and two story collections, Russell seems to be having some fun here, using the novella form and e-book format to put creative ingenuity to Orwellian use. The year is sometime in the near future, when the omnipresence of communication and connecting devices, the 24-hour news cycle and other sources of overstimulation have turned insomnia into an epidemic, even a plague. Sleep donors (like blood or plasma donors) can be a godsend for those suffering, particularly if those donors sleep undisturbed, without nightmares, like a baby. In this novella, Baby A is the ultimate donor, the silver bullet, the one whose sleep has universal benefits. (Other donors need to be more closely matched, as with blood types.) Our narrator, Trish, has recruited Baby A through the child’s parents and effectively sells the donor program to them by invoking the death of her own sister due to sleep deprivation. But the demands on Baby A eventually frustrate her father—a more reluctant participant than his wife—and he feels more concerned with what Baby A might suffer than with the benefits for society at large. At the other extreme from Baby A is Donor Y, whose nightmareinfected donation (an act of terrorism? an accident?) ultimately causes an international crisis, with many preferring the suicide of sleeplessness to a sleep that returns them to this nightmare. As the plot progresses, Trish feels that both she and Baby A have perhaps been equally exploited. Those who appreciate Russell’s literary alchemy might find this a little too close to science fiction, but it serves as a parable on a number of levels for a world that is recognizably our own. More of a detour than a natural progression for the author, whose fans will nevertheless find this as engaging as it is provocative.

THE TRANSCRIPTIONIST

Rowland, Amy Algonquin (256 pp.) $24.95 | May 13, 2014 978-1-61620-254-5

A blind woman’s suicide prompts a newspaper staffer to rethink journalism in particular—and the nature of existence in general. Rowland’s debut novel centers on Lena, an employee at major New York daily the Record, where she transcribes interview tapes and takes reporting calls from foreign correspondents. It’s a dying job in a dying industry, and Rowland emphasizes the strangeness of the gig and Lena’s own isolation within it. (Conspicuous references to Beckett, O’Connor and Calvino bolster the out-of-the-mainstream mood.) A story about a woman who broke into the lions’ den at the Bronx Zoo and was promptly killed sparks Lena’s sorrow and curiosity (they had a brief encounter), and the novel turns on her effort to learn more about the woman’s life than simple journalism will deliver. Rowland deliberately presents the profession in a fun-house mirror: Staffers are given emergency “escape hoods” instead of bonuses thanks to post-9/11 anxiety; an aging staffer spends days musing over the obituary archives; and the publisher’s pronouncements are pompous even by CEO standards. In stuffing this milieu with bits of mystery, romance and aphoristic riffs on listening and silence, Rowland has taken on a bit too much; the novel’s tone unsteadily shifts from the bluntly realistic to the fuzzily philosophical. Even so, individual scenes and characters are very well-turned: Lena’s visit to a potter’s field where the mauled woman is buried, a conversation with the security guard at the lions’ den, the preening investigative reporter who makes a major error about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Rowland has a talent for making the real world just a touch more Day-Glo and off center, but Lena’s own concerns about listening and being get short shrift in the process. |

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THE WHISKEY BARON

reminders of a missing sister and her “disappeared” boyfriend. Narrated partly by Jung Yoon, partly in other characters’ letters and diaries, the story combines philosophy and youthful idealism, innocence and brutal experience, all delivered in Shin’s understated prose. Although a story of specific relationships, the novel reaches toward larger resonances, touching on shared impulses and universal injustices, underscoring them with references to world literature. Above all, the book celebrates human love and friendship, touchstones during dark, divided times. Shin’s uncomplicated yet allusive narrative voice delivers another calmly affecting story, simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Sealy, Jon Hub City Press (250 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-891885-74-7

Sealy’s stunning debut novel is a potent mashup of noir, Southern fiction and period novel, set in South Carolina during Prohibition. Outside a bar that serves as a front for the lucrative whiskey operation of town heavy Larthan Tull, two boys who work for him are shotgunned to death, and a man called Mary Jane barely escapes, pellets embedded in his shoulder. A young war veteran and sharecropper’s son who got his name because his mother outfitted him in Mary Jane dresses when he was a child, the survivor is blamed for the killings. But Sheriff Furman Chambers is convinced Mary Jane is guilty of nothing more than chronic drunkenness. The sheriff has his work cut out for him in investigating Tull and his connections to the even more powerful Aunt Lou, who runs a regional bootlegging organization out of Charlotte. That’s where Mary Jane heads, thinking he can cut his own deal with her. Meanwhile, Mary Jane’s nephew Quinn and Tull’s daughter Evelyn are involved in a star-crossed teenage romance, and the sheriff has to cope with federal agents who have their own agenda. Told in pitch-perfect prose, with a rich command of time and place, Sealy’s novel builds slowly but powerfully to a violent climax with deepening themes pertaining to blood ties, religion, community and American enterprise: Even the most upstanding citizens sell corn to Tull to make ends meet. Though it could use a better title, this is a near-flawless effort by a writer to watch.

MAGNIFICENT VIBRATION

Springfield, Rick Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $24.99 | May 6, 2014 978-1-4767-5890-9 Rock star and soap actor–turned-author Springfield (Late, Late at Night, 2010) debuts with fiction best classified as black comedy. This novel is remarkably creative, for no other reason than Springfield boggles with countless euphemisms for male reproductive organs, masturbation and the act of sexual procreation. Sex, comedy and metaphysics pose a conundrum: Who listens when God speaks? Bobby Cotton for one—hapless nerd, Los Angeles sound editor, recently divorced cuckold. Next it’s Alice Young, reluctant religious novitiate, and, finally, Lexington Vargas, prominent Mexican doctor’s son and now redeemed gangster. Bobby’s life has been an “obsession with the female species and the whole, odd tie to organized religion.” Shuttled aside by quarreling parents, Bobby deeply loved his sister, lost first to mental illness and then cancer, the narrative element most emotionally affecting. Fumbling about after his divorce, Bobby steals a self-help book called Magnificent Vibration. Inside is a penciled note: “1-800-Call-God.” Bobby dials and becomes convinced he’s speaking to God, who in fact prefers to be called Omnipotent Supreme Being but will settle for Arthur. OSB has “a rather incongruous and off-putting sense of humor,” which means Bobby complies when told to get a cup of coffee. There, he meets Alice and then Lexington. Both have a copy of the book, and inside each copy is the same telephone number. While Lexington seems flat and present mainly as a plot catalyst, Springfield can write believable characters, his best being Bobby and Alice. The narrative bounces from the present to Bobby’s examination of his life and then to conversations with God, who is upset with war and pollution in the universe, all ending in Scotland with Alice, the reluctant nun. Springfield delivers a buckle-yourseat-belts ride, referencing the Loch Ness monster, superheroes, schlock films, Christian fundamentalism, sexual repression, the Pacific garbage patch and existentialist fatalism. A readable comic meditation on human frailty.

I’LL BE RIGHT THERE

Shin, Kyung-sook Translated by Kim-Russell, Sora Other Press (336 pp.) $15.95 paper | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-59051-673-7 Tender and mournful, the latest novel from best-selling South Korean novelist Shin (Please Look after Mom, 2011) considers young love and loss in an era of political ferment. Eight years after a transformative if tragedy-clouded romance, two intimate friends reconnect by phone with news of the illness of a college professor whose classes helped unite them. Shin then quickly spools back to that earlier period, the university days of Jung Yoon—who has had a year’s leave of absence, mourning her mother’s death—and Yi Myungsuh, a politically active student taking part in the many demonstrations disrupting life in Seoul in the 1980s. The attraction between the two is influenced by Yi Myungsuh’s friendship with Miru, a young woman whose scarred hands are terrible living 28

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THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS

Peter, the heir to the Russian throne, Sophie is taken under the wing of Empress Elizabeth, renamed Catherine Alekseyevna, and diligently studies the language and acclimates to her new country. However, she soon realizes Peter would rather play with his toy soldiers and spend time with his mistress than be with her. And Elizabeth’s initial support has turned into open hostility. Saved from a collapsing house by a palace guard, Serge Saltykov, Catherine takes him as a lover. Their affair produces a son, Paul, who’s immediately swept away and raised by Empress Elizabeth until her death. (Catherine bears two more children with other lovers, although one dies, and the other is delivered in secret.) As Catherine wrests power from Peter III and ascends to the throne, she has affairs with several more suitors, including Grigory Potemkin, who’s devoted to her and with whom she shares a singular love. While expanding the Russian Empire, quelling uprisings and amassing wealth, Catherine also tries to ensure her grandson’s succession—but even she cannot guarantee the course of events from beyond the grave. Although Stachniak creates a noteworthy representation of life at the Russian court during Catherine’s rule, she fails to draw readers into the political and personal intrigues. Rather than a vibrant, earthy, intelligent woman, Catherine seems disappointingly mundane, and her court contains an endless succession of names and nicknames with few distinguishing features. An unremarkable account of a remarkable reign. (Agent: Helen Heller)

Spurling, John Overlook (368 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 10, 2014 978-1-4683-0832-7

With this richly told historical novel, English author Spurling (A Book of Liszts, 2011, etc.) takes readers back to the China of seven centuries ago. Wang Meng is descended from an emperor yet is content to support himself and his wife with a minor bureaucratic post in the Yuan dynasty. Wang’s true calling is art. To his wife’s chagrin, the middle-aged man would love to spend his days contemplating waterfalls and painting landscapes; she wishes he had more ambition. Meanwhile, the country is in the midst of turbulence and upheaval. Bandits roam the countryside. Wang leaves his home several times, once at the behest of the White Tigress, a beautiful woman who leads a group of bandits. Wang himself is a gentle soul, but he has plenty of sense in devising military stratagems. The great strength of this novel is not so much the plot but the rich detail that sets the reader in the middle of China. As Wang paints waterfalls and witnesses beheadings, Spurling paints an exquisite story of a deeply decent man and his surroundings. One almost feels that the author just returned from the 14th century carrying a notebook brimming with observations large and small. Yet the story moves along when it needs to—it has action, some of it violent—but pauses often to describe some of the 10,000 things in nature. When Wang goes to prison and contemplates endless time, a friend observes that in the long run, “Emperors and shit buckets are all one.” Wang Meng was a real person famous for his richly detailed paintings, and this novel imagines the fabric of the last decades of his life. Spurling’s novel is a work of art in itself. A thoroughly enjoyable literary sojourn by a master of historical fiction.

THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS

Thompson, Ted Little, Brown (272 pp.) $25.00 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-316-18656-8 97-0-316-21583-1 e-book

That particularly American novel, examining the soul-crushing consequences of suburban prosperity, is modernized here as a successful financier looks around his life and sees a wasteland. Southerner Anders Hill went to great lengths to avoid the upstanding conformity his father had planned for him, but at age 60, he’s not sure what difference it’s made. Sickened by the greed of Wall Street and his own personal culpability in all sorts of financial collateral damage, Anders embarks on a kind of slash-and-burn approach to his life: He opts for early retirement, asks his wife, Helene, for a divorce (kindly put on hold for a year while she recovers from a double mastectomy), stops paying the mortgage on their colonial and holes up in a condo he furnishes with Winslow Homer posters and decorative lobster traps. Anders’ existential crisis, simmering for 20 years, is a rejection of everything he’s built—the beautiful house in a tony Connecticut bedroom community (think Greenwich), two sons and a lovely wife—but now what? Meanwhile, thanks to Facebook, Helene has a boyfriend, Donny, who was Anders’ college roommate and Helene’s college boyfriend. An outcast among their friends, Anders has formed an unlikely friendship with Charlie, the

EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT

Stachniak, Eva Bantam (400 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-553-80813-1

Catherine the Great suffers a debilitating stroke and reflects back on her life, loves and country in Stachniak’s second in her series (The Winter Palace, 2012, etc.) about the Russian empress. Unbeknownst to those holding vigil, Catherine is still in control of her mental faculties and aware of the activities around her in the hours before she dies. Although she is paralyzed and appears lifeless, she retains her ability to remember her rise from humble beginnings in Prussia as Sophie, the princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, to be the powerful ruler Catherine of Russia. Betrothed at a young age to her second cousin, |

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THE MOON SISTERS

rebellious teenage son of Mitchell and Sophie Ashby. After smoking PCP with Charlie at a holiday party (which sends Charlie to the hospital), Anders begins to fall apart in subtle but disturbing ways. Anders and Helene’s son Preston is an adult version of Charlie. After a wasted youth following Phish, dealing drugs, and beginning and quitting various programs and colleges, he finally has a college degree but not enough sense to use it. The three stages of the Connecticut man—Charlie, Preston and Anders— in this land of steady habits, have the instinct to rebel but lack the imagination to live happily. Thompson’s sharp-eyed debut is that kind of searing portrait of American wealth unraveling that is both dazzling and immeasurably sad.

Walsh, Therese Crown (288 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-307-46160-5

This second novel by Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy, 2010) centers on two sisters—one with synesthesia and one with a pragmatic outlook—as they recover from the suicide of their mother. In Tramp, W. Va., 18-year-old Olivia comes home to find her mother, Beth, in the kitchen with the gas oven on and the pilot light off. Olivia refuses to believe it was suicide—after all, her mother often used the oven for heating—but no one else is deluded. How could they be when Beth Moon suffered from severe depression and anxiety for 20 years? Six months later, the family is still reeling: Their father has taken to heavy drinking, Olivia has gone partially blind from staring at the sun, and sister Jazz has found herself a job in, of all places, a funeral home. Because of a dream, Olivia wants to take her mother’s ashes to the Cranberry Glades. Beth, an aspiring writer, got pregnant in college and was subsequently disowned by her father. In between bouts of depression, Beth was writing a fairy tale set in the Glade—an unfinished story about identity and forgiveness. Olivia thinks some destiny will be fulfilled if she brings her mother’s ashes there and she sees the legendary will-o’-the-wisp. Jazz thinks this is all foolishness but has been helping Olivia all her life. Olivia’s synesthesia (a neurological condition in which people can “see” sound and “taste” visual stimuli, etc.) has made her the dreamer, the one who lifted their mother’s mood, the one prone to impulse. When their van breaks down on the way to the Glade, Olivia hops a train, and Jazz furiously follows. There, they are introduced to train culture, and Olivia meets Hobbs, a 20-yearold train hopper with a face covered in tattoos. He agrees to bring Olivia to the Cranberry Glades, but Jazz has other plans. Though Walsh creates a vivid journey for the two sisters, they both speak and act, as does Hobbs, far older than their years, resulting in a less-than-believable coming-of-age tale. An uneven mix of magic and sorrow, from a promising writer.

SECRECY

Thomson, Rupert Other Press (400 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 22, 2014 978-1-59051-685-0 Thomson (Death of a Murderer, 2007, etc.) takes us to 17th-century Florence, which by definition seems to be full of corrupt politicians, unscrupulous clergy and aspiring artists—and this, of course, long after the Renaissance has ended. We begin with a dialogue between Italian sculptor Gaetano Zummo (called “Zumbo” by the French) and Marguerite-Louise of Orléans, now an abbess at a convent but formerly wife of Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Zummo’s reminiscences take him back some 25 years, though the bulk of the action occurs about 10 years before his meeting with the abbess. He’s been summoned by the Grand Duke on an odd commission—the Duke wants Zummo to sculpt the female form, perfect in every detail, from wax. The Duke in part wishes to escape a marriage in which his wife does not try to hide her contempt for him and, particularly, for his failings as a lover. (The Duchess has plenty of experience in this amatory realm and is thus likely a fair judge of her husband’s lack of prowess.) In his wanderings around the city, and in his need to experiment with various techniques to produce the desired aesthetic result, Zummo meets Faustina, a lovely Florentine. They quickly become lovers, and Zummo develops a strong desire to protect her, for she’s being both pursued and persecuted by an exceptionally cruel and sensual Dominican priest named Stufa, nicknamed, for reasons that become obvious, “Flesh.” Through some detective work, Zummo eventually discovers that Faustina is in fact the daughter of the Grand Duchess, but this knowledge does not protect her, and Zummo comes up with a plan to forever rid their lives of Stufa. Thomson succeeds on a number of levels here, for the novel works as a mystery, as a love story, as a historical novel and, more abstractly, as an exploration of aesthetic theory.

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REAL HAPPY FAMILY

Widger, Caeli Wolfson Lake Union/New Harvest (384 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-544-26361-1 This entertaining debut novel unsparingly takes on damaged family ecosystems and the show-business machine. It is no surprise to learn that the family in Real Happy Family is really unhappy. Precocious Lorelei, barely out of her teens, is a disgraced reality show also-ran. Holed up in Reno with her milquetoast boyfriend, she is hiding from life and descending |


rapidly into meth addiction. Colleen, her mother, is the source of Lorelei’s greatest support but also of her career’s swift implosion. Lorelei has cut off Colleen, and without her daughter nearby to carry her own dashed ambitions, Colleen drifts desperately in Fresno. She is unable to connect with her morally upstanding husband, Carl, consoling herself instead with prescription drugs, militant exercise and lavish purchases made on a secret credit card. Carl is going through his own quiet torture, equally worried about Lorelei but baffled and displeased by his enabling, glamour-hungry wife. Meanwhile, Carl’s son from a previous marriage, Darren, is about to pack off for a job that could potentially make his career as a cinematographer but which would take him away from his wife, Robin, whom he’s just started injecting with hormones to help her get pregnant. And the sour grape on the sundae: Colleen blames Robin for everything, because Robin is Lorelei’s agent. Around and around it goes, each character in a complex spiral of his or her own making but each with the power to change the others’ lives, a power that increases exponentially as the book progresses. While the locations shift per character, the real setting is Hollywood, especially the new Hollywood of reality television and its creeping reach into everyday life. Widger has created a delicate suspension bridge out of her characters’ relationships to one another and the world, and throughout the course of the novel, she steadily, craftily adds weight, making for compulsive reading.

intriguing to parse out his loyalties, and the question is mostly left up to the reader’s imagination. When the roving party does come into contact with clanspeople, the action is messy and horrifying. Wilson gives special, gruesome attention to the massacre of dogs. For neither the faint of heart nor those who prefer strong plots, Wilson’s work will nonetheless gratify fans of more bleak and rugged times.

MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO

Winter, Michael Pintail/Penguin (240 pp.) $16.00 paper | Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-14-318781-3 The “minister” of the title is Henry Hayward, who is searching for love, meaning and acceptance. Winter sets his novel in two seemingly incongruous places: Afghanistan and Newfoundland. At the beginning of the narrative, Hayward’s longtime girlfriend has broken up with him, leaving his life in a state of spiritual disarray. Looking to do something to forget, he links up with Rick Tobin, a contractor doing work in Afghanistan—primarily repairing water and sewer lines and doing waste management for Canadian forces. Accompanying Hayward is his buddy John Hynes, and in Kabul, they link up with an old friend from trade school, Patrick “Tender” Morris, now serving in the army reserves. After a few months working on a lucrative contract, they experience disaster when a suicide bomber blows up their Jeep and kills Tender. Hayward is overcome with grief and guilt, and he goes home to Canada, where he seeks out Martha Groves, a physiotherapist who was Tender’s girlfriend. Henry and Martha are drawn to each other by their mutual affection for Tender, and after initially resisting their obvious mutual attraction, they become lovers. An additional complication is that Martha is pregnant with Tender’s child, but Henry vows to set up a home for what he hopes will become a family. He begins work renovating a summer place near John and his family, but legal restrictions and machinations complicate his plan. To recover some point to his life, he hopes to surround himself with a “community of 100” who will provide mutual support and sustenance. Winter’s narrative will appeal to those who like slowpaced fiction focusing on friends, family and healing.

THE ROVING PARTY

Wilson, Rohan Soho (288 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 25, 2014 978-1-61695-311-9

Wilson’s debut is a grim and bloody tone poem that follows the historical figure John Batman and a motley assemblage of men through the Tasmanian bush as they hunt Aborigines in 1829. The group consists of four raggedy white convicts, two “Parramatta men”—natives from the Australian mainland who serve as trackers—and Black Bill, the arguable protagonist, a Tasmanian Aborigine. Black Bill, we are told, was raised by a white man, but he retains knowledge of clan language and ways and the ability to survive in the bush. The men of the roving party seek to trade “blacks” for government money or land grants, and their prized goal is Manalargena, a crafty leader and “witch,” powerful within his clan. But most of the book is given to roving, roving for days and days. The prose is highly descriptive, but adjectives often seem chosen to maximize gloominess rather than provide a clear picture, and readers in the U.S. may have trouble envisioning landscapes covered in a litany of unfamiliar flora. One thing is clear: The roving party is consistently cold, wet, hungry and underequipped. Moral questions are largely suspended, though there is no sense of glory in the proceedings. Batman has an almost charming unapologetic quality, interested merely in the task at hand, neither its inventor nor opponent. Black Bill is more mercurial; it is difficult and |

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ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING

is stolen, and 2-year-old Maya is deposited at his bookstore. Fikry cannot bear to leave the precocious child to the system once it becomes apparent her single mother has drowned herself in the sea. He adopts Maya, spurred by her immediate attachment to him. That decision detours “his plan to drink himself to death” and reinvigorates his life and his bookstore. Add Amelia Loman, quirky traveling sales representative for Knightley Press, and a romance that takes four years to begin, and there’s a Nicholas Sparks quality to this novel about people who love books but who cannot find someone to love. With a wry appreciation for the travails of bookstore owners—A. J. doesn’t like e-readers—Zevin writes characters of a type, certainly, but ones who nonetheless inspire empathy. Among others, there are the bright and sweet-natured Maya, who morphs into an insecure but still precocious teenager; Lambiase, local police chief who finds in Firky the friend who expands his life; A. J’s brother-in-law, Daniel Parish, a once–best-selling author riding out a descending career arc; and Daniel’s wife, Ismay, who sees A. J. as everything Daniel should be. All fit the milieu perfectly in a plot that spins out as expected, bookended by tragedy. Zevin writes characters who grow and prosper, mainly A. J. and Lambiase, in a narrative that is sometimes sentimental, sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining. A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love.

Wyld, Evie Pantheon (240 pp.) $24.95 | $12.99 e-book | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-307-90776-9 978-0-307-90777-6 e-book The second novel from award-winning Australian author Wyld (After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, 2009) explores the checkered past of a self-reliant young woman, a sheep farmer. When we first meet Jake Whyte, she’s tending her flock on an island off the coast of England. This is no Little Bo Peep: Jake is a tall, muscular Australian who can shear a fleece with the best of them. She’s also a loner; after three years on the island, she has no friends. To understand her, we must delve into her Australian past, which Wyld alternates with her English present. In a further twist, Wyld uses reverse chronology for the Australian sections. In the Outback, Jake is the only female member of a team of shearers, contract workers moving between sheep farms. Wyld is at her best capturing their work rhythms and cheerful profanity. Jake has hooked up with Greg, a good guy, but is being blackmailed by another shearer who’s found out Jake is on the run. That takes us back to her time with Otto, a sheep farmer who kept her as a sex slave. Did he also cause those wicked scars on her back? Jake had met Otto when she was a hooker and he had seemed the better proposition, but it was the wrong call. At last we reach the catastrophe that gave Jake those scars and forced the 15-year-old to leave home. The tricky narrative strategy has given Jake a past but not developed a full character. Jake has little interior, and that’s true too of her English incarnation. Instead of insights, we get more mysteries. What strange beast lurking in the woods is savaging her sheep? And who is the disoriented trespasser she shelters? Wyld has ordained a permanently dark life for her protagonist, a stubborn fate that offsets the surprises and the reader’s enjoyment.

SAVAGE GIRL

Zimmerman, Jean Viking (416 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 6, 2014 978-0-670-01485-9 A formal, measured tempo only heightens the tension in Zimmerman’s second historical fiction–cum-thriller (The Orphanmaster, 2012), this one set in the 1870s and concerning a serial killer whose rampage ranges from a rough mining community in Nevada to upper-class Manhattan. The novel opens in 1876 with narrator Hugo Delegate, Harvard-educated scion of one of New York’s wealthiest and most socially connected families, locked up for the gruesome murder of another New York dandy. He willingly claims his guilt— though that guilt is far from certain—but his expensive lawyers demand he tell them the true story from the beginning. Hugo starts with his family’s visit to Virginia City, Nev., home of his father Freddy’s silver mine. Soon, Hugo’s parents, eccentric liberals interested in the nurture/nature debate raised by Darwin, are eager to adopt a young girl they have discovered in a Virginia City freak show, the owner of which claims she was raised by wolves. Of unknown origins, she speaks Comanche as well as a smattering of English, and her performance involves a set of mechanical claws and a swimming tank. The girl, whose name turns out to be Bronwyn, travels on the Delegates’ private train to New York, where the Delegates plan to put one over on their friends My Fair Lady–style by having her debut as a fashionable

THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY

Zevin, Gabrielle Algonquin (272 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-61620-321-4

Zevin (Margarettown, 2006, etc.) chronicles the life of A. J. Fikry, a man who holds no brief for random acts, who yearns for a distinct narrative, who flounders about until his life is reordered by happenstance. Fikry owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts—think Nantucket. He’s not yet 40 but already widowed, his wife, Nic, dead in an auto accident. Fikry drinks. Island Books drifts toward bankruptcy. Then, within a span of days, his rare copy of Poe’s Tamerlane (worth $400,000) 32

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NURSING HOMES ARE MURDER

young lady. But one grisly murder after another seems to follow in Bronwyn’s wake, the victim always a man who has shown his attraction to Bronwyn’s considerable charms. Is Bronwyn, with her animallike instincts, the killer? Or is it Hugo, with his past mental problems, his capacity to black out and his love for Bronwyn that borders on jealous insanity? Neither Hugo nor the reader is sure right up to the satisfying if melodramatic end. Zimmerman’s dark comedy of manners is an obvious homage to Edith Wharton, a rip-roaring murder mystery more Robert Louis Stevenson than Arthur Conan Doyle and a wonderfully detailed portrait of the political, economic and philosophical issues driving post–Civil War America.

Befeler, Mike Five Star (262 pp.) $25.95 | May 21, 2014 978-1-4328-2816-5

An octogenarian sleuth strikes again. Even though his near-photographic memory of each day utterly vanishes by the next morning, Paul Jacobson has been confoundingly successful in helping the police solve crimes (Care Homes Are Murder, 2013, etc.). Paul’s new wife, Marion, has an idea she hopes will, in turn, help him: She encourages him to write up each day in a diary he can read the next morning. Thus fortified, Paul and his bride are about to leave Honolulu, where they’ve been vacationing with his son, Denny, his daughter-in-law, Allison, and his granddaughter, Jennifer, when Detective Chun asks Paul if he’ll go undercover in the Pacific Vista Nursing Home—where Linda Rodriguez has recently been raped. Marion stays in a nearby condo while Paul checks in and meets his new roommate, Ralph Hirata, a blind war hero of Japanese descent. Paul soon discovers that there are a lot of wacky characters living at the Pacific Vista, but the three men who are closest to the victim’s description of a mediumsized white man with a mustache and beard all appear innocent. Then Mrs. Rodriguez is murdered, and another woman is raped. Paul’s snooping seems to have alerted the killer, who makes increasingly violent attempts to deter him. With a little help from Ralph, whose hearing almost makes up for his lack of sight, Paul finally figures out whodunit. Befeler supplies the customary cast of eccentric senior citizens, the usual surfeit of geezer jokes and enough suspects to keep you guessing, especially if you forget them all when you go to sleep each night.

m ys t e r y AUNT DIMITY AND THE WISHING WELL

Atherton, Nancy Viking (288 pp.) $25.95 | $12.99 e-book | Apr. 17, 2014 978-0-670-02669-2 978-0-698-15151-2 e-book The discovery of a wishing well turns a quiet Cotswold village into a hotbed of seething resentment. Practically the entire village of Finch turns out for the funeral of Hector Huggins, a man who was so retiring that even the remarkably skillful village gossips know little about him. Arriving at the last minute is Jack MacBride, a handsome young Australian claiming to be Mr. Huggins’ nephew bent on settling his uncle’s estate. Once his bona fides are established, sleuthing expat American Lori Shepherd (Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, 2013, etc.) offers to help Jack clean up his uncle’s vastly overgrown garden. They’re joined by Bree Pym, a Kiwi who’s recently inherited a home in Finch and has no love for Aussies. Jack finds a vine-covered wishing well bearing the words “Speak and your wish will be granted.” When Lori jokingly wishes it would stop raining and it does, the word is out. Soon, many of the villagers are visiting Jack to make use of the well, some in the dead of night. Throughout all the casseroles and queries about his life he’s plied with, Jack remains good-natured, even when it comes to Bree’s barbed questions. Some of the villagers’ wishes start to come true, but their success doesn’t always bring them happiness. In fact, some start to neglect their duties, and others get into nasty fights. Lori, who’s busy helping Jack, caring for her rambunctious twin boys and trying to assure her attorney husband that she’s not getting into trouble, still has time to be deeply suspicious about all the wishes coming true. With the help of her spirit adviser, Aunt Dimity, she begins to find a common thread that leads to an unexpected result. Lori’s latest is perfect for those who prefer charmingly low-key puzzles to blood-soaked chills and thrills.

HOTEL BRASIL

Betto, Frei Translated by Soutar, Jethro Bitter Lemon Press (288 pp.) $14.95 paper | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-908524-27-0 In Betto’s debut thriller, a killer is loose in a Rio de Janeiro residential hotel. “Rooms for single ladies and gentlemen. Family environment,” announces the sign Dona Dinó has hung outside the Hotel Brasil. And indeed her guests—political aide Rui Pacheco, aspiring telenovela actress Rosaura dos Santos, journalist Marcelo Braga, retired puta Madame Larência, crossdressing nightclub singer Diamante Negro—feel like family in their combination of community, reserve and selective dislike. But the family comes under attack when retired salesman Seu Marçal, who still peddles the odd gemstone, is stabbed to death and relieved of first his eyes and then his head. Delegado |

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“Paris in the spring: delightful but for the little matter of murder.” from city of darkness and light

THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE

Olinto Del Bosco, head of the Delagacia da Lapa, can think of no better approach to police work than to arrest hotel caretaker Jorge Maldonado and beat a confession out of him. And retired professor Cândido Oliviera, a hotel resident who’s the logical candidate to serve as a more effective detective, is distracted by his long-running concern for the neighborhood’s street kids, especially the glue-sniffing 11-year-old Beatriz, and his new professional collaboration with acclaimed anthropologist Mônica Kundali, which would surely blossom into love if only he could beat back his schoolboy shyness. As it is, no one takes the investigation firmly in hand, leaving the “Lapa Decapa” free to move on to other hotel residents, though not before first-timer Betto has provided incisive back stories for each of them. Intertwines absurdly understated violence with a reflective portrait of the city and its types so anthropologically precise that you’ll mourn each new victim—and that’s a lot of mourning.

Black, Benjamin Henry Holt (304 pp.) $27.00 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-8050-9814-3 978-0-8050-9815-0 e-book Man Booker Prize–winning novelist John Banville, already disguised as mystery writer Black (Holy Orders, 2013, etc.), goes under even deeper cover to imitate Raymond Chandler in this flavorsome pastiche. Nobody knows better than Clare Cavendish that self-styled Hollywood agent Nico Peterson is dead. Clare saw her ex-lover killed by a hit-and-run driver outside the Cahuilla Club two months ago. But she hires peerless shamus Philip Marlowe to find him anyway since—though she doesn’t tell Marlowe this part at first—she’s just seen Nico in San Francisco, clearly alive. Marlowe follows the obvious leads without results. Sgt. Joe Green at Central Homicide is naturally skeptical of the unnamed client’s claim. Nico’s one marginally successful client, starlet Mandy Rogers, says she knows nothing about him, and he wasn’t her agent anyway. Floyd Hanson, the Cahuilla Club manager who identified the corpse, has nothing to add to what he told the cops. The closest thing to a break in the case is Marlowe’s conversation with Nico’s sister, which is interrupted when she’s kidnapped by a pair of Mexicans and later killed. Clearly there’s more to the story than anyone’s telling. But the most suspicious character is (surprise!) Marlowe’s client, who’s clearly up to her mascara in unsavory connections to big money, big crime and the big sleep. Black’s plotting is no better than Chandler’s, but he has Marlowe’s voice down to a fault. Both the dialogue and the narration crawl with overblown, Chandler-esque similes (“He looked like a scaled-down version of Cecil B. DeMille crossed with a retired lion tamer”), and devotees will recognize borrowings from Farewell, My Lovely, The Little Sister and, most unforgivably, The Long Goodbye, which Black’s audacious finale makes just a little bit longer. The portrait of 1950s LA is less precise than Chandler’s, but the aging, reflective Marlowe is appropriately sententious. A treat for fans, even if they end up throwing it across the room.

DEADLIEST OF SINS

Bissell, Sallie Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7387-3622-8 A possible hate crime and the report of a kidnapping bring a North Carolina lawyer more than she bargained for. When 11-year-old Charles Oliver “Chase” Buchanan hitches a ride on a peach truck and brings a file labeled EVEDINSE to Mary Crow’s office in Asheville, he asks for help in finding his missing sister, Samantha. Although the boy’s plight touches Mary, she’s inclined to believe Chase’s stepfather, an ex-cop, when he says that Sam ran away with her boyfriend. Mary promises to follow up, but she has a bigger case on her plate: the murder of Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Bryan Taylor, who was beaten to death in rural Campbell County. The governor of North Carolina has appointed Mary as a special prosecutor to investigate the possibility that an evangelical minister who advocates concentration camps for homosexuals incited Bryan’s murder. With the help of Victor Galloway, an undercover cop in Campbell County, Mary tracks the last few day of Bryan’s life and looks into a similar gay murder in a neighboring county. Mary soon learns to her horror why Bryan was planning a documentary about lizards, what the significance of the number 74 is and how right Chase is that his sister has been kidnapped. Even if Bissell fits the pieces together a little too neatly to inspire belief, the sixth case for Mary (Music of Ghosts, 2013, etc.) is a smart and well-paced mystery with a gutsy protagonist and a touch of romance.

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CITY OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT

Bowen, Rhys Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-250-01166-4

Paris in the spring: delightful but for the little matter of murder. Former private detective Molly Murphy is quietly raising her young son, Liam, while Daniel, her police detective husband, goes about his daily routine in New York City. Their peaceful life comes to an end when their house is blown up |


Brookmyre (When the Devil Drives, 2013, etc.) spares no detail in his account of Glasgow’s violent underworld. Although his characters are satisfyingly multidimensional, the uninitiated will find the long, slow exposition that relies on previous cases even more challenging than the Scottish slang.

and their servant killed, probably by the Cosa Nostra. With no home and Daniel’s mother away on a trip, the decision is made to send Molly and Liam out of harm’s way by visiting wealthy bohemian friends Gus and Sid, who have gone to Paris to further Gus’ painting career. A short stay with a New York society matron replenishes Molly’s wardrobe, and after a trip marred by seasickness, Molly arrives at her friends’ atelier near Montmartre only to find them gone. Since the rent is paid, the suspicious landlady allows Molly to use the apartment while she searches for her friends. Both Sid, who is Jewish, and Gus, who is from a society family, mentioned in a letter that they had met with cousins, both artists, and Molly determines to find them. She also plans a visit to Reynold Bryce, a famous member of the Boston School who has lived in Paris for 18 years and taken up impressionism. Unfortunately, Bryce, an anti-Semite in a country riven by the Dreyfus Affair, has been stabbed to death, possibly by a young Jewish man. Mysterious postcards finally lead Molly to the home of Mary Cassatt, where her friends are in hiding due to the fact that Sid visited Bryce on the day of his death. Also, considering her short hair and habit of wearing pants, Molly fears she may have been mistaken for the killer. While her friends spoil Liam, Molly visits the salon of Gertrude Stein and the hovels of impoverished artists in her attempt to clear her friend’s name. Molly’s adventures (The Family Way, 2013, etc.) never disappoint, even when a vacation in Paris embroils her in murder.

MONTECITO HEIGHTS

Campbell, Colin Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (384 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7387-3632-7 In Campbell’s (Jamaica Plain, 2013, etc.) second book in his Resurrection Man series, a gritty detective steps through the looking glass of Los Angeles’ porn industry and nearly loses his way. Fresh from a controversial stint in Boston that earned him the nickname Resurrection Man, Yorkshire cop Jim Grant hits Los Angeles, where Sen. Dick Richards hires him to rescue his headstrong daughter, Angelina, from her nascent career as a porn star. (Her most recent film: Hunt for Pink October.) Grant is drawn to Richards’ British wife, Maura, though her aloofness puzzles him. He agrees to the job and promises discretion, a vow that is immediately tested when attractive producer Robin Citrin pitches Grant a reality show, with him as the star. The smitten Grant accepts the gig as “the next Steven Seagal!” and falls into bed with Robin, all the while making small advances toward finding Angelina. Richards is none too happy with Grant’s high TV profile but doesn’t pull the plug on his investigation. Posing as an aspiring porn actor, Grant visits Zed Productions for an audition. His probe brings him into the orbit of drug kingpin Rodrigo Dominguez, who may or may not have kidnapped Angelina. Grant seems more bemused by the incongruity of a drug cartel moonlighting as kidnappers than intimidated by Dominguez’s threats. And the deeper Grant digs, the more irregularities he finds in the Richards home. Prolific Campbell layers an abundance of interesting movie trivia into the tale, and while the plot is shaggy, wry maverick Grant never fails to entertain.

BRED IN THE BONE

Brookmyre, Christopher Atlantic Monthly (416 pp.) $24.00 | May 6, 2014 978-0-8021-2247-6 Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod return in the third book of their series, this time to investigate the gangland execution of a Glasgow crime boss and its links to much-older murders. On his 49th birthday, gangster king Stevie Fullerton celebrates by taking his car to the least impressive of his vast holdings—a small, cash-only car wash that’s good for laundering more than cars. He doesn’t survive the final rinse: The police find him shot to death in his car, with a strange symbol made in blood on his forehead. DS Catherine McLeod, who’s in charge of the case, has evidence that Fullerton’s supposedly dead rival, Glen Fallan, was the killer. She doesn’t welcome the intrusion of the daughter of Stevie’s late cousin, private investigator Jasmine Sharp, who has a paradoxical relationship with Fallan, her father’s murderer. Catherine has her own reasons for hating Fallan and the other Glaswegian gangsters implicated in the death of a woman connected to a 25-year-old murder. Neither Catherine nor Jasmine will quit the search for answers, including discovering Fallan’s true role in the events of the last quarter century, even though revisiting the past jeopardizes both their lives.

STEEPED IN EVIL

Childs, Laura Berkley Prime Crime (320 pp.) $25.95 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-425-25295-6 A South Carolina wine-tasting party has a deadly finale. As the owner of Charleston’s Indigo Tea Shop, Theodosia Browning is no wine expert, but when her tea blender and right-hand man, Drayton Conneley, receives an invitation to an upscale wine-tasting party, she’s happy to go along. Knighthall Winery, owned in part by |

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Drayton’s pal Jordan Knight, is one of several small wineries struggling to produce good wine in the difficult coastal climate. When the crew opens a barrel of their new red, out falls the body of Jordan’s son, Drew. As it turns out, Drew was shot, not drowned in wine. Since the police investigation seems to be going nowhere, Drayton, acting at the behest of Jordan and his wife, Pandora (Drew’s stepmother), begs Theodosia to use her sleuthing skills to crack the case. Theodosia soon learns all is not well at Knighthall. Pandora wants to divorce Jordan and sell her share of the winery to a Japanese liquor distributor. Given the option she holds on Drew’s shares and the help of a minority owner—art gallery owner Andrew Turner—it looks as if she may get her way. Drew had gone through several rounds of drug rehab. His Porsche is missing, and his model girlfriend is acting strangely. Theodosia’s boyfriend, Max, who’s involved in a downtown art walk and a silent auction to raise money for a museum, disapproves of her sleuthing. With her tea shop doing landslide business, especially for special events like her Downton Abbey tea, neither has much spare time. Like a dog with a bone, however, Theodosia can’t let go, and her curiosity leads her into danger. Fans addicted to Childs’ tea-shop tales (Sweet Tea Revenge, 2013, etc.) and unfazed by the transparent mystery will gobble up her charmingly rendered main characters, loving descriptions of Charleston and appended recipes.

of toxins. Whether she will survive long enough to cook the Passover brisket (recipe included) becomes an increasingly tough question. Marla seems to have the learning curve of a slug, since, as of her 11th outing, she still hasn’t figured out that accusing folks of murder will make some of them want to kill you.

DOUBLE FAULT

Cutler, Judith Severn House (224 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-0-7278-8339-1 Mark Turner and Fran Harman, the crime-solving couple from Burying the Past (2012), will take all the help they can get as they try to solve competing cases in a posh Kentish town. Although a mental breakdown forced Mark Turner to retire as Ashford’s acting chief constable, nothing can stop him from being a cop, especially when a tennis instructor’s 4-year-old-daughter, Livvie, vanishes from a tennis club. Mark immediately contains the scene and alerts the police that a child may be missing. He knows he can count on his fiancee, Fran Harman, who’s the chief superintendent of the Ashford police. Fran is working on cold cases while she waits for a broken leg to heal, and when she and her team discover the skeletons of young adults in a building that was a center for troubled teens 20 years earlier, she withholds the information from the press so that Livvie’s case will be the main media focus. While Mark tries to help investigate Livvie’s disappearance without overstepping his unfamiliar new role as a civilian, Fran struggles with office politics and the mystery of why one of her detective inspectors who took unexpected leave is now out of communication altogether. The two cases turn not just on small pieces of apparently unrelated evidence, but also on the shrewd minds and intuitive skills of the mature lovebirds who labor to plan a wedding in the midst of crimes old and new. Fran and Mark make a good team both inside their historic home and out in the field. A single loose end and a gooey conclusion are the only strikes against Cutler’s balance of high crime and cuddly domesticity.

HANGING BY A HAIR

Cohen, Nancy J. Five Star (288 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 18, 2014 978-1-4328-2814-1

A new home spells nothing but trouble for newlyweds Marla and Dalton Vail (Shear Murder, 2012, etc.). Homeowners associations often see themselves as the last bastion against suburban decline, protecting property values from tacky lawn decorations and oversized fences. As president of Royal Oaks HOA, Alan Krabber is a law unto himself. Last year, he nearly forced a couple into bankruptcy by making them tear down a second-story extension they had erected without a permit. But Krabber keeps his boat parked in his driveway—a clear violation of deed restrictions—until Dalton, his next-door neighbor, challenges him. To make matters worse, the fence Krabber erects to hide the offending boat stands partially on the Vails’ property. So when Krabber is killed, police detective Dalton, named a person of interest, is abruptly yanked from the case. That leaves Marla, already distracted by the resignation of her trusty receptionist, Luis, and her promise to her mother to host this year’s family Seder, with the job of solving the crime. Her investigative method— accosting members of the HOA, as well as local businessmen who had contentious dealings with Krabber, and asking them point-blank about their quarrels with the dead man—earns Marla a conk on the head and some close brushes with a variety 36

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UNDER COLD STONE

Delany, Vicki Poisoned Pen (306 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | $22.95 Lg. Prt. Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4642-0233-9 978-1-4642-0235-3 paper 978-1-4642-0234-6 Lg. Prt. A chief constable’s son is wanted for murder in the new procedural from Delany (A Cold White Sun, 2013, etc.). |


Dorsey’s 17th is as antic as ever, but his straight-arrow plotting deprives readers of the fun of figuring out just what the hell is going on.

Paul Keller, chief constable of Trafalgar, British Columbia, and his lover, Lucky Smith, a widow who is devoted to environmental causes, have come to vacation in Banff, a town known around the world for its beauty. When Lucky has a run-in with two extremely rude young men, she has no idea that one of them is Paul’s estranged son, Matt. At first, Matt snubs his father, but he’s quick to call him with the news that he’s returned home from his bartending job to find one of his roommates dead. Unfortunately, he takes off before Paul and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrive, thereby promoting himself to the most likely suspect. Lucky’s daughter, Molly, a Trafalgar constable, quickly heads for Banff to support her mother and her boss, the latter of whom seems to be aging before her eyes. Matt’s mother, who blames Paul for all of Matt’s problems, also arrives on the scene, accompanied by her wealthy boyfriend. Despite the resistance of the local RCMP sergeant, Molly—who keeps her identity as a cop well hidden—starts asking questions of Matt’s roommates and his girlfriend, Tracey. Meanwhile, back in Trafalgar, Sgt. John Winters has his hands full with activists protesting the building of a large resort, including some outsiders with radical backgrounds. While the RCMP searches for the missing Matt, Molly digs up information that leads to a surprising suspect. The glorious scenery of British Columbia upstages Delany’s regular cast in this plausible tale.

DARK SIDE

Duffy, Margaret Severn House (224 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-0-7278-8340-7 A married crime-fighting team does what it takes to clear a friend of murder charges. Former spook Patrick Gillard and his author wife, Ingrid Langley, both now work for the Serious Organised Crime Agency. While lunching with their boss, Michael Greenway, in a London cafe, it appears one of them may have been targeted for death in a drive-by shooting. Back home near Bath, they talk things over with their friend DCI James Carrick, who is worried and furious that Benny Cooper, a criminal James put away, is back on the streets. Cooper was instrumental in a vicious attack on James’ wife, a former cop now at home with their baby; Cooper’s partner in crime, Paul Mallory, is also back on the streets, and it is possible they are both involved with a clever group of gangsters who have pulled some major jobs and so far gotten away clean. When Cooper is found with his throat cut and Carrick is found unconscious and bloodied nearby, the officious DI David Campbell arrests Carrick for the murder. Although their boss wants them to stay on the case he is working, the duo are not about to desert a friend, and they do some dangerous snooping in a club reported to belong to the head gangster, who likes to be known as the Raptor. When Ingrid is attacked and nearly raped by some of his minions, she is afraid that Patrick, who has had to kill in the past, will go to the dark side and use any methods to track the gang down. An exciting combination of police procedural and thriller, Duffy again (Stealth, 2012, etc.) provides the daring duo with plenty of cerebral and physical challenges.

TIGER SHRIMP TANGO

Dorsey, Tim Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $25.99 | $14.99 e-book | Jan. 28, 2014 978-0-06-209281-6 978-0-06-209283-0 e-book A rare burst of focus sets Serge Storms (Riptide Ultra-Glide, 2013, etc.) straight on the path of a band of South Florida scam artists. With its fertile fields of kitschy history, South Florida is a grifter’s dream. In a land that boasts roadside attractions like Gatorland and the Tupperware Confidence Center, nothing seems beyond belief. Still, Florida native South Philly Sal likes to start small. First it’s Gustave and Sasha, his gigolo and gigolette, decoying suckers into trendy bistros that serve molecular cuisine while Sal’s operatives burgle their bungalows. Then there’s Uncle Cid, who sells the same Corvette over and over, only to steal it back from under the noses of the poor schlubs who just signed the papers. Sal’s henchman, Omar, and his diminutive henchwoman, Piper, fleece thousands posing as a cancer-afflicted boy and a father who can’t afford his son’s treatment. And Sal mixes larceny with a little oldfashioned mischief, phoning hotel patrons en masse with fake poison-gas threats and rifling their room as they stream naked onto the street covered in fire-extinguisher foam. Naturally, these hijinks irk the vigilante in Serge, who goes after the perpetrators with the help of his stoned-out pal, Coleman, and an assortment of homebrewed chemical combinations Mr. Wizard never told you about.

DON’T LOOK FOR ME

Estleman, Loren D. Forge (288 pp.) $26.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-7653-3121-2 978-1-4299-4657-5 e-book Amos Walker, Detroit’s premier missing persons specialist, finds virtually everything but the person he’s been hired to look for. This isn’t the first time Cecelia Wynn’s run out on her investment banker husband, Alec. Last time, though, she left a trail even Hansel and Gretel could have followed. It led to Lloyd Debner, an |

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The prize-winning Fields compellingly evokes the remote Texas border town but compromises the suspense with Josie’s self-obsessed guilt and anxiety and the book’s inconsistent pacing.

apprentice at her husband’s firm, and it ended when Alec persuaded her to come back home and fired Debner, who was eagerly snatched up by another firm. Now Cecelia’s been a little more emphatic, leaving behind a note saying simply, “Don’t look for me.” So Alec hires Walker to do the looking. In accord with Cecelia’s note, she hasn’t made herself easy to find. The only leads are Ann Foster, the housekeeper Cecelia abruptly fired five weeks ago, and Elysian Fields, the drug company that sold the herbal supplements she dosed herself with religiously. Walker doesn’t find Cecelia at either Elysian Fields or with Ann Foster, but as he continues his investigation, he does find a murdered pot-grower, a come-hither clerk named Smoke, an international drug trafficking operation and Walker’s old nemesis, Charlotte Sing, who is wanted in every country that has a police force. Estleman (Burning Midnight, 2012, etc.) piles on the complications so generously—a highlight is marijuana growing used as a cover for more serious drugs—that every reader without a GPS will get lost long before Walker reports back to his client in a shivery final scene. The author supplies the customary pleasures of Walker’s snappy dialogue and cold-eyed view of his hometown, but neither Walker’s current case nor the case he stumbles into reaches a satisfying conclusion, and the return of his female Fu Manchu is more tiresome than menacing. Below average for this exemplary series.

BLACKBERRY PIE MURDER

Fluke, Joanne Kensington (304 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-7582-8037-4

Lake Eden’s favorite baker, Hannah Swensen (Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, 2013, etc.), finds herself on the wrong end of a police investigation. Dodging lightning on an icy road, Hannah finds herself facing a driver’s worst nightmare: Her car hits something, and all of a sudden, there’s a body lying on the pavement. Hours later, her mother’s fiance, Doc Knight, delivers his terrible findings. The man she hit was alive when Hannah struck him, and he died on impact. Sheriff Bill Todd orders Hannah’s arrest and fires Deputy Sheriff Mike Kingston for refusing to bring her in. Eventually, Hannah winds up in the Winnetka County jail, where she spends three days, surrounded by friends and family (and three nights covered in a fuzzy blanket supplied by boyfriend Norman Rhodes), before Judge Colfax grants her bail. Once sprung, amateur sleuth Hannah is faced with an unusual case. She knows who the killer is, but who’s the victim? Armed with scant physical details—height, weight, approximate age and a diamond set in one of the man’s teeth—Hannah sets out to find out exactly whom she killed. The investigation, of course, requires multiple dinners in Hannah’s cozy apartment, where she and Norman, her mom and Doc, her sisters Michelle and Andrea (the latter is too mad at her husband, Sheriff Bill, to eat at home), and even Mike brainstorm over plates of Smothered Chicken and Oodles of Noodles as Hannah’s cat, Moishe, and Norman’s cat, Cuddles, play “chase.” It’s amazing how little a vehicular homicide charge changes Hannah’s life in Fluke’s good-natured 19th. (Agent: Meg Ruley)

WRECKED

Fields, Tricia Minotaur (288 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-250-02137-3 In Fields’ (Scratchgravel Road, 2013, etc.) third novel featuring Josie Gray, the Texas police chief ’s latest case hits far too close to home. Josie Gray, chief of police of the West Texas border town of Artemis, is baffled and hurt when Dillon Reece, her devoted lover, stands her up for an informal dinner date. Insecure about his fidelity, she slinks home instead of checking up on him. When she stops by his accounting office the next day, she’s aghast to discover his secretary shot dead in her chair. Then Josie finds her home broken into and an email containing photos of Dillon in captivity. Her worst nightmares come true with a ransom demand for $9 million—and a down payment of $50,000 by the end of the day— if she wants to keep Dillon from losing an arm. Josie is frantic; she doesn’t have even enough money for the down payment. Although she’s turned the investigation over to a trusted senior officer, her fear that the kidnapping is retribution from a Mexican drug cartel and her frustration with the FBI agents called in to handle the case make her hire a hostage negotiator. A dealer in wrecked cars also disappears, and a pendant of Santa Muerte, the saint of death, is an enigmatic clue to what’s happened and why. Josie’s desperate race to save Dillon is all too plausible, though it would have been even more effective without a catalog of even minor characters’ wardrobes, hairstyles and home furnishings. 38

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WEREWOLF SINGS THE BLUES

Harlow, Jennifer Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (360 pp.) $14.99 paper | Mar. 8, 2014 978-0-7387-3612-9

A reckless singer gets dragged on a cross-country chase by her supposed adoptive brother—who’s also a werewolf—in the second Midnight Magic Mystery. Eight long years before the events of What’s a Witch to Do? (2013), Vivian Dahl is working as a part-time chanteuse whose best days include drugs and booze. She notices a man at her latest gig giving her |


“In addition to the usual indelible character studies, Mina provides the most compelling plot of Alex’s four cases to date.” from the red road

MURDER AT THE BREAKERS

the eye but thinks nothing of it until she’s attacked by a group of men and the stranger steps in to save her life. Jason, or Blondie, as Viv takes to calling him, claims to have been sent by Viv’s long-absent father, Frank. Viv can’t decide if it’s weirder that her father is back in the picture or that one of Jason’s hands appears to be a paw, but she has little choice but to accept his help. As the two high-tail it across the country to Maryland, stoic Jason fills in Viv on her father’s werewolf identity and his own. Apparently, Frank didn’t want to leave his family but was afraid to put them in danger. Viv’s not sure she trusts this Jason, especially when he claims that Frank took him in and raised him as one of his own. Now she has 3,000 miles to figure out who’s telling the truth and why someone’s out to kill her. Glimpses into the lives of later characters in the series, like Mona McGregor and Adam Blue, are as good as this installment gets, for poor Vivian just doesn’t have the same magic. An overdose of back story weighs down this mix of thriller and romance.

Maxwell, Alyssa Kensington (304 pp.) $15.00 paper | $10.99 e-book Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-7582-9082-3 978-0-7582-9083-0 e-book

To save her brother, a gutsy reporter tracks a killer hidden among Newport’s rich and famous. Brady Gale is trouble on a stick. So far, his jail time has been confined to overnight stays, under the benevolent eye of Officer Jesse Whyte, as he’s slept off whatever hooch he favored. This time, though, it looks as if his sojourn in the slammer may be a little longer—say, for the rest of his life. Brady is accused of bashing Alvin Goddard, his uncle’s secretary, over the head with a candelabra and pitching him off the second-story balcony of The Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ palatial Newport, R.I., home. And just because Cornelius Vanderbilt is Brady’s uncle is no reason for authorities to cut the youth any slack. So his half sister, Emmaline Cross, comes to his rescue. Independent Emma is used to taking the reins, in some cases quite literally. She drives her own trap, much to the consternation of her Vanderbilt kin. Poor relation Emma even earns a steady if meager income reporting on social events for the Newport Observer. So it’s natural for her to come to Brady’s aid, asking pointed questions of her aunt Alice, her cousin Niely, her old schoolmate Adelaide Halstock, family friend Jack Parsons and anyone else who might have seen something significant during the ball on the night of Goddard’s demise. She even agrees to team up with fellow reporter Derrick Anderson, a handsome fellow who makes Emma’s heart beat faster. And a strong heart is just what Emma will need to exonerate her brother and foil whoever’s dogging her heels in an effort to thwart her. Emma Cross’ debut will delight fans of the mystery-asromance formula; others may want to steer clear. (Agent: Evan Marshall)

UNDER A SILENT MOON

Haynes, Elizabeth Harper/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-06-227602-5

Murder and sexual intrigue rock a small British village. The day after Halloween, the Briarstone police receive a hysterical phone call from Felicity Maitland, a farm owner in the village of Morden. She’s found Polly Leuchars, a young family friend working as a stable groom, bloodied and lifeless in the cottage on the Maitland property. DCI Louisa “Lou” Smith of Major Crimes, who has the lead in the murder investigation, is dismayed when Andy Hamilton is put on the case too. She and Andy have had a brief liaison, and now she’s uncomfortable around him and ambivalent about the polite overtures of senior analyst Jason Mercer. But Lou doesn’t have much time to think about either man. The body of the Maitlands’ neighbor Barbara Fletcher-Norman is found in a car that went over a quarry cliff. Even though Polly might have had an affair with Barbara’s husband, Barbara’s implication in Polly’s murder seems a little too convenient. After all, Polly seems to have had affairs with half the villagers, including Felicity Maitland’s daughter, Flora, and a shadowy, sexually compelling lover for whom Polly threw Flora over. Although Jason is on hand to provide more than analytical support, Lou can’t fully take him up on his offer while she’s pursuing a murder, a possible suicide and illegal business dealings. An open ending suggests a sequel for Lou and a consummated romance, although readers who’ve been hooked by the buildup might feel cheated of a stronger resolution this time. Police analyst Haynes (Into the Darkest Corner, 2013, etc.) includes official-looking documents and reports to add veracity to the dual cases, which would have been just as convincing and considerably peppier without the impersonal police blotterese.

THE RED ROAD

Mina, Denise Little, Brown (304 pp.) $26.00 | $12.99 e-book | $28.00 Lg. Prt. Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-316-18851-7 978-0-316-23652-3 e-book 978-0-316-24001-7 Lg. Prt. Fourteen years after Princess Diana died in a Paris automobile accident, the date of her death still casts a long shadow over the Strathclyde Police, in the fourth book featuring detective Alex Morrow. Rose Wilson, already an experienced prostitute at 14, celebrates Diana’s death by killing two of the many males who’ve used her: Pinkie Brown, the boy she dreams about from another |

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group home, and her pimp, Sammy McCaig. Despite her apathetic confession, she’s released after a short prison term to become the nanny to the household of Julius McMillan, the lawyer who schemed to shield her from a stiffer sentence for reasons of his own. The death of the long-ailing McMillan traumatically reopens his affairs. Rose, still in the family’s employ, grieves over the only person who’s ever shown her any kindness. McMillan’s son, Robert, convinced that paid assassins are hunting him, runs off and leases a castle to die in. And detective Alexandra “Alex” Morrow—after testifying against Michael Brown, who’s spent most of his life in prison ever since he was convicted of killing his older brother, Pinkie, in Rose’s place—has to deal with the discovery of Brown’s fingerprints at the demolition site where charitable organizer Aziz Balfour was killed three days ago, even though Brown, clapped up for months, has the best of all possible alibis. While fighting off the flirtatious advances of Brown’s defense attorney, Alex racks her brain over possible ways Brown could have left his prints at a murder scene miles from his prison, as Mina (Gods and Beasts, 2013, etc.), conscientious to a fault, casually dispenses further calamities, from clinical depression to Parkinson’s disease, among the cast. In addition to the usual indelible character studies, Mina provides the most compelling plot of Alex’s four cases to date, with a new round of revelations that makes the Glasgow cops the most corrupt since Philip Marlowe looked under all those rocks in Bay City, Calif. (Author tour to Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago)

Lagergren—shot the footage showing a young woman being hacked to death? And how are these questions connected to the recent sexual allegations Lagergren’s student Tova Eriksson has lodged against him or to his hope of a peaceful life with his lover, police consultant Fredrika Bergman, and their baby daughter? Ohlsson frames this painful case—“a drama that was still claiming its victims 30 years on”—with a series of police interrogations of Fredrika and DI Peder Rydh that ramp up the anxiety even further. A gripping tale not for the squeamish, the shy or the nervous.

FOR THE LOVE OF PARVATI

Oleksiw, Susan Five Star (266 pp.) $25.95 | May 21, 2014 978-1-4328-2856-1

Murder in the mountains of southern India disrupts a close family. Photographer Anita Ray and her mother’s younger sister, Meena, leave Meena’s Hotel Delite on the Indian coast to visit Anita’s other aunt, Lalita, in Kerala. Lalita has withdrawn from the north to her old family estate after her husband’s death, and her married daughter, Valli, is staying with her as well. Valli’s younger brother, Prakash, has also retreated to the house while he’s under scrutiny at the temple where he serves as an assistant priest. Even though Lalita brags about him and proposes him as a possible husband for the 30-year-old Anita, and even though Valli pretends to be happy with her own marriage, Anita senses that all is not well in the household. It’s the height of monsoon season in central Kerala. Wild animals from the nearby sanctuary are coming into the village, and Anita keeps catching nighttime glimpses of someone skulking outside the house. When she discovers a drowned body near the river, evidence points to murder rather than misadventure. Anita’s announcement of the killing distresses Parvati, a meek and gentle maidservant who has recently joined the household and, like the other people in the house, is not all she appears to be. When Anita pursues the mysteries within her own family, Lalita, Prakash and Valli all deny her accusations, get angry with her persistence and order her to stop meddling—until a violent incident proves Anita right. In this latest adventure for Anita (The Wrath of Shiva, 2012, etc.), Oleksiw blends details about food, clothing and customs in southern India with family drama and just enough suspense to keep you reading.

THE DISAPPEARED

Ohlsson, Kristina Emily Bestler/Atria (416 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4767-3400-2 The third case for Sweden’s Criminal Investigation Department (Silenced, 2013, etc.) presents a riveting series of crimes whose investigators are deeply embroiled in them. Two years after she went missing, Rebecca Trolle, or at least most of her, has finally turned up in a pair of plastic bags buried in a shallow grave. The discovery of her remains immediately sets off all sorts of alarm bells. Why were photos of her as “Miss Miracle” posted on a porn site two months after her death? How much progress had she made on her unlikely dissertation topic, an attempt to prove children’s author Thea Aldrin innocent of the murder of her husband 30 years ago, a murder for which Thea already served a prison sentence? Did Thea really write Memory and Asteroid, the violent sexual fantasies whose 1976 publications made her both a best-selling novelist and a pariah? Who’s been sending Thea—long a resident in the Mångården care home and mute since 1981—flowers every week with the terse note “Thanks”? Which member of her intimate film club—financier Morgan Axberger, solicitor Elias Hjort or literature professor Spencer 40

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THE PLAYER

substitute teacher while waiting for the big break that will write his ticket to the Vegas magic-show circuit, that little episode has come back to haunt him with the news that his DNA matches the semen found in the body of Sherry Allen, a single mother who was raped and murdered. It’s all just a misunderstanding, Harvey tells his mother, his buddy David Hu, his lawyer (and high school classmate) Hannah Fisher, and Sgt. Morton of the LA Sheriff ’s Department; he’s never even met Sherry Allen. But the cops, building what looks like an ironclad case, arrest him and clap him in jail. Broke, unemployable, facing eviction from his apartment and unable to afford even Hannah’s cut-rate services, Harvey is desperate to clear himself. “Who’s better at figuring out mysteries than a magician?” he reasons. Well, yes and no. Harvey is no great shakes as a detective, but he makes an irresistible deer in the headlights: part wiseacre, part sad-sack, all nebbish.

