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Featuring 302 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXI, NO.

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REVIEWS Also In This Issue The bold literary feat behind Claire Messud's new novel The Woman Upstairs p. 14

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

Golden Girl by Sarah Zettel

Biracial, half-fairy/half-human Callie looks for fairyland on the back lots of Depression-era MGM in this successful sequel. p. 108

NONFICTION

Do You Believe in Magic? by Paul Offit A pull-no-punches attack on the hucksterism of alternative medicine p. 62

FICTION

The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam A memorable portrait of a people torn apart by war p. 5 Photo by Lisa Cohen


Remembering The Wind in the Willows B Y G REGORY MC NA M EE

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

M o l e s a r e pa i n f u l l y b l i n d i n t h e l i g h t o f d ay. They spend their lives ceaselessly burrowing miles of tunnels just below our feet, constructing vast, elaborate homes. The mole we meet in the opening pages of Kenneth Grahame’s great novel The Wind in the Willows, published in 1908, is less industrious than most. Indeed, when we meet him, Mole—for that is his name—is lounging on the shady banks of a gentle English river. The river is working, of course, telling its stories to the “insatiable sea,” which has nothing but time to hear them. Mole had been busily spring cleaning his ample quarters, but, tired of the task, he is now lollygagging, watching the other moles working away and feeling pretty good about himself. “After all,” Grahame tells us, “the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.” Idle hands, or paws, or claws, or paddles, make for deviltry. Mole is only too glad to shirk the rest of his tasks when Water Rat wanders by with a picnic basket and an unplanned day by The River. Mole desires to see something more of the world, but, when he and Water Rat get to the other side, he finds himself a pale adventurer next to the ungovernable Mr. Toad, who urges his newfound friends, “Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you, and a horizon that’s always changing!” That may be easy for him to say, since Toad has a mighty hop that clears a lot of ground, but he’s not inclined to travel thus. Instead, Toad has a mania for four-wheeled vehicles. Soon enough, he steals a fine new car, of which there weren’t many in England in 1908, and makes a spectacle of himself behind the wheel: “Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.” Eat your heart out, Jack Kerouac. It’s to be noted that Grahame’s creatures—mole, rat, badger, toad—are uncuddly and, by most human standards, unlovable. An English farmer or gardener would have considered them enemies. But Kenneth Grahame, no ordinary writer, saw them differently. He was born in Scotland in 1859, the son of a severely alcoholic father, his mother dead when he was 5. He grew up feeling abandoned and unloved, happiest when he was alone in forests and fields or in his little room. In adulthood, Grahame found lucrative work in finance, but he would rather have been down on The River with his beloved son Alastair—who was born almost blind, just like Mole. Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows as a gift for Alastair, who had asked for a tale about moles, rats and giraffes. Grahame skipped the last, which weren’t found in the English countryside, but with the others, he created a world in which creatures considered ugly and infirm made a world on their own terms—and had great fun doing it. The result is a classic of children’s literature, perfect for all ages.

for more re views and f eatures, vi si t u s on l i ne at kirkus.com.

Editor E L A I N E S Z E WC Z Y K eszewczyk@kirkus.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkus.com Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@kirkus.com Features Editor C laiborne S mith csmith@kirkus.com Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH Contributing Editor G R E G O RY M c N A M E E Senior Indie Editor KAREN SCHECHNER kschechner@kirkus.com Indie Editor RYA N L E A H E Y rleahey@kirkus.com Indie Editor D avid R a p p drapp@kirkus.com Assistant Indie Editor M AT T D O M I N O mdomino@kirkus.com Editorial Assistant CHELSEA LANGFORD clangford@kirkus.com Copy Editor BETSY JUDKINS Director of Kirkus Editorial P E R RY C RO W E pcrowe@kirkus.com Director of Technology E R I K S M A RT T esmartt@kirkus.com Marketing Communications Director SARAH KALINA skalina@kirkus.com #

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This Issue’s Contributors

Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Michael Autrey • Bridgette Banks • Joseph Barbato • Gerald Bartell • Adam benShea • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart • Derek Charles Catsam • Marnie Colton • Dave DeChristopher • Kathleen Devereaux • Bobbi Dumas • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Tom Eubanks • Peter Franck • Amy Goldschlager • Alan Goldsher • Peter Heck • Justin Hickey • Robert M. Knight • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Chris Messick • Carole Moore • Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • John Noffsinger • Sarah Norris • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Christofer D. Pierson • Gary Presley • Kristen Bonardi Rapp • Karen Rigby • Lloyd Sachs • Bob Sanchez • Sandra Sanchez • Michael Sandlin • William P. Shumaker • Rosanne Simeone • Elaine Sioufi • Arthur Smith • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Sarah Suksiri • Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Steve Weinberg • Gordon West • Carol White • Chris White • Joan Wilentz


you can now purchase books online at kirkus.com

contents fiction Index to Starred Reviews............................................................5 REVIEWS.................................................................................................5 The tangible universe of Claire Messud’s new novel ........................................................................................14

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

Mystery..............................................................................................27 Science Fiction & Fantasy.......................................................... 33 Romance............................................................................................ 35

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews.......................................................... 37 REVIEWS............................................................................................... 37 David Sedaris talks about his perceptive new collection of essays.........................................................52

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................71 REVIEWS...............................................................................................71 Aaron Hartzler’s sweet-and-salty YA memoir............... 88 interactive e-books.................................................................. 108

indie Index to Starred Reviews.........................................................111 REVIEWS..............................................................................................111 Actor, director and publisher Eriq La Salle................. 118

Novelist Howard Norman delivers a bracing, no-nonsense memoir, infused with fresh takes on love, death and human nature. Read the starred review on p. 62. |

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

In Love Is Power, or Something Like That, a story collection Kirkus’ reviewer says possesses “electrifying tales of vibrant urban nights and acrid, desperate days” (and which we starred), A. Igoni Barrett roams the streets of Nigeria with people from all stations of life. In contemporary Lagos, a young boy may pose as a woman online, and a maid may be suspected of sleeping with her employer and yet still become a young wife’s confidante. Men and women can be objects of fantasy, the subject of beery soliloquies. They can be trophies or status symbols. Or they can be overwhelming in their need. A man with acute halitosis navigates the chaos of the Lagos bus system. A minor policeman, full of the authority and corruption of his uniform, beats his wife. A family’s fortunes fall from love and wealth to infidelity and poverty as poor choices unfurl over three generations. With humor and tenderness, Barrett introduces us to an utterly modern Nigeria. On the Kirkus site, writer Mary Helen Specht interviews Barrett. Rick Atkinson’s best-selling Liberation Trilogy comes to a close with his May release, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (another title Kirkus starred); we’ll interview Atkinson about the trilogy and how he creates such spellbinding works of history. The Guns at Last Light is about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II, the 20th century’s unrivaled epic: At a staggering price, the United States and its allies liberated Europe and vanquished Hitler. In the first two volumes of the trilogy, Atkinson recounted how the American-led coalition fought through North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now he tells the most dramatic story of all—the titanic battle for Western Europe.

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Elizabeth Harrower is a well-known Australian writer, but she’s never been published in the United States, until now. Her haunting novel The Watch Tower first appeared in 1966, and between 1961 and 1967, Harrower worked in publishing at Macmillan. The Watch Tower follows Laura and Clare, who are abandoned by their mother. Felix is there to help, even to marry Laura if she will have him. Little by little, the sisters grow complicit with his obsessions, his cruelty, his need to control. “Reading Harrower’s psychological narrative can be as emotionally draining as the lives she describes,” Kirkus’ reviewer writes. “Her haunting and delicate writing provides stark contrast to the reality of her characters’ situations. Readers who missed this book the first time around will want to read the reprint.” On the site, we ask Harrower about her career and what it’s like being published in the United States at such a late date in her career. For the latest new releases every day, go online to Kirkus.com. It’s where our editors and contributing blog partners bring you the best in science fiction, mysteries and thrillers, literary fiction and nonfiction, teen books and children’s books, Indie publishing and more. And be sure to check out our Indie publishing series, featuring some of today’s most intriguing self-published authors, including Martin Spinelli. Each week, we feature authors’ exclusive personal essays on how they achieved their success in publishing. It’s a mustread resource for any aspiring author interested in getting readers to notice their new books.

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fiction THE BLIND MAN’S GARDEN

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Nadeem Aslam Knopf (384 pp.) $26.95 | Apr..30, 2013 978-0-307-96171-6

THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED by Sarah Bruni...............................7 THE ADVENTURESS by N.D. Coleridge...............................................8 GHOSTS OF BUNGO SUIDO by P.T. Deutermann.............................10 THE RETURN by Michael Gruber.......................................................12 HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA by Mohsin Hamid.... 13 SEX IS FORBIDDEN by Tim Parks..................................................... 20 TATIANA by Martin Cruz Smith........................................................23 AS SHE LEFT IT by Catriona McPherson............................................ 31 THE WORLD OF THE END by OfirTouché Gafla...............................34 LOVE MINUS EIGHTY by Will McIntosh............................................34 REQUIEM by Ken Scholes..................................................................... 35

SEX IS FORBIDDEN

Parks, Tim Arcade (320 pp.) $24.95 Oct. 1, 2013 978-1-61145-907-4

The war in Afghanistan, as seen from the other side—or, better, another side. “[H]ave you ever heard a story in which the evil person triumphs at the end?” So, three paragraphs into Pakistani-born, British author Aslam’s (The Wasted Vigil, 2008, etc.) latest, a father, Rohan, asks his son, Jeo. Always careful, Jeo thinks for a moment before replying that the trouble is that on the way to defeat, evil people “harm the good people.” Good and evil are porous categories: Jeo is a medical student, while his brother Mikal works at a gun shop, but both rise to the cause when American troops invade neighboring Afghanistan, joining the jihad against them. Jeo volunteers at a hospital in Peshawar, while Mikal crosses the border to fight alongside the Taliban; for his trouble, he is captured by American soldiers and subjected to interrogation that promises to become torture (“Mikal refuses to speak and they take him to a bare windowless room, attach a chain to his wrists, and...fasten the chain to a ring on the ceiling”). Suffice it to say that the tables turn. The saga of war and sacrifice stretches across the centuries—midway through the story, Rohan, benevolent but given to despair, finds himself wondering whether he has not been cursed in some way because his great-grandfather had sided with the British during the mutiny of 1857. Aslam finds poetry in scenes both ordinary and dreamlike (“the moonlight pale as watered ink”; “Rohan dreams of an American soldier and a jihadi warrior digging the same grave”). At times, the images he conjures seem improbable, as with an American commando who carries a snow leopard cub inside his shirt, but the writing is so assured and the story so urgent that it’s easy to suspend disbelief. Aslam sympathizes not with causes, but with people, and this is a memorable portrait of a people torn apart by war.

SKINNY BITCH IN LOVE

Barnouin, Kim Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4767-0886-7 Vegan sous chef Clementine Cooper finally has her big chance: The chef is ill, so it’s her job to impress curmudgeonly food critic O. Ellery Rice. But after one bite of her divine butternut squash ravioli, Rice stalks out. |

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Sabotaged in the kitchen by the sauté chef with the butter, Clementine finds herself blackballed from every vegan kitchen in town. Never one to let crap ruin her life, Clementine launches her own business as a personal chef, but her first client turns out to be her ex-boyfriend—and his new, supermodel-beautiful fiancee. Plan B: open a private cooking school. During her very first class, in her very tiny apartment, a quirky collection of characters assembles. Clementine’s roommate Sara is, of course, the first to arrive, eager to continue the effortless weight loss that a vegan diet has given her. Duncan the librarian arrives next, hung-up on his ex-girlfriend—a trauma Sara would be delighted to heal. In the midst of an upsetting divorce, Eva comes ready to work out her anger management issues by chopping vegetables. During a lecture on tofu, however, a loud interruption sends Clementine storming across the street to confront whoever just hung up a sign with a steer’s head. She may intend to put a stop to the dead animal business, but one look at Zach Jeffries leaves Clementine speechless. Capitalizing on the success of her best-selling series of cookbooks, Barnouin’s (Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style, 2011, etc.) debut novel asks: Can a vegan chef find love with a carnivore? It’s lightweight fare, starring a sassy heroine.

IN THE HOUSE UPON THE DIRT BETWEEN THE LAKE AND THE WOODS

Bell, Matt Soho (312 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-61695-253-2

A folkloric, allegorical tale of modern marriage, complete with shape-shifting, secret passageways and trials by fire. The couple in this debut novel by Bell (How They Were Found: Stories, 2010) isn’t named, but the author drops strong hints that we should think of them as Adam and Eve. That’s not just because we know the man’s name is two syllables and that the woman’s is three letters and palindromic, but because they are so clearly archetypes of babes in the wilderness. The two left the city for the woods after marrying, but miscarriage after miscarriage has undone their hopes for a family. All the man is left with is a “fingerling”—a fetuslike being that occupies his body and intones the occasional bit of devilish guidance. After the woman arrives with a “foundling”—actually a bear cub morphed to look like a child—the couple becomes increasingly stressed and divided by their unnatural state of being. That’s one way to look at it, anyhow: Bell cultivates a loose sense of unreality that allows the reader to make all sorts of metaphorical projections. But the novel is also meticulously designed, with a particular focus on the musicality of its sentences, and the narrative’s general arc of adventure and discovery is relatively conventional. In time, the man will lose his wife, tussle aboveground with a bear and underwater with a squid, and discover an underworld that’s a replica of the woodsy world he’s left. Some of Bell’s heavily symbolic adventuring grows too repetitive to sustain a full-length novel—there’s a reason Jorge 6

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Borges stuck with short stories—but there’s an undeniably heartfelt tone to this tale that transcends its unusual cast. As the male character’s path to redemption leaves his body increasingly ravaged, Bell’s book becomes an unflinching portrait of the struggle to keep a family intact.

HOUR OF THE RAT

Brackmann, Lisa Soho Crime (384 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-61695-234-1

Brackmann resurrects her war-weary heroine Ellie McEnroe and sets her off in a new adventure in this follow-up to her first novel (Rock Paper Tiger, 2010). Ellie, or Yili, as she is known in China, represents a major Chinese artist, but she has to walk a careful and very thin line to avoid ending up the focal point of the Chinese police, who are very interested in both that artist and his activities. When she’s picked up for questioning and comes away convinced that it’s time for them to lay low, she sees the opportunity to leave town and do a friend a favor at the same time. If only she didn’t have to drag her mother and her mom’s latest boyfriend, a nice, older Chinese guy named Andy, with her, it might be perfect, but alas, mom is visiting China and shows no inclination of returning home to the U.S. So when Doug, whom she knows as Dog, asks her to find his brother, Jason, Ellie, mom and Andy set off to find him. Andy and mom keep busy seeing the sights, but Ellie, who left Iraq with a badly injured leg, starts inquiring about the missing Jason and discovers that Dog’s brother is a lot more than he seems at first. After being followed, attacked and interrogated, Ellie finds herself getting closer to the truth, but the real question is: How much of it does she really want to know? Brackmann’s easy familiarity with everyday life in China lends a fascinating multiculturalism to her writing. Nods to local cuisine, Chinese slang and dress help paint a vivid picture of that country. What the story lacks is focus; most of the time that Ellie is looking for Jason, she seems to be wandering around without a specific goal. Brackmann’s likable protagonist always entertains, but the plot lacks cohesiveness.

THE FIRST RULE OF SWIMMING

Brkic, Courtney Angela Little, Brown (336 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | May 28, 2013 978-0-316-21737-8 978-0-316-21737-8 e-book The bonds of kinship and homeland confine but endure in this debut novel from short story author and memoirist Brkic (The Stone Fields, 2004, etc.).


“Bruni writes dark passages and playful moments with equal aplomb.” from the night gwen stacy died

Magdalena is so attached to Rosmarina, the remote Croatian island that is her family’s ancestral home, that she could not leave it even for her true love, Damir, a journalist who now roams the globe without her. She was so traumatized by the dreadful year she and her younger sister Jadranka spent on the mainland with their mother, Ana, and her brutal second husband that she is content to remain a spinster schoolteacher and tend her aging grandparents. But the disappearance of Jadranka, a gifted artist who had gone to visit a cousin in New York City, prompts her sister to begin an odyssey that uncovers some ugly secrets about their family and the agonized history of the former Yugoslavia. Brkic’s well-crafted narrative intersperses Magdalena’s quest with the memories of both sisters, as well as those of their dying grandfather, a partisan during World War II, and of Ana and her brother Marin, who fled to America with the cousin’s family during the oppressive heyday of Yugoslavia’s communist regime. We learn fairly soon that Magdalena’s father may have committed suicide after learning of Ana’s infidelity with a feared local policeman, but it will take the rest of the novel for a tangled web of loyalty and betrayals to unravel enough to reveal the complex motivations behind these acts and many others. The final chapters feature several moving reconciliations affirming the power of love and forgiveness to overcome long-festering traumas, but the closing pages quietly remind us that such reunions can’t necessarily heal every wound or change a person’s destiny. A few unnecessarily melodramatic plot twists only slightly mar a sensitive tale of deep emotional force.

THE NIGHT GWEN STACY DIED

Bruni, Sarah Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (272 pp.) $14.95 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-547-89816-2 Spider-Man lore is one layer of this superbly suspenseful first novel about two loners, improbable lawbreakers, on a mission to Chicago. How do you get out of Iowa? Sheila Gower would love to know. Bored silly by her family and hometown, the high school senior fantasizes about immigrating to Paris before her French teacher discourages her. The solution is one of the regulars at the gas station where she works the swing shift. Peter Parker (Spider-Man’s “real” name) is a cabdriver in his mid-20s and is clearly attracted to her. Sheila learns from her research that Spider-Man was unable to save his first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, from the villainous Green Goblin. But when Peter shows her a gun at the station, suggesting they fake a kidnapping, empty the cash register and drive to Chicago, daredevil Sheila is up for it. Peter’s story reveals him as more victim than creep. He was only 6 when his much older brother committed suicide, an overdose. Seeking escape, Peter immersed himself in the Spider-Man books; his mother, sensing his trauma, let him assume Spider-Man’s name. Peter’s not crazy; he knows he

lacks superhuman powers, but he does have premonitions in his dreams, and when a recurrent dream features the gas-station girl, a gun (found in his mother’s underwear drawer) and Chicago, he swings into action. Bruni does a masterful job evoking their world, equal parts fantasy and reality and further skewed by a downtown Chicago that’s been invaded by coyotes. Their chemistry changes as they become mutually dependent lovers and Sheila, no dummy, realizes that Peter’s plan—to rescue a man haunting his dreams— is no plan at all. When push comes to shove, and the fugitives are in danger of exposure, it is Sheila/Gwen’s quick thinking that saves them. Is Bruni steering us toward Gwen’s rendezvous with destiny or something more reality-based? She keeps readers guessing as the plot twists and turns. Bruni writes dark passages and playful moments with equal aplomb. The world is her oyster.

RETURN TO OAKPINE

Carlson, Ron Viking (272 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 15, 2013 978-0-670-02507-7

Carlson’s fifth novel, in which two native sons return after a long absence. Back in 1969, high school senior Jimmy Brand rounded up three other seniors to form a garage band. The four guys savored their first assertion of independence, a taste of glory, but it all went to hell at the end of the school year. Jimmy’s big brother Matt, football hero and toast of the town, got stinking drunk; out alone on the reservoir in his father’s boat, he ended up cut to pieces. A devastated Jimmy left town right after the accident. Now it’s 30 years later, and Jimmy, a gay New York writer stricken by AIDS, has come home to die. While his mom is tenderly welcoming, his dad doesn’t want him in the house, so Jimmy bunks in the garage, their old rehearsal space. This is the story of that once tightknit group. The erstwhile drummer, Mason, a successful lawyer with his own firm in Denver, has returned to sell his childhood home. The visit leads to soul-searching by this unhappy, driven man. He feels better refurbishing his house; he’s joined by Craig, the hardware store owner, who’d rather spackle and paint than make nice to his customers. The pleasure of physical exertion is a major theme. The fourth member of the quartet, saloon owner Frank, rejuvenated by his second marriage, has no worries. Also featured prominently are Craig’s 17-year-old son, Larry, who loves his town but is ready to move on, and his wife, Marci, tempted to leave him for her boss. Jimmy has just enough strength to help Larry’s eventual girlfriend find her identity through her story writing and to sing along with the guys, who have re-formed the band and entered a talent contest. Sentimentality is the obvious trap, but Carlson avoids it. More problematic is the way that the reservoir accident remains unfinished business after 30 years. Carlson’s book affectionately captures the rhythms of small-town life. It’s an understated work, spread a little too thin. |

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THE ADVENTURESS

Coleridge, N.D. Dunne/St. Martin’s (368 pp.) $25.99 | May 28, 2013 978-1-250-02825-9 Scandalous behavior, a scheming opportunist and the upper echelons of British society provide fodder for this irresistible rags-to-riches saga by Coleridge (Pride and Avarice, 2010, etc.), president of Condé Nast International. Never down on her luck for long, Cath Fox is bold and singleminded in her ferocious pursuit of what—and whom—she wants. Her upward climb, which begins in the 1980s and spans 30 years, delivers prime-time soap appeal à la Dynasty as Cath, with her tattoos and earthy sex appeal, molds herself from punk rock raw to Alexis Carrington–chic and beyond. Before her 18th birthday, she has daughter Jess with a nightclub bouncer, catches him in a compromising position with her own mother and flees the slums of Portsmouth, England, with nary a backward glance. With chameleonlike ability, Cath creates new personas and plots/sleeps her way to the top. Her ascent from the fringes of society into the highest echelons is not always seamless, but Cath is wily and takes advantage of each opportunity. She works as an assistant matron at a private girls school, meets student Annabel Goode and launches into a doomed affair with Annabel’s father. Her skills and willingness to provide extra services as a “masseuse” result in a very brief engagement to Lord Charles Blaydon, an octogenarian whose final moment of bliss occurs during their private betrothal celebration. And Cath’s stint working in a magazine house leads to a chance meeting with soccer star Ryan James, who becomes the first of her husbands and whose notoriety and riches whet her appetite for more. While Cath climbs to the social pinnacle of British society, Annabel’s life takes a more conventional route, though it’s not without its own share of tribulations, and Jess becomes a journalist after spending her childhood with a loving adoptive family. The three women’s lives intersect on different occasions over the years, which sets up a predictable, yet satisfying, conclusion. Throughout, the author adeptly balances the different threads, maintains a polished and briskly paced plot, and provides readers with a story that’s an absolute delight. Coleridge’s smashing epic delivers a wealth of entertainment.

NECESSARY ERRORS

Crain, Caleb Penguin (480 pp.) $16.00 paper | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-14-312241-8

Crain takes us into the lives of expats teaching English in Prague shortly after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. At the core of this group is Jacob Putnam, a 20-something gay man who wants 8

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to become a writer but who’s temporarily keeping body and soul together by teaching. He’s also exploring his sexuality, a journey that takes him to the T-Club, a gay bar he discovered through an “alternative” guide to Prague nightlife. There, he meets a man, and they have a brief affair that initiates Jacob into the gay subculture of that city. At his day job, Jacob warily befriends a small circle of fellow teachers but is frequently unable to determine how much he should reveal to them about his sexual orientation. Rafe and Annie are a cohabiting couple, though later in the novel, Annie runs away from Prague with Carl, a friend of Jacob’s. Another teacher, Thom, is a Scot who makes jokes about gays while remaining ignorant of how much this hurts Jacob. Kaspar is one of the last die-hard socialists in Prague and likes to engage Jacob in conversations weighted with philosophical significance. This brave new world of post-repressive sexual freedom is supposed to be a place where, according to Jacob, “[n]o one is allowed to limit anyone’s options,” but this remains a Utopian ideal as long as relationships are real (and hence unUtopian). Ultimately, Jacob takes up with Milo, who believes Jacob to be the author he wants to become, though ironically, Jacob decides he has to leave Prague—and Milo—to become the author Milo already thinks he is. Crain’s world is drenched with the climate and colors— sometimes drab—of a post-revolutionary world of possibility and promise.

ZERO HOUR

Cussler, Clive; Brown, Graham Putnam (416 pp.) $28.95 | May 28, 2013 978-0-399-16250-3 The latest from Cussler (The Storm, 2012, etc.). Cussler stalwart Kurt Austin is attending a Sydney, Australia, symposium when a boring session sends him to the Opera House’s steps. He meets cute with a beautiful young theoretical physicist, Hayley Anderson, but before Austin finishes flirting, a boat-helicopter chase rages across the harbor. The boat crashes. Austin spears the helicopter with a burning boat hook. Very Bond initial opening, especially since it develops that the fetching Hayley is enmeshed in spycraft. Papers disappear amid the destruction, and Cecil Bradshaw, of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, arrives on the scene. Austin is dismissed, but he’s intrigued. He calls his National Underwater and Marine Agency cohort Joe Zavala. They follow clues to a flooded, toxic Outback pit mine. Hayley’s trapped in the pit. Bradshaw’s wounded. An ASIO team’s dead. With that, Austin and NUMA are drafted to thwart mad genius Maxmillian Thero’s attempt to tap into zeropoint energy: the physics of “drawing energy from background fields that are supposedly all around us.” It’s Tesla’s Dynamic Theory of Gravity, once put into practice by a Tesla assistant, only to cause San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. The toxic mine pit was a test site. Heard Island, isolated in the Roaring Forties,


is the site of the supergenerator with power sufficient to crack Australia in two. Cussler’s usual supertech gadgetry is limited herein, except for a derelict cruise ship converted into a submarine. Russians are involved, and Uncle Sam too, but other nations are oblivious. The action continues post–boat-helicopter shootout with a neutrino wave sinking a NUMA ship, then there’s a hovercraft-snowmobile set piece battle and a shootout in the volcanic island’s bowels, which, in addition to the Teslainspired doomsday generator, holds a diamond mine to finance the experiment. A C-minus effort.

BOTTOM LINE

Davis, Marc Permanent Press (248 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 15, 2013 978-1-57962-316-6 Ripped from the business pages, a tale of corporate malfeasance, greed, and, you guessed it, love and forgiveness. Davis has a diverse background. A former commodities broker at the Chicago Board of Trade, a reporter, a former columnist for the Chicago Tribune, an award-winning painter and art teacher, he is the author of children’s books and a novel, Dirty Money (1992). Nick Blake is a partner in a prominent consultant and accountancy firm, the fictitious Martell and Company, LLP. He is close to his boss, the egomaniac Adrian Martell, and envied by the other partners, especially Martell’s son Billy, who runs the accounting business. Blake has a lover, Rita Fitzpatrick, “ace business reporter and columnist...for the Examiner.” When Fitzpatrick’s column reports trouble at Martell and Co., suspicion falls, naturally, on Blake. Has he given away the company secrets, whispering sweet nothings in the sack, a fool for lust, or has he been hacked? Then, captain of the industry Martell runs afoul of the SEC and flees with the partners’ funds. While the company takes cautious steps, Blake, with the help of PI Ben Cutler, decides to track Martell on his own. As the book begins in March 2001, the reader can expect the events of September of that year to make an appearance; and a needless, gratuitous appearance it is. This sort of story appears with alarming frequency in major newspapers, reported meticulously, discussed dispassionately and without the casual misogyny.

THE KILL ROOM

Deaver, Jeffery Grand Central Publishing (496 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4555-1706-0 Lincoln Rhyme goes geopolitical. A mile away from a high-caliber rifle, anti-American activist Roberto Moreno falls dead in his Bahamas retreat, along with his guard and a reporter who was interviewing him. Nance Laurel, the New York assistant district attorney who’s convinced that the assassinations were the work of an undercover government agency, invites quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his NYPD lover, Amelia Sachs, to investigate. As usual, the case poses special challenges. The murder scene, presumably awash in forensic evidence, is over a thousand miles from Rhyme’s wheelchair, and the Bahamian police aren’t eager to share their information. The sinister National Intelligence and Operations Service has already

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“A first-rate yarn of war and the sea that will keep the reader on edge right to the end.” from ghosts of bungo suido

issued orders to liquidate its next target in only a week. NIOS hireling Jacob Swann and another unnamed killer are methodically eliminating evidence and witnesses before they can tell their stories. Even when Rhyme improbably decides to fly to the Bahamas and into a far more generic sort of adventure than his usual— getting stonewalled by uncooperative cops, getting waylaid by hired killers, getting suntanned—the rewards are slim, for he finds crime-scene tape gone from the room where Moreno and the others died; it is being cleaned and painted as he watches (a nice touch). And of course, Deaver, who can’t resist any opportunity for ingenuity (XO, 2012, etc.), keeps mixing fastballs, curveballs and change-ups. Even though there are so few suspects, and the guilty parties are so obvious, veteran readers won’t trust a single fact until it’s been triple-checked, and maybe not even then. Deaver’s sleight of hand, so effective on the homefront, carries less weight in a world of international counterterrorism in which it’s a given that everybody’s trying to kill or discredit everybody else. It’s still magic, but it’s harder to care when everyone is a magician.

GHOSTS OF BUNGO SUIDO

Deutermann, P.T. St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 30, 2013 978-1-250-01802-1

A World War II naval thriller in the tradition of Edward L. Beach’s Run Silent, Run Deep, pitting an American submarine against daunting odds. In 1944, the U.S. is pushing the Japanese empire back to its home turf, one bloody island at a time. In this struggle, Cmdr. Gar Hammond has two special missions. The first is to captain his submarine through Bungo Suido, the narrow strait connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese Inland Sea, and torpedo Japan’s massive new aircraft carrier. Five other subs have tried it and are now “on eternal patrol” at the bottom of the ocean. Yet his even more crucial mission is to bring a man named Hashimoto safely back to his home soil. Hammond initially objects to a “Jap” on his sub, and his superiors refuse to tell him why. Even readers who might guess the reason will be swept up in the action-filled plot as Hammond’s Dragonfish tries to survive the Bungo Suido minefields. Like any good hero, Hammond has his flaws. While obeying orders, he sometimes goes beyond them. And when he absolutely must keep his mouth shut, he talks. Will these traits get him killed? Does his behavior at one point amount to treason? The story is full of surprising twists and spectacular explosions, with many of the best scenes taking place outside his Dragonfish. The pace occasionally slows to allow the reader to stop for a breath in Hawaii. There, far from the fighting, admirals plan strategies while a woman adds a layer of humanity to Hammond’s life. But just when it seems that Hammond is out of the picture, he comes back again to witness some of the worst horrors mankind can inflict. 10

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A first-rate yarn of war and the sea that will keep the reader on edge right to the end.

THE WOMAN BEFORE ME

Dugdall, Ruth Arcade (288 pp.) $22.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-61145-835-0

Dugdall, a former British probation officer who worked with high-risk criminals, treads familiar ground in this novel about a troubled woman up for parole and the horrendous crime that landed her behind bars. Rose was accused of setting the fire that killed Luke, a 4-month-old infant. Although Rose has always denied her culpability, the circumstances surrounding her arrest and conviction were pretty compelling. She admitted to being in the house when the fire started in the middle of the night. She also admitted she had been caught breast-feeding Luke. Working as his occasional baby sitter, the strange Rose, who had lost her own baby, fed Luke surreptitiously. The night Luke died, Rose had used her stolen key to the family home to get inside. She admitted that much but denied she set the deadly blaze, which investigators determined started with a discarded cigarette. Years have passed since the fatal fire, and Cate Austin, an experienced probation officer and young mother who has returned to work after the breakup of her marriage, must now decide whether or not to recommend parole for Rose. Meanwhile, readers re-live Rose’s troubled life and relationships through her journal entries, which record both her past and present circumstances. Dugdall’s occasionally overwrought writing and the liberal use of obscure English terms may limit the book’s appeal for American readers, but the plot is solid and never drags. However, despite the many characters that populate the pages, none come across as especially sympathetic. The author understands how to build suspense and create atmosphere and does both capably, even though many will find the book’s sex scenes more repugnant than compelling. Well-plotted, but the story won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

SONGS OF WILLOW FROST

Ford, Jamie Ballantine (352 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-0-345-52202-3

William awakens to yet another morning of beatings for bed-wetters at the Sacred Heart orphanage. In 1931, lots of children have been orphaned or left with the sisters because their parents could not care for them. William has little hope, but today is his birthday. More precisely, today is every boy’s birthday, since the sisters find it more convenient to celebrate them all on September


28, Pope Leo XII’s own birthday. As is custom, each boy is given a sort of present, either a letter from home, kept back for this very occasion, or in William’s case, more information about his mother. His last memory is of finding her in the bathtub, her fingertips dripping water onto the floor, the bathwater draining away strangely pink. On this, his 12th birthday, Sister Angelini reveals that doctors refused to treat his mother—because she was Chinese and because she had a shady reputation—so she was taken to a sanitarium. William, confused by the news, joins the other boys on a trip to the theater. Just before the movie begins, a beautiful woman appears on screen, crooning in dulcet tones. William is stunned to realize that this Chinese woman looks exactly like his mother. Soon, William and his best friend, Charlotte (who is blind and determined never to return to her father), concoct a plan to escape the orphanage and find the mysterious singer named Willow Frost. Willow has her own sad tale, replete with sexism, abuse and broken promises. Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, 2009) writes of American life in the 1920s and ’30s, bustling with go-getters and burdened with trampled masses. Often muted and simplified, his prose

underscores the emotional depression of his main characters; yet that same flatness tethers the tale, inhibiting lyricism. A heartbreaking yet subdued story.

PARASITE

Grant, Mira Orbit/Little, Brown (608 pp.) $20.00 | Oct. 29, 2013 978-0-316-21895-5 Series: Parasitology, 1 Grant’s latest lands readers in 2027, when most people sport implants that help them regulate their health. The book concerns a future in which the population intentionally ingests worms. The parasites in question are tapeworms, and they’re programmed to help their hosts overcome disease and other health issues. Since their introduction, tapeworms have become

Long Guyland

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“In Reznik’s debut novel, a woman confronts longburied secrets when an old college friend commits suicide. . . . While effective as a page turner, the novel also tells a timeless, universal tale of a woman’s journey toward self-acceptance. An exciting tale of past crimes and dangerous friendships.” KirKus reviews ★★★★★ “I love a mystery and I love stories about the late 60’s and this book has both. Really fun read.” Barbara Gaines, Executive Producer The LaTe show wiTh DaviD LeTTerman

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For information about publication or film rights, contact larareznik23@gmail.com or 512-680-0227

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“Thrilling and compulsively readable.” from the return

an accepted health resource. SymboGen, the enormous corporate entity that developed the tapeworm technology under the leadership of Dr. Steven Banks, has grown and prospered with the continued employment of the parasites. Now they’re interested in Sally Mitchell, or Sal, as she likes to be called. Badly injured in a car accident, Sal finally awoke from a coma to find herself a blank slate. She had to relearn everything, even language. But she’s very different from the old Sally, and since SymboGen was in on her recovery, they’re continuing to closely monitor her. Sal hates it and distrusts the company’s founder, Banks, but she knows she owes her life to SymboGen. She and her doctor boyfriend, Nathan, harbor reservations about SymboGen’s motives. When people with implants start turning into zombielike creatures, they know something alarming is going on. After Nathan experiences the death of someone close to him and Sal receives a mysterious message with ties to someone else’s past, the two start seeking answers. What they find is surprising and, for one of them, the end to a heartbreaking personal chapter. Grant’s fans are accustomed to her tackling unusual subjects, and this is no exception. Despite a great deal of silly melodrama along the way, and lots of rambling filler, the action moves at a good pace. Readers with strong stomachs will welcome this unusual take on the future. The ending is a place holder for future volumes in the series.

THE BLACK COUNTRY

Grecian, Alex Putnam (400 pp.) $26.95 | May 21, 2013 978-0-399-15933-6

Scotland Yard inspector Walter Day, first introduced in Grecian’s The Yard (2012), returns to help solve a murder or two in the Black Country of the Midlands. The landscape is grimy, muddy and slag-strewn—in other words, a perfect climate for murder—but other mysterious goings-on also haunt the village of Blackhampton, especially a plaguelike illness affecting hundreds of townspeople. Day had originally been called in from London along with his assistant, Nevil Hammersmith, to investigate the disappearance of a couple, Sutton and Hester Price, and their young son, Oliver. The Prices leave three more children behind—Peter, Anna and Virginia—all of them precocious and creepy. It turns out one of the missing Prices and the community disease are related when Day discovers Oliver’s body at the bottom of a well from which folks have been drawing their drinking water. Almost immediately after Day removes the body, Sutton returns, reclaiming the three remaining children. Throughout the elaboration of these mysteries, other puzzles emerge, like the appearance in Blackhampton of Campbell, a giant of a man whose cover is that he’s a bird-watcher. We also meet, somewhat elliptically, a menacing figure called simply The American, whose face had been horribly mutilated by Campbell 12

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at Andersonville Prison in 1865; 25 years later, he’s still seeking revenge. And Campbell, it turns out, had been enamored years earlier with Hester Price, so Sutton Price’s sudden reappearance leads to fighting that emerges from jealousy. Grecian packs in almost more plot than a body can stand, but he presents with fine precision the gray and gritty atmosphere of late-Victorian England.

THE RETURN

Gruber, Michael Henry Holt (384 pp.) $28.00 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-0-8050-9129-8 After being diagnosed with a fatal brain condition, a seemingly mild-mannered New York book editor heads to Mexico for a violent confrontation with his past. Richard Marder never fully realized how much taking his young wife, Chole, to New York City from her home in Michoacán, and her subsequent estrangement from her family, would affect her mental state. Then one night, years later, while Marder was with another woman, Chole took too many pills and plunged to her death from the roof of their apartment building. When a doctor diagnoses Marder with an inoperable aneurysm three years after her death, he decides to head back to Michoacán for reasons that don’t seem entirely clear, even to him. But a peaceful end is clearly not on his mind, as he loads his new RV with several guns as well as Patrick Skelly, his friend and fellow Vietnam vet who works on the dangerous fringes of the “security consultant” business. Once in Mexico, they find themselves caught in the middle of a vicious war between two narcogangs, both of which are interested in turning Marder’s newly purchased property into a money-laundering casino, but which Marder has almost accidentally turned into an artists’ colony, peopled by refugees from the surrounding drug violence. Beset on all sides by hostile forces, and dogged by his past, Marder must use all of his wiles, as well as a bunch of guns and a huge pile of ammo, to protect his new home. Gruber (The Good Son, 2010, etc.) has a gift for seamlessly combining the visceral with the cerebral, without any degradation of quality on either side of the coin. He will have readers ruminating on ideas of identity, history, mortality, family, fate, and the complex and destructive relationship between Mexico and its neighbor El Norte, all while simultaneously thrilling their pants off, which is a rare and wonderful thing. Like Gruber’s other books, this novel puts the work of other thriller writers to shame and raises the quality bar for the genre to a precipitously high level. Thrilling and compulsively readable.


HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA

Hamid, Mohsin Riverhead (228 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 5, 2013 978-1-59448-729-3

An extravagantly good alternate-universe Horatio Alger story for the teeming billions, affirming all that’s right—and wrong—with economic globalization. “The whites of your eyes are yellow,” writes Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 2007, etc.), “a consequence of spiking bilirubin levels in your blood. The virus affecting you is called hepatitis E. Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum.” The “you” in question is the unnamed protagonist, addressed throughout, unusually, in the second person through the fictive frame of a self-help book that is fairly drenched in irony. But, like Hamid’s debut novel, Moth Smoke (2000), there’s more than a little of the picaresque in this bildungsroman. As our anonymous hero comes of age and goes well beyond majority, he confronts the challenges not only of chasing out the hep E virus, but also of finding love, work and satisfaction in life—the stuff of everyday life everywhere. The younger subject’s family lives in an overcrowded, urban slum in some unnamed South Asian nation—perhaps, to judge by a few internal clues, the author’s native Pakistan, though he is careful not to specify—where his father’s small salary as a cook (“he is not a man obsessed with the freshness or quality of his ingredients”) is at least enough to fend off the starvation so many of their neighbors endure. The family, like many of the people our hero will meet, is displaced from the countryside, having followed an early lesson of the vade mecum: “Moving to the city is the first step to getting filthy rich in rising Asia.” Indeed, he attains material success, but he’s always just out of reach of the true love of his life—and if anything else, this exceptionally well-written novel is not about the Hobbesian grasping and clawing of first impression, but about the enduring power of family, love and dreams. Another great success for Hamid and another illustration of how richly the colonial margins are feeding the core of literature in English.

most summers in her childhood and even stayed for a time in high school, growing close to the Tierney boys who lived next door: Gabe, who was her age, and his younger twin brothers, Andy and Mikey. At the time, Gabe and Janelle had shared an intense, secretive relationship, but when Gabe asked Janelle for a favor, one violent night changed everything, sending Janelle across the country, uncertain of the details that left Andy fighting for his life and Mikey and Gabe stuck in the painful grip of guilt and recriminations. Now, as Janelle helps Nan prepare to die, she and Gabe dance around their continued attraction and the brutal secrets buried in the past. None of the Tierneys want to face the devastating truth of one horrible night, or the tragic events that led up to it, but they’ll have to before the past repeats itself or the door closes on the hope for a brighter future. Hart’s book has an interesting premise, and for the most part, it’s an absorbing read. However, a narrative that moves jarringly from past to present and an overly melodramatic buildup to a bombshell secret that, in the end, seems fumbled muffle the emotional impact of crucial events and weaken the success of the book. A tense look at dark secrets and the redemptive power of truth; not perfect, but compelling.

THE FAVOR

Hart, Megan Harlequin MIRA (400 pp.) $14.95 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-7783-1440-0 After nearly 20 years, Janelle Decker returns to her grandmother’s house, facing secrets long buried, a complicated, interrupted love affair, and an opportunity for the kind of truth that breaks down barriers and opens up hope for the future. When Janelle’s uncles ask her to move to the tiny Pennsylvania town where her Nan lives to take care of her, Janelle finds it depressingly easy to leave her California life behind. She’d visited |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Claire Messud

Like Her or Not By Bridgette Bates

PHOTO COURTESY OF AUTHOR

On the grandiose end of the spectrum of selfdelusion, Hitler genuinely thought of himself as good. “Nobody is a villain to themselves,” says novelist Claire Messud. In a menacing, evil voice, she mocks how real “bad guys” don’t stand around rubbing their hands together declaring, “I am evil.” Instead, they battle their own tunnel vision, just as Messud’s new protagonist, Nora Eldridge, does. Although Nora is not remotely as deplorable as Hitler, readers will deeply struggle with liking her. And how much does that fact matter? “It generally seems like we’re in a moment of cultural lunacy, where it’s repeatedly suggested that it’s problematic for characters not to

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be nice,” she explains. “As a reader, I want characters to be true, and I want to believe in the reality of the characters, which means they need to be complex and not entirely nice. If a character is drawn with human truth and compassion, then we will feel for them.” Messud’s latest work of fiction, The Woman Upstairs, is pierced with feeling. As she devoured Dostoevsky’s Underground Man in high school, Messud’s understanding of a conventional narrator shifted. The Woman Upstairs is a female response to the rambling, irrational Underground Man. The story is told through Nora’s angry first-person narration, which scratches at the eyes of the reader. We are left blinking between storylines to discern the truth from Nora’s disenfranchised bias. “A strong component of my connection to Nora is the matter of female acculturation—of being brought up to believe that you should be likable; that you should not be difficult; that making things go smoothly for the group or other people is always more important than your needs,” says Messud. “If you watch young children on a playground, assertiveness and competitiveness and illtemperament are more discouraged in girls. Women are not given the same free reign in their personalities as men. I wanted to write about what it means to stop caring about what society thinks of you.” From the beginning, Nora opens her wounds for the world to see, since she has had a moment of realization of who she is—or rather the realization of how she is seen by others. An almost middle-aged single woman, a well-educated elementary school teacher, an adequate caregiver to her widowed father, Nora is the “woman upstairs.” She is not simply one of the spinsters or the “mad-women in the attic” types since she has a “modicum of self control.” She is a member of the silent-sufferers club, festering with


desperation: “With or without a goddamn tabby or a pesky lolloping Labrador, and not a soul registers that we are furious. We are completely invisible.” But why her mad-as-hell switch has been flipped is confounding. We get snippets of regret for Nora’s life-that-might-have-been—a neglected desire to be an artist, hauntings of her deceased mother, who abandoned creative pursuits to care for her family— and we see that Nora’s unremarkable life is shaken up when the Shahids, a Lebanese-Italian family, come to reside in Cambridge, Mass., for the year, and their young son is enrolled in Nora’s class. She is immediately transfixed by the boy, with his vulnerable, otherworldly eyes, and wants to stand up as his protector. However, Nora is swept away even more by his mother, Sirena, an installation artist on the brink of international success, who takes Nora in under her billowy scarves as an artist/comrade. They agree to share a studio space, and Nora rekindles her art ambitions alongside the serious-minded Sirena as the women’s out-of-balance relationship grows more disconcerting. They each are jealous of the other— Nora of Sirena’s exotic life, Sirena of Nora’s untethered freedom. Sirena dominates their conversations, unleashing her own existential discontent upon Nora’s eager ears. Nora becomes Sirena’s default assistant and baby sitter. Meanwhile, amid the renewed optimism for her life, Nora falls in love with Sirena, or the idea of Sirena, and simultaneously falls for Sirena’s husband. Nora literally steps into Sirena’s artwork to escape the container of her upstairs status. Each of the women uses the other, but their intentions remain ambiguous since Nora’s viewpoint is so tainted. “The big themes of the book are how strongly our interiority shapes our external reality and at what point that shaping tips over into unreliability,” says Messud. By the end, a climax reveals a shocking truth about the dynamic between Sirena and Nora and finally justifies Nora’s hammering rants. These concluding implications force Nora to come to terms with the reality she has invented versus the reality that has unwittingly happened. Such a brash move in the last few moments of a 270-page, low-action story would feel like cheating by a less-attentive writer. Messud has known she wanted to be a writer since she was a child and realized that stories had tellers. Her parents gave her a typewriter

for her sixth birthday, and she never turned back; The Woman Upstairs is Messud’s fifth novel, a follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Emperor’s Children. Even as she takes on bold literary feats, like reconceiving the modern misfit archetypes of Beckett and Roth in The Woman Upstairs, her care lies in the details to create a most tangible universe for her characters. Art enthusiasts will be captivated by her colorful curating of artistic vision, such as Sirena’s photograph of an extraordinary subject: “Her skin was everywhere so mottled that you couldn’t tell foreground from background…Rose had a Jackson Pollock for a body, a human casing as marked as any canvas, so intense that she almost seemed dressed in her nudity.” Messud writes out her novels by hand with a fine-point pen on graph paper, and this meticulous rendering of the elaborate inner sanctity of Nora will challenge you to step up into her world, like her or not. Bridgette Bates is a writer and editor who lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in the Boston Review, Fence, American Letters & Commentary, and elsewhere.

The Woman Upstairs Messud, Claire Knopf (272 pp.) $25.95 Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-307-59690-1

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“A cyberterrorist attack against America looms in this grim, hard-edged thriller...” from skinner

THE ABOMINATION

Holt, Jonathan Harper/HarperCollins (448 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2013 978-0-06-226433-6 Series: Carnivia Trilogy, 1 In the first novel of a trilogy set in Venice, an Italian policewoman and a female U.S. Army officer investigate the murders of two women who threatened to expose dark secrets about America’s involvement in the Bosnian War. Ambitious Carabinieri Capt. Katerina Tapo is on her first homicide case. Her American counterpart, 2nd Lt. Holly Boland, who grew up in Pisa as an Army brat, has just been posted to Italy. A young Croatian woman shockingly dressed in the robes of a Catholic priest and tattooed with mysterious symbols washes up in the Grand Canal, and a female American activist probing illicit U.S. support of Croatia in the ’90s war is found with two bullets in her head. Powerful interests in Venice will do anything to hide the truth about U.S. operations in the former Yugoslavia, where Serbian and Croatian girls were forced into prostitution and tortured. After their paths intersect, Kat and Holly are targeted themselves. This all takes place under the watchful eye of Daniele Barbo, the genius bad boy of social networking, who created Carnivia, a 3-D simulation of Venice where members meet through avatars and share secrets. Whether Daniele is out to help or hinder Kat and Holly is one of the mysteries of this book, which has more than enough plot and well-drawn characters to stir interest in the sequels. The Carnivia site is such a clever invention an entire novel could be set inside its “walls.” A skillfully rendered debut by a London ad man.

SKINNER

Huston, Charlie Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (400 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-316-13372-2 A cyberterrorist attack against America looms in this grim, hard-edged thriller from Edgar Award–nominated author Huston. The scenario at the core of this latest from Huston is time-honored: A plot is afoot that may bring down the U.S. But Huston brings his end-of-the-world cliffhanger solidly into the 21st century by centering it on cyberterrorism. It seems that culprits lurking in the Ukraine are plotting to disable the U.S. computer grid. Missile launching systems have also been sighted in the vicinity, and already they’ve possibly done a test run that blacked out parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania and took five lives. An independent security agency contends that only a woman named Jae can ferret out what’s afoot. She’s their “asset,” and they’ll put her in motion only with an “asset protector.” Enter 16

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Skinner, whose maxim is, “The only way to secure an asset is to ensure that the cost of acquiring it is greater [than] its value.” The two are off to Europe in a pursuit suffused with treachery, violence and double cross. While much of what follows is essentially drawn from the le Carré playbook, Huston kicks it up a step with characters whose hearts of concrete make Smiley and Company look like sob sisters. Skinner’s demented parents kept him in a box for the first 12 years of his life, breeding a killer. Jae is a crack roboticist who is often high on amphetamines and psychedelics. Realizing Skinner may be falling for her, she bolts herself in a bathroom stall and screams obscenities. Meanwhile, in contrast, intervening chapters are suffused with warmth (and some of Huston’s better writing) as they follow a young Mumbai boy and his family, whose activities eventually intersect with Jae and Skinner’s as the doomsday clock ticks away. Huston indeed evokes a bleak, apocalyptic world, but the book is slowly paced and weighted down by a prolix, elliptical style. A tale that may enthrall technogeeks while sending their elders scrambling through Hacking for Dummies. (Author appearances in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle)

MORNING GLORY

Jio, Sarah Plume (304 pp.) $15.00 paper | Nov. 26, 2013 978-0-14-219699-1 Jio (The Last Camellia, 2013, etc.) blends romance and mystery in a novel told from the alternating points of view of two women separated by decades but connected by place and circumstances. After losing her beloved husband and daughter in an accident for which she blames herself, Ada Santorini seeks help from a grief counselor. During one session, she tells him she wants to move far away from New York, where she works as a travel magazine writer, in order to dig herself out of her pit of despair. He reminds her that grief lives inside, not outside, and gives her information about a friend who has a houseboat for rent on Lake Union in Seattle. In June 2008, she takes out a lease on the houseboat and begins to establish relationships with neighbors. She discovers that the houseboat was once the home of a woman named Penny, who left a trunk full of souvenirs from her life; enough to inspire Ada’s interest but not enough to completely enlighten Ada about Penny’s disappearance back in 1959, a subject the neighbors won’t discuss. Ada asks a friend back home who works for the NYPD to help her investigate the various people in Penny’s life: husband, lover, a neighbor child. The author maintains a steady succession of questions, answers and more questions to create suspense. Tragedy and redemption mix in Jio’s latest treat for fans.


THIS IS PARADISE Stories

Kahakauwila, Kristiana Hogarth/Crown (256 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-7704-3625-4 Tourists don’t see the Hawaii unsparingly yet lyrically depicted in Kahakauwila’s debut collection. “It’s like Hawaiians are all pissed off,” says vacationing Susan in the title story. “They live in paradise. What is there to be mad about?” Plenty, affirms a chorus of three different groups of women: the housekeeping staff laboring for a pittance in the hotels; the local girls who can’t afford housing thanks to unbridled development; and the professional women who have “dedicated their education and mainland skills to putting this island right.” Each group observes Susan at various stages of her visit, which goes badly awry when she picks up a local in a bar; for all their irritation with clueless tourists, they feel

an uncomfortable kinship with her. Ambivalence and ambiguity are characteristic of Kahakauwila’s nuanced work. In “Wanle,” a young woman who believes she is honoring her dead father by training and fighting birds knows that she has provoked her gentle Indian lover to revert to the violent ways of his own brutal parent—and it’s all the more awful since she’s learned that her father cheated in fights. The collection’s best story, “Portrait of a Good Father,” depicts a troubled marriage, the other woman and the devastating impact of a child’s accidental death with tender compassion for all parties, wringing powerful emotional shocks from the misunderstanding of a single word and from the musings on an old photo that open and close the tale. “The Old Paniolo Way,” in which a gay son returns from San Francisco to nurse his dying father and face his sister’s resentments, is more obvious, but it too makes the point that lives in “paradise” are just as complicated as anywhere else. The author’s assured use of both pidgin and standard English mirrors her characters’ uneasy feeling of straddling two worlds: a timeless one in harmony with nature and a commercial, modern one that is both invasive and enticing. Finely wrought work from an impressive new talent. (Agent: Markus Hoffman)

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“Kearsley blends history, romance and a bit of the supernatural into a glittering, bewitching tale.” from the firebird

SIGHT READING

Kalotay, Daphne Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $25.99 | May 21, 2013 978-0-06-224693-6 Kalotay’s soulful second novel chronicles the collateral damage three classical musicians inflict on the people who love them. Merging two inherently incompatible modes of expression, writing and music, presents a formidable challenge— one Kalotay rises to admirably here. Even tone-deaf readers will readily grasp the technical aspects of violinist Remy’s struggles to attain the first chair that seems forever beyond her reach. Likewise, readers will understand why composer and conductor Nicholas, although he attains a certain level of fame and prosperity (enough to incite the envy of his best friend and colleague Yoni), can never complete his masterwork. Nicholas, Remy and Yoni all teach or study at a prestigious Boston conservatory, and Remy will later play with the Boston Symphony. In their insular world, impulses that defy musical expression are, too often, deployed to wreak havoc in others’ lives. Remy’s infatuation with Nicholas breaks up his marriage to art historian Hazel, and though Remy will help co-parent Jessie, child of Hazel and Nicholas, her desire for a child of her own will lead to a disastrous interlude with Yoni that will prove life-altering for all three musicians. The book revisits the characters at 10-year intervals and thus becomes a meditation on aging, regret and forgiveness. The plainspoken prose is the ideal accompaniment to these lives, but the characterization of the women is more detailed and grounded. Nicholas’ passivity—he is more acted upon than active in shaping his own destiny—and solipsism— the way he can inflict hurt on Remy and Hazel without, seemingly, noticing or caring—is particularly confounding: Why is he the focus of so much yearning? By the time Hazel and Remy realize that Nicholas is an exaltation of style over substance, each is compelled to delude herself that the years they invested in him were not wasted. Unfortunately, just when the motifs of cognitive dissonance and self-deception are about to deliver a fitting climax, the piece resolves with an anodyne coda of unearned redemption.

THE FIREBIRD

Kearsley, Susanna Sourcebooks Landmark (544 pp.) $16.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4022-7663-7 Nicola Marter’s Russian grandfather was tortured for his gift of psychometry, so she’s hidden her own talent for years, but she may have to risk sharing it to help another. 18

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Kearsley gives Robbie McMorran from Shadowy Horses his own story. Able to see ghosts and to sift carefully through the years of memories attached to objects, Rob’s power of sight has always been much stronger than Nicola’s. At her best, she receives a sudden, uncontrolled, sharp image or scene, which is fine with her. Nicola would much prefer to keep her gift hidden, particularly from her boss, Sebastian, who would probably fire her from the art gallery. But when Margaret Ross turns up, everything changes. After having cared for her aunts and mother until their deaths, Margaret has known little of her own life. To finance a well-deserved cruise, she’s hoping to sell a wooden carving of a firebird, a sculpture she claims has been in her family for three centuries, a gift from the First Empress Catherine of Russia. Unfortunately, she has no way to prove Firebird’s provenance. Nicola casually picks up the carving and instantly realizes the truth. Yet a psychic flash is a far cry from an officially documented provenance. Nicola desperately wants to help Margaret, and she’s willing to ask Rob for help. The only trouble is, well, Rob’s mischievous blue eyes still make her forget her own words. Rob is more than willing to travel to Russia to help Nicola, and soon, he is training her to not simply observe, but fully witness the 18th-century romance between a young Anna (Margaret’s ancestor) and her own mischievous Edmund. Kearsley blends history, romance and a bit of the supernatural into a glittering, bewitching tale.