Parks, Brad Minotaur (336 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-250-04408-2 978-1-4668-4269-4 e-book A mysterious epidemic of illnesses and accidents in Newark’s South Ward is the tip of a very dirty iceberg in reporter Carter Ross’ fifth case. In the months before she died, 77-yearold Edna Foster’s health dramatically declined. She got recurrent attacks of something that acted like the flu but kept going away after a few days. Then she broke her leg and after that, her arm. After surveying similarly disquieting results among Edna’s neighbors, her granddaughter, medical student Jackie Orr, is convinced that something is rotten in the South Ward and asks Carter Ross, of the Newark Eagle-Examiner, to look into it. Taking newly hatched intern Neesha “Pigeon” Krishnamurthy under his wing, Carter (The Good Cop, 2013, etc.) begins to dig into the particulars of the McAlister Arms, a mammoth new construction project adjoining the blighted neighborhood. But soon after he interviews Vaughn McAlister, who, together with his father, Barry, heads McAlister Properties, Vaughn is beaten to death, and Carter’s editor, Tina Thompson, pulls him off the investigation, demanding he instead find out who killed the developer. The murder will end up closely linked to the rash of medical problems in the South Ward, but before Carter can uncover the connection, he’ll have to straighten out his romantic life, which involves some unwelcome news from his ex-lover Tina, some assertive moves on the part of his sometime-lover, Eagle-Examiner librarian Kira O’Brien, and an awkward episode that involves Pigeon, some potent drinks and a big misunderstanding. It’s typical, and typically satisfying, that even after the mystery is solved, Carter will still have to face his sister’s wedding, to which both Tina and Kira have managed to get invited. Muckraking has rarely been so meaty or so funny.

MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS

Quartey, Kwei Soho Crime (336 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-61695-389-8

In Ghana, Accra DI Darko Dawson’s third case—the murder of an oil executive and his equally prominent wife—is his biggest and most ambitious yet. Charles or Fiona Smith-Aidoo must have made someone very angry indeed, for they were both bound and shot before Charles was beheaded, his eye cut out and the pair of them set adrift in a canoe that soon reached an oil rig where their beloved niece, Dr. Sapphire Smith-Aidoo, was on hand to see their bodies discovered. Superintendent David Hammond, the regional crime officer in charge of Sekondi HQ, has made no progress in the four months since. So Chief Superintendent Lartey dispatches Dawson to assist him. The new investigator—whose presence in Accra is sorely missed by his wife, Christine, and their son, Hosiah, who’s just recovering from life-saving heart surgery—doesn’t exactly get a hero’s welcome upon his arrival. Even more daunting, the murders could be rooted in any number of motives. Charles’ job at Malgam Oil brought him close to some highly sensitive officials and issues. Kwesi DeSouza, the rival Fiona defeated for political office, was clearly resentful of her victory. The Smith-Aidoos’ family tree has tangled roots, and Charles’ refusal to help secure medical aid for his cousin Jason Sarbah’s dying daughter, Angela, deepened the rift between them. And the murders may be linked to the earlier execution of Goilco CEO Lawrence Tetteh or to tribal traditions that demand ritual sacrifice. All in all, it doesn’t look as if Dawson will be getting back to Accra any time soon. The windup may not be as satisfying as the complications, but Quartey (Death at the Voyager Hotel, 2013, etc.) lays out what feel like endless possibilities with exemplary patience and clarity, unveiling world beneath world in Dawson’s Ghana.

THE AMAZING HARVEY

Passman, Don Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 25, 2014 978-1-250-04187-6 978-1-4668-3914-4 e-book Passman (Mirage, 2000, etc.) launches a new series starring a sleuthing magician whose greatest trick ever might just be releasing himself from a murder rap. When he was young and foolish, Harvey Kendall didn’t think twice about driving his college friends home when he was only slightly less drunk. But Harvey, needlephobic from his treatment for childhood leukemia, wasn’t happy when the police told him that he must give a DNA sample for his DUI arrest. Now that he’s settled in Los Angeles, serving as a |

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ALL THINGS MURDER

ago. It’s a challenging case for Eve and her partner, Detective Delia Peabody, since the skeletal remains seem well-nigh anonymous, and there’s no point in asking suspects where they were half a generation ago. But forensics have advanced as the bodies have decayed, and between them, medical examiner Li Morris and forensic anthropologist Garnet DeWinter work miracles at identifying the victims and pinpointing the times and manners of their deaths, which all came just as righteous, creepy sister-and-brother team Philadelphia and Nashville Jones were abandoning The Sanctuary, a care facility in the building they’d run for troubled teens, and establishing the Higher Power Cleansing Center for Youths in the much splashier digs donated by their angel, Tiffany Brigham Bittmore. The gradual identification of the dozen victims allows Robb plenty of time to detail each of their sad stories, bringing several of the girls to life long after their deaths but sapping momentum from the investigation. More heartfelt than most of Eve’s futuristic adventures (Thankless in Death, 2013, etc.) but less suspenseful, since Eve decides pretty early on, based on little more than a hunch, who the killer is, and she turns out—lo and behold—to be right.

Quigley, Jeanne Five Star (276 pp.) $25.95 | May 21, 2014 978-1-4328-2812-7

In Quigley’s debut, a former star of daytime drama solves a hometown mystery in the Adirondacks. When soap opera diva Veronica Walsh’s series is canceled, she finds herself without a job for the first time in 32 years. Since 54-year-old actresses get offered nothing but geriatric commercials, she decides to go back to her house in Barton, N.Y., for a breather. Her first night there, she overhears her next-door neighbor Anna Langdon breaking off an affair with Tim Petersen, Veronica’s high school boyfriend. When Anna blocks a sale of an old farm to a mall developer, she becomes a hero to Veronica’s mother, who runs the family-owned bookstore, and all the other small-business owners in town, including more of Veronica’s classmates from Sacred Heart High. Veronica is intrigued and mildly embarrassed when Anna invites her to come over for breakfast the next day. But when Veronica arrives, she finds Anna lying dead from a blow to the head with a cast-iron skillet. Although Veronica is repeatedly warned that she’s not in a soap opera anymore and she should stay out of the way, she likes having a job again: finding the killer. She also enjoys the male companionship of her classmate Mark Burke, a history professor at the local college, and Alex Shelby, her former leading man. With their help, she compiles a list of suspects that grows longer as more days pass, more people who say that they shouldn’t speak ill of the dead proceed to do so and more motives for the murder surface. Quigley supplies more hugging, kissing and backbiting than actual suspense, especially since Veronica’s detection skills partly rely on overhearing key conversations, but her genial debut ably captures small-town living and a sense of class and family.

SIDNEY CHAMBERS AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

Runcie, James Bloomsbury (304 pp.) $17.00 paper | Jun. 10, 2014 978-1-60819-952-5

Clergyman/detective Sidney Chambers returns in this collection of four new mysteries. In “The Problem of Evil,” Canon Sidney Chambers and his German wife, Hildegard, return from a reconciliation service 17 years after the end of World War II to find two dead doves on their doorstep. After a fellow vicar is found suffocated in his own church, more dead birds presage the murders of more clergy members until Sidney helps his friend Inspector Geordie Keating find the killer. In “Female, Nude,” Sidney is at an art exhibit when a nude woman reciting French poetry creates a Happening. Then a valuable painting disappears, sending Sidney through the world of avant-garde art and to the French coastal town of Dieppe to solve the theft. In “Death by Water,” an old army friend asks Sidney to play a clergyman in a film version of The Nine Tailors. Sidney agrees without realizing what an ordeal he’s facing—not just due to the fact that his former mate is such a demanding director, but since one of the actors who’s supposed to drown in the film is all too good at his job. In the final episode, “Christmas, 1963,” Sidney, still mourning the loss of a favorite companion, anticipates the birth of his and Hildegard’s child. When someone else’s baby is kidnapped from the hospital, Sidney brings his most compassionate touch to the case in hopes of restoring the child to his parents. In all four tales, the gently eccentric Sidney proves himself a dedicated clergyman

CONCEALED IN DEATH

Robb, J.D. Putnam (384 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-399-16443-9

A grisly discovery in a decrepit Hell’s Kitchen building opens a case for Lt. Eve Dallas that has its roots all the way back in 2045. Eve’s billionaire developer husband, Roarke, who’s purchased the hard-luck site in order to rehab it, strikes the first blow into a wall that’s crumbling even more badly than the rest of the place. And with good reason, since behind the wall are two corpses wrapped in plastic bags. A systematic search of the building reveals 10 more dead bodies, all teenage girls who went missing 15 years 42

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SAFE KEEPING

who’s so easily tempted to pursue a mystery that it’s no wonder his wife, his clerical superior and his friend the local inspector keep telling him to mind his own business. Runcie (Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, 2013, etc.), son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, strikes a low-key balance of theology, humor, drama and crime in this collection of ecclesiastical cozies.

Sissel, Barbara Taylor Harlequin MIRA (320 pp.) $14.95 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-7783-1616-9 In crisis as the shadows of two murders hang over their 34-year-old son, a family must sift through a lifetime of mistakes and misunderstandings to uncover the truth. Like most families, the Lebays have had their share of ups and downs, but where their children were concerned, most of the ups had to do with their daughter, Lissa, while most of the downs were due to their son, Tucker. The last year has been especially stressful, since Tucker’s girlfriend, Miranda, was discovered dead, and he has felt the cloud of suspicion over him ever since. Now another woman, a friend of Miranda’s, has been found in the same stretch of woods, and the glare of suspicion has fallen on Tucker once more. Tucker’s family—father, Roy; mother, Emily; sister, Lissa; and brotherin-law, Evan—are embroiled in the emotional chaos of the investigation, as well as their own difficult questions regarding his innocence, his weaknesses and their own potential culpability in Tucker’s becoming the man who might be capable of such inconceivable acts. Relationships are re-examined, and the natures of families, love and truth are tested in Sissel’s (Evidence of Life, 2013, etc.) most recent family drama that hinges on a mystery that is more played out than solved. The story is thought-provoking and well-paced, and Sissel is truly gifted at setting up emotional conflict and heart-rending doubt. The characters’ misgivings toward their own actions and the fragility of their loved ones are powerful, and Sissel builds a believable and poignant examination of a family under pressure and their attempts to learn the truth while bracing for the worst. A few elements that don’t quite hang perfectly and an ending that ties things up neatly but not satisfactorily keep the book from being completely successful, but the impressive writing and affecting subject matter will keep most readers engaged.

BONE DUST WHITE

Salvalaggio, Karin Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | $11.99 e-book | May 13, 2014 978-1-250-04618-5 978-1-4668-4632-6 e-book A fragile child-woman witnesses her long-lost mother’s murder in the Montana woods behind her isolated house. Grace Adams, not quite 18, is living with her recently widowed aunt in the remote town of Collier and convalescing from a heart transplant when she calls 911 to report that her mother, Leanne, is being attacked by a strange man. When Jared Peterson and his fellow paramedic arrive, however, they find Grace, dressed in a babydoll nightgown, in the snow next to a bloodstained kimono and Leanne’s body. Grace was only 7 when Leanne abandoned her in a trailer, and since then, the two hadn’t seen each other until the day of Leanne’s death. The murder brings Detective Macy Greeley from Helena to investigate the killing and its connection to the trucking company of Arnold Lamm, Leanne’s brother-in-law. In addition to still being frustrated by four murders she couldn’t pin on Arnold and Leanne in the past, Macy is heavily pregnant, unmarried and uncertain about how she’ll deal with the baby. As if she didn’t have enough trouble, she has to work with former flame Jared—and he’s romantically caught between a nurse and a woman married to an abusive husband. He also takes Grace under his wing, especially when more sad facts about her childhood emerge. As Grace recovers her health and grows in confidence, however, she’s determined to follow up on Leanne’s last words to her, even though they may send her into the clutches of her mother’s murderer. Despite a style that’s much flatter than its setting, Salvalaggio’s debut deftly intertwines a town without a future and citizens without hope, people in need and people who need to be needed, and a new murder that brings closure to four unsolved cases.

DEATH’S DARK SHADOW

Spencer, Sally Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-0-7278-8347-6

A family trip to Spain has far-reaching consequences for DCI Monika Paniatowski (A Walk with the Dead, 2013, etc.). Although she’s fearful that it will undermine her relationship with her adopted daughter, Monika knows that it’s time for the girl to meet her birth mother’s relatives. So the two travel to Calpe, Spain, where Louisa is feted by her auntie, Pilar, while Monika catches up with her old friends the Woodends, who’ve retired |

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“The passing of an 86-year-old Resistance fighter opens another can of worms (and stocks of truffles and pâté de fois gras) for chief of police Bruno Courrèges.” from the resistance man

science fiction and fantasy

to the Costa Blanca. The next day, something unthinkable happens: Pilar’s lifelong friend Doña Elena, a widow in her 70s, leaves the village outside Calpe where she’s spent her whole life and buys a ticket to England—where her dead body is eventually found in a canal. That canal, of course, is in Whitebridge, making Elena’s death Monika’s problem. She’s been on her boss’s bad list ever since Chief Constable George Baxter’s wife, who was pathologically jealous of Monika, killed herself in a car crash. Now the pressure to find Elena’s killer is intense. Monika knows that Elena was in England to see Robert Martinez, Whitebridge’s first-ever Hispanic MP. But she suspects that the roots of Elena’s murder date back to her involvement with anti-Franco forces in Spain. Tracing Elena’s history will take eyes and ears in Spain—so who better to recruit that Charlie Woodend, who’s teamed up with retired cop Paco Ruiz to form Ojos y Oídos: Agencia de detectives? What looks like an open-and-shut case ends with twists nobody will see coming in Spencer’s most in-your-face outing for Monika yet.

THE TROPIC OF SERPENTS A Memoir by Lady Trent Brennan, Marie Tor (320 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-7653-3197-7

The second adventure (A Natural History of Dragons, 2013) for the doughty Isabella Camherst, a dragon-obsessed young lady of Scirland determined to pursue her research in an age when educating girls in science and philosophy is frowned upon. Previously, Isabella accompanied naturalist and explorer Lord Hilford to chilly, mountainous Vystrana in search of rock-wyrms, during which time she lost her husband and subsequently gave birth to a son. Now, Hilford is organizing an expedition to the tropical continent of Eriga, where several new species of dragon await study. Rejecting stay-at-home motherhood, Isabella eagerly agrees to join the expedition. Too old and frail to travel himself, Hilford will be represented by his assistant, Thomas Wilker, who, as a commoner, faces obstacles similar to those Isabella confronts as a woman. Natalie, Hilford’s granddaughter, causes additional complications; refusing to be married off by her father, Natalie takes refuge with Isabella, who arranges to smuggle the girl along on the expedition. But Eriga, so they find, presents a whole new set of problems. Bayembe, their destination, is threatened by its warlike neighbor, Ikwunde, with only the jungle swamps of Mouleen, known as the Green Hell, between. So before her dragon research can proceed, scholarly yet iron-willed Isabella must negotiate male hostility and prejudice, political infighting, the commercial and imperial ambitions of the Scirlings, heat, disease, arrogant big-game hunters and the cultural imperatives of the Erigan people. And during her adventures in the Green Hell—the book’s finest section—Isabella will find sociology as important as natural history and the key to preventing a brutal war. This, the second of Isabella’s retrospective memoirs, is as uncompromisingly honest and forthright as the first, narrated in Brennan’s usual crisp, vivid style, with a heroine at once admirable, formidable and captivating. Reader, lose no time in making Isabella’s acquaintance.

THE RESISTANCE MAN

Walker, Martin Knopf (336 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-385-34954-3

The passing of an 86-year-old Resistance fighter opens another can of worms (and stocks of truffles and pâté de fois gras) for chief of police Bruno Courrèges (The Devil’s Cave, 2013, etc.). Even if he hadn’t been one of St. Denis’ last surviving members of the Resistance, Loïc Murcoing’s death would have disclosed deep roots. In his hand, the dead man grasped a bank note dating from 1940, a note traceable to a real-life 1944 train robbery in Neuvic that netted Resistance forces an amount equivalent to €300 million. Two other cases indicate the return of other long-dormant passions. The burglary of retired British civil servant Jack Crimson sets Bruno adrift on deep waters, and the murder of antiques dealer Francis Fullerton, who once served a prison term for receiving stolen goods, carries echoes of gay-bashing thugs’ attack 10 years ago on lycée graduate Edouard Marty, now a professor of interior design, and his ex-lover Paul Murcoing, Loïc’s grandson. Bruno, his colleague J-J, and his sometime-lover Isabelle of the Paris Sureté would all love to talk to Paul, but he’s gone AWOL. The mayor of St. Denis is preoccupied by his own sorrows; Bruno’s Scottish girlfriend, Pamela, is riding for an accident; and Bruno’s basset hound, Balzac, is about to be pressed into service in a most unusual capacity. Amid all the hustle and bustle, however, there’s still plenty of time for good friends to share good food and make new memories. As usual, the tale of crime and detection is mainly a pretext for a gentle celebration of la belle France. But this time, Bruno, who’s required to act as enforcer, sleuth, diplomat, comforter, impersonator, hostage negotiator and rescuer, reveals unsuspected resources. 44

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THE RAVEN’S SHADOW

little suspecting how powerless he really is. Dying Mother Superior Raquella labors to rebuild the Sisterhood School; her dearest wish is to heal the breach with the estranged Sisters who, led by Reverend Mother Dorotea, profess loyalty to House Corrino and to the Butlerian movement. However, Raquella’s probable successor, Valya Harkonnen, has placed personal concerns above the goals of the Sisterhood. Gilbertus Albans, head of the Mentat School, teaches his students to use their minds as efficiently as those of thinking machines. But Gilbertus (secretly, he keeps the brain of the evil thinking robot Erasmus in his office) has, perhaps fatally, compromised with the Butlerians. Led by the legless fanatic Manford Torondo and his Swordmaster Anari Idaho, the Butlerians have extended a not-unreasonable proscription on thinking machines into an unreasoning hatred of all technology, despite their own reliance upon it. Josef Venport, meanwhile, whose space transport fleet depends upon spice from Arrakis to produce foldspace Navigators, defies the loathed Butlerians by ruthlessly embargoing any planet that accepts Manford’s anti-technology pledge. Series fans know what to expect: adroit plotting, flat narration and intriguing if not quite fully believable characters (inevitably, the developing schools of thought assume greater importance than the individuals) maneuvering against a backdrop shaping itself into the vast, complex, fascinating Dune universe. The magic lingers, even when the final chapters have already been written.

Cooper, Elspeth Tor (576 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-7653-3167-0 978-1-4299-9727-0 e-book Series: Wild Hunt, 3 The follow-up to Trinity Rising (2013) is the third and largest entry in what has expanded from a fantasy trilogy into a series. In the north, Speaker Ytha has united the Nimrothi nomad clans under the surly and stupid but biddable Drwyn; their ambition is to overthrow the Empire that defeated them 1,000 years ago. Ytha, using the combined power of her witch thralls, intends to release the imprisoned death goddess, Maegern, and her Wild Hunt; two Hounds are already free. All she needs to complete the process is the magic jewel known as the starseed. (The stumbling block with this and other doomsday scenarios: What happens once the evil guys slaughter everyone? Do they just sit around waving their swords in triumph?) Teia, having escaped Drwyn’s brutal attentions and now pregnant by him, flees south, hoping to warn the slumbering Empire—and will use her own magic powers to defy Ytha. Gair returns from searching the deserts of Gimrael for the starseed, still grieving over Alderan’s tragic death. Worse, he fears he’s lost control of his magic Song when everything he achieves with it has unintended malignant consequences. He meets up with an old comrade, the healer Tanith, a sort-of elf and future queen of Astolar; Tanith’s unwanted and unpleasant companion, Ailric, who demonstrates his utter contempt for humans, holds the unshakable conviction that Tanith is his to command and unsuccessfully tries to hide a streak of megalomania. The malevolent renegade Guardian, Savin, taunts Gair but otherwise doesn’t figure. This installment ramps up the tension, with plenty of gory action, Cooper’s usual high level of characterization, and controlled plotting that, while showing few original touches, rolls solidly along. An excellent addition to this superior epic.

r om a n c e SAPPHIRES ARE AN EARL’S BEST FRIEND

Galen, Shana Sourcebooks Casablanca (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4022-6979-0

Lily Dawson’s reputation as the Countess of Charm, a renowned courtesan, is secretly a cover for her intelligence gathering, and her current mission is compromised when the only man she’s ever loved finally notices her—just as she is trying to seduce his father. Lily is determined to discover who is targeting covert operatives in the service of the Crown. Known for her bright personality and charming manner, she has gained access to the highest tiers of Regency society, and she is using her influence to catch the attention of a recently widowed duke, even though what she really wants to know is if he is behind the plot to undermine the kingdom’s intelligence network. Unfortunately, the duke’s son is Andrew Booth-Payne, the only man Lily has ever truly loved, who is now convinced she is not only beyond the pale, but also a fortune hunter. Lily has known

MENTATS OF DUNE

Herbert, Brian; Anderson, Kevin J. Tor (512 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-7653-2274-6 978-1-4299-4976-7 e-book Another prequel (Sisterhood of Dune, 2012, etc.) piecing together the developments by which the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers, human-computer Mentats, legendary-warrior Swordmasters and interstellar navigators of the Spacing Guild created the universe of the original Dune. Weak-minded, foolish Salvador of House Corrino relies on his more talented brother, Roderick, to help rule the Empire, |

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Andrew for ages, and even while she’s playing the role of seductress, she is disappointed that he doesn’t see through her pretense and instead views her with disgust and suspicion. Yet the more they face off, the more he realizes things aren’t quite as they seem; as an unwelcome passion flares between them, he understands that neither Lily nor his father are anything close to what he’s always believed them to be. At first determined to protect his family from Lily, soon he’ll be working to protect Lily from a host of dangers, including the real possibility that his father is a traitor and that information stored on the property could endanger everything they hold dear. The third installment in the Jewels of the Ton trilogy, the novel finishes off a series that nods to the demimonde, international intrigue, and various secrets and lies, which keeps the plots afloat and the relationships steamy and emotionally satisfying. The courtesans are never as wicked as they pretend, but the road to happily-ever-after is intense, conflicted, suspenseful and fun.

of Mine (2009) as a youth) are complex, intriguing and endearing, and their romance enchants. Secondary characters enhance the emotional stakes, and fans will enjoy another peek at popular hero Villiers and his wife, Eleanor. Emotionally rewarding and elegantly written, with textured characters and a captivating plot, this is James at her best. (Agent: Kim Witherspoon)

THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X

James, Eloisa Avon/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-06-222389-0 When Lady Xenobia is hired to restyle Thorn Dautry’s country estate in order to help him win a perfect bride, they are both loath to admit they’ve met their perfect matches. The illegitimate yet beloved son of the Duke of Villiers, Thorn Dautry has made his own successful way in the world through his cleverness and entrepreneurial spirit. Rich beyond imagining, Thorn is now turning his energy toward finding a wife. He has his eyes on Laetitia Rainsford, a quiet beauty with a harridan for a mother. The Rainsfords are short on cash, and Laetitia’s father is holding out for a huge dowry, despite Lady Rainsford’s disdain for the illegitimate, untitled Dautry. Thorn buys a country estate previously owned by a debauched lord, and he must completely refurbish the buildings and land before inviting his family and the Rainsfords to a house party that he hopes will end in an engagement. On the advice of his stepmother, Thorn hires Lady Xenobia—known to her friends as India—to manage the overwhelming project, and she executes every detail with grace and elegance. India is the daughter of a marquess, and Thorn knows she is above his reach, so he at first tries to ignore their flaming attraction, then gives in to it but clings to the idea of biddable, easygoing Laetitia as an appropriate bride. India and Thorn each have deep-seated insecurities and strong personalities, and their secretive courtship is intense and explosive. They are clearly perfect for each other but blinded by their own uncertainty and society’s expectations. Star romance author James revisits her best-selling Desperate Duchesses series with this compelling and passionate book. India and Thorn (aka Tobias, first met in This Duchess 46

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nonfiction PEDESTRIANISM When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: WHY THE GERMANS? WHY THE JEWS? by Götz Aly................... 48

Algeo, Matthew Chicago Review (272 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-61374-397-3

THE MASTER OF CONFESSIONS by Thierry Cruvellier.................52 SOUS CHEF by Michael Gibney.......................................................... 55 SAVAGE HARVEST by Carl Hoffman.................................................59 THE SIXTH EXTINCTION by Elizabeth Kolbert.................................65 ATOMIC ACCIDENTS by James Mahaffey......................................... 66 WAR! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? by Ian Morris................................. 68 THERE GOES GRAVITY by Lisa Robinson..........................................72

WHY THE GERMANS? WHY THE JEWS? Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust

Aly, Götz Translated by Chase, Jefferson Metropolitan/Henry Holt (304 pp.) $30.00 Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-8050-9700-9

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A lively account of America’s first major spectator sport, competitive walking, which attracted thousands in its day. “It was like watching a NASCAR race in super-slow motion,” writes reporter Algeo (The President Is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth, 2011, etc.), “hypnotic, mesmerizing, with the promise of imminent catastrophe.” Competitive walking began when bookseller Ed Weston bet that he could walk from Boston to Washington, D.C., in 10 days to attend Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration. He missed the president’s oath by a few hours, but his feat of footwork launched a new spectator sport. In epic rivalries, treks of more than 500 miles in six days (there were no competitions on the Sabbath) were common as pedestrians left the public roads and walked in circles in venues like the first Madison Square Garden. The mania to see competitive ambulation soon became a phenomenon in England, as well. While the American style demanded “fair heel and toe” (part of one foot on the track always), the Britons allowed “go as you please” (run if you like). However, sporadic runners usually could not keep up with steady walkers. Walking events spawned trainers, trading cards, endorsements, scalpers and, not surprising considering the betting, fixes. There were also widespread charges of doping—in particular, the chewing of coca leaves. Sportswriting flourished, and sports medicine was born. Women began walking, followed by African-American pedestrians. Soon, the clergy denounced the whole business. Ultimately, pedestrianism, an attraction of the Gilded Age, was replaced by six-day bicycle racing, boxing and the new national pastime, baseball. The world-class practitioners of the trudging art and their sport were soon forgotten. Algeo brings them back to life. An entertaining biography, step by step, of a diversion in the earliest days of today’s sports industry. (40 b/w photos)

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“An elegant, erudite historical survey employing deep research and excellent examples, even from the author’s own family.” from why the germans? why the jews?

PLEASE BE WITH ME A Song for My Father, Duane Allman

Allman, Galadrielle Spiegel & Grau (400 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-4000-6894-4

The author tries to connect with the famous father she never knew in an account that is most illuminating when she’s telling her story and that of her mother. When Duane Allman (1946–1971) died in a motorcycle accident, “he was twenty-four years old and I was two,” writes the author. “We never had the chance to know each other.” In fact, the virtuosic guitarist and founder of the Allman Brothers Band had already separated from the author’s mother, whom he had never legally wed, and was with another woman who initially claimed to be his common-law widow. The vast majority of this narrative covers decades when the author wasn’t even alive, which doesn’t prevent her from re-creating situations and dialogue and even asserting what her father was thinking long before he was her father. She had help, of course—access to her mother and other family, friends and members of the band, as well as interviews with those whose recordings Allman’s guitar had graced (Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Bramlett, John Hammond and others). Her uncle Gregg, who has written his own best-selling musical memoir, was also generous in his memories, though, as the author admits, “I was in my thirties before I started reaching out to him.” And there are dozens of letters, from her father to her mother and others. “I dreaded pursuing this story as a reporter would, by asking uncomfortable questions and following every lead,” writes the daughter whose bond with her father runs deep and whose love is abiding but who had to face some uncomfortable truths about “his arrogance and dark moods….Duane could be so cold and crass,” as a man who succumbed to drugs, groupies, and other temptations of the road and frequently risked death before his accident killed him at his musical peak. This is more of a love letter than “Daddy Dearest” but also more about a flawed human being than about a band that has persevered for decades after its founder’s death.

WHY THE GERMANS? WHY THE JEWS? Envy, Race Hatred, and the Prehistory of the Holocaust

Aly, Götz Translated by Chase, Jefferson Metropolitan/Henry Holt (304 pp.) $30.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-8050-9700-9 In a fluid translation, a German historian soundly explores the numerous attractions of the Nazi agenda to a deeply insecure, unsettled people. 48

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Aly (Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, 2007, etc.) rehearses many of the standard understandings of why the Germans chose the Jews as the scapegoats for all their economic and political woes of the 1920s and ’30s—the “question of questions”—adding some interesting new glimmers of Holocaust research. The author reaches back to the emancipation of the Jews after the Napoleonic Wars, which freed them to join guilds and even the armed forces, helping to unleash an entrepreneurial spirit and encourage competition. While the Jews greatly benefited from these modern currents of individualism and liberalism, German Christians, weighted under static “old certainties,” looking toward the government for economic protection rather than liberation, “experienced legal and material progress as personal loss.” While Germany was just coalescing into a united nation, the Jews were long committed to education, learning and bettering themselves. The German senses of inferiority, political immaturity and national anxiety, combined with the resentment over the Versailles Treaty, made them receptive to the siren song of Hitler’s National Socialist Party, which emphasized entitlements for the “ethnic Germans” at the expense of the interlopers, the Jews. Aly asserts that even if most Germans did not initially agree with the Nazis’ virulent anti-Semitic views, they were reassured by the Nazi visions of economic progress, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility and signed up for what increasingly became clear as a “criminal collaboration” between the people and their political leadership. Aly mostly wraps things up at 1933 yet hints chillingly at how the dawning sense of transgression played in the minds of average Germans. An elegant, erudite historical survey employing deep research and excellent examples, even from the author’s own family.

MY FAIRY-TALE LIFE

Andersen, Hans Christian Translated by Jones, W. Glyn Dedalus Limited (510 pp.) $19.99 paper | Apr. 18, 2014 978-1-907650-57-4 978-1-909232-97-6 e-book A new translation of the midcareer memoir by the writer who wrote “The Little Mermaid,” “The Ugly Duckling” and myriads of other fictional and dramatic writings lesser-known outside his native Denmark. First published in 1855, Andersen’s, unsurprisingly, is more an old-fashioned autobiography than a contemporary memoir. Concerned principally with the exteriors of his life—his financial struggles in boyhood and young manhood, his slow acceptance in the world of Danish letters, his later international celebrity, his extensive travels—the volume says virtually nothing explicit about his love life (though his passion for singer Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” is patent; she didn’t reciprocate, referring to him as her “brother”), his professional work habits or nearly anything emotional. A big exception: his relationship with critics, professional ones and otherwise.

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Repeatedly, Andersen agonizes about unkind reviews of and negative comments about his work (he quotes at length from some of them)—especially in Denmark, where acceptance came much more slowly than it did in Germany, England and elsewhere. Compensating for this are endless pages of paeans from those who did appreciate his work—from commoners to kings. He quotes lines from flattering letters, reproduces poems others wrote in his honor, and never tires of discussing the highsociety parties he attended (many to honor him, of course) and the celebrities who cherished him. Among those were Heinrich Heine, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Franz Liszt, the brothers Grimm and Honoré de Balzac. (His descriptions of Dickens border on the erotic.) Andersen also continually credits God for the good things in his life. The early parts of his account—about penury and struggle and determination and autodidacticism— are far more interesting than the rest, and there is also a dazzling description of his ascent of Vesuvius as it belched flame. Dickensian in boyhood, Gatsby-esque later on, self-congratulatory throughout.

that mum, too—Andrews is awfully loud about it here. Unfortunately, things just get creakier and more self-pitying by the page. “My problem, of course, was that I was a decade or so ahead of the times.” That’s not the only one.

MAGGIE & ME Coming Out and Coming of Age in 1980s Scotland Barr, Damian Bloomsbury (256 pp.) $16.00 paper | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-62040-588-8

Memoir of the difficulties of growing up poor and gay in Margaret Thatcher’s Scotland. Luckily, journalist Barr (Get It Together: A Guide to Surviving your Quarterlife Crisis, 2005) had a strong intelligent streak, a great love of books and a series of true friends.

MY USUAL TABLE A Life in Restaurants

Andrews, Colman Ecco/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-06-213647-3 978-0-06-213650-3 e-book A stroll down Memory Lane, with stops at the eateries that have shaped him, from food writer Andrews (The Taste of America, 2013, etc.). The author has been a fixture on the food-and-drink scene for four decades, as a restaurant critic, journalist, co-founder of Saveur and author of a number of cookbooks. This memoir gets off to a fun start, with the author recalling his early silver-spoon years in Los Angeles, which were inauspicious for someone who would become a serious trencherman (“Franco-American spaghetti with meatballs, and Chef Boyardee beef ravioli….We also had a lot of Spam”)—except for the fact that they ate out often. There is a sweet and promising chapter on Chasen’s, the Los Angeles restaurant where Andrews was introduced to mid-20thcentury upscale American cooking, followed by warm salutes to a number of friends and food places: the Ranch House, El Coyote (“Someone once described the place as a Chuck E. Cheese for adults”) and the Adriatic. But as his stature in the food world rises, so does the sense of entitlement in his writing. The fun is replaced by waves of turgidity (“the challenge of reconciling sensual pleasure with political belief ”) and celebrity worship (“there were certainly no other restaurants where you could eat food of Spago’s quality in your T-shirt and jeans—especially not with Sean Connery at the next table and Dolly Parton over by the window and Jodie Foster coming through the front door”). For someone so secretive about his romances at work (“we had become a couple, though we made sure that nobody at the office knew”)—when he got married to another officemate, they kept |

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“An insightful new study that develops the theme of Jewish annihilation as necessary to the Nazi myth of genesis.” from a world without jews

The author never had an awakening to his homosexuality; he, and everyone around him, just knew he was gay. The collapse of his parents’ marriage when he was 8 threw him into a difficult situation with Logan, the “wicked stepfather.” When his mother had a cerebral hemorrhage and spent six months away recuperating, Logan showed his true colors, poisoning the author and trying to drown him. While seeking to avoid Logan for all those months, Barr was desperately afraid to report him for fear of retribution against his sister. Ultimately, school became his saving grace, even with the taunting of schoolmates. He joined any club that would keep him after school for extended periods of time (“I’m on every team at Brannock High School that doesn’t have anything to do with throwing, catching, or kicking a ball”), and he also ended up at the top of his class in just about every subject. In addition to his personal story, the author follows the effects of Thatcher’s economic policies, as she canceled the free school milk, beat back the coal miners and closed the steel mill where his father worked. If ever a prime minister was hated, it was in the council houses of Britain; her name couldn’t be uttered without an expletive. Few readers will blame the author or anyone else angered by her methods; she massively cut social programs and suggested taxing the poor due to the fact that there were more of them. While it should be heartbreaking, Barr tells a wonderful story, demonstrating the remarkable resilience of a child not only surviving, but succeeding in such a grand way.

BOHEMIANS A Graphic History

Buhle, Paul; Berger, David—Eds. Verso (304 pp.) $16.95 paper | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-78168-261-6 What do Walt Whitman, Josephine Baker and Woody Guthrie have in common? Here, their lives are interwoven with the artistic and cultural movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, all under the umbrella of “bohemianism.” Brooklyn-based writer Berger and prolific graphic-arts editor Buhle (A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation, 2008, etc.) make fine selections in this thoughtful successor to Harvey Pekar’s The Beats: A Graphic History (2009). In a thorough introduction, Buhle explains the roots of the idea of bohemianism: The real Bohemia, a geographical entity eventually swallowed up by the Czech Republic, was misidentified by French journalists as the source of Europe’s gypsy culture. But Berger and Buhle focus more on those remarkable individuals and movements whose artistic and political spirits ran contrary to the traditions of their times. The writers get the most attention, with stories devoted to spiritual comrades Whitman, Oscar Wilde and Henry Miller, among others. Two very different stories examine the grace of dancer Baker and the beautiful, messy story of Billie Holiday and the song “Strange Fruit.” Other chapters combine stories to capture the origins 50

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of cultural movements, such as “Art and the Artist,” which portrays the arrival of modern art in New York in 1915 in astonishing detail. Other chapters summarize the arcs of the labor movement, modern dance and the earliest seeds of the folk music movement, represented here by Guthrie. All of the art is bold and visually distinct; fittingly, many of the artists have deep roots in the underground comics scene—e.g., Peter Kuper. A truly poignant coda by cartoonist Mark Crilley imagines a young Pekar and R. Crumb spending a day together in Cleveland, visiting record and book stores, talking shop and lamenting the paving over of the old world. A terrific appraisal of culture’s gypsies, tramps and thieves, worthy of the editors’ judgment: “Obituaries for bohemia have, in short, always been premature.”

A WORLD WITHOUT JEWS The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide

Confino, Alon Yale Univ. (304 pp.) $30.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-300-18854-7

An insightful new study that develops the theme of Jewish annihilation as necessary to the Nazi myth of genesis. Using a wealth of standard historical sources, such as anti-Jewish propaganda, as well as evidence considered unique in the history of genocide, such as the Nazis’ burning of the Bible, Confino (History/Univ. of Virginia; Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding, 2011, etc.) pursues the chilling buildup to the Holocaust, from 1933 onward, in Germany as emotional, messianic and not at all secretive. The Nazi message from the beginning was to purge Germany of the evil (namely, Jews) responsible for “every phenomenon of the modern world objectionable to the Nazis,” from bolshevism to liberalism to democracy (the list is a long one and nearly laughable). The burning of the Torah and other texts, conducted like a national festival, seems puzzling outside of sheer Nazi hooliganism, but it was an act posited by Confino as a deliberate, public consolidation of Nazi intention and legitimacy. Everyone would participate in the purge of “contaminated” books, and these symbolic “acts of purification,” repeated and rehearsed in subsequent anti-Jewish laws on both the local and national level, goaded regular Germans into an emotional response “that claimed to link the individual to the collectivity based on antiJewish sentiments.” The destruction of synagogues, for example, was a way to destroy history, severing any connection between Jews and Christians in order to make way for a new German national myth of genesis. Desecrating the Hebrew Bible was an intimate act of violence, requiring all five senses, as Confino hauntingly portrays, and it allowed the Nazis to supersede the Jews as a chosen people, to extinguish Jewish authority over the past—and claim history and time itself. A thoughtful study that represents Nazism less as a “banality of evil” and more as an “intimate brutality.”

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THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE Life in the New Cuba

Cooke, Julia Seal Press (256 pp.) $17.00 paper | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-58005-531-4

Following multiple trips to the island— organized by an unnamed friend, the “Communist fairy godfather”—first-time author Cooke (Writing/The New School) chronicles the lives of nine Cubans and their families in the years immediately after Raúl Castro replaced his brother as president. “I wanted to collect the stories of today’s young Cubans in the fragile pillow of transitional time between Fidel and whatever would come next,” writes the author. “I wanted a hint at what their revolution could resemble.” Despite diverse backgrounds, families and future goals, the stories of these young Cuban nationals share many similarities: an overwhelming sense of unease, the

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haze of unrest and the lack of an obvious path toward change. Some of the author’s subjects include Lucía, a recent graduate of the University of Havana who was “putting in the two years of social service that ‘paid for’ the degree”; and Sandra, a prostitute who viewed her plans for the future as “clouds she thought she’d walk into; they’d envelop her and then everything would be different.” Not all of them want to leave their homeland, but all struggle with an ever-changing flow of plans for achieving a stable life. The book flows naturally from subject to subject, not chronologically but still organically. Cooke revisits each of her subjects at different times during their lives, which helps to round out the narrative, and the inclusion of their families and friends also adds welcome depth. Though the author does not provide a resolution to each of the stories, despite the multiple visits and a one-yearlater denouement, this lack of an ending is mostly a function of the still-changing Cuba. Despite a few meandering, unfocused sections, Cooke introduces a world that somehow makes sense in its lack of reason, as understood by American readers. An excellent taste of Cuba today, without tourist plans or political agenda.

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“With chilling clarity, a veteran international journalist delineates the totalitarian ideology and horrific crimes of the leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge.” from the master of confessions

SPENT A Memoir

joined the other farm workers in their physically demanding daily chores. “The place had always made me a little anxious,” he writes. “It was so isolated and lonely, and the work there was so intense.” Woven into this almost-coming-of-age narrative are Crawford’s memories of growing up on the farm and what he has learned about his parents’ early days there. For part of the season, his amiable girlfriend, who seemed somewhat more challenged by farm life than he, joined him, sharing a rude shelter he single-handedly built for them some distance from the main farmhouse. In his spare time, Crawford looked into the murder of a neighboring farmer that occurred nearly 20 years before. Crawford’s account of the work on the farm is matterof-fact and clear, and his portraits of his hardworking, middleaged parents are sharp. When he looks inward, however, the picture is more opaque. In the fall, his girlfriend left the farm for San Francisco, and shortly after Christmas, he joined her there, working in a natural foods store, still not sure where his life was going or even where he wanted it to go. “I still hadn’t solved the problem of what I wanted to do with my life,” writes the author. “I was coming to the realization that it would probably be with me forever, and that it was a problem that I likely shared with every other person on earth.” Most interesting to aspiring organic farmers.

Crane, Antonia Rare Bird Books (312 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-940207-06-3

Revelatory, unapologetic life story of a San Francisco stripper and sex worker. Crane, a university writing instructor and Los Angeles blogger, writes nostalgically of her solitary youth as an energetic, restless “chunky” girl growing up in Northern California. Her father, a lawyer, abandoned the family when she was 10; as a teenager, negative body image issues manifested into bulimia. But it was her mother’s abusive post-marriage relationship that forced her to move to San Francisco on her own at 17, posing nude for artists while subsisting on “a diet of meth and oranges.” Her bisexuality emerged alongside a slow descent into drug abuse, which parlayed into dancing at a colorful assortment of San Francisco strip clubs catering to generous, fetishistic patrons. After a suicide attempt, Crane found the strength to attend substance abuse recovery meetings. With pride and exhilaration, she discusses her time pole dancing as “Lolita” and “Stevie,” as well as her activist involvement in the country’s first strip club unionization; the author does not express shame for a livelihood borne out of necessity and fascination. Crane even straddled sex work with a stint as a youth counselor, but when her mother became debilitated with cancer, she and her brother compassionately came to her aid and bestowed a dying wish in an excruciatingly sorrowful scene. However, she again yielded to the call of the street, traveling from Los Angeles to New Orleans. There’s a gripping emotional current coursing through Crane’s often startling material; the urgency and brazen honesty of her storytelling is difficult to ignore. Definitely not for the sheepish, Crane’s graphic life spent navigating gritty gentlemen’s clubs and massage parlors doesn’t end with catharsis but with unrepentant contentment. A raw, searing self-portrait.

A FARM DIES ONCE A YEAR A Memoir Crawford, Arlo Henry Holt (272 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-8050-9816-7

A down-to-earth account of life on New Morning Farm, to which Crawford, the rather aimless son of the owners, returned for one season, searching for some direction in his own unsatisfactory life. When he was 31, Crawford, who grew up on the family’s 75-acre organic vegetable farm in Pennsylvania, gave up his administrative job at the Fogg Museum at Harvard, arriving at New Morning in late May. After a shaky beginning, the author 52

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THE MASTER OF CONFESSIONS The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer

Cruvellier, Thierry Translated by Gilly, Alex Ecco/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-06-232954-7 978-0-06-232955-4 e-book

With chilling clarity, a veteran international journalist delineates the totalitarian ideology and horrific crimes of the leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. A witness to and chronicler of the war-crimes trials of Rwanda (Court of Remorse, 2010), Cruvellier likewise attended the arduous eight-month Khmer Rouge Tribunal in 2009 of the notorious head of the S-21 “death mill” in Phnom Penh, Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch. Duch managed the prison, formerly a high school, between 1975 and 1979, and he was tasked with interrogating, eliciting confessions by torture and “smashing” the victim—the verb preferred by the court. A meticulous, methodical former math teacher and a loyal Khmer party member, Duch, then in his mid-30s, was the “perfect fit for the job” of interrogator. The pride he took in his work was reflected in the careful records he diligently kept and did not destroy before he fled upon the invasion of the Vietnamese in early 1979. The tens of thousands of his victims (which included children)—Duch constantly corrected the witnesses’ estimates—were duly photographed upon entering the prison, crammed in rooms, ill-fed and forced to confess by horrendous methods, including electric shocks, with the directions all annotated in his neat handwriting. Duch created the killing fields at Choeung Ek, the “lowly”

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act of actual murder relegated to his underlings. A dedicated Maoist, Duch directed his staff on the key elements of maintaining secrecy, fear and obedience. Former guards and victims of Khmer atrocities testified over many months, some more convincing than others; there were only a handful of living S-21 victims—e.g., two artists who were saved only due to the fact that they could make portraits of Pol Pot. The author’s portrait of the cool, contrite and calculating Duch is superbly memorable. Cruvellier is an extremely articulate and compassionate observer to a country and its people plunged through the rings of hell.

STILWATER Finding Wild Mercy in the Outback

de Grenade, Rafael Milkweed (256 pp.) $16.00 paper | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-57131-314-0

Rhapsodic meditation on country life by an American rancher in Australia. When seasoned land steward and rancher de Grenade first entertained the idea of venturing to the Australian Outback, she was a restless teenager who quit formal schooling at 12 to work as a ranch hand in Arizona. A decade later, now “more at home in a sleeping bag under the stars than among people,” she spent a month touring Queensland, then traveled up to the extreme northern “gulf country” territory, settling in the remote Outback cattle station Stilwater. The author gorgeously recounts spending a dry season (roughly 5 months) herding cattle on horseback across the harsh inland flats, characterized by acres of savanna grasslands and a single daily tide into and out of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Initially tentative, de Grenade settled in with the population of the station—some gruffly distant, others amiable and happy to familiarize a newcomer. She provides a stirring natural portrait of her environs, profiling its tireless, weathered crew of cowboys and consistently marveling at the synergy of its operations. The author participated in the laborious, three-part mustering process to take livestock inventory, fished rivers with imperceptible currents and fully utilized the ranching skills learned from her past. She deftly weaves in geographical, ecological and societal history of the region and lyrically examines the same beauty found in the Outback’s deadly snake or the aggressive takedowns of bull-catchers. A friendly tour guide, de Grenade imparts sharp-eyed views of salty mudflats, of freshwater holes sentineled by crocodiles and her own adaptation to the stations she visited as her sense of identity ebbed and bloomed. A vivid, sweeping chronicle of the Australian Outback, as told by a lover of the land and its native fauna.

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CHASING THE ROSE An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside di Robilant, Andrea Illus. by Fuga, Nina Knopf (224 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 10, 2014 978-0-307-96292-8

A historian’s account of how he uncovered the identity of a mysterious wild rose growing on the old farming estate of an illustrious Venetian ancestor. When di Robilant (Irresistible North: From Venice to Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers, 2011, etc.) visited the former home of his great-great-great-great-grandmother Lucia Mocenigo, it was solely to make connection with a part of his past. But then the caretaker showed him a magnificent silvery-pink rose. Its delicately fruity fragrance and noble carriage told the author that “this was an old rose of some importance”; yet no one knew where it had come from. Captivated by the mystery surrounding this flower, di Robilant began an investigation into its possible origins. Another chance encounter—this time with a diary Lucia kept during her stay at the court of Emperor Napoleon—suggested that the rose had come to Venice via his ancestor. At the time she lived in France, Paris was “in the throes of a mad love affair with roses.” Lucia did not become a collector like her friend the former Empress Josephine, but she did develop an interest in botany and brought home a variety of different roses. Di Robilant was fairly certain that the “rosa moceniga” was among them; however, he had no conclusive proof. His journey took him to historical archives in Paris and brought him into contact with rose collectors and specialists, from whom the author learned about individual rose species and the often colorful histories behind them. Yet it would be happy accident—this time in an Umbrian garden full of old Chinese roses—that would lead him to the answers he sought about the “rosa moceniga.” Illustrated throughout with charming watercolors, Di Robilant’s is a unique exploration of how human history often leaves its imprint in the most unexpected of places. A quiet country pleasure. (23 color illustrations)

LAUNCH! The Critical 90 Days from Idea to Market Duffy, Scott Portfolio (240 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 20, 2014 978-1-59184-606-2

A breezy handbook for entrepreneurs on how to launch a new business, product or service. Business consultant Duffy debuts with a realistic view of entrepreneurship, balancing both inspiration and caution. “There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur,” he writes. “Today there are more businesses,

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products, and services being launched than at any time in history.” However, success demands vision, passion and perseverance, as well as the ability to move from idea to the marketplace quickly— within 90 days. Speed is critical in an era of exponential change when the competition is faster, more agile and better equipped. Based on his experiences working with business coach Tony Robbins and with major media brands, Duffy describes a three-part systematic approach to entrepreneurial ventures, from limiting your personal risk to assembling financial and other resources to developing the strategies and partnerships needed to introduce your product. Stressing that large companies take too long to execute their best ideas, he explains how an unhappy customer can start a competitive company with just a laptop, a mobile phone, an Internet connection and a social media account. For instance, Sara Blakely, a young Floridian, invested $5,000 in her vision for the future of underwear to create Spanx, a company that now boasts yearly sales of more than $250 million. Duffy balances dream-come-true stories with cautionary advice on how to mitigate risk and how to manage when things go awry. His practical tips include the need to stay focused, avoid perfectionism, surround yourself with positive people, build a culture of teamwork and innovation, and get plenty of stress-relieving exercise. Be fast, and keep it simple (one-page business plans only). Solid advice for novice risk-takers.

BIG TENT The Story of the Conservative Revolution—as Told by the Thinkers and Doers Who Made It Happen Factor, Mallory Broadside Books/HarperCollins (464 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-06-229069-4

Prominent conservatives speak out about their movement’s convictions, history and heroes. Originally delivered as guest lectures for a seminar on the Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America run by professor and editor Factor (International Politics and American Government/The Citadel; Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind, 2012, etc.), this collection kicks off with an overarching piece by publisher Alfred S. Regnery on “The Pillars of Conservatism.” Regnery identifies some of the themes—liberty, tradition and order, rule of law, belief in God— thinkers—Locke, Hume, Burke—and texts—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution—that inform conservatives. He emphasizes the post–World War II American conservative movement, invoking names like William F. Buckley Jr., Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. His observations serve as appropriate launching pads for the authors who follow, each with a special expertise that fleshes out a topic or offers new insight into a particular strand of conservatism. A few of these essays transition awkwardly to the page—e.g., Newt Gingrich’s toocolloquial remarks on the American Revolution, Rand Paul’s 54

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tossed-off observations on bending conservatism in a libertarian direction, and a gassy afterword by Haley Barbour on partybuilding and winning elections. On the other hand, there are some gems: Michael Barone’s thoughtful essay on Tocqueville and ordered liberty, historian David Norcross on the centrality of Edmund Burke, economist Yaron Brook on three seminal, conservative economists, journalist David Keene on Buckley’s political vision, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s personal history of neoconservatism and organizer Ralph Reed’s stout defense of social conservatism. No surprise to find Donald Rumsfeld (on the war on terror) and Edwin Meese (on the Reagan Revolution) among the contributors here, but there’s room, too, under Factor’s big tent for former CIA Director—and Democrat—R. James Woolsey to comment on national security. An uneven but useful handbook for those looking to understand the roots of conservatism and the contours of the contemporary movement.

HEMP BOUND Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution

Fine, Doug Chelsea Green (192 pp.) $17.50 paper | Apr. 20, 2014 978-1-60358-543-9

What might come back along with legalized pot? Only one of the strongest, most versatile plants in the world: hemp. In his latest, self-described “comedic investigative journalist” Fine (Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution, 2012, etc.) focuses on the enormous potential applications for industrialized hemp. As the author ably explains, the plant is the government-designated name for all strains of cannabis that have negligible amounts of THC, meaning it can’t get you high. However, it can be used as a wildly strong fiber; when the U.S. government passed the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, suddenly the U.S. Army found itself lacking in decent ropes. It can also create incongruous benefits, like creating nutritious products based on its oil, and can even be used as a potential energy source. To prove his point, Fine chronicles his trips across North America, visiting and profiling entrepreneurs, advocates, farmers and innovators. In Denver, he took a test drive in a hemp oil–powered Mercedes-Benz; in Winnipeg, Canada, he visited a factory where enthusiasts are crafting composite materials from hemp that could potentially be used in automobiles, airplanes or industrial tools like tractors. The author also makes the point that the United States is the largest market for Canada’s thriving hemp industry, which is regulated smoothly and profitably by its government. Fine is, of course, an accidental activist, too, but it’s hard not to admire his enthusiasm. Warned by an economist not to expect a booming hemp culture from the start, he was unfazed. “Still, I sometimes think these Europeans willingly fail to figure American exuberance

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TALK LIKE TED The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds

into their economic formulae,” he writes. “That’s our real fuel. That, hemp oil and love are pretty much all I run on.” A short, sweet, logical and funny argument for the potential of one of the world’s most dynamic cash crops.

THE WRONG ENEMY America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014

Gall, Carlotta Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (368 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-544-04669-6

A longtime New York Times war correspondent delivers a moving, on-theground chronicle of her years covering the Afghanistan War. During two decades of thorough journalistic coverage in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gall (co-author: Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, 1998) has developed important contacts, observing closely how, in many cases, the “deserving cause for self-determination” was co-opted and transformed by extremist Islamist groups. She has seen enormous suffering on all sides but especially by the Afghanis, the pawns of superpower struggles. She chronologically delineates how this has happened in Afghanistan, where the Americans walked into the “Islamists’ trap”—not unlike the Soviets before them—playing a 13-year cat-and-mouse game with the Taliban, who continue to successfully resist through sheer attrition and ferocious determination to expel the foreigners. Moreover, Gall clearly implicates the Pakistan military intelligence, ISI, for sheltering and protecting Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, especially Osama bin Laden, since their expulsion from Afghanistan in late 2001. Indeed, this is the leitmotif of Gall’s work: that Pakistan has used “proxy forces” from the beginning to “project its influence beyond its borders”; these have included not just the Taliban, but also Kashmiri militants in India. Gall offers vivid portraits of the key players—e.g., Taliban commander Mullah Omar and American-backed Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai—and many of the Taliban fighters she tracked down and interviewed in exile, consolidating their power from the wings. Gall sees a terrible lost opportunity by the United States in not offering a safe haven for many of the former Taliban fighters: Americans imprisoned important leaders and thereby left a dangerous vacuum. Heavy-handed U.S. military presence did not win the trust of the Afghanis, and jihadism, suicide bombings and assassinations ensued. The author offers a compelling account of the attack on bin Laden’s compound, the repercussions of which are still being felt. Gall admirably never loses sight of the human element in this tragedy.

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Gallo, Carmine St. Martin’s (288 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-250-04112-8

Communications coach Gallo (The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How To Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, 2009, etc.) distills the public-speaking secrets of some of the world’s top leaders and celebrities. The author, who has worked with executives from Intel, Cisco, Chevron and other corporations, analyzed more than 500 speeches posted on the online site of TED, which was launched in 2006. By the end of 2012, more than 1 billion users had logged in, and the speeches had been translated into nearly 100 languages. Gallo examines the speaking skills of political leaders (Colin Powell, Al Gore), shapers of the modern digital revolution (Bill Gates, Larry Ellison), and celebrities of the literary, sports and movie worlds. The author organizes his principles under three general headings: unleashing emotional power by using conversational storytelling techniques; employing novelty to surprise, shock, teach and amuse, enhanced by focused multisensory experiences; and keeping to the guidelines set out by TED. These guidelines include the necessity of speakers to keep their speeches under 18 minutes. Gallo draws from current research on how the brain processes information to show why that is “the ideal length of time for a presentation.” Concision counters cognitive backlog, which impedes the assimilation of ideas. Gallo’s practical orientation assists his selection of the methods and tactics the speakers employ, and the author holds himself to the same standards he recommends for others. Gallo brings the narrative to life with plenty of examples—e.g., a speech by Harvard neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor about growing up or Bill Gates’ effective presentation of the reality of mosquitoborne disease. The author also includes successful outlines and guides to using both audio-visual aides and effective body language. Dramatic composition and vigorous presentation make this a powerful tool to improve mastery of speaking skills.

SOUS CHEF 24 Hours on the Line

Gibney, Michael Ballantine (240 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-8041-7787-0

An experienced sous chef and firsttime author skillfully deconstructs a 24-hour work cycle of a sous chef in a New York kitchen. Gibney builds his narrative around the intimate, intense and demanding dance occurring within the kitchen of a busy NYC restaurant, and his intent is clear

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“These seasoned dispatches convey an important narrative of regional marginalization; Giffels’ work deserves to avoid that fate.” from the hard way on purpose

from the beginning: He wants readers right beside him during the entire journey. The author includes a floor plan of the kitchen with its 17 zones and a diagram of the kitchen chain of command, from executive chef to busboy and food runner. For readers unfamiliar with a Honesuki (“a triangular Japanese poultry boning knife”) or which part of the pig a guanciale comes from (“unsmoked Umbrian salumi made from salted and spiced pig jowl”), the author’s inclusion of kitchen terms makes following along all the more fun. Gibney began working in restaurants at age 16, more than 13 years ago. When he was 22, he landed his first sous chef gig. “In that time,” he writes, “I’ve seen all manner of operation—big, small, beautiful and ugly. I’ve climbed the ladder from dishwasher to chef and cooked at all the stations in between.” In addition to the author’s skill in the kitchen, Gibney displays solid storytelling ability. He breathes life into the mix of outsized personalities inhabiting the confined, hot, noisy space of the kitchen and illuminates the range of knowledge and skills required by his profession. Following a few pages enumerating the answers to possible questions wait staff might pose about a new dish, he writes, “You need to know everything about everything that’s in every dish, and you must be able to identify which items may conflict with which dietary guidelines.” Gibney ably relays mountains of information in this remarkable trek through his storehouse of knowledge. Sumptuously entertaining fare.

THE HARD WAY ON PURPOSE Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt

Giffels, David Scribner (256 pp.) $15.00 paper | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-4516-9274-7

Appealing, original fusion of personal essay collection and Rust Belt post-mortem. Giffels (English/Univ. of Akron; All the Way Home: Building a Family in a FallingDown House, 2008, etc.) takes an audacious approach to considering his 1970s adolescence in Akron, Ohio, and his life there ever since. He became aware of the hardscrabble region’s ingrained traditions and civic pride as they were being blown away by its declining economic infrastructure. While his essays are funny and crisply rendered, there’s an undertone of wonderment at the sheer loss of functionality and productive might in such places: “Generations knew this part of the country as the region that built modern America,” writes the author. “I’m of the first generation that never saw any of that.” The essays sketch a rough arc of Giffels’ life as set against the rambling decay of postindustrial Akron and Cleveland (where his family rooted for the perpetually losing Browns and Cavaliers). As the author reached adolescence, caroused within the region’s vibrant underground-rock scene and began a career at the Akron Beacon Journal, he realized that the physical entropy and economic marginalization of the region somehow fueled its survivors with a perverse vitality as they attempted to make art or music or simply survive. “Recognizing 56

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the value of forgotten or broken things seems, at least in my part of the country, to be the story of America in the twenty-first century,” he writes. Standout essays include an account of watching the cavernous used bookstore that sparked his literary passion burn down, his hilarious season as a ball boy for the dispirited Cavaliers and youthful encounters with regional traditions: strong drink, bowling, thrift stores and punk rock. The author’s tone is relaxed and approachable, yet he never loses sight of the social costs incurred by the alleged obsolescence of the blue-collar Midwest. These seasoned dispatches convey an important narrative of regional marginalization; Giffels’ work deserves to avoid that fate.

THE ISRAELI SOLUTION A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East Glick, Caroline Crown Forum (352 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-385-34806-5

Can peace ever come to the Middle East? Not with the implacable parties involved, one wing of which informs this unyielding polemic. Jerusalem Post senior contributing editor Glick, who is based in Jerusalem, announces early on that the Palestinian demand that Jewish settlers leave Israeli-occupied territories is inherently “anti-Semitic.” Why? Apparently because any opposition to any act by any Israeli constitutes anti-Semitism. Moreover, the two-state solution that the United States has long explored and more recently endorsed, a solution now being brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry, “requires Israel, America’s closest Middle East ally, to transform itself from a powerful nation, capable of defending itself from infiltration and invasion, into a strategic basket case that survives at the pleasure of its enemies.” Glick’s arguments about the illegitimacy of the Palestinian government and the desire of all right-thinking Palestinians to live in Israeli-style (if not Israeli) democracy have a sometimesfamiliar ring, reminiscent of the belief of U.S. hawks in Vietnam that inside every Vietnamese was an American screaming to get out. Whatever the case, it doesn’t take the author long to play the Hitler card (“The main factor that motivated the Arabs to support the Nazis was not British actions in the Mandate. It was Jew hatred”), nor to insist that the American government has been mesmerized by the Palestinian cobra into “fundamental misunderstandings of the Palestinian reality,” leading to the apparently misbegotten view that the Palestinians might just deserve national self-determination. But give them the vote, she warns, and they’ll do just what Arabs do: choose Islamist candidates and their “totalitarian ideology.” Even if Glick’s were indisputably the right course of action, the constant aggressiveness is off-putting. The choir won’t mind the preaching, but the arguments here aren’t likely to sway many other readers. |


I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW ME FROM Confessions of a Co-Star

Greer, Judy Doubleday (256 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-385-53788-9

A memoir by a rare breed of Hollywood actress: happy, well-adjusted and working. Greer, who has appeared in nearly 100 movies and TV roles (this is her first book), knows she is lucky. Her unconventional parents—her mother was fired from a convent before she could take her final vows as a nun—wholeheartedly supported her teenage ballet and acting aspirations, and she got cast, after her first audition, in a movie with David Schwimmer. This is not a Hollywood roman à clef; Greer doesn’t dish and is amazed by and grateful for her good fortune. She embodies the role she calls “the ultimate movie best friend…funny, cute, sassy and approachable.” She is so approachable, in fact, that people who believe they recognize her routinely ask, “What do I know you from?” Her initial response: “First of all, hi.” During her 15-year career, she has become proficient at what she calls “fan profiling.” Eager to help, she asks, “What are you into?” and intuits by the questioner’s clothes, age and sex which productions they may have seen her in. It could be from one (or several) of her wide-ranging roles, such as Arrested Development, Two and a Half Men, The Wedding Planner or 13 Going on 30. Greer is an engaging and witty storyteller, at turns wistful (of her beloved hometown, she writes, “Detroit is America’s sad family member who can’t catch a break”) and unsparingly honest (“I used to be more ugly”). She is also willing to laugh at some of her more absurd can-you-believe-it stories—e.g., when she finally got the apartment she always dreamed of, beneath the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign, it turned out to be full of cockroaches and thieves and constantly under the watch of police helicopters. Readers will wish Greer was their conspiratorial best friend.