THE OPHELIA CUT

Lescroart, John Atria (432 pp.) $26.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4767-0915-4

Six years after an impromptu conspiracy locked San Francisco lawyer Dismas Hardy and several of his best buds into a coverup (A Plague of Secrets, 2009), the whole shooting match is threatened when one of the conspirators, Hardy’s brother-in-law, Moses McGuire, is arrested for murder. Rick Jessup, chief of staff to Liam Goodman of the Board of Supervisors, is quite the ladies’ man, or at least he thinks so. When he visits the massage parlors run by Goodman’s regular contributor Jon Lo, he has enough confidence to leave without paying, sometimes after beating the young women who’ve been keeping him company. The morning after he sleeps with Moses’ daughter Brittany, he obtusely teases her about her sexual experience, and after she walks out, he’s so unwilling to take no for an answer that their next encounter ends with her in the emergency room. So Moses takes it on himself to beat up Jessup and threaten him with worse. When someone kills Jessup two months later, police chief Vi Lapeer, under pressure from Goodman to make an arrest, does an end run around District Attorney Wes Farrell and homicide chief Lt. Abe Glitsky, going directly to two homicide inspectors and a sympathetic judge to sew up the arrest. It’s all politically motivated, just as you’d


expect from Lescroart (The Hunter, 2012, etc.). But Hardy’s defense of Moses, his partner in the Little Shamrock Bar, is just as politically implicated, since he and Glitsky and Hardy’s law partner, Gina Roake, all share a compelling personal reason to keep Moses from going back to the bottle or unburdening himself to the cops. A New York cop, placed in the witness protection program so that he can testify against the guys who hired him as a killer, puts just a little more spin on what’s already a dizzyingly complex case. Lots of great scenes shoehorned into a story that seems uncertain how to mix its social commentary and courtroom drama with the regulars’ continuing soap opera.

ANTONIA LIVELY BREAKS THE SILENCE

Levinson, David Samuel Algonquin (320 pp.) $23.95 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-56512-918-4

Literary success inspires only bad blood, jealousy and contrived plot twists in this debut novel by Levinson (Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will, 2004). Catherine, the hero of this tale, lives in a bucolic New York college town, but her mood is dark: Her husband died under unusual circumstances not long after his debut was savaged by the famously brutal critic Henry Swallow. An unforgivable offense? Apparently not: After all, Catherine did have a dalliance with Henry when he was her teacher, and when he arrives in town looking for a place to live, she only half-grudgingly rents him the cottage behind her home. But Henry spends much of his time nearby, at the house where Antonia Lively, his latest young-writer conquest, is staying. Antonia is poised for literary fame with her debut, but Antonia’s uncle has arrived in town, bent to expose the ways she wrongly mined and manipulated family history for her novel. Levinson means to show how fiction provides a pathway to inner truths that can’t be spoken directly, but he never quite settles on an effective tone for his story. Henry is intended to be a fearsome critic and kingmaker, but his antics strain credulity; the same is true for Catherine, who is quick to forgive slights, insults and even life-threatening violence, apparently in the interest of moving the plot along. (In this town, the occasional break-in and burst of gunfire is only mildly troublesome.) There’s no sourness or malice in Levinson’s riffing on the unjust ways of the literati, but the novel is so weighted down by its plot turns and character collisions that it never achieves the lift of a satire either. The foibles of novelists, critics and the people who love them are rich fodder for fiction, but weakly addressed here.

THE SWEET GIRL

Lyon, Annabel Knopf (256 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 7, 2013 978-0-307-96255-3

Aristotle’s daughter receives some harsh lessons in sexism and the limits of philosophy. Lyon’s previous novel, The Golden Mean (2010), explored the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander the Great, while this follow-up centers on Pythias, the Greek philosopher’s adolescent daughter. She has her father’s intellectual curiosity—she’s bloodily dissecting a lamb in the novel’s bracing opening scene—but the Athenian cognoscenti readily dismisses a young woman with ambitions beyond housekeeping. Even her relatively progressive father has decided on her husband, a cousin who may have died at war. The plot turns on the family’s escape from Athens after Alexander’s death (as a Macedonian, Aristotle fears his family will become targets) and, later, Pythias’ efforts to carve out her own living for herself. Lyon’s style is clean and brittle, evoking the intonations of Greek philosophical writings without parroting them, and she cannily introduces the Greek gods into the story—a dose of magical realism, perhaps, or just a bit of projection from Pythias when she’s feeling adrift. As Pythias struggles for her own agency, she falls into the orbit of midwives and concubines, the sole positions where a graceful, intelligent, independent woman can find safety. Though this book isn’t framed as a polemic, it still exposes the flaws in a system where slavery was commonplace and women’s freedom was the function of men’s ability and willingness to support them—Pythias’ half brother Nico would be honored in the Nicomachean Ethics, and her adopted brother Myrmex is forgiven his bad behavior. This is not a heroic story of redemption—Greek tales don’t work that way—but the novel still has the satisfaction of a well-told story, revealing a headstrong character’s efforts to stay afloat despite a society inclined to sink her. A provocative tale that undoes any romantic delusions a reader might hold about ancient Greek society and thought.

FREUD’S MISTRESS

Mack, Karen; Kaufman, Jennifer Amy Einhorn/Putnam (368 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-399-16307-4 A fictionalized account of Sigmund Freud’s romantic involvement with his sister-in-law. Mack and Kaufman (A Version of the Truth, 2007, etc.) collaborate for a third time to produce a novel based loosely on unsubstantiated conjecture that Sigmund Freud and his wife’s sister, Minna Bernays, had a love affair while living under the same roof. After being fired from yet another job as a lady’s |

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companion, intelligent and outspoken Minna is welcomed into the chaotic Freud household. Sigmund and Martha have six children, and Martha has a variety of physical complaints, so she welcomes her sister’s help. Minna becomes intrigued with her brother-in-law’s work, and they begin to spend hours in his study discussing his theories of human behavior, which, Freud claims, have deep sexual roots that must be brought to the conscious level. Their conversations and long walks provide the catalyst for a deeper attraction, and eventually, Freud and Minna’s relationship progresses from plain kinfolk to cheating kinfolk. Is Freud really a man whose wife doesn’t understand him? Does Martha know or care that her husband’s engaged in intimate acts with her own sister? Neither spouse appears overly concerned about the activities of the other. Martha spends much of her time in an opium-induced haze (she even spoons her wonderful elixir into the kids at the first sign of illness), while Sigmund prefers to heighten his sensations with a nose full of coca, a habit he introduces to Minna, who has her own way of dealing with the world: cigarettes and secreted bottles of gin. Freud shocks the scientific community with his Studies in Hysteria, and Minna’s racked with guilt and flees to another city. But she’s soon back with the Freud family to face more affair-related crises, wonder just how much her sister knows, and do a lot more soul-searching before they all pack up and move to England. Freud’s theories about human sexuality and behavior may be considered pretty wild, but his own sex life comes across as dull. Readers with an interest in the private life of Sigmund Freud may find the book of interest.

I AM VENUS

Mujica, Bárbara Overlook (304 pp.) $26.95 | May 16, 2013 978-1-4683-0657-6 Incidents in the life of Diego Velázquez, the most prominent artist in 17th-century Spain, as filtered through the consciousness of his mysterious model for the Rokeby Venus. Velázquez was determined to become a painter at the court of King Philip IV, and to his credit, the king recognized the painter’s genius. Still, there was much court intrigue and plotting to get this sinecure. Mujica exposes the personal side of Velázquez by focusing on his ambition and on his relationship with his wife, Juana, and his daughters, two of whom died. As one might intuit, Velázquez’s domestic relationship was tempestuous. Juana’s father was Francisco Pacheco, an art critic, artist and founder of an art academy, and he recognized the gifts of his son-in-law. Juana was given to fits of jealousy, most of them justified by Velázquez’s outrageous behavior and neglect of familial duties and obligations. On the happy occasion of the birth of Francisca, his first daughter, for example, we’re told that Velázquez “had more important things...to think about,” like getting back to a portrait. We follow Velázquez on 20

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his journeys to Italy, during one of which he had an affair and fathered a son. On his return to Spain, he got a commission from an enigmatic patron to paint a nude Venus, a kind of erotic painting proscribed both by custom and by the Inquisition, but Velázquez defied these conventions, using a model with whom he was (again) having an affair. Mujica’s prose is vigorous and intense, and the story is paradoxically both dark and illuminating.

SEX IS FORBIDDEN

Parks, Tim Arcade (320 pp.) $24.95 | Oct. 1, 2013 978-1-61145-907-4

Beth Marriot, a troubled youth, struggles mightily to find a reasonable facsimile of equanimity on a Buddhist retreat. “At one point Zöe leaned across to me, grinning, and whispered, ‘Whore!’ I was in paradise.” Beth is a piece of work. Lead singer of the band Pocus, she’s in love, in trouble, loves the troubles of love, troubles her lovers, cheats and loves her faithless lovers. Recovering from a catastrophe—she was impulsive, the consequences were serious— she has retreated to the Dasgupta Institute, where sex and other pleasures are forbidden. Beth came as a mediator and stayed as a server, allegedly serving the corps of meditators selflessly, as they endure 10 days, silent, segregated by gender, apart from society and its attractions. Writing is forbidden at the Institute, but Beth, our hyperbolic narrator who wants to be enlightened, can’t help reliving the slow-speed crash that was her life, in all its gory, glorious detail. She strays into the men’s dorm, where she finds and begins reading the journal of GH. He cannot obey the rules either: The details of his failures, his egoism, his skepticism blaze from the pages of his forbidden journal. Parks succeeds in introducing a reason for the narrator to narrate but retreats from Beth’s journal writing into the recesses of her mind. As Beth meditates, as she struggles with her own suffering, struggles not to take pleasure in feeling pleasure or pain, Parks (Teach Us to Sit Still, 2011, etc.) gives us a glimpse of the titanic struggle of meditation, of the mind’s fluctuations under restraint, observing itself. The writing is vivid. Beth’s voice is chatty, seductive, abusive, remorseful. The voice of GH is distinct, by turns angry and astute. Assured. Accomplished. Memorable.


“An inventive—if brooding, strange and creepy— adventure in literary terror.” from night film

NIGHT FILM

Pessl, Marisha Random House (624 pp.) $28.00 | Aug. 20, 2013 978-1-4000-6788-6 An inventive—if brooding, strange and creepy—adventure in literary terror. Think Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King meet Guillermo del Toro as channeled by Klaus Kinski. In her sophomore effort, Pessl (Special Topics in Calamity Physics, 2006) hits the scary ground running. Filmmaker Stanislas Cordova has made a specialty of goose bumps for years; as Pessl writes, he’s churned out things that keep people from entering dark rooms alone, things about which viewers stay shtum ever after. Cordova himself hasn’t granted an interview since 1977, when Rolling Stone published his description of his favorite frame as “sovereign, deadly, perfect.” Cordova is thrust back into the limelight when his daughter is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in Chinatown. Scott McGrath, reporter on the way to being washed-up, finds cause for salvation of a kind in the poor young woman’s demise. McGrath’s history with Cordova stretches back years, and now, it’s up to him to find out just how bad this extra-bad version of Hitchcock really is. He finds out, too; as one of the shadowy figures who wanders in and out of these pages remarks, ominously, “Some knowledge, it eats you alive.” Oh, yes, it does. Readers will learn a thing or two about psychotropic drugs, to say nothing of the dark side of Manhattan and the still darker side of filmmaking. And speaking of hallucinations, Pessl’s book does a good imitation of a multimedia extravaganza, interspersed with faux web pages and images. All it needs is for a voice to croak out “boo” from the binding, and it’d be complete unto itself. A touch too coyly postmodern at times, but a worthwhile entertainment all the same.

BOMBSHELL

Reich, James Soft Skull Press (256 pp.) $15.95 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-59376-513-2 A feminist activist, born in the midst of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, initiates a series of systematic strikes against the American nuclear industry. Set in 2011, Reich’s (I, Judas, 2011) thriller introduces the protagonist: Varyushka Cash, a 25-year-old extremist whose personal crusade against nuclear energy is fueled by punk rock, a strict adherence to feminist ideology and a disdain for symbols of masculinity. After her parents disappear in a murky series of events following the tragedy at Chernobyl, Cash is taken in by three older women who offer her a family structure that is fused with an indoctrination into feminist thought. As this loose-knit family

falls into disarray, Cash forms a lesbian relationship with one of the women. After losing her partner, Cash heads to the New Mexico desert, where she reflects on her past and plans her mission. Taking a Vietnam veteran who has undergone extensive gender reassignment surgery as her only friend, Cash uses rural New Mexico as her home base for beginning to target nuclear sites and the high-powered executives driving the nuclear industry. In the process, she begins a cross-country spree of violence that takes her simultaneously into an imagined past and an unforeseen future. Along the way, Cash is pursued by an amoral CIA hit squad led by an unflinching, and somewhat one-dimensional, veteran of covert affairs who represents the paradigm of masculine forcefulness. The feminist heroine is a fresh twist on the thriller genre, but the story doesn’t deliver much excitement.

SPARTA

Robinson, Roxana Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (400 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-374-26770-4 A Marine commander returns home from Iraq badly shaken in this novel, which wears its heart—and its research— on its sleeve. Conrad entered the Marines shortly before 9/11 with an ambition to do something big: He studied Greek military history in college, admiring the discipline of city-states like Sparta (hence the title) but neglecting that place’s undercurrent of hubris. Returning home after two tours in Iraq to his sturdily middle-class family outside New York, Conrad is incapable of shaking off his experience. Loud noises snap him into fighting mode; suburban buildings and trains appear to him as easy targets; and simple conversations with his family and his on-again, off-again girlfriend become torments. Robinson (Cost, 2009, etc.) consulted with Iraq War vets and a stack of books to construct Conrad, and she is masterful at capturing the various ways that language fails to depict the misery of PTSD; she subtly shows how everything from emails to prescription information sheets to official forms offer ways to only talk around the problem. Conrad struggles to find his footing in the months after his return, gamely preparing for grad school and reconnecting with college friends, but he slowly slips off the rails as he begins to selfmedicate. Between the detailed flashbacks of wartime violence and the visions of stateside anxiety, Robinson has convincingly summarized the wartime experience, but only rarely does it feel like she’s made a full person out of Conrad, who has the distant feel of an Everyvet; his interest in Greek history comes across as more a convenient metaphor than character shading. As Conrad’s decline accelerates, Robinson hurries the pace of the closing chapters, undoing the fictional rhythms of a book that at times has the declamatory tone of a nonfiction study. A well-intentioned but flawed exploration of an underdiscussed topic. |

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THE MARIJUANA CHRONICLES

Santlofer, Jonathan—Ed. Akashic (280 pp.) $24.95 | $15.95 paper | Jul. 2, 2013 978-1-61775-169-1 978-1-61776-163-9 paper Akashic Books’ program to anthologize the world continues with this halfbaked—in every sense—collection of pieces on the demon weed. “She’d been a good girl.” So writes Joyce Carol Oates, novelist extraordinaire, with the implicit understanding that the “she” of the sentence will not be such a good girl once she wraps her lips around a doober. Indeed, “she” exults, “I will get high now. It will save me.” But does it? Only her therapist knows for sure. Oates is in a rare class of her own, but she’s just of the right age to have experienced the ’60s and its many forms of annihilating reality. So, too, are some of the other contributors to this collection, including Lee Child and the always enjoyable Raymond Mungo, who has traveled far, from the Haight of yore to the medicinal marijuana boutiques of today (“Prices were quoted by gram, eighth, or full ounce and got higher with perceived quality and more economical with greater volume, but my first impression was pure sticker shock”). The pieces by the younger writers tend to lack much, well, perspective; Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s sketch of getting baked in Singapore is lightly amusing, but it doesn’t amount to much, while Rachel Shteir’s piece on medicinal herb has an academic aridity to it (“Kristen talked about how cannabinoids can best be absorbed into the body by juicing, putting maybe ten or fifteen palm-sized leaves in a blender with some apples or carrots, and drinking the mixture like a smoothie”). It’s not entirely clear who this anthology is intended for, but the literate stoner is better served by digging into some Terry Southern and Hunter Thompson—and hunting up some more Joyce Carol Oates, too.

A CHAIN OF THUNDER A Novel of the Siege of Vicksburg Shaara, Jeff Ballantine (448 pp.) $28.00 | May 21, 2013 978-0-345-52738-7

Shaara (A Blaze of Glory, 2012, etc.) continues to draw powerful novels from the bloody history of the Civil War, offering here an account of the siege of Vicksburg. Analyzing what historians call the “brilliant and innovative” campaign to secure the Mississippi River for the Union, Shaara rides into the camps of Grant and Sherman and lurks with Pemberton, the general charged with the Confederate’s linchpin defense. Shaara also follows Lucy Spence, young resident of 22

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besieged Vicksburg, and Fritz Bauer, Wisconsin infantryman and Shiloh veteran. Apart from the occasional anachronism—“jerk” as a denigration in 1863?—the dialogue intrigues. Shaara aptly reveals the main actors: Grant, stoic, driven, not given to micromanagement; Sherman, anxious, high-strung, engaged even when doubting Grant’s strategy; Pemberton, a ditherer, caught between the conflicting demands of his personal enemy Joseph Johnston and his personal friend Jefferson Davis, beset by disobedient underlings, and perceived disloyal because of his Pennsylvania origins. Diagrams deconstruct the initial steps in Grant’s end-run campaign, the naval bombardment, the bloody battle prior to the siege and the subsequent trench warfare. Shaara writes competently of the “fog of war,” the inevitable confusion made worse during that period by lack of secure communication. The best of Shaara’s work comes as he follows Spence and Bauer. Spence evolves believably from a sheltered young woman to a gore-stained, dedicated nurse and, amid Shaara’s graphic descriptions of combat, Bauer holds hard to his fragile courage and learns to kill, becoming a coldblooded sharpshooter. A sesquicentennial series volume worth a Civil War buff’s attention.

TRAINS AND LOVERS

Smith, Alexander McCall Pantheon (224 pp.) $22.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-307-90854-4

Four strangers sharing a railway carriage from Edinburgh to London recall their very different experiences of love in this stand-alone from McCall Smith (Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, 2012, etc.). Andrew, a Scot en route to a new job, begins by telling of his love for Hermione, who served with him as an intern at an auction house, and its principal obstacle: her wealthy, imperious father, an alpha male who brooks no opposition. In response, Andrew’s fellow passenger David, an American academic, recalls a story too intimate for him to share aloud: his unconsummated love many years ago for Bruce, a Princeton math professor’s son whom he saw only during his annual vacations. Kay, an Australian who lives in Perth, recounts the romance between her parents, a Scot who settled in the Outback to manage the remote railroad station of Hope Springs and the pen pal whom he persuaded during a brief trip to Sydney to follow him back to a posting far from anything she’d ever known. Trains also play a pivotal role in the story of Hugh, who absent-mindedly disembarks at the wrong station in Gloucestershire and ends up in a relationship with Jenny. All goes well until a former boyfriend warns Hugh that Jenny is not what she seems to be—a possibility Hugh struggles to deal with. The interplay among the four stories is mostly limited to aphorisms like “[l]oving others...is the good thing we do in our lives” and “[e]verything is possible in love.” A warmhearted, understated serving of comfort food.


“Anyone who enjoys crime novels but hasn’t read Smith is in for a treat.” from tatiana

GUESTS ON EARTH

Smith, Lee Algonquin (368 pp.) $25.95 | Oct. 15, 2013 978-1-61620-253-8

Smith (Mrs. Darcy and the Blue Eyed Stranger, 2010, etc.) jumps on the bandwagon of recent interest in Zelda Fitzgerald, bringing to fictional life Asheville’s Highland Hospital, where Zelda and eight other patients died in a fire in 1948. Right off the bat, narrator Evalina likens herself to Nick Carroway, asking, “Is any story not the narrator’s story?” Perhaps, but while The Great Gatsby dominates Nick’s story, Zelda makes only guest cameos in Evalina’s narration. Evalina spends her early childhood in New Orleans until her courtesan mother’s death. In 1936, after attempting to move her in with his respectable family, her mother’s wealthy lover sends adolescent Evalina to Highland Hospital as a combination patient, guest, and ward of Dr. and Mrs. Carroll. The Carrolls are historical figures, Dr. Carroll famed for treating physiological ailments with diet and exercise rather than introspection or analysis, Mrs. Carroll for her skills as a pianist—her most famous student, Nina Simone, has a walk-on here. Evalina soon meets the extremely mercurial Zelda, who treats her as a stand-in for Scotty, and later witnesses the Fitzgeralds lunching unhappily together at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn. Evalina also conveniently listens to other characters describe the Fitzgeralds in long-winded detail that adds nothing new. Evalina shows musical talent, and the Carrolls eventually send her to Philadelphia to study at Peabody. She becomes the accompanist/lover of a talented but philandering Italian tenor. After losing him and the baby he didn’t want, she returns to Asheville and undergoes shock treatment, newly instituted at the hospital. Ensconced in the halfway house attached to the hospital, Evalina is carrying on two contradictory romances by the time Zelda returns in the late 1940s, a shell of the glamorous woman she seemed a decade earlier. Evalina hints at various possibilities but leaves what caused the fatal fire a mystery. Smith brings to life the world of Highland Hospital, where the line between staff and “guests” often blurs, but Evalina is a mishmash of clichés, while Zelda remains a rehash.

TATIANA

Smith, Martin Cruz Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 12, 2013 978-1-4391-4021-5 In Smith’s latest Arkady Renko novel, the Russian investigator seeks the truth about a young reporter’s apparent suicide. Tatiana Petrovna is one of the last

occupants of a Kaliningrad apartment building that developers want to raze. When she falls six stories to her death, authorities are quick to rule the tragedy as a suicide. Renko suspects otherwise and gets his boss’ permission to look into it. The young woman had been a troublemaker, with a nose for rooting out the corruption widely known to be rampant in Russia, so few people seem to miss her. Renko can’t view the body, because police say they are unable to produce it. This certainly won’t stop him, though. Fans of his earlier adventures (Gorky Park, 1981; Red Square, 1992) know he’s not a flashy fellow, perhaps in part because he walks around with a bullet lodged in his skull. But he is an honorable man, persistent in asking questions, raising doubts and following leads. At the center of the plot is a notebook that appears to be filled with symbols looking like gibberish. Can Renko find someone to decipher it? Sitting on the Baltic seacoast, Kaliningrad is portrayed as a bleak industrial city that’s probably on no one’s vacation itinerary. The novel suggests a deep cynicism pervading Russian society, where officials and businessmen are expected to bribe and steal. For example, submarines costing hundreds of millions of dollars may sink into the ocean and never resurface since half the money goes to graft instead of craft. Smith is a master storyteller, delivering sharp dialogue, a tight plot, memorable descriptions and an understated hero in Arkady Renko. Anyone who enjoys crime novels but hasn’t read Smith is in for a treat. Read this book, then look for other Arkady Renko adventures.

THE GOOD SISTER

Staub, Wendy Corsi Harper/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $7.99 paper | Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-06-222237-4 A novel that delves into the tragic past and state of mind of a serial killer. This is not a “whodunit.” Here, suspense is sustained by the questions: why did the killer do it, and who will be next? The story addresses three issues: child abuse (both pedophilia and the punitive cruelty born of rigid religious fundamentalism); the effects of high school bullying; and the negative impact of cybertechnology on interpersonal relationships. The killer, Adrian, aka Angel (a social networking name), remembers an older sister who killed herself after being set up for mockery at her high school. He remembers that his sister loved him dearly and sought to protect him from the cruelty of their parents. He only finds out that their father was sexually molesting his sister after discovering an old journal in the family home he inherits after his mother’s death (under questionable circumstances). While following Adrian’s history, readers are introduced to a neighboring family and a daughter, Carley, a likable, troubled teen struggling with issues when she changes schools. As questions about who will be next (and why) are answered, and two girls commit suicide, it becomes clear who’s on the killer’s hit list. Fans of Criminal Minds will especially love this book. |

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LONG LIVE THE KING

Weldon, Fay St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-250-02800-6

Weldon’s second installment in the Edwardian trilogy (Habits of the House, 2013) again revolves around deciding who is to receive prized invitations, this time to Edward VII’s 1902 coronation. Robert, Earl of Dilberne, and his wife, Lady Isobel, again hold center stage. Son Arthur is now happily married to Chicago heiress–with-a-past Minnie, who has not quite adjusted to British aristocracy. Suffragette daughter Rosina, a spinster at 31, is still hobnobbing with intellectuals and idealists. Having recovered his fortune with the help of his Jewish financial advisor Mr. Baum, Sir Robert has become prominent in ruling circles and will participate in the coronation being organized largely by Lord High Steward “Sunny” Marlborough, nicknamed for his unsunny demeanor, and Lady Marlborough, nee Consuelo Vanderbilt. When Consuelo offers Robert three extra tickets to the big event, Robert plans to give two of them to Mr. Baum and his cultured wife, Naomi (who talks about Zionism with Lord Balfour), evidence that the Baums are rising in society since it was a mere dinner invitation that Isobel resisted offering last go-round. But in a fit of jealous pique over Robert’s apparent intimacy with dashing young Consuelo, Isobel rashly sends the tickets to Robert’s estranged younger brother Edwin, an eccentric minister who lives in miserly religiosity with his wife and ethereal 15-year-old daughter, Adela. Isobel regrets her decision immediately, but the invitation has been mailed. Meanwhile, tragedy befalls Edwin and his wife, Elise, and Adela, scheduled to enter a convent, disappears. As the coronation approaches, Isobel struggles to cover her mistake. Weldon plugs in historic figures like Lord Balfour and Lady Marlborough and some interesting bits of Edwardian social history and manners, but as a work of fiction, this entry is less than compelling.

A PLACE AT THE TABLE

White, Susan Rebecca Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4516-0887-8 White (A Soft Place to Land, 2010) was clearly inspired by the friendship of Atlanta chef Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis in this labored story about a young gay man who leaves Atlanta for Manhattan and is taken under the wing of a legendary African-American female chef. In 1929 rural North Carolina, 12-year-old Alice is separated from her beloved twin, James, when he is sent north after a 24

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lynching. Her consolation is cooking, and she grows up to be a world-famous chef. In 1970s suburban Atlanta, white middleclass teenager Bobby becomes an outcast in his conservative, Christian family once his sexual orientation is known. White’s Atlanta is geographically correct—she loves to drop street names—but her descriptions lack any of the city’s complexity during that decade. With a small inheritance from his understanding, saintly grandmother, Bobby heads to New York in 1981 and begins working as an assistant to owner Gus at Café Andres, the restaurant Alice opened with Gus years earlier. She has since moved on to write a famous cookbook but agrees to attend a luncheon put together by Bobby. The lunch is a failure—Alice is cool and preoccupied while her agent, Kate, is interrupted by a visit from her niece Amelia, distraught over a marital crisis— but Bobby goes on to make a name for himself as chef at Café Andres; unfortunately, the food descriptions sound like menu entries, lacking real passion or sensuality. Shortly after Bobby’s longtime lover dies from AIDS in 1988, he runs into Alice again. She apologizes for her previous rudeness, and soon, they are inseparable; not only do they share a love of Southern cooking, but both have loved and lost Jewish men. In 1989, Kate’s niece Amelia finally leaves her philandering husband, who happens to be from a well-heeled neighborhood of Atlanta. She moves to Manhattan and begins to uncover the predictable yet farfetched secret hidden within Alice’s cookbook. Turgid prose pits ever so sensitive heroes and heroines against intolerant bullies.

AMY FALLS DOWN

Willet, Jincy Dunne/St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-250-02827-3 Amy Gallup, 60, hasn’t published a book in 20 years, and she’s settled into a quiet life with her beloved basset hound, Alphonse. None too excited about a newspaper interview she’s agreed to give, she trips, knocking herself out on the birdbath just hours before she’s scheduled to play the role of has-been local writer. Oddly, she regains consciousness to see the reporter’s car pulling out of her driveway. In the emergency room later, she has the distinct pleasure of reading her own interview—an interview she evidently gave without the assistance of a conscious, rational mind. Amy’s cryptic, concussion-addled interview rejuvenates her career. Suddenly, her agent—chain-smoking, aggressive but kindly Maxine—is calling again, arranging appearances and pushing for new material. Her former writing students are back, too. After all, their crazed, knife-wielding former classmate (from Willett’s The Writing Class, 2008) is now safely behind bars. The collection of friends and opponents surrounding Amy are flat characters bedazzled with quirks, but that doesn’t quite make them quirky. Grudgingly, Amy goes on tour, battling wits with shrill, book-phobic radio hosts,


“Winthrop’s novel is tender and true... in the end it reveals a quiet beauty.” from the why of things

twitter-bewitched moderators, new authors drunk on blogs and old authors drunk on scotch. Along the way, she confronts the demons of her past, including her buried grief for her late, gay husband, as well as her ambivalence about success. The skewering of the business of selling books—despite some hilarious scenes and Amy’s dry humor—gets repetitive as Amy tirelessly defends real writing and debunks virtual book launches. Amy is endearing, yet it is difficult to remain curious about a heroine whose only interest is writing. Willett’s skill in crafting zany scenes and Amy’s acerbic wit are not enough to keep this novel afloat.

BALLISTICS

Wilson, D.W. Bloomsbury (400 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-62040-077-7 The quest for a long-absent father drives a three-generation, profoundly masculine story of wounded souls set in the Canadian hinterland. Although the novel’s three female characters do contribute to events, Canadian writer Wilson’s debut is inescapably a book about the menfolk, in particular two tough, taciturn types, Cecil West and Archer Cole, whose desires and families sometimes overlap. West’s heart attack precipitates the narrative by summoning graduate-student grandson Alan to his bedside for the job of finding Jack, Cecil’s son/Alan’s father, who disappeared when the boy was a year old. The storytelling shifts, unpredictably, between Alan’s and Archer’s perspectives. Decades earlier, Cole, a decorated Vietnam vet, crossed into Canada with his daughter Linnea to avoid a second tour of duty and got shot in the leg by Jack West. So began a friendship between Cecil and Archer and, later, briefly, a relationship between Jack and Linnea. Now, Alan’s apocalyptic journey through bush fires to find Jack is spliced with Archer’s reminiscences. There’s violence (a subplot involves an American nemesis figure), feuds (Archer had an affair with Cecil’s fiancee), sentiment (Alan’s relationship has faded, and his dog dies) and action (fights, flames, shootings). Journey’s end is a conglomeration of booze and restoration. Too many beatings and too much philosophical brooding bog down an overextended story straining for elegiac and epic heights.

THE WHY OF THINGS

Winthrop, Elizabeth Hartley Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4516-9575-5

A somber novel about the effects of suicide on a family and the secret wounds that become memorials. This is the Jacob family’s first summer at the cabin since 17-year-old Sophie’s suicide. And on the night that they return to the Cape Ann house, to throw off the dusty sheets and put out the porch furniture, 14-year-old daughter Eve notices tire tracks across the lawn and into the quarry. Soon enough, the police are called, then the divers, and the sad story is unwound: A young man, James Favazza, had driven into the quarry and died. The irony is not lost on Joan and Anders, both still broken up over the death of their sweet daughter Sophie, who drove her car into an oncoming train. This death begins to uncover the sorrow the family has kept politely hidden. Young Eloise brings home dead things (a young sea gull found at the beach, a chipmunk from day camp) and insists on backyard burials. Joan drives by Mrs. Favazza’s house for no apparent reason. Anders finds an address in Sophie’s room and follows it to its pointless conclusion. And then there is Eve, whose story this is, who becomes obsessed with James. Before the truck is lifted and towed away, she dives in and retrieves all sorts of things: a T-shirt from a downtown bar, flipflops, a cooler with another man’s name on it, beer bottles and trash, the sad relics of James’ tomb. She is convinced his death was a murder and spreads this evidence on her bed every night, piecing together the clues. But of course the answer everybody wants, why Sophie killed herself, will always be their mystery to live with, the one too painful to investigate. Winthrop’s novel is tender and true, and if it slows at times, in the end it reveals a quiet beauty. (Agent: Amanda Urban)

MOTHER, MOTHER

Zailckas, Koren Crown (304 pp.) $24.00 | Sep. 17, 2013 978-0-385-34723-5

In Zailckas’ (Fury: A Memoir, 2010, etc.) debut novel, an unhinged matriarch drives a family into destruction. The family is the Hursts; the setting, the Hudson Valley north of New York City. Father Douglas is an IT guru. Mother Josephine is a former academic. Preteen Will is home-schooled. Daughter Violet attends high school, and daughter Rose is in college. Perfect, on the surface. But Will has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and epilepsy—that is, if narcissist Josephine isn’t a victim/victimizer of Munchausen syndrome. Douglas, dream marriage turned nightmare, isolates himself with alcohol. Rose has fled, apparently dropping out of college to run away to New |

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York City with a boyfriend the family’s never met. And Violet, passing through myriad valleys of teen angst, including sallekhana, ritual fasting to death, has been committed to Fallkill, a mental facility. After ingesting morning glory seeds, Violet supposedly injured Will with a knife while attempting to attack her mother. The narrative unfolds in chapters following Will and Violet, ironic since hospitalized Violet is more emotionally grounded than mother-smothered Will, brainwashed into seeing Josephine as perfect. Violet’s perception of the Hurst family’s breakdown grows as she interacts with fellow Fallkill patients Corinna and especially Edie, “ever the damage[d] scholar of psychology,” a manic depressive college student with more insight into Josephine’s twisted psychology than the resident therapist, “Sara-pist.” Violet, wounded survivor, recognizes that Josephine, all lies, manipulation and control, is “cat-woman crazy, fueled by sadism and bottomless need.” When Violet, free from Fallkill and intent on slipping away to live with Rose, is confronted by Josephine, violence flashes, only to be followed by a melancholy conclusion that sifts through the debris. No beach-read escapism in this novel, but rather a hall of mirrors reflecting chaotic maternal psychological mayhem reminiscent of Mommie Dearest or Push or Ordinary People.

MAN ALIVE!

Zuravleff, Mary Kay Farrar, Straus and Giroux (304 pp.) $27.00 | Sep. 3, 2013 978-0-374-20231-6 A lightning strike skews the trajectory of a family. The opening of Zuravleff ’s second novel reads like a case history straight out of the annals of Oliver Sacks. Owen, a psychiatrist who specializes in pharmacological solutions to childhood neuropathologies ranging from ADHD to Asperger’s, is feeding a parking meter with quarters when he’s struck by lightning. His burns and nerve damage will heal with time, but the most intractable effect Owen suffers, besides a tendency to blurt uncomfortable truths, is a sudden and unprecedented passion for all things barbecue. Wife Toni, a professional recruiter of university presidents, becomes Owen’s full-time caregiver, which thoroughly upends her hitherto upscale Washington, D.C., suburban routine. The impact is felt by their children, twins Will and Ricky, juniors, respectively, at Penn and Duke, and teenage daughter Brooke, a talented gymnast. Will, addicted to pills and casual hookups, comes even more unglued when his prized 10-speed is trashed by marauding drunken frat boys. Ricky, a “math and myth geek,” is involved in an unhealthy flirtation with a charismatic professor and her husband. Brooke, whose vocabulary prowess almost equals her skill on the balance beam, fully indulges Zuravleff ’s penchant for variegated and ornate phraseology. Since her parents have been so preoccupied, Brooke has been unwilling to confess to them that her boyfriend has crossed a line from jealous to controlling and abusive. Toni is conflicted about her new 26

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role, in part since she suspects (correctly) that Owen is fantasizing about Will’s girlfriend, Kyra, and also due to her own close brush with adultery. The Thanksgiving feast, which Owen will prepare in his newly dug backyard pit, may be the occasion for the family itself to tumble into a much deeper hole. Although the progress of domestic entropy is minutely charted, Owen’s affliction, obviously intended as the infernal engine of family dysfunction, ultimately seems beside the point. This worthy attempt to dramatize the extent to which randomness rules our lives is subverted by aimless storytelling.

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN

Allen, Robin Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jul. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-2796-7

The character-heavy mystery of a murdered chef. Poppy Markham’s latest visit to Good Earth Preserves has nothing to do with her role as a Special Projects Inspector with the Austin/Travis County Health Department. The Feast in the Field is a yearly fine-dining dinner that promises pure pleasure. Poppy’s glad to be accompanied by her date Drew Cooper, even though the presence of her everdemanding stepmother puts a damper on the evening, which becomes significantly more dramatic when Dana White, head chef and newly elected president of Friends of the Farm, collapses before the dinner’s over. In spite of Poppy’s best efforts, Dana doesn’t survive. Poppy’s convinced that she can make the best progress by investigating the potential murder while all suspects are still at the farm. Her usual partner in crime-solving, Jamie Sherwood, shows up unexpectedly to offer Poppy a hand, though Poppy isn’t sure she should accept help from the man who once again wants to anoint himself her only boyfriend. Given the grocery-sized list of potential suspects, Poppy wonders whether there’s anyone who didn’t have opportunity and motive to kill Dana and whether she should be seeking help from Jamie or from Drew—for this case and for the future. So many characters that a cast list might have helped. Though many of them pass through without leaving much of an impression, Poppy’s boss, Olive, and the quirky Trevor, each of whom appears only briefly, are worth savoring; Allen (Stick a Fork In It, 2012, etc.) should take note.


m ys t e r y ROBERT B. PARKER’S WONDERLAND

Atkins, Ace Putnam (320 pp.) $26.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-399-16157-5

Spenser goes to bat for an old friend whose condo in Revere has become a most desirable property for all the wrong reasons. The money bantamweight boxing promoter Henry Cimoli’s been offered for his place in the Ocean View Condominium isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either, and he’s too old to move without some inducement; getting beaten up by a pair of goons is not his idea of an inducement. So, although he hates asking Spenser for a favor, he grits his teeth and asks. First, Spenser and his Cree apprentice, Zebulon Sixkill, help even the odds against the goons; then Z gets beaten up himself before Spenser’s able to identify Vegas casino mogul Rick Weinberg as the player behind Envolve Development’s sexy, brutal Jemma Fraser, who hired the thugs. Armed with knowledge as well as fists and guns, Spenser threatens to go to the newspapers with Weinberg’s plans, which will send Ocean View values skyrocketing before he can close the deal, unless he sweetens his offer. Weinberg, perhaps egged on by the conscience of Rachel, his wife of 40 years, obligingly ups the ante, and the condo board votes unanimously to accept his offer. The win-win scenario collapses, however, when someone cuts off Weinberg’s head, putting the deal in doubt and forcing Spenser to look deeper into the financials—until he finds himself up against not just two hirelings, but the full majesty of old-time mobster Gino Fish’s troops. Since his creator’s death, Spenser’s dialogue, flippant to start with, has become relentlessly arch, and the tendency must be catching, since several other characters get into verbal jousts with him. Still, it may be unfair to complain that Atkins (Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby, 2012) doesn’t write exactly like Parker. All in all, an entertaining effort.

A RESCUE FOR A QUEEN

Buckley, Fiona Creme de la Crime (224 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-178029-040-9

Queen Elizabeth I’s half sister continues her career as a most reluctant spy. In the past, Ursula Blanchard has undertaken some dangerous missions (Queen’s Bounty, 2012, etc.) at the behest of the queen and her spymaster Sir William Cecil. Now, even before the funeral meats for Ursula’s beloved husband, Hugh Stannard, are cold, Cecil urges her to take on

another assignment. Ursula’s Catholic foster daughter has received a marriage proposal from a Dutch citizen who lives near Brussels, and her parents have begged Ursula to accompany her there. Since Ursula’s archenemy Anne Percy, the exiled Countess of Northumberland, lives in Bruges and the Inquisition operates there, she is very unwilling to go. But Cecil is eager for her to investigate a possible plot against the queen by Roberto Ridolfi, a wealthy banker whose wife, Donna, is Ursula’s friend. Because Ridolfi is hosting the wedding, it will be a perfect opportunity for Ursula to ferret out the truth. Despite her fears, she and her loyal servants Robert Brockley and his wife, Fran Dale, set forth. No sooner have they arrived at the Ridolfi house that they ascertain that a plot is indeed afoot—but can they get proof? At Ridolfi’s home, Ursula meets her first husband, Matthew de la Roche, whom she had thought dead. Although Matthew is a staunch Catholic, he still loves Ursula enough to rescue her after she’s kidnapped by Anne Percy. In order to get the proofs she needs, Ursula must venture into the heart of enemy territory, a trip that could lead to a premature and unpleasant death. Buckley seasons another charming episode of historical intrigue with several surprises.

A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY

Carlisle, Kate Obsidian (320 pp.) $23.95 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-451-41596-7

A bookbinder once again becomes a magnet for murder. Brooklyn Wainwright, the bookbinder in question, lives in San Francisco with her drop-dead gorgeous boyfriend, Derek, a former British agent who currently does private investigations. Although she’s a dreadful cook, Brooklyn’s obsessed with food and delighted by a visit from her sister Savannah, a Cordon Bleu chef who owns a vegetarian restaurant in the Sonoma wine country. Savannah’s come to ask Brooklyn to repair a 1782 cookbook written by Obedience Green, a young woman who came to the Americas and cooked for a British general. The book is a gift for celebrity chef Baxter Cromwell, who’s invited all his buddies from their school days in Paris to the opening of his new restaurant. Brooklyn, who spent a summer living with the group, is included. At the special opening, the book, which Baxter accepts rather tepidly, elicits odd reactions from some of the other chefs. When Baxter is found stabbed to death, Savannah clutching a bloody knife, Brooklyn, whose past has included a number of unwelcome murder investigations (Peril in Paperback, 2012, etc.), enlists Derek to help find the real killer and the vanished cookbook. As it turns out, Baxter’s friends all had good reason to loathe him, so Brooklyn has loads of suspects. A second murder only adds urgency to her quest for the truth. Carlisle’s eighth Bibliophile mystery provides interesting suspects, a historical puzzle and the usual appended recipes.

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“Josie’s eighth...again provides a good mystery larded with antiques lore.” from lethal treasure

LETHAL TREASURE

Cleland, Jane K. Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-250-02694-1

An antiques dealer uses her expertise to help solve yet another murder. New York transplant Josie Prescott, always on the hunt for new items for her shop in Rocky Point, N.H., is bidding on an abandoned storage locker. The latest round brings some spirited bidding by Josie, an unknown man, and Josie’s friend Henri Dubois, whose decorating business always needs new finds. When Henri wins the auction, he asks Josie for help valuing some of his items, including a collection of old movie posters. Josie has befriended Henri and his wife, Leigh Ann, who are new to Rocky Point, and when a frantic Leigh Ann reports Henri missing, Josie’s eager to help. Leigh Ann finally gets the police to meet her to open the storage unit, the last place Henri was seen. To their shock, Henri’s battered body is inside. Of course Leigh Ann is a suspect, along with her guest from out of town, Scott, who turns out to be her ex-husband. Josie’s need to establish provenance of the valuable posters, coupled with her suspicion that they may have given Henri’s killer a motive, gives her a strong incentive to track down the person who rented the locker. Although Josie’s boyfriend, Ty, is always supportive, his job training Homeland Security agents can keep him from her for days at a time. While he’s away, someone breaks into Josie’s apartment during a big snowstorm and leaves without taking anything. When the police receive hints that Josie and Henri were having an affair, Josie, hurt and furious, resolves to use her skills to find a clever killer. Josie’s eighth (Dolled Up For Murder, 2012, etc.) again provides a good mystery larded with antiques lore.

FATAL DESCENT

Groundwater, Beth Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jun. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3482-8 A late-season rafting trip spells trouble for a river ranger doubling as an adventure tour guide. Mandy Tanner (Wicked Eddies, 2012, etc.) still spends her summers patrolling the Arkansas River in her home state of Colorado. But she and fiance Rob Juarez want so much to build up the client base of their fledgling RM Outdoor Adventures that they take a group on an October rafting/mountaineering trip down the Colorado River, which happens to be in Utah. To accommodate the climbers, they add Tom “Cool” O’Day to RM regulars Gonzo and Kendra. This late in the season, the placid waters of Lake Powell and the whitewater of Cataract Canyon will be so deserted that Mandy hopes the dozen hardy souls 28

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signed up for the tour get along. They don’t. West Coast multicultural gal pals Betsy, Mo and Viv are fine. They spend most of their time in their tent drinking box wine. Tina Norton, however, had the bright idea of inviting both of her divorced parents on the trip, and geology professor Elsa can’t help sniping mercilessly at her wimpy ex, Paul. The Andersons may be even worse. Out-of-shape parents Hal and Diana expect an outdoor Ritz Carlton, complete with valet service. Adult children Alice, Amy and Alex squabble. Amy’s husband, Les Williams, is a braggart and a bully. When Alex is mauled to death by a marauding bear, the trip swiftly spirals out of control. With their radio busted and no one on the trails to call for help, the RM crew has no choice other than to continue until they reach their designated take-out point at the end of Cataract. But naturalist Mo’s observation that the claw marks found on Alex aren’t the ones you’d expect from the canyon’s native black bears set Mandy on edge with fears of still more destruction ahead. Figuring out which river is in which state is just the beginning of readers’ frustration, as Groundwater squanders her opportunities for complex interactions among interesting characters, focusing instead on how her heroine’s virtue shines imperishably through.

SMARTY BONES

Haines, Carolyn Minotaur (352 pp.) $24.99 | May 21, 2013 978-0-312-64188-7 The best families of Zinnia, Miss., fear that a beautiful corpse will tie them to the Lincoln assassination. No sooner has the puckishly named Olive Twist arrived at The Gardens B&B than she claims that her research will implicate the Lady in Red, a woman dead since the Civil War era, in President Abraham Lincoln’s shooting and demonstrate that she shares the same gene pool as either transgender society reporter Cece Falcon or wealthy Oscar Richmond, husband of Tinkie, Sarah Booth Delaney’s partner in her detective agency. The town’s old guard is so dismayed they ask the private eyes (Bonefire of the Vanities, 2012, etc.) to shush the historian. Sarah Booth and Tinkie have hardly gotten a word in when Olive’s room is firebombed; her overworked assistant, Jimmy Boswell, is poisoned; and Cece’s brother Jeremiah and Oscar’s cousin Buford begin urging the Heritage Pride Heroes, a bunch of redneck survivalists, to take up arms. Sarah Booth and her fiance, Graf, her dog Sweetie Pie and cat Pluto enter full detective mode, much to the chagrin of Sheriff Coleman, Sarah Booth’s first love, who now seems so smitten with Olive that he never leaves her side. A rival historian staying at the B&B is thrilled with Olive’s woes. Graf goes missing. He is found. The Lady in Red’s corpse is abducted. Graf goes missing again. Jeremiah and Buford claim they have nothing to do with his disappearance. They don’t, but the B&B owner falls under suspicion. To find Graf and unravel the Lady in Red’s history, Sarah Booth must


survive a car crash, get rescued by Pluto’s claws, trudge up to the Dahlia House attic to read old letters secreted in a trunk and accost a demented perp who’s loathed her for years. Less chipper than most of Sarah Booth’s excursions— and it’s time to lay that silly ghost Jitty to rest.

DEATH RIDES AGAIN

Hamrick, Janice Minotaur (336 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-250-00555-7

Only murder can top a large family gathering for Thanksgiving. Divorced schoolteacher Jocelyn Shore has traveled from Austin to the family ranch for a down-home holiday. Her uncle Kel, who runs the ranch for his elderly uncle Herman, goes ballistic when he sees his daughter Ruby June with a black eye. Kel threatens his son-in-law Eddy with a shotgun, but that’s just the start of trouble. Jocelyn’s boyfriend, homicide detective Colin Gallagher, is staying in a nearby motel hoping that Jocelyn will join him even though she still has feelings for another man who’s trying to reignite their romance. Jocelyn’s cousin Kyla, her sometime partner in sleuthing, has fascinated T.J. Knoller, Kel’s next-door neighbor, who runs a hunting lodge complete with exotic animals and owns a racehorse set to win a big purse at the local fairgrounds. Even though T.J. is suing Uncle Kel over some disputed land, Kyla stubbornly continues to enjoy his company. When Eddy’s found shot to death on a remote part of Kel’s ranch, Kel is the No. 1 suspect even though Ruby June has vanished. Jocelyn saw Eddy in an argument with a questionable local contractor whose horse is the main competition for T.J.’s. Somehow, Uncle Herman ends up owning the horse, which handily wins the race when T.J.’s jockey is shot out of the saddle. Jocelyn is willing to take dangerous chances to prove Kel innocent, including taking a chance on love. Jocelyn’s third adventure (Death Makes the Cut, 2012, etc.) is a charming combination of humor and romance with a nice little mystery.

POPPET

Hayder, Mo Atlantic Monthly (400 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-8021-2107-3 DI Jack Caffery, of Avon and Somerset’s Major Crime Investigation Team, must figure out what agents—living or dead, human or supernatural—are behind the epidemic of violence at Beechway psychiatric unit. Senior nursing coordinator AJ LeGrande never expected moonlight and roses at Beechway, but the recent toll has been

disturbing indeed. Four years after Pauline Scott, an anorexic patient who was convinced someone was sitting on her chest, was found dead, another patient, Zelda Lornton, has died 12 days after cutting herself, and something has encouraged Moses Jackson, not a patient to be trifled with, to scoop out his own eye. Suspicion naturally falls on Isaac Handel, who’s been committed to Beechway since killing his parents 15 years ago. But once AJ calls in Caffery (Hanging Hill, 2012, etc.), it’s already too late to question Isaac, who’s been unaccountably transferred to a group home from which he promptly vanishes. Even more menacing is the possibility that the cause of all this mayhem is The Maude, the ghost of a dwarf whose death over a century ago may not have kept her from continued malevolence. AJ, besotted by his recent discovery that distant, oh-so-proper Beechway director Melanie Arrow is quite the firecracker between the sheets, is hardly in the best place to make sense of the web of delusions and violence past and present. And Jack’s investigation is hampered by the fact that two different players are covering up two different crimes on behalf of two different siblings. So it’ll be something of a miracle if the mystery can be solved at whatever human cost. More jittery than suspenseful, but the complications are authentic and conscientiously worked out. If this installment doesn’t win new fans, it’ll keep the old ones happy. (Agent: Jane Gregory)

DEAD LIONS

Herron, Mick Soho Crime (348 pp.) $25.95 | May 7, 2013 978-1-61695-225-9 A second anti-terrorist workout for the sorely tried denizens of Finsbury’s Slough House (Slow Horses, 2010). Successful retirees from MI5 are quietly pensioned off with the tacit thanks of a grateful nation. The less successful ones—the ones who’ve shown themselves unfit because of unsafe personal habits or screw-ups that don’t rise to the level of criminal malfeasance—are packed off to Slough House, a deadend office from which it’s hoped they’ll take themselves away by resigning from the service once they realize they’re never going to do anything important again. But now the embers of Slough House are stirred by the death of one of its own. Dickie Bow, formerly a street rat in Berlin who’s been following legendary Russian agent Alexander Popov, evidently learned enough for one final text message—“cicadas”—before he died, apparently of a heart attack, on a London bus. Jackson Lamb, the perennially annoyed leader of the Slough House brigade, decides that both Dickie’s death and the cicadas warrant closer examination. Two other Slough House colleagues, Min Harper and his lover, Louise Guy, have meanwhile been seconded as minders for the upcoming visit of oil oligarch Arkady Pashkin. Despite the fact that the Limitations Committee resolutely refuses to acknowledge the dead lions of Slough House, it disburses enough |

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“A noir for fans of Ice-T, with lots of excremental swearing and raunchy epithets.” from mirror image

funding to send River Cartwright undercover to the village of Upshott, where he learns some truly alarming things about the cicadas just in time for the explosive climax of Pashkin’s visit. Herron (Down Cemetery Road, 2009, etc.) provides a dour, twisty spy thriller with something for everyone: part post–Cold War miasma, part James Bond heroics, and elliptical withal.

MIRROR IMAGE

Ice-T; Hinojosa, Jorge Forge (320 pp.) $14.99 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0-7653-3219-6 Working with a new co-author, rapper, reality TV star and Law & Order: SVU actor Ice-T has produced his second gangster thriller (Kings of Vice, 2011). Three months out of Attica, where he did a 20-year stretch, Crush Casey has two problems to solve: how to keep Carla sweet even if he won’t give her a baby and how to resume his kingpin role among the old and new players in New York’s crime world. The bickering with Carla is endless, but the guys respond well to his quotations from Sun Tzu and his plans to undermine the NYPD, which involve some heavy-duty backup from Champa and Shin and a car-heist scheme that will net a multimillion-dollar payday. First, though, Crush must take care of a small matter for Lomax, his parole officer, who wants him to off Armenian heroin distributor Alek Petrosian. Crush agrees, not only because he has no choice, but because he wants his own men out of the drug trade. Meanwhile, he makes high-tech preparations to leak police transgressions, like blackmail, assault and murder, to news departments and social media sites, creating chaos in law enforcement. But then the flu knocks out the computer whiz assigned to ensnare the police, Carla is taken hostage, and Petrosian, like Crush, turns out to have his eye on those 20 oneof-a-kind automobiles due to arrive in the States. A noir for fans of Ice-T, with lots of excremental swearing and raunchy epithets.

HANG FIRE

Kisor, Henry Five Star (246 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 19, 2013 978-1-4328-2685-7 Implacable Sheriff Steve Martinez (Cache of Corpses, 2007, etc.) investigates a series of musket murders. Go figure. Upper Michigan’s Porcupine County hopes to lift its flagging economy with some Revolutionary War re-enactments targeted at summer tourists. The county board has urged Desert Storm–vet Sheriff Martinez, a Lakota Indian raised by a white family, to make sure things run smoothly with the 30

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re-enactors. Many of them, known as the Mountain Men, camp out together near the performance site and take method acting to an extreme level, living in character even when there’s no audience around. When teacher Gloria Lake, who portrayed a seamstress in the re-enactments, succumbs to a fatal musket shot just below the rib cage, Martinez’s role becomes more official. At first, Gloria’s colleagues close ranks, offering Martinez no helpful information. After stonewalling in an initial interview, however, her good friend and fellow teacher Sheila Bodey admits that Gloria had also worked among the Mountain Men as a prostitute. Although Martinez’s ladylove Ginny Fitzgerald reasonably explains how Gloria’s death was most likely an accident, a judgment that becomes the official ruling, his gut tells him it’s murder. Over the succeeding months, several more deaths by musket cast a cloud of suspicion over the original verdict and raise Martinez’s hackles. Once murder is a given, the pieces of the puzzle fall, one by one, into place. A confident and engaging whodunit. Kisor’s prose is as refreshingly clean and balanced as the hero’s investigative style.