SHADOW WARFARE The History of America’s Undeclared Wars Hancock, Larry; Wexler, Stuart Counterpoint (592 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-61902-244-7

Congress declares war, right? Constitutionally, yes—but, as intelligence analysts Hancock and Wexler (The Awful Grace of God: Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy, and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., 2012) write, there’s a reason it doesn’t. “It is significant to note,” write the authors, “that the United States Congress has not officially declared war since 1941.” That hasn’t kept America from waging dozens of wars large and small, |

but the point is deniability: If a war goes pear-shaped, then Congress allows the president to take the blame. It’s a convenient arrangement, save that it has left presidents free to do things like land divisions in Vietnam and Iraq. Yet, as Hancock and Wexler demonstrate, Asia is almost an outlier: It’s really been Latin America that has born the weight of America’s military operations, especially covert ones, for years. They document, for instance, the U.S. military’s involvement in hunting down Che Guevara, supposedly the work of the Bolivian army, and the role of the U.S. government in destabilizing and overthrowing other governments. The first president to do so vigorously was Dwight Eisenhower, who had no problem utilizing “surrogate troops, ‘mercenary’ air support, intense psychological warfare, and threat of political assassinations.” Since then, other presidents have made ample use of the formula. The handy thing about all this, for a president, is that the constitutional system of checks and balances gets put on the shelf. Cynics will find nothing new in the authors’ overall argument, though even the best-schooled of them will find surprises: We all know that the U.S. mined the harbors of North Vietnam, but who knew that Ronald Reagan did so in Nicaragua? Who knew that the CIA has worked hand in hand with the world’s major drug dealers, and that, for all its bloated budget, the Pentagon’s major emphasis is now on cost-effective, good-bang-for-the-buck “gray warfare”? Readers who care about the intentions of the Founders and the niceties of human rights will come away depressed by this grim yet trenchant portrait of American imperial reach—and overreach.

THEY CALLED ME GOD The Best Umpire Who Ever Lived

Harvey, Doug; Golenbock, Peter Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-4767-4878-8

A Hall of Fame umpire calls the game of his own life, concluding, “By God, I loved every minute of it.” Harvey, now an octogenarian battling oral cancer and the effects of strokes, teams with veteran co-author Golenbock (Glory in the Fall: The Greatest Moments in World Series History, 2010, etc.) to produce a breezy and sometimes-grumpy memoir about his years in major league baseball. There is no shortage of self-regard (see the subtitle), and the author repeatedly reminds readers that he was the best. Later in his text, he even repeats, virtually verbatim, a story he’d told earlier about being named the second-greatest umpire of all time. In most other ways, the text is yawningly conventional: We begin with Harvey’s boyhood during the Depression, his scholastic days (he excelled at basketball), his early marriage and divorce (his second marriage has lasted more than 50 years), his decision to become an umpire and his rapid rise to the big leagues (“faster than anyone else ever has”). Harvey also did some

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basketball refereeing (and was great at that as well). Along the way he settles a few old grudges (“asshole” appears throughout) and grinds a few old axes (low pay, wimpy commissioners, contentious players and managers). He soon tires of chronology and settles into an I-remember-when mode. Koufax was the best pitcher he ever saw; Musial, the best hitter; Mays, the best overall player. Pete Rose was great but deserves his exclusion from the game. Alleged spit-balling pitcher Gaylord Perry was “the cleverest motherfucker I ever saw.” Harvey revisits his close and controversial calls, the violence on the field (Juan Marichal hitting catcher John Roseboro on the head with a bat), the unionization of players and umpires, and the heavy drinking on the road. A soufflé of anecdote, revenge served cold and self-promotion. (16-page 4-color insert)

HACKING HAPPINESS Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking It Can Change the World

Havens, John C. Tarcher/Penguin (304 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 20, 2014 978-0-399-16531-3

Mashable and Guardian contributing writer Havens provides a detailed defense of how developing technologies in augmented reality and wearable devices can increase happiness. According to the author, advances in technology do not have to lead to a dystopian future of government/corporate surveillance and loss of privacy. Rather, they can be used to promote a greater sense of well-being by helping us to better understand ourselves, control our personal data and connect to others. Havens envisions individuals owning their data, which they can choose to share and even sell. Why, he asks, should corporations make money off the data we are currently giving away for a few coupons or rewards points? Furthermore, this data, garnered through the use of wearable devices and apps, can provide individuals with quantifiable information about their habits, preferences and emotional states. This will help people make decisions that will lead to a happier life. Havens spends much of the book discussing positive psychology, including the research that shows one’s happiness increases with altruistic activities. By creating a more “connected world,” he imagines a future in which people are judged not by their words but by their deeds, both personally and professionally. Since our actions will be visible to others, our reputations will no longer be built on superficial attributes but on our behaviors. Havens even imagines the decline of the GDP and the rise of indicators that will measure happiness as a means for gauging wealth and value on a worldwide scale. While the book certainly opens up an important conversation about how individuals can, and should, manage their data in an age of rapid advancements in personal technology, the assumption that we will be able to profit from our data, much less control its use (and then use it to better ourselves and the world), is a rose-colored view. An optimistic vision of how new technologies can be reimagined to increase productivity and personal growth. 58

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THE NEXT TSUNAMI Coming of Age on an Unsettled Coast

Henderson, Bonnie Oregon State University Press (320 pp.) $19.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-87071-732-1 Eugene-based nature writer Henderson (Strand: An Odyssey of Pacific Ocean Debris, 2008, etc.) organizes her narrative around the ways of Pacific tsunamis and the geology underlying them, with a focus on an utterly logical hero: Tom Horning, who, in 1964, barely escaped the freak tidal wave that destroyed much of the region. Resulting from an Alaskan earthquake, though, that great oceanic swell might not have been as freakish as all that. As Henderson writes, though the average interval between such events was about 240 years in the “southernmost segment of the rupture zone,” the law of probability points to more frequent action along “a coast that only occasionally but devastatingly was wiped clean by giant tsunamis triggered by giant earthquakes.” Naturally, locals—not least Horning, now a geologist—paid close attention to the Japanese tsunami of 2011, and though that did not visit destruction on the Pacific Northwest, it’s pretty clear that even with the programs of retrofitting and building-code upgrading that Henderson describes, the region is likely to suffer greatly once the next big one hits. The author does service in pointing to possible events that have long been overshadowed by projections of the next major earthquake in the vastly more populated areas to the south. Although her prose is more scattershot than the densely layered encyclopedism of John McPhee’s geological writings, she covers a great deal of scientific ground while never losing sight of the human interest side of the story. As with McPhee, there’s poetry to her ground truthing, too: “Sonar alone could not reveal the existence of these ridges; sediments coursing down the Columbia River for millennia had filled and smoothed the bathymetry of the ocean floor here.” Of more than local interest, though Northwesterners should pay particularly close attention to the news Henderson brings.

LUCIAN FREUD Eyes Wide Open

Hoban, Phoebe Amazon Publishing/New Harvest (192 pp.) $20.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-544-11459-3 A breezy biography of the celebrated British painter. Since Lucian Freud’s (1922–2011) place in the contemporary pantheon has long seemed secure, it’s surprising that this is the first biography of him—at least until readers get to the acknowledgments, which refer |


“A searching, discomfiting journey yields an elegant, memorable report.” from savage harvest

to Freud as “a notoriously difficult subject to write about” with “an extreme penchant for privacy” that “discouraged all biographers in his lifetime.” Since his death, his “immediate circle has remained for the most part closemouthed.” The result is this work that feels more like a primer than the definitive last word on his subject. As traced by Hoban (Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty, 2010, etc.), his life is plainly as fascinating as his art and deeply interwoven within it. As the grandson of Sigmund Freud, and the father of at least 14 children, the “hyperactively heterosexual” artist was “fundamentally incapable of romantic fidelity,” and his scandals included sleeping with many of his models and painting his children in the nude (which seemed to be his major relationship with many of them). Yet his most important relationship was with fellow artist and inspiration Francis Bacon, whose “influence would ultimately push Freud’s painting in a pivotal new dimension, from flat and linear to fully fleshed out.” Yet as central as Bacon was to Freud’s life and art, Hoban never determines whether they had a sexual relationship (as many who know both assumed) or why the two men who shared such a “strong affinity” would ultimately have such a bitter falling out. Throughout, the author mixes whatever revelations she can glean from his personal life with paragraph descriptions of dozens of his paintings. He once remarked that he expected great art to “astonish, disturb, seduce and convince,” and he fulfilled all with art that often seemed more intimate to him than a sexual relationship yet that for viewers, could have “an aura of taxidermy.” A first step toward a biographical understanding of a provocative, complex artist.

SAVAGE HARVEST A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art Hoffman, Carl Morrow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-06-211615-4

A bare-knuckle, adventure-filled journey in search of the answer to a half-century–old cold case: Whatever happened to Nelson Rockefeller’s son, Michael? Michael was 23 when he disappeared off the coast of southwestern New Guinea, having nearly made land after swimming for 18 hours when his catamaran capsized. Dutch officials (for this was still colonial territory in 1961) eventually reported that the renowned explorer and collector of so-called primitive art had drowned. National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Hoffman (The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World…via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes, 2010, etc.) writes that, all this time later, the story compelled him: “I was a half-Jewish middle-class mutt with a public education, not a blue-blooded scion, but Rockefeller’s journey resonated with me.” Empathetically channeling Rockefeller as someone who wasn’t out in such remote territory merely to acquire stuff but was instead challenging himself in anything but the privileged surroundings |

of his youth, Hoffman set out to reconstruct that last voyage. He encountered evidence that the young man’s end was greatly different from the one depicted in the official records. Moreover, he notes, it was an open secret that Rockefeller had been killed after having been plucked from the sea. But why? In a daring ethnographic turn, Hoffman spent months among the descendants of killers, lending specific weight to the old clashing-of-worlds trope and addressing questions of why people go to war, commit cannibalism and other tangled matters. He never loses sight of his goal, but Hoffman is also sympathetic to the plight of the Asmat people, who themselves were changed by the events of 53 years ago: “The world had been one way when Michael Rockefeller came to Asmat, another by the time he was dead.” A searching, discomfiting journey yields an elegant, memorable report.

BOURBON A History of the American Spirit

Huckelbridge, Dane Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-06-224139-9 978-0-06-224141-2 e-book

A mirthful, erudite appreciation of bourbon and its striking history. Journalist Huckelbridge may sound like a blend of Sam Elliott’s gravelly chuckle and the down-home narrator of old Disney cartoon movies—“So here we are—arriving at last at that ‘big bang’ moment your Faithful Author promised the eager reader at the chapter’s onset”—but the man knows his bourbon from his rye and his small-batch ambrosia from his grain alcohol cut with sulfuric acid and cream of tartar. In this entertaining tour d’horizon of bourbon’s birth and long, healthy life, the author dispels plenty of bogus history—bourbon is not America’s Founding Drink; that would be rum—on his way to uncovering the drink’s roots, its peregrinations, its popularity and its recent rebirth as the boutique booze of choice, “with its contrived authenticity and hints of ironic hipsterdom.” Bourbon became the nation’s hard drink for one reason: corn. By the time the colonists had survived their first Jamestown winter—the few who did, that is—they had figured that out, and 400 years provided ample room for a number of good bourbon stories to take shape, which Huckelbridge tells with éclat: how the drink fueled the Hatfield-McCoy fight, its part in the settling of the frontier by the Scots-Irish, how the long journey to market gave it the aging the impatient distiller neglected, and how distilleries played a part in the war effort (“Plan on softening up those fortifications on Guadalcanal before your boys go? For each and every 16-inch naval shell that comes off the line, 19¾ gallons [of industrial alcohol] are required”). In one of the more sharp-eyed chapters, Huckelbridge tells the tale of how class and ethnic bigotry played a leading role in the passage of Prohibition and how the need for tax revenues made Congress see the light through the amber liquid.

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THE FRENCH INTIFADA The Long War Between France and Its Arabs

A snappy history of the popular spirit’s rise and continued ascent. (Author appearances in New York, Nashville, Oxford, Raleigh)

THRIVE The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder Huffington, Arianna Harmony (256 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-8041-4084-3

Advised to unplug, a world-famous media omnivore promptly creates a commencement speech, multimedia conference, hundreds of blog posts and a self-help book about being nice to yourself. For someone who has drawn much criticism for refusing to pay creators from which she profits, Huffington (Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, 2010, etc.) understands how to market her own image for money. Here, she describes the moment she collapsed from exhaustion in 2007 and the subsequent process of writing her 2013 commencement speech at Smith College. Unfortunately, the book that grew out of that speech is hollow, manipulative and overly self-promotional. “Since my own final straw moment, I have become an evangelist for the need to disconnect from our always-connected lives and reconnect with ourselves,” Huffington writes in a representative passage. “It has guided the editorial philosophy behind HuffPosts’ 26 Lifestyle sections—in which we promote the ways that we can take care of ourselves and lead balanced, centered lives while making a positive difference in the world.” The author’s concept—that if life is defined by success at work while simultaneously raising a family, then people need a “third metric” to measure happiness—is flawed at best and deeply condescending at worst, especially to women, at whom this self-help manual is clearly aimed. “It seemed to me that the people who were genuinely thriving in their lives were the ones who had made room for well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving,” writes the author. “Hence, the Third Metric was born, the third leg of the stool in living a successful life.” Less than a month after her Smith College speech, Huffington launched the concept as a touring womens conference. One has to wonder how hardworking mothers and self-reliant professionals will regard these questionable pearls of wisdom. A gimmicky, patronizing book.

Hussey, Andrew Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (384 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-86547-921-0

Many readers recall demonstrations that followed a recent French law banning the Islamic veil. According to Guardian and New Statesman contributor Hussey (Dean, Univ. of London Institute in Paris; Paris: The Secret History, 2008), these merely continue France’s two centuries of conflict with the Arab world and the nation’s growing Muslim population, now the largest in Europe. The author begins this perceptive but disturbing account with the 1830 conquest of Algeria, which lasted nearly two decades. Immediately, a flood of French and European settlers poured in, expelled Arabs from their farms and villages, reduced them to a semiserf status, and successfully frustrated sincere efforts from Paris to introduce the purported benefits of French civilization. Arab resentment seethed and finally exploded in 1954 in an uprising that featured unspeakable atrocities on both sides. In July 1962, Algerian independence resulted in the expulsion of more than 1 million Europeans, and the French occupation of Morocco and Tunisia occurred later. Both achieved independence with less violence, but all three nations remain impoverished and poorly governed, and the recent “Arab awakening” has proven to be a bit of a disappointment. Persistent French influence guarantees that North Africans will continue to harbor ill feelings toward France but yearn to emigrate north (now almost impossible), where there are jobs but little sympathy. Although lowbrow racism ruled in its colonies and enjoys growing support at home, educated Frenchmen despise intolerance but dismiss American-style individualism. Americans venerate “diversity.” Frenchmen consider differences sectarian, a threat to French ideals. To be French is to be a citizen of the republic first. Everything else, religion included, comes second. As can be expected, Muslims find this attitude problematic. A vivid illumination of the ongoing, painful and perhaps insoluble French dilemma. (8 pages b/w illustrations and maps)

FLEX The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences Hyun, Jane; Lee, Audrey S. with Miller, Leslie Harper Business (336 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-06-224852-7

With the assistance of Miller, executive coaches Hyun (Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians, 2005) and Lee examine how “infusing cultural proficiency initiatives into companywide values, policies and programs achieves a demonstrable effect.” 60

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“A reporter for Bloomberg News, no enemy of capitalism, reads a fiduciary riot act to the bankers and hedge fund managers of the world.” from the seven sins of wall street

The authors report that the workforce is changing, growing more multicultural, younger and more female. These changes call for a much more nuanced response from corporate leaders to avoid pitfalls and achieve success. Hyun and Lee emphasize the importance of two requirements. The first, which they term “fluency,” is the ability to work across cultures; it is comparable to speaking multiple foreign languages. The second, “flex,” includes the skills required to work across “the power gap”— the distance that separates leaders from others in an organizational structure. However, the authors stress that sentiments like “let us respect each other” are insufficient. People in leadership positions need to face the problem of understanding how subtle cultural differences between people of different gender, ethnic and generational backgrounds can be critical for effective leadership—e.g., between more outgoing cultures, like Americans, and more reserved ones, like Asians. Problems also may arise from a failure to recognize more subtle differences between different age groups—baby boomers, Generation Xers and Yers and millenials—regarding how they communicate, as well as their goals and approaches to the dynamics of the workplace. The authors seek to show readers how to reduce losses of time and resources incurred when the potential contributions of well-qualified recruits or hires are lost because management doesn’t fully understand how to bring them on board. They discuss many ways of overcoming the business consequences of such failures to flex across the gap. “[O]ur experience has taught us that interpersonal dynamics can change when people with a drive for making a difference take the initiative and then influence others to multiply the effect,” they write. Hyun and Lee offer convincing evidence to illustrate how to enhance communication skills across various workplace divides.

THE SEVEN SINS OF WALL STREET Big Banks, Their Washington Lackeys, and the Next Financial Crisis

Ivry, Bob PublicAffairs (304 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-61039-365-2

A reporter for Bloomberg News, no enemy of capitalism, reads a fiduciary riot act to the bankers and hedge fund managers of the world. A bank that’s too big to fail, by Ivry’s account, is far too big. Yet they were responsible for the near collapse of the world financial market in 2007–2008, through a combination of “stupidity, poor oversight, and more than anything, a neighbor-versus-neighbor waging of financial warfare.” In the aftermath, banks have been posting record profits. It may be that theology and economics don’t mix, but the overall sin of a system so rigged is its simple unfairness. More specifically, Ivry calques the seven sins of theology onto Wall Street, finding it guilty of such things as secrecy, pride, regulatory capture—that is, when regulators identify more |

with the institutions they’re supposed to regulate than with the society that employs them—and “a predatory greed weaponized for the war fought by the rich against the poor and middle class.” Ivry’s larger message is to show how these sins fuel a scheme in which risk is socialized, spread out among the taxpayers, while profit is most definitely privatized, kept out of the hands of the people who made it possible. Ivry writes with high indignation punctuated by occasional light touches (“As I tried to find the switch on my own bullshit meter, which I had on vibrate and which was now rattling my molars…”), and he has a talent for deconstructing financial jargon (“Think of derivatives as side bets made between two gamblers”). Yet his intent is utterly serious, and his book ought to become a standard text for the Occupy Wall Street and similar movements. “America needs strong banks,” writes Ivry. “But banks need a strong America too.” To judge by this angry book, the denizens of Wall Street are doing all they can to obstruct this—and it’s high time to return the favor.

VOICES OF CHEROKEE WOMEN

Johnston, Carolyn Ross John F. Blair (256 pp.) $12.95 paper | Sep. 25, 2013 978-0-89587-599-0

A history scholar collects first-person accounts of the history of the Cherokee people, revealing a troubled but proud history through the eyes of its women. In her spirited and well-sourced collection, Johnston (History and American Studies/Eckerd Coll.; My Father’s War: Fighting with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II, 2012, etc.) unfolds history through the voices of people who remembered terrible events ranging from the cataclysmic effects of legislation like the Dawes Act to the ethnic cleansing of the Trail of Tears to the bloody cost of the American Civil War, finally reaching the rejuvenation of these proud people under the leadership of great chiefs like Wilma Mankiller. Beginning with the Cherokee creation myths, the book moves quickly to examine the flawed observations of Western explorers starting in the early 17th century. The great crisis arrived in the form of the United States government’s “civilization program,” as captured by the Cherokee woman Wahnenauhi (“Over-There-They-Just-Arrived-With-It”): “They could almost hear the reproaches and wailings of the dear dead as they were leaving. How must these Chiefs decide for their people? No wonder it seemed that Despair in its thickest blackness had settled down and unfolded in gloom this assemblage of brave and true hearted Patriots.” Johnston excerpts some of the accounts from a Works Projects Administration program in the 1920s to capture the history of the Native American people of North America. In one, a woman remembers her mother telling her the story of a soldier who murdered a baby who wouldn’t stop crying. The book also reveals how the rather warped European attitudes about topics like sex, power and

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Carol Berkin

Wondrous Beauty chronicles the life of a strikingly modern American woman who won over a Bonaparte By Gregory McNamee

Photo courtesy Michael Lionstar

Two hundred–odd years ago, an energetic fellow from Corsica ruled over much of continental Europe, with designs on the Americas once he settled matters closer to home. A couple of strokes of bad fortune late in his game, suffered in Russia and Belgium, undid old Napoleon Bonaparte, but while he was at the top of it, he had plenty of people worried about what his next move would be. Even while ruling over millions of square miles of territory, Napoleon found time to insinuate himself into the affairs of his family. So it was with his brother Jérôme, a naval officer who met Baltimore belle Elizabeth Patterson at a ball and fell in love. “Like the fairytale hero who rescues the imprisoned maiden from the tower, Jérôme could rescue Betsy from that life of te62

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dious domesticity she feared was her future if she remained in America,” writes Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History at Baruch College, in her new book Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. She adds that Jérôme himself had no such vaulting ambitions but simply liked what he saw, marrying the 18-year-old as soon as he could arrange it. It didn’t hurt that Betsy’s father was among the richest men in America. But Napoleon had other ideas. He wasn’t above dumping his beloved Josephine in order to marry up the chain of nobility, after all, and just so, forbidding Betsy to set foot anywhere on French-occupied Europe, he had the marriage annulled and ordered Jérôme to marry a German princess. Though unhappy about it, Jérôme complied. Heartbroken, his bride returned to Baltimore. She never married again, though she was not without admirers, for she cut a formidable figure for much of the rest of her long life—literally, for Betsy was fond of fashions that revealed a bit more of herself than was the norm, and she retained her beauty for decades. After formally divorcing Jérôme, she turned the settlement Napoleon had given her and an inheritance from her father into a great fortune, which allowed her to raise her son with Jérôme in comfort. That son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, in turn had a son, Charles Bonaparte, who grew up to be a brilliant lawyer who served in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, first as secretary of the navy and then as attorney general. One observer neatly branded him “by instinct a royalist, by profession a democrat and reformer.” Just as his father had declined a royal title, Charles never traveled to France or otherwise traded on the family name, devoting himself to good works back home. By all accounts, he was a fine fellow.

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Yet, for all his brilliance, Charles is almost forgotten today, his bloodline having died with him in 1921. Were it not for Berkin’s book, his grandmother Betsy would likely enjoy the same fate, at least outside the city limits of Baltimore, where she remains something of a local legend. Berkin came upon Betsy’s story courtesy of documentary filmmaker Ron Blumer, with whom she had collaborated. “Sitting over dinner one night a few years ago,” she recalls, “I confessed that I didn’t really know what my next book was going to be about. This happens to every historian after finishing a project, thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I’ll never think of another subject.’ Ron said, ‘I know exactly what book you should write. In fact, I demand that you write about Betsy Patterson.’ He had found out about her while working on a film about her friend Dolley Madison, and he told me a bit about her. I was intrigued, and when I did a little digging, I found her fascinating.” Berkin found a trove of materials to work with in the form of Betsy’s letters and other documents held by the Maryland Historical Society. But beyond that, she had to do more than a little digging. “When you write a biography,” she says, “you have to create a context by examining the lives of all the people the subject knew. You wind up weaving a kind of elaborate spider web of connections. That took some detective work, but it’s quite remarkable how many of them kept diaries—and how many of those diaries you can read online for free, which makes the work so much easier than it was when I was starting out.” Betsy Bonaparte lived to the age of 94, and even in her later years she was still an object of fascination, with newspaper reporters calling on her for a taste of her sometimes-caustic commentary on the events of the day. Those last years, Berkin says, were lonely ones, for Betsy outlived all her friends—and her enemies as well, to say nothing of her former husband and in-laws. But that celebrity, Berkin writes, is just part of Betsy Bonaparte’s story. She was stunningly beautiful, true, and briefly connected to one of history’s most famous families. But her influence was more profound. For one thing, she was a shrewd critic of her own society, decrying the penchant of American men for mere moneymaking and their need to confine women “to the parlor and the nursery.” Yet she herself was a distinctly capable businessperson, parlaying the fortune she inherited into a still greater one—and, as Berkin writes, nursing “an obsession with wealth and its ac|

quisition that would have won the admiration of any American man.” Perhaps she did so because she harbored a drive to become rich. More likely, she sought wealth in order to be and to remain independent, never having to rely again, after bitter experience, on any man for any corner of her future. In that alone she is a strikingly modern figure. But Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte is fascinating on many other levels as well, and Berkin brings her to life in this brief but comprehensive biography. For her part, Betsy provides one more lesson for students of history as well. “To our peril,” Berkin says, “we continue to believe that it is the great men of the past alone who made history. There’s more to the story than that, as Betsy shows us. “In the end, I found myself caring a great deal about her,” she adds. Readers will, too. Gregory McNamee is the contributing editor of Kirkus Reviews. Wondrous Beauty was reviewed in the Dec. 1, 2013, issue of Kirkus Reviews.

Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Berkin, Carol Knopf (256 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 11, 2014 978-0-307-59278-1 kirkus.com

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responsibility changed the Cherokee people, deeply diminishing the power of women under challenges from a white, patriarchal society. Only in the 20th century have women finally been able to reassert themselves and take their fair and equal role as leaders of their culture. An academic account that respectfully resurrects longdead voices from a people who still have a lot to tell us.

NO END SAVE VICTORY How FDR Led the Nation Into War

Kaiser, David Basic (320 pp.) $29.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-465-01982-3

In the years leading up to World War II, America was fortunate to have Franklin Roosevelt as president, a prescient leader who anticipated our inevitable entry into the global conflict most Americans wanted to avoid. The subtitle is a bit misleading, implying that FDR either wanted war or stumbled into it. Neither fits Kaiser’s (The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, 2008, etc.) argument here. The author emerges as an unabashed fan of FDR in this detailed description and analysis of U.S. foreign policy from May 1940 to Pearl Harbor. Repeatedly, he pauses to praise the president. He also continually employs the concept of “Prophet generations” from the work of William Strauss and Neil Howe and places FDR (and some of his team) as an active member of the “Missionary generation” that valued order over chaos, the “scientific spirit” and “a more decent life for all.” The academic tone is also evident in the author’s fondness for categories and lists—and in its pervasive unsmiling prose. However, Kaiser’s research is both comprehensive and illuminating. With aplomb, he leaps from Japan to Germany to Washington, D.C.; he analyzes the speeches delivered by FDR and others; and he sketches the backgrounds of many of the principal players, including Frank Knox, Henry M. Stimson and Harry Hopkins. The author shows how FDR led the military-industrial buildup (ships, weapons, atomic power), how he dealt with race in the military, how he battled the isolationists (led by Charles Lindbergh) and how he dealt with the British, who were desperate for help. The author pauses to relate some of FDR’s personal life—his relationships with his wife and other women—but mostly keeps the focus on the preparation for war. An admiring, richly textured portrait of a leader confronting the unthinkable. (12 b/w illustrations; 4 maps)

HAUNTED EMPIRE Apple After Steve Jobs Kane, Yukari Iwatani Harper Business (384 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-06-212825-6

Can Apple, though socking away billions in sales of iPhones and iPads, be the disruptor and industry leader of old? Without the radical sensibilities of Steve Jobs, it seems unlikely. According to former Wall Street Journal and Reuters reporter Kane, the last three years of Apple’s existence have been less than inspiring. It’s not that CEO Tim Cook is a poor leader: The late Steve Jobs, the true visionary behind the company, handpicked him for his abilities, and if he’s not a world-changer, Cook is at least stable. (Apparently, to trust Kane, he also shares Jobs’ talent for summoning up vein-bulging, free-floating rage at the slightest provocation.) Though Kane dwells too much on Apple as it was when Jobs lived, she points to some ongoing problems that Jobs might have dealt with differently from Cook: for one, the appalling conditions under which Apple products are made in Chinese plants, and for another, the reputation-diminishing release of not-ready-for-prime-time products such as Maps and Siri (“Siri’s problems may not have been Cook’s fault, but how had he allowed the same pattern to repeat itself with maps, which fell squarely under his watch?”). Overall, it seems self-evident that without Jobs’ peculiar blend of devotion to both technological superiority and sheer beauty, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s view is the correct one: Apple “will not be nearly so successful because he’s gone.” Yet, by an accident of timing, Kane’s book anticipates but largely misses the buoying success of iOS 7, Mavericks, the latest iteration of the iPhone, the iPad Air and other products that have kept Apple’s fortunes from sliding as dramatically as Microsoft’s after Bill Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000. Much of this book is an extended footnote to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, which, though not without problems, is the first work to consult when thinking of things Apple.

THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS Essays and Stories

Keegan, Marina Scribner (224 pp.) $23.00 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-4767-5361-4

A collection of essays and short stories by a Yale graduate whose untimely death at age 22 cut short a promising journalistic and literary career. Keegan graduated from Yale as a literary golden girl with a position awaiting her at the New Yorker. But before she could even begin her job, she was killed in a car crash. This book 64

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brings together a sampling of some of Keegan’s fiction and nonfiction in homage to what could have been had this remarkable young woman lived to fulfill her potential. The first section brings together short stories that showcase Keegan’s ability to probe the murky, often unspoken emotional depths that haunt all relationships with fearlessness, lucidity and sensitivity. Not all of her fictional pieces, which focus primarily on exploring male/female and family dynamics, are equally strong. But they are always thoughtful, intelligent, and surprising and reveal a writer eager to find her literary voice by taking risks with both form and content. At their best, they are ferociously insightful. The second section includes essays, most of which appeared in the Yale Daily News or the Yale Herald. With wit, style and verve, Keegan explores everything from her lifelong struggle with celiac disease to a day in the life of a professional exterminator. Her most affecting pieces, however, are about the members of her own generation, many of whom feel strong, sometimesoverwhelming social pressure to seek validation in well-paying but unfulfilling jobs. “We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility,” she writes, “because in the end, it’s all we have.” As humane as it is sympathetic, Keegan’s work is a poignantly inspiring reminder of what is possible in the pursuit of dreams. A well-deserved tribute to a talented young writer.

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION An Unnatural History Kolbert, Elizabeth Henry Holt (336 pp.) $28.00 | Feb. 11, 2014 978-0-8050-9299-8

New Yorker staff writer Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, 2006, etc.) returns with a deft examination of the startling losses of the sixth mass extinction occurring at this moment and the sobering, underlying cause: humans. Although “background extinction” continuously occurs in varying slow rates among species, five major mass extinctions mark the past. Scientists theorize that all of these—from the extinction of the Ordovician period, which was caused by glaciation, to the end of the Cretaceous, caused by the impact of a celestial body on the Earth’s surface—were the results of natural phenomena. Today, however, countless species are being wiped out due to human impact. Global warming, ocean acidification and the introduction of invasive species to new continents are only a few ways that we are perpetrating harsh new realities for those organisms unable to withstand radical change. Kolbert documents her travels across the globe, tracing the endangerment or demise of such species as the Panamanian golden frog, the Sumatran rhino and many more. The author skillfully highlights the historical figures key to the understanding of the planet’s past and present turmoil, including Charles Darwin and Georges Cuvier, the first to theorize extinction as a concept. Throughout her extensive and passionately collected research, Kolbert offers a highly readable, enlightening report |

on the global and historical impact of humans, “one weedy species” that may offer valiant efforts to save endangered species but who are continually causing vast, severe change. Kolbert also weaves a relatable element into the at-times heavily scientific discussion, bringing the sites of past and present extinctions vividly to life with fascinating information that will linger with readers long after they close the book. A highly significant eye-opener rich in facts and enjoyment.

DAUGHTER OF THE KING Growing Up in Gangland

Lansky, Sandra with Stadiem, William Weinstein Books (272 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-60286-215-9 A biography of a true Mafia princess that leaves a lot to the imagination, despite assistance from veteran Hollywood chronicler Stadiem (Moneywood: Hollywood in Its Last Age of Excess, 2013, etc.). It’s no secret that readers are fascinated by the rich, the famous and the criminal, so it’s no surprise that Sandra Lansky, daughter of infamous mob boss Meyer Lansky (1902–1983), has a platform from which to share her story. However, this is no insider’s account of the Mafia’s heyday. The author, in what seems to be an attempt to protect her father’s memory from the stain of organized crime, hasn’t just whitewashed the story; she’s bleached it. Lansky refers to many of the men in the book as “uncle,” but she claims to know little about the machinations of her father and his associates. She does cover the basics: Meyer was in business with all the usual suspects, was intimately involved with gambling, had a hand in Las Vegas and built a resort in Cuba. Unfortunately, the author provides very few details of the business, elements that would make the tale far more intriguing. When she does speak of her father and his associates, she is intent on convincing readers that they were honest businessmen, demonized by a cruel and unfair government. Personal details are in better supply, but even when writing about her sex life, drug use or fear over her father’s legal troubles, the narrative is only surface deep. Though she writes about her past truthfully, the prose lacks revelation. Lansky admits candidly that she was spoiled and lived in forced silence, but she writes wistfully, as though she wishes for a life forever frozen in childhood. For a more mature and nuanced look at the life of Meyer Lansky and his family, look elsewhere. A good place to start: Robert Lacey’s Little Man (1991).

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“Intriguing exploration of how the Buddha’s story was appropriated across languages and cultures into a legendary Christian saint.” from in search of the christian buddha

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY CRYING

Leifer, Carol Quirk Books (224 pp.) $19.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-59474-677-2 978-1-59474-682-6 e-book

Career and life lessons from the would-be president of the “old girls club.” After 40 years of writing, producing and performing comedy, Leifer (When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror, 2009) offers advice on succeeding in both life and show business. Rather than a career guide written by a suit who connived, hurt others or gleefully conquered them, Leifer’s stories of turning failures into successes demonstrate how persistence and optimism— not to mention parents who supported her decision to drop out of college and pursue a career in stand-up comedy—have created opportunities that continued to propel her forward. The author reworks such workplace aphorisms as “Learn from the masters” and “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” into “Respect Your Yodas” and “So I Stole Soda From Aaron Spelling.” Throughout the book, Leifer comes across as your “Auntie Carol,” the funny one who tells stories about the sweethearts and schmucks she has worked with throughout her career. She presents her early experiences in her stand-up career as a procession of cautionary tales and mortifying blunders, such as when she challenged a heckler in a dive bar to come up on stage if he thought he had better material— unaware that he was in a wheelchair. (“Not exactly the kind of ‘rolling in the aisles’ that a comedian dreams of.”) She follows every story with its moral—a cornball technique, perhaps, but a surprisingly effective one, as is this memoir by a major Hollywood player filled with advice and heartfelt encouragement. An amusing, amiable read. Leifer wants you to love what you do and learn to move on from failures and rejections—and please, always shower before a job interview.

IN SEARCH OF THE CHRISTIAN BUDDHA How an Asian Sage Became a Medieval Saint

Lopez Jr., Donald S.; McCracken, Peggy Norton (224 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 7, 2014 978-0-393-08915-8

Intriguing exploration of how the Buddha’s story was appropriated across languages and cultures into a legendary Christian saint. Lopez (Buddhist and Tibetan Studies/Univ. of Michigan; From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha, 2013, etc.) and McCracken (French/Univ. of Michigan; The Curse of Eve, the 66

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Wound of the Hero: Blood, Gender, and Medieval Literature, 2003, etc.) do far more than trace a specific literary thread through the Middle Ages. They also explore the power of storytelling to aid peoples and cultures, as well as the ability of cultures to borrow or reinvent stories from each other. The authors demonstrate that the story of the Buddha was first utilized as the basis of an Arabic work that preserves various aspects of the Buddha’s early life story without being explicitly Buddhist. Soon after, in the ninth or 10th century, Georgian monks working at a monastery in Palestine translated the Arabic story into Georgian, Christianizing the tale at the same time. It went on to be translated into Greek, Latin and even Hebrew, entering the Western European conscience through the character of St. Josaphat, a Christianized version of the Buddha. The authors work in several layers. Initially, they provide lay readers with a background in the original Buddha story. Then they offer colorful summaries of each version of the story as it moved through Arabic and into Western languages. All the while, they provide historic background on the cultural forces that brought these translations into being. Finally, they explore more modern Western interactions with Buddhism and the slow realization that the Buddha did not resemble Josaphat but vice versa. The work is a fascinating historical detective story, entertaining as a curiosity. Beyond that, however, Lopez and McCracken have done a service to scholarship by providing an excellent example of how cultures, religions and languages are able to share, appropriate and transform a story for their own needs and purposes. Solid research with wide appeal.

ATOMIC ACCIDENTS A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters: From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima Mahaffey, James Pegasus (460 pp.) $29.95 | Mar. 12, 2014 978-1-60598-492-6

Having delivered a delightfully astute history of atomic power in Atomic Awakening (2009), nuclear engineer Mahaffey goes over the same ground with the same combination of expertise and wit, this time describing what happens when things go wrong. The author opens with a disaster that destroyed a power plant, killed 75 and contaminated a wide area. It was a hydroelectric plant; nothing is perfect. Pure uranium and plutonium are well-behaved and barely radioactive. Under the right circumstances, their atoms fission (split), producing immense heat and radiation. However, there would be no nuclear explosion without the addition of complex technology. Fission heat and radiation by themselves can wreak havoc, and beginning with the first reactor in 1942, experts have worked hard to make them safe—though an automobile is more than 1 million times more dangerous to a bystander than a nuclear reactor. Much of this progress arose from painful experiences, which the author happily recounts.

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Human error and stupidity are not in short supply. Movie heroes never go by the book, but real-life nuclear plant employees should stick to it. Many of the mishaps that fill the book were ordinary industrial accidents: fires, conventional explosions and toxic leaks. No matter. Hundreds have occurred besides the big three (Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island), and Mahaffey takes readers on a 400-page thrill ride. Despite this litany of disasters, the author remains fond of nuclear power plants, which have “killed fewer people than the coal industry.” However, he shows no mercy toward workers or engineers who have, at times, forgotten their vast capacity for harm. The most comprehensive and certainly one of the most entertaining accounts of atomic accidents. (8 pages of images)

THE ROAD TO GLOBAL PROSPERITY

Mandelbaum, Michael Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-4767-5001-9

A distinguished analyst of international affairs looks at the future of the global economy and discovers mostly good news. Mandelbaum (American Foreign Policy/Johns Hopkins Univ.; The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era, 2010, etc.) concedes the difficulty of accurate predictions, but he insists we know enough now about how the global economy works to identify the forces likely to shape it. He takes it as a given that, notwithstanding a backward step or two, the global economy will continue to grow if we can overcome political obstacles that stand in the way of prosperity. He begins by discussing global security, essential to the growth of free markets, and the continuing, if somewhat diminished, role of the United States as enforcer. With governments agreed that their legitimacy depends on delivering prosperity to their people, Mandelbaum discounts the likelihood of major wars. Indeed, he sees global warming as a more likely longterm threat to global security. He continues his tour of troublesome issues, all of which have their roots in politics, looking at trends shaping the cross-border flow of goods, money and people—immigration, he insists, is “the greatest underutilized resource for the promotion of global economic growth”—with particular emphasis on the internal problems likely to nag the European Union and the so-called BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India and China. While the author is careful not to underestimate the backlash to the progress he foresees—e.g., Europe resisting greater immigration, America shying away from its military burden—many will find his forecast entirely too sanguine. All readers, though, will admire his firm grasp of economics and history, his startling analogies—for example, comparing the study of economics to the science of seismology—and his smooth, genial delivery of complex information. An incisive assessment of the political problems underlying our increasingly integrated world economy. |

HOW ABOUT NEVER—IS NEVER GOOD FOR YOU? My Life in Cartoons

Mankoff, Bob Henry Holt (304 pp.) $32.50 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-8050-9590-6

Part glib memoir and part cartoon anthology from the cartoon editor for the New Yorker. The most fascinating part takes readers inside the process of just how these cartoons are inspired, created and selected for publication. Mankoff (The Naked Cartoonist: Ways to Enhance Your Creativity, 2002) knows how tough it can be for an artist to achieve that career pinnacle and what an honor it is to be a regular contributor—particularly now that so many other publications that might have provided a similar market for cartoonists have either folded or no longer use the drawings. It’s also a precarious position: “I think every cartoonist—indeed, everyone who’s funny for money—fears that either they’ll stop being funny or whoever decides what’s funny will think they have. Little did I know that one day I’d be in the whoever role.” Breezy text alternates with lots of cartoons—the author’s own and others’—as he details how he went from years of being rejected by the New Yorker to his early acceptances to his current role as a gatekeeper. As Mankoff notes, the magazine makes that gate difficult to penetrate, with those under contract expected to deliver 10 or so cartoons every week so that maybe one might be selected. After starting from that prescreened 1,000 per week, he writes, “eventually I cull the pile down to fifty or so” and then take those to the weekly Wednesday meeting, where editor David Remnick will ultimately pass judgment on which 17 or so will be published. Mankoff offers a number of tips on the “intelligent humor” that makes it into the New Yorker—and even how to better your odds in the weekly caption process—but the one that trumps all others: “Make David Remnick laugh.” Those who aspire to a career drawing for the New Yorker will find this essential reading—or just give up. (b/w illustrations throughout)

HOME SWEET ANYWHERE How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World

Martin, Lynne Sourcebooks (336 pp.) $14.99 paper | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-4022-9153-1

How Martin and her husband sold their house and became full-time international wayfarers. The travel bug can bite at any moment, and it sank its teeth into the author and her husband, Tim, when they were in their mid-60s. Since then, they have recorded their travels on the

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“A disturbing, transformative text that veers toward essential reading.” from war! what is it good for?

author’s blog, homefreeadventures.com, always following their motto, “postpone nothing.” To jettison home and a lifetime of stuff can be a liberating and rejuvenating experience, and the Martins took to the road with an envious moxie and openness. Since they were not operating with a fat bank account to provide an easy cushion—they calculated their budget by including their Social Security checks—they were always on the prowl for bargains mixed with good locations and a modicum of cleanliness. Nearly every page has some crack piece of travel wisdom: the power of civility, patience and flexibility; the difference between knowing the facts about a place and knowing “those facts in a way that only being on the ground and experiencing them offers a person.” Martin is a plainspoken chronicler, eschewing pyrotechnics in her descriptive writing, and though obviously polite and cultured, she is also often frank and unvarnished in her estimation of things and people. She was not too jaded to pay attention to the serendipities of travel—a full moon rising over the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, for instance— nor too formal not to speak her mind: Argentinians are moody, temperamental and confused. The Martins were happy making a lonely trip to the Oracle of Apollo and catching the wind off the Cornwall coast, but they also liked to mix it up: “Seeing your first bar fight after age sixty-five is not an insignificant event.” Though the dialogue has its wooden moments, this is, on the whole, an accessible, inspiring journey.

PRANKSTERS Making Mischief in the Modern World

McLeod, Kembrew New York Univ. (352 pp.) $29.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-8147-9629-0

The story of how mischief-makers hope to change the world one prank at a time. Self-proclaimed prankster McLeod (Communication Studies/Univ. of Iowa; Freedom of Expression: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property, 2007, etc.) defines pranks as “playful critiques performed within the public sphere and amplified by media.” Pranksters, he asserts, “try to spark important debates and, in some instances, provoke social change.” That was the author’s aim when he trademarked the phrase “freedom of expression” and threatened to sue AT&T for using it without his permission. The media picked up the “serious joke,” and McLeod was satisfied that the “fake lawsuit certainly got people talking” about the meaning of free speech. The author distinguishes pranks, intended to serve as political barbs, from hoaxes, whose “goal is to make others look foolish or to seek fame,” and cons, in which criminals dupe innocent people. Although he asserts that “hoaxes tell us much about the societies that embrace them,” they don’t spark debates or serve as critiques. However, including hoaxes, criminal con artists and conspiracy theorists dilutes McLeod’s argument about the impact of pranks. In 1835, for example, P.T. Barnum’s promotion of 80-year-old former slave Joice Heth as George Washington’s devoted 161-year-old 68

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nurse drew large audiences eager to see “this renowned relic of the olden times.” Barnum’s hoax, though, was aimed at nothing else but making money. McLeod supports his analysis more strongly when he turns to the 1960s, which “exploded with the kinds of pranks and provocations that challenged social conventions” and urged audiences to question what the media told them. Performance art, street theater and the exuberant antics of the yippies characterized leftist critiques. A few pranks emerged from the right: The author tells of a prankster who, frustrated by political correctness, staged a public objection to Lucky Charms cereal on the grounds that the leprechaun stereotyped Irish people. McLeod’s renditions of his own pranks bring sparkle and humor to the serious message of his book.

WAR! WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots

Morris, Ian Farrar, Straus and Giroux (512 pp.) $30.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-374-28600-2

A profoundly uncomfortable but provocative argument that “productive war” promotes greater safety, a decrease in violence and economic growth. Morris (Classics and History/ Stanford Univ.; Why the West Rules—for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, 2010, etc.) begins with an account of a near nuclear disaster in 1983 and then proceeds with his thesis that “war has made the world safer.” He recognizes—and alludes continually to—the unpleasantness of his position but charges ahead into the valley of death. He uses the example of ancient Rome—its violent conquests ensured subsequent safety and improved lives for the survivors—then gives us a tour through world history, focusing on such things as the development of weapons and defenses. We learn why chariot fighting rose and fell, the problems of using elephants in battle, the significance of the horse, and the importance of gunpowder and ships, and we get some grim details—e.g., the use of the flaming fat of victims as an early Molotov cocktail. Drawing on the work of Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker and myriads of others, Morris relentlessly develops his thesis, which never decreases in discomfort, though it does become more convincing. Near the end, the author examines evolutionary biology and the balance between violence and cooperation in our rise from what he calls “globs” to the complicated creatures that we now are. Emerging also is his concept of the “globocop”—a country so powerful that it can police the world (to a point) and eventually move us toward “Denmark,” his metaphor for a peaceful, productive place. The author does a bit of crystal-balling at the end. Will there be robo-wars? Will the United States eventually tumble? A disturbing, transformative text that veers toward essential reading.

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KNOW THE NIGHT A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours Mutch, Maria Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-4767-0274-2

An unhappy yet hopeful story of “a sleepless parent [and] a wordless child.” In a poetic, entrancing voice, debut author Mutch chronicles how she and her autistic son, who also has Down syndrome, endured a twoyear stretch of not sleeping through the night. She shepherded nonverbal 9-year-old Gabriel through his episodes of shrieks and noises—during which the tenderhearted, jazz-loving boy she adored vanished—and struggled to make sense of his confounding behavior. She desperately wanted to understand what Gabriel was “communicating” through these outbursts, but she was unable to break the code. Luckily for him, her husband slept through most of these chaotic episodes (their younger child is also a minor character in this tale), casting the author as the heroine looking to pierce Gabriel’s impenetrable outer self. Readers experience Mutch’s dazed state of mind as she relates her dreamlike memories, which give her memoir a novelistic tone; she tells of “hospital corridors blank as laundry chutes” and laments that “there is no sorcery for the problem” she faced. During this period, the author repeatedly read Adm. Robert Byrd’s memoir detailing his six months alone during the Antarctic winter in 1934. She explores her son’s silences and attendant nightly shrieks as Byrd did the perpetual night of the frozen, uncharted polar territory, and she regards his experiences as “correlative with the psychic regions where I’ve been stumbling.” This kinship eventually hijacks her own story, possibly since his adventures offered an exciting respite to her son’s nightly shouting, which, no matter her steadfastness, made her delirious. Further, the foreshadowing and imagined significance of events before this period try the patience of readers eager for the story to move toward its conclusion. Mutch’s story is absorbing and creatively rendered, but the central mystery remains.

THE GALÁPAGOS A Natural History Nicholls, Henry Basic (224 pp.) $27.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-465-03597-7

“Hardly a day goes by that I do not think about these wonderful islands,” writes Nicholls (The Way of the Panda: The Curious History of China’s Political Animal, 2011, etc.), combining natural history and an impassioned plea for maintaining the pristine ecology of the Galápagos Islands, home to more than 4,000 native species. |

Inspired by his first visit to the islands in 2003, the author became an ambassador for the Galápagos Conservation Trust and editor of its magazine, Galápagos Matters. He is hopeful that despite many of the difficulties in maintaining the ecology, its iconic status as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection will aid the efforts of the Ecuadorian government and UNESCO to enforce its protected status. In 1959, 97 percent of its landmass was declared a national park, and a marine reserve was established in 1999; since then, major resources have been devoted to ecological restoration. The Galápagos were only sparsely inhabited before 1941, when, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States temporarily established a naval base. Over the past 50 years, tourism has been an important spur to immigration to the islands. Nicholls considers corruption to be a serious enforcement problem, allowing violations of protective regulations, but he is optimistic that these problems can be brought under control with support from the international community. He relates how giant tortoises were almost hunted to extinction as a source of food, as were whales, dolphins and sea cucumbers by commercial exploitation. The author tells of how, in the 1970s, scientists discovered underwater ocean vents, revealing an extraordinary “community of weird creatures” that live in “total darkness.” He also covers the recent evolution of island finches, their mating practices, and the migration of sea birds and seeds. A fascinating overview of the natural and human history of this remarkable archipelago, from prehistoric times to the present.

THE BRIGHT CONTINENT Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa

Olopade, Dayo Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (288 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-547-67831-3

In her debut book, Nigerian-American journalist Olopade finds qualified cause for optimism about Africa’s future. Distinguishing “lean” from “fat” economies, the author, a Knight Law and Media Scholar at Yale, observes that Africa is perhaps uniquely well-prepared for a future marked by scarcity. In a time when global food needs are expected to rise by 70 percent by 2050, “African agriculture holds an obvious value proposition for the rest of the world—one that defeats local poverty and hunger at once.” In other words, making of Africa a world breadbasket will both enrich the continent and keep people from starving. Yet, as she notes, there are numerous structural impediments to effecting this green revolution, not least the lack of irrigated farmland and of the technology needed for irrigation, to say nothing of larger problems such as inefficiency and corruption. African nations, she argues, can overcome these difficulties. For example, she cites the case of the region of Somalia known as Somaliland, which, against all the odds, has in the last two decades “held four peaceful rounds of elections, established

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“A demonstration of how the shtetl of Eastern Europe enjoyed an early period of thriving prosperity and cultural diversity.” from the golden age shtetl

a central bank, printed its own currency, and built an elaborate security apparatus.” Announcing a distaste for the word “development,” Olopade writes persuasively of the need for Western-style aid that is adapted to local customs and institutions, allowing for a mix of traditional and modern, market-based solutions to address challenges such as the lack of credit and the uneven distribution of resources. For all those challenges, she argues, the various “maps” of Africa—technological, commercial, agricultural, natural—all point to a wealth of possibilities to help “build wealth, strengthen formal institutions, and aid the least fortunate.” A refreshingly hopeful argument, well-grounded in data and observation—of considerable interest to students of geopolitics, demographics and economic trends. (21 b/w photos and charts)

THE CRUSADES OF CESAR CHAVEZ A Biography Pawel, Miriam Bloomsbury (512 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-60819-710-1

An exhaustive study of the life and work of iconic labor leader Cesar Chavez (1927–1993). In a follow-up to her previous book about the United Farm Workers (The Union of their Dreams, 2009), former Newsday and Los Angeles Times editor Pawel examines Chavez’s transformation from a dedicated advocate for the rights of the poor and exploited to a corrupt leader charged with misappropriating funds and dictatorial rule over the union he founded. The author shows that Chavez was a man of his times. Despite his tarred reputation as a union leader, his legend still inspires young Hispanic workers with his slogan, “Si se pueda”—yes, it can be done. The child of itinerant farm laborers who was forced to drop out of school to work in the fields, Chavez found few opportunities after his return home after service in the military. Eventually, he found work in the lumberyards. In Delano, Calif., his hometown, Mexican-Americans were at the bottom of the social pyramid. Chavez joined the Community Service Organization in Los Angeles and quickly became a leading member. The CSO led a voter registration drive, ran English classes and set up a credit union. Organized by a priest and a local community worker, it was a chapter of the national network of community organizations launched by Saul Alinsky. When their voter registration campaign stalled, Chavez, with Alinsky’s backing, founded the UFW and began a campaign to organize grape pickers after the grape growers moved to import undocumented Mexican workers and force down wages. Chavez recruited outside support from the broader liberal community and students and launched nationwide boycotts. As a result, writes Pawel, “Mexican Americans once shut out of power…[have] become the establishment in venues that had once been bastions of Anglo power.” A warts-and-all biography of an important figure. 70

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THE UNLIKELY SETTLER

Pelham, Lipika Other Press (352 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-59051-683-6

Bittersweet memoir of a multicultural marriage riding the perilous shoals of Jerusalem’s ethnic split. In the 1990s, Bangladesh-born author Pelham, a journalist with BBC World Service, married Leo, a London Jew whose job as a roving Middle East reporter took the family from Morocco to Syria to Jerusalem. From the outset, the author was deeply conflicted about her own divided upbringing and balked at the thought of living in strife-ridden Jerusalem: The daughter of a Bengali Muslim father, Pelham considered herself more Hindu and Indian; while respecting her husband’s Jewish faith, she balked at conversion. Leo’s work with international NGOs took him often into Gaza, while Pelham was keenly aware of the Israeli slight to Muslim culture, music and Arabic language. Frequently going to Ramallah to visit her Arab friends and conduct interviews, she realized she was entering a thriving world that Israelis knew little about. The children, too, were conflicted: The elder boy, who attended an Anglo international school, resisted learning Hebrew and hated letting others know his Jewish last name; the younger daughter adored her Israeli “peace” nursery school and broke out into patriotic songs in Hebrew. Israel’s “South Africa syndrome” exacerbated the underlying trouble in the marriage, and the enforced vigilance, entrenchment and pressure both oppressed her and prodded her to “reinvent” herself. She quit her position and became a stringer at the Jerusalem bureau, which took her on an interview to a refugee camp, where Palestinian children spit on her daughter. Immersed in her documentary work on honor killings, she was led deeply into Palestinian life, while “the rotating cycle of doom” both within Jerusalem and the marriage caused violent scenes and recriminations between the couple, who loved each other but could similarly not find peace, until the birth of a third child. A touching personal delineation of divided loyalties and riven hearts.

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THE GOLDEN AGE SHTETL A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe Petrovsky-Shtern, Yohanan Princeton Univ. (432 pp.) $29.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-691-16074-0

A demonstration of how the shtetl of Eastern Europe enjoyed an early period of thriving prosperity and cultural diversity. Petrovsky-Shtern (Jewish Studies/ Northwestern Univ.; Lenin’s Jewish Question, 2010, etc.) turns some of the received knowledge about Jewish history on its head as he |


delves into rich, formerly classified primary sources delineating the evidence of Jewish economic power during the transition between the partitions of Poland by Russia (1772–1775) and the advent of the Russian military age, beginning in the 1840s, which brought xenophobia and nationalism. During this 50-year period of lax Russian rule, when Russia inherited these formerly Polish territories, the Jews were encouraged in their important roles as traders, tavern keepers and liquor sellers. What was shamefully referred to as a shtetl (small town) by later Yiddish writers like Mendele Moykher Sforim and Sholem Aleichem was proudly called a shtot by its contemporaries. Humming market towns in the provinces of Podolia, Volhynia and the southern part of what was the Pale of Settlement attracted thousands of merchants and enriched the Polish landlords, Russian administrators and Jews alike. Although the areas were spiritual centers and gave rise to Hasidism, for example, the most important aspect was the economic activity of the marketplace. Jews proved they were loyal, industrious and reliable and were entrusted to run the mail service and to make and sell liquor. Their homes, clothing and artifacts revealed a sense of prosperity and dignity, and their language reflected the mingling with their Christian and Slavic neighbors—a half-century before the alienation from and the scapegoating of Jews for “the shortcomings of modernism.” Packed with vigorous case studies, PetrosvkyShtern’s book is lively and enlightening. A welcome study that is by turns picturesque and scholarly, startling and accessible.

THE LOST SPRING U.S. Policy in the Middle East and the Catastrophes to Avoid

Phares, Walid Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-137-27903-3

Phares (The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East, 2010, etc.) argues that the Obama administration has squandered a good opportunity for spreading democracy across the Middle East and checking Islamism. The author rehearses many of the criticisms for what he sees as the failed foreign policy of the Obama administration, beginning with the pullout from Afghanistan before the Taliban were roundly defeated and continuing with an “apologist bureaucracy and partnering with the Islamist lobbies.” Phares constantly reminds us that he and the Heritage Foundation, unlike the rest of the Western world, saw what was coming in terms of the Arab Spring and faults the “political apologists” eager to work with the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. The attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, which Phares also predicted as “doomed to happen,” underscored the Obama administration’s “damaging strategic mistake” in thinking that the political Islamists were any different from al-Qaida terrorists. The author seems to see the threat of jihadism everywhere, although in Egypt, he notes that the removal of the democratically elected President Mohamed |

Morsi by military force was the “goal of the real Arab Spring.” Phares also believes that pernicious influences are infiltrating U.S. education, media and courts—e.g., the lobby coalition led by “Gulf oil circles,” fed by petrodollars and comprised primarily of three parts: Iranian groups sympathetic to Syria and Hezbollah; Arab nationalist lobbies; and the Islamist lobby rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood. All aim to counter pro-Israel activity and “push back against the forces of secular democracy.” The author deeply disagrees with what he perceives as Obama’s “abandoning” of Middle East democrats, and he even offers a chapter on “Romney’s Alternative View.” Alarmist and unlikely to convince readers who don’t already share the author’s views.

BENDING ADVERSITY Japan and the Art of Survival Pilling, David Penguin Press (416 pp.) $29.95 | Mar. 17, 2014 978-1-59420-584-2

A sweeping view of contemporary Japan portrays its complexities and potential for change. In his first book, Financial Times Asia editor Pilling draws on scores of interviews to investigate Japan’s culture, politics, economics and social life as it tries to recover from a severe economic downturn that began in 1990. The author celebrates Japan’s “social cohesion, a sense of tradition and politeness, a dedication to excellence and relative equality,” but he acknowledges a counter view—that Japan is “an unredeemably xenophobic, misogynist society, hierarchical, shut off from new ideas, and unable to square up to its own history.” Unlike China and Korea, Japan remained isolated for much of its early history, resisting connection to other cultures with advances such as written language and metallurgy. Its feudal society persisted well into the 19th century, when leaders intent on modernization deliberately created “emperor-centered myths” to foster nationhood, as well as elevating Shinto, “an animist set of folkloric beliefs,” to become the unifying religion. Much of Japan’s conviction of its uniqueness, cultural superiority and racial homogeneity, Pilling argues, “is propaganda” initiated at that time. Yet that propaganda fueled a desire to prove military prowess and catapulted Japan into its disastrous attack on Pearl Harbor. The author focuses on recent catastrophes—the devastating 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster—to question Japan’s capacity for resilience. He concludes that those “twin shocks…do seem to have shaken Japan psychologically,” but he notes that other factors—businesses’ globalization; changing dynamics of relationships between men and women; young people’s often strident questioning of tradition; and a stronger two-party political system—have been evolving for the last two decades. Japan has proven itself resilient, at the same time remaining justly proud of being the third-largest economy in the world and richest economy in Asia.

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“A lifetime of memories from classic rock’s heyday by one of the finest rock journalists of her generation.” from there goes gravity

THE BILL OF THE CENTURY The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act

The author’s articulate and diverse interviewees—scholars and teenagers, housewives and politicians—vividly and passionately testify to Japan’s cultural contradictions, ambitions and strategies for survival.

SHADOWS IN THE SUN Healing from Depression and Finding the Light Within

Ramprasad, Gayathri Hazelden (288 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-61649-475-9

Ramprasad chronicles her harrowing journey through depression, from which she emerged with the light of hope to become a mental health advocate. Now the head of ASHA International, a nonprofit organization that promotes wellness, the author writes that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. While 60 to 80 percent of those diagnosed “can be effectively treated with antidepressant medications and brief, structured forms of psychotherapy,” fewer than 25 percent receive such treatments. The author begins with her idyllic childhood in a loving family in India, which came to an end when, as a teenager, she began to suffer from crying spells and outbursts that escalated in college. Unable to eat, she spent hours in bed crying, but the doctor found nothing wrong with her. Due to the stigma attached to mental illness, Ramprasad began a cycle of denial, secrecy and shame. Eventually, she entered into an arranged marriage with a successful Indian engineer, Ram, and joined him in America, but she lived in fear that he and his family would learn of her “crazy” bouts and disown her. So she continued to hide her symptoms, but after the birth of their daughter, she sunk into a postpartum depression that could not be concealed. While in India visiting her parents with the baby, she suffered a nervous breakdown that resulted in a diagnosis of chronic depression. She received electroconvulsive therapy and medications that offered little relief. Thankfully, Ram remained loving and supportive, but antidepressant medications and cognitive therapy failed to stop the suicidal thoughts and violent outbursts that landed her in a mental hospital. It was in her lowest moment that the author realized that the keys to her wellness were within her, and she began searching for other remedies. Breathing techniques, meditation, exercise and openness about her illness slowly helped her climb out of that dark place. A well-written, novellike story offering hope for recovery for families in the throes of mental illness.

Risen, Clay Bloomsbury (320 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-60819-824-5

A journalist’s in-depth, behind-thescenes account of the unsung congressional and White House heroes who helped the Civil Rights Act become the law of the land. Segregation and discrimination were legal in the United States until 1964, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. Hailed as a landmark piece of legislation, the new law “reached deep into the social fabric of the nation to refashion structures of racial order and domination that had held for almost a century.” Historians generally credit Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson with playing the roles key to the passage of this Kennedy administration brainchild. New York Times op-ed editor Risen (A Nation of Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination, 2009) argues that this view of how the act became law “distorts not only the history of the act but the process of American legislative policymaking in general.” He shows instead that the act, which emerged in response to the racial unrest and conflicts of the early 1960s, developed through a fraught push-pull process involving endless filibustering on one hand and intensive lobbying efforts and back-room deal making on the other. Risen also analyzes the tense relationships between liberal Northern Democrats and conservative Southern ones, many of whom had begun leaning toward the Republican Party due to its emphasis on states’ rights. As Johnson realized, a win for the Civil Rights Act would mean a loss of an entire voting block in future elections. Many Republicans, like senators Barry Goldwater and John Tower, openly fought against this legislation. But an invisible and all-important few, like Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, became instrumental in ensuring the bill’s survival in Congress. Risen’s attention to the many minor characters in this historical saga is both a strength and weakness. It makes for scrupulous accuracy but also slow, labyrinthine reading. Well-researched but sometimes tedious.

THERE GOES GRAVITY A Life in Rock and Roll Robinson, Lisa Riverhead (420 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-1-59448-714-9

A lifetime of memories from classic rock’s heyday by one of the finest rock journalists of her generation. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cameron Crowe’s misty-eyed classic Almost Famous comes to readers’ minds as they troll through this book by longtime New York Post and Vanity Fair journalist Robinson. 72

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The author covers her career from joining the Rolling Stones on tour in 1969 to more recent profiles of megastars like Eminem, Kanye West and Lady Gaga. It’s a fantastic collection of stories, partially due to the fact that Robinson is a top-notch writer and partly since she enjoyed completely unfettered access and the genuine friendship of figures ranging from John Lennon to Phil Spector. Most of the chapters cover major figures—David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and an elegiac remembrance of Michael Jackson, to name just a few—but Robinson also seems to have a foot in two worlds. While she jetted around the world with champagne in hand, she was also deeply embedded in the origins of the legendary New York City club CBGB. In its orbit, she bonded with gutter rats like the Ramones and introduced David Bowie to Lou Reed for the first time. There’s also a bittersweet melancholy that underpins much of the book. On the recent Zeppelin reunion, she writes, “I didn’t go. I prefer to remember them the way they were. It’s been a long time. The song couldn’t possibly be the same.” On learning there’s a “Joey Ramone Place” in the Bowery now, she recalls some lyrics by Bob Dylan: “They’re selling postcards of the hanging.” On punk rock: “Scenes aren’t meant to last. The best of them sneak or burst into the consciousness of a few. They blow up into something they weren’t to begin with. And then, they eventually burn out.” All of these movements have been written about before, but the scope of Robinson’s memoir lends it an extraordinary spirit. A backstage pass to the greatest circus of the 20th century.

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing

Sankovitch, Nina Simon & Schuster (192 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-4516-8715-6

A son’s departure for college prompted Sankovitch (Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, 2011, etc.) to wonder, “Why does a letter

mean so much?” Wanting more than the usual texts and occasional phone calls from Peter, his mother tucked a box of notecards with stamped envelopes into his luggage. Her desire for an actual handwritten letter got the author thinking about the different ways in which correspondence connects us to others, and her agreeable narrative roams through many varieties: love letters, thank-you letters, condolence letters, letters to friends, letters of advice, etc. Sankovitch begins with her discovery of a cache of old letters in the dilapidated house she and her husband, Jack, bought on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when their four children were small. Most were from James Bernheimer Seligman to his mother while he was at Princeton (1908–1912), and Sankovitch loved her “escape from my life as a mother…into a life as a turn-of-the-century man about town.” Some letters plunge us into a historical period, she notes; others preserve memories from our own: “Most of us won’t make it into the |

history books….But we can leave a part of ourselves behind in the letters we write.” The author sees letters as a private space in which we can express thoughts and feelings we might not want to voice publicly, yet unlike a diary, they are shared with another person in an act of intimacy and trust. She illustrates her points with famous examples—Heloise’s letters to Abelard, James Joyce’s lustful correspondence with Nora Barnacle; Emily Dickinson’s flirtatious one with Thomas Wentworth Higginson—and muses on the pleasure of waiting for a letter to arrive, as opposed to the instant gratification of email. There are no especially astounding insights here, but it’s a sweet-natured, well-written affirmation of the time-honored role of letters as a uniquely personal way to communicate.

CONGRATULATIONS, BY THE WAY Some Thoughts on Kindness

Saunders, George Random House (64 pp.) $14.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-8129-9627-2

Another example of an author who might well reach a wider audience through a graduation speech than through anything else he has written. Long revered among fans and fellow writers, Saunders saw his popular profile elevated through even greater attentions paid to (and accolades earned by) his most recent story collection, Tenth of December. In contrast to the playful postmodernism that often characterizes the work of the New Yorker writer and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, this meditation on kindness that he delivered in 2013 at Syracuse (where he teaches creative writing) is transparent in its message, which, he admits, is “a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.” His address took him eight minutes to deliver—it subsequently went viral, like that of a similar address by the late David Foster Wallace—and takes less time to read. But its self-deprecating tone is as pitch perfect as one would expect from Saunders, and the advice it imparts seems sincere and ultimately more helpful than the usual platitudes, as he explains how “most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving” and as they mature, perhaps become parents, begin to see how soul-deadening selfishness can be and how the struggles of ambition can put one on a seemingly endless cycle. There’s plainly a spiritual underpinning here, as the author writes in favor of “establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition—recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.” The loving selflessness that he advises and the interconnectedness that he recognizes couldn’t be purer or simpler—or more challenging. A slim volume appropriate as a graduation gift.

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“A well-reported, engaging book. A bonus: Bill O’Reilly won’t like it, either. Politics and media junkies, on the other hand, will have a field day.” from the loudest voice in the room

THE LOUDEST VOICE IN THE ROOM How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News— and Divided a Country

Sherman, Gabriel Random House (540 pp.) $28.00 | Jan. 14, 2014 978-0-8129-9285-4

Eye-opening biography of the wouldbe political kingmaker and Fox News mastermind. The subject of New York contributing editor Sherman’s debut book, Roger Ailes, is said to be deeply unhappy with his portrait here—and for good reason. Ailes has said that his foes perceive him as “paranoid, right-wing [and] fat.” Leaving aside the physical, he certainly emerges here as right-wing in the neoconservative, self-interested way of the arriviste as opposed to the old-republic conservative of his small-town Midwestern ideal. By Sherman’s account, Ailes openly feared that his greatest bugaboo, Barack Obama, was going to put him in a prison camp after being re-elected. It seems certain that Ailes is an unpleasant customer, powerful enough to frighten Karl Rove into submission, quick to criticize his bevy of breast-shaking on-screen blondes for not being stunning enough (of one-time Miss America Gretchen Carlson, Sherman writes, Ailes said, “It must not have been a good year”). Sherman lingers on the unpleasant details, to be sure, but he charts the larger picture of the self-made man who is convinced that only he and a narrow number of his allies are worthy of the benefits of the free market and who has mastered the arts of TV and fabulation. Yet, even there, Ailes has not been entirely successful: For all his efforts, he never could make his first big media experiment, Richard Nixon, come off as likable, and the tea party that he helped create has apparently sent his vaunted permanent Republican majority off the rails. Yet Fox continues to hold a large market share and shape the political argument in this country, so for all his missteps (Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin et al.), Ailes promises to remain a player on the national scene, even if Sherman suggests that his dominance is coming to an end. A well-reported, engaging book. A bonus: Bill O’Reilly won’t like it, either. Politics and media junkies, on the other hand, will have a field day.

ON READING THE GRAPES OF WRATH

Shillinglaw, Susan Penguin (224 pp.) $14.00 paper | Feb. 19, 2014 978-0-14-312550-1

A compact primer from a Steinbeck scholar on what she believes is one of the greatest works in the history of literature. Readers who agree that Steinbeck’s Depression-era saga is the Great American Novel will be able to go deeper into its various layers with this guide, but there is no balanced argument here on a work that had a mixed critical reception upon publication and continues to polarize opinion. “The Joads are like the Israelites seeking the Promised Land in Exodus,” writes Shillinglaw (English/San Jose State Univ.; Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage, 2013, etc.) in one of many biblical comparisons. The scope and scale of Steinbeck’s achievement elsewhere conjure comparisons with Shakespeare (Hamlet and King Lear in particular), Moby-Dick, Wordsworth and Blake, and the Arthurian Round Table. The book barely acknowledges lesser appraisals, brushing away criticisms like flies, acknowledging a mixed response but attributing much of the negativity to parochial concerns over its politics and the propriety of its language. Of the dialogue, the author admits, “some find it hokey. I don’t. It seems to me pitch-perfect, concrete and exact, capturing the migrants’ metaphoric speech patterns.” Of the dismissal of the novel as “middlebrow,” Shillinglaw counters, “That term might have pleased Steinbeck, since that’s precisely what he was after….He wrote this book for mass culture.” Perhaps the most revelatory thread in the study concerns Steinbeck’s friendship with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, “a friendship almost unearthly in its intensity.” “The intellectual and emotional bond between writer and scientist— a platonic love—was so unusual, so forward-looking, and so fiercely linked to an understanding of humans and the environment,” she writes, “that to see one is to see both and to understand both is to reconsider our own footprint in the world.” An uneven celebration mainly for Steinbeck scholars and fans.

A TASTE FOR INTRIGUE The Multiple Lives of François Mitterrand

Short, Philip John Macrae/Henry Holt (640 pp.) $38.00 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-8050-8853-3

An accessible biography of François Mitterrand (1916–1996), the first popularly elected socialist president, whose life “mirrored the contradictions and compromises of the times in which he lived.” 74

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In simple terms, foreign correspondent Short (Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare, 2005, etc.) explains the workings of French politics from the World War II Vichy government through the highly productive years of Mitterrand’s government, sparing readers much of the alphabet soup of France’s parties. In true French fashion, the author downplays the leader’s personal life and his “two families.” After escaping from a German prison camp, Mitterrand searched for the best method to rid France of its occupiers. The Vichy government of “free France” suffered accusations of collaboration and obvious cooperation in the roundup of Jews, which tainted all who worked with its leader, Philippe Pétain. Despite his resistance activities, Mitterrand would face similar accusations for the rest of his life. The Fifth Republic, under Charles de Gaulle, put near-monarchical power into the leader’s hands. Mitterrand’s efforts at colonial reform, the Algerian War and his refusal to vote for de Gaulle led to his wilderness years and pushed him firmly into the Socialist Party. Even so, he was mocked since, according to his contemporary Guy Mollet, “he did not become socialist…he learnt to speak socialist.” The author describes Mitterrand as an ambiguous, haughty, inaccessible procrastinator who was invariably late. When he finally successfully became president of France, it was during the highly charged years of the 1980s. Working with West Germany’s Helmut Kohl and working around Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, he fought to establish the European Union and the euro as its currency. He battled against Israeli intransigence regarding the Palestinians, Reagan’s “Star Wars,” and the influences of Iran and Syria in the Middle East. No hagiographer, Short delivers a clear, useful picture of his subject and his country.

AMERICAN SMOKE Journeys to the End of the Light

Sinclair, Iain Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (352 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-86547-867-1

An intrepid British writer takes to the road in search of the Beats. Poet, essayist, documentarian, filmmaker, editor and novelist Sinclair (Ghost Milk: Recent Adventures among the Future Ruins of London on the Eve of the Olympics, 2012, etc.) first read the Beats in the 1960s, when he was a teenager in Dublin. Later, he discovered “how tribal and interconnected the American countercultural scene actually was: everybody met everybody….They feuded, fought, formed intense friendships, sulked for generations.” To understand the texture and force of the Beats’ community, Sinclair embarked on a journey, following in the peripatetic and woozy footsteps of Malcolm Lowry, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and assorted other writers and their friends, lovers, publishers and acolytes. With an eye for the telling vignette and a deft talent for the “rapid-sketched” portrait, Sinclair counters what he |

calls “Beat Generation revivalism [that] threatens to turn the whole circus into another Bloomsbury Group.” In the seaside city of Gloucester, Mass., he picked up the trail of poet Charles Olson, a large man with an overpowering presence and “a rumbling voice thick with smoke, sweat dripping, black eyebrows emphatic.” Ginsberg emerges as a kind of Ancient Mariner, “with his glittering eye, his gleaming cranium and shamanic red silk shirt,” responding to questions with well-rehearsed anecdotes involving Olson, Burroughs, and even Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “in broad-brim jungle hat, is an audition for the granddad of Indiana Jones.” Although drugs, alcohol and sex were the vices of choice for all the Beats, Sinclair notes a difference between those in New York (“peppery, competitive”) and the “cooler cats” in California, who were drawn to Buddhism. “What mattered most to the Beats,” Sinclair writes, “was the intensity of visionary experience.” Melding reportage and memoir, this gossipy, idiosyncratic cultural history offers a fresh, unvarnished look at an eccentric, brash and dynamic cast of literary rebels.

WHY NUDGE? The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism

Sunstein, Cass R. Yale Univ. (208 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-300-19786-0

Harvard Law School professor Sunstein (Simpler: The Future of Government, 2013, etc.) takes up the question of the limits to government power in this intriguing revision of the Storrs Lectures on Jurisprudence he gave at Yale in 2012. The author is a proponent of what he calls “soft paternalism.” Based on a thorough critique of John Stuart Mill’s “Liberty Principle,” otherwise known as the “Harm Principle,” which allows for government intervention to protect citizens, Sunstein advocates for a middle way between those who reject government intervention and what he calls “welfarism.” Sunstein’s approach is intended to preserve choice by making it “more likely people will promote their own ends, as they themselves understand it.” He contends that behavioral economics has advanced understanding of human behavior and allows for restrictions on government action to be loosened in favor of new forms of intervention but for more accurately and narrowly defined purposes. The author proposes to use government power in combination with the methods of behavioral economics to steer people away from the potentially harmful (think smoking) and toward the beneficial—e.g., improving fuel economy. By employing disclosures, warnings and default rules, rather than threats of imprisonment and fines, to affect peoples’ choices, Sunstein stakes out a middle position between proponents of free choice, who oppose any form of government intervention, and advocates of a welfare state. He refutes the contention that governments lack either the information or

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SECOND WIND Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life

competence to intervene effectively on questions involving peoples’ welfare—e.g., former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas—while maintaining a case for the actions of free markets. A provocative challenge to the fixed mindsets of left and right alike.

AMERICAN AFTERLIFE Encounters in the Customs of Mourning

Sweeney, Kate Univ. of Georgia (240 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8203-4600-7

Intriguing, eccentric swatches of everyday Americans grappling with the intricacies of death. Developed from her master’s thesis, Atlanta-based radio host and producer Sweeney’s compassionate and intermittently eldritch exploration of the grieving process spotlights passages from all facets of contemporary life. The author’s almost apologetic explanation of why she became so fascinated with “the entire American landscape of mourning” is needless as the book incrementally reveals itself as an amiably written slideshow about the choices we make while in the grips of grief. The author escorts readers through the now-shuttered Museum of Funeral Customs in Springfield, Ill., where antique caskets and funereal Victorian fashions were on grim display. Sweeney never strays too far from her Southern homeland and introduces professionals for which death and mourning provides their livelihood. She features a tattoo artist who deifies the dead through body art; a photographer specializing in the commemoration of infant deaths; and a dedicated, diligent obituary writer. The author also delivers an astute assessment of the highly competitive urn manufacturing market that is at odds with the lucrative, marked-up funeral business. Divinely ornate burial grounds are a lost art, Sweeney attests in a chapter on the decline of the cemetery, and the author makes an engaging tour guide of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, founded in 1850, the nation’s first biodegradable “green-burial” graveyard. She also documents burial-at-sea ceremonies via artificial reef balls containing cremated remains. Respectfully illuminating both the ludicrousness and the significance of mourning and its accompanying memorialization rituals, Sweeney reports the unsavory details alongside the poignancy of grief and sorrow. Written with the grim wit and appreciation of investigative reporter Mary Roach, the author delivers informative history on the murky business of death. A considerate exploration of mourning, just haunting enough to attract those with a penchant for macabre oddities.

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Thomas, Bill Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-4516-6756-1

An exploration of developmental substages for adulthood and beyond. Thomas, possibly unaware of criticisms of the egocentrism of the baby boomer generation, suggests that the dynamics that gave rise to the cultural shift of baby boomers have also engendered a unique imbalance as their late adulthood sets in. The author, a senior fellow at the AARP’s Life Reimagined Institute and a winner of the Heinz Award for the Human Condition, writes that this imbalance is a result of the self-inflicted mythology that the boomer generation created and embraced—a generation defined as youthful and preoccupied with youth. Rather than railing against the perceived order of the old and celebrating youth, Thomas writes, these boomers now often struggle with the rigidity of that identity. The fervent embrace of youth, coupled with conflict over the “structure, function, and meaning of adulthood,” was a useful iconoclasm when the embracers were young. Thomas suggests that this resulting view of growing old as a “personal failing” needs to be flipped to an embrace of “elderhood” as a time of expanding, not lessening, opportunities. “We’ve been told that old age offers us nothing that the adult does not already possess in abundance,” he writes, “but this is a lie.” As children, we’re allowed to explore our identities and try on different roles, realizing that we’re still a work in progress. As adults, we’re acculturated to winnow down those identities (“What do you want to be when you grow up?”), and adults who experience ambiguity around those identities are labeled as flighty, insecure and immature. Thomas explores possible paradigms that might enable us, as we transition through adulthood and beyond, to expand those ideas of identity. A mostly nuanced look at the challenges of growing old gracefully for a generation that aches to see youth in the mirror.

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AMERICA’S FORGOTTEN CONSTITUTIONS Defiant Visions of Power and Community

Tsai, Robert L. Harvard Univ. (310 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 7, 2014 978-0-674-05995-5

Tsai (Law/American Univ.; Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture, 2008, etc.) examines eight instances of dissenting constitutions written by groups representing cultural attitudes out of the norm seeking unconventional sovereignty. |


These groups seeking self-rule knew that a written constitution was a means of ordering their society and that it would shape how their ideas and values would unfold. Each was based on the United States Constitution of 1787, with changes, as the Confederacy stated, to “a few erroneous sentences.” The first constitution was an attempt at pioneer sovereignty in 1832, when the area of Indian Stream (between modern-day Quebec and New Hampshire) set up its own republic, rejecting not only the borders of New Hampshire and Vermont, but also ties to Canada or the United States. John Brown sought an ethical sovereignty, while the Confederacy of the Southern states pursued cultural supremacy. In the mid-1800s, a group of French sought to found an Icarian society of ethical sovereignty based on a moral code (what we might now call a cult). In 1905, the Native Americans of the Oklahoma Territory wrote the Sequoyah constitution in hopes of having a separate Indian state of tribal sovereignty admitted to the union; their document was used as the template for Oklahoma’s constitution. After World War II, a group from the University of Chicago tried to better the United Nations charter with a plan for global governance, which unfortunately required the dismantling of nation-states. The civil rights movement fostered the Republic of New Afrika in the late 1960s. In 2006, a group of Aryans gathered in the Pacific Northwest to form an all-white community. Each of these groups sought cultural survival and failed as they settled for flawed solutions. The author succinctly explains each of these constitutions with the thoroughness of a legal mind and writing that avoids legalese.

THE NAKED FUTURE What Happens in a World that Anticipates Your Every Move?

Tucker, Patrick Current (288 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 6, 2014 978-1-59184-586-7

An upbeat view of big data as an empowering means for predicting the future. Futurist magazine deputy editor Tucker provides an anecdote-filled account of the many ways in which massive sets of data—the same digital information often used by governments and large corporations for privacy-invading tracking and surveillance—can be used by individuals to “live much more healthily, realize more of your own goals in less time [and] avoid inconvenience and danger.” Based on interviews with hackers, entrepreneurs, scientists and others, the author argues that a “thrilling and historic transformation” lies ahead in our ability to predict the future using continuously sourced streams of information accessed via smartphones. Such information, distributed from the site of a fire or disaster as a live-stream video by anyone with a cellphone, can prepare emergency workers. In the same way, individuals bent on improving their personal health can track signals, physical states and other data to assess upcoming |

issues. Acting in groups, individuals can share highly personal health data and make it possible to predict strokes based on correlations among thousands of patients. Also, with better and faster reporting on new flu strains, it becomes possible to predict more accurately where a flu outbreak will go next. Tucker’s exploration of computer-aided forecasting shows the growing role of big data in aspects of American life, including education, online dating, predictive policing and customer loyalty programs. He urges readers to become familiar with existing technologies that make it possible to collect big data (systems, networks and communities) and put it to work (apps, programs and platforms) and to understand how the data can be used, or abused, as many fear, by consumers, activists and regular people. A well-written consideration of how, “in the next two decades, we will be able to predict huge areas of the future with far greater accuracy than ever before in human history, including events long thought to be beyond the realm of human interference.”

THE BOOK OF FORGIVING The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World Tutu, Desmond and Tutu, Mpho HarperOne (256 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-06-220356-4

A practical call for forgiveness from people who learned it the hard way. Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Anglican archbishop Tutu (God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations, 2011, etc.) teams up with his daughter, Mpho, also an Anglican priest, to advance the cause of forgiveness. Their work stems from a shared past steeped in South Africa’s apartheid system. Mpho’s experience is also informed by a personal tragedy: the murder of her family’s housekeeper. For both authors, forgiveness has been a lifelong struggle, yet one which they both embrace and endorse. “There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness,” they write. Indeed, one of the authors’ important points is that all people feel pain, and no one hurts another without having been a victim at some earlier point. They acknowledge that forgiveness is not easy; however, they are convinced that forgiveness offers peace, healing and an opening to a productive future. They guide readers through a “Fourfold Path” of forgiveness: telling the story, naming the hurt, granting forgiveness, and renewing or releasing the relationship. They also provide focus for individuals in need of another’s forgiveness and those who need to forgive themselves. The book is almost entirely practical in focus, geared toward helping people come to grips with issues of anger, grief and loss. It includes meditations, rituals and journal exercises after each chapter. While potentially useful, the text is lightweight in relation to some of the examples of superhuman forgiveness punctuating the work—victims of grave crimes pardoning those who have caused such anguish.

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“A solid new history of the Peruvian Indian revolutionary lays out the roots of his rebellion and its bitter legacy.” from the tupac amaru rebellion

THE AMBIGUITY OF VIRTUE Gertrude Van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews

There is a disconnect between the gravitas of the surname Tutu in relationship to what is basically a self-help book. Tutu’s No Future Without Forgiveness (1999) is a far weightier and more worthy discussion of the topic.

THE TUPAC AMARU REBELLION

Walker, Charles F. Belknap/Harvard Univ. (376 pp.) $29.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-674-05825-5 A solid new history of the Peruvian Indian revolutionary lays out the roots of his rebellion and its bitter legacy. Historian Walker (Univ. of Cal., Davis; Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 EarthquakeTsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath, 2008, etc.) admits that a “torrent of studies” exists on the Tupac Amaru rebellion, although most in Spanish and outdated. His straightforward account looks beyond the death of the rebel leader, on May 18, 1781, barely seven months after the start of the uprising, to the subsequent and bloodier foment led by his cousin Diego Cristobal and others during the next year. Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui Noguera (1738–1781) descended from the royal line near Cuzco; his forebear and namesake, Tupac Amaru, was executed by the conquering Spanish in 1572. His royal ancestry proved a galvanizing force to his leadership among the Quechua people, who believed that another Incan chief was destined to reappear. Inheriting the role of kuraka, or indigenous tax collector, from his father, he was a landowner and trader, educated and a speaker of Quechua and Spanish alike; he was well-liked and accepted by all classes. Yet, he was deeply sympathetic to the Indians, crushed under the Spanish taxes. Married to Micaela Bastidas, who was a full partner to Tupac’s enterprises and eventually a proficient logistical leader of the rebellion, Tupac became radicalized after being defeated in the courts. Walker stresses the important role of the church leaders. While Tupac did not present a revolutionary platform, he underscored the injustice of the Spanish administrators and never deviated from his views that he acted on behalf of King Charles III. Ultimately, there was a total crackdown on the indigenous population and near obliteration of its language and culture. A readable, not-too-scholarly story of a significant moment in South American history. (12 halftones; 10 maps)

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Wasserstein, Bernard Harvard Univ. (310 pp.) $29.95 | Mar. 17, 2014 978-0-674-28138-7

Was she a heroine or collaborator, a saint or sinner? How should we view Gertrude van Tijn (1891–1974), a woman tasked with saving Jews from the Nazi’s gas chambers? In an attempt to understand her motives and actions, Wasserstein (Emeritus, Modern European Jewish History/Univ. of Chicago; On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World, 2012, etc.) takes a close look at the background and behavior of his subject. He gives readers not just a personal portrait of van Tjin, a bourgeois German Jew who embraced Zionism as a young woman and acquired Dutch nationality upon her marriage in 1920, but also a stark picture of the plight of European Jews before and during World War II. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands in 1940, van Tijn, who had been working there for the Committee for Jewish Refugees, found it taken over by the Nazi-controlled Jewish Council of Amsterdam. When the council sent her to Portugal with the mission of arranging overseas transport of Jewish refugees, her role in the registration of Jews, who instead of being transported were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, has raised questions, which Wasserstein examines here. He sees her story as a study in the ambiguity of virtue, and while he acknowledges that her reputation would have been better had she resigned from the council early on, he argues that the failure of her mission lies elsewhere. While the actions of the Nazis, the complicity of the Dutch, and the immigration policies of the American and British governments may be familiar to many readers, Wasserstein includes one less-well-known and fascinating story: In 1944, a group of more than 200 Jews from Bergen-Belsen were exchanged for Germans being held as enemy aliens in the British mandate of Palestine; van Tijn was one of them. A scholarly, thoroughly documented work that elucidates historical issues and explores moral ones.

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HARVEST Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food

LIFE IS A WHEEL Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America

Watman, Max Norton (224 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 24, 2014 978-0-393-06302-8

Weber, Bruce Scribner (352 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-4516-9501-4

Hudson Valley writer Watman (Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine, 2010) charts his adventures in sourcing or producing whole foods in more direct ways, without the polemical emphasis on locavore movements, environmental politics, corporate agriculture or related issues. The author cites a few choice quotes from other writers, including Aaron Bobrow-Strain (White Bread, 2012) and Betty Fussell (Raising Steaks, 2008), which add background to the concern for remedying the nation’s food, and features passages that detail problems such as the use of bisphenol A in the canning process. However, his own stance is that food should “be fun” and not a cause for stress. Raised in a family that worked in a culinary cottage industry, Watman details a different project in each chapter. From a failed effort at producing Camembert to the pleasures of raising chickens despite their eventual deaths, the thrill of hunting pheasants in North Dakota to grinding his own sausages and planting chili peppers, food has served as a pathway for enjoyment. For readers intrigued by personal back-to-the-land cooking journeys, Watman is honest in his admission of the “deep foodie DIY production” that entailed difficult ingredients and unusual forays. Each attempt, however, remained grounded in his desire to broaden his family’s palate with less commercially processed fare; there is little sense of advocating for broader-scale changes, nor moralizing on the eating habits of others. In the strongest chapters, Watman weaves childhood memories, such as making cornichons, into accounts of his more current experiments. Watman’s mistakes and triumphs have served as steppingstones on an impressively determined course. With an essayist’s flair for careful description, this is an entertaining, if not eye-opening, look at one man’s passion for the pleasures of the table. Recommended as a congenial overview of homespun ideals.

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In 2011, at the age of 57, New York Times reporter Weber (As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels in the Land of Umpires, 2009, etc.) embarked on his second cross-country bicycle trip, an adventure as much transcendental as transcontinental. Written mostly in real time, the book reflects the author’s philosophy of cycling: Moving forward is the cure for all ills. Woven through this generally engaging chronicle of a west-toeast odyssey are asides on his parents, old friends, loves lost and new, a pivotal journey through North Vietnam and his post-trip “heart event.” But the real strength of the book is on the road, where incidents coalesce into chapters. A long bike ride is a good story to tell, however meandering, and Weber admits that he did it again due to his encroaching mortality; his checklist for adventure wasn’t keeping pace with his advancing age. Unlike his first cross-country sojourn nearly 20 years before, this time, the author brought a smartphone, a computer and constant feedback from readers following his ongoing blog for the Times. This time, the writing, not selfelevation, would be the defining part of the journey. A Manhattanite keenly aware of his provincialism, Weber regards America’s geographic and cultural expanse as exotic: New York is a vertical realm, not so the rest of the country. Measuring miles by the rhythmic pumping of his legs, experiencing the country in topographical segments, Weber lived the quixotic notion that ordeals can be as satisfying as pleasures, and he makes us believe it. “You can’t gobble up the nation, mile after mile under your own power, without assimilating a sense of its greatness,” he writes, discovering anew how geography helps define the identities of thousands of towns and millions of citizens. Ultimately, Weber sees solo cycling as a metaphor for the solitary experience of being alive. He wonders if every crucible of middle age is about defying impermanence and death. If true, Weber does it with brio.

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children’s & teen TRIANGLES

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Adler, David A. Illus. by Miller, Edward Holiday House (32 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2378-1

TRIANGLES by David A. Adler; illus. by Edward Miller ................81 MENDING HORSES by M.P. Barker.................................................. 84 LOST GIRL FOUND by Leah Bassoff; Laura DeLuca........................ 84 CURIOSITY by Gary Blackwood........................................................ 86 IN NEW YORK by Marc Brown......................................................... 88 MAY THE STARS DRIP DOWN by Jeremy Chatelain; illus. by Nikki McClure....................................................................... 89 GRAVITY by Jason Chin...................................................................... 89 THE LUCK UGLIES by Paul Durham................................................. 94 FRACTIONS IN DISGUISE by Edward Einhorn; illus. by David Clark............................................................................95 I AM OTTER by Sam Garton................................................................97 KNIGHTLEY AND SON by Rohan Gavin...........................................97 THE GREAT BIG GREEN by Peggy Gifford; illus. by Lisa Desimini........................................................................100 EYE TO EYE by Steve Jenkins.............................................................106 THE TWEEDLES GO ELECTRIC by Monica Kulling; illus. by Marie Lafrance......................................................................109 CHASING CHEETAHS by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop... 115

Everything kids need to know about triangles—vocabulary, explanations and all. Beginning with the definition of a triangle and a breakdown of its parts—sides, angles, vertices—Adler quickly launches into a discussion of angles, even teaching kids how they are named, measured and classified. A clever activity instructs readers to cut out a triangle, any triangle. By tearing off the corners and lining them up so the vertices touch, kids can see that the angles of a triangle always sum 180 degrees. Vocabulary is printed in bold type and defined within the text, each new term building on the ones that have come before: “All three angles in ∆ABC…are acute angles. ∆ABC is an acute triangle.” In the primary-colored digital illustrations, a dark-skinned boy and a light-skinned girl are accompanied by a robot as they progress through the book, drawing and studying triangles. They accumulate materials to make another robot and then identify the angles and triangles that make up its body. Labels and diagrams make the learning easy, while the endpapers show several examples of each type of triangle presented. A final activity challenges readers to use their arms and hands to find and name angles—a turn of the page supplies labeled answers. With lots of layers of information, this is a book that can grow with kids; new information will be accessible with each repeat reading. (Math picture book. 6-10)

THE SONG OF THE GOLDEN HARE by Jackie Morris....................116

FIRST FIRE A Cherokee Folktale

WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus.............................................119 WATER CAN BE . . . by Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Violeta Dabija.......................................................................120

Allen, Nancy Kelly Illus. by Rogers, Sherry Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | $9.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-62855-207-2 978-1-62855-2164 paper 978-1-62855-234-8 e-book

A POND FULL OF INK by Annie M.G. Schmidt; illus. by Sieb Posthuma; trans. by David Colmer............................... 121 A MOUNTAIN OF FRIENDS by Kerstin Schoene..............................122 SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus Sedgwick..................................122 THE DANDELION’S TALE by Kevin Sheehan; illus. by Rob Dunlavey........................................................................122 PEGGY by Anna Walker.....................................................................128 ROM AND THE WHALE OF DREAMS by Jose Miguel Vilar-Bou; illus. by Alejandra Zuniga Cardenas.................................................. 133 |

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An unsourced Cherokee folk tale tells of the origin of fire. The story is introduced by a picture of an adult regaling children by the fire; all are clad in buckskin. When a sycamore tree on an island is struck by lightning, the council of animals meets to figure out how to reach it and capture the fire burning there. |

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“Armstrong…smoothly switches from her customary modern paranormal setting to a high-fantasy adventure, but she still favors relationship drama and reversals of fortune.” from sea of shadows

Each volunteers to carry the fire back, venturing forth one by one. Raven’s white feathers are scorched black; Screech Owl’s eyes are burned red; Racer the snake twists and turns to escape the heat. Finally, Spider spins a bowl on her back and carries a coal back across the water, bringing fire to the animals. The illustrations are large and bold but stiff and amateurish-looking, with many close-ups of animal heads dominated by mouths that gape in terror. The water spider herself may be correctly depicted, but a closing note will only confuse readers by describing three different spiders (and one spiderlike insect) that walk on or swim in water and not telling them which one figures in the story. Information is also included about the Cherokee “then and now,” and fire; none of it is sourced. Although the tale itself is unsourced as well, versions of it are available on the Web. An earnest effort but unengaging at best. (Picture book/ folk tale. 5-8)

MONSTER CHEFS

Anderson, Brian; Anderson, Liam Illus. by Anderson, Brian Roaring Brook (34 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-59643-808-8 It’s hard to tell which came first, the story or the cupcake, but either way, this picture book is a treat. Starting with the title pages, the atmospheric mood is set with a murky purple landscape. A sign that reads “kitchen” points readers down a ladder into a hole, where four monster chefs try to appease their king’s appetite. The “horribly horrible” king has always eaten eyeballs and ketchup (youngsters will surely squirm and scream at this), and the simple text gets right to the point: The king wants something new to eat. He sends each chef in a different direction, threatening to eat them if they fail to find something to tantalize. The white background makes it easy to focus on the cartoonish monsters and their expressions. Despite tentacles, claws, bat wings, and in one case, lots of eyes, the chefs look rather dear. Children will empathize with them, especially after three are duped by would-be dinners. A rabbit threatens: “If you eat a rabbit, you turn into a rabbit. That is why there are so many of us.” The fourth chef comes up with an ingenious solution—he brings back a…chef…who makes…cupcakes. Delicious! Especially when decorated with eyeballs. (recipe) (Picture book. 4-8)

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SEA OF SHADOWS

Armstrong, Kelley Harper/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-06-207124-8 978-0-06-207126-2 e-book Series: Age of Legends, 1 Magic-wielding twins and their romantic interests fight monsters and mercenaries in this overlong but exciting series opener. Ashyn and Moria, 16, may defy tradition at every turn, beginning with their shared birth and continuing with their unauthorized weapons training, but they intend to fulfill their roles as Seeker and Keeper for the small town of Edgewood. With execution outlawed in the empire, guards regularly maroon exiles in the Forest of the Dead; the Seeker retrieves their corpses and lays their angry spirits to rest while the Keeper protects the village during the Seeking. But when Ashyn enters the forest and finds a few survivors, she also discovers monstrous creatures straight out of Moria’s favorite legends. After a long—and vividly described—massacre, Ashyn and Moria flee Edgewood, trek across treacherous wastes and seek an audience with the emperor, accompanied by con man Ronan, scorned warrior Gavril Kitsune, and the girls’ bonded animal companions, Daigo, a wildcat, and Tova, a Hound of the Immortals. Armstrong (The Rising, 2013, etc.) smoothly switches from her customary modern paranormal setting to a high-fantasy adventure, but she still favors relationship drama and reversals of fortune. Strong female protagonists make this trilogy opener a standout, if not a stand-alone read. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

A PET FOR FLY GUY

Arnold, Tedd Illus. by Arnold, Tedd Orchard/Scholastic (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-545-31615-6 Series: Fly Guy A boy and his pet fly, Fly Guy, learn that being a friend has lots of similarities to being a pet. Arnold, who has a knack for coaxing the best and the most unusual slant on friendship, brings back his old pal Fly Guy, the fly with really big eyes (even for a fly). Fly Guy and his chum, Buzz (“Fly Guy was the smartest pet in the whole world. He could say the boy’s name—‘BUZZ!’ ”—now that’s one smart fly), decide to go to the park one day. At the park, they have a picnic (Buzz has a wicker basket; Fly Guy prefers the smorgasbord in the park trash can); they play around, look at the clouds, watch the other kids and their pets. Fly Guy gets a little blue. He hasn’t got a pet of his own, so they go searching for one: cats and dogs (too big), frogs (maybe not), worms (slimy). Then a very little light bulb goes off in Fly Guy’s very little brain: Buzz! Buzz can be Fly Guy’s pet. Buzz is game, and if being someone’s kirkus.com

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THE FINISHER

pet sounds a bit sketchy, think of it: Pets need companionship (well, maybe not cats), care, respect, dignity and entertainment. Or just call it a friend. Arnold’s “Garfield”-like artwork is snappy, emotive and as colorful as a new car. Readers will agree that being a pet isn’t a bad life, as long as you have a good pet keeper. (Picture book. 4-8)

Baldacci, David Scholastic (512 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-545-65220-9 978-0-545-65236-0 e-book Baldacci takes a late and none-toonimble leap aboard the children’s-fantasy bandwagon with this tale of a rebellious teenager in a town surrounded by a monster-ridden forest. Vega Jane gets by putting the finishing touches on high-quality manufactured goods (which, she later discovers, are thrown into a pit). She gets inklings both that Wormwood has a hidden past and isn’t the world’s only settlement after the town’s other Finisher flees into the deadly Quag, leaving behind a map and a bestiary that catalogs its creatures. Before she finally follows him, hundreds of pages later, she is forced to compete in the town’s Duelum, which is a regular round of previously

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“Fluid writing and a true sense of history—including fascinating insights into early circuses—raise this well above the usual.” from mending horses

males-only bare-knuckle fights for which there is no clear rationale. In labored efforts to create a sense of otherness, the author trots in a host of invented animals (garms, adars, jabbits and so on) and uses British cant (“The niff that bloke sent off…”). He also replaces all mention of “man,” “woman,” “human” and “dog” with, respectively, “male,” “female,” “Wug” or “Wugmort,” and “canine,” as in: “a male had killed his female for no cause other than he was a vile Wug” and “I didn’t like my stuff male-handled.” Despite these efforts, this is all familiar territory, from the isolated town with secretive leaders bent on preserving the status quo to violent visions, hidden rooms and libraries, characters with ambiguous agendas, a hot-tempered teen protagonist with nascent magical powers and three magical tools that practically fall into her hands. There’s even a ring. With some perfunctory martial training from her boyfriend, Vega Jane improbably defeats several ravening monsters as well as a string of much larger and more experienced males, then flies off over the town walls to have future adventures. Like many crossover efforts from name-brand authors: overstuffed and underinspired. (Fantasy. 11-13)

100 BEARS

Bardos, Magali Illus. by Bardos, Magali Flying Eye Books (104 pp.) $19.95 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-909263-15-4 Hunters pursue bears and vice versa in an entertaining scramble up the number chart that misses not a single entry. Linked by an on-again, off-again plotline, the tally begins with “1 forest” and ends with “100 trees.” In between, it takes 6 bears and 8 hunters from country to city, London to the African savanna, and aboard jets and ships. Along with multiple pauses for partying, they move on to a final reconciliation fueled by, among other goodies, “91 slices of gingerbread.” Done in a process that looks sometimes silk-screened and sometimes like paint and cut-paper collage, French illustrator Bardos’ flat, loudly colored illustrations grow increasingly crammed with silhouetted rushing figures, foods, tourist items, animals, stars and other things to tally up. Impressively, none of these are exact duplicates. To keep it all from turning into dizzying chaos, she often places figures in rows or gathers them into easily countable groups. She also varies the color schemes and compositions and provides welcome visual breaks by representing some entries with just numerals. Metric terminology and other signs of European origin give the book a pleasantly cosmopolitan air. A terrific visual romp. (Picture book. 4-6)

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MENDING HORSES

Barker, M.P. Holiday House (320 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2948-6

In this sequel to A Difficult Boy (2008), 16-year-old Daniel Linnehan, now released from his indenture and the owner of a chestnut mare named Ivy, finds freedom difficult to manage. Suspicious New Englanders (it’s 1839, and anti-Irish prejudice is rampant) object to his air of prosperity. He joins the peddler Jonathan Stocking and Billy, the ragtag child who accompanies him, out of a sense of self-preservation, but gradually, he begins to see them as family. When Jonathan joins up with an old friend who owns a circus, Daniel finds he can put his talents to good use retraining an equestrian act and teaching Ivy to perform in the ring. Meanwhile, Billy’s older brother, Liam, survives a fever that kills his younger brothers with the help of a neighboring whore; his father, who previously sold Billy to Jonathan, has abandoned him. Liam believes Billy— who’s really a girl, Nuala—is dead. Eventually, Billy confronts her father, who tries to take her back, seeing that she can now produce an income. How she and Daniel find peace in unlikely circumstances provides a satisfying end to their joint saga. Fluid writing and a true sense of history—including fascinating insights into early circuses—raise this well above the usual. Barker’s characters are nuanced, difficult, and real, and so is her sense of horses. An absorbing look into a patch of past not often examined. (Historical fiction. 8-14)

LOST GIRL FOUND

Bassoff, Leah; DeLuca, Laura Groundwood (192 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-55498-416-9 Much ink has been worthily spent calling attention to the harrowing experiences of the Lost Boys of Sudan. So what of the girls? Addressing a severe imbalance in the amount of attention paid to girls and women victimized in Sudan’s long civil war, the co-authors (one of whom has worked in East Africa) offer a fictional memoir. It wrests a fictional Didinga child from her settled life amid family and close neighbors and sends her on a long, heartbreaking trek to a huge refugee camp in Kenya. Relating her tale in present tense in a distinct, spirited voice (“That is one thing about me. I don’t get scared”), Poni goes on to describe her narrow escape from that camp and a forced marriage in the wake of a United Nations worker’s failure to honor a promise of help. She recounts her later stay in a small women’s shelter in Nairobi and, at last, the strenuous process of qualifying for a refugee program kirkus.com

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in far-off America. Though Poni learns to distance herself emotionally from the atrocities she witnesses, reminders of home force her to make agonizing choices along the way. Readers will come away with clear pictures of gender roles in Poni’s culture as well as the South Sudan conflict’s devastating physical and psychological effects. Two afterwords and a substantial bibliography (largely on the Lost Boys, perforce) will serve those who want to know more. Moving and necessary. (timeline, glossary, maps) (Fiction. 12-14)

GREAT

Benincasa, Sara HarperTeen (272 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-06-222269-5 978-0-06-222271-8 e-book Alas, this debut is anything but the titular great, though it could have been pretty good. Naomi feels at home in Chicago, hanging out with her best friend, Skags, and living with her father. So when she spends summers in the Hamptons with her mother, her ratty T-shirts and love of books make her an outsider. But this summer, things are different. She’s actually friendly with Delilah Fairweather, senator’s daughter and up-and-coming model. She’s got her first boyfriend, the dorky yet popular Jeff. Things are good with her mother. And then there’s Jacinta Trimalchio, fashion blogger and Naomi’s next-door neighbor. She’s mysterious and different, and Naomi likes her. But Jacinta has many secrets and one obsession: Delilah Fairweather. And that obsession will lead to scandal, an accident and death. This retelling of The Great Gatsby—especially with the “edgy” twist of a lesbian relationship between Jacinta/Gatsby and Delilah/Daisy—disappoints, as the story’s original elements are good enough that riding Fitzgerald’s coattails isn’t necessary. Naomi’s voice and character are engaging, and her relationships with Jeff and her mother provide plenty of fodder for a coming-of-age novel. The Gatsby elements are the weakest, from the character types to the plot. Read this for Naomi and try to forget The Great Gatsby. (Fiction. 12-16)

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DAISYLOCKS

Berkes, Marianne Illus. by Morrison, Cathy Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | $9.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-62855-206-5 978-1-62855-215-7 paper 978-1-62855-233-1 e-book The story of a daisy seed looking for the best place to grow is here used as a tool to introduce different habitats. Dissatisfied with where she’s first planted, Daisylocks— the reference to Goldilocks becomes clear as the pages turn— asks Wind to assist her, and across the pages she arcs, looking rather a lot like a dandelion seed with a contrail. First, Wind takes her to the desert, which is too hot. The tundra is too cold, and the wetlands are too wet. Daisylocks and Wind banter, till Wind gets rather exasperated, pointing out finally that where she was originally planted was the only place that

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was “just right!”—and that is where she ends up. A large, clear sans-serif type allows the text to stand out, in black or white, against hyper-realistic, close-up double-page spreads of rain forest, beach, mountain and so on, all full of plant and animal life. The bottom right-hand corner of each spread shows the growth of an actual daisy, from tiny seed to full flowering, and that’s lovely. Backmatter on plants and habitats is included (and can be reproduced for educational use); other such items can be found on the publisher’s website. Though it’s too bad Daisylocks’ botanical name (Bellis perennis) is never used, it’s nevertheless an inventive introduction to habitats. (Picture book. 6-8)

THE SOCCER FENCE A Story of Friendship, Hope, and Apartheid in South Africa Bildner, Phil Illus. by Watson, Jesse Joshua Putnam (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 13, 2014 978-0-399-24790-3

A tale of sports bridging cultural and racial chasms. This story begins during apartheid with a young South African boy who accompanies his mother from their shanty in a Johannesburg township to her job in the home of a wealthy white family. Adept at soccer, the boy longs to play on the fenced green lawn with the white boys, but he can only watch from outside the fence until one day, he gets to bicycle kick the ball back over the fence. The stark color contrasts throughout the book alternate between the rich greens and blues of the white boys’ lush lawn and purple and orange scenes, in which democracy begins and Mandela is released from prison and then becomes president. When the boys and the country unite to cheer on their mixed-race soccer team, Bafana Bafana (meaning “The Boys, The Boys”), and celebrate their victory over Tunisia in the African Cup of Nations, Watson creates a jubilant scene awash in yellow. The wordless final page hints at a brighter future for a South Africa positively influenced by the people’s passion for sports. Bildner and Watson offer young readers an informative snapshot of a divided land through the lens of boys who just want to play. (Picture book. 5-9)

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CURIOSITY

Blackwood, Gary Dial (320 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 10, 2014 978-0-8037-3924-6 Twelve-year-old Rufus Goodspeed is dangerously good at chess. Rufus’ “freakish prowess” for the game—and his unusually small size— lands him in a tight spot indeed when he’s employed by an ill-tempered showman named Johann Maelzel to be the brains behind “the Turk,” a wax-headed mechanical man in Turkish garb advertised as “the Original and Celebrated Automaton Chess Player.” Wedged inside a hidden wooden cabinet and breathing acrid candle smoke, Rufus plays chess on stage with unseen opponents via an ingenious mechanical system—all in the hope of earning money for his imprisoned father. The Turk was a real-life 19th-century contraption, and this novel focuses on its history after Maelzel brings it from Europe to Philadelphia in 1835, spurring wild public speculation about its inner workings, the intense scrutiny of then-journalist Edgar Allan Poe and man-vs.-machine debates that continue to this day. The suspenseful narrative unfolds through the first-person voice of the fictional Rufus, a sickly, stooped yet strong-spirited boy who never loses his insatiable curiosity or his passion for chess even through bouts of abuse, near-starvation, deceit and, alas, unrequited love. A thrilling look at the 19th-century age of automata—“a time of curiosity-seekers”—and the riveting story of a likable Philadelphia boy whose life of the mind helps him transcend his extraordinary, oft-cruel circumstances. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

RUN, DOG!

Boyer, Cécile Illus. by Boyer, Cécile Chronicle (48 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-4521-2708-8 A yellow dog exuberantly chases a red rubber ball through the park, wreaking havoc. First, the ball bounces off a trampoline onto a child’s head, then it disturbs a flock of birds that in turn upset a courting couple. The ball is nearly swallowed by a giraffe, then it knocks off a man’s hat, causing a fistfight in a bus queue. The dog finally catches up to his master, who sits peacefully reading under a tree, unaware of all the preceding drama. The stylized, silhouetted figures and objects are rendered in a fresh clean palette of grays, baby pink, blue and yellow, with only the ball in red. The limited palette makes the pictures easily legible to young children, while adding a Seuss-ian fantasy element. Some pages are cut narrower, lending a flip-book speediness to the action. Boyer’s book is a fresh European take on older, beloved Spot, with similarly childlike playfulness and humor. However this kirkus.com

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“Brenna’s lyrics are short, regular of meter and rhyme scheme and more easily digestible than most of the food.” from the bug house family restaurant

is not just another retro picture book. The figures are classic silhouettes, but there are contemporary touches: A bystander sports a baseball cap and earbuds, and the young man on the park bench is clad in a hoodie and sneakers. The text consists solely of commands—“Jump!” “Catch!” “Run!” “Fetch!” “Good dog”—but the illustrations tell a compelling story that young children will enjoy deconstructing for themselves. (Picture book. 2-5)

THE BUG HOUSE FAMILY RESTAURANT

Brenna, Beverley Illus. by Mongeau, Marc Tradewind Books (80 pp.) $12.95 paper | Mar. 15, 2014 978-1-926890-01-2

Insects are on the menu in this collection of food-related verse. Mannered ink-and-wash drawings of bug cuisine and the stylish diners who consume it accompany rhymed introductions to both. Poems range from a tally of “Daily Specials” (“Each mosquito’s sliced and fried / And served with spiders on the side”) to introductions to restaurant regulars like “Hervis and Eddy,” terrible twins who “dined every night on tarantula skins.” Brenna’s lyrics are short, regular of meter and rhyme scheme and more easily digestible than most of the food. Along with reliably gross-out entries for bug sushi, ladybug soup, “[s]lick and oozy,” beetleburgers and the ever-popular chocolate-covered bees, the author, a native Canadian, adds several regional dishes to the menu: “But…spiders are a Saskatchewan snack, / A Saskatchewan snack, / A Saskatchewan snack! / Spiders are a Saskatchewan snack, / And we eat them a leg at a time!” Tasty and, as bugs show signs of becoming even more common menu items in the near future, timely too. (introduction) (Poetry. 6-8)

THE LION AND THE MOUSE

Broom, Jenny Illus. by Nój, Nahta Templar/Candlewick (32 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-7636-6619-4

A lackluster take on the well-worn Aesop’s fable that does not stand up as well as other picture-book interpretations, notably Jerry Pinkney’s masterful wordless version. In an uncharacteristic display of empathy, rather than playing along with the mouse’s attempt at negotiation, the lion refrains from eating the hungry mouse and helps him to get the juicy berries he desires. The mouse’s promise to return the favor materializes when hunters come in the night and trap the unsuspecting lion in a net. Naturally, the mouse frees the |

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lion by gnawing away the strings of the net. No surprises here: Lion and mouse become BFFs. Nój’s textured paper-cut collage with some subtle die cuts enliven the rather ho-hum text and are cleanly executed. However, the highly stylized nature of the collage makes the lion’s shape more than a little odd in some of the illustrations. The style is so tight and formal that some of the shapes are hard to read, particularly when presented in silhouette. However there are creative touches, such as the diecut footprints that represent the hunters, making drawing them unnecessary. Paper collage need not be as unforgiving as it is here; some of the figures have the look of Lego blocks and may be hard for young children to interpret. Almost too squeaky-clean to be much fun. (Picture book. 2-4)

HE HAS SHOT THE PRESIDENT! April 14, 1865: The Day John Wilkes Booth Killed President Lincoln Brown, Don Illus. by Brown, Don Roaring Brook (64 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-59643-224-6 Series: Actual Times

Traditional journalistic questions are applied to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and funeral, as well as the roundup and executions of John Wilkes Booth and his associates. Facing the title page is a drawing of John Wilkes Booth, smoking gun in hand, with a speech bubble: “I do not repent the blow I struck.” On the first text page is a watercolor cartoon of Lincoln and the sentence, “It was a rare, cheerful day for President Abraham Lincoln.” Next, the Confederate flag hangs in defeat, as text explains both Lincoln’s satisfaction with the Civil War’s results and how this filled John Wilkes Booth “with seething rage.” Readers then learn about Booth’s failed kidnapping scheme, his cadre of supporters, and the bungled attempts by his cohorts to kill the vice president and secretary of state, which are contrasted with Booth’s successful mission. The text includes often underreported facts about the era’s political climate, such as the possibly hundreds of people killed if “caught gloating over the murder.” Details such as having to lay out the long-bodied Lincoln diagonally on his deathbed and the clues used to track down the escaped Booth are integrated in fast-paced, accessible language. The atmospheric illustrations are void of some of the text’s gorier details, but the topic’s general handling, which assumes considerable historical knowledge, suggests an older audience than the publisher’s recommended 6-10. Sadly, there are no child-friendly suggestions for further reading. Suitable for avid younger historians and older reluctant readers. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

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“[Brown] employs breezy, conversational language, speaking directly to his audience, telling them of the wonders and adventures that the city offers….” from in new york

IN NEW YORK

Brown, Marc Illus. by Brown, Marc Knopf (48 pp.) $17.99 | $20.99 PLB | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-375-86454-4 978-0-375-96454-1 PLB A very personal tour of New York takes readers East Side, West Side, uptown and down Although there is a hint of homage to Miroslav Sasek’s classic This Is New York, Brown makes it fresh and new and gets it just right, with a little history, a little geography, some mind-boggling statistics and the familiar iconic sights. It’s not orderly in its approach, as New York is essentially an eclectic mix of people, sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Beginning with his very first view of the city and his determination to make it his home, he catalogs the things he loves about it. He zooms through the Broadway theater district, the top of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and more, including lesserknown places like the High Line and not forgetting the subway system. With pauses to address hunger pangs, Brown offers interesting tidbits about the vast variety of food available. He employs breezy, conversational language, speaking directly to his audience, telling them of the wonders and adventures that the city offers, inviting them to come and see it for themselves. The detailed illustrations and endpaper sketches are rendered in layers of watercolors and gouache that glow brightly with joy and vitality and demand to be viewed over and over, always to find new delights. An exuberant and heartfelt travelogue extraordinaire. (Picture book. 4-10)

WASHDAY

Bunting, Eve Illus. by Sneed, Brad Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-8234-2868-7 It’s washday. That doesn’t mean putting clothes in the washing machine and turning the knob or driving to the laundromat; it’s 1889, when it’s the old-fashioned way of getting clothes clean. Lizzie and her doll, Amelia Cordelia, walk to her grandmother’s house to help because her Ma is soon to have a baby. The work is hard: boiling water in a big copper kettle; adding shavings of lye soap; sorting the clothes by color (whites for Sunday “go-to-meeting” clothes); using the broom handle to lift the hot clothing into rinse water; putting them through the wringer; and drying them on the outdoor clothesline. Taking a break with a glass of buttermilk, Lizzie is sad thinking about the doll tea party she was supposed to have with her friend that day. Surprise! Grandma has set the table for a tea party with 88

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special dishes and doll-size snickerdoodles and places for her best friend and her doll. Bunting evokes a homespun experience with emotions and details that the pencil-and-watercolor illustrations adroitly augment. Sneed neither whitewashes nor prettifies the harshness of the time; Grandma is a robust woman with hair in a bun and a big nose. Historical details like hairstyles and sturdy black shoes combine with phrases like “Grandma’s dog…has the misery in his back” to make the story feel genuine. An appealing snapshot of rough-hewn life that might well make kids appreciate washing machines. (Picture book. 5-8)

I DIDN’T DO MY HOMEWORK BECAUSE...