THE END OF THE WORLD IN BRESLAU

Krajewski, Marek Melville House (304 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 2, 2013 978-1-61219-177-5

In decadent 1920s Germany, a dutiful but haunted detective unravels a pair of bizarre murders as his personal life crumbles around him. In 1960, as he lies dying ignominiously of lung cancer in New York with a priest standing nearby, Eberhard Mock confesses the story in a flashback to his friend Herbert Anwaldt. On a November Monday in 1927, Criminal Councilor Mock is summoned to a tenement in Breslau, where a shoemaker named Rohmig works. Having knocked down a wall to find the source of a noxious smell, Rohmig has found a corpse, bound and gagged and with a calendar page pinned to his waistcoat. A card found on the body conveniently identifies him as musician Emil Gelfert, 50, and even includes his address. Another victim, unemployed locksmith Berthold Honnefelder, is found butchered in the Tenderloin, in his pocket is a small calendar with a particular date circled. Trapped in a loveless marriage and beset by personal demons, Mock nevertheless probes the case doggedly over the objections of his superiors, following his instinct that the calendar pages are the key to the killer’s motive. While his wife, Sophie, carouses with her intimate friend Elisabeth and a debauched baron, Mock acts so recklessly that he nearly bungles his investigation. He drinks heavily; assaults both suspects and Sophie; even assigns detectives to follow her in her escapades. In the second of Mock’s five adventures translated into English (Death in Breslau, 2012, etc.), darkly atmospheric writing and complex characters draw the reader into a vividly depicted era of modern history.


AS SHE LEFT IT

McPherson, Catriona Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (360 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jun. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3677-8 A mystery a young woman finds in her childhood home leads her to revelations about her clouded past. Opal Jones left home at 12 to escape her alcoholic mother’s promiscuous lifestyle. Following her mum’s death, she returns to Leeds and moves into the family home. The neighbors are much as she remembers, but all is oddly changed by the disappearance of Dennis and Margaret’s grandson Craig, whose mother, Karen, no longer speaks to them. The police looked closely at everyone on Mote Street—including Opal’s mum, whose boyfriend at the time was Karen’s husband—but Craig was never found. Across the street from Opal live nosy Mrs. Pickess, obsessed with cleanliness; Opal’s beloved old music teacher Fishbo Gordon and his fellow band member Pep Kendal; and the Joshis family, who run a taxi service. They all seem to be hiding secrets. Opal often hears her next-door neighbor, the only new arrival on Mote Street, sobbing through their adjoining wall. After she finds an odd message written inside an article of furniture, Opal resolves to track down related messages. Her quest takes her to the wealthy Fossett family, whose senile daughter, Norah, is the only occupant of a huge house. As Opal tries to discover what happened to Craig and searches Norah’s house for more clues, repressed memories of her own past float up, threatening her and all her old neighbors. The creator of Dandy Gilver (Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder, 2012, etc.) has produced a stand-alone that is worlds apart, a fascinating, mysterious ramble you can’t put down.

CIRCLE OF SHADOWS

Robertson, Imogen Pamela Dorman/Viking (384 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 17, 2013 978-0-670-02628-9 An English widow and an anatomist visit 18th-century Germany to rescue a relative accused of murder. Now that they’ve solved several complicated mysteries on their home turf (Island of Bones, 2012, etc.), Harriet Westerman and her friend Gabriel Crowther must deal with a bizarre murder in the Duchy of Maulberg. Harriet’s brother-inlaw Daniel Clode is accused of killing Lady Martesen when he is found raving near her body, his wrists slit. Clode is so wellconnected back in England that the duke, whose nuptials are near, orders District Officer Krall to cooperate with Harriet and Crowther. A little research reveals that the carnival mask

Clode was wearing was treated with a hallucinatory drug. Harriet is shocked when she realizes that the castrato opera singer and spy Manzerotti, whom she blames for her husband’s death, is at the court. Manzerotti offers her the chance to kill him in revenge, but instead, they come to an uneasy truce and agree to work together. Manzerotti has asked the bright young spy Pegel to discover more about a clandestine revolutionary organization seeking to overthrow the aristocratic rulers. When highly placed members of the organization begin to die in strange ways, always with slit wrists, the sleuths are plunged into a strange world of automata, necromancy, poison and deceit. Though some readers may find this adventure too long and convoluted, the combination of unusual historical nuggets, a taxing mystery and good writing will please many more.

UNDERCURRENT

Rowson, Pauline Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-7278-8268-4 DI Andy Horton (Death Lies Beneath, 2012, etc.) waxes increasingly frustrated when his superiors just can’t seem to connect the dots. The death of naval historian Douglas Spalding was bad enough. Spalding was found floating in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard shortly after his lecture in the adjacent National Museum of the Royal Navy. Career-minded DCI Lorraine Bliss decides that the quickest way to dispose of the case is to label it a suicide. Horton can’t shake her, even when Daniel Redsall, who came all the way from Ulster to attend Spalding’s talk, turns up dead on Carl Ashton’s yacht in Oyster Quays. Horton interviews museum staff, university staff and Redsall’s Aunt Beatrice trying to find the tie between the two men. But he can’t even get a coherent account of Spalding’s research program. Retired naval officer Ivor Meadows thinks he was writing about women in the Royal Navy. Colleague Erica Leyton says that he was looking into HMS Challenger. Another says he was looking into prostitution. The subject of Spalding’s research is hard to ascertain since his briefcase, laptop and memory stick are all missing. The more Horton digs, the more he feels thwarted by the very people who should be helping him—it’s the same with his search for information about his mother, Jennifer, who disappeared when he was 10. It takes still another murder to get the attention of members of his own team, DCI Bliss and DS Uckfield. And Andy’s frustration may just be reaching the tipping point. Another solid procedural from Rowson, with a little kick of spy stuff for the adventurous.

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“The third action-packed case for Manny...teems with historical interest, even if you’re not a re-enactor.” from death on the greasy grass

SCORPIONS’ NEST

Trow, M.J. Creme de la Crime (224 pp.) $28.95 | May 1, 2013 978-1-78029-039-3 Christopher Marlowe spies on the papists favoring Mary, the Scottish queen. Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, instructs Cambridge alumnus Kit Marlowe, now eking out a living as a playwright, to head for the English College in Rheims, where it’s believed that Matthew Baxter, the most recent tried and convicted papal fanatic, has gone to escape the London hangman. Alongside Kit, as he ferrets out information harmful to the crown, are codebreaker Thomas Phelippes, vintner Solomon Aldred and former don Michael Johns. They get help from two harlots, one of whom was in bed with Father Laurenticus when his throat was cut. That made him the third English College victim, soon to be joined by a fourth. A so-called Geneva ring is left by his side, but one of the doxies has secreted a scrap of paper that may hold a coded message. Fortified by much drinking of claret and breakfasting on oats, cast members follow one another through dark alleys and back entrances to the college. They discover a secret crypt housing dead Catholics and make many attempts to decipher substitution codes. Kit is forced to invent several cover stories for himself. When he sets a trap to identify the English traitor, he catches someone he hadn’t suspected and ends up offering unexpected thanks to Baxter, who steps in just in time to save his life, allowing him to return to London for another confrontation with rival playwright Robert Greene (Witch Hammer, 2012, etc.), who has stolen his newest work, Tamburlaine. Kit has charm, and the English College full of exiled priests makes for an interesting setting, but there are almost as many conspiracies as hourly Masses.

MORTAL LOCK

Vachss, Andrew Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (300 pp.) $15.95 paper | May 7, 2013 978-0-307-95083-3 The baddest noir stylist of them all (That’s How I Roll, 2012, etc.) digs into his archives from the past 15 years and comes up with 20 visits to hell. No matter where they live or what they do, nobody in Vachss’ world ever has a nice day. In “Postwar Boom,” set back in 1947, two closemouthed veterans cross the country in a series of cars provided by someone who’s hired them as killers. The fate of a remote village depends on child sacrifice in “Blood Orchid.” The gun rights advocate in “Choice of Weapons” gets his at the hands of a neighbor who has strong reasons for revenge. A young woman with a roving eye plays a misbegotten prank on her fiance in “Corazón.” 32

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The final entry, the feature-length screenplay “Underground,” tracks episodes of violent conflict between teenage gangs fighting for survival in a glumly dystopian future. The stories remote in time and place, however, are less compelling than those in which Vachss discloses the same darkly atavistic desires on random street corners. Some of the briefest entries here—snapshots as short as a single page—are as blistering as anything Vachss has ever written. In “Sure Thing,” a gambler finds that he just can’t give up the ghost while there’s still money in his pocket. “They’re All Alike” pairs a murderous john with a streetwalker who’s more than his match. “Savior” is the remarkably concise confession of a thief-turned-killer. Of the longer tales, the one that maintains this intensity most consistently is “Ghostwriter,” which follows an aspiring writer who takes no prisoners in his hunger for professional success. The outlier, “Veil’s Visit,” co-authored with Joe R. Lansdale, is both loose and funny. A collection of white-hot short stories.

DEATH ON THE GREASY GRASS

Wendelboe, C. M. Berkley Prime Crime (384 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-425-26325-9 A vacation visit leads to a nasty murder case for FBI agent Manny Tanno. Manny and his police officer friend Willie With Horn, of the Pine Ridge Reservation, are enjoying the Real Bird Little Big Horn Reenactment on the Crow Agency Reservation when one of the re-enactors is shot. Although it looks like an accident, someone has been caught on tape changing the blanks for real ammunition, making it a case for Manny. What first appears to be simple gets very complicated as the bodies pile up. Local auctioneer Harlan White Bird had been given the fabulous Beauchamp collection of Native American artifacts to sell. The most valuable item in the collection is the journal of Levi Star Dancer, a scout for Custer. Now, Harlan is dead, and the journal is missing, along with Harlan’s drinking buddy, Vietnam vet Sam Star Dancer. Sam’s sister Chenoa is not only a wealthy rancher, but a stunning woman whose image has been used in many Montana publicity campaigns. Chenoa’s husband, Cubby, may be a former rodeo star, but that evidently doesn’t keep Chenoa from an affair with Wilson Eagle Bull, a powerful Lakota with political ambitions. Another missing pal of Harlan’s and Sam’s who turns up dead is Itchy, a meth-addicted Crow. When yet another body is found in Sam’s burned-out house, Chenoa is more concerned with recovering the journal, which contains information potentially damaging to both her and Eagle Bull, than with the death of her alcoholic brother. Once Willie is shot while looking for the killer, Manny doesn’t care whose toes he steps on to uncover the truth. The third action-packed case for Manny (Death Where the Bad Rocks Live, 2012, etc.) teems with historical interest, even if you’re not a re-enactor. (Agent: Bill Contardi)


COUNTDOWN CITY

Winters, Ben H. Quirk Books (288 pp.) $14.95 paper | Jul. 16, 2013 978-1-59474-626-0 Series: Last Policeman, 2 As the world’s inevitable demise draws near, a former cop refuses to shirk what he takes to be his moral responsibilities. Impelled by an inner sense of duty, former Concord police detective Hank Palace starts on a mission to find missing Brett Cavatone when his wife, Hank’s former baby sitter, begs him to take the case. As Hank measures the remaining 77 days before asteroid Maia hits, in servings of dog food for his bichon frisé Houdini, he’s a man on a mission that, even if successful, may be altogether meaningless. But he has no purpose greater than going through the professional and ethical motions. His stoicism stands in stark contrast with the activism of his sister Nico, who, with her revolutionary friends, is convinced there’s a government conspiracy to be found out. Hank must blend in with Nico’s world if he’s to have any hope of learning what happened to Brett, who’s a bit more unpredictable than his wife has led Hank to believe. Even if rumors of a government conspiracy aren’t true, civilization is abuzz with secret factions and alliances Hank must understand in order to find out the truth before the clock runs down. Some of the melancholy charm of the first in this series (The Last Policeman, 2012) is dissipated, for Hank solves a less inventive mystery set against, rather than fully integrated into, a hopeless backdrop.

science fiction and fantasy THE INCREMENTALISTS

Brust, Steven; White, Skyler Tor (304 pp.) $24.99 | Sep. 24, 2013 978-0-7653-3422-0

Urban fantasy collaboration from Brust (The Lord of Castle Black, 2003, etc.) and White (In Dreams Begin, 2010, etc.). Poker player Phil belongs to the Incrementalists, a small, secret society able to store memories in a common location called the Garden (but where is it and how does it work?); more, when one of them dies, they can transplant their memories into another person. The drawback is that, while both sets of memories persist, only |

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one of the two personalities survives. Phil’s memories reach back to the earliest days of modern humans, and his dominant personality has persisted for 2,000 years. The group’s members are dedicated to improving the world, just a little at a time, and they do it by expertly reading people, finding their triggers (“switches”) and manipulating them (“meddling”). For 400 years, Phil has been obsessed with Celeste, though the feeling is far from mutual. Now Celeste is dead, so Phil must find a new body for her. Who would take a chance on immortality at the risk of losing their personality? Well, software designer Ren jumps at the chance. But once the memory implantation’s complete, it’s obvious that something has gone wrong: Ren is still Ren, yet she hasn’t acquired Celeste’s memories. Worse, it emerges that Celeste meddled with both Phil and Ren to produce exactly the situation that prevails—and her plan threatens not only the integrity of the Garden, but the Incrementalists’ entire raison d’être. Unfortunately, this sounds far more convincing in summary than in detail. Supposedly dominant, 2,000-year-old Phil’s personality is still easily duped and frequently succumbs to overwhelming emotional bouts; he’s mooned over Celeste for four centuries without him or anyone else gleaning any real insight into her true nature. And we’re offered few examples of how these expert manipulators actually operate. The ideas are there; the execution leaves something to be desired.

GUARDIAN

Campbell, Jack Ace/Berkley (416 pp.) $26.95 | May 7, 2013 978-0-425-26050-0 Series: Lost Fleet, 9 Continuing the deep-space adventures of Adm. John “Black Jack” Geary and company (Invincible, 2012, etc.). Having fought off the alien Kicks and captured one of their colossal battleships, renamed Invincible, and acquiring allies in the form of the alien Dancers, Geary is ready to return with his battered fleet to the Alliance home worlds. But first they must pass through the Midway star system, where ex-CEOs Iceni and Drakon have defeated the remnants of the Syndic loyalists. Unfortunately, it appears that the Syndics have invented a method of switching off the hyperspace gates necessary for rapid transit, necessitating a tiresome series of jumps through star systems where the Syndic Empire still clings to power. While theoretically the Alliance is no longer at war with the Empire, the latter is keen to do everything in its power to annoy, harass, threaten and otherwise disrupt Geary’s passage. The Syndics’ secondary objective is to capture or destroy Invincible which, though packed with potentially invaluable alien technology, is presently an inert hulk requiring most of Geary’s own battleships to tow it. The vast ship is also haunted by ghosts that, while intangible, are psychically all too real. Once again, the visceral action comes fast and furious as the fleet attempts to evade or disrupt the |

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“[McIntosh] offers an emotionally and sociologically genuine-seeming vision of the 22nd century.” from love minus eighty

traps the Syndics have laid. Geary proves a model commander, prone to doubts and moments of weakness, refreshingly willing to be advised by his subordinates, especially his wife, Tanya Desjani, who captains his flagship, and Emissary Victoria Rione, whose sharp political skills will prove invaluable. Well up to the high standards established by this intriguing series.

THE WORLD OF THE END

Gafla, Ofir Touché Translated by Ginsburg, Mitch Tor (368 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-7653-3356-8 The first appearance in English translation for Gafla’s first novel (2004), and it’s a weird and effective blend of adventure/fantasy, whodunit and romance. Ben Mendelssohn styles himself an epilogist—he writes endings to stories for people who are unable to. After the death of his beloved wife, Marian, under “bizarre aeronautical circumstances,” inconsolable Ben struggles through another 18 months of existence before putting a bullet through his brain. With thousands of others who died in the same instant, he wakes in the Other World (“We wish you a happy and satisfying death”), an orderly, secular and surpassingly strange realm where sleep and climate can be personally programmed; clothing, money and profit are unknown; and the no-longer-dead are housed in vast cities ordered by the year of the person’s death. Charlatans, people who never lived on Earth, tend forests of family trees and other matters. But of his Marian, there is no sign. Baffled, Ben turns to Samuel Sutton, aka The Mad Hop, a wacky afterlife investigator, for help in locating her. But as Samuel soon, and Ben eventually, grasps, the search is ineluctably interwoven with characters and actions in the world of the living. Born of their mutual fascination with the works of Salman Rushdie, a certain Ormus conducts an electronic romance with Vina. Samuel persuades irascible artist Raphael to paint Marian’s portrait, even though he, Raphael, isn’t dead yet. Ann “Anntipathy,” a nurse who hates people and urges her patients to die, finds herself the recipient of oral sex from Adam, a pedophile and video games designer, whose brother, Shahar, a famous actor, is also a murderer. A talking photograph inserts itself into the plot. Simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, handled with sublime assurance, astonishingly inventive, funny and totally fascinating. (Agent: Kathleen Anderson)

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THE EXECUTIONER’S HEART

Mann, George Tor (352 pp.) $27.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-7653-2776-5

Fourth Victorian occult/steampunk adventure for Queen Victoria’s special agents Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes and their Scotland Yard counterpart, Chief Inspector Sir Charles Bainbridge (The Immorality Engine, 2011, etc.). Bainbridge ponders a string of grisly murders, each with the victim’s chest cracked open and the heart torn out, and speculates as to a supernatural motive. Newbury, however, severely weakened by the occult treatments he’s giving to Amelia, Miss Hobbes’ psychic sister (she was severely damaged in the previous adventure), has another difficult problem. He’s been engaged by Edward, Prince of Wales, who, amid concerns that his mother is losing her grip on the nation, rumbles about German spies and the possibility of war. After some tepid sleuthing, it emerges that the murders are probably the work of an implacable mercenary known as the Executioner, a tattooed and seemingly immortal Frenchwoman with an artificial heart. Miss Hobbes, meanwhile, suspects Bainbridge of plotting against Queen Victoria, a dying and vindictive hulk kept alive only by repulsive machines. When summoned to the royal presence, our heroes loyally suppress treasonous thoughts but soon will no longer be able to ignore the mad, bad queen’s malign influence. And what, precisely, are the Prince of Wales’ real motives? The Executioner proves a worthy but one-dimensional antagonist, with a heroic Newbury enjoying several James Bond–ish escapades, royal plotting by inference rather than deduction, the doughty Miss Hobbes given nothing much to do and a great deal of stage-setting for future entries. Exciting but less than fully satisfying.

LOVE MINUS EIGHTY

McIntosh, Will Orbit/Little, Brown (432 pp.) $16.00 paper | $9.99 e-book Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-316-21778-1 978-0-316-21777-4 e-book Set approximately 100 years after McIntosh’s previous work (Soft Apocalypse, 2011), this novel ponders the effect that a 24-hour virtual lifestyle and an almost psychotically appearance-focused culture can have on romance. Mira is a “bridesicle”: For a steep fee, a man can temporarily revive her frozen, badly damaged (but still beautiful) corpse for a chat; if she can charm him sufficiently, he’ll pay the far higher cost to fully restore her to life in exchange for her agreement to marry him. The trouble is, Mira is gay. After a very public breakup with Lorelei—who intends the drama to gain her more virtual followers—a despondent Rob accidentally runs over and kills Winter,


a young schoolteacher out jogging. Desperate to apologize, he works long hours at a factory job so he can afford to visit her at the bridesicle facility and finds himself falling in love. And Veronika, a professional dating coach who feeds her clients clever, flirtatious lines to say during their dates, is seemingly incapable of forging her own deep emotional connections. This is speculative fiction at its most personal and powerful, extrapolating current social and technological trends and exploring how they would affect future people simply trying to live their lives and make their existence matter to someone. The author is perhaps too quick to dismiss the concept of “groomsicles” and the financial viability of same-sex cryogenic “dating,” but apart from that, he offers an emotionally and sociologically genuine-seeming vision of the 22nd century. Intriguing, quirky, perversely charming and definitely affecting.

REQUIEM

Scholes, Ken Tor (400 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-7653-2130-5 The long-awaited fourth and penultimate installment of the sci-fi/fantasy saga The Psalms of Isaak (Antiphon, 2010, etc.) takes off running and doesn’t stop. A generations-spanning plan has borne its violent fruit, and the Y’Zirites, an empire of religious zealots who believe that ritual bloodletting and scarification “heal the world,” are on the verge of conquering the Named Lands. However, various factions of resistance are prepared to make their last stand. The remaining armies plot one final, devastating act of sabotage. In accordance with a message from her long-dead grandfather, Lady Jin Li Tam intends to assassinate Y’Zir’s mysterious Crimson Empress. Jin’s husband, Gypsy King Rudolfo, pretends to collaborate with the conquerors while secretly plotting their defeat. Meanwhile, Jin’s father, Vlad Li Tam, now possessed of a devastating magical artifact, pursues his own terrible purpose in Y’Zir. And those are only some of the threads of a complexly woven story (others include exploring the ruins of a highly advanced civilization on the moon and the desperate flight of an amnesiac mechoservitor and the little girl who loves him). Jumping into the series at this point is decidedly inadvisable, but readers of previous volumes will be enthralled—and entirely occupied with keeping track of which side everyone’s on, as the genuine and the elaborately faked betrayals pile up. As various parts of the epic’s plotlines become clearer, motivations become murkier; it’s still anyone’s guess how this will end. Exciting, dizzying, heartbreaking. (Agent: Jennifer Jackson)

r om a n c e HOW TO TAME YOUR DUKE

Gray, Juliana Berkley Sensation (320 pp.) $7.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-425-26566-6

When her father is assassinated, Princess Emilie flees to England, then goes undercover as Mr. Grimsby, a male tutor to the teenage son of the scarred, war-wounded Duke of Ashland. When their German principality comes under attack, three princesses escape to England and the protection of their uncle, the Duke of Olympia, who arranges to send them each undercover into different households across the land. Emilie, the most studious and intellectual of the three, winds up as the tutor to the son of the reclusive Duke of Ashland, who was wounded in India and shuns society in his remote Yorkshire estate. Immediately drawn to the damaged yet compelling duke, Emilie finds herself enticed into a platonic but highly sensual relationship with the man at a nearby hotel, while still maintaining her disguise in his household. And if that situation isn’t confusing and fraught enough on its own, things become even more problematic when enemies of her kingdom attack her in Yorkshire. Gray begins a new trilogy on the heels of her highly successful Affairs in Moonlight (A Duke Never Yields, 2013, etc.), following a trio of sisters who flee their besieged principality in late 1889. Fun, engaging, sensual and touching, the first installment reads like a slightly outlandish fairy tale, but Gray’s lyrical writing, intense emotion and spirited characters carry the sophisticated plot to satisfying fruition and keep readers invested every step of the way. Gray’s fans will recognize the ever-plotting Duke of Olympia and some other minor characters from her previous trilogy. A delightful romance treat.

ONCE UPON A TOWER

James, Eloisa Avon/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $7.99 paper | May 28, 2013 978-0-06-222387-6

An erotic novel set in England and Scotland in the early 1800s. Gowan, a Scottish duke, falls in love with Edie, the daughter of an English gentleman, who reciprocates his feelings. They are both virgins: Gowan was disgusted by his own father’s philandering and wants to save himself for the love of his life, and Edie is a proper English lady. Both were raised by their fathers after their respective mothers died. As it happens, sexual incompatibility |

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“A fresh, unique storyline that encompasses mystery, an avenging witch and a high-stakes love affair...” from the devil’s heart

threatens their marriage, but ultimately, their shared values as well as their deep love for one another will save it. Edie is a talented cellist who might have been a world-class performer had she been born a man. She jealously guards her time for practice. It was her father who taught her to play, and music was how they connected. Gowan, meanwhile, runs the family estate and oversees the workers, unlike his father, who was an irresponsible drunk. Gowan also has a half sister he wants to raise with Edie. Edie loves her stepmother, whose own marriage to Edie’s father is on the brink. The two women help each other with marital advice that eventually will pay off. The dialogue between characters is witty, but there are too many explicit, repetitious bedroom scenes. According to the author, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the story of Rapunzel inspired this book, and there are references to and quotes from both. A work of romantic historical fiction with an emphasis on sex.

YOU’RE THE ONE

Kaye, Robin Signet Eclipse/NAL (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-451-41356-7

Logan Blaise comes home to Red Hook, Brooklyn, to keep an eye on his sick father and the family restaurant and ends up falling in love with the talented but secretive chef he hires. This is the second installment of Kaye’s Red Hook trilogy (Back to You, 2012). Logan’s life is easygoing and uncomplicated. He runs a San Francisco vineyard; he’s engaged to the owner’s daughter; and no one makes any emotional demands on him. But when he comes back to Red Hook to keep the family restaurant going while his brother Storm is on his honeymoon, things get complicated. The chef quits with no notice, and at first, Logan considers it a miracle that Skye, an amazing replacement, walks in off the street as soon as he posts the sign. Unfortunately, she’s beautiful, full of secrets and the first woman ever to make him believe he’s capable of falling in love. Forced by his attraction and newly discovered emotions to break it off with his fiancee, Logan then has to convince Skye that he’s worth the risk while trying to figure out what she’s hiding. Turns out she’s from San Francisco, too, from a veritable restaurant dynasty, determined to make it in her own restaurant kitchen, on her own merits and away from her paternalistic family. Navigating meddling friends, angry families and a skittish Skye, Logan must gain her trust in spite of obstacles in his path. Good thing he’s discovered his heart; Skye’s the one he’s determined to give it to. While the book’s concept is strong, and there are plenty of romance fans who will enjoy the sparks flying and the sexy attraction between Skye and Logan, there are too many missed opportunities to show growing trust and emotional connection. Also, the condescending tone of the female characters continually putting up with the idiotic antics of their male counterparts grows thin. 36

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An adequate effort for the right romance audience but a step down from Back To You.

THE DEVIL’S HEART The Chattan Curse

Maxwell, Cathy Avon/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-06-207024-1 Lady Margaret Chattan journeys to the Scottish Highlands in the hopes of breaking a family curse and saving her brothers; along the way, she finds an angry witch, a helpful spirit and the love of her life. One of the most beautiful women in Regency England, and part of one of the most influential families, Lady Margaret is considered a spectacular catch, but the last thing on her mind is marriage. Since she secretly squandered her virtue years ago, she avoids romantic relationships, acquiring a reputation for being cold and distant and the nickname The Unattainable. More recently, her attention has been focused on breaking an ancient curse that kills the Chattan men once they fall in love, which her two beloved brothers have foolishly done. Margaret is the first female Chattan in generations, so everyone is looking to her for answers. Traveling to Scotland to follow up on her brothers’ research, Margaret’s party is accosted by a sudden, violent storm which blows them all off the road and over a cliff. Miraculously, Margaret alone survives and is found by Heath Macnachtan, laird of the descendants of the witch who set the curse. Convinced the storm was the supernatural work of the witch, and her survival was due to the gentle spirit of the witch’s daughter, Margaret is met with derision by the Macnachtans. Still, there are dark events in the clan, too—including the murder of Heath’s elder brother, the former laird—and the more the two explore that mystery, as well as the history of the curse, the more they are drawn together, despite Heath’s skepticism. Concluding the Chattan Curse trilogy, popular historical romance author Maxwell has penned an intriguing, suspenseful story with supernatural elements that keeps the audience captivated and curious. The romantic and sexual tensions are fueled both by ancient familial enmity and a decadelong attraction on Heath’s part to The Unattainable Lady Margaret, but love ultimately conquers all due to trust, respect and brave hearts. A fresh, unique storyline that encompasses mystery, an avenging witch and a high-stakes love affair makes this an intriguing, satisfying romance.


nonfiction WHY PHILANTHROPY MATTERS How the Wealthy Give, and What It Means for Our Economic Well-Being

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: AESTHETICS by Ivan Brunetti............................................................39 WRAPPED IN THE FLAG by Claire Conner.......................................41

Acs, Zoltan J. Princeton Univ. (270 pp.) $29.95 | Feb. 24, 2013 978-0-691-14862-5

SPELL IT OUT by David Crystal........................................................ 42 RADICAL ABUNDANCE by K. Eric Drexler..................................... 44 THE NAZI AND THE PSYCHIATRIST by Jack El-Hai.......................47 HIGH PRICE by Carl Hart...................................................................50 THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS by Jonathan Hennessey......................50 THE BROTHERS by Stephen Kinzer....................................................54 THE ART OF THE RESTAURATEUR by Nicholas Lander...................56 THE NORMAN CONQUEST by Marc Morris.................................... 60 I HATE TO LEAVE THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE by Howard Norman..62 DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? by Paul A. Offit.................................62 MEN WE REAPED by Jesmyn Ward................................................... 69 LOUDER THAN HELL by Jon Wiederhorn; Katherine Turman.........70 MEN WE REAPED A Memoir

Ward, Jesmyn Bloomsbury (256 pp.) $26.00 Sep. 17, 2013 978-1-60819-521-3

Acs (Entrepreneurship and Public Policy/George Mason Univ.; Entrepreneurship, Geography, and American Economic Growth, 2006, etc.) argues that philanthropy’s contribution to American capitalism is unique. The author distinguishes between philanthropy’s investmentlike reciprocal character, which “requires the recipient to make some investment” of time or energy from the charity, and alms-giving to meet current needs. Acs conceives of capitalism as resting on four pillars—“opportunity, innovation, wealth, and philanthropy”—and he presents the view that what “differentiates American capitalism from all other forms of capitalism” is this philanthropy-fueled creation of opportunity. The author provides his answers for two related questions: How does one convince the wealthy to give to create opportunity for others, and to which organizations or individuals should they give? Acs develops an interesting account of American economic history as he traces the activities of philanthropists across the decades. He highlights many cases, including George Peabody’s precedent-setting educational foundation in Baltimore, which was established in the 18th century. Acs also assesses individuals and families who have sought to create institutional forms of wealth transmission across the generations, and he examines the evolution of trusts and similar institutions. He features the Rockefeller and Ford families, and their eponymous foundations, as exemplars of success, and he repeatedly references the Stanford family’s role in California’s private higher education system. The author presents education and health as viable areas in which philanthropy can continue to thrive, and he prods today’s newly wealthy, like the founders of eBay, Google and Facebook, to follow the examples of their predecessors. A mostly intriguing analysis of how “to understand philanthropy is to understand something about the American psyche and its fidelity to promoting enterprise and opportunity.”

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“Auster has long rendered life as something of a puzzle; here are some significant, illuminating pieces.” from report from the interior

REPORT FROM THE INTERIOR

Auster, Paul Henry Holt (272 pp.) $27.00 | Nov. 19, 2013 978-0-8050-9857-0

The interplay of memory, identity and the creative imagination informs this portrait of the artist as a young man, a memoir that the novelist’s avid readership will find particularly compelling. Even by the standards of the distinctive literary stylist and his formal ingenuity, this is an unusual book. Auster introduces it as something of a companion piece to his previous Winter Journal (2012), as he compares the two: “It was one thing to write about your body, to catalogue the manifold knocks and pleasures experienced by your physical self, but exploring your mind as you remember it from childhood will no doubt be a more difficult task—perhaps an impossible one. Still, you feel compelled to give it a try.” While writing throughout in the second person, inviting readers inside his head, Auster has divided the book into four distinct and very different parts. The first is a childhood psychobiography, to the age of 12, recognizing the distortions and holes in memory while discovering the magic of literature, “the mystifying process by which a person can leap into a mind that is not his own.” The second consists of exhaustively detailed synopses of two movies that he saw in his midteens, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), noteworthy for the way such a formative experience “burns itself into your heart forever.” The third compiles college letters to his future (and now former) wife, the author/ translator Lydia Davis, unearthed when she was compiling her archives—“you have lost contact with that person [he writes of his younger self], and as you listen to him speak on the page, you scarcely recognize him anymore.” The fourth is a scrapbook, not of the author and his family, but of images from the era that remain emblazoned on his consciousness. Auster has long rendered life as something of a puzzle; here are some significant, illuminating pieces.

THE SPARK A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius Barnett, Kristine Random House (272 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-8129-9337-0

A memoir that attempts to answer the question, how do we determine the differences between gifted and disabled? By even the most conservative of estimates, the number of children diagnosed with autism in the United States has skyrocketed in recent decades. However, the rise is attributed not to an increase in individuals with 38

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autism, but the changing methods of diagnosing the disorder. Also changing is how we respond to different facets of autism, which is at the heart of Barnett’s memoir. Her son Jake received a diagnosis at the age of 2, which set off a series of standard educational responses; research indicates that a focus on daily life skills—self care, motor skills, etc.—provides the best chances of success. Jake’s educational plan was no different, except that when the teacher discouraged the author from letting Jake engage too much with his alphabet learning cards, it simply didn’t feel right. Barnett took an approach that instead focused on what she would refer to as his “spark,” hoping to bring out the strengths that were at risk of being overshadowed by his perceived deficits. Focusing on his interests and strengths came with its own set of risks; there was no guarantee that reinventing his education would have an end result that would be any different than the standard education plan. Not working on “achievable” goals could result in frustrations that would hamper future efforts to help him learn core life skills. Barnett’s approach would not, of course, necessarily work for all parents, but that’s part of the point. Her wrestling with the choices she faced is laid bare on the page, and readers get a sense that she has ideas bigger than just her family. Her success with Jake is unimpeachable: He is a “prodigy in math and science” who “began taking college-level courses in math, astronomy, and physics at eight and was accepted to university at nine.” An invigorating, encouraging read.

RUN, BROTHER, RUN A Memoir of a Murder in My Family Berg, David Scribner (272 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4767-1563-6

Gritty memoir with unusual connections to the criminal underworld, the legal world and Hollywood. Berg (The Trial Lawyer: What It Takes to Win, 2003) has lived a full life, and it shows in his deft tonal balance between wry humor and embittered fatalism. Despite success as a well-known progressive lawyer, he remains haunted by the grisly murder of his venerated older brother Alan in 1968 by “card carrying” hit man Charles Harrelson (father of actor Woody). At the time, Alan was slandered as a degenerate gambler, which contributed to Harrelson’s acquittal. The author reconciles his brother’s failings with a larger, complex family story, in which the Bergs’ domineering father, having abandoned his traditionally Jewish first wife, labored to ensnare his sons in his own failed dreams. The vivacious hustler Alan joined his father in a tawdry “boiler room” carpet-selling operation aimed at Houston’s poor, a business path whose tangled dealings, Berg argues, actually provoked the murder. The author portrays 1960s-era Houston as a dangerous, seamy swamp, run by a good-ol’-boy network that tolerated violent men like Harrelson and a legal system in which favoritism and bigotry reigned. He shrewdly


connects his own hard-knocks career development defending hippies and radicals in Texas with the longer arc of Harrelson’s crimes and eventual punishment, including the weird coda of his celebrity son’s belated efforts to win his release following conviction for a judge’s assassination. To unravel this long-ago narrative, Berg closely reconstructs the investigation and trial, noting how a novice prosecutor faced the state’s best defense attorney, a flinty eccentric known for winning at any cost. Engrossing family history and an appealingly salacious tale, related in a bemused tone that does not hide the social ugliness and personal heartbreak underneath.

PERV The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Bering, Jesse Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $26.00 | Oct. 8, 2013 978-0-374-23089-0

AESTHETICS A Memoir

Brunetti, Ivan Illus. by Brunetti, Ivan Yale Univ. (120 pp.) $25.00 | May 28, 2013 978-0-300-18440-2 A handsomely designed encapsulation of the artistic life of a unique American illustrator. Born in small-town Italy and raised in working-class Chicago, Brunetti (Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, 2011, etc.) has likely reached his widest readership with a series of covers for New Yorker (most of them featuring multiple figures with big, round heads), though his work also encompasses strips in an alternative weekly, book covers, work for smaller journals and, most surprisingly, an unsuccessful attempt to become a successor to the late Ernie Bushmiller’s “Nancy” strip (oft-ridiculed, but the round heads suggest a link). As the book traces the artist’s development (though not, of course, chronologically), it

Outspokenly attesting that everyone’s a pervert in some form or another, research psychologist Bering (Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections On Being Human, 2012) combines science, research and an unblushing curiosity to plumb the depths of sexual deviancy. The author prefaces the narrative with his own story of coming out as gay to his mother at 19—just an average boy “who blended into tree bark and lawn ornaments.” Throughout, he appeals for further societal acceptance toward not only the homosexual community, but the socially ostracized “erotic outliers” as well. Addressing everyone, from the prim to the experienced, Bering encourages readers to embrace the willful “unburdening of your erotic conscience” through the examination of a smorgasbord of erotic paraphilias, including common fetishes like toes and tickling and unorthodox fascinations with animals, amputees, insect bites and sandy gravel—the author claims that there are more than 500 varieties of paraphilia. In this meticulously researched and referenced text, Bering offers fascinating case studies involving the power of sexual arousal to neutralize repulsive smells, tastes and predisposed opinions, though chapters on the historical demonization of human arousal, S&M and pedophilia do require an open mind. Refreshingly, the author extends his scope beyond the standard criterion of notorious fetishistic peccadilloes to more taboo sexual preferences that will, to some, skirt the boundaries of good taste (and common law). Anticipating this reaction, he creatively advocates for the understanding, appreciation and acknowledgment of these unique leanings in some of us, though not necessarily for their pardon. A master craftsman at refashioning reproductive biology into provocative composition, Bering nimbly probes “the darkest corners of our sexual nature” with no illicit aftertaste.

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only occasionally interrupts the parade of images with words that seem like little more than captions. Yet that annotation is crucial and illuminating, revealing an artist whose consciousness is as distinctive as his aesthetics, partly the result of “terrible” eyesight (“I have tried to convert this severe limitation into an idiosyncrasy. A pre-derangement of the senses.”) but more from a deep sense of worthlessness: “Typically, I loathe my strips nearly as much as I loathe myself.” The reflections force readers to consider Brunetti’s art through fresh eyes (though not the author’s bad eyes) and to understand the interrelationship among his aesthetic, his perception and his life. It also details a progression from a child’s scrawl to the three-dimensional work (which he resists calling sculpture) to which he has turned in depression. Like any good Italian boy, he also displays an obsession with (pre-Disney) Pinocchio. Essential for fans but fascinating for those new to Brunetti’s work as well.

CAPTAIN DAD The Manly Art of Stay-atHome Parenting Byrnes, Pat Lyons Press (256 pp.) $19.95 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-7627-8520-9

The superhero approach to raising kids. What father doesn’t want to be a superhero in the eyes of his child? With the guidance of New Yorker cartoonist Byrnes (Because I’m the Child Here and I Said So: A Joke Book for Parents, 2006, etc.), any parent, especially dads, can become just that. Having been a stay-at-home parent of two daughters for nearly a decade, the author is fully qualified to state, “Being a stay-at-home parent is the toughest job there is. For a woman or a man.” Byrnes wryly admits this statement to be true and writes, “I’ll even say it again in my deepest, manliest baritone, on behalf of every human male using those three little words every spouse longs to hear. You were right.” The author admits to his failures— e.g., his inability to keep the world of Disney away from his girls. But what’s a father to do when Mickey and other characters are printed on diapers, and he’s unaware that the “Disney Princesses had formed an alliance and intended to annex all of young female America.” Not to mention the intense pressure from Grammy to buy tickets to the Disney on Ice show before it left town. Sleep deprivation, the struggles to find a safe and clean place to change a diaper in a men’s room (not a chance), the attempt to “green parent,” and maneuvering through toilet training and preschool—these are just some of the many episodes Byrnes retells with gusto. He also provides helpful hints and lists of things you can and cannot live without when raising children. Amusing comic drawings round out this fun book. Droll and sometimes useful commentary on early child care.

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TESLA Inventor of the Electrical Age

Carlson, W. Bernard Princeton Univ. (520 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-691-05776-7

A scholarly, critical, mostly illuminating study of the life and work of the great Serbian inventor. Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) is so central a figure in the annals of modern science, writes Carlson (Science, Technology and Engineering/Univ. of Virginia; Technology in World History, 2005, etc.), that he has come to be regarded as “second only to Leonardo da Vinci in terms of technological virtuosity” and is sometimes portrayed as the single-handed inventor of the modern age, thwarted by the envious likes of Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi. The truth is more complicated, and though Tesla’s innovations figure in the everyday technology of the present day, he seems to have had more failures than successes, as well as a singular knack for having his thunder stolen by his competitors. Carlson examines Tesla’s processes of invention, experimentation and confirmation, as well as how he brought (or failed to bring) his inventions to market. Though the author protests early on that he will work from documentary evidence and not speculation, he hazards a few smart guesses from time to time (“I suspect that this willingness to seek the ideal grew out of the religious beliefs he acquired from his father and uncles in the Serbian Orthodox Church”; “I don’t think Tesla was at all worried as he had full confidence in his abilities as an inventor”). One, central if sometimes overlooked in other more celebratory studies, is the origin of Tesla’s notions of a rotating magnetic field, which may or may not have come from the work of a British contemporary—or, alternately, from an insight garnered from a between-the-lines reading of Goethe. Carlson also offers insight into Tesla’s urge to create disruptive technologies and to pursue “the grander and more difficult challenges.” Carlson tends to academic dryness and to a fondness for the smallest of details. Though Tesla deserves such serious treatment, his book is likelier to appeal to specialists than general readers. (56 halftones; 32 line illustrations)

THE POSSIBILITY DOGS What a Handful of “Unadoptables” Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing

Charleson, Susannah Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (288 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-547-73493-4

The compassionate account of the author’s experiences with psychiatric service dogs. For years, Charleson (Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog, 2010) was a dedicated


“An invaluable contribution to understanding the mentality of extremist conservatism and its supporters.” from wrapped in the flag

canine search-and-rescue professional. After a particularly “ugly” search in 2004, she was diagnosed with critical-incident stress by one doctor and PTSD by another. Before she could sink too far into mental illness, Puzzle, the golden retriever puppy she had been training as a search-and-rescue dog, “badgered [her] free” from the fear that was ruling her life. Charleson eventually learned that the demand was growing for canines with the ability to help and support people with mental and emotional problems. The expense involved in “raising, training and providing excellent care” for psychiatric service-dog candidates, however, made them too costly for many individuals. Determined to show that owners could teach suitable dogs to become their assistants, Charleson went into shelters to locate a dog with the resilience, intelligence and good nature necessary to do psychiatric service work and that she could train on her own. She found her candidate in a starving pit bull terrier puppy she named Jake Piper. Drawing on her encounters with many extraordinary psych service dogs and their handlers, as well as her own experiences with mental illness, Charleson trained Jake to distract her away from anxiety-based behaviors like compulsive stove checking. The story she tells about her dogs is remarkable, but those she includes about other canines— like Merlin, the black lab who could sense the onset of panic attacks, and Ollie, the blind and deaf terrier who brought comfort to anxious children—are equally amazing. An inspiring and refreshingly optimistic reminder about the untapped possibilities that exist in the relationships between humans and dogs. (8-page b/w insert)

WRAPPED IN THE FLAG A Personal History of America’s Radical Right Conner, Claire Beacon (240 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-8070-7750-4 978-0-8070-7751-1 e-book

Prompted by the rise of the modernday tea party, Conner writes of her experiences as the child of leaders in the radical right-wing John Birch Society. “My parents are back.” That was the author’s response to the rise of the tea party after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In this memoir/history, she opens new insights into the conservative political movement, with the echoes of the profoundest aspects of family life providing the links between then and now. Her parents, Stillwell and Laurene Conner, were among the 1958 founders of the Birch Society, an organization that opposed racial integration, welfare programs, the United Nations and other seemingly progressive programs and organizations. Conner’s parents were involved with the organization’s national leadership for more than 30 years. Like her parents, the Birchers went too far with their

anti-Semitism and extreme economic and social theories. She details how they were pushed out of the Republican Party and shows how they adopted what the author calls “Plan B,” in which monied Birchers redirected their funds into think tanks and foundations. Among them was Fred Koch, founder and national leader of the Birth Society and father of current tea party backers David and Charles Koch. In 1993, some Birchers, including the author’s mother, even offered mild support for the Oklahoma City bombers for “defending the rest of us from the government.” Conner’s parents employed threats and violence to condition her to represent her parents’ politics to the broader world and accept the consequences of physical retaliation, ostracism and ridicule in return. The author’s personal struggle to free herself from those whose minds “the facts never changed” shapes her memoir and enriches the accumulating literature on the tea party. An invaluable contribution to understanding the mentality of extremist conservatism and its supporters.

MIDNIGHT IN MEXICO A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent Into Darkness Corchado, Alfredo Penguin Press (288 pp.) $27.95 | May 30, 2013 978-1-59420-439-5

Mexico-born U.S. journalist Corchado frames a portrait of a torn nation within an account of escaping his own murder. “By the time this book is published,” writes Dallas Morning News Mexico bureau chief Corchado, “nearly ninety thousand people will have been killed or disappeared since President Calderón launched a war on the cartels.” Any number of people might have wanted him among them: the Zetas, enforcers for a Mexican drug lord who became drug lords themselves; lesser drug lords; corrupt officials within the military or government. As he writes, on receiving the death threat, “I scanned my recent work…looking for the story that could have pissed them off—whoever they were.” Having lived and reported through four presidencies (a Mexican president serves a single six-year term), Corchado was well-placed to gauge the seriousness of the threat—and, having gauged it, wise to head back to El Norte, the cause of so many of Mexico’s woes. His own story is emblematic, to be sure, but also common enough: After all, hundreds of young people lie dead in Ciudad Juárez because of the psychopathy attendant in the drug trade. More interesting than his personal travails are the author’s reflections on a Mexico that is malformed and crime-stricken largely due to American influences, unintended perhaps but real nonetheless, the drug cartels having filled an economic and political vacuum produced by neoliberal free trade. In fact, the cartels are perfect examples of free trade, with one drug lord standing on “the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires.” Corchado is short on |

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prescription but long on description, especially of the disastrous policies of the George W. Bush administration, some of which helped flood Mexico with automatic weapons. People are willing to do anything about Latin America other than read about it, or so it’s been said. This is one book about Latin America that merits attention.

SPELL IT OUT The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling Crystal, David St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $22.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-250-00347-8 978-1-250-02886-0 e-book

A noted linguistics scholar and prolific author asks and answers the question, “Why do we spell words the way we do?” Crystal (The Story of English in 100 Words, 2011, etc.) argues that many of the traditional ways we teach spelling (using lists of unrelated words, teaching homophones together) have just not worked; he suggests a more productive approach: explaining words linguistically to students—not a surprising suggestion from a linguist. He also notes how, when and why spelling became so important to us and why that’s not likely to change. Crystal contends that social media and texting are not harming spelling; you cannot text effectively, he writes, if you cannot spell well. But the meat in his sandwich is the history of the English language, which he relates in swift, focused chapters that frequently conclude with an amusing quotation about spelling from a noted writer (Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Twain) or a cartoon from Punch magazine. He reminds us of our fundamental problem: We have too few letters in our alphabet (26) and too many sounds in our mouths (about 44). But it’s even more complicated. Our gumbo of words from Latin, Anglo Saxon, Norman French and all the other languages from which we have borrowed—and from which we continue to borrow— makes learning how to spell so daunting. (The author does not discuss why spelling is easy for some and hard for others.) Crystal goes after the “rules” that many people learned as children (“i before e, except after c” and so on), noting that they are rarely useful and often patently false. He also notes the changes introduced by medieval scribes and early printers and the considerable and lingering effects of lexicographers Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster. An entertaining mixture of erudition, attitude and wit that crackles, spits and sparkles.

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THE SH!T NO ONE TELLS YOU A Guide to Surviving Your Baby’s First Year Dais, Dawn Seal Press (224 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-58005-484-3

A behind-the-scenes look at childbirth and a newborn’s first year. No book and no amount of personal advice can fully prepare a woman for pregnancy, birthing and the first year of a child’s life. However, Dais (The NonCyclist’s Guide to the Century and Other Road Races, 2009, etc.) provides a comprehensive take on the very real and not-so-pleasant aspects of parenting, from the various and often yucky scenarios that can unfold during the birthing process to the seemingly endless waste an infant can create. “My intention is not to frighten you or to scare you off having children,” she writes, but she does want to prepare women for the completely topsy-turvy world they are about to enter. She uses intimate details of her own child’s birth as well as stories from many other mothers with infants and toddlers to bring a much more realistic slant to an event that “changes everything.” The humorous revelations offer insight into a natural process that can and often does completely overwhelm the mother. Birthing without drugs, the bodily functions of the mother and infant, and the sheer amount of stuff needed to maintain your new infant are just a few of the subjects she explores. Although humor abounds, topics like postpartum depression, the difficulties in breast-feeding and sleep deprivation are real issues, and Dais’ willingness to tackle such issues lets women know that they are not alone in their struggles. “Knowing you are not alone actually helps a little,” she writes. “Trust me, misery does love company, especially during 3 a.m. feeding sessions.” Dais’ information will help ease new mothers into child-rearing and offer comic relief for those who have ventured onto that path. An amusing and accurate examination of life with an infant.

TOPSY The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison

Daly, Michael Atlantic Monthly (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-0-8021-1904-9

Daly (The Book of Mychal, 2009) tells the story of the infamous 1903 execution of Topsy, a man-killing circus elephant. The narrative also encompasses the strange phenomenon of 19th-century elephant mania, the history and culture of traveling circuses, the rivalry between electricity titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, and the disquieting


marriage of cruel exploitation and exuberant hucksterism that constitutes the dark side of American innovation and progress. The author renders vital portraits of P.T. Barnum (impossible not to love despite his larcenous heart) and Edison (a complicated mixture of bullheaded pride and skewed integrity), as well as various intelligent and sensitive elephants. This makes Daly’s descriptions of their brutal mistreatment very difficult to stomach, and the fact that these incredibly powerful creatures so seldom struck back at their tormenters supports the author’s characterization of them as essentially noble, benign creatures. On the lighter side, the details of circus life—underhanded advertising campaigns launched to discredit competitors’ shows, pickpockets colluding with circus owners to fleece the rubes as completely as possible, all manner of fakery and humbug employed to increase ticket sales—are wonderfully amusing, and there are accounts of more humane trainers who disdained cruelty and emphasized an empathic approach to their work. Most compelling is the “War of the Currents,” in which Edison and Westinghouse fought to dominate the future of commercial electricity by backing either direct (Edison, prideful and misguided) or alternating (Westinghouse, a less rigid thinker and aided by the genius Nikola Tesla) current. This was a battle of wills and geniuses that had an immeasurably profound effect on the world. The spectacle of an abused, exploited elephant dying to prove a point in a battle already won provides a potent illustration of the pettiness of human behavior that often accompanies man’s attempts to control the natural world. A fascinating and moving piece of American history and a meditation on the cost of entertainment and human progress.

THE TWELVE CAESARS The Dramatic Lives of the Emperors of Rome Dennison, Matthew St. Martin’s (400 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-250-02353-7

Roman historian Suetonius wrote The Twelve Caesars in the second century, and many subsequent writers have appropriated the title. In this latest example, British journalist Dennison (Livia, Empress of Rome, 2011, etc.) summarizes Suetonius and other ancients (Pliny, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Josephus) as well as scholars today, who often quarrel with their interpretations. Lacking strong opinions himself, the author delivers agreeable biographies of Julius Caesar and 11 subsequent rulers. Caesar is a surprisingly attractive character. Although fiercely ambitious, he was not particularly bloodthirsty, often pardoning opposition leaders who later turned against him, Brutus among them. The changes wrought during his few years as dictator strike us as reasonable in light of the disorder and corruption of the previous 50 years. They also struck most Romans this way, and his assassination was the work of an aristocratic

minority. His grandnephew, Octavian, required a brutal decade to set things right before taking power himself as Augustus and ruling rather well for 40 years. Of his successors, only one, Vespasian, was popular at his death. Reigns were often short; eight emperors died violently. Domitian, murdered in A.D. 96, was the last of the 12; five competent rulers followed, but for accounts of those, readers must consult Edward Gibbon. Sticking to biographies, Dennison emphasizes his subjects’ upbringings, family relations and personal qualities, which, more so in the bad emperors, included a wearisome amount of sexual activity, debauchery, murder, torture and betrayal. The author includes a family tree for both the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the Flavian family. Dennison provides a capable series of portraits, but those searching for a richer analysis of Roman culture and government during this era should read Adrian Goldsworthy or Michael Grant. (12 b/w illustrations)

HITCHHIKING WITH LARRY DAVID An Accidental Tourist’s Summer of Self-Discovery in Martha’s Vineyard Dolman, Paul Samuel Gotham Books (272 pp.) $22.50 | Jun. 3, 2013 978-1-59240-826-9

Light, summery memoir of a journey toward healing from a relationship gone

slightly sour. Once a successful entrepreneur in the music industry in Nashville, Dolman (What Matters Most: Intimate Interviews with Notable Nashvillians, 1997) found himself wanting an indefinable something more than his big house and trophy wife. So he sold his business and traveled west to California, where strange coincidences led him to meet a woman he almost instantly considered his soul mate. To his great surprise and bitter disappointment, the relationship did not survive the couple’s return to Nashville, where “the Miracle” (as he refers to the otherwise unnamed woman throughout the book) wanted more of a commitment than he did and began looking for it with someone else. Devastated by this apparent betrayal—not just by the woman but also by the universe—Dolman went to his octogenarian parents’ summer home on Martha’s Vineyard to lick his wounds for a couple of weeks. He wound up spending an entire season there, hitchhiking and biking the island with no larger agenda than eating donuts and ice cream, swimming and sunbathing, and meeting random Vineyard denizens, including, yes, Larry David of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. The first conversation between Dolman (hitchhiker) and David (ride purveyor) is the highlight of the book, not because of anything the two strangers discuss but due to the fact that David’s acerbic misanthropy adds a delightfully real contrast to the otherwise sugary-sweet goings-on. Dolman was once a motivational speaker, and it shows. He approaches most conversations like |

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“A crackerjack piece of science and technology writing.” from radical abundance

HEDGE HOGS The Cowboy Traders Behind Wall Street’s Largest Hedge Fund Disaster

group therapy, where everyone shares Oprah-like wisdom about the pains and joys of life, but nothing goes much deeper than standard Hollywood “life lessons.” Pleasant enough beach reading for romantics and believers in fate but probably not for fans of Larry David.

Dreyfuss, Barbara T. Random House (320 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4000-6839-5 978-0-679-60501-0 e-book

RADICAL ABUNDANCE How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization

Drexler, K. Eric PublicAffairs (368 pp.) $28.99 | May 7, 2013 978-1-61039-113-9

A stimulating tour through current thinking about and future possibilities for nanotechnology, from one of its creators. A quarter-century ago, Drexler (Future Technology/Oxford Univ.; Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, 1992, etc.) defined nanotechnology as a manufacturing technology using supermicro-scale devices to build products with atomic precision. Unfortunately, the media overhyped nanotechnology’s immediate prospects, and interest flagged and funding dried up. Regardless, advances in micromanufacture kept coming—consider, say, ultraviolet-light photolithography in semiconductor manufacture. Automatically precise manufacturing is to matter what computers are to information—radical and transformative, cutting costs, pushing range and performance, and sustainable in that it uses readily available atomic materials such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon and aluminum to precisely build products from the atom on up. Readers will enjoy Drexler’s tone: enthusiastic and energetic yet soberly realistic (“what stands out is that advanced nanomachines can closely resemble the machines that have enabled the Industrial Revolution”). The author is a good storyteller, too, for this is the journey of an idea, one that starts with an interest in space and investigations into molecular biology, chemistry and genetic engineering, as well as the inquiry/design tensions between scientists and engineers. There is so much that lies behind the word nanotechnology, and Drexler takes readers into that landscape, explaining mechanical scaling, thermal energy, the vast difference between analog and digital, the crazy, counterintuitive world of self-assembly and the dark magic of crystal-structure prediction. He never looks down on readers— go look it up if you need—and he obviously wants them to enjoy the prospects and understand how they work. A crackerjack piece of science and technology writing.