Cali, Davide Illus. by Chaud, Benjamin Chronicle (44 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4521-2551-0

Who doesn’t want to learn new excuses for unfinished assignments? That’s just what this title offers—26 outlandish solutions to that “What to say?” dilemma. When a boy is questioned by his teacher about the missing homework, he thinks fast. The ideas fire in rapid succession, from being attacked by Vikings and hiding escaped convicts in his bedroom to giving his pencils to Robin Hood and sacrificing workbooks to heat his home. Chaud’s ink-and-watercolor scenes vary from single- to double-page spreads, with simpler compositions than in The Bear’s Song (2013), although there are some crowd scenes, as when the “famous director asked to use my bedroom to shoot his new movie.” Cowboys, Indians on horseback and glamorous women make themselves at home, surrounded by the railroad track and film crew. Shades of red and green dominate the palette, lending a sense of uniformity to an otherwise diverse range of settings and characters. The combination of the boy’s formal attire—a dark suit and bright red tie—and his long, unruly hair casts uncertainty as to his veracity, until the teacher pulls out the book from behind her back to reveal the same one in readers’ hands; the game is up. Ultimately, “list” books wear thin, and this is no exception. It will likely be passed around, but repeated readings are not particularly rewarding. (Picture book. 5-9)

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MYSTERIOUS PATTERNS Finding Fractals in Nature

Campbell, Sarah C. Photos by Campbell, Sarah C.; Campbell, Richard P. Boyds Mills (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-62091-627-8

Through examples of what fractals are and what they aren’t, this photo essay introduces a complex mathematical idea in a simple, inviting way. Using a straightforward text and eye-catching photographs, the Campbells start with the familiar: spheres, cones, cylinders—shapes readers can find and readily name in their environments. But then they move on to the more elaborate forms: a head of broccoli, the flower of a Queen Anne’s lace, a tree. In 1975, Benoit Mandelbrot gave a name to natural shapes with smaller parts that look like the whole shape. He called them fractals. Photographs of whole and divided flower and broccoli heads, set on plain backgrounds, demonstrate how smaller parts repeat the shape of the whole. A double-page spread of forked lightning shows another example. Even mountain ranges are made of smaller mountains. Further, smaller images remind readers that the shapes can be called fractals only if the repeating parts diminish in size. In conclusion, the author of Growing Patterns (2010) provides instructions for drawing the interesting fractal pattern that surrounds each page number. An afterword by mathematician Michael Frame offers more information about Mandelbrot and introduces the possibility of a real-world application of this abstract idea: invisibility cloaks! For visual learners, this is a particularly accessible demonstration of an intriguing concept. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

TOE SHOE MOUSE

Carr, Jan Illus. by Bell, Jennifer A. Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2406-1

A little mouse finds friendship at the ballet. In a comically formal first-person account, the mouse recounts how, while fleeing from rats, he found himself in a grand old theater and discovered the beautiful sounds and movements of ballet. His efforts to make himself at home go awry when theatergoers and on-stage performers chase him away, but he finds refuge in a “small satin crevice” in a room filled with toe shoes, flowers, costumes and a ballerina. The two exchange gifts; the little mouse learns that his dancer prefers bits of rickrack, and she leaves him a mouse-shaped cookie. Friendship follows as the mouse gains a ribbon for his neck, a dancing partner, a name (Tendu) and a new home. Carr’s tale is sweetly told with just a hint of danger, though |

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little dancers may be disappointed at the absence of any actual rehearsal or performance scenes. Bell’s pencil and digitally rendered illustrations in teals and rosy pinks provide a pretty setting for a pretty little tale. A honey-coated story of interspecies friendship. (Picture book. 3-6)

MAY THE STARS DRIP DOWN

Chatelain, Jeremy Illus. by McClure, Nikki Abrams (40 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-4197-1024-7 In this achingly loving interpretation of the indie band Cub Country’s lullaby, a mother cuddles her sleepy son, picturing his dream wanderings in the natural world and wishing him well on his nighttime journeys. McClure’s cut– and torn–black-paper illustrations carve out nocturnal landscapes in shadowy blues and blacks, with white bringing lightness in sharp relief. The boy shifts shape, turning into a fox, an owl, a seabird and even a fluttering leaf. Young readers will flip back to the book’s endpapers, pointing to the cherished toys and objects scattered in the boy’s bedroom that drift into his dreams. Marvelous double-page spreads feel like nature hunts themselves in their beautiful complexity, initiated on the first page with a full moon that’s dotted with light by small, circular cutouts. And with a page turn, the boy’s sleeping breath turns to stardust, and readers float off with him across sparkling sand dunes and rippling grasses. Many of the song’s lyrics will be lost in the ether. “And there will come a new dune. / May the sand wash over you.” Children won’t know what to make of such lines, but McClure’s masterful illustrations make both the mother’s intense connection to her son and his dazzling dreams lucid. (The song is available for download on the publisher’s website.) A richly imagined dreamscape in a feat of paper artistry. (Picture book. 4-6)

GRAVITY

Chin, Jason Illus. by Chin, Jason Neal Porter/Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 29, 2014 978-1-59643-717-3 After stunning explorations of the Galápagos Islands and California’s redwoods, Chin turns literally high-concept for a study of gravity’s pull. “Gravity // makes / objects // fall / to Earth.” This big idea spans three double-page spreads, as (in a bit of metafictive fun) the very book in hand falls to Earth. It lands on a beach, where a brown-skinned boy plays with space toys, a half-peeled banana waiting nearby. What would happen without gravity? |

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Chin ponders this visually, as (with the boy clinging to a rock) the book and toys soar into space to comingle, mysteriously, with the trappings of a lemonade stand. A series of panels goes even broader-concept, as shifts in perspective show the moon drifting away from the Earth and Earth untethered from the sun’s pull. The text tackles the role of mass in gravity’s relative force before rejoining the central visual arc by echoing the first sentence. That array of objects—beach ball, toy rocket, nowmottled banana—rains down on a group of Caucasian girls, who marvel at the sudden shower. Clearly, it’s their lemonade stand that’s endured Chin’s mischievous dabble with anti-gravity, as on the final spread, the boy juggles a sploshing pitcher, lemons and paper cups on the surrounding sand. With an elegant, spare text and playful, daring pictures, Chin’s latest opus exerts a powerful pull all its own. (“More about Gravity,” bibliography) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

FINDING GRACE

Citra, Becky Second Story Press (200 pp.) $9.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-927583-25-8 Series: Gutsy Girl, 1 Hope didn’t even know that Grace was missing—she thought the girl to whom she’s secretly written for years was imaginary. Besides Grace, whom else could the friendless Hope talk to? Her apparently depressed, unemployed mother, Flora, mostly stays in bed, and her Granny is a bit crusty. The full dimensions of her mother’s situation gradually emerge: Flora never really knew Hope’s father, and worse, she gave up Hope’s twin, Grace, for adoption after the 2-year-old developed polio. Then Granny dies, leaving their sad situation even more uncertain, so Hope does what a resourceful girl can: She embarks on a plan to find Grace and heal her mother’s pain. Though the story is set in 1954, there is disappointingly little period flavor. Hope’s childlike voice and some of her letters capture the 11-year-old’s pain and frustration but often fail to fully convey the necessary distress, leaving readers to fill in the many blanks. She reports her mother’s shortcomings, but her sometimes-blithe pluck in this undermines the tension. (The story kicks off the Gutsy Girl series, perhaps accounting for Hope’s attitude.) Given Flora’s unfortunate history with men, her maturing relationship with Mr. Pinn, a lawyer whose role ensures a feel-good conclusion, seems improbable. Citra wraps it all up too neatly and sweetly for full believability. Dysfunctional-mother fiction is a crowded genre; this one lacks sufficient punch to distinguish itself. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

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FLUFF DRAGON

Clark, Platte F. Aladdin (384 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-4424-5015-8 Series: Bad Unicorn, 2 This is a book that shouldn’t work. At first, the book reads like a parody of a fantasy novel. There’s an evil unicorn and an evil rainbow and a pair of fire kittens, who threaten to lick their victims on the ankles. The early chapters are hilarious, but humor is a risky strategy: Readers might not take the book seriously when the characters are in danger. But Clark has worked very hard to make sure that the traps are both funny and frightening. The dwarven probability locks are especially clever. They’re not locks: “We have two doors in front of us,” a character explains; “If we pick the correct one, we will enter the vaults. If we pick the wrong one, we will die instantly. They are both unlocked.” The real problem is that the more serious passages of the book are a little dull. The villain, Rezormoor Dreadbringer, seems just as foolish as the characters in more traditional fantasy novels. His master plan is to capture the hero and then give him the Codex of Infinite Knowability, the most powerful spell book in existence. For every trite moment, though, there’s a joke that works beautifully. A Bieber joke at about the 100-page mark justifies the entire book. It will be dated by the end of the year, but by then, readers will be eagerly waiting for the next volume. (Fantasy. 8-13)

LILY THE UNICORN

Clayton, Dallas Illus. by Clayton, Dallas Harper/HarperCollins (48 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-06-211668-0 Readers first see Lily the unicorn, a picture of exuberance in pink and blue, bounding across a field of flowers. She has energy and enthusiasm for many activities and friends—doesn’t everyone? Introducing herself with big bubble letters, Lily floats in white space and informs children that she likes to make things. The proof: She is surrounded by labeled thumbnail drawings of a multitude of inventions, such as an alien planet jumper, a butterfly meter and an electric kazoo. In the next few pages, she reveals that she likes making music, a mess and friends, all depicted in a frenzy of illustrations. Some youngsters will embrace the catalog of ideas; others, like new friend Roger, a penguin with creases across his brow, may be overwhelmed by the (visual) cacophony. He does not respond to any of Lily’s many suggestions. Roger finally discloses, in a four-spread outburst that reflects his frustration, that his problem is fear. Beautifully paced, the next four spreads feature just the two figures kirkus.com

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“Gloria’s upbeat attitude, effectively depicted through her often funny, too-quickly-judgmental voice and the ineffable enthusiasm of the campers she encounters, offers a satisfying, thoughtful take on growing up.” from breakfast served any time

on a white background focused solely on each other, allowing them, along with readers, to take a breath and digest the all-toofamiliar issue. Lily is accepting and reassuring. They rest a beat, then romp together through the flowers. All will agree: Lily is lovely. (Picture book. 4-8)

BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME

Combs, Sarah Candlewick (272 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7636-6791-7

Gloria is headed for a summer of Geek Camp, an experience that will transform her. Much like a latter-day Anne of Green Gables, Gloria is acutely aware of the exquisite promise of the moment, and she savors the myriad details of each memorable experience. She carries with her the Gloria Bishop Book of Ephemera, a sort of scrapbook for the detritus that makes memories, from fortunecookie messages to a four-leaf clover plucked by Mason. He’s the most interesting of her classmates at a summer camp for gifted rising Kentucky high school seniors. Only she and three others have chosen the focus of Secrets of the Written Word, overseen by a quirky professor they call X. Together, the lovingly portrayed foursome explores the campus, spends lots of time at a small restaurant that serves breakfast all day and falls for each other as the best of friends—and in the case of Gloria and Mason, more than best friends. Gloria’s upbeat attitude, effectively depicted through her often funny, too-quickly-judgmental voice and the ineffable enthusiasm of the campers she encounters, offers a satisfying, thoughtful take on growing up. In a promising debut, Combs crafts a strong, memorable female character and a broad collection of fully fleshed-out secondary players who share a magical summer. (Fiction. 12-18)

THE LONESOME YOUNG

Connors, Lucy Razorbill/Penguin (384 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-59514-709-7 Series: Lonesome Young, 1

In rural Kentucky, where everyone knows everyone else and grudges run deep, Victoria and Mickey’s romance is doomed before it even begins. She is from the Whitfield family, well-established players in the horse business. He is a Rhodale, known for their drug ties and violent tempers. Though a deep-seated family feud usually keeps Whitfields and Rhodales in separate worlds, Victoria and Mickey cannot deny their instantaneous connection. Their feelings for each other and |

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about their family situations are revealed through short chapters that alternate perspectives. Most of the plot centers around the hormone-addled Victoria and Mickey as they hem and haw over their relationship, while their families do everything in their power to keep them apart. However, several juicy subplots are interwoven throughout the storyline, including Victoria’s sister Melinda’s battle with addiction, the historical connection between the Whitfield and Rhodale families, and dangerous developments in Mickey’s brother Ethan’s drug business. The narrative suffers from the introduction of some superfluous characters and drags on a bit longer than necessary, but it also sets the stage for further titles, as this is the first in a series. Romance fans will be enthralled by the back-and-forth drama, though general readers may grow impatient with the protagonists. (Romance. 14-17)

THE TAKING

Derting, Kimberly HarperTeen (368 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-06-229360-2 978-0-06-229362-6 e-book Derting (The Offering, 2013, etc.) kicks off a new series about a teen softball star who disappears one night after the big game and returns five years later with no memory of where she’s been. The book is separated into two distinct halves. Character drives the first half as Kyra reassembles the pieces of her life and discovers that family and friends have moved on with their own. The second half pokes around the greater mystery of where Kyra’s been by turning the book into a plot-point machine and setting up a larger universe that will surely be explored in coming installments. The book’s strength lies more in the first half than the second, as Kyra and her family cope with the extraordinary circumstances thrust upon them. Just as they’ve begun to heal, Kyra comes back to rip open their wounds with riveting and heartbreaking results that the author explores with great success. Less successful is Kyra’s romance with the boy across the street, Tyler, who is defined solely by his dreamy smile and steadfast dedication to doing whatever Kyra wants him to do. Their romance marks the book’s low point, but the author ends on a high note with conspiracies, underground rebel networks and spooky government agencies. A solid mix of domestic drama and sci-fi absurdity, this series opener provides a promising start that intrigues as well as it entertains. (Science fiction. 14-18)

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ESSAY

Unsafe Practices A lot of people are concerned about what kids take away from the books they read By Vicky Smith The world is full of danger, and so, when you think about it, are children’s books. In Whistle for Willie, Peter’s little dachshund roams the streets of New York unleashed (and so does Peter, for that matter). When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry, she runs away from home and climbs a tree. And Max gets into that boat and sails to Where the Wild Things Are all by himself, without a life jacket!

Get a grip, you say, rolling your eyes. The first book is a period piece, the second is an emotional tone poem, and the third is a metaphor, for heaven’s sake. They shouldn’t be seen as prescriptions for behavior. And goodness knows, millions of children have read these books and managed not to kill either themselves or their dogs. Nevertheless, what kids take away from the books they read is something a lot of people are concerned about, both within the industry and without, and what 92

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goes into children’s books often responds to these concerns. Take bike helmets, for example. Where once it was common to see children riding bikes with their hair flowing behind them, it’s now remarkable if they are not helmeted, as are the little girl in Chris Raschka’s Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle, Mole in Will Hillenbrand’s Off We Go! and (eventually) Bonnie O’Boy in James Proimos and Johanna Wright’s The Best Bike Ride Ever. Interestingly, the titular lad in Matt Davies’ Ben Rides On survives his 32-page odyssey with no helmet—though of course, for much of it the bike is in the grubby hands of Adrian Underbite. This no doubt causes waves of nostalgia to wash over adult readers who remember the joy of biking with the wind in their hair—goodness knows, it did for me. Ben just looks like he’s having so much fun jumping all those school buses, Evel Knievel style…. kirkus.com

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So what is the role of the reviewer when he or she bumps into something in a book that seems problematic? I’m not talking about literary concerns—the reviewer who can’t abide poor scansion or clumsy characterization has carte blanche to say so. I’m talking about extraliterary qualms ranging from breathing exercises to prepare for free diving to the depiction of a child atop a horse, bareback. In the first case, the reviewer of a book for teens called Taken by Storm, by Angela Morrison, worried about its description of the breathing techniques used by a teen to prep for free diving. My reviewer was a Navy wife and had worked for years as a nurse before changing careers; she knew a thing or two about drowning deaths. She sent a review that took strong issue with the teen’s “venting,” bolstered by a number of links to websites detailing the danger inherent in hyperventilating before diving. I spent quite a long time looking at

the book and engaging in a parallel exchange between author and reviewer about whether or not the book described hyperventilating or a completely different type of deep breathing. In the second case, another reviewer saw red flags in the illustration of a small child perched happily on the back of an untacked pony in a picture book for preschoolers called A Day at the Farm, by Séverine Cordier and Cynthia Lacroix, with illustrations by Cordier and E.H.R. Schober. Apparently her whole community had been scarred just a year or two earlier when a little girl hopped on the back of a pony that threw her; she died from her injuries. What to do with them? In each case, I decided to allow a line expressing the reviewers’ respective concerns. Let people in communities on the water or with horses decide whether or not to buy the books, but let them do it fully informed. I’m still not entirely happy with that, though—as I wrote to my nurse-reviewer, “Kirkus [is] a literary journal, and I’m not sure we have the authority to talk about unsafe diving practices. If…you were able to establish your [medical] expertise it would be one thing, but pretty much our only expertise is in lit’ry judgments.” I receive reviews that range far beyond scansion and characterization on a near-daily basis, and each individual review requires independent cogitation about how to handle it. Sometimes I consult a third-party expert; sometimes I just have to go with my gut. Every time I decide our reviews are going to stick strictly to the literary, I am given a reason not to. But you know what? I’m really happy we decided not to carp about bike helmets in Ben Rides On. Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor of Kirkus Reviews.

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“Debut author Durham spins a tale of intrigue and adventure peopled with characters so individually full of both goodness and flaws that readers will immediately relate.” from the luck uglies

THE STORY OF BUILDINGS From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond

which the two flee together from a charging squad of cavalry (also mounted atop hyenas). That chase ends at the edge of a cliff, where, to the consternation of their pursuers, clouds of ladybugs suddenly rise to carry both fugitives away. For what it’s worth, sharp-eyed and repeat observers will note that the ladybug is a sort of outside observer who actually makes frequent appearances, from the front cover illustration on. Silly, surreal fun: Deeper meanings, if any, are wellconcealed, but who needs ’em? (Picture book. 6-8)

Dillon, Patrick Illus. by Biesty, Stephen Candlewick (96 pp.) $19.99 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-7636-6990-4

Biesty’s precisely drawn, finely detailed architectural views supply the highlights for this unfocused survey of homes and prominent buildings through the ages. Dillon (The Story of Britain, 2011) opens with our ancestors in caves and closes with the eco-friendly Straw Bale House built in London. In between, he offers a chronological overview of architectural styles as represented by an apparently indiscriminate mix of homes, public buildings and, in the single case of St. Petersburg, a planned city. He mentions about three dozen specific examples and devotes particular attention to 16—from the Pyramid of Djoser to the Pompidou Center. Biesty provides for each of this latter group a labeled, exploded portrait often large enough to require a single or double gatefold and so intricately exact that, for instance, the very ticket booths in the Crystal Palace are visible. Though the author sometimes goes into similarly specific detail about architectural features or building methods, he also shows a weakness for grand generalizations (“Skyscrapers were the first truly American buildings”) and for repeating the notion that buildings are a kind of machine. With a few exceptions, his main choices reflect a distinctly Eurocentric outlook, and he neglects even to mention Frank Gehry or more than a spare handful of living architects. There is no bibliography or further reading. Broad of historical (if not international) scope and with illustrations that richly reward poring over—but unfocused. (index, timeline) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

COYOTE RUN

Dorémus, Gaëtan Illus. by Dorémus, Gaëtan Enchanted Lion Books (32 pp.) $14.95 | Mar. 31, 2014 978-1-59270-147-6 Series: Stories Without Words

THE LUCK UGLIES

Durham, Paul Harper/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-06-227150-1 978-0-06-227152-5 e-book A sparkling middle-grade fantasy opens a trilogy. Rye O’Chanter is a somewhat clumsy 11-year-old who enjoys hijinks with best friends Quinn and Folly on the roofs and lanes of Village Drowning, a dark, medieval-feeling town. It’s run by a nasty, self-absorbed earl and surrounded by bogs that have spawned a legend of Bog Noblins—vile beasts who eat unwary villagers and adorn themselves with necklaces made out of said villagers’ feet. Many years earlier, a secret society of protectors named Luck Uglies had fought and vanquished the Bog Noblins, and now, neither monsters nor secret society members exist. Or do they? When a real, not-just-legend, Bog Noblin shows up and begins to terrorize Village Drowning, old fears as well as old secrets are resurrected. Debut author Durham spins a tale of intrigue and adventure peopled with characters so individually full of both goodness and flaws that readers will immediately relate. It is this nuance of character that raises the narrative above the trope of a good-vs.-evil storyline and into richer, more layered territory. Durham combines intelligent writing that does not talk down to the intended audience with an innocent charm—a concoction that is sure to captivate readers and make them thankful that this is Book 1 of a trilogy. Layers, nuance, wit and a thumping good story make this a must-read. (Fantasy. 9-13)

A droll if severely abbreviated cowboy tale—wordless and with a decidedly loopy climactic twist. Depicted in flurries of straight, scratchy lines and scribbled colors in a sequence of full-page panels, the episode begins and ends with an escape. Hotly pursuing a coyote who has broken out of jail and galloped off atop what looks more like a hyena than a horse (none of the figures here are quite identifiable), a lawman with the head of a donkey (perhaps) catches up with his quarry in a rocky cul-de-sac. When a passing ladybug defuses the tense confrontation, the steely-eyed opponents lay down their guns and break out the stemware for a comfy fish dinner—after 94

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FRACTIONS IN DISGUISE A Math Adventure

Einhorn, Edward Illus. by Clark, David Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | $7.95 paper | $6.99 e-book Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-57091-773-8 978-1-57091-774-5 paper 978-1-60734-728-6 e-book

Not only tackling fractions, but simplifying them, this fills a need and thoroughly entertains. George Cornelius Factor (G.C.F., get it?) collects fractions. But he’s not alone: Baron von Mathematik and Madame de Géométrique also covet the 5/8 that is newly up for auction. But the nefarious Dr. Brok, a master of disguise, steals it. He “can take a 1/2 and turn it into a 2/4 or a 3/6. It’s still the same fraction, but it looks different.” George won’t be deterred. He invents a Reducer—half ray gun, half calculator—that zaps fractions into their lowest terms and goes to Dr. Brok’s mansion to confront him and find the 5/8. A clever bit of detective work and a rousing action sequence later, and the 5/8 is back to its lowest terms and part of George’s collection. Throughout, Einhorn finds ways to humorously add fractions to his tale—the fraction lovers bid portions of $1 million, and Brok’s mansion is 1/10 of a mile tall— and painlessly describes the process of reducing them to their lowest terms. Backmatter summarizes the learning, though not as simply as the text. Clark’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations truly make the characters’ personalities shine. Dr. Brok looks something like professor Hinkle of Frosty the Snowman fame, while the pages simply ooze with the aura of a great mystery. No question—a large fraction of parents and teachers will be reaching for this. (Math picture book. 7-10)

ACROSS A WAR-TOSSED SEA

Elliott, L.M. Disney-Hyperion (256 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4231-5755-7

In the companion to Under A WarTorn Sky (2003), 14-year-old Charles and his 10-year-old brother, Wesley, feel stranded in the United States after having fled the London Blitz. The Ratcliff farm in Virginia is a far cry from London, but the Bishop boys are safe from nightly bombs and have survived an ocean crossing fraught with the danger of lurking Nazi submarines. Charles is making the best of his new life with school, girls and football, but Wesley is wretched. He’s homesick, nightmares of firebombs disturb his sleep, and he’s being picked on by Ron, the Ratcliffs’ middle son. The theme of outsiders fitting in grows complicated as Wesley befriends an African-American boy and learns the ways |

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of segregation in Virginia at the time. His image of cowboys and Indians doesn’t hold up when he meets Paul Johns, who is Chickahominy and lives in a regular house, not a tepee. And the German prisoners of war working the Ratcliff farm, Wesley and Charles learn, can’t be lumped together as evil Nazis; some aren’t even Nazis. An extensive afterword fills in the historical context, though no bibliography is included. Likable protagonists and a fascinating historical backdrop combine for a story well-told. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

THE WHISPERING TOWN

Elvgren, Jennifer Illus. by Santomauro, Fabio Kar-Ben (32 pp.) $17.95 | $7.95 paper | $6.95 e-book Feb. 1, 2014 978-1-4677-1194-4 978-1-4677-1195-1 paper 978-1-4677-1196-8 e-book Residents of a small town in Nazi-occupied Denmark work together to provide a hidden Jewish mother and son safe passage to neutral Sweden. “New friends” are being harbored in Anett’s dark basement for two nights. Though afraid, she allows their whispering voices to lead her down the stairs. Anett brings food from her mother’s kitchen and books from the library until the boy and his mother can secretly board a fishing boat that will cross over to Sweden. Most of Anett’s daily encounters with neighbors and shopkeepers show that the townsfolk support Anett’s family in their dangerous effort. When the Nazis begin to search houses each night, the situation becomes even more perilous for Anett’s family, and her father determines that they must be taken to the harbor despite the obscuring clouds. Without moonlight, the Jews are beckoned from door to door, guided only by whispering voices—“This way”—that indicate the route to safety. The direct simplicity of the story’s telling serves well as an introduction for younger children to the Holocaust. Dark cartoon sketches reminiscent of Tomi Ungerer in opaque black, blues, grays and khaki green markers and word bubbles with the key words of direction paint the ominous atmosphere. This uncomplicated narrative of Danish resistance will facilitate teaching and discussion of a difficult yet necessary subject. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

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THE ALMOST FEARLESS HAMILTON SQUIDLEGGER

Ering, Timothy Basil Illus. by Ering, Timothy Basil Candlewick (48 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7636-2357-9

With his dad’s help, a young frog conquers nighttime fears by harnessing his imagination. Hamilton Squidlegger and his wooden sword thwart the (imaginary) threats looming in the swamp, be they fire-breathing frackensnapper, clawed skelecragon or twining bracklesneed. Hamilton’s bravado disappears at sunset, though, as his prodigious imagination animates those same fictive monsters. He flees his own mud for his “secret hideaway”—wedged between his sleepless parents. While Hamilton wakes refreshed and ready for more fearless exploits, his beleaguered dad’s weary of this pattern. He bakes Hamilton’s luscious fave, a “double-decker grasshopper worm-cake,” offering it as breakfast in exchange for Hamilton’s successful overnighter in his own mud. As a storm threatens, Hamilton worries: “What if a l-l-lightning monster comes tonight?” Dad encourages Hamilton to enlist his mind to turn the tide: “Think good thoughts is what I say. Monsters are silly, and they love to play!” More than a dozen full spreads, including a double gatefold, spool out Hamilton’s ensuing dream-adventure. A junked TV spews a pink-lemonade sea; a flying ship with a striped-bass cook unites Hamilton, his dad and the now-friendly monsters, who all sleep in their “very own cabins.” Ering’s pictures splice together spindle-legged, popeyed creatures, etchy linework, and lush layers of washy, brushy, splotchy, gorgeously colored paint. In the last image, Hamilton digs into that yummy worm cake at sunrise. Appealing—and empowering. (Picture book. 3-7)

THE QUAYSIDE CAT

Forward, Toby Illus. by Brown, Ruth Andersen Press USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4677-3452-3 978-1-4677-3458-5 e-book A wharf cat gets a taste of life at sea. Jim meets up with Old Tregarn at the harbor, raptly listening to his yarns about life as a ship’s cat. Hearing them, Jim insists he wants to go to sea too, so both cats sneak aboard a vessel that sails on the night tide. Once aboard, Jim learns that the maritime life takes some getting used to. Facing down rats in the hold, experiencing seasickness and bad weather, and climbing to the top of the mast are all part of Jim’s new life. Forward’s lyrical language flows off the tongue—“When the sea sucks back from the harbor wall and the sunlight strokes the cobbled streets”—and is rich in its evocation of the roll and swell of the ocean’s rhythm. Minimal 96

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dialogue attribution initially may cause readers some confusion about which cat is speaking, and these sections may have to be read twice. How much time has passed is also not completely clear, since the narrative reads, “The storms come…” followed on the page turn by, “After the storm…” leaving readers to wonder whether one event or many over a longer time period is indicated. Brown’s consummate paintings burst with sensory detail—the water sloshes, the lines fray, the wind whistles. Gorgeous illustrations combine with the poetic language of the narrative to create a winsome journey. (Picture Book. 3-7)

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

Friedman, Laurie Darby Creek (160 pp.) $17.95 | $13.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4677-0926-2 978-1-4677-2242-7 e-book Series: Mostly Miserable Life of April Sinclair, 2 April’s much-anticipated eighth-grade year rapidly devolves into a debacle. After a turbulent summer (Can You Say Catastrophe, 2013), 13-year-old April is excited for the new school year. She has been dating Billy for a month, and she has reconciled with her BFF, Brynn. However, new challenges arrive with the new year. April’s relationship with Brynn is jeopardized when an opportunity to try out for the high school dance team results in April being selected to join the team while Brynn is not. Familiar characters return as Friedman focuses on April’s relationship quandaries: her problems with Brynn, her mixed feelings regarding her relationship with Billy, and her perplexing interactions with the enigmatic boy next door, Matt. The journal format provides insight into April’s emotional life as she expresses her inner turmoil with poignant honesty. Friedman sensitively explores the emotional upheavals that sometimes accompany the middle school years. The revelation of April’s clandestine kiss with Matt wreaks havoc in her life. April’s lament, “Can a girl make a mistake without her life falling apart?” highlights the intense pressures of middle school social life. Relying on the sage counsel of both her grandmother and father, April navigates her way. Readers will empathize as April displays spunk and resilience in addressing her mistakes and remaining true to herself. (Fiction. 11-14)

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“Preschoolers will love the notion that Teddy’s at fault for the accumulating mess, especially when…the kitchen suddenly explodes into a riotous full-bleed spread of mayhem.” from i am otter

MAYDAY

I AM OTTER

Friesen, Jonathan Penguin (304 pp.) $9.99 paper | Apr. 10, 2014 978-0-14-241229-9 Even as her own soul hovers in the “middle” space, her body barely clinging to life in a hospital room, 18-year-old Crow’s thoughts are consumed with protecting her sister. When given the chance to go on a “walkabout”—an opportunity to revisit her life and make things right—Crow learns that there may have been another side to the people and events that defined her. The only catch is that she must return as someone other than herself. It’s an interestingenough premise, and the first half of the book will likely live up to readers’ expectations. A skillfully crafted and strikingly bleak Minnesota is the perfect backdrop for Crow’s desperate attempts to save her sister from their stepfather’s lascivious eye. Their mother’s unwillingness to acknowledge this potential threat is both maddening and chillingly believable. Unfortunately, the second half of the novel falls disappointingly short. Here, Crow’s gender-bending return to her past as a young man muddies the waters and distracts from the plot, as does a disturbing side story about Crow’s relationship with her friend Basil. Frequent references to Crow’s passion for philosophy are not followed through in the text, and Crow’s obsession with protecting her sister never allows adequate room for Crow to truly discover herself. An uneven read that ultimately misses its mark. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Garton, Sam Illus. by Garton, Sam Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-06-224775-9 A bright and hilarious escapade about an otter who, bored while her owner’s at work, opens a toast restaurant. Otter lives happily in a house with Otter Keeper, a youthful human adult, and Teddy, a stuffed bear. Her only disappointment is the news that arrives every Monday: Otter Keeper must go to work. Stopping time (by placing the clock in a fish tank) doesn’t prevent Otter Keeper’s departure, and why don’t Otter and Teddy have their own jobs anyway? Clearly, they need to open a toast restaurant. Chaos builds, with all blame assigned to Teddy. The hapless bear forgets to take reservations, causing a long line of impatient toys, and gets orders wrong—burned toast, unpeeled banana, a restaurant patron spread with jam and set on a plate. Underneath these jokes runs a broader one: Otter’s first-person narration imbues Teddy (and the other toys) with consciousness and agency, though readers see that Teddy’s an inanimate stuffed animal who needs propping to even sit up. Preschoolers will love the notion that Teddy’s at fault for the accumulating mess, especially when—after only small- and medium-size spot illustrations surrounded by relaxing white space—the kitchen suddenly explodes into a riotous full-bleed spread of mayhem. Garton’s cartoon-style digital illustrations are rich with clear, medium-saturation colors, with shading and texture as highlights. Hysterical. (Picture book. 3-6)

TUGBOAT

KNIGHTLEY AND SON

Garland, Michael Illus. by Garland, Michael Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2866-3 It’s all in a day’s work for a tugboat. Set in New York City and spanning a day from dawn to dark, this straightforward informational selection for the very young offers an uncomplicated look at a tugboat and all the elaborate tasks it can perform. Garland’s colorful pencil-and-digital artwork depicts the vessel, illustrating the many large jobs a small tugboat can accomplish (help a cargo ship dock, pull a barge, push an ocean liner, carry parts of a bridge). Even children accustomed to working ports may find they learn something new. Short, clear, crisp sentences that are closely tied to the pictures (“A tugboat can carry big parts for a new bridge”) make this a nice choice for young listeners and early readers, and for those learning to identify nonfiction, a picture glossary helps define new words, and a table of contents is included. Children who love boats will thrill at the sights and see that small size does not preclude great strength. (Informational picture book. 2-5) |

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Gavin, Rohan Bloomsbury (320 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-61963-153-3 Series: Knightley and Son, 1

Heaps of mystery, dry humor and tweed abound in this exemplar of crime fiction à la Doyle. Since 13-year-old Darkus Knightley’s parents split, he sees his father, Alan—a detective of obsessive professional dedication—once a week. Darkus’ sponge of a brain has absorbed the details of every former case of his father’s, which fuel conversation during their visits. The conversations tend to be one-sided, though, as Alan has been comatose for four years. One evening, Alan miraculously wakes from his coma, ready to investigate a series of bizarre crimes. Alan is convinced that a powerful organization called the Combination is behind these and subsequent sprees. His records destroyed, Alan’s only chance to prove his case is to tap the brain of his son. And Darkus’ only chance to heal the relationship with his father (whose paternal nurturing was absent |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Andrew Smith

A teen tries to make sense of the world just as it’s falling apart in Grasshopper Jungle By Walter Heymann

Photo courtesy Sonya Sones

Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle is a history of the end of the world, as narrated by teenager Austin Szerba. It’s about Austin’s best friend, Robby, his girlfriend, Shan, and their life in small-town Iowa—and about how Austin and Robby accidentally unleash a plague of “Unstoppable Soldiers,” mutant, 6-foot-tall man-eating praying mantises. But that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about bullies, dissolving testicles, the war in Iraq, love, Xanax, Polish immigrants, and much, much more—and it’s about how Austin ties all these seemingly unrelated events and people and objects together to write his own history. 98

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“I think it was my singular intent to write a book that nobody could ever write jacket or flap copy for,” Smith says. And it’s true: I can only sort of tell you what Grasshopper Jungle is about, beyond that it’s thrilling and challenging. Smith deftly tells the story of a teenager trying to sort out just what it means to be a teenager—for instance, is Austin in love with Shan or with Robby? Either way, he’s always horny. Smith gets at this and other teenage dilemmas by setting them against the dark and improbably funny backdrop of the insect apocalypse. Grasshopper Jungle is less a science-fiction horror than a coming-of-age story, a contemporary love story, even a historical narrative. “The reason I started writing Grasshopper Jungle is that, back around the summer of 2011, the Wall Street Journal ran this editorial piece about darkness in young-adult literature,” Smith explains. “I was the first target—the first person they named as being just like ‘over the top,’ and in some ways implying that the things that I wrote were harmful to young people. I take those kinds of things really, really personally. It made me sick, as a matter of fact. I lost sleep over it, because I’m a parent, and I love kids, and I would never do anything to harm kids.” The novel is the story of three friends and the connective tissue that ties them to the rest of their world, past and present. It’s about cursing and smoking, pink plastic flamingos and the value of sincerity. It’s about—well, enough. I feel compelled to list all the things that Smith manages to include, but it’s more important what all these things are doing here in the first place, why Smith bothers to surround Austin with so much. “In all my novels, I think there is this overriding theme of how things kirkus.com

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connect to each other,” he says. “I see history as Austin describes it in the book, as starting in the center and going out in all directions, like the Big Bang. I wanted to capture some of that radiation that’s going out in all these directions and how some of that radiation crosses right in front of this kid.” We believe in Austin, and in his story, because of his candor—because he tells us, “I consider it my job to tell the truth”—even when that truth might seem absurd or impossible for him to know. Austin is a compulsive historian, driven to record every detail relevant to his life, his closet full of notebooks “filled with all the dumb shit I’ve ever done.” He takes us back in time to visit his great-grandfather and his talking European starling, to his great-great-grandfather immigrating to America and, further still, all the way back to the Neolithic cave painters at Lascaux. You can’t fit everything into a book, but Austin comes close. “The thing about history—and Austin, he touches on this—maybe we should have written histories about Theodore Roosevelt defecating,” Smith says. “Maybe it’s the things we left out of histories that would have actually saved the world and stopped us from going down the toilet.” Grasshopper Jungle doesn’t arrive at a big picture, though; it relishes the little pictures and how they keep cropping up time and again in unexpected ways. It’s a history with a big adolescent “I” in the middle of it, in which Austin tries to put his world together just as it’s falling apart. Whereas most teenagers tend to blow their problems out of proportion, for Austin, Robby and Shan, it literally is the end of the world. And, just as the Unstoppable Soldiers are so unnatural, even surreal, it is clear that Austin’s own self-doubt is perfectly normal. “That’s kind of what I wanted the message—if there is one—to be for young people: There’s nothing wrong with you,” Smith says. “Austin’s qualities and Robby’s qualities and Shan’s qualities don’t really come from their sexual orientation; they come from their other character traits: their loyalty, their sense of humor, their intelligence, their willingness to solve problems for themselves or to fail sometimes but then to pick each other up as friends should.” The giant mantises propel the story, serving as an unnerving backdrop throughout, particularly in the scenes where their existence goes unmentioned but |

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is nevertheless felt. They give an adrenaline boost to the prosaic, heightening the importance of Austin’s sometimes-confusing relationships with his friends and the importance of that confusion. “I don’t know whether those monsters are really that important compared to what the children are seeing and feeling,” Smith says. Smith’s take on the teenage perspective mixes an adult level of respect with a childlike refusal to judge. Grasshopper Jungle is not for teens only; it just happens to be about them. But is that what the novel’s writer thinks it’s about? “The simplest way I could say it...it just shows how urinal factories and genetically modified corn and a pizza joint in Iowa—how all of these things could possibly be connected in the life of one kid,” Smith says. “I think Grasshopper Jungle is very realistic, but at the same time, it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s the same way our world is.” Walter Heymann is a freelance writer and screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. Grasshopper Jungle received a starred review in the Dec. 1, 2013, issue of Kirkus Reviews.

Grasshopper Jungle Smith, Andrew Dutton (400 pp.) $18.99 | Feb. 11, 2014 978-0-525-42603-5

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“An abundantly illustrated puzzle poem provides a spectacular celebration of green in the world.” from the great big green

long before his hospitalization) is to solve a mammoth mystery. Even if Gavin didn’t disclaim his affinity for Sherlock Holmes, it would be abundantly evident; Darkus’ skill at deduction, perpetual observation and sang-froid are spot-on Holmes-ian. Don’t expect a puttering Watson, though. Darkus’ sidekick and stepsister, Tilly, is wrought with sass, intelligence and a neverending supply of hair dye. Heroes, villains and settings are all fully realized through proficient description, and contemporary technology gives way to sheer brainpower. A rousing page-turner with one fault: It ends. (Mystery. 10-14)

THERE WILL BE BEARS

Gebhart, Ryan Candlewick (224 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-7636-6521-0

Feeling abandoned by his two closest companions, 13-year-old Tyson just wants things to go back to normal—even if that means field dressing his own elk and fighting off a man-eating grizzly bear. When Tyson’s best friend, Bright, decides he would rather hang out with the cool kids, Tyson reasons that he still has his grandfather for companionship. But when his grandfather Gene moves into a nursing home and Tyson’s parents cancel their big hunting trip, it is almost more than Tyson can handle. With social pressures to fit in mounting and grades rapidly sinking, things are becoming desperate. Suddenly, the hunting trip is as much about saving himself as it is about taking down a sixpoint bull elk. Tyson is quirky, awkward and lovable; a perfect middle school boy. He is also, at times, laugh-out-loud funny, but his best qualities are his fierce love for his family and his unwavering desire to be true to himself. It is this inner strength that carries the story through some eyebrow-raising moments. While honesty is emphasized, the lies surrounding the secret hunting trip are brushed aside as necessary for the greater good. Occasionally salty vocabulary and adolescent innuendo are developmentally spot-on. A quirky, sweet adventure for middle school boys. (Fiction. 12-14)

GALÁPAGOS GEORGE

George, Jean Craighead Illus. by Minor, Wendell Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $15.99 | $16.89 PLB | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-06-028793-1 978-0-06-028794-8 PLB The passing of Lonesome George, the last of the saddleback tortoises from the island of Pinta, provides the occasion to demonstrate how different species might descend from a common ancestor. 100

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Swept from her desert home by a storm and washed up on a distant island with some of her relatives, the elderly tortoise’s imagined ancestor, Giantess George, was lucky. She was able to feed in her new home, to breed and to have numerous slightly differing descendants, each group adapted to its particular Galápagos island. The story continues with the arrival of humans, a visit by Charles Darwin and the transport of Giantess George’s last descendent, Lonesome George, to a research center on Santa Cruz Island in the early 1970s. There, he lived out the rest of his life; no one ever found him a mate. When he died in 2012, he was thought to be over 100 years old. Minor’s paintings are gorgeous, befitting the awesome Galápagos scenery and including representative plants and animals. But the posthumously published text oversimplifies. It describes Darwin speculating about the giant tortoises’ common ancestor, but at the time, he didn’t realize they were different species. It condenses the adaptation process. Even the backmatter doesn’t use the phrase “natural selection,” and the very important term “evolution” is defined incorrectly. A heartfelt if imperfect tribute to one George by another who will also be missed. (key terms, timeline, resources) (Picture book. 5-8)

THE GREAT BIG GREEN

Gifford, Peggy Illus. by Desimini, Lisa Boyds Mills (32 pp.) $15.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-62091-629-2

An abundantly illustrated puzzle poem provides a spectacular celebration of green in the world. The author of the Moxy Maxwell chapter-book trilogy offers something completely different in this lush tribute. An opening line sets the conversational tone: “The thing is, / the thing is green.” She goes on to provide examples of “mean green,” “dark and dangerous green” and “green things / that are good for you.” Her examples aren’t just things that grow; there are green socks, a green light for “go” and an old green door. The text reads aloud beautifully, building to the question, “Have you guessed yet?” and the final answer, revealed not in words but in a familiar image of Earth from space, with previous elements cleverly placed. Desimini’s imaginative illustrations complement and extend the graphically flexible text. Done with scanned textures and images combined into mixed-media collages, these are both realistic and imaginative, full of whimsy. Two young children, one dark-skinned, one light-, explore a world in which the range of green colors is remarkable and balanced with some surprises. There are the orange and tan of a green-eyed tiger, the red of a ladybug or a tree-frog’s eyes, and pink-purple skies. Readers will want to identify every fruit and vegetable and look for added elements (a snatch of “Greensleeves” in musical notation, for example). Two fertile imaginations grow a grand salute. (Picture book. 3-8) kirkus.com

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SOLDIER DOLL

Gold, Jennifer Second Story Press (280 pp.) $11.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-927583-29-6 A small wooden doll links tales of wartime tragedy and tenderness across the 20th century and into the 21st. As told in flashbacks within a present-tense frame story, the doll is first given as a keepsake to a British Tommy by his sweetheart, Meg, in 1918. When he is killed at Ypres, a Jewish German soldier finds it, passing it decades later to a child in Terezín. Years after, the American son of a Prague war orphan carries it to Vietnam. He gives it to a village child, and she, to her Canadian son—who marches off to Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, leaving it behind to be found in a Toronto yard sale in 2007 by Elizabeth, teenage daughter of an engineer about to depart for Afghanistan. In each era, the figurine’s owners, family, friends and adversaries come across as distinct characters, with well-defined lives and motives. Along with penetrating insights into the feelings of those who went to fight, stayed behind or just became victims of circumstance, Gold supplies enough historical background to give readers an understanding of the complex events and rationales that drove each war. Some of the violence is joltingly explicit, and ultimately, Elizabeth has a devastating loss of her own to suffer, but her involvement with the doll leads to a final scene of both resolution and comfort. A memorable debut, both timely and universal in its themes. (Fiction. 11-14)

BOMBS OVER BIKINI The World’s First Nuclear Disaster

Goldsmith, Connie Twenty-First Century/Lerner (88 pp.) $25.95 e-book | $34.60 PLB | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4677-2545-3 e-book 978-1-4677-1612-3 PLB

A brief chronicle of the nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 until 1958, in which the U.S. military detonated 67 atom and hydrogen bombs over the region’s Bikini and Enewetak atolls. The story begins with Operation Crossroads, two tests conducted at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946 to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on warships. Bikini’s native residents agreed to evacuate the island. More tests followed. The detonation of Bravo in 1954, the 12th device and first hydrogen bomb, is identified as the world’s first nuclear disaster. With an explosive yield 1,000 times more powerful than the weapon used on Hiroshima, the fallout from Bravo contaminated the entire atoll and spread downwind to the east, where more atolls were contaminated. More than 200 Marshallese were subjected to high levels of radiation, as were 28 Americans and 23 Japanese |

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fishermen in the vicinity. The long-term suffering of the Marshallese and American military personnel from radiation poisoning due largely to the ignorance and reckless disregard of the U.S. military is tragic, but readers familiar with World War II history may wonder why this is called “the world’s first nuclear disaster” instead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Goldsmith does not explain her rationale. A less notable shortcoming is a factual error identifying the world’s first atomic bomb as Trinity. The test in which the device was detonated was code-named “Trinity,” but the device was nicknamed “the Gadget.” A critically flawed chronicle of a significant chapter in the Cold War nuclear arms race. (source notes, glossary, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

THE GREAT DAY

Gomi, Taro Illus. by Gomi, Taro Translated by Hajimeni, Ichibon Chronicle (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4521-1125-4 An upbeat tale of a superachiever first published in English in 1987 as First Comes Harry, newly retranslated by Hajimeni. The nameless protagonist, a boy, is the first to wake up, get dressed, brush his teeth, eat breakfast, leap out the door, jump over a trash can and run up a slide. He is the first to fall down and cry, but he’s also the first to laugh. He is the first to argue, the first to make up, and the first to march and do a handstand. His frantically busy day tires him out, so naturally, he is the first to finish dinner and the first to fall asleep. One of many older books by Japanese author-illustrator Gomi to be recently retranslated into English, this is a good example of how well they stand the test of time. The understated flat wash style with naïvely rendered figures, lack of perspective and simple shapes is instantly appealing to the youngest children, even if they can’t read yet. On some pages, the washes of flat color sometimes seem too large and uninteresting for the content; conceivably these illustrations would be better suited to a smaller format similar to Gomi’s board books. On balance, the book is original and refreshingly lacking in sugary cuteness—a keeper indeed. (Picture book. 2-4)

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HALF BAD

Green, Sally Viking (416 pp.) $18.99 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-670-01678-5 Series: Half Bad, 1 A teenage witch persecuted from birth must find his father, the most notoriously evil witch alive, or die. Nathan Byrn grew up hearing tales of how his father, the famed Black Witch Marcus, murdered his mother’s husband and caused her to commit suicide. By age 11, he’s been designated a Half Code due to his mixed parentage, a status met with fear and disgust by most. Viewed by the Council as both a threat and a key weapon against Marcus, Nathan is caged by his 16th birthday. Nathan knows that as a Black Witch, he’ll die if not given three gifts on his next birthday by a blood relative; Marcus is his only hope. After a palpably grueling ordeal in the cage, Nathan finally, too easily, escapes and resolves to find Marcus. Green propels Nathan forward with the help of often underdeveloped secondary characters, who are overshadowed by the imaginary relationship Nathan builds with his father; it is this that keeps both Nathan and readers going. Readers will hope for Nathan’s sake that the fantasy father he’s built from stories he’s heard and his own imagination won’t let him down. A cliffhanger indicates that the arc of Nathan’s emotional trajectory will continue. Nathan’s harrowing quest to build a father-son relationship will compel readers to the sequel even if the slim romantic subplot and looming threat of the Council do not. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

MY AMAZING DINOSAUR

Grimaldi Illus. by Bannister Graphic Universe (48 pp.) $6.95 paper | $19.95 e-book $26.60 PLB | May 1, 2014 978-1-4677-2181-3 978-1-4677-2427-2 e-book 978-1-4677-1298-9 PLB Series: Tib & Tumtum, 2

Prehistoric cavekid Tib and his dinosaur buddy, Tumtum, return for more antics in this sweet, episodic charmer. Jumping right in where Welcome to the Tribe (2013) left off, the story opens with the tribe deciding how they feel about having a dinosaur among them. They don’t trust Tumtum, whom they see as a wild animal and a threat. Tib’s mom thinks that the dinosaur might be too dangerous to be a companion for him and wants him to stop playing with Tumtum. She encourages him to play with the other kids, but they relentlessly bully him and mock his prominent red facial birthmark. Lucky for Tib, he already has a best friend in Tumtum, and the two pals have nonstop fun as they cavort among the rocks and 102

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vegetation, playing with sticks or just enjoying a game of hideand-seek. The vignettes are loosely strung together, though they do have enough of an overarching narrative for cohesion and to keep readers interested. Bright colors, silly jokes about poop and slapstick antics make this a cute, quick read. Jokes aside, Tib is incessantly bullied, and hopefully in later volumes, one of the adults will actually help, rather than just brush off his protestations. A fluffy comic bonbon—what kid wouldn’t want a dinosaur as a best friend? (Graphic fantasy. 8-12)

A CAST IS THE PERFECT ACCESSORY (And Other Lessons I’ve Learned)

Gutknecht, Allison Illus. by Lewis, Stevie Aladdin (160 pp.) $15.99 | $5.99 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4424-8396-5 978-1-4424-8395-8 paper Eight-year-old Mandy is back, as bossy and insecure as ever (Don’t Wear Polka-Dot Underwear with White Pants, 2013). In the second installment in this chapter-book series, Mandy’s friendship with Anya is in jeopardy. Goody-goody Natalie steals Mandy’s thunder again—this time by breaking her wrist. Their teacher assigns Anya to be Natalie’s assistant, which leaves little time for Mandy and Anya to play. Mandy’s jealous reaction to seeing Anya with another friend is to retreat, pout and be, as her mother says, a “crankypants.” Mandy’s behavior threatens to overwhelm the book right from the beginning. In the first chapter alone, she eats a bit out of each piece of pizza in the box, calls her father a “bad babysitter,” demands gummy bears and “fancy-dancy periwinkle sunglasses” of her grandmother, and calls her little brother “stupid.” It’s easy to see why she clings to Anya so fiercely, but this does not make Mandy any more likable. Young readers might learn a little from Mandy, but it’s unlikely that they would choose her as a friend. More likely, they will empathize with poor Anya, pulled between a smothering BFF and a new buddy. The all-too-simple resolution is a relief, but it’s also completely unbelievable. Even the most wayward child readers would agree that Mandy needs stronger adult direction. (Fiction. 7-10)

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“…Hall adroitly touches on the question kids are really asking: Why is work so important it takes a parent away?” froms miss you like crazy

THE SHAPE FAMILY BABIES

Haas, Kristin Illus. by Bersani, Shennen Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | $9.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-62855-211-9 978-1-62855-220-1 paper 978-1-62855-238-6 e-book

Newlyweds Rectangle and Rhombus are surprised when their first child turns out to be triplets. Two are the spitting images of their parents and are easily named: Rhombus Jr. and Rectangle Jr. But the third is a bit of a puzzle. What will they name this little girl, who has four right angles like her dad and four equal sides like her mom? While the parents spend pages asking their relatives for advice and rejecting their suggestions—some accurate (Polygon, Parallelogram, Quadrangle, Quadrilateral), some far-fetched (Rectombus, Rhombangle)—even the youngest readers will be screaming “SQUARE” at the thick-headed characters. Finally, Great-Aunt Octagon arrives and sees the girl’s resemblance to Great-GreatGrandpa Square. An intended audience is difficult to pin down, as the advanced vocabulary introduced skews this to a slightly older audience, who may not appreciate either the vapid storyline or the unimaginative digital pictures featuring what are largely stick figures with large, round heads atop variously shaped torsos. A “For Creative Minds” section in the backmatter gives even more advanced information, including angle measures and names, the concepts of perpendicular and parallel, the names and definitions of several quadrilaterals, and a matching activity that challenges readers to match the shape character with his or her description: “This shape is made of three angles and three lines.” An easy one to skip. (Math picture book. 3-7)

POLAR BEARS AND PENGUINS A Compare and Contrast Book Hall, Katharine Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | $9.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-62855-209-6 978-1-62855-218-8 paper 978-1-62855-236-2 e-book

facts about seasons and animal behavior, a true/false quiz (with answers provided) and a matching game. Though the aforementioned quiz rather unfairly covers material not previously presented, and one “photo” is actually a collage with northern lights clumsily Photoshopped in behind a polar bear, the overall approach will at least lay some groundwork for later geographical and animal study. A utilitarian, if not quite seamless, introduction to several natural history subjects, it will do till something more artful comes along. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY

Hall, Pamela Illus. by Bell, Jennifer A. Tanglewood Press (32 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 15, 2014 978-1-933718-91-0

A little squirrel imagines hiding in his mom’s briefcase and sneaking off to work with her. Walnut doesn’t want to be separated from his mother all day long. So he and his mom fantasize about what they would do if he came with her to work. He hides in her pocket and scares her. Then she captures him and puts him in her pencil cup. Luckily, he escapes using a paper-clip ladder. This imaginative romp takes them swinging with monkeys in the trees and sailing the seven seas. However, just like in real life, Mom has to go back to work. Walnut doesn’t understand why. Mom offers a matter-of-fact explanation: “I go to work so I can pay rent on our den and buy you Nutty Clusters and Super Squirrel socks. And I’m good at what I do. / Just like you are good at kickball and drawing.” Most of the tale is imaginative banter, but Hall adroitly touches on the question kids are really asking: Why is work so important it takes a parent away? Bell’s fuzzy-tailed critters and soft, warm hues create a cozy environment for comforting a little one’s fears. The end feels a bit like a tacked-on separation-anxiety solution (Mom sends a note and a photo to school with Walnut), but that doesn’t undercut the sensitivity of the whole story. Hassled parents will appreciate having yet another resource to combat this common childhood worry. (Picture book. 3-6)

A set of comparisons presents new and pre-readers with elementary pointers on both the poles and differences between animals. Photos of polar bears and of penguins on alternating spreads or pages with a few accompanying lines of simply phrased observations highlight differences between the two creatures— “Polar bears are covered in fur. / Penguins are covered in feathers”—as well as their respective Arctic and Antarctic habitats. A wordier section offering supplementary material that is also available on the publisher’s website follows, featuring additional |

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“…the three [protagonists] are smart and good company, though so caustic that reading can feel like chugging a bottle of expensive vinegar—best appreciated in small doses.” from your constant star

THE BIG FIB

Hamilton, Tim Illus. by Hamilton, Tim Holiday House (32 pp.) $14.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2939-4 Series: I Like to Read A fib made right paves the way to intergenerational friendship. When Miss Finn gets rid of a bunch of boxes (presumably to recycle them, though this detail is unexplained), her young neighbor and his dog seize an opportunity for imaginary play. The scene showing the elderly woman carrying the boxes out on the lawn depicts her as rather fearsome, or at least cranky, and the boy and his dog look on with rather alarmed expressions. When she is safely gone, they exuberantly pretend the boxes are a train, a race car and a jet. The controlled text unfortunately fails to match their ebullience and comes across as stilted in its efforts to employ repetition. “Then we played a race car game. We went fast, fast, fast.” Miss Finn then reappears, arms waving and red all over, dismayed by the mess. It’s hard to blame the boy for fibbing and blaming the wind, and the fib doesn’t seem all that big, which undermines the story a bit. After watching her struggle to pick up the boxes, he comes clean and offers help, prompting Miss Finn to laud his honesty and change her tune. Hamilton’s cartoonish, multimedia art reflects her changed affect by softening her expression as she serves milk and cookies and hunkers down to play with the boy and his dog amid the tidied boxes. A sweet, if uneven, story. (Early reader. 5-7)

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

Han, Jenny Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Apr. 2, 2014 978-1-4424-2670-2 978-1-4424-2672-6 e-book An ultimately compelling exploration of teenage growth and young love. With her idolized sister Margot leaving for college, Lara Jean doesn’t feel ready for the coming changes: becoming more responsible for their younger sister, Kitty, helping their widowed father, or seeing Margot break up with Josh, the boy next door—whom Lara Jean secretly liked first. But there’s even greater upheaval to come, when Lara Jean’s five secret letters to the boys she’s loved are mailed to them by accident. Lara Jean runs when sweet, dependable Josh tries to talk to her about her letter. And when Peter Kavinsky gets his letter, it brings him back into Lara Jean’s life, all handsome, charming, layered and complicated. They start a fake relationship to help Lara Jean deal with Josh and Peter to get over his ex. But maybe Lara Jean and Peter will discover there’s something more between them as they learn 104

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about themselves and each other. It’s difficult to see this book as a love triangle—Josh is bland as oatmeal, and Peter is utterly charismatic. Meanwhile, readers may find that Lara Jean sometimes seems too naïve and rather young for 16—though in many ways, this makes her feel more realistic than many of the worldweary teens that populate the shelves. Regardless, readers will likely be so swept up in the romance they can read past any flaws. (Fiction. 14-18)

YOUR CONSTANT STAR Hasiuk, Brenda Orca (248 pp.) $12.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4598-0368-8

Pregnancy, adoption and parenting decisions past and present link—and haunt—a Chinese-Canadian adoptee, her now-pregnant former friend and the biological father-to-be. Cherished only child of professional parents, Faye conforms outwardly to model-minority expectations, but she hides her grief and the need to process the gulf between her Chinese birth mother’s options and her own. This intensifies when Bev asks Faye to help her interview prospective adoptive parents. Bev’s fractured family is useless. She’s at odds with her long-divorced parents, estranged from half siblings, and grieving a loss that taking risks and impulsive behavior can’t assuage. Father-to-be Mannie, the most damaged, struggles to rise to the occasion, but his father’s abandonment and bipolar mother’s institutionalization leave him short of role models. Grim yes, but the three are smart and good company, though so caustic that reading can feel like chugging a bottle of expensive vinegar—best appreciated in small doses. Still, authentic teen characters, closely observed settings and a moving plot do not a YA novel make. These protagonists have little room to act. Choices adults made in the past largely determine the course they set and drastically limit the choices they wrestle with now. Though teens have far less freedom of choice in life than in literature written for them, YA fiction by definition places the reins in their hands. A superb novel from a rising Canadian literary star, best for adult and mature crossover readers. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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THE KLAATU TERMINUS

Hautman, Pete Candlewick (368 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7636-5405-4 Series: Klaatu Diskos, 3

A dazzlingly imaginative science-fiction trilogy, spanning the rise and fall of religions, civilizations and the human race itself, deflates into an oddly pedestrian conclusion. Tucker Feye and Lia are finally reunited after ping-ponging through time and space; now, the focus shifts to Tucker’s uncle Kosh and mother, Emily. The storyline alternates between 1997, when the two first met, and 2012, as Kosh frantically tries to rescue Emily’s look-alike, “Emma,” from the remnants of a fanatical cult. Interspersed are snippets describing the Boggsian invention of the diskos, the factions among the transhuman Klaatu, and Tucker and Lia’s efforts to return to the present. Hautman builds any number of rich, intriguing settings: small rural towns, post-apocalyptic jungles and even the surface of another planet. Unfortunately, he piles fascinating details upon thought-provoking concepts at such a frenetic pace that the whole structure collapses. Most characters die at least once, but recurrent medical miracles drain away any suspense. Nearly everyone is rewarded at the end with (somewhat-creepy) bland domesticity, and with every plot loop tidily snipped off, the entire grand narrative edifice is reduced to the recursive repercussions of a teenage love triangle. Stories aren’t required to provide answers to the big questions they raise about faith, choice, identity and responsibility, but these deserve better than to be dismissed with an uncaring shrug. (Science fiction. 12-18)

HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL

Herrera, Robin Amulet/Abrams (272 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-4197-1039-1

Debut author Herrera deftly combines family drama with a school and friendship story. Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives with her older sister and their mother in a trailer park in Northern California. Her first-person narrative takes place during the fall of her fifth-grade year. New to the area, Star struggles to make friends at school, worries about her increasingly moody sister and wonders about the father she’s never known. The author handles the Mackie family’s financial and domestic situation with delicacy and respect, allowing readers to gradually get to know the difficulties her characters face. At home and at school, there’s plenty packed into a few short weeks, from a trip to ferret out family secrets to repeated detentions and a food fight. Some readers may find the overall story arc predictable, and unfortunately, charismatic |

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secondary characters occasionally outshine Star. Homework assignments inserted throughout provide additional background information and some mild humor, though Star’s observations can seem naïve. By contrast, the poems and ideas shared by Star and the members of her Emily Dickinson Club are intriguing and inspiring if not especially childlike in tone. Well-constructed, thought-provoking and appealing, this first effort bodes well for the author’s future despite some minor missteps. (Fiction. 9-12)

THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD. . .IN 65 DAYS

Hurwitz, Michele Weber Wendy Lamb/Random (272 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-385-37106-3 978-0-385-37108-7 e-book 978-0-385-37107-0 PLB What happens when a teenage girl tries to change the world in 65 tiny ways? It is the beginning of summer, and 13-year-old Nina is lonely and rudderless; she is still mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother, her type-A lawyer parents are AWOL, and her older brother is occupied by his job. To make matters worse, she is growing apart from her best friend, Jorie, who is increasingly interested in nail polish and skimpy clothes—and in Eli, the neighbor boy they’ve grown up with and whom Nina herself is falling for. But it is the parting words of her eighth-grade history teacher that give purpose to her summer: “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that end up making a difference.” Inspired, Nina plans to perform 65 small, anonymous acts of kindness for her family and neighbors—one for each day of her summer. She leaves brownies on a doorstep, plants a garden in the dead of night and secretly cleans up a neighbor’s yard. Through her friendship with Thomas, Eli’s irresistible toy-sword–wielding little brother, she discovers Eli has family troubles of his own. Teens will easily ally with the kindhearted, insecure Nina and be charmed by the humor and beautifully defined characters. The unpredictable domino effect of Nina’s good deeds is a joy to behold. Joyful dividends are reaped from a teenager’s secret acts of kindness in this appealingly, unabashedly feel-good story. (Fiction. 10-14)

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EYE TO EYE How Animals See the World

Jenkins, Steve Illus. by Jenkins, Steve HMH Books (32 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-547-95907-8

The evolution of the eye and the surprising ways animals see the world are displayed in a thoughtfully designed and engagingly illustrated album. The look of a Jenkins book is unmistakable: realistic cutand-torn–paper images set on a stark white background; short informational paragraphs; a helpful section of concluding facts with a pictorial index. But the content is always an interesting surprise. Here, he considers vision, the way animals link to their world using light-sensitive cells. Beginning with a description of the earliest, most simple eyes, he goes on to catalog four kinds, giving a representative example of each: eyespots (starfish), pinholes (giant clams), compound eyes (dragonflies) and camera eyes (birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, even octopuses). Then he offers 22 more—from sea slugs to Eurasian buzzards—each presented on a full page or spread across two. Each example includes a full-color thumbnail silhouette and a much larger close-up of the head and eye. Some of the papers are textured or varied in color. A surprising number of animals have hairy or bristly bits around their eyes, often depicted in individual tiny bits and pieces, suggesting incredible finesse on the part of the artist. A concluding section summarizes eye evolution, again from eyespots to camera eyes. A bibliography of suggestions for further reading and a glossary round out this intriguing introduction. Another impressive presentation from a master craftsman. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

WHAT WE HIDE

Jocelyn, Marthe Wendy Lamb/Random (288 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-385-73847-7 978-0-375-89465-7 e-book 978-0-385-90732-3 PLB A group of teens alternate narration of this irreverent historical drama set at a Quaker boarding school in England. When her older brother, Tom, enrolls at a British university to evade the draft that is conscripting so many young American men—including his best friend, Matt—into service in Vietnam, Jenny winds up making the trip across the Atlantic as well. Somewhat uncomfortable in her own skin, she lies that Matt is her boyfriend, but she’s far from the only one who projects an altered image to those around her. Jocelyn employs the points of view of a host of Jenny’s peers in formats that include 106

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imagined film scripts and letters written to a former student and feature embarrassing secrets, plenty of sexual misadventure, and true-to-life and funny boarding school dynamics. In doing this, she effectively brings readers into the respective corners of her characters—even those who at first glance seem unlikable. There are also those who are intensely sympathetic, including Brenda, a smart and honest working-class girl on scholarship, and Robbie and Luke, who find each other and stick it out despite horrific gay bashing. These are textured, smart characters, and it’s likely that readers will find themselves wishing for more from many of them—the only detraction of the slice-oflife style on offer here. Poignant and often witty, this novel treats its audience to a nuanced look at the era. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

THE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA

Jones, Diana Wynne Greenwillow/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-06-229507-1 978-0-06-229509-5 e-book The fates of four countries hang in the balance, and only an apprentice magicworker can save the day. For the ultimate in bittersweet feelings, fans must confront the final novel of master fantasist Jones, posthumously completed by her sister Ursula. In a little stone house on the island of Skarr, Aileen’s being raised as an apprentice Wise Woman and magicworker by her aunt Beck. When Aunt Beck is sent on a quest by the High King to rescue a kidnapped prince, Aileen tags along. Their journey takes them across all the little islands of their world (a wee European-style fantasyland that stretches from skirling pipes and heather on Skarr to olives and grapes on Gallis). Quiet at first, Aileen is forced to come into her own when her aunt suffers a mishap. Now, a band of ragtag adventurers, including an invisible cat named Plug-Ugly, depends on Aileen to lead them, as they take nearly every transportation method in the fantasyland guidebook: sailing ships, donkey carts, floating wagons and hot air balloons. Affectionate chaos and loving revelations follow, forming a classic, joyful screwball comedy. Aileen says of one of her friends, “[w]e stay awhile with each other, then part.” If that’s all we get, we can be grateful for the while we have. (Fantasy. 10-13)

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“[Judge’s] various sea and shore birds…and their fledglings are just a little scruffy, and they are exaggeratedly, expressively funny in their anthropomorphic roles as teachers and students.” from flight school