A Wall Street insider–turned–investigative journalist explains the collapse of the high-risk hedge fund Amaranth LLC and how it affected small businesses, pension funds and the price of natural gas across North America. After working two decades on Wall Street, Dreyfuss quit in 2004, alarmed at the emphasis on obscene profits for hedge fund traders, whose greed had begun infecting managers at supposedly more conservative, safe mutual funds. As the author searched for the best way to expose the hedge fund industry, she became increasingly aware of Amaranth, which, in 2006, went from billions of dollars of assets to corporate death nearly overnight. Dreyfuss’ research into the collapse suggested to her that she could tell the complicated saga for a lay readership by focusing on two men: Brian Hunter, the Amaranth trader whose risky deals in natural gas trading caused the collapse, and rival John Arnold, at a different firm and viewing the natural gas market in an entirely different way from Hunter. The result is a story about not only greed, but also hubris, the lack of government regulation over many aspects of Wall Street, the high-consequence ignorance of investors seduced by astronomic-seeming hedge fund profits, and the apparent failure of the sad lessons to stick. Hunter refused to cooperate with the author; Arnold cooperated in a limited manner. Nonetheless, Dreyfuss managed to locate telling details for the narrative by relying on postcollapse hearings in the Senate, as well as two federal regulatory agencies entering the fray too late to prevent the painful losses. The author also persuaded numerous friends and foes of Hunter and Arnold to talk in detail about what they saw and heard in the months and years leading up to the collapse. A well-crafted investigation for nonspecialists about an obscure, needlessly arcane corner of Wall Street.

THE BUY SIDE A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess Duff, Turney Crown Business (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-7704-3715-2

Former Wall Street party boy tells his cautionary rags-to-riches-to-rags story. Finally reaching the proverbial palace of wisdom after years of greed and high-stakes drugs-and-money excess, former big-spending 44

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trading whiz and recovering addict Duff turns in a heavyweight confessional about the perils of a life spent chasing the almighty dollar. From sleepy Kennebunk, Maine, Duff moved to New York in 1994 after graduating with a journalism degree. He soon found work as a sales assistant for the formidable Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley. Little did he know he was embarking on a death-defying roller-coaster ride that would see him go from making $30,000 per year as an assistant to pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary (plus hundreds of thousands more in bonuses) in the late-1990s tech-boom. But by 2008, Duff ’s fortune was dwindling along with the market. Before he knew it, he was stuck with a mortgage he couldn’t pay and was in rehab for cocaine abuse, before finally burning all of his Wall Street bridges and beginning his life again. In fact, he exited this slimy lifestyle just before the life consumed him. Duff lucidly depicts the hedonistic emptiness of the Wall Street culture, as well as the callous, cutthroat environment that makes most careers on the Street very brief. But even though the author’s brutal honesty about his increasingly chaotic personal life is commendable, it’s really more his vivid portrait of the everyday inner workings of life at a hedge fund that fascinates. Duff ’s down-to-earth conversational writing style demystifies the daily business of what a stock trader actually does and just how a hedge fund can pull so many billions of dollars seemingly out of thin air. A fast-paced memoir of the easy-money hypercapitalist dream-turned- nightmare.

LOOPERS A Caddie’s Twenty-Year Golf Odyssey Dunn, John Crown (304 pp.) $25.00 | May 14, 2013 978-0-7704-3718-3

A freelance golf writer rehearses his decades of caddying and carousing at some of the toniest venues in the world— from Augusta to St. Andrews. Dunn comes across in much of this mostly frivolous text as one of those perpetual adolescents who populate Judd Apatow films. As he recounts his exploits on the links, in bars and campgrounds and rooming houses, he displays a surprisingly obtuse attitude about women. He repeats crude sexist stories (sans irony), rails against the “aggressive older women on the prowl” in Aspen, describes the endowments of women he sees on the course and, of course, “cougars.” At various points, he waxes philosophical about the meaning of it all—e.g., golf and life are both journeys. Dunn occasionally alludes to a book (Siddhartha) and to his efforts to become a writer, but this does not occur often. The most significant relationship he relates is with his father, who, unsurprisingly, was not thrilled with his son’s decision to spend his youth carrying other people’s golf bags. His father’s disapprobation pops up continually, but near the end, things grow more serious: His father became grievously ill, and

for the first time in their lives, father and son had to come to terms with each other. In these passages, the author emerges as something more than the self-absorbed adolescent he appears elsewhere to be. Also of interest are his descriptions of some of the great courses he “looped” (caddied), some of the notables for whom he caddied (Bill Gates, Arnold Palmer), some of the amusing experiences he had when he didn’t really know what he was doing (his early rounds in Scotland), and encounters with golfers and caddies who were less than amiable. Will appeal to fans of the Caddyshack films and to those who revere the wisdom of the locker room.

1940 FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election Amid the Storm

Dunn, Susan Yale Univ. (440 pp.) $30.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-300-19086-1

A warmly characterized study of Franklin Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie as they battled for the presidency of 1940 within a yawning national chasm over the war. Dunn (Humanities/Williams Coll.; Roosevelt’s Purge: How FDR Fought to Change the Democratic Party, 2010, etc.) explores an array of wildly colorful newsmakers who helped sway the historical tide, from the GOP’s Willkie, Thomas Dewey and Robert Taft to Joseph Kennedy and Roosevelt’s speechwriter Robert Sherwood. The year would be dominated by the president’s decision to run or not to run for re-election to an unprecedented third term, and the country’s mood largely depended on whether the Nazi assault would resolve the public to stick with the experienced leader they already knew or risk a change that might, as Alexander Hamilton warned about term limits decades prior in Federalist No. 72, “unhinge and set afloat the already settled train of the administration.” Dunn paints a lively portrait of the many currents during the year, which culminated in Roosevelt’s victory in November. She looks at the alarming rogue statements of Charles Lindbergh and Joe Kennedy; the GOP’s odd choice of Willkie, who was as much of an interventionist as Roosevelt; and Roosevelt’s brilliant political maneuvering in choosing the two prominent Republicans Henry Stimson and Frank Knox to his Cabinet and the Broadway playwright Sherwood as his scribe for his patriotic stump speeches. Essentially, all Roosevelt had to do was sit back while the isolationists and pro-German elements like Lindbergh imploded. “In the end,” writes Dunn, “Roosevelt and Willkie, the two former antagonists, were almost a team.” A sympathetic, entertaining portrayal of two presidential opponents and ultimate colleagues—a nice complement to Lynne Olson’s more comprehensive, sweeping Those Angry Days (2013).

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HOW TO READ LITERATURE

Eagleton, Terry Yale Univ. (256 pp.) $26.00 | May 21, 2013 978-0-300-19096-0

A genial guide to exactly what the title promises, for readers who aren’t particularly experienced or critical. Though he enjoys renown in Britain as a literature professor, Eagleton (Across the Pond: An Englishman’s View of America, 2013, etc.) maintains from the outset that this is “a guide for beginners.” As such, it might confuse those beginners who are new to Wuthering Heights, Jude the Obscure or much of Dickens, since at least a cursory knowledge of the novels he is using to make his points would seem helpful in understanding those points. Yet this short book benefits from a conversational, even humorous tone and rarely requires much in the way of literary or critical theory as a prerequisite for its discussion of issues that most readers will recognize: Characters are not real people, and they have no existence outside the novel. Literature can generate multiple meanings, without agreement on the “right” one. A consideration of the language employed is crucial, for literature is nothing more (and nothing less) than its words. Initial chapters on “Openings” and “Characters” seem to hopscotch all over the place, since literature here encompasses poems, plays and novels (with a span of centuries and continents), in whatever order the author chooses to juxtapose. Chapters on “Narrative” and “Interpretation” are meatier and more focused. In the former, Eagleton reminds readers that “there is rarely any simple relation between authors and their works,” while illuminating a range of strategies that include the omniscient and unreliable narrators. The latter includes a very funny exegesis of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and an interpretive linkage of Dickens and Harry Potter. As for the concluding “Value,” it is the most provocative and least convincing of the lot, dismissing Updike as “artful but lifeless” while praising the “superlative literary art” of Carol Shields. Perfect for an intro course that features some of the literature the book discusses.

TO EAT A Country Life

Eck, Joe; Winterrowd, Wayne Illus. by Angell, Bobbi Farrar, Straus and Giroux (208 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-374-27832-8

The encyclopedic work of two masterful gardeners presents an idyllic picture of Vermont country life. For Eck and Winterrowd (Our Life in Gardens, 2009), their farm in southern Vermont has always been a little piece of heaven on earth. Here, the authors plant 46

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a lifetime of knowledge in this collection of short essays, each one focused on a different edible product of their land and labor. Far from the popular trend of urbanites-turned-farmers-turned-writers, however, Eck and Winterrowd bring more than 40 years of experience to the table, championing “the vital human need” to witness hard work and achievement united by dirt and patience. Unlike other textbook-dry treatises on the do’s and don’ts of gardening, the writing here is as rich as dark soil. Mixed in with cultural and botanical histories of apples, asparagus and beets are practical tips and gardening secrets for the seasoned and beginner gardener alike. The authors colorfully render daily life with the companionship of pigs, hens and cows, and the home cook finds bounty here too; rare recipes, sourced from Italian grandmothers, first-century cookbooks and other corners of the authors’ well-traveled lives, pepper the pages. Eck and Winterrowd celebrate good eating and good living with a kind of reverence reminiscent of Wendell Berry and a sensuality that evokes M.F.K. Fisher. Notably, Winterrowd died before the book’s publication, and Eck’s obvious grief and heartache strike a quiet but heavy chord. It’s a memoir about falling in love continuously, season after season, and a lesson in caring tenderly for each other and the land. Full and fragrant, this book will satisfy the appetite of anyone with a taste for simple pleasures.

PAPADADDY’S BOOK FOR NEW FATHERS Advice to Dads of All Ages Edgerton, Clyde Little, Brown (192 pp.) $25.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-316-05692-2

Novelist Edgerton (Creative Writing/Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington; The Night Train, 2011, etc.) tenders sage yet waggish fathering advice. Edgerton is a 68-year-old father with four children between the ages of 6 and 30. Here, he offers the fruits of the many ruminations and experiences that informed them, coming at his subject with a wisdom that is still being surprised, daily. Enjoy the good stuff, he writes, and make sure your children are the best of the good stuff. The author is generous, thankful and unmushy, and his advice is more descriptive than prescriptive—though one can hinge on the other. His suggestions and opinions are always spot-on—“A few weeks before the baby is born, go ahead and install the car seat”—and then leavened with humor: “This could take six to eight hours.” There are choice nuggets about in-laws, childproofing, embarking on the Ferber method of letting your child cry themselves to sleep (“After the second or third night, your mother or mother-in-law or the vegetarian will verbally blister you for this ‘inhumane’ practice”), talking toys (“Satan is real and these are among his gifts”) and lice (“burn down the house”). He also throws in zingers that bite, like trying to hold fast to the magic and playfulness of childhood: “It’s sad that children’s open-eyed wonder and sense of play begin


“Recently slated for both film and stage adaptations, El-Hai’s gripping account turns a chilling page in American history and provides an unsettling meditation on the machinations of evil.” from the nazi and the psychiatrist

THE ATTACKING OCEAN The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels

to fade as they approach adolescence. One grand function of fathering is to keep the fading to a minimum.” Throughout the long, complicated process of parenting, writes Edgerton, it is important to keep your sense of humor. Fatherhood is a dance of extreme ecstasy and deep worry, but “try not to worry too much.” Nonetheless, “be ready for stress.” Refreshingly, a parenting advice book worth its salt.

THE NAZI AND THE PSYCHIATRIST Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII

El-Hai, Jack PublicAffairs (304 pp.) $27.99 | Sep. 10, 2013 978-1-61039-156-6

Ace reportage on the unique relationship between a prison physician and one of the Third Reich’s highest ranking officials. Profoundly expanded from an original article in Scientific American, science and historical journalist El-Hai’s (Creative Writing/Augsburg Coll.; The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness, 2005) dark exploration begins at the end: with the suicide of prominent U.S. Army psychiatrist Capt. Douglas Kelley. The author examines the origins of his depressive internal crisis: his professional association with one of the most powerful Nazi leaders, Hermann Göring. Unfussy and compelling, ElHai’s chronicle details the intensive intercourse between the two men. Kelley was called in to perform physical and mental evaluations on the top Nazi officials awaiting arraignment in the Nuremberg tribunals, yet zeroed in on Göring. Hitler’s right-hand man presented at Nuremberg as an arrogant, plump, cutthroat “master manipulator” addicted to paracodeine. Stripped of his diamond-embossed ivory baton (a gift from Hitler), oversize gemstone rings and manifold honorifics, the prideful and charming Göring acquiesced to the general orthodoxy of Kelley’s medical assessments, including inkblot testing and apperception analyses. As suicide increasingly became a destiny of choice for several other Nazi captives, the doctor became increasingly enraptured by the domineering Göring, delving intensively into his fearlessness during his conviction and further exploring the unshakable allegiance of the Nazi personality. This obsessive research would negatively manifest itself in Kelley’s psyche for decades, ultimately facilitating his undoing. El-Hai’s spadework involved scouring Kelley’s trove of private documents, letters and clinical journals, all graciously provided by the doctor’s oldest son. Recently slated for both film and stage adaptations, El-Hai’s gripping account turns a chilling page in American history and provides an unsettling meditation on the machinations of evil.

Fagan, Brian Bloomsbury (320 pp.) $30.00 | Jun. 6, 2013 978-1-60819-692-0

Fagan (Emeritus, Anthropology; Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans, 2012, etc.) provides his assessment of rising sea levels. The author believes that man has about 50 years to change his ways and either adopt a long-term commitment to investing in the engineering skills and projects that can provide protection against the rise of the seas or relocate tens of millions of threatened people to higher ground. Fagan reviews both the long-term effect of very small annual rises and the more immediately disastrous results of tsunamis, hurricanes and typhoons. He shows how, at the end of the last Ice Age, when water levels were more than 400 feet below where they are now, a gradual rise accompanied the warming trend over more than 4,000 years. These effects, as well as his imaginative reconstructions of their consequences on the human communities of the time— e.g., Doggerland in the English Channel—provide a standpoint from which to consider the warming trend and ocean rise that began to set in again since the Industrial Revolution. Fagan draws on evidence from geology, archaeology and anthropology to support his case. The Netherlands, with their historical record of land reclamation and fortification against the seas, provides an example of the longer-term policy shift and commitment that needs to be made globally. These are multigenerational commitments that require continual upgrading, maintenance and the practical understanding that long-term physical processes are under way that won’t be reversed by adopting carbon taxes and lowering fuel consumption—measures that are necessary but insufficient. The author’s vision and knowledge substantiate his clearly expressed concerns.

THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS PLACE Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia

Fergusson, James Da Capo/Perseus (432 pp.) $27.50 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-306-82117-2

An intrepid journalist investigates the civil war, foreign interventions and mass starvation of Somalia. Before focusing on Somalia, Edinburgh-based journalist Fergusson (Taliban: The Unknown Enemy, 2011, etc.) spent 16 years writing about Afghanistan, a similarly ungovernable |

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nation that has resisted conquerors for centuries. The author is a worthy guide to the seemingly endless deaths in Somalia, often ranked by international observers as the most poorly governed, risky nation in the world. The vast majority of Somalians is illiterate, desperately poor and so committed to genetic ties within their particular geographic clan that pulling together as a nation seems hopeless. Many of the peacekeeping soldiers are from Uganda, ironic given that nation’s recent bouts of sectarian violence. Since the Taliban had become one of Fergusson’s specialties as a journalist, he found it intriguing that a similar group was gaining ground in Somalia: al-Shabaab. The movement considered itself populist and pure in its devotion to the Islamic faith—much like the Taliban. In the United States, perceptions of Somalia have been shaped in many ways by Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down and its film adaptation. As a result, American views on the Somalian people are negative and based on fear. Fergusson agrees that fear is justified in such a dangerous place, but he shows the shades of gray along with the black and white. An especially fascinating portion of Fergusson’s investigation took him to Minneapolis, which has become home to a huge number of Somalian refugees, surely the largest diaspora of them outside the Horn of Africa. Some of the Somalians there, writes the author, are linked to violent groups overseas and thus might end up as terrorist threats. A compelling example of investigative reporting that suggests continuing mass death for an African population that cannot or will not help itself find peace. (16 pages of b/w photos)

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD

Flintoff, John-Paul Picador (160 pp.) $16.00 paper | May 1, 2013 978-1-250-03067-2

The latest title in the publisher’s School of Life series aims to be a guide to social and cultural change. Any guidebook with a title like How to Change the World that is also sized in such a way that it could fit comfortably in a handbag is going to need to make some assumptions about what needs changing and why. Without space to devote to arguing why things should change in certain ways, the remaining text needs to present a “how” that can be adapted for different aims. Journalist Flintoff (Sew Your Own: Man Finds Happiness and Meaning of Life—Making Clothes, 2010, etc.) largely succeeds in that his ideas are divorced from particular ideological goals, for the most part. In general, the author focuses on finding ways to make changes on a personal level—approaches to “being the change you want to see in the world.” The strongest writing comes when Flintoff hews to the fine line between starry-eyed idealism and pragmatic, here’s-the-five-steps-to-take detailing. His chapter on identifying values is especially thoughtful, providing clear direction on discovering the intersections between which values we derive from the culture and which we can find from within. Occasionally, the author veers over the line into 48

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dreaminess; much is made of engaging with the community around you, engaging with neighbors, which suggests an openness to engagement that may not be reciprocated on the other side. All too often, this brand of idealism in activism can come across as naïve, but Flintoff ’s writing grounds that idealism in the idea that changing “the world” can have multiple meanings, each of them equally important. A credible book to inspire even the most cynical among us.

NINETY PERCENT OF EVERYTHING Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate George, Rose Metropolitan/Henry Holt (304 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-0-8050-9263-9

Consistently illuminating in-depth analysis of the global shipping industry. British journalist George (The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, 2008) deftly explores how “ninety percent” of everything consumers enjoy is conveyed across international waters. For such an essential service fueled by economic interdependence, it’s mostly overlooked and taken for granted by the same public who are forbidden from the docks and the transport ships. Granted access for her research, the author, a self-proclaimed landlubber, traveled 6,000 miles over five weeks aboard the 80,000-ton Maersk Kendal container vessel. She became personally acquainted with six ports, five seas and two oceans, and she comprehensively reports the details behind the shipping experience and the haunting historic lore of “lost” ships and missing crew. She also considers the sustainability of oceanic life subsisting just beneath these noisy, imposing monstrosities. Once befriended by the ship’s captain, she absorbed his harrowing stories (dubbed “swinging the lantern”) of thieving dockworkers and torrid excursions ashore. The most interesting facets of her seafaring adventure are those that compromised her personal safety—e.g., when pondering how to survive for weeks on a lifeboat or, worse, when the Maersk drifted into treacherous Somali pirate zones. A sleepless night of rattling false alarms spurs a chapter on piracy history and facts on how contemporary pirates bargain for ransom (via Skype). While this eye-opening maritime exposé fails to carry the same bizarro heft as The Big Necessity, it should affirm her place among offbeat, endlessly curious authors like Mary Roach. An apt and affable nautical chaperone, George’s watery excursion fascinates and dutifully educates.


I’LL SEIZE THE DAY TOMORROW

process into three stages. The years from 50 to 65 he calls the age of transformation—the proper time to begin preparing to become an elder. Gurian advocates the process of beginning to kick back at 50. Having reached a pinnacle of success, our minds and bodies are beginning to slow down. The arduous phase of child-rearing is coming to an end, allowing parents the opportunity to reconnect and opening the possibility of developing a second career or creative hobby. The next phase is from 65 through the 70s, a time for senior citizens to celebrate their accomplishments and re-examine their spiritual values. The last phase he calls “the age of spiritual completion,” a time for renouncing material values and looking toward the “wonder of dying and death.” Gurian offers concrete examples of ways to deal with problems of aging, such as loss of sexual prowess, and he suggests that a slow death can be preferable in that it allows us to “experience dying fully.” Still, he admits that “dying and death can be terrible and upsetting.” He questions the desirability of such procedures as knee replacements for those over the age of 80 and supports the right of individuals to assistance in terminating their lives. An engaging warning against a hopeless search for the fountain of youth that overlooks some of the painful issues of retirement, such as loss of savings, debt and adult children needing financial and emotional support.

Goldstein, Jonathan Pintail/Penguin (256 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-14-318751-6 Radio personality and novelist Goldstein (Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!, 2009, etc.) relates the details of the anxiety-ridden final 12 months of his youth before he turned 40. “I wish you could leap from thirty-eight, straight to forty,” writes the author. “More dignity to it than hanging on to the last dregs of your thirties. Forty was the age at which I thought I’d have a house full of oak shelves spilling over with hardcover books.” Unfortunately, the title is a telling prelude to the kind of bland, non–knee-slapping humor in the latest from the This American Life contributor. The author is another squeaky-clean Seinfeld-ian humorist whose more-clever-than-funny attempts to milk mundaneness and quotidian life for laughs never quite hit their mark on a consistent level. To be fair, it’s not exactly easy to bring an original twist to dealing in print with one’s childish fears of turning 40, and Goldstein breaks no new ground in the long history of writers fretting about getting old. The author structures his brief existentialist-lite vignettes by the week, beginning at number 52 and counting down, ending with a chapter on his dreaded 40th birthday. Along the way, his silly midlife crisis manifests itself in experimenting with colognes, conversing with automatic hand-dryers, eating large quantities of ice cream, adopting a toy poodle, vacationing in Puerto Rico, obsessing over McDonald’s McRib sandwiches and ruminating about how the local coffee jerk resembles Eugene Levy. Though mildly amusing, these activities are never as hilarious as Goldstein obviously thinks they are. There’s no real penetrating comedic insight into the human condition, just a jumbled mass of existential clowning and absurdist verbiage that’s more selfindulgent than self-examining. Safe, collegiate humor that makes Dave Barry look like Bill Hicks.

MOTHER DAUGHTER ME A Memoir Hafner, Katie Random House (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 2, 2013 978-1-4000-6936-1 978-0-8129-8459-0 e-book

Technology journalist Hafner’s (A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano, 2008, etc.) one-year “experiment in multigenerational living,” which forced her to confront her past and understand its impact on her present. After her 84-year-old companion unraveled, the author’s mother, Helen, made it clear she wanted to live with her daughter and granddaughter, Zoë. Thinking that she and her mother were “as close to the mother-daughter ideal as could be,” Hafner agreed and rented a house in San Francisco where all three women could cohabitate. It was only when they all came together under one roof that she realized she had totally misjudged the situation. In a narrative that skillfully moves between her present predicament and her difficult childhood, Hafner offers a compelling portrait of her remarkable mother and their troubled relationship. Helen was the product of two brilliant but narcissistic parents who grew into a woman hungry for attention. When Hafner’s father didn’t give it to her, she had ill-concealed affairs, which led to divorce. Then Hafner and her sister Sarah watched as her mother “ricocheted between involvements with various men,” drowned herself in alcohol and lost custody of her daughters. The “lucky one” in

THE WONDER OF AGING A New Approach to Embracing Life After Fifty

Gurian, Michael Atria (336 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-4767-0669-6

Mental health counselor and selfhelp guru Gurian (The Invisible Presence: How a Man’s Relationship with His Mother Affects All His Relationships with Women, 2012, etc.) moves up the age spectrum to discuss how to embrace the experience of getting older. Taking 50 as his starting point, the author divides the |

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“An eye-opening, absorbing, complex story of scientific achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.” from high price

her family, Hafner eventually found true love. But when her husband died suddenly, she and Zoë, who was the first to sense “the emotional energy of unfinished business” that tied the author to her mother, became traumatized. Desperate to bring peace to a feuding household, Hafner engaged the services of a family therapist, and their sessions revealed the extent to which both she and her mother denied the reality of their situation. It would only be after Sarah’s sudden death, however, that both women would finally solidify the bonds they had forged anew in the painful fire of truth. Heartbreakingly honest, yet not without hope and flashes of wry humor.

HIGH PRICE A Neuroscientist’s Journey of SelfDiscovery that Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society Hart, Carl Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-06-201588-4

A hard-hitting attack on current drug policy by Hart (Psychology and Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.), a neuroscientist who grew up on the streets of one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods. “[W]e have been bamboozled,” he writes, “to believe that cocaine, heroine, methamphetamine or some other drug du jour is so dangerous that any possession or use of it should not be tolerated and deserves to be severely punished.” Hart debunks claims that the use of crack cocaine is more dangerous than other forms of the drug and therefore should be punished more severely—a distinction that penalizes ghetto users who are the most typical crack users. Offering experimental data and his own personal experiences, he takes issue with the idea that addiction is strictly biological rather than a complex combination of cultural, social and psychological facts. Initially accepting prevailing notions about addiction, his own research over two decades convinced him that only 15 percent of frequent drug users are addicted. Reflecting on his experiences growing up in the ghetto, Hart realized that social environment was as important as the availability of street drugs. His own remarkable path to success included a large component of good luck. Since he hoped to become a professional athlete, he didn’t drop out of high school, as did many of his friends, and he moderated his use of alcohol and drugs. When he failed to win an athletic scholarship, he joined the military. Although he was involved in criminal street activity, Hart was fortunate in avoiding arrest and a criminal record that would have disqualified him from the military and the track to higher education. In his view, the focus on illegal drug trafficking “obfuscates the real problems faced by marginalized people,” and neuroscientific research focuses too much on the action of neurotransmitters to explain addiction. 50

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An eye-opening, absorbing, complex story of scientific achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.

THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS A Graphic Adaptation

Hennessey, Jonathan Illus. by McConnell, Aaron Morrow/HarperCollins (224 pp.) $15.99 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-196976-8

Where the format might lead some readers to anticipate a simplified primer, this second collaboration by Hennessey and McConnell (The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, 2008) again finds them probing the implications of history through incisive analysis and compelling art. What the narrative terms “probably the most famous and influential speech in American history,” “just 271 words in length and requiring no more than a few minutes to recite out loud,” might not initially seem like enough of a hook for such an expansive examination. Yet practically every one of those words proves significant, as the scope of the book extends from the American Revolution to the present day, casting the Civil War as tragic and transformative but likely inevitable as well. It finds the country’s two most revered and renowned documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—at odds with each other, as the equality celebrated in the former (though the degree to which that equality was intended to extend remains open to interpretation) finds itself on a collision course with the rights of the states (and distrust of a strong central government, after the tyranny of England) inherent in the latter. Add the profound differences between the North and South—in demographics, climate, economy, political orientation—and the intensification of those with the passage of time, and you’ve got an explosion waiting to happen. Resisting the temptation to reduce the conflict to a morality play—the evil of slavery vs. the ideal of emancipation (though there is that)—or to make President Abraham Lincoln more enlightened on race relations than a man of his time was likely to be—the authors combine historical depth with art that also finds shades of gray amid the black and white. Even Civil War buffs should find this graphic adaptation engaging, provocative and deftly nuanced.


LOVE HIM MADLY An Intimate Memoir of Jim Morrison Huddleston, Judy Chicago Review (240 pp.) $16.95 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-750-6

A memoir of a tempestuous affair between a young art student and a tortured rock god. Huddleston (Creative Writing and Integrated Arts/California State Univ., Monterey Bay; This Is the End, My Only Friend: Living and Dying with Jim Morrison, 1991) returns to the subject of her first book: her intimate relationship with the Doors’ singer and leader. The perspective of 40 years since Morrison’s death has stripped the author of some of her delusions of youth. Still, apparently relying on diaries from the era, she captures the fresh confusion of emotions she felt each time her path crossed his during their four-year relationship. As an 18-year-old, she harbored the very square fantasy of marrying her lover/idol, a fantasy she knew to keep to herself; she knew he had a longtime relationship with Pamela Courson (whom she identifies only as “Pam” in the book). Huddleston eventually learned that her own relationship with Morrison was in fact far from unique and meant nowhere near as much to him as it did to her. If there’s an added value to the book for Doors fans, it may lie in the author’s vivid portrait of the mercurial Morrison, whose persona could metamorphose from that of a vulnerable little boy to a sexual sadist in a matter of seconds. Readers will catch on fairly quickly that Morrison was never interested in Huddleston as much more than a sexual partner. From her first intimate encounter with him (which ended in a brutal anal rape) to the last some months before his death in Paris in 1970, she doesn’t get any closer to answering the question of who Morrison really was or why he was so psychically wounded. Best read as an antidote to the usual Morrison hagiographies by adoring critics.