FLIGHT SCHOOL

Judge, Lita Illus. by Judge, Lita Atheneum (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Apr. 15, 2014 978-14424-8177-0 978-1-4424-8178-7 e-book A small round penguin with lofty aspirations finds success of a sort in a sweet, if slight, appreciation of the resourcefulness of teachers. The sign near a cluster of wooden pilings in the middle of the water reads “FLIGHT SCHOOL / WE TEACH BIRDS TO FLY.” “I was hatched to fly,” announces Penguin upon his arrival from the South Pole. “I have the soul of an eagle,” he assures the gently dubious Teacher. “Penguin and the other birdies practiced for weeks,” but he succeeds only in plunging into the ocean—not terribly gracefully. He is ready to give up when a solution devised by Teacher and Flamingo has Penguin flying, if only for a few moments, and his happiness at this onetime achievement is lasting. Judge’s edge-to-edge watercolorand-pencil art is lively and amusing. Her various sea and shore birds—gulls, a pelican, a heron and a small owl among them— and their fledglings are just a little scruffy, and they are exaggeratedly, expressively funny in their anthropomorphic roles as teachers and students. Background shades of warm yellow, sea blue and green, and brown sand let the friendly, silly faces and bodies of the birds take center stage. Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something so far out of reach. (Picture book. 3-5)

BETTY BUNNY WANTS A GOAL

Kaplan, Michael B. Illus. by Jorisch, Stéphane Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-8037-3859-1 Series: Betty Bunny

rather than growing out of her distinct personality, and some of the soccer jokes, such as scoring a goal in your own net, will be understood only by those children who already play soccer. Even the illustrations seem a little forced and crowded, lacking the distinctive sparkle of the previous stories. Betty fails to score with this underinflated effort. (Picture book. 4-6)

FERRY TAIL

Kenah, Katharine Illus. by Wong, Nicole Sleeping Bear Press (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-1-58536-829-7 An energetic, joyful dog finds his true home and family onboard a large ferryboat that conveys cars and people to an island community. Walter is a large, reddish dog with a white nose and tail, possibly part Irish setter. He freely roams the ferryboat on its daily trip, bringing the newspaper to the gray-bearded captain, listening to the sound of the engine with the ship’s female engineer and tasting the bacon for the male cook. Walter gets along with everyone except the captain’s spoiled cat, Cupcake, who tries to take over Walter’s duties aboard ship. When Walter leaves the ship and tries life on the island, he finds he isn’t welcomed there by anyone, and life on land is strange and unsatisfying for a canine used to life onboard. Cupcake the cat shows up to retrieve the lost dog, and they return to the ferryboat together as friends in a satisfying conclusion. Although the plot is predictable, the text conveys genuine emotion in Walter’s classic search for his true home. A large trim size and appealing illustrations in a variety of formats bring Walter’s antics and the island community to life. Though a dog on the loose on a ferryboat is truly a fairy tale, Walter’s story is a tale well-told. (Picture book. 4-7)

GOING OVER

Betty Bunny returns for a fourth entry in this successful series, focusing this time on scoring a goal for her soccer team. In the previous stories in the series, Betty’s delightfully intense personality was defined through her obsession with chocolate cake, her over-the-top shopping spree in a toy store, and an incident involving lying and its consequences. These laugh-out-loud stories captured Betty’s precocious intellect and strong emotions, creating a believable character with a lovable streak of creative naughtiness. Alas, this time Betty just wants to score a goal on the soccer field like all the other little animals. She makes many mistakes in her first game, with her deflated attitude further depressed by snide comments from her older brothers. After just one week of coaching by her oldest brother, Betty scores her coveted goal in the next game and feels “the happiest moment of her life”—except for the first time she ate chocolate cake. The soccer plot feels forced onto Betty |

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Kephart, Beth Chronicle (264 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4521-2457-5 Life in the grim shadow of the Berlin Wall is vividly reflected in Kephart’s moving exploration in two voices. Ada, a nearly 16-year-old graffiti artist, lives in poverty in West Berlin, but Stefan, the 18-year-old boy she loves, lives on the other side of the wall in even more difficult conditions. Their only hope for a future together is if he finds a way to escape, but his grandfather perished in an attempt. Meanwhile, at night, he trains his telescope on the West while she ventures out to paint scenes of great escapes on the wall. A secondary plot arises from Ada’s work at a day care center; little Savas, from |

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“As zippy as a bowl of sugary cereal….” from the glorkian warrior delivers a pizza

an underclass of Turkish immigrants, has disappeared after his mother was abused. Related in a swirling, second-person stream of consciousness that mimics the free-flowing colors of her nighttime art, Ada’s and Stefan’s alternating presenttense narratives offer a point/counterpoint on the need for escape but its daunting peril. Their story is at once compelling and challenging, perhaps limiting this book to an audience of sophisticated readers. The plight of young Savas adds depth, but its tragic outcome is muted by the building suspense of Stefan’s evolving plan. While this gripping effort captures the full flavor of a trying time in an onerous place, many readers will find it hard going. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

THE ART OF SECRETS

Klise, James Algonquin (272 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-1-61620-195-1

Relationships, secrets and lies aplenty for caper-loving fans. Here are the facts: Saba Khan’s family is left homeless after a suspicious fire guts their small Chicago apartment. Saba’s school community rallies around the reserved, observant tennis player and her family, and two fellow students, Kendra and Kevin Spoon, organize a charity auction on their behalf. Among the donations is a 10-page illustrated story by renowned Chicago self-taught artist Henry Darger (trash-picked in Darger’s old neighborhood by Kendra and Kevin), which is promptly insured for $550,000 and then goes missing. Who torched the Khans’ apartment? Who stole the artwork, and why? How did they do it? The answers unfold with briskly paced care in Klise’s (Love Drugged, 2010) second novel, an apparent homage to the style of his sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise’s Regarding the Fountain (1998) and others. Through the interview transcripts, journal entries, text messages and overheard conversations of Saba and her father, as well as fellow students, faculty and administration at Highsmith School, readers get both bird’s-eye and close-up views of the case, and careful readers will quickly unmask the culprit. Strong on plotting and art history but weak on believable voices (Saba herself comes through beautifully, but her father, Farooq, and Spanish exchange student Javier are particularly cringe-inducing), Klise doesn’t quite pull off the trick his clever, appealing villains do. Enjoyable but inessential. (Mystery. 11-14)

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THE CRIMSON BRAND

Knight, Brian JournalStone (284 pp.) $18.95 paper | $6.00 e-book Mar. 14, 2014 978-1-940161-37-2 978-1-940161-38-9 e-book Series: Phoenix Girls, 2

Three girls learn to do magic with the help of a talking fox in this second installment of a series about the girls and the monsters they fight. Phoenix Girls Penny and Zoe, both 14, are joined by new friend Katie in this fight-against-evil story. Aided by a magical talking fox called Ronan, Penny consults an enchanted book that teaches them not only spells, but how to fly. Feeling especially melancholy after the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death, orphan Penny finds an old photograph album and tries to learn her own family’s obscure history. Meanwhile, the evil Morgan Duke tries to sweet-talk Penny’s guardian out of their enchanted land. Morgan is the minion of the monster Turoc, whose ultimate goal remains obscure in this installment, but clearly it isn’t a good one. Knight delves deeply into his characters’ minds and lives, sometimes impeding narrative flow but providing full portrayals of the girls, especially Penny. Knight makes few concessions to readers, assuming knowledge of the first book in the series, The Conjuring Glass (2013), and employing sophisticated vocabulary and syntax. Fantasy and suspense elements stand out, particularly a clutch of newly hatched homunculi, and should help propel readers past occasionally dense prose. Imaginative fun. (Fantasy. 10-14)

THE GLORKIAN WARRIOR DELIVERS A PIZZA

Kochalka, James Illus. by Kochalka, James First Second/Roaring Brook (114 pp.) $12.99 | $12.99 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-59643-917-7 978-1-59643-917-7 paper Series: Glorkian Warrior, 1 The Glorkian Warrior must leave his couch and face his heroic fate: to deliver a pepperoni pizza. The three-eyed, cotton-candy–colored and wholly witless Glorkian Warrior meets his destiny one fateful night when a mysterious caller asks him to deliver a pizza. Guided by his trusty companion, the lemon yellow Super Backpack, he sets out to fulfill the mission—despite the fact that he’s not a pizzadelivery guy. A series of madcap mishaps ensues, and they encounter such strange and silly beings as a Gonk that likes to bonk, a lime green alien orphan from a pizza-snatching ship and a formidable Magic Robot with an explosive laugh. As zippy as a bowl of sugary cereal, the Glorkian Warrior and his kirkus.com

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motley crew snowball from one escapade to another at a comically frenetic pace, encountering explosions, blasting spaceships and punching himself in the face. While the Glorkian Warrior might not be the brightest star in the sky, his antics are consistently imaginative and outrageous, ideal for young readers who like a healthy helping of the absurd. Kochalka’s worlds are always winsome, strange and silly; this is certainly one of his stronger offerings. Vibrantly weird and wonderful. (Graphic science fiction/ humor. 6-10)

SADIE’S LAG BA’OMER MYSTERY

Korngold, Jamie Illus. by Fortenberry, Julie Kar-Ben (32 pp.) $17.95 | $7.95 paper | $6.95 e-book Feb. 1, 2014 978-0-7613-9047-3 978-0-7613-9048-0 paper 978-1-4677-2429-6 e-book One full moon in spring heralds a Jewish holiday that is not familiar to the savvy Sadie but has its own reason for celebration. At school, Sadie learned that Jewish holidays often begin with a full moon. What spring holiday is forthcoming after Purim and Passover? Curious, Sadie reads the calendar and learns it is something called Lag Ba’Omer. What’s that all about? She explores the house with her little sister and finds only items related to Rosh Hashanah, Simhat Torah, Hanukkah, Passover and Shabbat. Stumped, she begins to question everyone, including family members and the parcel delivery man (who must know all about holidays). Her grandfather finally tells her that this new holiday is not about presents, might involve picnics, songs and campfires, and of course includes delicious food. She’s still mystified, so he tells a story about an ancient rabbi who was forbidden by the Romans to teach and study Torah and so did it secretly in a cave. Lag Ba’Omer is a day dedicated to his steadfast bravery. It is remembered with picnics, bonfires, singing and storytelling and usually celebrated between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. The evenly told story is laced with mild suspense. It is coupled with cheery illustrations that include carefully placed details that indicate the centrality of faith to this suburban family. A welcoming introduction to an often overlooked minor holiday. (author’s note) (Picture book/religion. 3-6)

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THE DYERVILLE TALES

Kozlowsky, M. P. Illus. by Thompson, Brian Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-06-199871-3 978-0-06-231264-8 e-book An overwrought fairy tale within a fairy tale. Twelve-year-old Vincent, “he of the fair skin and the sad eyes, the disheveled hair and the honest smile,” has spent the last two years in an orphanage, ever since the total destruction of his home by a dragon. When the news of his grandfather’s death comes, the orphanage director refuses to let him attend the funeral but does hand him a mysterious book that his grandfather left him. The book recounts the strange adventures of another boy named Vincent, cursed by a witch. From there, chapters alternate between the two stories. Vincent No. 1 runs away to attend the funeral but is foiled by a snowstorm and a gang of murderers; Vincent No. 2 becomes trapped by a giant, escapes on a magical horse and eventually defeats an evil dwarf and then the witch herself—and finds a magical world quite a bit like heaven, too. It seems the real world and the book world are meant to gradually intersect, but the “real” world, with its bleak, Aiken-esque orphanage and marauding dragons, is too unreal for contrast. Fantastic elements appear without warning or logic, and none of the characters ascend beyond stereotypes. The two Vincents in particular seem to react rather than act. The passive, omniscient narration seems designed to throw the affected language into jarring relief. “Some tales are worth telling,” opens the narrator— readers may feel this isn’t one of them. (Fantasy. 8-11)

THE TWEEDLES GO ELECTRIC

Kulling, Monica Illus. by Lafrance, Marie Groundwood (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-55498-167-0 Mr. Tweedle springs for a new car in this impish tale. After all, it is a new century: the 20th. Unimpressed by the dust, noise and smoke of gas- and steam-driven automobiles, Papa Tweedle opts for a newfangled electric surrey, in green, as his family’s first car. Tootling around town, the Tweedles respond to the sneers of passing motorists with happy shouts: “We’re electric!” “We’re green!” “We’re smart!” Smart they are, as it turns out—for when scoffing neighbor Mr. Hamm accidently lops off his finger one day and discovers his own car has run out of gas, it’s bookish, 12-year-old Frances Tweedle who drives him to the doctor’s (and later drives that same electric car all the way across the country). Though |

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Lafrance outfits her figures in period dress and decks out street scenes with antique cars and bicycles, plus an occasional horsedrawn cart, modern readers will have no trouble at all making the connection with this century’s version of the issue. Not to mention the benefits of being both green and smart. A fine joke, well-delivered, and as clever as it is timely. (Picture book. 6-8)

CAT CHAMPIONS Caring for Our Feline Friends

Laidlaw, Rob Pajama Press (64 pp.) $19.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-927485-31-6

As he did in No Shelter Here (2012), Laidlaw offers a brief history and basic details about a particular kind of companion animal (in this case, cats) and recognizes individuals and organizations who advocate and care for them. Feline fanciers and casual browsers alike will be attracted by the numerous photos—generally three to seven per doublepage spread. Posed or candid, stock photos or personalized portraits, the pictures vary in size and placement but are crisp and colorful for the most part. They showcase oodles of cute cats and playful kittens, some accompanied by the humans who love them. The text, meanwhile, explores a variety of related topics, each covered in a few short paragraphs. From a young girl in China who speaks up against animal exploitation to Canadian and U.S. citizens, primarily children and teens, who volunteer in shelters, raise funds or tend to feral cats, the author profiles people making a difference. He also explains how cats behave, what they need and how readers can help. The friendly, conversational tone begins in the first few pages with a personal note that addresses readers directly and continues throughout. Backmatter includes a “Cat Lover’s Pledge” as well as a page of Web resources, a glossary and an index. The straightforward message, good examples and plentiful resources may well combine to inspire new advocates. (Nonfiction. 9-12)

THE VOICE INSIDE MY HEAD

Laidlaw, S.J. Tundra (256 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-1-77049-565-4

research center before disappearing. Luke remains certain that she’s alive, and he’s determined to find her. He forms alliances and rivalries with some of the local population, including stoner Zach and the volatile islander girl Reesie. Luke has conversations with Pat in his head—he’s sure he hears her voice, which he feels proves she’s still alive. Laidlaw leaves readers to decide whether Luke really hears this voice and what it might mean if he does, slowly unfolding her mystery. Luke comes across as a fully realized character, but the colorful locals and American expatriates also stand out as individuals. It’s these characterizations that contain the clues, ably supporting the mystery plot. Luke’s quest, his feelings for Reesie and his growing understanding of his sister propel readers through the story. A satisfying mystery peopled with characters readers will be happy they’ve come to know. (Mystery. 12-18)

FRENZY

Lettrick, Robert Disney-Hyperion (288 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-4231-8538-3 Summer camp turns deadly: fluffy, foaming, frenzied and deadly. Heath Lambert is settling in at coed Camp Harmony. He’s made some friends, and with the help of new acquaintance Will, Heath avoids having to spend the summer running errands for the camp bully. Normal camp routines of horseback riding and postcard writing come to a screeching halt when the small (and not so small) woodland creatures suddenly all turn rabid. When they bite a human, purple lines spread over the victim, and they die instantly. Heath, Will and several others escape to the nearby river, since exposure to water seems to kill the animals on contact. The group decides the disease must be an airborne form of rabies, given the animals’ symptoms. They travel down the river in hopes of reaching the nearest town, but the animals follow along on the riverbank, keeping the campers in sight. Can Heath and his friends survive the crazed animal attack? Lettrick’s middlegrade debut is most successful during the many action scenes and in the slow reveal of certain facts about the characters. That it takes the old wives’ tale that rabid animals are afraid of water and runs with it is acceptable, but the premise disintegrates at the end as the author forces events to reach his desired end. The character deaths are predictable, and the end, too tidy. Never achieves the scare it intends. (Horror. 9-12)

This absorbing mystery might or might not be paranormal, but it’s certainly constantly interesting. Seventeen-year-old Luke travels to a small island off the coast of Honduras in an effort to find his older sister, Pat, who has been reported dead. Pat had traveled to the island to pursue her interest in marine biology, working as an intern at a shark 110

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“While [Isol] does present an appropriate number of objects to count in each illustration, the emphasis is on appreciation of the surreal rather than building skills.” from numeralia

HAVE YOU SEEN MY DRAGON?

Light, Steve Illus. by Light, Steve Candlewick (48 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7636-6648-4

A little boy has misplaced his pet dragon and must search for him all over the city, counting up from one dragon to 20 lanterns. Black line pen-and-ink drawings in finely patterned detail depict a vital, lively New York City of the imagination. Coloredpencil images on each double-page spread are reserved for the city-specific items to be counted along the way, and the endpapers depict a loosely interpreted map indicating the sites. Readers first meet the adventurous dragon in all his greenness, as he is, of course, the representative of the number one. As he moves about the city, the unnamed little boy hypothesizes the locations at which he might find his pet. He is quite accurate in his guesses, but the dragon seems to be a master at blending in to the background, mysteriously having lost his color. But there are things to count, like two pink hot dogs in brown buns, three purple buses and four blue sailboats on the river, all the way up to 20 red lanterns in Chinatown, where he finally spots the dragon, “[r]ight where I left him.” If this is an attempt at reminding young readers that the dragon is imaginary, it’s a bit of an anticlimax, and it takes a great deal of the fun out of the previous travels around the city. But the visual appeal overcomes it all. Lots for young readers to see and count. (Picture book. 2-5)

NUMERALIA

Luján, Jorge Illus. by Isol Translated by Ouriou, Susan Groundwood (32 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-55498-444-2 An imagination stretcher disguised as a 1-10 counting book. From “0 for the way an egg stands” to “10 for a student’s thoughts / lost in daydreams,” the quantity or shape of each number suggests a scenario to Luján. These are often literary, as in “2 for the duckling who is not so ugly after all” and “6 for musketeers alongside their reflection.” Isol, an Argentine illustrator and winner of the 2013 Astrid Lincoln Memorial Award, clarifies some of the associations (that student, for instance, is watching flying bugs tracing the number’s shape) while also reflecting the Mexican author’s free-wheeling approach. Her illustrations feature very loose brushwork and quickly sketched figures suspended in pale expanses of monochrome or low-contrast color fields. While she does present an appropriate number of objects to count in each illustration, the emphasis is on appreciation of the surreal rather than building skills. “8 for sand counting out the hours” features one boy digging in the sand in the top half |

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of an hourglass, while below, another boy holds up an umbrella against the falling grains; eight turtles swim, almost as an afterthought, across the facing page. The overall atmosphere is, properly, one of mild abstraction. A whimsical invitation for children to become likewise “lost in daydreams.” (Picture book. 6-9)

PRINCESSES ARE NOT JUST PRETTY Lum, Kate Illus. by Hellard, Sue Bloomsbury (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-5999-0778-9

Who is prettiest: Princess Allie, Princess Mellie or Princess Libby? When Princess Mellie declares that she is, since “[i]t isn’t everyone who has purple hair,” Allie and Libby beg to differ. To settle the dispute, the princesses arrange to have a beauty contest and pick “four of the cleverest girls in the land” to be the judges. The text’s playful language pokes good-natured fun at the princesses’ self-absorption with their looks, as each tries to outdo the others in primping. On their separate ways to the contest, however, each spunky princess happens upon an emergency and does not hesitate to help—with the result that their carefully crafted ensembles are ruined. When they are lauded by the judges for being the “yuckiest,” “drippiest” and “muddiest,” readers understand that pretty may not be so important after all. This is the third princess picture book by Lum and Hellard (Princesses Are NOT Perfect, 2010, etc.), and their collaboration sings. The witty narrative is supported and enhanced by the artfully froufrou watercolor illustrations in pastel colors. Full of droll visual details not mentioned in the text (such as the way the animals in the story interact), these extras add richness and layers to the story. Exuberant and humorous, this pretty book has style and, yes, substance. (Picture book. 2-6)

TEASE

Maciel, Amanda Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Apr. 29, 2014 978-0-06-230530-5 978-0-06-230532-9 e-book An intense examination of bullying from a seldom-heard-from side: the bully’s. After months of physical and verbal intimidation, stalking and cyberbullying, 16-year-old Emma Putnam hangs herself. Her classmates, high school juniors Sara Wharton, Brielle Greggs, and several of their friends are being held accountable for playing a role in Emma’s death. Sara narrates the story in chapters that alternate |

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“The text is breezy but intelligent, folding in rock-’n’-roll history along with biography, nor does it gloss over the quibbles, firings and low moments.” from the beatles

between the present and the two months leading up to Emma’s death. Readers will surely hate Sara from the start. She shows no remorse for tormenting Emma, the school “slut,” whom Sara sees as a threat intent on stealing her boyfriend, Dylan. Sara and Brielle launch a full-on campaign against Emma, with each “prank” more vicious than the last. After Emma’s death, the bully becomes the bullied, and Sara finds herself being made fun of, ignored and called a slut herself. She finds a friend in summer school classmate Carmichael, who is sympathetic to both Sara and Emma and who reminds readers there are two sides to every story. The moving story is informed by the 2010 bullying and suicide of Massachusetts teen Phoebe Prince and is bound to open up debate on who is to blame when a bullied teen commits suicide. Maciel includes an author’s note describing her decision to write the book as well as a list of anti-bullying resources. An emotional, deftly paced and heartbreaking first novel. (Fiction. 14-18)

TWO SPECKLED EGGS

Mann, Jennifer K. Illus. by Mann, Jennifer K. Candlewick (32 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-7636-6168-7

Two opposites may not be as opposite as they imagined in Mann’s look at grade school cliques and oddballs. Ginger wants to invite all the girls in her class but Lyla Browning to her birthday party. Lyla wears drab clothes and glasses, and her affection for insects (not to mention pet tarantula) is certainly unpopular among Ginger’s crowd of friends. But Ginger’s mom says it’s all or none, so Lyla’s invited too. But Ginger’s friends turn out not to be the best party guests, doing whatever they want and ruining the games. At this point, Lyla is just part of the background with her ever-present magnifying glass. But that changes when she is the only one to appreciate the much-anticipated “silver-and-gold cake.” And Lyla’s present turns out to be the most thoughtful of all—a handmade bird’s nest with two speckled malted-milk eggs in the center (two peas in a pod, anyone?)—and the start of a lasting friendship. Mann’s pencil, gouache and digital collage illustrations keep the focus on the girls, their bright clothes and accessories standing out against the white background. The placement of characters in page composition plays a large part in getting Mann’s message across, girls either center stage or relegated to the background (if they’re even on the page at all!). Readers may not look at their classmates the same again. (Picture book. 5-8)

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THE BEATLES

Manning, Mick; Granström, Brita Illus. by Manning, Mick; Granström, Brita Frances Lincoln (48 pp.) $18.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-84780-451-8 The Beatles age; a couple of them even pass away, but they never grow old, and Manning and Granström bring them back fresh as daisies—even with all their little blemishes. This is a fizzy and surprisingly thorough tour of the decadelong joy of the Beatles. So much of their getting together was the work of luck, but these four were musicians first and foremost, so it probably wasn’t a miracle that their paths would cross somewhere along the way. The book is laid out in twopage spreads, illustrated cartoon-style, with a welter of boxed items per page that give crisp factual info—usually no more than a couple dozen words at a time—while the text buzzes along. The topical organization works well at introducing each Beatle (Pete Best appears in a small font) and charting the critical moments along their rise to fame and beyond. The text is breezy but intelligent, folding in rock-’n’-roll history along with biography, nor does it gloss over the quibbles, firings and low moments. It doesn’t dwell upon them either, for this is an upbeat story. The artwork is light of spirit and drenched with psychedelic colors—not of the woo-woo variety but of intense saturation. Adding to the story are snippets of critical moments of world history that influenced not only the Beatles’ music, but all of us. A fine little addition to Beatlemania, despite the rather unprepossessing cover. (timeline, bibliography, filmography, discography, glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

THE STOWAWAYS

Marentette, Meghan Illus. by Griffiths, Dean Pajama Press (240 pp.) $19.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-927485-33-0

An adventure-seeking mouse leaves the safety of home to search for his missing grandfather in the terrifying World Beyond, with perilous consequences. Rory Stowaway has grown up in the protected Weedle Mouse community, but he knows “his own life [is] meant for adventure.” Unlike the Weedle mice who scorn them, the Stowaways have “always been known as great explorers.” But ever since Grampa Stowaway disappeared on a caper into the World Beyond, Papa has refused to take Rory and his twin brother, Morgan, exploring, as Terrible Things could happen. However, their Gran’s determined to search for Grampa, and Rory knows he must help her. With remarkable finesse and guts, they begin an incredible odyssey that carries them into a zoological museum and a scientific lab, where they are captured and barely escape through the mail. Meanwhile, Morgan initiates a search kirkus.com

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for his missing twin, and soon, the whole family’s involved, but not before a flood threatens their lives and home. Although the World Beyond proves as dangerous as Papa predicted, the diminutive but feisty Stowaways are up to the challenge. Blackand-white pencil illustrations capture the Stowaways in action. In the tradition of memorable mouse heroes, the Stowaways deliver page-turning, cliffhanging, heartwarming, first-rate adventure. (map) (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

A VOLCANO BENEATH THE SNOW John Brown’s War Against Slavery Marrin, Albert Knopf (256 pp.) $19.99 | $22.99 PLB | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-307-98152-3 978-0-307-98153-0 PLB

John Brown’s fight to end slavery in the United States is presented in a broad historical context that reveals an impact far beyond the time it occurred. John Brown and his efforts to end slavery were integral aspects of the lead-up to the U.S. Civil War. Connecticut-born Brown’s American roots were deep; one of his ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. Brown’s religious fervor reflected that ancestry. Another shaping factor was his large family, as he experienced tragic losses and financial pressure to provide for them. The many difficulties he faced increased his sympathy for the downtrodden and served to intensify the abolitionist sympathies he learned from his father. In this detailed, archivally illustrated volume, Marrin broadly contextualizes the issues raised, considering the historical roots of slavery in the world, constitutional compromises that allowed it in the country’s founding and the resistance to racial equality. His analysis of events encourages readers to explore the complexities that inform an event of this magnitude and what it can reveal about our own times. “He raised thorny questions about the use of violence at a time when democracy seemed ineffective and the road to justice blocked by self-interest, brutality, and racism,” Marrin comments in an afterword that draws connections between Brown and modern-day terrorists both religious and secular. A comprehensive portrait of an ever-fascinating figure. (source notes, further reading, index [not seen]) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

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EVERY DAY IS MALALA DAY

McCarney, Rosemary with Plan International Second Story Press (32 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 8, 2014 978-1-927583-31-9

An uplifting letter of tribute to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager made famous by her determined advocacy for girls’ education, illustrated with photos of her and other young people from around the world. McCarney addresses Yousafzai—who survived a shooting in 2012 and has become a vocal advocate for children’s rights— directly. She praises her courage, describes her experience and tallies many of the social and economic obstacles that “silence girls,” from poverty and discrimination to physical violence and forced early marriage. Strong personal and collective statements of solidarity (“Instead of living in fear… / …we must shout for change”) encourage readers to join Yousafzai. The author closes by quoting parts of the young Nobel Peace Prize nominee’s eloquent speech before the United Nations’ Youth Assembly on the right of children to receive an education. The missive captions a series of full-page photographs, mostly of girls in developing nations posing pensively or, more often, smiling and waving enthusiastically. Proceeds will be donated to a fund sponsored by Plan International, an international nonprofit devoted to children’s rights and welfare. A brief but moving manifesto that will spark both sympathy and heightened awareness of an endemic global outrage. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

LITTLE DUCKS GO

McCully, Emily Arnold Illus. by McCully, Emily Arnold Holiday House (32 pp.) $14.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2941-7 Series: I Like to Read This tale of duckling rescue has a surprisingly large cast for a 32-page picture book. There’s mother duck and her six ducklings, of course. There’s the boy who stops traffic when the mother duck runs across the street after the ducklings are washed down through a grating. There’s the middle-aged man who shows up with a net to fish the baby ducklings out of the storm drain. There’s a little red-haired girl—his daughter?—who holds the ducklings in a cardboard box as he drives the ducks to a nearby pond in his car. She waves to them as they swim safely away. Even a neighborhood dog stops by to provide moral support. Skeptics may roll their eyes at the idea that it takes a village to save a duck, but they will probably still be charmed by the pictures. It would be easy to believe that the energetic pen-and-watercolor illustrations were sketched from life as McCully followed ducks around her neighborhood. The story may seem too sweet to be |

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true, even though it resembles a real-life incident in Montauk, N.Y., that was also the subject of Lucky Ducklings, by Eva Moore and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (2013). Very few readers will remain unmoved as that mother duck runs from grating to grating, trying to catch a glimpse of her children; everyone loves a duck. (Early reader. 3-8)

BAD DOG

McPhail, David Illus. by McPhail, David Holiday House (32 pp.) $14.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2852-6 Series: I Like to Read A preschool-age boy narrates this short early reader, a straightforward story about a mischievous dog and the boy who loves him. The brown-and-white dog, Tom, creates problems wherever he goes. He yanks the tablecloth and sends the dinner to the floor. He leaves fleas in the parents’ bed. He knocks over the flat-screen TV during Dad’s football game. Tom even lifts his leg on Mom’s special sunflowers. Worst of all, he irks the family cat, Kit, who one night escapes. Tom is threatened with eviction from the family but is redeemed when he helps the boy see where Kit is hiding. This short but complete story is told in succinct sentences with just a few words per page, often the repeated admonishment “Bad dog, Tom!” set in a speech balloon. Though this is intended for new readers, toddlers who are just transitioning into real stories will also appreciate the simple plot with its subtle message of unconditional love that endures even when someone is naughty. McPhail’s gentle illustrations in pen and ink with watercolor washes are appealing as always, conveying both humor and emotion. Not every artist can convincingly portray a mother’s surprise, a cat’s frazzlement and a dog’s laughter all in one illustration. Tom is full of curiosity, like a lot of young’uns. Not bad at all. (Early reader. 2-7)

BEYOND THE DOOR

McQuerry, Maureen Doyle Amulet/Abrams (384 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-4197-1016-2 Series: Time Out of Time, 1 A promising start to a fantasy series mines the rich ore of Celtic mythology and propels a young boy into cosmic battle. Timothy James Maxwell props open his front door to see what might happen on a March evening, and the strangers who drop in are unexpectedly otherworldly. McQuerry sends her young characters—Tim, his sister and his classmate Jessica (whose prettiness and queen-bee status torment him)—into the conflict between Light and Dark and into the territory 114

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made familiar in Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising quintet. There is the Greenman, the horned huntsman, a Celtic warrior in wolf form, even a May Day sacrifice complete with Morris dancers. Tim’s elderly babysitter, Mrs. Clapper, becomes Cerridwyn the huntress, explaining that Tim and his companions are now caught up in an ongoing cosmic story: “Before all things and after all things the story is.” Jessica’s role in the May Day sacrifice and Tim’s substitution for her in the wild hunt put both of them in dangerous proximity to Balor, an emissary of the Dark. References to quantum physics and to the way that time might seem “like water pouring off a tabletop, flowing in all directions at once,” emphasize the simultaneous presence of the mythic and everyday life. An Ogham-based code explained in an opening note runs along the bottoms of the pages for readers to decipher. Sure-handed and page-turning, this series opener leaves plenty to be resolved. (Fantasy. 10-14)

LET THE STORM BREAK

Messenger, Shannon Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4424-5044-8 Series: Sky Fall With Audra off dealing with fallout from revelations in Let the Sky Fall (2013), Vane is stuck by himself figuring out how to be a sylph king on the verge of war. The sylph army known as the Gales desperately wants to use Vane and his Westerly winds as a weapon against power-hungry, one-note Raiden, but Vane knows the Westerly nature is too peaceful. Luckily, the Gales don’t know that Audra also speaks Westerly, a result of the forbidden romance and magical bond between the two—another secret. They still hope Vane will fall for the last of the previous royal family and would be furious to know that the reason Vane broke off that arranged engagement was Audra. Meanwhile, Audra learns the dark secret to Raiden’s strength. Conveying so much information causes the first act to progress slowly, resulting in weak tension until the vague stakes become specific and immediate. Tasked with many expository reveals, Audra’s narration doesn’t shine as brightly as Vane’s chapters. Vane is a bundle of charming contradictions— protective yet pacifistic, nobly loyal yet unable to hear “haboob” (a type of dust storm) without boob jokes. Once characters deal with the ends-justify-the-means idea of sinking to Raiden’s level to fight him and reach the fight scenes, the story becomes a page-turner right to a cliffhanger. Witty, romantic and filled with personality—after the slow start. (Paranormal romance. 12-17)

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“The book was first written in the 1960s but remained unpublished until now, and that story is worth the price of admission all by itself.” from winston & george

WINSTON & GEORGE

Miller, John Illus. by Cucco, Giuliano Enchanted Lion Books (56 pp.) $17.95 | Mar. 21, 2014 978-1-59270-145-2 An exploration of the unusual friendship between the crocodile and the crocodile bird. George the bird and Winston the croc spend every day together, fishing the river where they both live. George perches on the end of Winston’s nose and peers into the water. When he sees a fish, he shouts “DIVE!” Winston does so and brings up a tasty meal for them both. But George is a prankster. As Winston sleeps in the cooling water, George gives him a big push, and the croc drifts several miles downstream, far from home. When he returns, the other crocodiles mock him and encourage him to “eat up that bird.” But the thought of fishing without George makes him too sad to even answer. George fools Winston again, goading him to dive into a big mud bank. The joke goes sour when Winston becomes stuck, and a small herd of hippos is needed to free him. It’s time for Winston to teach George a lesson. The amusing tale plays out in energetic watercolor cartoons reminiscent of Tomi Ungerer, laid out in an expansive landscape orientation. The book was first written in the 1960s but remained unpublished until now, and that story is worth the price of admission all by itself. There’s also a helpful informative page about real crocodile birds and crocodiles. Cucco’s vibrant illustrations, published posthumously, make Miller’s simple tale with its valuable message something special. (Picture book. 3-5)

A PHANTOM ENCHANTMENT

Mont, Eve Marie Kteen (288 pp.) $9.95 paper | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-7582-6950-8 Series: Unbound Trilogy, 3

Lightweight but amusing, the Unbound Trilogy’s conclusion takes on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera, and its myriad variations. Emma and Elise, now students at a Paris boarding school, dive into French culture with gusto while Gray, Emma’s longtime boyfriend, trains as a Coast Guard rescue swimmer stateside. When musical friends Owen and Flynn visit, the girls solicit their help writing an opera libretto based on Leroux’s tale. Meanwhile, Emma is drawn into another mysterious literary world whose characters may be iterations of those in Emma’s real life. Gray is presumed drowned during a valiant rescue, but a flickering candle in her room’s mirror leads Emma to Gray, now an embittered, wraithlike creature who insists his life depends on her allegiance. Is he really alive, and if so, is this what he’s become? The relationship between the school’s headmistress and its strange caretaker follows a parallel |

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track. Emma’s Paris life and creepy adventures in the mirror are vivid and thrilling, but there’s not enough substance beneath the overwrought melodrama to support Emma’s sturdy coming-of-age complexity. The pivotal character is the phantom, not his protégée, Christine/Emma. His choices, his fate—not hers—matter most, so that tracking the original inevitably renders Emma a bystander in her own story. Keep expectations in check, sit back and enjoy Paris (the most memorable character) vicariously. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 12 & up)

CHASING CHEETAHS

Montgomery, Sy Photos by Bishop, Nic HMH Books (80 pp.) $18.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-0-547-81549-7 Series: Scientists in the Field A trusted pair of wildlife observers introduce Namibian cheetahs and a woman who has taken on the responsibility for saving them. Montgomery and Bishop draw readers into the setting from the very beginning with a map, description and photographs of the Namibian savanna where Laurie Marker founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund 20 years ago. There, in an area that is now part of a large nature conservancy, scientists and students take in rescued cheetah orphans, provide sanctuary, return most to the wild, and demonstrate ways farmers and cheetahs can live in harmony. Dogs and goats are key. The CCF raises and sells Kangal dogs, a breed large enough to guard goats, sheep and cattle from large predators. They raise goats, too, to use in training the dogs and Namibians who want to learn to farm. Like many of the best titles in this series, this focuses on a single scientist and her work, describes how she got there, what she does, the tools she uses and why her work is important. As always, young people are included in the story—here, visiting U.S. high school seniors who participate in a wildlife census. Bishop’s stunning cheetah photographs will draw readers into this appealing and balanced picture of a conservationist at work. Another winning combination of elegant design, thoughtful organization and fascinating information. (bibliography, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-15)

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“Morris unfurls her tale in mythic, heightened language; her dreamy watercolors, of a piece with her poetic text, are amply accommodated by the oversized trim.” from the song of the golden hare

THE SONG OF THE GOLDEN HARE

paintings are delicate, detailed and beautiful. Louise is a lovely child and a poster girl for reading. Still, that there appear to be no caring adults in her world is troubling. An ode to reading that raises too many concerns. (Picture book. 4-7)

Morris, Jackie Illus. by Morris, Jackie Frances Lincoln (40 pp.) $18.99 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-84780-450-1 One little boy’s family holds the secret of the golden hare. Others in the village like to hunt the hares with fierce hounds, but the boy loves them for their twilight dancing, their wildness, their long velvet ears, their amber eyes and their speed. The boy has grown up hearing the legend of the Golden Queen of the Hares—it is his family’s responsibility to keep the old queen safe when a new one is chosen. One morning, very early, the boy and his sister follow a multitude of hares a long distance; they rest among dozens of them, honored to hear the song of the vagabond hare as he woos the young queen. But there is a pair of sleek hounds on the trail of the old queen; the children carry her to the shore and hold the hunter and his hounds back with song as she swims to the Island of the Golden Hares. Sometimes, “if you are very lucky,” you can faintly hear the song, mingled with the waves. Morris unfurls her tale in mythic, heightened language; her dreamy watercolors, of a piece with her poetic text, are amply accommodated by the oversized trim. A lovely celebration of legend and the wild. (Picture book. 5-9)

PLEASE, LOUISE

Morrison, Toni; Morrison, Slade Illus. by Strickland, Shadra Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-4169-8338-5 978-1-4424-3310-6 e-book A young girl sets out on a solitary walk to a surprise destination. With rain threatening, a little girl leaves home by herself wearing bright yellow boots and a slicker. The streets are filled with fearful sights and sounds—a barking dog, a darkened house, a junkyard and a statue of a bird of prey. But then light and shelter from the storm fill the pages as Louise enters a well-stocked library where “Imagination is an open door. / Step in here and let it soar.” Louise comfortably stretches out on a rainbow-hued floor to read before walking home, passing the now-friendly dog and people sitting on the steps of the house, now shining brightly in the sun. She sits in front of her own house surrounded by books and then goes inside to settle herself in a cozy window seat to read. The Morrisons, mother and son, write in rhyming couplets with the message firmly hammered home: “[B]ooks can teach and please Louise.” Adult readers may find this disconcerting: A child alone on dark and scary streets finds comfort solely from books (even library staff are nowhere to be seen). Strickland’s watercolor-and-gouache 116

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DUST OF EDEN

Nagai, Mariko Whitman (128 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-0-8075-1739-0 Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America. An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the JapaneseAmerican internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

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THE PATCHWORK TORAH

Ofanansky, Allison Illus. by Oriol, Elsa Kar-Ben (32 pp.) $17.95 | $7.95 paper | $6.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-4677-0426-7 978-1-4677-0427-4 paper 978-1-4677-2434-0 e-book This book will be read more than once, and that seems only appropriate, as Jews are never finished reading the Torah. In a traditional synagogue, the congregation spends an entire year reading the Hebrew Bible out loud, immediately flipping back to the first chapter to start again. So it makes a sort of sense that David’s family has spent many generations creating the same Torah scroll out of disparate parts. One part has been hidden during World War II and needs repair. Other sections of the parchment are damaged in a fire and in Hurricane Katrina. David’s grandfather was a scribe—a sofer—and David learns from him, splicing pieces of the damaged scrolls together as an adult to make a new one. “This is a very unusual scroll,” David tells the congregation. “I wrote part of it. Other sofers, in other places and at other times, wrote other parts.” Even lessthan-traditional Jews may be moved as the scroll is passed from one family member to another. David teaches his grandchildren to write Hebrew letters and reads the first lines of the scroll to his granddaughter: “In the beginning….” Even the most trivial sentences in the book start to seem oddly beautiful. A passage about scrap drives becomes profound: Nothing is ever lost or wasted; nothing—and no one—is ever unimportant. Readers may close the cover thinking that a picture book—like a Torah scroll—can be essential. (Picture book. 5-9)

A COOL SUMMER TAIL

Pearson, Carrie A. Illus. by Wald, Christina Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | $9.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-62855-205-8 978-1-62855-214-0 paper 978-1-62855-232-4 e-book The curious animals of A Warm Winter Tail (2011) return (in the same order), this time to ask their companions or respective parents how humans cool off. Using the same clunky language and metric structure as its predecessor, fox kits ask their mama “Do they hang out their tongues, / like a spring that’s been sprung…?” She replies: “No panting! No puffing! / No huh, huh, huh huffing! / They sweat through their skin when it’s hot.” The similar queries from a turtle, bear cubs, honeybees, a butterfly and other creatures receive like answers. At the end, a lad at the edge of a pool asks the complementary question about animals, and his mother’s |

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general answer serves as a summary of what’s come before: “Their bodies know how to stay cool.” Wald tucks line-drawn vignettes of human figures sporting wings, a shell and other fanciful features into her otherwise realistic, staid painted illustrations. Budding naturalists will come away with a sense of the variety of ways wild animals living in temperate climates stay cool (human strategies, aside from sweating and swimming, aren’t covered). They will find further detail and activities related to seasonal adaptations both at the end and on the publisher’s website. With its companion volume, a first introduction to the topic. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

THE GIRL AND THE BICYCLE

Pett, Mark Illus. by Pett, Mark Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $15.99 | $12.99 e-book | Apr. 29, 2014 978-1-4424-8319-4 978-1-4424-8320-0 e-book A girl spies a gleaming bike in a shop window and decides to earn enough money doing yardwork to buy it. This wordless, retro book (the girl’s molded curls, turtleneck, plaid skirt and Mary Janes definitely come from another era) champions both grit and kindness, but it seems mighty bleak at times. Moody cement-gray papers, nearly colorless illustrations and a cast of cold adults make the girl’s determination and her working relationship with one kind neighbor all the more moving. Much of Pett’s engrossing narrative is relayed through characters’ limbs, eyes and brows, as many times they simply don’t have mouths. The blank effect of a face without a smile, smirk or frown carries unexpected weight, delivering a sense that the character struggles to withhold or manage emotions. And talk about emotions! After working for the same spectacled lady for months earning money raking, planting and cleaning, the girl rushes to the store only to find her bike already sold. Many young readers may reel just imagining such staggering disappointment and be further boggled by her angelic decision to purchase a tricycle for her small brother instead. Never fear, a Capra-esque ending awaits. Like an old black-and-white movie, this companion to The Boy and the Airplane (2013) will remain charming and relevant—the old story about what you get when you give never really gets old. (Picture book. 4-6)

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THE SIMPLES LOVE A PICNIC

Phillipps, J.C. Illus. by Phillipps, J.C. HMH Books (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-544-16667-7

Silly humor abounds as a family tries to enjoy a picnic in the park. When Dad proposes a picnic, Mom must explain it to the children: “A picnic is when you pack food in a basket, spread out a blanket, and eat on the ground.” Dad, brother Ben and sister Lulu help with the preparations. Lulu doesn’t quite get it, packing ice cream in the hamper and the cat in her backpack. They set out with their dog on a leash only to be beset by squirrels, ants, birds and Frisbees; the melted ice cream just compounds all their problems. It is all too much until Ben remembers Mom’s definition and comes up with the perfect solution: Picnics require a basket of food and a blanket to sit on, but the park is not compulsory. Phillipps’ short declarative sentences with repeating verbs will appeal to emerging readers, and their instant feelings of superiority to the silly family will reinforce their senses of accomplishment. Her cut-paper–collage artwork is childlike and colorful; the Simples have body shapes that will be familiar to children who use scissors to create paper people. Laughter, surprise and chagrin are all expressed through black dots for eyes and lines for mouths. Large fonts and exclamation points add to the little ongoing drama. A funny family story packed with mayhem and good spirits. (Picture book. 3-6)

BOB AND ROB

Pickford, Sue Illus. by Pickford, Sue Frances Lincoln (32 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 18, 2014 978-1-84780-343-6 Bob, a dog looking for a life on the straight and narrow, stumbles on a solution without being unfaithful to his no-good burglar of an owner. Bob and Rob are crooks: Rob as that’s his stock in trade, and Bob as he is Rob’s dog, and Bob’s mother told him to always be faithful to his owner—no matter what. Outside of being an accomplice in crime, Bob’s a good pooch: He likes to iron clothes and help old ladies across the street. Rob is a lousy crook, though: He gets distracted by mothballed dresses, chamber pots and dust brooms. Then they see through a window the haul of a lifetime: hundreds of wrapped presents. But when they get the loot home, it turns out to be a bunch of toys for children. Bob is crestfallen. Steal a bunch of kids’ presents? That’s low. Bob contrives to return the goodies and turns into a present himself when the kids catch him returning the gifts. Rob continues his life of crime, which lasts a day or two without Bob’s help. There’s not much for readers to chew on here that they haven’t heard a hundred times (crime doesn’t pay, being good 118

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is its own reward). Still, Pickford’s artwork is a treat, with Rob in his pink slippers and Bob with his binoculars, both as twodimensional as possible—as if Bob has taken a good, hot iron to them—and with lots of crooked linework, which befits a couple crooks (or at least one real crook). Remember—nice dogs find a good home and bumbling burglars find the big house. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO

Polisner, Gae Algonquin (320 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-61620-256-9

Four years after her younger brother, Simon, drowned in the ocean, Francesca Schnell meets a child she thinks might be his reincarnation. Maybe everything happens for a reason. Following the woman with whom she suspects her father is having an affair leads Francesca to a country club where she meets—and rescues from an ill-advised dive into a pool—4-year-old Frankie Schyler. As she gets to know “Frankie Sky” and his kind but inattentive mother, Francesca begins to see connections between Frankie and her own brother and to wonder if there is a spiritual explanation for the similarities between the two. Unfortunately—or is it fortunately after all?—the only person Francesca can talk to about reincarnation is her best friend Lisette’s very charming, very taken boyfriend, Bradley. And there’s nobody, really, with whom Francesca can share her deepest secret: Simon’s death was Francesca’s fault. This is a quiet story about miracles and relationships, and Francesca has something to learn from each person whose life touches hers—even the neighbor her father keeps visiting on the sly. The prose is gentle but evocative, and Frankie Sky’s childlike exuberance and occasional misconceptions add heart and humor. Some long-standing family conflicts are resolved very quickly, but the story never comes off as saccharine or simplistic. Both hopeful and careful—like Francesca herself. (Fiction. 12-16)

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“Folk tales...weave through Astri’s often dryly humorous, suspenseful first-person account until one feels like the other… including her riotous escape from the violent man-troll and the rescue of her beloved little sister.” from sugar

SEA SLIME It’s Eeuwy, Gooey and Under the Sea

Prager, Ellen Illus. by Bersani, Shennen Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | $9.95 paper | $9.95 e-book Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-62855-210-2 978-1-62855-219-5 paper 978-1-62855-237-9 e-book

An elementary introduction to a slippery topic. Using the word as often as possible, including at the end of every block of text, Prager exudes basic facts about a gallery of marine creatures. These include jellyfish (“Its whole body is see-through SLIME”), slugs, coral, vampire squid and the everpopular hagfish—which responds to danger with “undersea goo! Lots of goo!” There are missteps: An unembellished mention of a squid’s “eight arms, and two tentacles” may leave readers floundering, and the author slides past mucus’ chemical components without a mention. Nevertheless, she does secrete a clear trail of information about how the icky ichor is used in nature for offense, defense, flotation and locomotion. Moreover, a closing section offers more detail on the substance’s varied properties, as well as other enrichment material and even an easy recipe. Aside from the all-too–close-up hagfish scene, Bersani’s illustrations don’t really capture a proper sense of slime’s ooey-gooey quality, but she does render marine scenes and creatures accurately. The visuals aren’t quite as crowd-pleasing as the text, but much of the content here will nonetheless stick with younger audiences. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

WEST OF THE MOON

Preus, Margi Amulet/Abrams (224 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4197-0896-1

Thirteen-year-old Astri is a goat girl, but she’s no Heidi; she’s a sharp, stonehard girl who hasn’t yet found the goodness inside herself. In fact, her life is as wretched as the darkest Norwegian fairy tale. Instead of being taken by White Bear King Valemon to his castle, Astri has been sold by her own aunt and uncle for “two silver coins and a haunch of goat” to a nasty old hunchbacked goatman named Svaalberd who lives in squalor. Folk tales from “The Twelve Wild Ducks” to “The Three Billy Goats Gruff ” weave through Astri’s often dryly humorous, suspenseful first-person account until one feels like the other…including her riotous escape from the violent man-troll and the rescue of her beloved little sister. The girls’ odyssey over hill and dale, aided by a kind milkmaid and lonely widow, takes them all the way to |

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an America-bound ship—the Columbus. Whether or not their father is still alive in America, the country beckons like the castle in the bear story that “lies east of the sun and west of the moon.” Preus, who won a Newbery Honor for Heart of a Samurai (2010), was inspired by her Norwegian great-great-grandmother, who immigrated to America in 1851, as she explains in an author’s note, even providing reproductions of some of her great-great-grandmother’s papers. Norwegian history, fiction and folklore intertwine seamlessly in this lively, fantastical adventure and moving coming-of-age story. (glossary, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

THE SECRET LIFE OF THE WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLAR

Pringle, Laurence Illus. by Paley, Jane Boyds Mills (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-62091-000-9

The author of more than 100 children’s books looks closely at a familiar creature. Naming but not otherwise anthropomorphizing this stealthy survivor, Pringle follows Bella the woolly bear through a “jungle of grasses, clovers, and wild flowers,” weaving in information about her food and feeding body parts, and life stages. She’s rejected by a predatory blue jay and aided across a road by a helping hand. After finding a good winter hiding place among stones, the bristly red-and-black caterpillar curls up into a cocoon, molts one last time into a pupa and finally turns into an adult Isabella tiger moth. In extensive backmatter, Pringle refutes the myth that woolly bear caterpillars predict the severity of the coming winter. Words like setae and crochets, names for the insect’s body parts, are italicized in context and defined in a glossary. Paley’s colorful cut-paper and mixed-media illustrations show off Bella and her neighbors nicely. The plants and flowers are generic, but the animals are identifiable. The caterpillar’s size can be judged against an illustration of a leaf and part of a human hand, but an actual measurement or scale would have been useful in the final diagram. Straightforward and informative. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

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“The simple text and spot-on rhymes belie the sophistication of the inherent message behind the verse—water is a life-giver.” from water can be…

I’LL NEVER LET YOU GO

clearly realized setting details distinguish this title from the vast schools of novels for young teens swimming in the publishing sea, choppy pace and perfunctory dialogue drag it down to the ocean floor. Nevertheless, fills the bill for teens looking for an atypical action adventure. (map) (Fiction. 12-15)

Richmond, Marianne Illus. by Richmond, Marianne Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-4022-9715-1 A little bear struggles with separation anxiety as he prepares to go to school for the first time— without Blankie. “Edward and Blankie met on the first day of Edward.” The treacly text goes on to describe how they’ve been inseparable ever since, playing, napping and cuddling together. Blankie mops up Edward’s tears when he’s sad, and Edward gives him a bath in the washing machine after an unfortunate encounter with an orange Popsicle. When Edward informs the tumbling blanket that he misses it, his mother remarks that it’s good practice for when he goes to school. Edward is aghast. Mama explains that “[s]chool is a GREAT place to make new friends and try new things,” telling Edward that like Blankie, she will be sad when he goes off to school but happy for him too. Edward and Mama brainstorm ways Blankie can keep busy, and thus steeled, Edward and Blankie turn in. Richmond depicts Edward as an animate teddy bear and Blankie as a blue fabric rectangle of inconsistent size and softness. Amateurish-looking rather than childlike, the watercolor illustrations are so splotchy and ill-defined that it’s often hard to distinguish Blankie from, say, Edward’s sheets or clothing. Though its heart is in the right place, this tale doesn’t come close to the artistry of Kevin Henkes’ Owen (1993), still the gold standard. (Picture book. 3-5)

SWIM THAT ROCK

Rocco, John; Primiano, Jay Candlewick (294 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7636-6905-8 A teen goes to desperate lengths to save his family’s diner in this unevenly executed fishing drama set on Narragansett Bay. Fourteen-year-old Jake Cole’s father was lost at sea last year. Since then, he and his mother haven’t been able to keep up with the family diner’s mortgage payments to the local loan sharks. His mother is ready to give up and move in with his grandmother in Arizona, but Jake has a plan. Previously polluted Barrington Beach is about to be reopened for quahog harvesting. If he and his father’s old quahogging buddy Gene can pull enough clams once the beach reopens, they may be able to raise most of the mortgage money. Jake is working on getting the rest of the money by illegally fishing at night with a mysterious man he calls Captain, who claims to have known his father. But when Gene is hurt in a boating accident, Jake must work Barrington Beach alone. Can he pull enough quahogs to pay off the mob? While the distinct, 120

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A WALK IN PARIS

Rubbino, Salvatore Illus. by Rubbino, Salvatore Candlewick (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-7636-6984-3 Is there really a building with its ductwork and escalators on the outside? A little girl discovers there is indeed as her grandfather points to the Pompidou Center on their walking tour of Paris. The two emerge from the Paris Metro to spend the day viewing the architecture, culture and landmarks of the great city. They wander the narrow streets and the wide boulevards, full of pigeons and bicyclists, sidewalk cafes, artists and booksellers. They watch the boats float down the River Seine and taste cheese at the local market. The girl waits patiently (a note explains that “queue” is the French word for “line”) to climb to the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. Scattered about the pages in a distinct, smaller typeface that does not overshadow the primary text are translations of commonly used French words and terms, historical facts, trivia and even travel tips. The consciously retro illustrations in soft, muted colors are lively and expressive, and there’s a nice balance between detailed images and simple silhouettes. Adults familiar with M. Sasek’s This Is… series will find this pleasantly reminiscent of those old favorites. As the book reads more like a travelogue and less a story with a captivating plot, its natural audience is older readers of picture books. Sparkling lights and lovely sights fill this whirlwind tour of Paris. (Picture book. 4-8)

WATER CAN BE . . .

Salas, Laura Purdie Illus. by Dabija, Violeta Millbrook/Lerner (32 pp.) $17.95 | $13.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4677-0591-2 978-1-4677-2539-2 e-book In a look at the forms, functions and uses of water, Salas and Dabija turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. The simple text and spot-on rhymes belie the sophistication of the inherent message behind the verse—water is a life-giver. It creates the weather, quenches thirst, is a habitat for animals, helps the plants and trees grow, both cools and insulates, fights fires, soothes injuries and beautifies the Earth in myriad ways. kirkus.com

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Mentioning only spring and autumn by name, the pictures nonetheless cycle through all four seasons. “Water is water— / it’s puddle, pond, sea. / When springtime comes splashing, / the water flows free. // Water can be a… / Tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher // Otter feeder / Downhill speeder // Garden soaker / Valley cloaker.” Dabija’s illustrations, created with a combination of traditional and digital techniques and filled with simple shapes and vivid, vibrant colors, are misty, scratchy, sometimesimpressionistic, always atmospheric—in a word, beautiful. Even older elementary students will welcome the shimmering pairings of words and artwork, their teachers using this as both a science lesson and a writing exercise—can students write as poetically, economically and informatively as Salas? Backmatter extends the poetic hints in brief paragraphs (“Rainbow jeweler” describes how rainbows form, for example). Kids of all ages will gain a new appreciation for water, and Salas and Dabija will surely gain new fans. (glossary, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-10)

THE EIGHTH DAY

Salerni, Dianne K. Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-06-227215-7 Thirteen-year-old Jax wakes to an empty world, believing that he is the sole survivor of some terrible event. However, his isolation ends after only one day when he wakes again to life as usual. Following the death of his father, Jax is sent to live with Riley Pendare, a tattooed 18-year-old who can barely care for himself. However, when Jax discovers that he is a Transitioner, a member of an elite group that has access to a hidden eighth day each week, Riley may be the only one with the answers. Arthurian legends come alive as Jax learns that the eighth day was created by Merlin and other magicians to contain the power-hungry Kin. Imprisoned within a single day each week, some of the Kin and their allies are seeking to destroy the spell even if it means the world will be torn apart in the process. Ancient magic pairs nicely with modern intrigue as Jax is forced to navigate his dangerous new reality. Complicated alliances, unclear motives and ruthless villains will keep the pages turning. Although the plot is familiar, the inclusion of Arthurian legend keeps it fresh. A promising start to a new trilogy. (Fantasy. 8-12)

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OTTO IN THE CITY

Schamp, Tom Illus. by Studio Lannoo Tate/Abrams (32 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-84976-167-3

A car trip into and then back through a busy city gives a young cat plenty to see. Printed on oversized stock stiff enough to allow open spreads to lie flat, Schamp’s cityscapes teem with offbeat details. There are pedestrians who look like they stepped out of a Richard Scarry title (sharp-eyed viewers may even catch a sign for “R. Scarry St.”), vehicles shaped like animals’ heads, and buildings constructed from repurposed items like a thermos bottle and a ruler. Largely ignoring his passenger’s steady stream of questions and comments, Otto’s dad maneuvers their small car through increasingly dense traffic all the way to the car wash on the last page. Here the thoroughfare loops, signaling a rotation of the entire volume so that the previously upside-down top half of each illustration is now right side up. The two travelers now negotiate new (or sometimes the same) neighborhoods, parks, building sites and traffic circles on the way out. Sly references to classic movies, pop musicians (“Mumford & Son” reads the sign on a work truck), and artists like “Pablo” and “Andy” may keep attendant grown-ups amused along the way. Urban oddities aplenty, spiffily presented in a format large enough to spread out on the floor for group viewing. (Picture book. 6-8)

A POND FULL OF INK

Schmidt, Annie M.G. Illus. by Posthuma, Sieb Translated by Colmer, David Eerdmans (34 pp.) $16.00 | Mar. 7, 2014 978-0-8028-5433-9

A dozen poems from the inimitable Dutch writer magnificently translated and illustrated. Although she was the winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Prize in 1988, Schmidt’s work, while widely translated elsewhere, is largely little known to English speakers. But through the award-winning talents of Australian translator Colmer and Dutch illustrator Posthuma, this volume—first published in the Netherlands in 2011, 16 years after Schmidt’s death, and for which Posthuma nabbed his second Gouden Penseel prize for best illustrated children’s book—should change all that. Schmidt’s zany characters burst to life in Colmer’s florid translation. Between the ravishingly well-crafted verse, with its tight meter and lithe rhyme, and Posthuma’s stark, richly layered mixed-media illustrations, readers can spend hours savoring each page. Schmidt’s sympathies for the daring and slightly misbehaved shine through in these wry, whimsical sketches. The |

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fairy-tale writer draws from his pond of ink; furniture with legs steps out of the house for a walk; the intolerant Isabella Caramella feeds her hungry pet crocodile, Crabbit; and so on. Seasoned bath avoiders and their kin will thrill at “Belinda Hated Getting Clean…”: From her ink-splotched aura, Medusa-like hair and creepy talons to full-blown leafiness, Posthuma delectably marks Belinda’s transformation from fauna to flora. Heartwarming creative genius abounds here, offering visual and aural pleasures aplenty: not to be missed. (Picture book/poetry. 6-14)

A MOUNTAIN OF FRIENDS

Schoene, Kerstin Illus. by Schoene, Kerstin Fitzhenry & Whiteside (32 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 30, 2014 978-1-55455-313-6 A charming picture book about the lengths friends will go to for one another. The little penguin protagonist is sad, as while he is a bird, he cannot fly. Thus his wish to “soar above the clouds” is destined to fail, try as he might. But while penguin may not possess the ability to fly, he does have a caring and determined group of animal friends who work to make his dreams a reality. Turning their delightfully expressive gazes outward at readers, penguin’s friends ask them for help (“Yes, you!” exhorts the sign held in elephant’s trunk). A page turn instructs readers to turn the book clockwise and “see what happens,” resulting in a 90-degree change of orientation that has pages turning up-todown instead of left-to-right. Readers are then made privy to the ways little penguin’s friends endeavor to help him achieve his goal. First, the animals take penguin to a hill...but the clouds are still far away. They then pile stones for penguin to stand on, and when that doesn’t work, they stack themselves in a teetering tower that occupies four vertical double-page spreads, till, finally, the “clouds are not too high.” Although some of the animals in the pileup are previously unintroduced in the story, they appear in the portrait gallery on the rear endpapers. This darling story that celebrates love, friendship and perseverance is a thoroughgoing delight. (Picture book. 3-5)

SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE

Sedgwick, Marcus Roaring Brook (224 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-1-59643-801-9

A thriller that challenges readers’ understanding of the universe. Laureth’s best-selling novelist father, Jack Peak, left for Switzerland to research his latest book, so why did his notebook turn up in New York City? In this departure from Sedgwick’s atmospheric historical fiction and fantasy, the British 16-year-old (named for a shampoo ingredient) suspects foul play. Seizing on her parents’ troubled marriage and her mother’s trip to visit family, Laureth books a flight to New York. She also takes her younger brother, Benjamin, not just because she’s in charge of him, but because she needs him: Laureth is blind. After recovering the notebook, she learns more about her father’s latest idea-turned-obsession. Well-known for his humorous books, Jack Peak experienced a coincidence that changed his life—and writing. Since then, he’s been chasing down answers to Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, more commonly known as coincidence. Snippets of his notebook offer true, fascinating revelations about Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Edgar Allan Poe and other scientists and authors involved in exploring coincidence. Now the determined teen uses the notebook (excerpts of which are printed in faux handwriting interspersed throughout the narrative) to search for clues about her missing father. In short, taut chapters, her first-person narration allows readers to experience the intrigue through her abilities and shows her tender relationship with Benjamin. It’s no coincidence that Sedgwick has crafted yet another gripping tale of wonder. (Thriller. 13 & up)

THE DANDELION’S TALE

Sheehan, Kevin Illus. by Dunlavey, Rob Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $16.99 | $19.99 PLB | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-375-87032-3 978-0-375-97032-0 PLB A sparrow fulfills a dandelion’s last wish in this luminous tale about the power of storytelling to keep a loved one’s memory alive. One summer day, Sparrow hears a dandelion crying. The flower is mourning her impending demise, worried no one will remember her. Wanting to help, Sparrow offers to write the flower’s story on the ground. For hours, the dandelion shares things she’s loved: the smell of the meadow, the laughter of children. Upon completion, the dandelion is happy, and Sparrow promises to come back—but a storm keeps him away. When he returns, the flower and her story are no more. Sparrow weeps; promising not to forget her, he sings. In this

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“Weaving the present and the recent past, Smith-Ready builds tension and mystery as the family’s tragic past and David’s internal struggles emerge bit by tantalizing bit.” from this side of salvation

incandescent moment, other birds join in the dandelion’s song. Weeks later, Sparrow discovers a patch of baby dandelions growing under the same tree. He shares with them their mother’s story, confident she will not be forgotten. Lyrical illustrations done in ink, watercolor, pencil and crayon softly glow with a reassuring warmth. Done in a palette of earth tones, they skillfully convey the characters’ points of view: lush, whimsical close-ups for the dandelion; expansive, bright swaths of landscape for Sparrow. Dunlavey’s sophisticated compositions also give context to the dandelion’s life cycle; in his dazzling field of gold flowers, readers realize the dandelion’s legacy and the strength of her existence. Radiant. (Picture book. 3-7)

BEAR AND BIRD

Skofield, James Illus. by Thermes, Jennifer Sleeping Bear Press (40 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-1-58536-835-8 Old Bear and baby Bird become close friends. After Bear returns unsuccessful fledgling Bird to his nest, they forge a friendship based on a strong commitment to helping each other find the best berries and avoid hunters. They are sad when Bird flies off for the winter, but Bear hibernates, and come spring, their friendship resumes. And so it goes for a few years, but then age begins to catch up with Bear. Sadly, Bird migrates south, and when he returns, he cannot find Bear. Instead, he finds Bear’s granddaughter, who explains to him that Bear has died. The granddaughter bear helps Bird through his grief by encouraging him to remember the good times that they shared. A new friendship emerges as Bird shows Bear’s granddaughter the way to the best berries. Skofield’s writing is tender and, with adult guidance, accessible to young readers who may be dealing with the death of an elderly loved one. His narrative features short sentences and frequent conversations between the animals. Thermes’ watercolor art, both full-page and spot, is bright and inviting, highlighting the contrast in size between the animals. A good title to share when talking about death with children. (Picture book. 4 -7)

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WHEN MAMA GOES TO WORK

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk Illus. by Phillips, Jessica Fitzhenry & Whiteside (32 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-1-55455-314-3

Various mothers and children have parallel experiences throughout their days. Skrypuch treads familiar ground—separation anxiety is a major aspect of childhood development. But this tale isn’t full of tantrums or tears; instead, the kids in these families are shining examples of confidence and security. When one mother/child pair is separated, and a slight worry creeps in, the boy, bedecked in red-rimmed glasses, explains, “When Mama goes to work, / I know she misses me. / But she talks with friends / and thinks of me. / She knows that she’ll be back.” Likewise, he talks with his friends and thinks of his mother at the same time. Another girl hides a surprise in her mom’s lunch; her mom does the same for her. At noon, they both think of each other. The repetitious nature and parallel storytelling structure of each mother and child’s experiences can seem plodding, but it will likely be comforting to young worriers. Skrypuch follows only four families, but the variety of ethnicities and careers included is commendable, though it’s a darn shame that in 2014, the narrative focus is still exclusively on mothers. Sunny, cartoonlike illustrations add to the cheer (disregard the slightly creepy toothy smiles of some). Spare in both text and art, earnest in heart, limited in scope. (Picture book. 2-6)

THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

Smith-Ready, Jeri Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (384 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 1, 2014 978-1-4424-3948-1 Religion requires sacrifice—but for David, the prophecy of the Rush end-of-time event has particularly bad timing: baseball season and prom night, when things are sure to heat up with girlfriend Bailey. Introspective and angry, David carries a heavier burden than most: His older brother died in Afghanistan, and his strongly religious parents joyfully anticipate leaving this world for the next, where the family can again be whole. They turn first to a new church where David feels welcome, then commit to the words of prostitute-turned-preacher Sophia Visser and her endtimes prophecy—but David and older sister Mara have plenty of reasons to want to stay in this world. In wonderful irony, when the appointed Rush hour arrives, David and Bailey are finally getting physical (responsibly, both having purchased condoms), while David’s parents mysteriously disappear without a trace at the foretold time. Weaving the present and the recent past, Smith-Ready builds tension and mystery as the family’s tragic |

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“With small alphabet blocks, Legos, pencils and marbles as the mice’s playthings, little ones may imagine rodents in their own homes playing with the miscellany they have left lying around.” from mice mischief

past and David’s internal struggles emerge bit by tantalizing bit. Agnostic Mara, scientifically oriented Bailey and gay best friend Kane all provide support and opportunity for thoughtful exploration of religious chasms that have baffled many adults; questions of faith, family and responsibility are juxtaposed with a fast-paced and entertaining “what if ” tale with—like life—no guarantee of a happy ending. Reason, love and smart peers succeed in a captivating story of family heartbreak and religious intrigue. (Fiction. 14-18)

SOCKS!

Sohn, Tania Illus. by Sohn, Tania Kane/Miller (36 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-61067-244-3 A little girl just loves her many-colored socks. With her cat by her side, the preschooler struts about in her patterned socks of polka dots and stripes. Some are colored green or yellow. One pair has holes. They are different sizes, from “baby socks” to “daddy socks.” One pair fits at the ankle, and one pair is knee-high. “Christmas socks” hang by the tree. She plays with her puppet socks and then opens a box with a very special pair of socks. These are “Beoseon! Traditional Korean socks, from Grandma.” All are then displayed strewn on the floor in a double-page spread, which is followed by one very smiley little girl wearing her pink socks. The brief text unfortunately does not scan smoothly, making it unappealing as a read-aloud despite the child-friendly subject. The collaged artwork, though appropriately colorful, lacks charm. A pronunciation guide and a brief note about Korean socks would have been helpful to a general audience. A concept book that falls short. (Picture book. 2-6)

BLUE GOLD

Stewart, Elizabeth Annick Press (300 pp.) $21.95 | $12.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-55451-635-3 978-1-55451-634-6 paper The human costs of modern technology are explored through the alternating third-person narratives of three girls from different countries. Canadian Fiona sends her boyfriend a risqué selfie. In Africa, fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo has forced Sylvie to Tanzania’s Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. The fighting’s over columbite-tantalite ore, a key component in the manufacture of cellphones and other small, powerful electronic devices. In China, Laiping joins her cousin in the city to work for a better life in a factory 124

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that manufactures electronics like cellphones using coltan. Fiona, whose sext leaks, has the shortest story. Laiping accepts monotonous, hard work, believing the company’s propaganda until she’s faced with workers’ rights abuses. The fictional factory, like notorious real-life analog Foxconn, even has suicide nets for employee jumpers. Despite her family’s need to pay for a medical emergency, Laiping’s wages are illegally withheld. Survivor Sylvie, who’s lived through rape and war, holds what’s left of her family together while working at the refugee clinic and dreaming of becoming a doctor. Her dream, difficult with family duties, becomes nearly impossible once the local warlord decides he’ll marry her. The stories converge (though not seamlessly) at the conclusion. The prose is strongest when closest to the characters, weakest in didactic moments. In the afterward, Stewart explains the real-world situation and provides further research resources. Fictional characters make an important story accessible. (afterword, suggested reading) (Fiction. 14-18)

MICE MISCHIEF Math Facts in Action

Stills, Caroline Illus. by Rossell, Judith Holiday House (24 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-0-8234-2947-9

Ten adorable mice one by one abandon their chores for fun, allowing readers an introduction to the addition facts summing 10. When the 10 mice awake in their oh-so-awesome triplelayer bunk bed, one immediately jumps into the fun: “9 mice tidy. / 1 mouse somersaults. 9+1=10.” The mice are differentiated enough so careful observers can see that the diligent mice are always the same ones. While eight mice cook breakfast, two juggle. Seven wash up, three spin the plates on needles while standing on spools of thread. And so the day continues with household chores sure to be familiar to preschoolers—hanging and folding laundry, scrubbing and mopping the floor, dusting and polishing. One by one, each is edged out by fun—balancing, swinging, building, etc., a math sentence on every page. Rossell’s delightful pencil, liquid acrylic and collage illustrations are the stars here. With small alphabet blocks, Legos, pencils and marbles as the mice’s playthings, little ones may imagine rodents in their own homes playing with the miscellany they have left lying around. While the math is there on every page, the learning is painless, as preschoolers will likely be more focused on the antics of the mice; repeat readings will keep exposing children to the math facts. Though these mice are rather tame in the mischief department, preschoolers get some good practice in counting down, adding up to 10 and recognizing addition sentences. (Math picture book. 3-6)

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STONE GIANT Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be

Sutcliffe, Jane Illus. by Shelley, John Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-58089-295-7 978-1-60734-734-7 e-book Sutcliffe make a big impression with this eye-catching introduction to one of Western civilization’s most iconic sculptures. When the young artist was summoned from Rome back to his native Florence, he was commissioned to take on a work of heroic proportions. This sculpture of the Old Testament hero David was to symbolize Florentine strength and civic virtue. Michelangelo requested “the giant”—an immense block of creamy marble that had been languishing for over 40 years. Sutcliffe limns the lively details of this multiyear project, and her tale of Michelangelo’s talent and industry is considerably enhanced by the thoughtful pen, ink and watercolor work of British illustrator Shelley. He makes the finely modeled realism of the statue the real standout here. (Yes, there are a few views of David in full frontal splendor.) Shelley wondrously juxtaposes this cool, nuanced marble hero with a crowded city, brimming with the bright colors and lively action of Renaissance book illuminations. Backmatter includes an author’s note and a brief bibliography (mostly adult titles, no online resources). Sadly missing? An artist’s note to help curious readers place all the highly researched imagery and background in more complete artistic, historic and geographic context. Still, this is a handsome offering that helps youngsters understand both an artist’s process and how this stunning statue became the enduring symbol of a city and its people. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

REMNANTS OF TOMORROW

Tayler, Kassy St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $9.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Mar. 18, 2014 978-0-312-64177-1 978-1-250-03269-0 e-book

The conclusion to the Ashes of Twilight trilogy misses the potential of its promised revolution, focusing on pining over punches. Shadow of Glass (2013) left Wren imprisoned at the hands of her father, the Master General Enforcer of the dome. Now she waits in isolation for a chance to escape. An unexpected ally reveals the fate of her paramours, Pace and Levi, and soon enough, they’re reunited. However, Wren’s father quickly foils their getaway plan, and Wren and her friends are cast outside the dome, enslaved to a band of rovers. All but doomed in violent new territory, Wren must decide which boy she truly loves |

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before it’s too late to tell him. The ensuing battles rip apart their old world as Wren finally confronts her father and greets the dawn of a new era. Tayler paints elaborate, engrossing settings and never shies from a well-orchestrated, bloody battle scene. However, Wren disappoints as a heroine. Though constantly told she inspires all around her, she lets her love interests lead in both the great battle for the dome and its aftermath. By the time Wren finally chooses a beau, readers will wish she’d chosen to focus on herself. Her flat, present-tense narration is meted out in short sentences, a choppy delivery that grates. A heroine who places herself in the back seat during a revolution makes for an unsatisfying end to the series. (Steampunk. 14-16)

MOONFLOWER

Townsend, Angela J. Clean Teen (237 pp.) $11.99 paper | Mar. 31, 2014 978-1-940534-35-0 Tragically orphaned when young, a Seattle teen struggles to fit in then confronts demons in an isolated Russian village. Living with drunken, blowsy foster mom Bambi (“If I would’ve left she would have lost her monthly check”) and Bambi’s endless parade of boyfriends, young Natasha endures nightly dreams about her mother’s brutal death and daytimes filled with despair. Two bright spots emerge: her remarkable artistic abilities and the enigmatic Chuck, a knight on shining motorcycle who puts up with Bambi for Natasha’s sake. Tutoring her in everything Russian, supporting her art and becoming the father she never knew, Chuck’s parting gift enables Natasha to return to her roots in Russia—where, in standard romance fashion, hunky but off-limits Anatoly meets her at the airport and in short order yells, shouts, snaps and generally glowers his way into her heart. Natasha quickly meets more young Russians with a mission and soon discovers her personal role in saving the world from evil, Chuck’s true identity, and why she and Anatoly can never be together. Townsend’s imaginative combination of traditional and apparently invented folklore elements provide interest and originality, but expository transitions are somewhat awkward. In the end, the intriguing mix of Russian mythology and ancient murals that come to life is underserved by an otherwise unremarkable plot. This sweet, chaste entry into the world of romantic fantasy could have been so much more. (Paranormal romance. 12-16)

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BLUE IGUANA

Townsend, Wendy Namelos (177 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 15, 2014 978-1-60898-157-1 Hypersensitive Clarice isn’t just vegan— her empathy for animals runs so deep that she becomes physically ill after witnessing their injury. She’s plagued by intrusive thoughts of the pain they’ve encountered, and life is difficult, since she can’t come to terms with the necessity or inevitability of death—she won’t drive for fear of running over a frog. Clarice’s brusque first-person narration and the stiffly expository dialogue underscore the rigidity of her internal code. She’s at loose ends in her junior year of high school when she secures a volunteer internship at an iguana sanctuary on Grand Cayman, where she meets other committed animal lovers who help her expand her perspectives on cruelty and the brutality of the natural world, bringing some gray to her black-and-white universe. Short scenes lurch along at a disorienting, elliptical pace, so that what would normally be big plot points, like selecting, applying to and being accepted into the college of her choice, take very few pages. It’s hard to feel connected to many of the human characters as they’re broadly drawn; the iguanas, by contrast, come off with greater depth, underscoring Clarice’s intense attachment. Clarice’s distress and the descriptions of animal suffering (based on real events) are communicated all too clearly and are leavened by too few moments of humor, making this a book that’s not for everyone. Readers with a ferocious love of animals will know they’ve found a kindred spirit. (author’s note) (Fiction. 11-14)

CELIA

Vallat, Christelle Illus. by Augusseau, Stéphanie Peter Pauper Press (36 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-4413-1536-6 Celia is a listener. Every Sunday, people line up to tell the old woman their problems, and in exchange for her kind service, they each give her a seed. However, this is no gardening tale. One Sunday, a boy named Julian is in line, but somehow, he’s lost his seed. With no seed to give Celia, he’s stuck feeling sad. As on every Monday, Celia collects her seeds in a wheelbarrow and sets out on her route. In town, she blows on a few seeds that immediately become beautiful balloons. She tosses some seeds into the bakery, and they colorfully frost all the cupcakes. In the countryside, she throws some in the air, and they become apples on a tree. Late that night, her seeds become stars. On her way home, she finds Julian’s seed and then Julian himself. She takes him home and helps him plant 126

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his seed in a flowerpot. Over time, of course, the seed blossoms into a flower, and Julian’s heart is filled with happiness. The cover gives a clue to the yin-yang of the artwork, which salvages this quirky import from Belgium. Aside from a few rosy cheeks, the only colors are the eruptions of the seeds into vivid hues, contrasting sharply against the sketchily drawn figures in black and white. Imaginative? Yes. Metaphoric? Yes. Broadly appealing? Probably not, but readers who do respond will probably think it’s too bad there aren’t any real Celias in the world. (Picture book. 4-6)

I LOVE YOU JUST ENOUGH

van Frankenhuyzen, Robbyn Smith Illus. by van Frankenhuysen, Gijsbert Sleeping Bear Press (40 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-58536-839-6 Series: Hazel Ridge Farm, 5

It’s hard to love just enough to let go…. Based on their experiences running a wildlife refuge, the author-and-illustrator team brings forth a satisfying tale of their daughter’s temporary adoption of an abandoned wild wood duck. “The hardest thing you will have to do is not to love him too much,” Dad explains when Heather finds the tiny chick she names Mr. Peet. “His true family should be with other ducks. Saying goodbye will be hard.” Plaintive, descriptive text and colorful, painterly pictures highlight Heather’s evident fondness for Mr. Peet as she cares for him, feeds him, plays with him and teaches him what he needs to know to go back into the wild. When the time comes for Mr. Peet to separate himself and eventually take leave of his human family, it isn’t easy for Heather at all, but she finds comfort in what she’s done. With support from her father, she feels proud of her accomplishments. Though the telling of the tale is sometimes a bit clunky, readers will step away with a new understanding of animals and conservation. An author’s note discusses life at the animal refuge and the imperative that wild animals remain in the wild. Animal lovers will enjoy this straightforward tale with an important message meant to be shared. (Picture book. 5-8)

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“Van Vleet portrays a loving nuclear family that finds constructive ways to work with Eliza’s attention-deficit challenges.” from eliza bing is (not) a big, fat quitter

ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER

Van Vleet, Carmella Holiday House (176 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-0-8234-2944-8

A girl who has trouble following through finds a reason to stick with her martial arts class. Eleven-year-old Eliza Bing will do anything to take a cake-decorating summer class with her friend Tony. Unfortunately, Eliza has a history of quitting new activities, and her parents tell her no. Determined to change their minds, Eliza negotiates a deal: If she finishes a taekwondo class over the summer, she can take the baking class in the fall. With no interest in martial arts, Eliza, who has ADHD, has created a real challenge for herself. The dobok robe is hot and scratchy, and the Korean words are impossible to pronounce. She even has to practice with Madison, the beautiful cheerleader who has bullied Eliza in the past. But Eliza realizes the biggest obstacle to her success is her own difficulty focusing. While striving to finish the martial arts class in order to frost cakes in the future, Eliza discovers a new strength she never knew she had. Van Vleet portrays a loving nuclear family that finds constructive ways to work with Eliza’s attentiondeficit challenges. Will Eliza be able to finish the class when an unexpected injury jeopardizes her chance to prove her persistence to her parents? The anticipation builds as her yellow-belt exam quickly approaches. Eliza’s personal growth is full of realistic hopes and challenges that will resonate with many readers. (endnote, glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)

LULU’S MYSTERIOUS MISSION

Viorst, Judith Illus. by Cornell, Kevin Atheneum (192 pp.) $15.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-4424-9746-7 Series: Lulu, 3

Another wild adventure featuring the exasperating and inexplicably lovable Lulu (Lulu and the Brontosaurus, 2010; Lulu Walks the Dogs, 2012). As hard as it may be to believe, Lulu’s doting parents have decided to take a vacation without their precious darling. What’s worse, they have hired a professional babysitter to care for her while they are gone. It doesn’t take long for Lulu to decide that Ms. Sonia Sofia Solinsky must go. Nothing if not determined, Lulu tries faking illness, running away, destroying her room and smuggling cats in to trigger the sitter’s severe allergies. Nothing works, perhaps because Triple S is a former spy. Wait. A spy?? Maybe she can stay after all, though not to do something as dumb as |

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babysit, but to train Lulu in the fine art of spycraft. Throughout the text, Viorst weaves in an authorial voice that speaks directly to readers, offering witty metafictional commentary sure to induce giggles. Black-and-white drawings depicting a spirited Lula in action and a good deal of white space keep the text from becoming overwhelming to readers new to chapter books. Great fun for Lulu fans old and new. (Fiction. 6-10)

HOOEY HIGGINS AND THE TREMENDOUS TROUSERS

Voake, Steve Illus. by Dodson, Emma Candlewick (144 pp.) $14.99 | Apr. 22, 2014 978-0-7636-6923-2 Series: Hooey Higgins, 3

Best buddies Hooey and Twig are back, this time competing in a contest to invent something that will make the

world a safer place. Hooey wouldn’t usually find such a challenge particularly interesting, but health-and-safety teacher Miss Troutson is sweetening the pot. The winning design will garner tickets to the local fair. Setting his tale in the fictional English village of Shrimpton, Voake brings to life the silly machinations of Hooey, who always has some sort of half-baked plan, and his gullible pal, Twig. Here, Hooey’s plan involves entering inflatable Tremendous Trousers stuffed with bubble wrap and powered by diet soda and mints into the safety contest. Hooey’s older (and mathematically inclined) brother, Will, has ideas, too, and his scheme to make money off bully Basbo threatens Twig’s life. In the end, Twig dresses as a woman in a pair of his grandmother’s yellow stretch trousers and spews diet soda and mints all over the safety assembly. Seems those TremTrows were not so safe after all. Crazy situations follow Twig and Hooey, and each episode is described in hilarious detail with lively language (“eyes bulged like soft-boiled eggs” or “lit up like two cracked headlights”). Humorous black-and-white illustrations are the ideal foil for this over-the-top buddy tale. Lots of laughs and hijinks make this fast-paced series great for readers with a sophisticated funny bone. (Chapter book. 7-11)

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“Here’s hoping that Peggy has many more big adventures.” from peggy

PANDA-MONIUM AT PEEK ZOO

Waldron, Kevin Illus. by Waldron, Kevin Templar/Candlewick (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-0-7636-6658-3

A parade, a party and a panda veer tenuously close to a disastrous fiasco in

this charming sequel. Mr. Peek returns for his second adventure (Mr. Peek and the Misunderstanding at the Zoo, 2011). The zoo is welcoming the birth of a new baby panda, and its zookeeper wants to celebrate in style. As he tells his son, Jimmy, he wants everything to be “tickety-boo for our big day at Peek Zoo!” But while Jimmy does his chores to the letter, Mr. Peek has a tendency to get distracted. He singlehandedly paints some highly perturbed tortoises’ shells black, nearly gives his polar bear heatstroke and manages to allow the new baby a means of escape. The near catastrophe is saved in the end by (who else?) Jimmy, and all is declared a grand success. The story comes shockingly, delightfully close to true horror (the baby panda is at one point within a hair’s breadth of becoming lion food) but wraps up neatly by the end. The accompanying digital art resonates with the influence of 1960s designers and fizzes with energy. It’s a true shame, though, that the attending hordes of visitors are disconcertingly, universally white. In spite of this misfire, few will be able to resist this sweet tale of adult incompetence and youthful problemsolving skills. (Picture book. 4-7)

PEGGY A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure

Walker, Anna Illus. by Walker, Anna Clarion (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-544-25900-3

A charmer of a chicken has a big adventure in this import from Australia. Peggy is a hen contented with her life in a sweet, small (hen) house that occupies the sunflower-bedecked yard of a suburban home. Understated text reveals her daily routine of breakfast, play in the backyard and pigeon watching, and accompanying ink-and–photo-collage illustrations humorously depict her eating from a bowl, jumping on a trampoline and gazing at pigeons. The little hen meets a challenge when a gust of wind sends her sailing off the trampoline, out of the safety of her yard and into a bustling city. A stunning wordless spread that doubles as cover art then shows her walking amid a crowd of pedestrians, umbrellas aloft. “Peggy watched, hopped, jumped, twirled, and tasted,” and droll art expands on these simple verbs with delightful vignettes. In keeping with the classic home-awayhome plot arc, Peggy grows homesick and hopefully follows a 128

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city dweller carrying sunflowers like those from her yard. Forlorn when this plan fails, she is heartened by the appearance of pigeons who helpfully shepherd her home. In a pitch-perfect resolution, Peggy resumes her routine, but instead of just watching the pigeons, she now chats with them, and the final page turn assures readers that she sometimes catches “the train to the city.” Here’s hoping that Peggy has many more big adventures. (Picture book. 3-7)

BABE CONQUERS THE WORLD The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Wallace, Rich; Wallace, Sandra Neil Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills (272 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-59078-981-0

Born in 1911 to Norwegian immigrant parents in Port Arthur, Texas, from her earliest years, Babe Didrikson wanted to compete. She grew up in a time when voting rights for women were still a hot-button issue, and her desire for an athletic career flew in the face of society’s expectations. Babe’s ambition, selfpromotion and outspoken manner often found her at odds with other competitors and members of the press. Despite this, her influence was wide-ranging, making an impact on team sports and the Olympic Games as well as encouraging the growth of women’s golf. This energetic biography is at its best when it reveals how Babe’s drive changed so many areas in women’s sports even as society resisted their inclusion. The Wallaces handle the abrasive aspects of Babe’s personality as frankly as they highlight her successes. The volume has a bold design and is lavishly illustrated with photographs; it provides a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, an index and a set of frequently asked questions that allows the writers to explore additional aspects of Babe’s life without slowing the lively narrative. The life of the renowned athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias offers the combination of sports, entertainment and celebrity that will interest young readers, and the Wallaces play it well. (Biography. 9-14)

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THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER

Walton, Leslye Candlewick (464 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-7636-6566-1

Lyrical magical realism paints four generations of women with tragic lives until a shocking violation fixes everything. First-person narrator Ava, who isn’t even born until nearly halfway through the novel, never becomes the main character. Instead, the novel opens with Ava’s great-grandmother in France and follows the family through the ill-fated romances and personal calamities that chase them to Manhattan and eventually Seattle. Surrounded by death and despised by their neighbors, the Lavender women live in seclusion even from one another. Ava’s grieving grandmother Emilienne sees ghosts and ignores her daughter, Viviane. Viviane pines away from blighted love while raising its fruit: twins Ava and Henry. In the metaphor-made-flesh style of the genre, both children wear their oddness on their bodies. Henry would be autistic if his strangeness and language difficulties weren’t conceived as fantastical abilities, and Ava is born with wings. Isolated and, ironically, flightless, Ava longs to be a normal girl; her only real social contact is an earthy, vivacious neighborhood girl named Cardigan. The story’s language is gorgeous: “I turned and spread my wings open, as wide as they would go, feeling the wind comb its cold fingers through my feathers.” Disturbingly, a horrific assault acts as the vehicle of redemption, magically bringing people together for reasons that make sense only in the dreamlike metaphysics of literary device. Gorgeous prose for readers willing to be blindsided. (Magical realism. 16 & up)

WHERE THE ROCK SPLITS THE SKY

Webb, Philip Chicken House/Scholastic (272 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Mar. 25, 2014 978-0-545-55701-6 978-0-545-55702-3 e-book In a bizarre post-apocalyptic future, Megan Bridgwater’s world is defined by Western garb, gab and clichés. There are horses, saloons, outlaws, a stagecoach robbery, poker games—everything but cattle and rustlers. Alien Visitors who arrived 20 years ago have created a land of perpetual daytime: They’ve stopped the Earth’s rotation, leaving the sun always in the sky and otherwise wreaking havoc. The Zone, a place of “[w]eird space-time wrinkles,” stretches from the Midwest to the Pacific. Despite that, Megan, an expert tracker, heads out into no man’s land to find her father. She’s accompanied first by Luis, a Mexican blacksmith |

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who eventually becomes a love interest, and joined by Kelly, an alien abductee who has missed the past 20 years. This threesome is determined to get from Marfa, Texas, to Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly, Ariz., where they hope all answers can be found. Megan’s formal, present-tense narration is reminiscent of Charles Portis. A weird concoction of familiar and strange elements, the plot challenges the characters in ways that cause them to draw on both magical and old-fashioned ingenuity. So much happens that the characters remain fairly flat, the violence has a cartoonish quality, and the climactic moment goes over the top. That doesn’t stop the premise, unlikely as it is, from being cool as hell. For Western aficionados who don’t mind alien outlaws in their shoot’em-ups. (Science fiction. 12-16)

YOKO FINDS HER WAY

Wells, Rosemary Illus. by Wells, Rosemary Disney-Hyperion (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 8, 2014 978-1-4231-6512-5 Series: Yoko (Rosemary Wells) Yoko and her kimono-clad mother have an adventure at the airport at the beginning of their trip to Japan. The security process exhausts Mama, who falls asleep at the gate, so Yoko goes by herself to the restroom. But when she exits by a different door, she and her mother have some difficulty in finding each other again. Though each runs afoul of the basic principle of search and rescue—stay put—the glitch offers Yoko, and by extension young readers, an opportunity to be independent and resourceful. Yoko finds her way to the airport police, while her mother enlists the reassurances of several helpful workers, and they are comfortably reunited. For some reason, everyone in this airport, unlike at Yoko’s school, is a cat—maybe to minimize the scariness of crowds of strangers? Icons for everything (food, stairs, elevators, terminals, airport police) give readers a chance to note details and to be observant along with Yoko as she figures out what to do. A successful conclusion for the trip and perhaps a recounting to grandmother of the adventure must wait for another book. The rich presentation, from endearing illustration to paper and design to color and touches of gold and silver, celebrates the experience of reading a book; that the story is told in both words and symbols allows young listeners to follow along in complex ways. A terrific book to share with children preparing for their first flights as well as Yoko’s fans. (Picture book. 3-7) (This title was originally reviewed in our Apr. 1, 2013, issue but its publication was postponed. We are herewith reprinting the review for our readers’ convenience.)

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THE TREATMENT

Young, Suzanne Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 29, 2014 978-1-4424-4583-3 In this wrenching sequel to The Program (2013), a few desperate teens race to save what’s left of their memories and salvage the tatters of their lives. After being discharged from The Program, a facility developed to stop the teen-suicide epidemic by removing teens’ memories, Sloane and James have reignited the passion of their former love. The Program’s cure, however, isn’t foolproof, and memories can “crash back,” causing brain bleeds and insanity. Moreover, The Program has instituted procedural lobotomies and, with the government’s backing, is beginning to make teen “behavior modification” mandatory. Sloane and James join a group of rebels intent on destroying The Program, and Sloane holds the one last pill that returns memories. In constant pursuit of the rebels, The Program wants to destroy the pill, but the doctor behind The Program, having seen the error of his ways, seems to want to reproduce it. The story is unrelentingly dramatic: “I put the blade to my neck and began to saw,” recounts Sloane’s friend Realm, describing his anguish. Compelling questions left dangling from the first book as to the origins of the epidemic, whether “behavioral contagion” and/or media hype, are explored. Offering great appeal to reflective romantics, this jarring thriller looks at the cost of societal complacency while lauding heroism and remembrance. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)

interactive e-books SLEEPOVER IN AFRICA AT AMANI’S GRADUATION

The Global Sleepover & Wisdom Tools Global Sleepover $1.99 | Jan. 1, 2014 1.0; Jan 1, 2014 Young readers will enjoy armchair travel as they learn about school in Rwanda, but they will wish that the story was more fully developed. Best friends Clarity and Juliet travel from Chicago to Africa to visit the Kigali High School, meeting a new friend and celebrating her graduation. “Muharo. I’m Amani. I’m from Rwanda. I’ve lost my homework! I can’t seem to find it anywhere!” Amani quickly finds her homework and then asks ultraorganized Juliet to keep it safe until she needs to turn it in, which is moments 130

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before graduation. Energetic narration fits the upbeat tone of the story; word highlighting is effective, especially as key words pop out for emphasis. Unfortunately, it’s never clear if readers are supposed to focus on Amani’s missing homework, her graduation or Clarity’s missing homework, which Juliet has inexplicably lost. The character of Amani is based on a Rwandan girl who has just graduated from a high school funded by the nonprofit organization Every Child is My Child. Readers can take a detour from the story to see photographs from Amani’s school and watch a video about school in Rwanda. While the photographs and videos give a real sense of Rwandan life, they also serve to throw into relief the inadequacies of the story. The real Amani shines as the star through photographs of her school in Rwanda, but the fictional story is flat and unrewarding. (iPad storybook app. 5-10)

FINNLEY’S STORY

Kril, Alexa Illus. by Kril, Alexa Alexa Kril $1.99 | Dec. 11, 2013 1.0.1; Dec. 11, 2013

In what feels like a diminutive creation tale of old, young psychopomp Finnley finds himself ushering in a whole new star. Finnley is charged with ushering the souls (in the shape of bouncy black balls) of Earthland through a seemingly abandoned, possibly but not necessarily grim wilderness to the Gate, an elevator to take the souls upward and transform them into stars. The souls are led to the Gate by the light of Finnley’s crook, for otherwise all is penumbral: a deep sapphire-blue sky, the landscape in shadow. It’s a pretty lonely life. After one soul eschews the Gate and instead flies into Finnley’s crook, a wolf named Sirius appears. Sirius soon becomes Finnley’s herding companion—those souls have minds of their own—and friend. Tragedy strikes, but it’s the kind of tragedy that has profound, beneficial cosmological ramifications—bright as a supernova. The story is low-key if arbitrary in a folkloric kind of way, the spooky more beguiling than not, and the writing, an amusing blend of modern idiom and heightened language. There is no interaction beyond page turns, but the souls bounce gently, and the music and narration are both well-suited to the tale. A contemporary piece of ancientness, suitable to be passed around the campfire or the bedside. (iPad storybook app. 5-10)

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“Animations, including a very funny filmstrip-style instructional video, are deftly employed to comedic effect.” from mr. elephant and mr. mouse

THE BROKEN MEOW

Levine, Lauren F. Illus. by Scales, Simon Mobad Games $3.99 | Dec. 14, 2013 1.0; Dec. 14, 2013

A brother and sister investigate a case of barnyard animals making nonsensical sounds in a lively if needlessly active app. Lizzie and Cal figure something’s amiss at the farm when the cat says “Iggy-Howl” instead of “meow.” A dog, cow, horse and pig are also missing their barks, moos, neighs and oinks, but when a vet comes for a visit, he determines that the clever animals are just having fun rather than suffering some sort of linguistic virus. The story is told in forced, rhyming couplets (“They ran to the barn / To listen for oink / But the big, pink pig squealed / “Bipsy-Kerbloink!!”). At 17 pages, adapted from about twice that many in its original book form, the story moves briskly and doesn’t overstay its welcome. But its soft, cartooncurvy illustrations are enhanced with a 3-D feature that moves the characters and expands the backgrounds when the iPad is tilted or the scenes nudged with a finger. The effect adds movement to a story that doesn’t need it, and it creates a jarring effect on page turns as the objects on screen emerge. Though it’s little more than an unnecessary gimmick, some readers may appreciate having an activity on each page beyond tapping people and animals to trigger animations. The best part is the animals and their weird new calls. It’s a good thing those are not given short shrift in favor of 3-D or any other feature. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

MR. ELEPHANT AND MR. MOUSE

Melenhorst, Glenn Jelly Biscuits $2.99 | Dec. 14, 2013 1.05, Dec. 20, 2013

Two animals unhappy with their names make a swap in a whimsical, visually polished app with just a few needed features missing. Mr. Elephant, a mouse firefighter, and Mr. Mouse, an elephant librarian, are part of a group of animals unhappy with their unfortunately mismatched names. They find some comfort with their support group, S.N.A.F.U. (Silly Named Animals Forever United). Tired of dealing with the confusion, the two decide to take up a friend’s suggestion that they trade, going so far as to swap occupations as well. But after a brief honeymoon, each of them begins to miss his old life and name. With clean, friendly illustrations, the app excels visually. Animations, including a very funny filmstrip-style instructional video, are deftly employed to comedic effect. The title characters are expressive, and their life problems, apt (a small mouse isn’t great at putting out huge fires). It’s clever, but the sound design |

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seems incomplete. Narration is supplemented by some voiced dialogue as well as other sound effects, but the effects are not always smoothly integrated. Some readers will feel the absence of a musical accompaniment. Navigation is limited to forward and backward page turns. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to root for these two likable characters, who manage together to reach a wholly satisfactory resolution. It’s a charmer of a story that could be improved with just a little more production work. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

BOOGER TOWN

Mironova, Tatyana Illus. by Elefsiniotis, Christine Lazy Bird, Inc. $2.99 | Dec. 14, 2013 1.0; Dec. 14, 2013 Aimed (not too well) at young sleuths, this is a double mystery covered in gallons of bright green goo. Readers, along with a trio of young Booger Town detectives, have two cases to investigate: the trashing of Mrs. Lara Loogy’s candy store and the disappearance of favorite teacher Mr. Dimples. The kids identify the three suspects: homeless, furtive Old Man Waffles; va-va-voom new math teacher Ms. Foxy (“That’s no math teacher. She ain’t right”); and corpulent Loogy herself, who is observed creeping away to, as one detective ungrammatically puts it, “sneak candy, tons of them.” With the help of readers, they gather supposed “clues” by dragging a magnifying glass around slimed, dripping cartoon scenes, but their sleuthing leads only to an abrupt, open-ended conclusion. The animations are slow and stiff. The narrative, which appears piecemeal with multiple swipes on each screen, is read in a monotone, though dialogue is a smidge more animated. Neither the clues nor a final view of Mr. Dimples floating down a giant esophagus actually suggests any culprits or solutions. The app rewards (if that’s the word) anyone who reaches the end with a swipe-activated close-up of a lad eating a booger. It’s snot hard to deduce the true audience for this. (iPad storybook app. 5-7)

NGURRARA Australian Aboriginal Interactive Storybook Mowarin, Tyson Illus. by Campbell, Stu BighART $0.00 Jun. 20, 2013 1.0; Jun. 20, 2013

Collaborating with a professional illustrator and a group of children, an Australian Ngarluma filmmaker commemorates in three short episodes his people’s 15,000-year history in petroglyph-rich Murujaga (Burrup Peninsula). |

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“An evocative set of 16 illustrated, one-page vignettes is pleasantly surreal.” from bang! said the pear

The sequential scenes—redrawn by Campbell from photos of local actors shot on site and digitally colored by the children—are done in a flat, naturalistic style with occasional animations or visual transitions added. In the first, earliest story, Mararra (“first born son”) kills a marndanyingu (kangaroo) in his first hunt. The second, which takes place just after the latest ice age, features another young hunter who bags a thathurgga (sea turtle) to feed his family. Both hunters celebrate their achievements by carving petroglyphs that, in the final episode, leave a modern lad awestruck: “How long have our people been here?” “Ngurrara,” his adult companion replies, “we were always here.” Tapping on the spare lines of text activates both a multivoiced audio and translations for embedded Ngarluma words. A short “making of ” video is appended, along with commentary by Mowarin about the precious, poorly protected site and a “rock” drawing board on which readers can scrape their own (savable, sendable) pictures. It’s a little on the rough side, as the plots are rudimentary and the background wind and electronic music are set so loud that it’s sometimes hard to make out the dialogue. Nevertheless, overall this collective project conveys distinct senses of place and of deep roots. An atmospheric introduction to an ancient culture and some of the oldest and most remote art on Earth. (iPad storybook app. 6-9)

ADVENTURES OF MARTY LITTLE Paper Tunnel Paper Tunnel $2.99 | Dec. 8, 2013 1.02, Dec. 26, 2013

Composed of very short visual sequences that cycle over and over with repeated tapping, this minimalist app is tailor-made for children with developmental disabilities or just microscopic attention spans. The plotline, insofar as there is one, begins with a lad and his dad driving past a sign with the familiar arches. The lad’s demands for fast food (conveyed pictorially) escalate into an argument that ends up with the car going over a cliff and into an undersea realm. There, a black, horned figure attacks dad and then, in an abrupt cliffhanger close, turns to the boy. Except for the title, publisher and the inscrutable word “maquito” uttered by the father near the end, there is no text. Likewise, aside from snatches of demonic laughter and other clipped sound effects, the app is silent. The illustrations are all thick-lined, very simply drawn cartoons with arrows at the upper corners for navigation. Taps cause each scene to run through either one or two changes—ranging from a different posture or a close-up to the appearance of color highlights— and then back to its original form. As the story is sketchy to the point of incoherence, the chief draw here will be its inherent circularity and repetition. (iPad storybook app. 3-4)

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BANG! SAID THE PEAR

Savin, Dmitry Dmitry Savin $2.99 | Dec. 14, 2013 1.0; Dec. 14, 2013

An evocative set of 16 illustrated, one-page vignettes is pleasantly surreal. Bold oranges, purples and yellows in a style reminiscent of Esphyr Slobodkina dominate the curious collection. In the title story, a golden pear clings to a branch despite Autumn’s best efforts. “ ‘All right,’ thought Autumn every evening, ‘tomorrow you will fall off for sure!’ ” Not every story in the app is as effective, but they are all accessible to young readers willing to go with the flow. Nearly all focus on children as they encounter imaginary animals, struggle to understand the weirdness of parents or get into mischief. Some are amusing, but most have a wistful edge, such as “I Won’t Have Soup,” about fear conquering curiosity. Illustrations are marked by bold lines and angles, some abstract, all striking. All are pleasingly animated and accompanied by elegant narration and muted sound effects. Readers drop directly from the title page into the 16 stories, each with text that is easily revealed or hidden. Navigation can be tricky. A pear icon at the bottom of the screen brings up 15 of the 16 pages (not including the current page), but none of them is numbered, and the order of the pages changes, creating a perhaps-intentional sense of disorientation. The stories are well-written and short enough to be easily digested, but the vivid, adventurous images are what will linger in the mind. (Requires iPad 2 and above.) (iPad storybook app. 6-13)

YOU’RE THE DETECTIVE

Treat, Lawrence Illus. by Borowik, Kathleen AppEndix LLC $0.99 | Jan. 7, 2014 1.0; Jan. 7, 2014

Two dozen puzzles give a little jolt of accomplishment when solved. Treat has fashioned a satisfying format for this series of mysteries that starts with a visual overview of the crime scene, is followed by a short narrative explaining the problem under consideration, then poses a series of questions that help lead readers toward a solution of the mystery. The crime scenes have the atmosphere of the Hardy Boys book covers, with a touch of classic postage stamps and maybe Sam Spade lurking in the shadows. The narrative is straightforward, not actively misleading but not giving readers the answer on a tray, either. There is a good selection of conundrums, from sports to mazes to word scrambles to shadows, and the characters have enough personality to present multiple potential suspects for each case—the entire game must be played before readers are allowed to advance to the next puzzle. Clues lie here kirkus.com

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and there, but reasoning as well as observation will give readers the advantage. There is an obvious disadvantage to the app: Once solved, twice a bore. Readers who take it slowly will find the 24 puzzles will provide a full measure of pleasure. (iPad mystery app. 8-12)

MONSTER CIRCUS

Valenzuela, Kristina Illus. by Green, Matthew Matthew Green $1.99 | Dec. 12, 2013 2.0; Dec. 12, 2013

More activity app than storybook, the spectacle under this big top is left up to a monstrous crew. All kinds of interactive excitement ensues as curious monsters of all shapes and sizes—in colorful, hand-illustrated detail—roll out the barrel of circus fun. Spurred on by a kazooand-trombone introduction, young ones can either enter the circus to check out the talent or create their own monsters from swipeable choices of monster heads, bodies and legs. Hairy ones, fishlike ones, all with googly eyes (or eye), wearing circus stripes...the combinations are quite funny, if bizarre. Once inside the big top, the monsters continue to entertain as readers help them juggle, fire themselves out of cannons, lift weights, pull rabbits out of hats, balance on tight ropes and saw another monster in two. They can also teleport, balance balls on plates (a rather unrewarding interaction), act as an electrical circuit and float through the air. It’s all conveyed in retro-scratchy illustrations with vaudeville-poster display type and flamboyant circus music that add to the fun. Despite a few minor technical glitches, this monster circus is worth the ticket price. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

and desperate since its disappearance. In return, the whale teaches his own folk how to dream again. The otherworldly atmosphere is artfully reinforced by tap-activated animations. These include lines of text that fade in and out of sight, drifting leaves, slow changes of expression or position, a picture that can be washed in pale colors with a fingertip, spotlight effects, and visual elements or entire illustrations that appear and vanish with repeated touches. Readers can not only opt for English, Spanish or Chinese versions of the tale and narration, but also a running translation into any of those languages at the bottom. Furthermore, on every screen an icon opens a trilingual list of relevant words or phrases that are voiced with a touch. Beguiling (particularly for bedtimes), seamlessly designed and unusually feature-rich. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad storybook app. 6-9)

ROM AND THE WHALE OF DREAMS

Vilar-Bou, Jose Miguel Illus. by Cardenas, Alejandra Zuniga BelMontis Publishers Pte. Ltd. $2.99 | Dec. 5, 2013 1.0; Dec. 5, 2013 A tale of dreams lost and found, well-served by soft-voiced narration, gentle music and surreal illustrations in muted hues. Young Rom’s visions of a whale with lion’s paws and butterfly wings are the first nighttime dreams for 1,000 years in the “gypsy” kingdom of Numia. His belief that the creature is real takes him on a quest that leads to a series of strange encounters—with, among others, winged elephants and people made of water and fire. At last Rom is able to return the whale, which has been trapped in his dream, to a kingdom sleepless |

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This Issue’s Contributors # Alison Anholt-White • Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Marcie Bovetz • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Sophie Brookover • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Carol Edwards Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Laurel Gardner • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Faye Grearson • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Julie Hubble • Jennifer Hubert Shelley Huntington • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Megan Dowd Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Lori Low • Wendy Lukehart • Meredith Madyda • Joan Malewitz • Michelle H. Martin PhD • Jeanne McDermott • Kathie Meizner • Daniel Meyer • Lisa Moore • R. Moore • Deb Paulson • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger Nancy Thalia Reynolds Melissa Riddle Chalos • Erika Rohrbach • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Katie Scherrer • Mary Ann Scheuer • Dean Schneider • Hillary Foote Schwartz • Stephanie Seales • John W. Shannon • Robin Smith • Karin Snelson • Rita Soltan Edward T. Sullivan • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • Jessica Thomas • Bette Wendell-Branco • Gordon West • Kimberly Whitmer • Monica Wyatt

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continuing series

THE BEDTIME FROG

Nosy Crow Illus. by Scheffler, Axel Nosy Crow/Candlewick | (32 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 11, 2014 978-0-7636-7068-9 Pip and Posy (Picture book. 2-5)

KILLER FROST

Estep, Jennifer Kensington | (368 pp.) $9.95 paper | Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-7582-8149-4 paper Mythos Academy, 6 (Urban fantasy. 12 & up)

EXPOSURE

Reichs, Kathy; Reichs, Brendan Putnam | (432 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 4, 2014 978-1-59514-530-7 Virals, 4 (Science-fiction/thriller. 10 & up)

THREE’S COMPANY, MALLORY!

Friedman, Laurie Illus. by Kalis, Jennifer Darby Creek | (160 pp.) $15.95 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-0-4677-0921-7 Mallory, 21 (Fiction. 7-11)

THEA STILTON AND THE GREAT TULIP HEIST

Stilton, Thea Scholastic | (176 pp.) $7.99 paper | Feb. 25, 2014 978-0-545-55628-6 paper Thea Stilton (Adventure. 7-10)

THE CAMPING TRIP

Hapka, Catherine Illus. by Kennedy, Anne Harper/HarperCollins | (32 pp.) $16.99 | $3.99 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-06-208665-5 978-0-06-208-6631-1 paper Pony Scouts, 10 (Early reader. 4-8)

D IS FOR DERBY A Kentucky Derby Alphabet

Wilbur, Helen L. Illus. by Corum, Jaime Sleeping Bear | (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2014 978-1-58536-813-6 Sleeping Bear Alphabets (Nonfiction. 6-10)

JUST A KITE

Mayer, Mercer Illus. by Mayer, Mercer Harper/HarperCollins | (32 pp.) $16.99 | $3.99 paper | Mar. 4, 2014 978-0-06-207197-2 978-0-06-147814-7 paper Little Critter (Early reader. 4-8)

WIN OR LOSE

Morgan, Alex Simon & Schuster | (160 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 25, 2014 978-1-4424-8580-8 Kicks, 3 (Fiction. 8-12)

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indie DESTA And the Winds of Washaa Umera, Volume 2

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: WHERE INCHES SEEM MILES by Joel F. Johnson...........................141

Ambau, Getty The Falcon Press (452 pp.) $15.95 paper | $9.95 e-book May 13, 2013 978-1-884459-03-0

BELATED by Elizabeth Russell Taylor.............................................. 149 DRAGONS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON by Johnny Townsend.....152

Set in 1959 Ethiopia, this deeply allegorical sequel to Desta and King Solomon’s Coin of Magic and Fortune (2010) continues the story of a barefoot shepherd boy’s heroic search for an ancestral coin that is identical to the one his father possesses. A palatable tale for readers of all ages, this story follows 10-year-old Desta as he leaves his remote home in Yeedib, in the highlands in west-central Ethiopia. He’s pursuing two potentially life-changing goals: get an education and fulfill a prophecy, revealed to him by his grandfather’s spirit, that involves a boy uniting the two magical coins made by King Solomon nearly 3,000 years ago as gifts for the descendants of his two children. Against the backdrop of a largely agrarian, uneducated country struggling to move itself into the modern world, Desta is in many ways the personification of his nation. Living with relatives in order to go to school, he quickly becomes well-versed in the evils of humankind and the sometimes-unbearable agony of existence. His loving aunt and uncle, with whom he is staying, are tragically killed in a bus accident, and his new benefactors end up starving and abusing him. To make matters worse for the young boy, his coldhearted mother all but disowns him upon hearing rumors that he has befriended Muslims. The richly described setting of midcentury Ethiopia is simply stunning in terms of both natural environments as well as political and societal complexities. The character of Desta is well-developed and endearing, and a powerful dualistic symbolism—love and hate, male and female, ignorance and wisdom, etc.—runs throughout. At times, however, the narrative flow can be lethargic to the point of being serpentine, and some major plot threads— such as one involving the celestial being Eleni—are disregarded for long stretches. But perhaps most disappointing is the anticlimactic ending, which isn’t so much a conclusion as a respite until the series’ next installment. Breathtaking locales and powerful themes in a flawed but edifying read.

DRAGONS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

Townsend, Johnny Booklocker.com, Inc. (246 pp.) $15.95 paper $2.99 e-book Oct. 15, 2013 978-1-62646-678-4

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“Arnold’s debut novel...is fun and fantastical, with wacky characters that burst off the page and into readers’ hearts.” from hello there, we’ ve been waiting for you!

INSPIRATION TO LIVE YOUR MAGIC! 75 Inspiring Biographies

HELLO THERE, WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU! Arnold, Laurie B. Prospecta Press (176 pp.) $9.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 17, 2013 978-1-935212-51-5

Anderson, Larry LIAP Media Corp. (256 pp.) $14.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Dec. 13, 2011 978-0-9869417-0-2

In this middle-grade novel, a girl coping with her mother’s death experiences a series of bizarre adventures involving a magical TV set after she moves in with her shopping-addicted grandmother. Madison McGee, an 11-year-old tomboy with a love of the great outdoors, begins her summer mourning the sudden death of her mother from a heart attack. Madison has never known her father, and she has no guardian to turn to except her maternal grandmother, Florida Brown, a resident of the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, N.M. Florida, who cares less about her granddaughter’s tomboy interests and more about trying to pretty her up, is addicted to shopping shows on TV, filling her house with the useless, bizarre goods she orders every day. Lonely Madison finds solace in one neighbor’s sweet but neglected dog as well as an oddball woman named Rosalie Claire, who has a penchant for wise words and a fanny pack similar to Mary Poppins’ magical carpetbag. Madison’s already topsy-turvy summer gets even weirder when the MegaPix 6000 shows up at Florida’s house. This mysterious, magical television has the power to zap the viewer into whatever show he or she is currently watching, whether it be one of Florida’s shopping shows, Madison’s favorite teen sitcom or a survival-based reality show in the Amazon. Through their time in the MegaPix and in the real world, Madison and Florida end up learning a number of valuable lessons about the importance of family and accepting people’s differences, no matter how odd they might seem. Author Arnold’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy about Madison’s adventures with the MegaPix, is fun and fantastical, with wacky characters that burst off the page and into readers’ hearts. Though the plot at some points relies a bit too heavily on magic, Madison is relatable as a protagonist, which helps keep the story grounded, and its zaniness and originality should be a welcome distraction for young readers. A worthy romp that manages to teach powerful lessons as it entertains.

A compendium of artfully written capsule biographies intended to inspire. In this, one of three books in the Live Your Magic series, Anderson (Wisdom to Live Your MAGIC!, 2013, etc.) follows a winning formula. In this installment, he tells the stories of 75 people who achieved greatness, largely in the face of adversity. He profiles a significant number of wellknown personalities (including Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey) but focuses on their resilience rather than their fame, and the tales often offer surprising twists. In recounting the story of Alfred Nobel, for example, Anderson writes that Nobel “got the chance to read his own death notice, and he didn’t like what he saw.” It turns out that a newspaper mistakenly published Nobel’s obituary, referring to him as a “merchant of death” because he’d invented dynamite and other explosives. Taken aback, Nobel vowed to change his life, establishing a foundation to award those who had contributed to the good of the world—the origin of the Nobel Prizes. The book also covers lesser-known names, and the most poignant are the biographies of remarkable youths. Ryan Hreljac, for instance, was just 7 years old when he heard that people were dying in underdeveloped countries due to a lack of clean water. This inspired him to do chores, earn money and eventually save up $70—enough to fund a new well in a Ugandan village. Eleven years later, Ryan’s Well Foundation has raised millions. Each story here carries a similar spark of inspiration. The Canadian author apparently scoured the world for these profiles, although for some readers, it may skew a bit too much toward Canadians. However, this doesn’t detract from the collection’s value. The brevity of these illustrated biographies, and the simple elegance of the prose, may particularly appeal to middle and high school students, as well as adults in need of spiritual renewal. An upbeat, inspiring celebration of mankind’s ability to challenge the odds.

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How to Take Over the World! (of Monopoly)

game’s trade name, it’s foolish and wasteful to get bogged down in an opening buying spree to acquire all sets of color-coded properties or “Utilities.” Instead, Bergmann advises that aspiring Monopoly conquerors sabotage other players’ attempts at achieving a monopoly. Try using psychological tricks, Bergmann says, perhaps with a casual (yet distracting) conversation to conceal how big a bankroll you’ve accrued. Players could even pick up nonverbal cues, such as eye movements, to guess what rivals around the board are thinking. The object, he repeatedly hammers home, is to survive by ensuring all other players’ bankruptcies through carefully measured, highrent squares (“Damage-per-Dollar”) and duping foes into obtaining a property monopoly but losing all their cash in the deal, the penultimate stage to bankruptcy. Bergmann cites certain areas of the board he favors (or doesn’t) and which squares are underrated, and he returns to railing against other strategy guides that discuss Monopoly in terms of probabilities and random dice throws, since his system, he says, eliminates the luck factor as much as possible. Quick-reference appendices help summarize the short book in bullet points and break down various risk and reward factors. A sharp-eyed guide to dominating the playing board.

Bergmann, Daniel CreateSpace (136 pp.) $14.00 paper | $9.00 e-book Jan. 2, 2013 978-1-4819-0010-2

Bergmann divulges ruthless strategies and sneaky advice for winning the classic board game. Given that a well-known gaming guide was entitled Backgammon for Blood (2011), Bergmann doesn’t spare the exclamation points in his passionate guide for how to emerge gloriously triumphant in Monopoly. In a Gen. Patton–like voice, he declares, “Everything you know about Monopoly is probably wrong.” He says that too many competitors rely on simple luck— i.e., wherever the dice take them—in a game that can only be mastered as a battle of cold, calculating, thought-out strategy, like chess. Some of his well-argued advice is counterintuitive: Despite the

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THE PROMISED LAND

DEMETER’S CHOICE A Portrait of My Grandmother as a Young Artist

Curtis, Brian A. Xlibris (508 pp.) $31.49 | $19.83 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 22, 2013 978-1-4836-9431-3

Dorra, Mary Tonetti CreateSpace (288 pp.) $25.00 paper | Dec. 21, 2013 978-1-4927-3183-2

An ambitious reordering of the Hebrew Bible. Recognizing that many people find the Bible to be strange, difficult or unapproachable, Curtis decided to create a new version of key sections of the Old Testament to allow readers an easier introduction to Scripture. His resulting work draws upon standard translations as well as modern scholarship to present the most ancient Hebrew Scriptures in a way that is at once familiar as well as engaging and explainable. Readers already well-versed in the Bible will be surprised to find that the order Curtis uses is notably different from the actual texts. Instead of starting with a creation story, Curtis begins with the stories of Terah and Abraham. The early tales of Genesis appear much later in a chapter called “Wilderness Stories,” told during the wandering of the Israelites. Similarly, the book of Job appears between the stories of Joseph and of Moses, a new placement that may seem somewhat jarring to many readers. Curtis often inserts commentary to explain a situation in the text. For instance, when Joseph’s father suspects that his son has been eaten by a wild animal, Curtis adds, “Public displays of grief typically included tearing one’s clothes and wearing sackcloth,” and later, in the tale of Job’s woe, he writes, “The behemoth...was an animal not unlike a hippopotamus.” Such comments are reminiscent of the simple explanatory footnotes found in many editions of the Bible, but they appear here within the text. Curtis avoids being technical or utilizing crossreferences, but his charts showing family trees, details of laws, etc., are helpful additions. Readers won’t find the complete Old Testament in this work; instead, Curtis strives to present only the most ancient texts, culminating in the laws given by God through Moses. Familiar works, such as the Psalms and Proverbs, as well as historical and prophetic books of the Bible are not represented. An original concept that yields a commendable, approachable reworking of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.

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An aspiring female sculptor pursues art lessons at home and abroad, carves a place in history and finds love along the way in this well-written historical novel. Debut novelist Dorra combines fact and fiction in the rich life story of her grandmother Mary Lawrence. The tale opens in 1893 as Lawrence’s statue of Christopher Columbus goes on display at the Columbian Exposition at the World’s Fair in Chicago. The statue has been shipped to the site and installed, but a male chauvinist with a bit of power objects to a woman’s work taking such a prominent place; he has it moved to a lesser site. Lawrence, an early supporter of the suffragette movement, makes an appeal to some higher-ups and gets her work returned to its rightful spot. Lawrence had developed her artistic talents at home in New York under the tutelage of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and it was through her mentor that she received the World’s Fair commission. The book also traces her travels through Europe in the late 1800s, presenting them through the eyes of a well-bred young woman with artistic ambitions. Dorra does a terrific job of providing a sense of place as Lawrence explores each new city. We can taste the fresh baguettes in Paris and see the picturesque canals in Venice. The book needs tighter editing to catch punctuation errors and typos, and occasionally, the dialogue sounds cheesy. In one chapter, for instance, Lawrence tells her newly engaged sister, “It is like a fairy tale, and George did look quite princely tonight.” Lawrence is a contemporary of another Chicago World’s Fair artist, Mary Cassatt. Lawrence visits Rodin at his Paris studio and meets her future husband at a ball hosted by Charles Dana Gibson, yet these other artists don’t overshadow her achievements. That’s fitting since Lawrence never sought celebrity; she simply wanted to be the best artist she could be. When she finds love with a fellow artist, we cheer them both. An elegant tale of a female trailblazer whose remarkable story deserves a wide audience.

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“Lest readers fear that holiday camp tramples the potential for horror action, Fasone frequently offers the epic flair found in high fantasy works.” from santa claus vampyre slayer

Santa Claus Vampyre Slayer

It’s a Connection! It’s a Comedy! Internet Dating The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly! Book One: Initial Contact

Fasone, Rob CreateSpace (98 pp.) $9.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 31, 2013 978-1-4922-2909-4

Gendelman, Patrice CreateSpace (86 pp.) $10.99 paper | $6.99 e-book Nov. 2, 2013 978-1-4927-2726-2

This full-throttle farce sees Santa and a select team of warriors battle the bloodthirsty undead. One Christmas Eve, Santa Claus and his trusted elf Elmont are delivering presents in the Long Island area. In the town of South Rich, at the Beady household, Saint Nick senses malignance in the air. Finding blood on the floor, he follows the spotted trail upstairs to the bedrooms of young Scotty and Suzy. Each child’s neck bears a two-pronged puncture wound! Mr. and Mrs. Beady—transformed into monstrous vampires—suddenly attack Santa, who defends himself with ancient magic (and a giant silver-and-gold candy cane). Elmont, descended from a proud lineage of warrior elves, helps as well. After winning the battle, Santa decides that delivering presents can wait; South Rich must be cleansed of vampires. Santa animates a snowman to help scout the area, and they soon encounter a man named Harold “Butt” Buttley fighting the undead. The pudgy citizen wears a gaudy Christmas robe, curses with abandon and believes deeply in the legend of St. Nick. When he learns that Santa searches for the Master Vampire, Harold suggests the abandoned mansion on Reacher’s Cliff. The four vigilant slayers head there without a moment’s delay. Debut author Fasone’s lovably maniacal tale springs to life with equally improbable prose; the slim narrative is full of lines like: “He then began following the tiny red splatters across the floor like a hungry chicken pecking a trail of corn.” Fasone also makes brilliant use of Santa’s ancient powers, which include time manipulation, night vision and frigid energy blasts. Lest readers fear that holiday camp tramples the potential for horror action, Fasone frequently offers the epic flair found in high fantasy works: “The thing dropped hard to the carpet, and its body burst into a blinding flame of brilliant albescent color, flashing hot and sizzling low in less than an instant.” Rudolf also makes an appearance—as it turns out, the red light of his nose is perfect for vanquishing evil. A thrilling new addition to the holiday literature canon.

This nonfiction book of collected online dating messages shows a spectrum of personalities, from charming to alarming. Gendelman, with 11 anonymous contributors, compiles a hilarious yet revealing collection of messages from online dating sites that, collectively, reveal a few truths about the online dating trend. First and foremost, there are not set-in-stone rules, and sometimes what comes across as forward or inappropriate in one context can sound cute and enticing in another. Gendelman organizes the collected segments into categories ranging from good messages—e.g., “Short But to the Point,” “So Sweet…Just Makes You Say Awwwwwww!”—to bad messages that might fall under “Have You Ever Heard of Spell-Check?” and “Stalker?” Presenting a wide array of personalities and encounters, Gendelman and other anonymous compilers present a laugh-inducing, curiosity piquing collection of intriguing statements. This book could serve as a humorous conversation piece for some readers and a tool for learning the ropes of the online dating world for others. For example, a section highlights daters’ attempts to put forward their best qualities, from “I make Great popcorn” to “I have all my teeth.” For anyone using the book as a guide to steer clear of social stigmas in the online meetup world, the passages provided will likely reflect insight into the well-meaning yet poorly executed pickup lines, advances and courtships of innocent, anonymous daters. While the collection portrays a wide spectrum of personalities, it doesn’t offer specific advice or a code of rules for online daters. Those new to the online dating territory may need to search elsewhere for rules and guidelines for successfully navigating online romance. But for those readers looking for a laugh or a quick peek into the world of cyber connections, this book will both entertain and inform. A surprisingly diverse collection of dating tidbits cloaked with anonymity.

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DRAWN

adventure, so she took a job as a general manager for a company providing supplies to defense organizations. Her naïve enthusiasm quickly gave way to the brutal realities of working in Afghanistan: suicide bombings, rocket attacks, widespread criminality and rampant corruption. Shortly after starting her job, Greene suspected that someone within the company was selling alcohol illegally on the black market; worse still, she found out that she had been set up as the scapegoat. Due to Afghanistan’s perfidious legal system, not only was Greene’s career at risk, but also her freedom—and possibly her life. As a result, she faced a soul-torturing dilemma—look the other way or uncover the truth—and she chose to fight back. This tautly written book is filled with mind-twisting intrigue as Greene recounts how she secretly gathered evidence to expose the conspiracy. Her story contains all the suspense of a mystery novel, but readers may find it all the more unnerving since it happened to a real-life, honest person. Readers will be forced to ask themselves: What would I do? The author’s courageous actions led to a purge in the company, but being a whistleblower came at a heavy price. Even after the company took corrective action, Greene feared retaliation from angry bootleggers, as the alcohol trade in Afghanistan is similar to that in America during Prohibition—a treacherous world with people willing to do anything to control a lucrative market. Greene, in this fine memoir, shows that her keen sense of intuition and unwavering belief in what she thought was right proved to be her greatest survival tools. A harrowing, inspiring true story of a woman caught in a cesspool of corruption who refused to become dirty herself.

Gray, Cecilia Gray Life, LLC. (166 pp.) $4.99 e-book | Dec. 12, 2013 At just 16, Sasha, a CIA agent formerly with the FBI, employs her unique skill in this absorbing YA political espionage thriller. Sasha was born with a remarkable gift—or curse, depending on one’s perspective. People can’t help but speak their thoughts when in her presence, and a simple question from her lips can make suspects spill the truth. After bouncing as a child from one foster home to another, Sasha finds some security with Chelsea Tanner, an FBI agent who’s both her professional partner and guardian. Sasha is crushed when, on the eve of her 16th birthday, she’s forced to leave Chelsea and the United States to go to Brussels to infiltrate an international graffiti terrorist group. Residing with CIA agent Porter Jennings, Sasha becomes friends with his teenage daughter, Viviane. Later, she’s surprised when Viviane leads her into the lap of her quarry, Kid Aert. As Sasha deals with the novelties of friendship and romance—and above all, acceptance—she’s forced to choose between loyalty to her new friends and the job she has been sent to do. Sasha’s tough exterior doesn’t fully mask her vulnerability, probably due to too many years of being labeled a “freak” by her peers and foster parents. Gray (Suddenly You, 2013, etc.), who also authored the Jane Austen Academy series as well as the Gentlemen Next Door series, doesn’t go to the dystopian lengths that have become commonplace in YA literature, nor does she rely on clichéd paranormal elements, other than Sasha’s “gift.” Indeed, the story is refreshing for its normalcy, recalling 1970s political espionage novels. Even Sasha’s prey possesses noble rationalizations, adding to her moral quandary. While Sasha achieves some personal and professional closure, the fate of her romance is left unresolved, hopefully to be continued in the series’ next entry. A commendable YA novel with thriller, romance and coming-of-age elements in one neat package.

THE DRAGONS OF JUPITER Holo, Jacob CreateSpace (406 pp.) $9.99 paper | $0.99 e-book Aug. 5, 2013 978-1-4841-1201-4

An entertaining sci-fi action novel with light overtones of dystopian and political thrillers. In Holo’s debut, set in a future version of our solar system, two brothers find themselves divided by interplanetary war. Kaneda and Ryu Kusanagi are from Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and both are veterans of a past war against a tyrannical artificial intelligence that sought to conquer humanity. In that conflict’s aftermath, they’ve chosen different sides in a new struggle. Kaneda, who hates AIs, fights alongside soldiers called Crusaders as they seek to destroy Matriarch, a “quantum mind” AI who was once human. Ryu, however, is a commando warrior with the Dragons, who fight the Crusaders with stealth and cunning in an effort to protect Matriarch, who guides Europa’s society. Kaneda, however, sees her as a computerized dictator and his old way of life as a lie. The Crusaders pit their powered-armor suits against the Dragons’ enhanced reflexes and invisibility technology. The brothers’ personal conflict is played out on a

A CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Greene, MJ iUniverse (270 pp.) $30.95 | $20.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Oct. 31, 2013 978-1-4917-0930-6 The frightening odyssey of a business executive who went to work in Afghanistan and ended up fighting a personal war against corruption. Afghanistan is a land of “horror and beauty,” Greene writes in her debut memoir about her threeyear sojourn in the war-ravaged nation. When the Australian native landed in Kabul in 2007 at age 37, she yearned for 140

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grand stage with the fates of Europa and three other worlds— Earth, Luna and Jupiter—in the balance. The story sticks to a familiar adventure style, and the battle between the brothers is an old chestnut of melodrama, but it’s told with gusto and conviction. The vivid secondary characters mostly avoid falling into stock types, and some plot twists and moral ambiguity add a bit of sophistication. The strong action scenes are fast-paced throughout (although often harsh and gory), the dialogue flows well, and the fictional world is detailed, plausible and well-designed, from its planets to its spaceships. The author isn’t afraid to show the more grotesque sides of society, which may seem off-putting to some readers, as when characters debate the merits and flaws of using technology to reanimate dead soldiers. There are some typos and minor grammatical errors but nothing that readers will find particularly distracting. The story builds to a satisfying conclusion, and naturally, the author leaves room for sequels. Well-written, sincere and undemanding military scifi adventure.

readers. But the overarching message is clear: There’s vastly more going on with multisystem illnesses than most doctors can, or will, admit. Although Isager acknowledges that his book will leave readers “with many unresolved questions,” he points out that its ultimate purpose is to “incite debate” about a subject treated as “taboo” by medical journals. Isager not only confronts the realities of these illnesses, he also offers hope for those afflicted that there are some physicians who really want to help them. An important book that offers rarely heard warnings about the medical profession.

WHERE INCHES SEEM MILES

Johnson, Joel F. Antrim House (90 pp.) $18.00 paper | Oct. 1, 2013 978-1-936482-57-3 Rich, compelling lyric poetry that bores beneath the decorum of civilization, revealing the elementally human beneath. Few writers are able to use juxtaposition and irony as frequently and consistently and with still-startling results as Johnson does in this penetrating debut. Like his most obvious, almost overshadowing, influence, James Dickey, Johnson accomplishes this through meticulously rendered detail, a knack for subjecting his characters to psychologically trying situations and an evocative sensuality that usually prefigures loss. Most of his major themes and techniques appear in the opening poem, in which the child narrator describes with disarmingly counterintuitive, yet accurate, metaphors the inexorable rise of floodwaters: “a puddle that grew wide on the kitchen floor then / covered it, absorbing the hall and climbing, / as an old man would, or a toddler, the steps.” Beset by diluvial apocalypse and the ceaseless cacophony of “the yipping, frantic dog,” Mamma frets instead over social obligation: “My god, Gardiner, the violin. We left Phoebe’s violin. / You have to go get it, Gardiner. It’s a rental.” Under such pressures, the father reacts instinctually and violently, “raising the window, / the dog struggling in his hands, squeaking and gnashing at him” before “flinging the dog out”—a shockingly vicious move that nevertheless re-establishes calmness. Most of the remaining poems play on variations of these same themes, whether the context is a pas de deux between a rattlesnake and the startled hunter who decapitates him, then weeps, or the young spectator who can’t bear to watch the eroticized sawing-in-half of the magician’s assistant. Whoever they are—man, woman, child, Shakespearean character or Audubon’s gifted but overlooked assistant— Johnson’s narrators are insightful, quietly desperate, honest and driven by wild appetites. For instance, in an appealing panegyric to cigarettes, one narrator concludes, “I’m no more addicted than a word to its meaning. / Saying you’re addicted makes it sound like / you don’t want one. / But I do. / I want every one. / Every one I can get.” Johnson’s poems always

BLIND SPOTS The Failure of Contemporary Medicine to Recognise an Epidemic of Energy Loss and Underlying Environmental Disruption Isager, Henrik AuthorHouseUK (350 pp.) $41.19 | $24.34 paper | $3.99 e-book Aug. 29, 2013 978-1-4918-7582-7

Isager, in this consistently intriguing book, warns that Western medicine is blindly, or perhaps willfully, dismissing symptoms of multisystem illnesses. The author, a Danish physician, describes the indifferent response of the worldwide medical community to such afflictions as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities. Why do doctors label such illnesses’ symptoms as psychosomatic or even fictitious? Isager suggests that insurance companies would prefer to avoid the enormous costs of treating patients with poorly understood illnesses and that governments would prefer to avoid the social costs they’d have to bear. He argues that the medical establishment has become a “totalitarian system” that’s hostile to the idea of undergoing the “paradigm shift in clinical medicine” that researching such illnesses would require. The author’s anecdotes, which demonstrate modern medicine’s transformation into a “secular cult,” are persuasive; and so, too, are the research findings that raise concerns about health risks from exposure to dental mercury and low-level electromagnetic fields. The author warns that such exposures, combined with other stressors, can cause “mitochondrial declines,” as observed in “fatigue patients.” The book valiantly attempts to explain the chemistry (and even quantum mechanics) of such declines, and this portion will likely be less accessible to lay |

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Interviews & Profiles

Florence Ladd

An experienced writer returns her advance to publish her novel the way she wants to By Sarah Rettger Paris who connects with the ghost of dancer Josephine Baker. After a workshop at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts—“it’s not just for yoga,” Ladd says—she decided to publish the book herself. The book has already drawn strong endorsements. Barbara Chase-Riboud, the author of Sally Hemings: A Novel and Hottentot Venus, says that “Ladd reveals a heroic, contradictory figure, military hero and frivolous spendthrift, instinctive creature of luxury and extravagance and dedicated humanist.” Trica Danielle Keaton, editor of Black Paris/Paris Noire, says that the book “is sure to resonate with anyone who cherishes family and treasures Paris,” while Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow, calls it “beautiful from cover to cover.” Ladd had already published several books with both trade and academic publishers, but her previous novel, Sarah’s Psalm, came out from Atria nearly two decades ago, long before CreateSpace was an option for authors. Being responsible for the entire process, Ladd found, “is very hands-on,” an experience that “allows one to put one’s signature on the entire work.” She was particularly pleased to have complete control over the cover, which was designed by her husband, an artist. Although Ladd has no complaints about selfpublishing—the only drawback, she says, is, “if one doesn’t hire a copy editor, relying on one’s own eye to catch errata”—but she is not sure she will publish any more novels under her Cote-d’Or Press label. Her next project, Jason Henderson’s Senior Year, will be published by Atria in 2015. Ladd calls the book, which draws inspiration from the 2009 incident in which Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was stopped by police while trying to enter his own house, “my most ambitious fictional attempt.”

When she received her first round of editorial comments, Florence Ladd knew the publisher she had signed with was not the right home for The Spirit of Josephine. The book’s Paris setting seemed authentic, the young staffer wrote, although he had no firsthand knowledge of the city. But he suggested Ladd might want to remove the reference to Paul Robeson—he had no idea who that was and did not know much about the title character, either. Ladd is a retired educator who was most recently the director of Harvard’s Bunting Institute, a postgraduate study center for female scholars and artists. She returned her advance, ended her relationship with Bancroft Press, and looked for a new home for her novel, the story of a black American living in 142

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Another project, though, may send Ladd back to self-publishing: She is working on a suite of poems about her maternal great-grandmother, who was born in 1836 and spent her life as a slave, even after emancipation, on a small island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Although many people, including Ladd’s agent, have suggested telling Rose’s story as historical fiction, Ladd is certain that poetry is the right format for exploring the life of a woman who maintained an independent spirit despite her enslavement, naming her children after the white men who fathered them. But for now, Ladd’s top priority is getting The Spirit of Josephine launched. “I have some name recognition in Cambridge,” she acknowledges, and she will present the book soon after its publication at two of the city’s premier literary institutions: the venerable, independent Harvard Book Store and the Cambridge Public Library. Ladd, with a crown of silver hair, a distinguished accent that reveals her Southern roots and a presence that commands attention, is the book’s best spokeswoman. After conquering the Northeast—an event at New York’s Chez Josephine, a restaurant named for Baker, is also in the works—she will shift her focus to France, where she has a home in Burgundy. “It’s no accident that I find myself part of the year in France,” Ladd says. Not only is it where her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren live, it is also a place that has a tradition of welcoming not only Josephine Baker, but also James Baldwin, Nina Simone and Countee Cullen: “not only an acceptance, but an embrace of African-Americans in France,” she says. Baker, in particular, “is still a historical presence in France” and is one of the notables mentioned when the French discuss the possible addition of women to the Pantheon. Ladd thinks The Spirit of Josephine will find admirers among French Anglophones as well as her fellow expatriates. She mourns the 2012 closing of Paris’ Village Voice Bookshop, her favorite French bookstore, but hopes to schedule a reading at the iconic Shakespeare & Company. And if there is interest in publishing a translation, Ladd knows where to go for advice: Her daughter-in-law translates youngadult books for the French market. Writing The Spirit of Josephine has allowed Ladd to produce a book that embodies several of her long-

time interests and passions. The expatriate experience, she says, is “sort of a subtext in my life,” and the book explores not only Baker’s French career, but also that of Violet, the modern-day protagonist. It’s no coincidence that Violet, like Baker, is a performer. “I’ve always had a fascination with women in show business,” Ladd says, and writing from the perspectives of a singer and a dancer was “a chance for me, vicariously, anyway, to get into the dressing rooms and to look into the mirrors” of the world of performance. It is also a book that, Ladd hopes, readers will turn to for enjoyment: “The book was described by somebody as a feel-good story. I think she meant it pejoratively. I’m happy if people have a sense of satisfaction when they read it.” And at its core, the book is a celebration of an artist who found success abroad but was often overlooked—or even forgotten—at home. While the story was always “intended to lift the image of Josephine Baker,” Ladd says, that aspect “became very important for me after hearing from the editor who never heard of her.” Sarah Rettger is a writer and bookseller in Massachusetts.

The Spirit of Josephine Ladd, Florence Cote-d’Or Press (244 pp.) $10.96 | Jan. 26, 2014 978-1-492-71970-0 |

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“Kamm expertly ratchets up the narrative tension, peeling back multiple layers of twisted mysteries.” from code blood

How The English Establishment Framed STEPHEN WARD

sound as if they’re telling the truths that we can’t usually bring ourselves to admit. Ultimately, it is both high praise and mild criticism to note how strong the Dickey influence is here, for in the best of these poems, Johnson rises to such heights, but his own distinct voice never fully emerges. Even so, this is one debut not to be missed. Tender yet jarring, cerebral yet visceral.

Kennedy, Caroline; Phillip Knightley CreateSpace (362 pp.) $14.98 paper | Nov. 15, 2013 978-1-4909-3989-6

Modern Britain’s splashiest sex-andpolitics scandal led to the persecution of an innocent—or at least not especially guilty—man according to this yeasty exposé of the Profumo Affair, reissued for the 50th anniversary of the debacle. When it came to light in 1963, the affair between British defense secretary John Profumo and party girl and sometime prostitute Christine Keeler sparked concerns that Keeler could have passed military secrets from Profumo to Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet diplomat and spy who was said to be her lover. Investigative journalists Knightley (The First Casualty, 2004, etc.) and Kennedy discount the espionage angle—Keeler, they argue, was a naïf with no head for worming intelligence out of people and probably had never slept with Ivanov—and instead treat the ruckus as a stew of lust, greed, Cold War fears, political vendettas and moral panic. At the center of the story is Stephen Ward, a London osteopath and artist who died of a drug overdose after he was put on trial for pimping Keeler and other women, charges that the authors dismantle in a meticulous recap of the courtroom drama. A friend of everyone who was anyone in Britain—patients and pals included Elizabeth Taylor and Prince Philip—Ward is a fascinating figure in the book. He was a bohemian and roué and, the authors demonstrate, indeed a spy for Britain’s MI5 intelligence agency; but he was also a kind, sincere soul undone by upper-crust scheming and hypocrisy. Originally published under the title An Affair of State (1987), the book recounts facts that may be mostly old news to students of the Profumo Affair, but it’s still a well-paced, engrossing narrative of the scandal and its political and other tendrils; it’s replete with vivid sketches of the participants and their antics, including many kinky toffs. (Sample date night: “She used to tie me to a chair in my leather suit, whip me and then make me watch while she screwed someone in front of me.”) More than that, it’s a revealing portrait of the dawn of swinging London, obsessed with new sexual freedoms—and anxieties that needed a scapegoat. A fine investigation of a legal injustice and the cultural upheaval that conjured it.

CODE BLOOD

Kamm, Kurt MCM Publishing (233 pp.) $14.95 paper | $6.99 e-book Nov. 15, 2011 978-0-9798551-3-9 A disturbing fictional trip to the dark underside of Los Angeles life. When Los Angeles County Fire paramedic Colt Lewis’ ambulance pulls up at the scene of a single-vehicle accident at the outset of Kamm’s (Hazardous Material, 2013, .etc) latest novel, he’s shocked to find a local policeman haplessly trying to help a semiconscious young woman whose leg has been badly mangled—and whose right foot is missing. Even after Lewis and his partner stabilize and load the young woman in their van, the foot—presumably severed at the scene—is nowhere to be found. The combination of that strange fact and the girl’s vulnerability triggers Lewis’ heroic impulses and sets into motion the bizarre quest at the heart of this leanly and effectively told noir novel about the dark byways of LA. “Don’t get emotionally involved with your patients,” Lewis is told. “If you start asking ‘what if ’ it never stops.” But Lewis can’t help himself. He obsesses about the injured young woman, daydreaming about what her life was like before the accident. Soon he begins using his days off to investigate the missing foot, and this leads him into worlds of illegal medical labs, black-market bazaars of body parts and an entire crime ring that operates in the shadows. Kamm fills these worlds with a big cast of sharply drawn, odd characters, some merely eccentric but many others evil and predatory (Kamm skillfully dramatizes the day-to-day life of LA paramedics; there’s an excellent police procedural running alongside the more exotic plotlines here). Lewis’ expanding search forces him to examine his own motives, and Kamm expertly ratchets up the narrative tension, peeling back multiple layers of twisted mysteries. A tense, atmospheric climax in the tunnels under a sprawling university will keep readers turning pages right to the very satisfying conclusion. An assured, very memorable LA thriller with an appealing hero readers will want to meet again.

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Shakespeare’s Changeling A Fault Against the Dead

DAD’S LAST HUNT Dementia—An Uninvited Guest or Alzheimer’s—Not all It’s Cracked Up to Be

Kline, Syril Levin CreateSpace (330 pp.) $21.95 paper | Oct. 31, 2013 978-1-4848-3239-4

Larson, Mike D.; Larson, Sharon L. Dad’s Last Hunt (146 pp.) $9.99 paper | Dec. 25, 2011 978-0-615-56386-2

This debut novel draws on the theory that the real author of William Shakespeare’s plays was Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. William Shaxper, an ambitious merchant from Stratford, is looking to make his fortune and escape an unhappy home life when he discovers Oxford’s (as de Vere is referred to in the text) theater and the world of acting. Oxford, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth who, due to his status as a nobleman, is forbidden to publish under his own name, invites Shaxper to perform a role that goes well beyond the stage. Oxford’s plays are published as the work of Shake-speare, and Shaxper presents himself to the public as the playwright. For decades, the two men find the relationship beneficial, as Shaxper gains the prominence he seeks, and Oxford continues to do the work he loves without landing in prison. Court politics, much of it involving the question of royal succession and the illegitimate child of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth, serves as a backdrop to the literary intrigue and ultimately proves to be Oxford’s undoing, leading to the plays’ authorship remaining permanently behind the now-famous pseudonym. Drawing heavily on the work of Oxfordian scholars, Kline fictionalizes her interpretation of the evidence and is able to create a plausible story on a topic about which historians can only speculate. Although the plot is complex, particularly the web of relationships surrounding Queen Elizabeth, the story is easy to follow, and Kline keeps the pages turning. The writing can be uneven, though, with an excess of adverbs in the early chapters and a number of awkward phrases: “He sat down to listen and visualized the manuscripts drifting closer.” But overall, the result is a thoroughly researched, convincing interpretation of one of the major theories of Shakespeare authorship that is likely to keep readers engaged. A lively interpretation of Shakespeare authorship that will win Oxfordian approval and may even convince Stratfordians to suspend disbelief and enjoy it.

As dementia claims a Midwestern man’s mind, his wife and son record the experience in this memoir. Dementia slowly crept into Donny Larson’s life. By the time he went hunting in 2005 with his friends and son, he was already battling forgetfulness and mood swings. After Donny got lost in the forest and his son found him shivering and soaked, the younger Larson, Mike, realized this would be the last hunt of his dad’s life, for everyone’s safety. The hunt story, which opens this debut work, serves as the perfect metaphor for the larger tale of Donny’s descent into dementia and the challenges, heartbreak and—occasionally—hope he and his family found in the experience. Initially, Donny’s Minnesotan family noticed him injuring himself and growing more forgetful, but they worked around it to keep him at home. However, after a violent episode in 2007, his wife struggled to find a nearby facility willing to take him, then she wrestled with practical issues as well as emotional ones—especially after Donny was eventually moved into the same facility where his own mentally unsound mother still lived. Donny’s wife and son write in sincere, frank tones, discussing with a surprising amount of openness topics such as incontinence, saving money for nursing home care, drugs, their Lutheran faith and the concept of “best care”—the realistic balance of care and sacrifice. The love and patience offered by Donny’s wife is evident on every page, and readers will empathize with her as her husband’s health declines. Likewise, her son’s combination of frustration, sadness and resignation is understandable, particularly when he mentions how he doesn’t mind caring for his kids since they will grow up and become independent, but his father “was never going to recover and his needs kept growing.” While this memoir might be an overwhelming read for someone starting out as a caregiver or fearful of their own diagnosis, middle-aged and older readers who’ve been down a similar path may find comfort in this homespun story. A family chronicles their patriarch’s dementia and the painful caregiving experience without flinching and with a lot of heart.

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“Marlowe’s book is relatable and candid, with the voice of a person too often oppressed and too little heard from.” from secrets of an old man’s girlhood

A Perspective on the Signs of Al-Quran Through the Prism of the Heart

SECRETS OF AN OLD MAN’S GIRLHOOD A Memoir

Marlowe, Shaughn CreateSpace (362 pp.) $16.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Nov. 13, 2013 978-1-4909-8111-6

Malik, Saeed BookSurge Publishing (300 pp.) $11.20 paper | $2.99 e-book Oct. 2, 2010 978-1-4392-3962-9

Marlowe’s (Under the Lion’s Paw, 2010, etc.) debut memoir offers a deeply honest account of what it was like growing up a boy in a girl’s body. Marlowe, who calls himself Marti in his book, was born “Mary Ann” in Pittsburgh in 1932. Here, he chronicles the fascinating story of his growing up a transgender male, from his childhood with an abusive mother and stepfather in Pennsylvania to several years spent nearby under the care of a devoted aunt and uncle, all the way to his high school and post–high school years back under the watchful eye of his mother and a manipulative (second) stepfather. He then recalls his adult years: his dishonorable discharge from the Women in the Air Force for being gay, then a string of failed relationships, cross-country moves, lost jobs, family deaths, depressive episodes and struggles with alcoholism. Marlowe’s story is devastatingly honest. He speaks openly about knowing that he was the wrong gender when he was as young as 7: “I’m not a boy. But I am. I just look like a girl, because they make me wear dresses and long hair….Nobody knows what I am.” Marlowe also describes how the lack of awareness and understanding of transgenderism in America caused him to feel alienated in nearly every community—even into middle age—and hindered his ability to find a compatible romantic partner. His book is extremely well-written, and his earnest anecdotes of failed love—such as his decadeslong affair with a nun at Catholic boarding school—can be both heartbreaking and hilarious. While sometimes riddled with too many details and stories unrelated to his narrative about transgenderism, Marlowe’s book is relatable and candid, with the voice of a person too often oppressed and too little heard from. An engaging, frank true-life tale that, though not always happy, is certainly hopeful.

Malik approaches mystical lyricism in his eloquent devotional guide to Islamic spirituality. A semiconductors entrepreneur, Malik sees Islam not as a religion but as one path to spirituality—the difference being that any sincere faith leads to God. That reassuring inclusivity enlivens the book, as Malik presents what is unique about Islam but also what links it to other ways to God. For Muslims, the Quran is a living source of wisdom, giving timeless principles for conduct. As such, it is much more than a physical book; rather, it is a “sea of signs” that speaks to all. Arabic is inseparable from the Quran’s beauty, so every quotation is given in both the original Arabic and in an English translation. Malik emphasizes that faith requires resting in uncertainty without abandoning rationality. Submission (the definition of “Islam”) is a way of life that avoids the prison of dogma. “Submission to God (Islam) is not exactly a ‘religion,’ ” Malik says. “It is both less and more.” Indeed, Malik refutes dogmas that have long twisted the Abrahamic faiths: He proposes heaven and hell as states of mind rather than physical locations, and he argues that since Islam respects the sanctity of life, God never supports aggressors. Jihad is primarily a term for Muslims’ struggle against oppression; usually this is an inner battle, but when it does take the form of outward action, it must be motivated by a desire for justice—“Jihad cannot ever be a ‘holy war,’ ” Malik says. A section on Muhammad as a historical figure goes into a level of detail that might not be necessary for a spiritual guidebook, but only occasionally does the mystical tone veer into New Ageism. For the most part, Malik sticks to practical, heartfelt scriptural commentary. One could even imagine the 100 names of Allah (comprising one-third of the text) serving any member of any faith in a devotional context, as a reminder of the often contradictory nature of the divine: both “The Giver of Life” and “The Giver of Death”; “outwardly Manifest” yet “inwardly Hidden.” A useful, articulate spiritual commentary on the Quran.

AVALON

Miani, Gina CreateSpace (276 pp.) $12.99 paper | $4.99 e-book Nov. 17, 2012 978-1-4793-7680-3 A woman returns to her childhood summer home in a melancholy and nostalgic love story to the Jersey shore of the 1970s. After the sudden death of her husband, Jack, Mariah returns to her grandfather’s run-down Victorian house in Avalon, a beach town that bears the name of an island in Arthurian legend, and brings her teenage daughter Caroline. Her rental agent begs her to

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sell the place, but Mariah calls in the new owner of her dad’s construction business to arrange for the repairs it badly needs. She is surprised to discover that he is her childhood friend Trey, daredevil lifeguard, Skee-Ball fanatic and part of the strange coming-of-age summer foursome that included the charismatic Jack and Rachel, the fragile society girl that he was dating. The story darts between generations, with action split between 2003 and a retelling of the events of 1978 from Mariah’s point of view. Within each segment, however, the past and present entwine as Mariah reminisces about hearing stories of King Arthur from her grandfather when the house was still a home, Caroline becomes drawn into the spirit of the seaside retreat even while resistant to its backwardness, and Rachel’s absence seems as palpable as her presence once was. Mariah and Trey, though both still adjusting to the recent deaths of their spouses, find that working together in Avalon rekindles an adult version of teenage emotions that never quite came to the surface. Miani’s (The Hammer, 2013, etc.) story is straightforward and simple, and its Arthurian references don’t delve deeply into magical realism. But there’s a dreamy feel to the talk of storms and romance, adolescence and adulthood, and ancient stories and second chances. And that mood fits well with the ideas raised: of ocean waves that soften what they touch but never erase it, of a place changed by time yet still somehow outside of time, and of connections that change but never disappear. An emotional tale built of lightweight materials that has a surprising and satisfying depth.

tour in order to voice her lyrical whims, it becomes clear her presence only provides a periodic sense of personality to what is otherwise a rambling history book. After describing the Hanibla mosque in Damascus, whose tombs house “heroes and mystics,” Miller unexpectedly shifts from tour guide to poet: “How much of love is laughter? How much of faith is the promise of redemption? How much of beauty is a moment, when time, like breathing or a scent, stops in its tracks, looks around, and says, ‘I may have been here before. I may have loved like this.’ ” The bigger problem, perhaps, is that Miller never fully reveals her identity in relation to the country, nor why she’s in Syria in the first place. Readers must piece together the fact that she’s merely a tourist herself, that the countless references to “we” include her husband and that she has no intentions beside lamenting the country’s prominent but forgotten past. Miller is otherwise a capable, astute and thorough writer with an eye for antique elegance. An uneven but ultimately engrossing celebration of Syrian culture.

The Thirteenth Step Zombie Recovery Miller, Michele W. HOW Club Press (238 pp.) $14.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Nov. 8, 2013 978-0-9910668-1-0

TRAVELS IN SYRIA A Love Story

A humorous and surprising satire of both the zombie apocalypse and the culture of addiction. Bill, a middle-aged man once poised for a promising career in politics, greets several winners of the New York Lottery. It’s become his dubious honor to calm the winners down and get them prepared for the requisite press conference. The characters are always the same: overweight and all too ready to take the lump sum and blow the winnings as quickly as possible. But the striking Courtney catches his eye. He sees there is something different about her. Young and apparently strong, he figures she’ll actually be wise enough to collect her money over time. Bill is so well-rendered and the set piece of the conference—its humanity, humor and banality—so convincing that by the time the lottery winners, reporters and staff members (eventually, the entire city) are brutally ravaged by zombies, it actually comes across as an enjoyable shock. Despite its grizzly gore, the zombie apocalypse here is worn rather lightly, and as Bill and Courtney face their travails in a destroyed city and ponder what has kept them alive, the deeper layers of both humor and allegory arise. Bill and Courtney discover that, despite differences in age and experience, both their lives have been colored by alcoholism and addiction. Courtney, though not seemingly an addict, was reared in the environment of addiction. As they make their way through and away from the city, they collect other survivors, one of the more interesting being a young man they find in a jail cell. He convinces the group that he’s not a killer but a drug dealer by trade, just trying to make his way through the recession. Though somewhat derivative in its

Miller, Carol CreateSpace (308 pp.) $19.95 paper | Dec. 2, 2013 978-1-4923-7145-8 Miller’s passionate, history-laden travelogue about Syria bemoans the country’s bygone beauty and greatness. Miller (Laying on of Hands, 2003), an artist and prolific author, has explored numerous cultures, including Peruvian, Mexican and Asian, and she now trains her perceptive eye on Syria, a country she’s visited multiple times and studied for years. The resulting project could be considered a memoir of her travels in one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites on Earth, but it functions more as a historical tour through 21 Syrian cities, each with its own chapter. While Miller indeed serves as a knowledgeable and fervent guide, extolling the splendors of Syrian art, music, literature and especially architecture, she struggles to define her audience. The book’s title suggests a personal memoir perhaps intended to heal Syria’s modern image, but before Miller ever mentions herself, the first 20 pages describe Damascus’ vastness and architecture, parse the city’s name and meander through its violent religious legacy. The opening information is so dense, it’s jolting to hear Miller suddenly wax personal. As the book progresses in this manner, with Miller occasionally pausing the |

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OLD BONES

treatment of the zombie mythos, the novel’s final passages—with a sharp focus on survivors still learning to deal with addiction and the consequences of self-reliance, denial and dependence—are wholly original and a satisfying end. Despite it being yet another foray into the land of the undead, the care taken in both characterization and prose earns the reader’s time. A well-written, thoughtful treatment not just of a popular literary trope, but of a nagging social issue.

Picard, Gregory William; Gorham, Wendy Picard Workshop For Writers Press (290 pp.) $15.00 paper | $9.99 e-book Aug. 10, 2013 978-0-615-86117-3 In this mystery, a murder along the Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego, Calif., pits a dedicated forest ranger against a host of shady villains. Chris Becker, chief ranger at Cuyamaca State Park, has been a single father since his wife, Lori, abandoned him and their young daughter, Alicia, more than a decade ago. His work solving a rash of car thefts in the park is nothing compared to the discovery of a mutilated body on picturesque Azalea Trail, a hiking path canopied in pine chaparral. Becker jumps on the case, pondering whether the bite marks covering the corpse are indeed from the suspected wild cougar or something else, since there were no animal hairs found at the scene. Meanwhile, Alicia braces for her freshman year at university, and her father must deal with his reservations about having his only child out on her own. Once the mystery deepens into murder, Becker investigates the crime further to uncover foul play. The victim, Xavier Hess, turns out to be a local businessman who was hiding marital infidelity. As the clues mount—some provided by Becker’s observant daughter—Becker pieces together inconsistent forensic data and busily sifts through the suspects, including angry alcoholic and local environmental protectionist Ollie Mahlon. The resultant web of bad blood and discoveries of secret tunnels and stolen artifacts propel the novel toward a suspenseful, satisfying denouement. After all the twists and turns, Becker, who proves himself a thoroughly capable ranger and father throughout the novel, solves the case in 10 remarkable days. Some of the prose is rickety—Becker’s disappointment at sleeping alone is described as “at least thermally less difficult”—but father-daughter writing duo Picard and Picard Gorham supplement their mystery with Alicia’s believable precollege jitters, the flourishing relationship with her father, and interesting facts and information on forestry and archaeology. An entertaining, uncomplicated whodunit seasoned with a likable hero and a bucolic sense of place.

IN THE LAND OF SILVER 200 Years of Argentine Political-Economic Development Molano, Walter Thomas CreateSpace (212 pp.) $34.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Oct. 5, 2013 978-1-4905-5222-4

A detailed overview of Argentina’s political and economic history, from the colonial era to the present. Molano (The Logic of Privatization, 1997), in this history of one of South America’s largest economies, makes a complex, sprawling topic coherent and understandable. The book begins in the early days of European settlement of the region and traces the origins of the modern Argentine economic structure to the relationship among the Spanish monarchy, the Catholic Church and local elites as they each sought to take advantage of the region’s natural resources—particularly its substantial silver deposits. As Argentina and Spain’s other South American colonies gained independence, they explored new political configurations, finally settling into the international boundaries seen on today’s maps. However, Molano addresses other South American nations only as they relate to Argentina’s economy; mainly, he focuses on the Argentine landowners who gained and retained political power in the 18th and 19th centuries by maintaining control of agricultural land and mineral rights. As the book moves into the 20th century, it looks at the country’s international relations (including Argentina’s neutrality during both world wars and its reliance on foreign investment) and internal political turmoil (including military coups in the 1930s and ’40s, the rise of Peronism and the rapid turnover of five presidents in two weeks in 2001) and how they relate to the country’s recent cycles of growth, inflation and economic collapse. The book largely avoids detailed explanations of economic concepts, and it doesn’t expect readers to have a complete knowledge of, for example, import substitution or corporatist governance; as such, the book is readily accessible to nonexperts. The book concludes by tracing the evolution of Argentina’s relationship to the global economy from 2001 to the present and leaves readers with an engaging sense of the complexities and challenges of managing an economy and governing a country. A comprehensive, accessible look at Argentina’s political and economic evolution.

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“Prolific writer Russell Taylor provides a careful, articulate study of intimate, desolate and occasionally terrifying human experiences.” from belated

BELATED and other stories

forest fire with the objective of extinguishing the blaze—that might deter most rational men and women. Ryan was a member of the courageous minority who willingly accepted this terrifying task. A gripping scene opens the memoir: With the inferno surrounding them, the firefighters are ordered to deploy their “shake and bake” shelters, aluminum survival tents intended for extreme situations. The ambient heat is palpable as the tent is showered by firebrands, and the author, sensing his own death, begins to pray. This high level of intensity sets the tone for the entire memoir. Smokejumpers are a close-knit band, united as brothers and sisters in their perilous endeavor. The author describes the difficulties of entering this profession, the rigors of training and his acceptance into this elite brotherhood. Learning his skills in California, he goes on to parachute into wildfires all over the United States, including Alaska. The presence of mortal danger is always close: planes crash, parachutes fail, wildfires turn. The author vividly describes colliding in midair with another jumper, an incident that resulted in his falling 60 feet and fracturing his spine. Capturing the “can do” persistence of America’s heroes, the author’s recovery and return to work are inspirational, spurred on by his philosophical and spiritual perspective. The memoir is also a brutally honest account of failed relationships that break down, in part, due to the author’s dedication to an unpredictable, dangerous profession. Further detail regarding the strategy of wildfire fighting would make for a more well-rounded study. Nonetheless, with an appropriate no-nonsense laconicism, there are true moments of laughter and heartache among the remarkable everyday lives of America’s lesser-known heroes. Well-paced, informative and seldom repetitive, Ryan’s story nearly ignites.

Russell Taylor, Elizabeth Kimblewood Press Jan. 9, 2014

Russell Taylor’s (Will Dolores Come to Tea?, 2010, etc.) latest collection of short stories explores mourning, love, loss and the struggle for meaningful connection. Prolific writer Russell Taylor provides a careful, articulate study of intimate, desolate and occasionally terrifying human experiences. “The Contract” retells, in prose, Pushkin’s classic Russian poem “Eugene Onegin” from the perspectives of Onegin’s spurned lover, Tatiana, and her eventual husband, Prince Nicolaevich. The central characters in “Les Amants,” “Charlotte” and “Belated” are widows anguished by grief and anxious to rekindle a human bond, with very different results. Depression and madness related to the struggle to comprehend existence feature vividly in “The Meaning,” “Supporting Roles” and “The Inquest,” among others, with outcomes similarly varied and often unexpected. The desire for connection is explored in “Carter,” in which a woman endeavors to bond with her autistic son. A glimmer of hope can be seen in “The Life She Chose,” in which a young woman suddenly finds herself with personal and financial freedom. Equally auspiciously, the married couple in “Passed Over in Silence” finds an extremely unconventional yet mutually rewarding solution to their sexless relationship. Nature is a powerful presence in many of the stories, which are often imbued with a sense of spirituality and healing. Themes are revisited, though in these elegiac stories, there’s no feeling of repetition. Many readers will be mesmerized by the haunting, poetic writing. However, some may find themselves dispirited due to the few respites from melancholy, or they may struggle with Russell Taylor’s inclusion of different languages, as in “Belated,” where significant passages are in French. However, careful readers will savor this exceptional collection of tales, and those who’ve never read Russell Taylor might next seek out the rest of her considerable body of work. Pensive and luminous despite its dolor, a resonant collection that deftly contemplates the existential.

NAPOLEON IN AMERICA Selin, Shannon Dry Wall Publishing (294 pp.) $15.99 paper | $7.99 e-book Jan. 13, 2014 978-0-9921275-0-3

Evocative and immersive, Selin’s debut historical fiction twists Napoleon’s fate. The real Napoleon died in 1821 at the age of 51 while in exile on the island of St. Helena. In Selin’s novel, a 51-year-old Napoleon plots and successfully executes an escape, choosing America as his haven. He makes his way aboard a privateer boat to Louisiana, where French expats and Americans alike welcome him with cries of “Vive l’Empereur!” Though enfeebled by his travels, Napoleon hasn’t lost his ambition or hunger for power; soon, he’s traveling around his new country and coming up with schemes every step of the way. International unrest allows him plenty of chances to devise new ways of achieving glory; for Napoleon, strife in France, Mexico, Canada and Texas means opportunity. The novel provides an expansive view of the political landscape, with scenes across the Atlantic effectively displaying ineffective politicians of all bents. The global

WILDFIRE Memoires of a Wildland Firefighter Ryan, Ralph T. CreateSpace (284 pp.) $14.95 paper | Jul. 3, 2013 978-1-4840-2443-0

In his thrilling debut memoir, Ryan remembers his time spent serving as a California smokejumper. Smokejumpers have earned a reputation for being more than a little crazy. Jumping out of a plane and parachuting toward an unpredictable, potentially lethal |

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view is informative, although some geographic jumps dilute the plot’s main—and most entertaining—action, which takes place in America. There, Napoleon proves himself to be a bit obtuse when it comes to social graces (“Napoleon walked through the chandeliered room, uttering words he intended to be pleasant for each lady, but which, for the most part, had the opposite effect”) but somewhat more perceptive about the differences between his former country and his new one. His observations of Americans’ basic optimism and patriotism are astute, yet his impertinence continues to aggravate his companions; for instance, he remarks that America is “a land peopled by greedy merchants.” These vivid quirks and funny faux pas bring levity to a dense, meticulously researched text in which sorting out the many events and characters requires close scrutiny. When the novel turns to scenes of action, rather than conversation, it becomes vigorous, engrossing and remarkably realistic. A thorough, sweeping novel with seamless transitions from the real to the imagined.

new here, given all the other financial guidebooks available, but the author’s tone helps make this work unique. Other books feature flamboyant, overly opinionated authors, but Simber is matter-of-fact without being judgmental, and there’s nothing preachy about his style. Instead, he explains his subject to his readers respectfully and without hyperbole. A practical, no-nonsense advice book that will help readers spend their time and money wisely.

THE CHILDREN’S HOUR Selected Poems 1990-2012 Singer, Rachelle CreateSpace (60 pp.) $7.70 paper | Sep. 28, 2013 978-1-4905-9253-4

Childhood and womanhood star in this notable debut collection of precise, passionate poems. In 43 poems, this collection paints an emotional portrait of turbulent childhood and liberated adulthood. Singer’s alcoholic father gambled too much, and her adulterous mother was never fully present. Her language here is at first opaque, never literal: “As a child I saw every night / wear a mask, I heard the screams / of an eyeless wind, laughing.” Still, her metaphors are clear enough to communicate that this childhood was a dark one. The poems contain allusions but remain compelling. While some early poems in the collection speak of “you,” referring to her parents, once Singer unfastens herself and basks fully in the first person, the daring of her poetry escalates. In “My Shivah,” she writes, “I am the most solid of corpses, / cross my heart, I pull at my entrails.” Elsewhere, in the wild declarative poem “I Am,” Singer catalogs and mourns the potent relationships of women among women; “I am with women, not bitching about women,” she says. Singer favors imagery common in the currency of poetry—bodies, maps, keys, locks, hearts—but manages to make those references feel fresh on the page, with images echoing throughout the collection. The range of poems is subtle, and they only slightly vary in length, though the passionate voice is consistent. The largest criticism could be that the opaque poems only scratch the surface of Singer’s biography, which includes a violent childhood, time in the Hasidic sect, depression, and the choice to temporarily leave her children in order to pursue an education. The more searching, revealing poems offer an opening into Singer’s world, which, hopefully, she’ll mine further. A strong, unique female voice supports these poignant poems.

Personal Finance Simply Understood Prudent Strategies for Setting and Achieving Financial Goals and the Reasons Behind Them

Simber, Chris iUniverse (222 pp.) $28.95 | $18.95 paper | Oct. 21, 2013 978-1-4917-0522-3 A straightforward debut guidebook to securing good financial health. In Simber’s highly accessible book about smart financial planning, his first lesson is to proceed with caution. We’re often led to believe that wealthy people live in the lap of luxury, he writes, but the truth is that the very well-off tend to be unusually realistic and financially conservative. “[T]he secret to accumulating wealth and financial independence is simply consistent saving and living below our means,” he explains. Unsurprisingly, then, his book is replete with common-sense advice about living reasonably and planning for the future. Its breadth is its strongest aspect: It covers everything from weekly budgets and emergency funds to IRAs and life insurance, leaving few stones unturned. Simber has a good sense of what average people might overlook, such as the fees associated with mutual funds and the fact that an average month is actually 4.33 weeks long, not four. Occasionally, the information can seem a little too obvious, as when he reminds readers that it’s a good habit to compare bank-account statements with one’s own checkbook. Overall, however, the material is purposeful and useful, as he encourages readers to analyze their own habits in a self-reflective, truthful way. The numerous graphs he uses to illustrate his points are particularly helpful; for instance, several show how much of one’s spending goes to interest payments, which raises the price of everything, from cars to sneakers, more than one might expect. It’s debatable whether there’s very much that’s 150

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“Though this is Stankovic’s first published book, fans of thrillers will discover that he intricately paces the action like a wily veteran.” from lack of ambition

NUTLEY, THE NUT-FREE SQUIRREL

against EIG officials, who he feels ruined his father’s life during a coverup years earlier. JJ, who’s assisted by his girlfriend, Angela, and a couple of thugs handpicked by his girlfriend’s gangster father, isn’t after money but rather closure, as he seeks to ascertain and punish those responsible for the decline and eventual death of his beloved dad and the dissolution of his family. Away from JJ’s hideout, local police investigators are baffled by the bizarre crime, with the kidnappers issuing no ransom demands or even initiating any communication. Through a series of flashbacks, Stankovic skillfully doles out the back story so that readers understand JJ’s motivation as well as the executives’ histories. JJ’s Machiavellian plan involving psychological warfare is unveiled as the executives’ days in captivity in an abandoned apartment complex fly by. With breathtaking twists, the author’s propulsive style will ensnare readers in a headlong rush toward a satisfying conclusion in which a handful of greedy or indifferent corporate executives, rather than the kidnappers, might be perceived as the real criminals. Though this is Stankovic’s first published book, fans of thrillers will discover that he intricately paces the action like a wily veteran. A cinematic, fast-paced style highlights this standout debut.

Sorkin, Stephanie Illus. by Warren, Tim Mascot Books (30 pp.) $14.95 | $6.95 e-book | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-62086-158-5 A squirrel handles his nut allergy with aplomb—and a little help from his friends—in Sorkin’s debut picture book. One day, Nutley the squirrel is simply eating “what a squirrel eats” when he has a strange reaction. He itches, puffs up and breaks out in hives, and soon, his fears are confirmed: He has an allergy. (In the illustration, he eats from a big bag of peanuts, which may make some young readers point out that real squirrels eat acorns; however, peanuts are a more familiar allergen in the human world.) In a series of friendly, if singsong, rhymes, Nutley turns out to be a smart little squirrel: He takes charge of his newly discovered allergy in a way that would make any pediatric allergist proud—by making a plan. He talks to his friends, asks for help and focuses on the favorite foods that he can still safely eat, such as gummy bears. At first, he worries that he’ll seem strange to others (“A squirrel allergic to nuts—how odd! / I thought I’d feel alone.”), but his friend the dog immediately speaks up (“I’m a dog allergic to bones!”). It also turns out that the pelican is allergic to fish; the bee, to pollen; and the fly, to stone fruit. Although the verse skips along at a merry pace, some rhymes occasionally fall flat (“Surprising as it is to all, / since I do live in a tree, / I must avoid peanuts and tree nuts / to keep myself healthy”). However, Sorkin’s tale manages to be instructive without being didactic and will likely prove to be a fun read for even allergy-free children. The illustrations engagingly portray Nutley and his crew of supportive friends as looking just as friendly and likable as they appear in the text. A warm, funny book that will hearten kids with allergies.

SEX, RAIN, AND COLD FUSION Taylor, A.R. Ridgecrest House (348 pp.) $12.68 paper | $7.99 e-book Oct. 14, 2013 978-0-615-81844-3

A surreal novel about a promising young academic trying to change his life. Taylor’s funny, meticulously controlled fiction debut opens with 30-year-old hotshot physicist David Oster finding himself fed up with teaching physics to undergraduates (“It was pitiful when a physicist tried to tell eighteen-year-olds how a ball rolls off a table”) and eager to trade his California Institute of Technology postdoc for something different, something involving pure research. He manages to wrangle an appointment at the prestigious, deep-pocketed Larson Kinne Institute for Applied Physics at Western Washington State University. Once there, he embraces the change, despite the eccentric reputation of the institute’s enigmatic founder and namesake. David is mainly worried about breaking the news to his three girlfriends—classicist Valerie, flight attendant Cosmo, and linguist Helena, with her “weary Modigliani kind of face.” All three seem to take their breakups fairly well, and soon, David encounters the institute’s manic, free-wheeling inhabitants. His new colleagues, especially the splendidly Rabelaisian researcher Viktor Pelliau, steadily draw him into a range of loopy adventures, and David’s natural proclivities for offbeat, problematic romances land him in some amusing relationships. Taylor so skillfully blends David Lodge–style academic farce with Thomas Pynchon–style weird science (mostly of the aquatic variety) that it’s impossible to spot the dividing line between the two. In David Oster, she crafts a perfect, hapless

LACK OF AMBITION

Stankovic, Peter A. Xlibris (302 pp.) $29.99 | $19.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Sep. 6, 2012 978-1-4771-5168-6 A well-structured novel of revenge. Stankovic, also a short story writer and filmmaker, is first and foremost an experienced, independent finance professional with a background in accounting and the insurance industry, and he successfully makes this world of numbers, which in lesser hands could be mind-numbingly dull, a fascinating backdrop. Driving the action in the book is the daring daytime kidnapping in Sydney of the top management team of Easy Insurance Group Ltd. Jordan Johnson, the meticulous mastermind behind this dazzling crime, which grabs attention both in Australia and abroad, has a legitimate grudge |

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THE WAYWARD GENTLEMAN John Theophilus Potter & The Smock Alley Theatre

Everyman who faces academic jockeying, lovelorn antics and even an attempted murder with beleaguered charm and an endless supply of snarky one-liners and sardonic observations. The interdisciplinary rivalries at Kinne are particularly well-done, typified by an offhand reference to “whale guys” as “the movie stars of science, appearing on TV with all the creatures they study and to whom they give cute names, but unpopular with real scientists because they are so rich and happy.” The book’s plotlines eventually spiral to pleasingly offbeat conclusions. An unpredictable, winningly bizarre academic satire.

Watkins, Patricia Down Design Publications (322 pp.) $14.35 paper | $4.75 e-book Dec. 9, 2012 978-0-9572104-7-9

An 18th-century “gentleman player” fights, loves and charms his way through Ireland in Watkins’ (The Wayward Gentleman: John Theophilus Potter & The Town of Haverfordwest, 2012, etc.) delightful ode to the theater. John Theophilus Potter (“Theo” to his many friends and admirers) is blessed with exuberance, height, swordsmanship, and such good looks that noblewomen can’t help but try to seduce him. He also has a quality that proves to be both a blessing and an impediment: He’s a skilled actor, equally adept at performing dramatic roles (Hamlet, Romeo) and comedic ones (the drunkard Trinculo in The Tempest). He becomes enamored with the theater as a precocious child growing up on a country estate outside Dublin, where he’s raised to be a gentleman. In 18th-century Ireland, however, propriety forbade gentlemen from performing onstage, a custom gradually being reversed by the likes of Thomas Sheridan—a real actor who features prominently in Theo’s story. (Theophilus Potter was apparently a real person, too, although biographical details of his life are scant.) Theo’s battles against the prejudices of the time lead to some of the book’s adventures, while others are the consequences of uncertain parentage, insane acquaintances, temporary blindness, vindictive women, villainous Trinity students, and the petty jealousies and small catastrophes that affect an acting troupe. The novel’s plot is as restless as its protagonist, resulting in a compelling narrative with a few hastily introduced and dropped characters and storylines. Like the picaresque novels this one emulates, Watkins’ story isn’t too concerned with psychology; readers know little about Theo’s internal state, beyond an occasional reference to nightmares or the “residual emotional problems” caused by, for instance, his near-murder at the hands of his best friend. But it is nonetheless a vivid historical envisioning, with insightful observations about playacting in everyday life and memorable anecdotes about life in the theater. In particular, costuming mishaps inform several buoyant episodes. A spirited historical novel marked by humor, intrigue and entertainment.

DRAGONS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

Townsend, Johnny Booklocker.com, Inc. (246 pp.) $15.95 paper | $2.99 e-book Oct. 15, 2013 978-1-62646-678-4 In these sympathetic but subversive stories, Mormons have their faith tested in ways both subtle and severe. Most of the characters in Townsend’s latest take on the less-holy side of Latter-day sainthood are devout Mormons coping with realities—and unrealities—that cast their religious strictures in an unsettling light. At the more lurid end of the spectrum, a family finds that their LDS lifestyle uniquely equips them to survive a zombie apocalypse; a reporter hypes the exploits of a masked crime fighter dressed in Mormon Temple robes; a bride is struck down at the altar by a mysterious serial killer; and a straight-laced man has a thrilling sadomasochistic encounter in a dentist’s chair. Other tales feature quieter but still nerve-wracking intrusions: a husband loses his wife to an auto accident and reflects on the forbidden desires roiling their relationship; a family breadwinner struggling with bills risks divine retribution by cutting back on his tithing; the contrast between his boring existence and fantasies of heaven makes a middle-aged man long for death. The pre-eminent documenter of alternative Mormon lifestyles, Townsend (The Mormon Victorian Society, 2013, etc.) continues exploring the tension between religious belonging and repression; his characters are steeped in the highly organized, tightknit social life and elaborate rituals and theology of the church, but they chafe against its constraints on expression and sexuality. His normally understated critique of Mormon sexism, homophobia and reaction occasionally grows strident: In one schematic tale, a terrorist bombing prods a right-wing Mormon into patly repudiating his conservative principles, while in the title story, a woman’s questioning of church doctrine—“Wasn’t sugarcoating Church history just a way of making it more palatable?”—slips into soapboxing. Still, Townsend has a deep understanding of his characters, and his limpid prose, dry humor and well-grounded (occasionally magical) realism make their spiritual conundrums both compelling and entertaining. Another of Townsend’s critical but affectionate and absorbing tours of Mormon discontent.

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This Issue’s Contributors # Paul Allen • Richard Becker • Becky Bicks • Vicki Borah Bloom • Darren Carlaw • Charles Cassady • Tricia Cornell • Steve Donoghue • Rebecca Foster • Jonathan Fullmer • Shannon Gallagher • Courtney Gillette • Justin Hickey • Susan J.E. Illis • Leila Jutton • Grace Labatt Isaac Larson • Dale McGarrigle • Angela McRae • Ashley Nelson • Jim Piechota • William E. Pike • Jon C. Pope • Sarah Rettger • Sarah Rodriguez Pratt • Megan Roth • Barry Silverstein Justin Stark • Phil Zahodiakin

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Showdown at Shinagawa Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil Zarchy, Bill Roving Camera Press (216 pp.) $14.95 paper | $4.95 e-book Nov. 20, 2013 978-0-9849191-0-9

From Cannes to the Far East, author Zarchy, a professional cinematographer, tells of exotic places and people he has met (and sometimes filmed) in his international career. Subtitled “Tales of Filming From Bombay to Brazil,” this work is a roving anthology of reminiscences, presented roughly in reverse chronological order by Zarchy, a San Francisco–based professional cinematographer, primarily for corporate PR, advertising and scientific-industrial films. Star-struck movie fans will have to wait until late in the book for the gossip about diva starlets, tyrannical directors or alternate endings even though journeyman Zarchy has worked for Morgan Freeman’s production company. Travel-style vignettes (most previously published in trade journals, newspapers, blogs and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series), with an emphasis on cultures of Asia and the Far East, fill the book. The title essay refers to an impromptu bowling tournament with clients in Tokyo: Normally reserved Japanese business people loosened up and showed their emotions while Team Zarchy was distracted by the surreal fiasco of the 2000 presidential elections back home. On a road trip between Mumbai and Pune, India, the American film crew used dark humor to cope with the poverty and squalor surrounding them. In Shenyang, on assignment for a Dutch company, the San Franciscan discovered a Filipino band doing 1980s pop-song covers in a Bavarian-themed Chinese dive—true globalization. Not all the shoots are in such far-flung venues; Zarchy made promotional videos around the U.S. for Apple and a “prickly” Steve Jobs (including the opening of the very first Apple store, which, Zarchy reminds us, Business Week predicted would be a resounding retail failure), and he bonded with Bill Clinton while doing an Emmy-winning White House special. TMZ followers might be sated by a long, penultimate chapter in which the author recalls his near “big break” in mainstream entertainment as a novice director doing preproduction in the Philippines for a low-budget Japanese sci-fi film, engendering friendship and loyalty from his motley collaborators even as the financing fell through. In contrast to many movie-insider tell-alls, Zarchy’s congenial voice is never mean-spirited or score-settling, and one is glad to be on his crew. He’ll eat lunch in this town/world again. Likely sushi or sashimi. Thumbs up for this filmmaker’s collection of postcards from the edge.

K i r k us M e di a LL 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 SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2014 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. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Kirkus Reviews, PO Box 3601, Northbrook, IL 60065-3601. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, TX 78710 and at additional mailing offices.

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INDIE

Books of the Month OAXACA CHOCOLATE

THE GONDOLA MAKER

A Santo Gordo Mystery Charles Kerns

Laura Morelli

Adeptly explores the consequences of pride and respect for women against the backdrop of Renaissance Italy

The city of Oaxaca, lively, dark and under threat, plays a starring role in this satisfying mystery.

THAT SHAKESPEARE KID

A PORTRAIT OF RIVALRY

An engaging, fanciful tale of a boy who inadvertently brings the beauty and majesty of Shakespeare into everyone’s lives

A well-written, fact-filled history of two American artists; a must for fans of history and art

The New Killer Apps

belated

An Untold Story Douglas G. Waters

Michael LoMonico

Elizabeth Russell Taylor

How Large Companies Can OutInnovate Start-Ups Chunka Mui; Paul B Carroll

Pensive and luminous despite its dolor, a resonant collection that deftly contemplates the existential

An erudite anthem for large companies reshaping themselves to innovate and compete with agile startups

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Appreciations: Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On B Y G RE G OR Y M C NAMEE

It began, as so many epidemiological investigations do, with a large question mark. In different parts of the country, gay men were falling ill to a disease that, in some manifestations, resembled little-seen varieties of blood cancer, in others, viral pneumonias that were resistant to treatment. Researchers gave the symptoms different names while seeking to isolate and identify the overarching ailment, which had taken on troubling, inflammatory nicknames such as “the gay plague” to accompany the equally alarming medical acronym GRID, or “gay-related immune deficiency.” By Randy Shilts’ account, it took time, too much time, for health workers to step up their efforts to meet the emerging crisis. In the atavistic age of Reagan, he Photo courtesy James D. Wilson

charged, the moral dimension trumped the medical one. Medical researchers had come to call the malady acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, but they

still disagreed widely and wildly about what caused the illness and who was a candidate for it. In the meanwhile, hundreds of victims, then thousands—at first, true, mostly men—were dying, while those who had not died were stigmatized and feared. Shilts’ book And the Band Played On (1987) was the first to bring the central facts about AIDS to a wide audience. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Shilts tracked the illness to its first (then) known appearance in Africa and its rapid transmission throughout North American cities in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also documented the political infighting that took place among agencies and institutions, as well as what Shilts charged was a clear pattern of official indifference, which ended only when the popular actor Rock Hudson announced that he was suffering from the disease, from which he died in 1985. Hudson’s death (and, later, that of a young man named Ryan White, infected by a blood transfusion) brought awareness of AIDS into the mainstream and showed “ordinary” Americans that it was in fact an illness and not some instrument of moral judgment. But Shilts’ reporting had long done as much for readers in the Bay Area, the epicenter of the illness. A pioneering journalist, he was not afraid to court controversy, not just by taking on the federal government—for only when it became apparent that heterosexuals were falling ill, too, did federal funds begin to flow—but also by reporting on political divisions within the gay community itself. The title of his book spoke to the business-as-usual attitude that he perceived all around him even as people were dying, which, he argued, in itself cost lives needlessly. And the Band Played On has been called the first book in the historiography of AIDS, and it inspired and informed many others, including Tony Kushner’s play cycle Angels in America (1993) and Victoria Harden’s medical history AIDS at 30 (2012). Just as he finished writing it, Shilts learned that he had the illness himself. He died 20 years ago, on Feb. 17, 1994. The year before, he told a reporter for the New York Times that AIDS— which, thanks to medical advances, is no longer an automatic death sentence—had taught him character-improving lessons. He added, with a smile, “Of course, I’d rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character.” Gregory McNamee is the contributing editor of Kirkus Reviews. |

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IS READY FOR A FASHIONABLE It’s time for Birdie’s first haircut, and her imagination runs wild! Should she get a bun like a ballerina? Or spikes like a rock star? Or maybe even braids like a galactic princess? Mommy reminds her that the most perfect Birdie look is the one that lets her be herself.

BIRDIE’S BIG-GIRL HAIR by Sujean Rim • 978-0-316-22791-9 • $17.00

New from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

LittleBrownLibrary.com

THEY THOUGHT THEY HAD ESCAPED. THEY WERE WRONG.

N ew Pape in rp a c k!

ERASED 978-0-316-19715-1 $18.00

ALTERED 978-0-316-19709-0 $10.00

Jennifer Rush delivers a thrilling sequel to Altered in a novel packed with mysteries, lies, and surprises that are sure to keep readers guessing until the last page is turned.


February 15, 2014: Volume LXXXII, No 4  

Featuring 349 industry-first reviews of fiction, nonfiction and children's & teen; also in this issue: Molly Antopol took her time with her...

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