HOTHOUSE The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Kachka, Boris Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $27.00 | Aug. 6, 2013 978-1-4516-9189-4

A thorough study of the gold standard in American literary publishing, complete with sex, sour editors and the occasional stumble into financial success. Farrar, Straus and Giroux has corralled some of the most prominent names in literature since it was founded in 1945, from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Susan Sontag to Philip Roth to

Jeffrey Eugenides. As New York contributing editor Kachka makes clear in this generally lively history, little of its success came easy: If weak-selling books weren’t the problem, personality clashes within the office were. The core of the story is Roger Straus, who championed some of the publisher’s biggest names throughout the years, including Tom Wolfe, whose fiction and nonfiction defined a generation of writing, though his delayed manuscripts put the company under financial strain. (His 1979 classic on the space program, The Right Stuff, appeared in FSG’s catalog for years.) Some intramural tussles among editors read like insider baseball, but Kachka’s recollections of FSG’s struggle with independence (it sold to the German firm Holtzbrinck in 1994) and the modern era of big-money agents give a smart and informative portrait of the mechanisms of modern publishing. Roger Straus (who died in 2004) was a complicated man fit for this tale: He bedded plenty of women, was notoriously stingy, and engaged in an extended push and pull with his son, Roger Straus III, who’d spend time in and out of the company. Kachka extends the story into the present day, where, under the leadership of Jonathan Galassi, novelists like Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen preserve the publisher’s high-art sensibility while struggling to make ends meet. But Kachka wants to remind us that it’s always been thus: FSG was forever saved from failure by the big hit that cannily merged literary and commercial. A smart, savvy portrait of arguably the country’s most important publisher. (16-page insert of color photos)

THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAMELLIAS The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis Kavanagh, Julie Knopf (304 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 14, 2013 978-0-307-27079-5

Intelligent Life contributing editor Kavanagh (Nureyev: The Life, 2007, etc.) attempts to sort out the biography of the short-lived Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis (1824–1847). We know her as Violetta in La Traviata, but she was Marguerite in Alexander Dumas’ The Lady of the Camellias and Alphonsine when she was born in 1824 Normandy. In the ways of the 19th-century French, when a girl became a courtesan, she was to have an apartment, jewels, equipage, a very generous allowance and often tutoring in the finer ways of society. For Duplessis, however, “this was far more than Pygmalion or Pretty Woman transformation,” writes Kavanagh. “The country waif, scarcely able to read or write when she arrived in the capital at the age of thirteen, was presiding over her own salon seven years later, regularly receiving aristocrats, politicians, artists, and many of the celebrated writers of her day.” Lacking Duplessis’ correspondence, the author depends on the accounts of contemporary authors and one of her subject’s childhood friends, as well as the book and play by Dumas. Determining her age in the period when her father apprenticed her to a laundry, gave her to the gypsies, “sold” |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

David Sedaris

Disturbing Mental Images By Claiborne Smith of a murdered Pygmy, and why visiting Australia feels like “Canada in a thong.” Let’s Explore Diabetes has the same funny, perceptive, thoughtful essays Sedaris is known for, but I started out by asking him whether he thought this collection of essays feels more painful than his past books. Q: There’s a lot of humor in this collection, but it feels darker to me than your previous books. Does that seem like a fair assessment to you?

Photo courtesy HUGH HAMRICK

When I reached David Sedaris at his New York hotel the day he began his lecture tour, he was doing his taxes. He performs in 40 states, so he was bemoaning those 40 tax forms—plus the ones he has to fill out for the U.K., where he lives now— and the chance to talk about his new collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc., seemed like a nice reprieve. By now, it will shock no one that Sedaris’ new collection has stories about what nurses do to your stomach just after a colonoscopy, the opportunity to buy the skeleton 52

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A: It’s hard for me to assess it. I’m probably the only one who can’t. I think of the period of time between being 12 and being 20, probably for everybody in life, that’s a pretty dark time. Sometimes when I’m writing about that period, I’m in this swampy cave, like mucking around in there, and I’m always so happy to come out of there. I wrote the story about the swim team [“Memory Laps”] because I always wondered if other people’s fathers did that, became champions of your friends, pitting you against your friends. I always wondered what became of Greg Sakas [Sedaris’ swim-team nemesis in the essay]. I don’t know the kind of person who thinks of writing as cathartic in any way. Q: You’re right–I know people say writing is supposed to be cathartic, but I can’t think of a writer who really thinks it is. A: Writing in my diary makes sense of the world, but that’s still not cathartic. I think ‘cathartic’ and ‘helping you see things a little more clearly’ are different things. Q: There are more essays about American politics in this book–does it feel to you like conservative politics have gotten so extreme that the only way to respond is with satire?


A: I think that’s the best response. I think that’s where the best satire comes from; the best political satire is coming from people like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart and Andy Borowitz and Paul Rudnick. I think it’s particularly strong on television. I always thought that was the best way to get back at something: to make fun of it. Get people to laugh at it. That’s my response to everything. Let’s say gang violence: One thing we never try is making fun of those people. ‘You’re so stupid shooting each other, your world is only two blocks in diameter so you just kill the people on the next block. Ha ha look at you!’ I think that would do so much better than all the counseling and intervention programs that don’t do any good. There was a time when I was 12 years old and I’d saved up my money and I’d bought a fringe vest and was standing outside the 7-Eleven and these two girls walked by and said, ‘Teeny bopper!’ It just completely ruined that vest for me. Also, my whole persona, there’s goes that! Gotta try to be someone else now because that’s blown. The fact that when she said that, her friend laughed—it was being laughed at that did the damage.

Q: When you’re writing an essay, are you thinking about how it’s going to perform on radio, or do you create a different version for radio? A: I don’t know that I think ‘radio’ so much as ‘out loud.’ Most of the radio I do now is the BBC, and what’s nice about it is I can do whatever I want. I have eight half-hour segments on the BBC, and it’s this series I’ve been doing for four or five years. I can get away with a lot more at the BBC than I could at NPR. At NPR, they would say, ‘That presents a disturbing mental image,’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s why I wrote it!’ Claiborne Smith is the features editor at Kirkus Reviews.

Q: When you’re writing about your family, do you let them know beforehand that you’re going to be writing about them? A: I wrote a title story for the book, and then I gave it to my older sister Lisa. It was about a time when we went to a firing range in North Carolina. She felt like the audience would think of her a certain way, that she was neurotic or something. And I didn’t see that as being an issue. It doesn’t matter what I think; it only mattered what she thinks. And at the time, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can write about the firing range with Lisa,’ and then several months later, I figured out how to write it without that bit. Usually I’m pretty good about knowing what people would object to. Everybody has their secrets. A lot of what it’s been over the years is Lisa’s sisters-in-laws, who could be difficult. I would say, ‘You have to let me write about that.’ But she didn’t want me to write about it because she didn’t want them knowing they had gotten to her. And I understand that. And it was like, ‘Goddamn, I can’t wait until they die.’ Q: Why did you dedicate this collection to your sister Amy? A: I think because it has little monologues of teenagers in it. It seemed like a book for her.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc. Sedaris, David Little, Brown (275 pp.) $27.00 Apr. 23, 2013 978-0-316-15469-7 |

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her to a debauching septuagenarian and “lost” her in Paris proves daunting. Too often, the author refers to Duplessis as Marguerite or Alphonsine and to her lovers by their pseudonyms; the time and places change without warning. Duplessis was quick to adapt to the culture of love in Paris with frequent changes of lovers—so many, in fact, that it’s difficult to keep track. The fact that many of her men overlapped adds to the confusion, as do the many references to men identified only by initials or pseudonyms. Duplessis’ string of lovers was sufficiently fascinating to become the basis of books, plays and Verdi’s opera. As a chronicle of French life, Kavanagh’s book is great fun; as biography, it’s scattered. (16 pages of full-color photos)

THE EVERYDAY PARENTING TOOLKIT The Kazdin Method for Easy, Step-by-Step, Lasting Change for You and Your Child Kazdin, Alan E. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (192 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-547-98554-1

How to apply behavioral-modification techniques to help parents deal with “the common challenges of child rearing.” In contrast to his earlier book, Kazdin (Psychology and Child Psychiatry/Yale Univ.; The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child, 2009 etc.) focuses on concrete tools and strategies for dealing with “routine everyday life behaviors that are challenges to most parents most of the time”—e.g. maintaining a regular schedule, doing chores, behaving appropriately to siblings. For working parents, these situations frequently escalate, becoming increasingly stressful and difficult to handle. The author combines practical suggestions and anecdotal accounts of their application by families attending the Yale Parenting Center, which Kazdin directs. These are tools adapted from successful management techniques. The first step is to clearly define the goal and then mold the desired behavior in a step-bystep process that provides incentives and appropriate rewards. The author emphasizes that what happens before a parent makes a specific request “greatly affects the likelihood that the [desired] behavior will occur.” Then, it is necessary to break down the desired behavior into components, with rewards attached to each. Kazdin gives the example of eating vegetables at dinner. The bar is set low by rewarding a child for simply putting a vegetable on his plate without eating it. Then it is raised by requiring the child to place a sample on his tongue, and so on. A key part of his system is positive reinforcement of good behavior, rather than punishment for bad behavior. In the case of stopping bad behavior, another trick is to look for a specific positive alternative to the undesirable behavior. A useful guide to eliminating stress, improving communication and providing a more nurturing family environment.

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DOSSIER K A Memoir

Kertész, Imre Translated by Wilkinson, Tim Melville House (224 pp.) $18.95 paper | May 7, 2013 978-1-61219-202-4

Kertész, the first Hungarian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, interrogates himself in a provocative memoir that will deepen the understanding of those already familiar with his novels. Published in 2006, this unusual transcript receives its first English translation and American publication, providing the author’s perspective on novels that challenge the distinction between fiction and reality as well as conventional notions of the Holocaust and totalitarianism. His renown rests on a series of novels—Fatelessness (1975), Fiasco (1988) and Kaddish for an Unborn Child (1990)—that were little-known in the West until after the Nobel and which have frequently been described as unsentimental. After a childhood in a broken family in Budapest, Kertész was imprisoned in Nazi death camps at the age of 14 and survived due in part to a forged record of his death. He subsequently became a journalist and a communist following the end of the war before turning to fiction. He rejects the very term “Holocaust” as “a euphemism, a cowardly and unimaginative glibness,” while spurning the conventional categorization of his work: “I never called Fatelessness a Holocaust novel like others do, because what they call ‘the Holocaust’ cannot be put into a novel.” Kertész acknowledges the profound influence of and his deep affinity for Kafka, Mann and Camus, while maintaining, “I don’t know what the truth is. I don’t know whether it is my job to know what the truth is, in any case. Truth-telling artists generally prove to be bad artists. Anyone who is right generally proves not to be right.” Such provocation fills practically every page of this memoir by an author who hasn’t mellowed with age and who continues to believe that “everything is in flux, there is no foothold, and yet we still write as though there were.” The author’s novels may provide a better introduction to his work, but this memoir will help to further illuminate them.

THE BROTHERS John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War Kinzer, Stephen Henry Holt (352 pp.) $30.00 | Oct. 1, 2013 978-0-8050-9497-8

Longtime foreign correspondent Kinzer (International Relations/Boston Univ.; Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future, 2010, etc.) portrays the dark side of Dwight D.


“A challenging, rich, aesthetic autobiography and intellectual high-wire act that rarely falters.” from my 1980s

Eisenhower’s administration through the activities of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen, the director of the CIA. The author reveals the pair’s responsibility for the wave of assassinations, coups and irregular wars during Eisenhower’s administrations as the outcome of three generations of their family’s involvement in America’s increasingly active foreign policy, and he documents the way the brothers created the political shape of the Cold War in the 1950s, with John Foster providing the arrogant and pompous public face for the covert operations organized by brother Allen. Kinzer also shows how Eisenhower’s knowledge of the costs of open war between states led him to support their covert operations to “strike back…to fight, but in a different way.” The author discusses John Foster’s assimilation of the undeclared war against Soviet communism into a Manichaean framework of the eternal struggle of good vs. evil. He also examines how, during the 1930s, he was seen by some as “the chief agent for the banking circles which rescued Hitler from the financial depths.” Later, Allen recruited Nazi leaders to help shape postwar Europe against the Soviets during the war’s final stages. For Kinzer, the brothers epitomized the presumption that America has the right to “guide the course of history” because it is “more moral and farther-seeing than other countries.” In addition to providing illuminating biographical information, the author clearly presents the Dulles family’s contributions to the development of a legal and political structure for American corporations’ international politics. A well-documented and shocking reappraisal of two of the shapers of the American century.

MY 1980S AND OTHER ESSAYS

Koestenbaum, Wayne Farrar, Straus and Giroux (336 pp.) $16.00 paper | Aug. 13, 2013 978-0-374-53377-9

Critical and personal essays from noted poet and cultural critic Koestenbaum (English/CUNY Graduate Center; The Anatomy of Harpo Marx, 2012, etc.). The author collects essays on poetry, photography, painting, opera and other aesthetic concerns, but the true subject that emerges is Koestenbaum himself; the possessive in the collection’s title is telling. The author explores his relationship with art (and that term here applies to everything from online pornography to the novels of Marcel Proust), teasing out meaning by means of a relentless, densely allusive, insistently personal interrogation of the work, the artist and Koestenbaum’s own response. That response is largely an apprehension of desire. The author is less interested in historical context or qualitative evaluation than he is in grappling with the ways in which art makes him feel; this drive, buttressed by an intimidating level of erudition and agile reasoning, is reminiscent of Pauline Kaels’ work, if she had been more steeped in critical theory and less coy about sexuality. Koestenbaum employs fragments, lists, digressions and

all manner of playful formal strategies to consider the essays of Susan Sontag, the artistry of opera singer Anna Moffo and the photographs of Cindy Sherman; the author also applies his formidable faculties to the mystique of Lana Turner, a nude of Cary Grant and the sublimity of Debbie Harry of the rock band Blondie. Notions of high and low dissolve in Koestenbaum’s passionate engagement with culture and in his palpable urgency to unpack the mechanics of desire, whether parsing the line breaks of Frank O’Hara’s poetry or recalling the tactile pleasures of Play-Doh. Other subjects include Brigitte Bardot, Hart Crane, John Ashbery and Diane Arbus. A challenging, rich, aesthetic autobiography and intellectual high-wire act that rarely falters.

LOST GIRLS An Unsolved American Mystery

Kolker, Robert Harper/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-06-218363-7 In his debut, New York magazine contributor Kolker delves into the disappearances and murders of five women, all working as escorts in the New York met-

ropolitan area. More than 100 years ago, London prostitutes were targeted by Jack the Ripper, a serial killer whose identity remains an enigma. In our brave new world of Craigslist advertisements, cellphones and escort services, one group of lost girls—Shannan, Maureen, Melissa, Megan and Amber—faced similar threats from the anonymous client(s) who eventually killed them. The author unflinchingly probes the 21st-century innovations that facilitated these crimes, which launched a media blitz that shook the integrity of a secluded Long Island community called Oak Beach. What sets his investigation apart from many true-crime tomes, however, is the attention he pays to the girls’ back stories and to the efforts of their families and friends to bring the killer to justice. We know from the title that the crimes are still unsolved, leaving Kolker free to present the bewildering array of theories held by law enforcement, neighbors, online communities and even potential suspects. Nor does the author shy away from the dysfunction that permeated all five girls’ lives: foster homes, absent parents, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancies and domineering boyfriends all play prominent roles in this narrative. Fortunately, he includes both a timeline and a list of characters for reference, as the deluge of names, dates and details can prove intimidating. Kolker also does a fine job of describing the girls’ lives without patronizing their decisions or unnecessarily inserting himself into the proceedings. Most commendably, he points out inconsistencies and dubious motives on the part of some of his interviewees; one mother, who had little to do with her daughter while she was alive, reinvented herself as a crusader for justice. Still, “[t]he issue of blame itself, in the end, may be a trap,” Kolker concludes. |

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An important examination of the socioeconomic and cultural forces that can shape a woman’s entry into prostitution. (10 maps)

MOMENT OF BATTLE The Twenty Clashes that Changed the World Lacey, James; Murray, Williamson Bantam (496 pp.) $30.00 | May 21, 2013 978-0-345-52697-7 978-0-345-52699-1 e-book

How would the world be different if certain critical battles had gone the other way? Two top military historians

offer answers. Institute of Defense Analyses consultants and lecturers Lacey (The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization, 2011, etc.) and Murray (Strategic Challenges for Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terrorism, 2012, etc.) are not interested in rehashing Agincourt, Waterloo or Gettysburg. Instead, they choose battles that, they write, made a decisive difference in history. Instead of close analysis of tactics, they look at what effect they had on creating our modern world. Most of their choices are hard to argue with: An Athenian loss to Persia at Marathon would likely have cut off what we think of as Greek civilization almost at its start. Likewise, it’s hard to deny that modern European history would be vastly different without the Norman victory at Hastings. Some of the authors’ other choices are more obscure; few except specialists are likely to know about Yarmuk, the first great victory of Muslim soldiers against Europeans. Breitenfeld, a battle of the Thirty Years War in which Gustavus Adolphus’ new methods of military organization routed superior numbers under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire, may be even less familiar. Lacey and Murray sometimes take a contrarian tack—e.g., their argument that Benedict Arnold was the best American commander of the Revolutionary War. More often, the authors take a conventional view, praising Grant’s generalship or criticizing the Allied commanders during the early stages of World War I. They also tend to criticize the decision-making of the losing generals, as in the Battle of Britain, where a German decision to stop bombing airfields allowed the RAF to continue the battle and eventually prevail. The final chapter, on the American victory in Iraq in 2003, predicts that it, too, will make a major historical difference, once its impact is fully known. Will open interesting doors for casual readers and provide plenty of debate fodder for military-history buffs. (50 b/w photos; 18-20 maps)

THE ART OF THE RESTAURATEUR

Lander, Nicholas Phaidon (352 pp.) $39.95 | Sep. 17, 2012 978-0-7148-6469-3

An incisively written and elegantly designed volume that presents a corrective, or at least a counterargument, to the ascent of the celebrity chef. As a former restaurateur and now as the well-respected dining critic for Britain’s Financial Times, Lander is uniquely qualified to illuminate the business of running a world-class restaurant. He offers a perspective on the relationship between successful restaurateurs and the chefs they employ that challenges the supremacy of the latter. In what he calls “a golden era for restaurants,” he maintains that chefs “have been elevated to an overly lofty position” and that “while chefs may use plates for their art, restaurateurs’ imaginations work on much bigger canvases.” Yet the relationship is symbiotic, even with occasional creative tension, and the book doesn’t devalue the former so much as elevate the latter. Where the chef rules the kitchen, the owner must attend to every last detail of the experience, from the location, setting and design to the atmosphere, hospitality and staff morale, to the dealings with suppliers and landlords, and, ultimately, the bottom line. Lander includes 20 profiles of leading restaurateurs around the globe, including Danny Meyer, “New York’s—and possibly the world’s—most respected restaurateur,” and they read more like inspirational vignettes than bios or how-to pieces. Each is accompanied by a sidebar, a shorter piece illuminating some facet of the restaurant life. Most readers won’t have eaten in most of these restaurants, or perhaps even heard of many, but the writing reinforces the restorative value of the fine dining experience as being more than a meal. As for the occasionally prickly relationship between the owners and chefs they employ, one of the former describes his role as mentoring, while another explains, “If we do our job well, when a chef comes along and says…it’s time to move on, then we’re delighted. It means that there’ll be another good place to have lunch in.” The line-drawn illustrations complement the prose in a book that will help diners appreciate the whole restaurant experience. (50 b/w line drawings)

BUILDING GREAT SENTENCES How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read

Landon, Brooks Plume (288 pp.) $16.00 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-452-29860-6

Veteran professor Landon (English/ Univ. of Iowa; Understanding Thomas Berger, 2009, etc.) urges a return to the sentence theories and pedagogy of 56

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Francis Christensen, whose ideas about cumulative sentences held sway for about a decade 40 years ago. The author outlines his objectives and beliefs early on, principal among them the notion that longer sentences are better sentences. The remainder of the book describes in detail the various ways to accomplish this aim. Landon clarifies the difference between grammar and rhetoric, defines a “kernel sentence,” then wades into the Grammar Sea, where he soon is thigh- and chest-deep in verbals, left- and right-branching sentences, dangling modifiers, “syntagmatic and paradigmatic aspects,” the concepts of sentence rhythm and a writer’s style, periodic and “suspensive” sentences, “phatic expressions,” balanced sentences and writing in triplets. He ends with what he calls “master sentences,” quoting examples from Pynchon, Didion and Berger (to whom he often alludes). This is no simple self-help text, despite the obligatory exercises at the end of each chapter. Landon aims at an educated, sophisticated audience, as this sentence illustrates: “This new category of suspensive structures consists largely of ‘phatic’ expressions whose functions are more social than discursive, frequently adding little or no propositional meaning to the sentences they extend.” Got that? There’s also an odd archaic whiff about some of his allusions. Although he mentions Google and iTunes, he also alludes to Dragnet and Morse code, and virtually all of his literary examples are from canonical writers—nothing here from Fifty Shades of Grey or even Stephen King. Landon does suggest that all of the techniques he outlines should be in the service of something—not just long sentences for their own sakes—and that writers should vary sentence length, a good idea. Passionate and erudite, but with sharply focused appeal.

WHO OWNS THE FUTURE?

Lanier, Jaron Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $28.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4516-5496-7

A sweeping look at why today’s digital economy doesn’t benefit the middle class and the ways that should change. If many tech books today offer dire, sky-is-falling warnings, then Lanier (You Are Not a Gadget, 2011, etc.) takes that idea a step further: The sky is falling and will continue to fall until it crushes the entire middle class under its weight. Until recently, new technology has always created new jobs, but in this new information economy, “[o]rdinary people ‘share,’ while elite network presences generate unprecedented fortunes”—e.g., when Facebook purchased the photo-sharing service Instagram for nearly $1 billion. Lanier claims this trend is “setting up a situation where better technology in the long term just means more unemployment, or an eventual socialist backlash.” Although the author opens with this provocative thesis, what follows is a meandering manifesto bogged down by its own terminology. Lanier includes an appendix listing “First Appearances of Key Terms” (many of which he coined), but readers may wonder why the author

couldn’t explain this jumble of economic theories and futuristic ideas in more lucid terms: Rather than create the word “antenimbosian,” why not just say “before the advent of cloud computing”? This isn’t to say that Lanier hasn’t come up with some exceptional theories. For instance, he hypothesizes that self-driving cars “could be catastrophic” for the economy. Driverless taxis would rob new immigrants of jobs and deny them a “traditional entry ramp to economic sustenance.” However, these concepts are so lost in a heap of digressions, interludes and fables—including the continued recurrence of a fictional seaside conversation between a citizen of the future and a “neuro-interfaced seagull”—that the signal-to-noise ratio may prove to be too much for all but the most dedicated tech readers. An assortment of complex and interesting ideas, buried under the weight of too much jargon.

THE SECRET RESCUE An Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines Lineberry, Cate Little, Brown (288 pp.) $27.00 | May 7, 2013 978-0-316-22022-4

A journalist unearths the story of a crash landing in war-torn Albania during World War II. A daring new program of air evacuation technicians, stationed near war zones in order to lift the wounded quickly to safety, the Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron was launched by Maj. Gen. David N.W. Grant in 1942. Since they had flight training, former stewardesses were enlisted as volunteer medics and nurses. Former National Geographic Magazine Europe editor Lineberry looks in particular at the 807th MAETS, consisting of 25 female nurses, 24 medics and other enlisted men from all over the country. They were assembled at Bowman Field in Louisville, Ky., for training before being shipped off in mid-August 1943. A squadron of nurses and medics traveled from their headquarters on November 8 to gather awaiting patients in Bari and Grottaglie, but they were forced down in bad weather and under attack from German fighter planes. Not only did the squadron land in German-occupied Albanian territory, but the group soon realized they had become embroiled in a civil war. There ensued many weeks of near-comical confusion among the partisans hoping to hide the Americans amid an atmosphere of mutual suspicion; there was scant food, little bathing, rugged conditions and terrible exposure. Indeed, three of the nurses had gotten separated from the rest while being housed locally, and these did not join the general rescue once the larger group reached the Adriatic coast after 62 days in Albania. Although U.S. officials keenly tracked the whereabouts of the squadron, the news of the rescue was kept quiet and the bravery of the participants not acknowledged until much later; Lineberry able captures it here. A sometimes dry but proficient, detailed and tearless account. |

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“Clear, focused snapshots of a movement and its celebrated leader.” from the society for useful knowledge

A JOURNEY THROUGH TUDOR ENGLAND Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London to Stratford-upon-Avon and Thornbury Castle Lipscomb, Suzannah Pegasus (336 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 15, 2013 978-1-60598-460-5

Lipscomb (Early Modern History/ Univ. of East Anglia; 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII, 2009) combines her credentials as historian/TV presenter/ author to give us a thorough history/guided tour of the Tudors. The author divides the narrative geographically into seven districts, including greater London, tracing the stories of Henry VII, Henry VIII and his children. Rather than confusing readers, the geographic technique allows one to view the impact these monarchs had in each area. Sadly, no maps are supplied for each section. They would improve visualization and allow travelers to plan a visit. Still, once readers have finished this unusual book, they will discover their knowledge of the Tudor kings and queens has considerably expanded. Henry VII, the first Tudor and victor at Bosworth, reigned from 1485 to 1509. The building of Richmond Palace was Henry VII’s only break from his miserly ways as he fought to secure his dynasty. He died there, as did his granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth I, almost 100 years later. Henry VIII’s lifestyle markedly contrasts with his father’s, as he built, or “acquired,” more than 60 houses and palaces, not least of which was Hampton Court. There are, logically, more places connected to Henry VIII and Elizabeth for the simple reason that their reigns were longer. Edward VI, Mary and the pitiful Jane Grey together only reigned just over a decade. Lipscomb avoids becoming an architectural or archaeological guide while pointing out ruins worth a look—e.g., Westminster Abbey, as well as less-renowned sites like Kenilworth Castle, which has a “baleful and crestfallen air.” A clever history of how the Tudors ushered England into the medieval age, illustrating the broad influence they exerted both then and now. (line drawings throughout)

THE SOCIETY FOR USEFUL KNOWLEDGE How Benjamin Franklin and Friends Brought the Enlightenment to America

Lyons, Jonathan Bloomsbury (240 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-60819-553-4

The author of The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization (2009) returns with an examination of transformative events in American cultural history—and of that great transformer himself, Benjamin Franklin. 58

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Former Reuters foreign correspondent Lyons has two principal and intertwined stories to tell: the career of Franklin and the rise of the useful and the practical in American education and society. He notes the insecurity colonial American intellectuals felt, the difficulty of scholarly collaboration (communication was both slow and unreliable) and the disdain that many European scientists and scholars showed for their rustic counterparts in the New World. The author describes the early career of Franklin and shows how he contributed to the view of practical/useful knowledge in Philadelphia—and how that notion spread, slowly, to the other colonies and (later) states. Franklin’s successful experiments with electricity impressed the English, whose Royal Society gave him an award in 1753, and his influence soared, both in America and abroad. In Philadelphia, Franklin sought to create a university that would de-emphasize the traditional curriculum of Greek and Latin and emphasize the practical. He found stiff opposition from conservatives and grumbled about it the rest of his life. Lyons introduces us to some other notables from the era, including David Rittenhouse (famed, among other things, for his improvement of the orrery) and Thomas Paine, who in 1787 joined Franklin, Rittenhouse, Benjamin Rush and others in the Society for Political Inquiries. The author ends with a look at how we continue to revere those who make substantial practical contributions to American life—e.g., the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. Lyons does not devote much space to the battle between the liberal and practical arts, which continues to rage in schools and colleges. Clear, focused snapshots of a movement and its celebrated leader.

THE AMERICAN SENATE An Insider’s History MacNeil, Neil; Baker, Richard A. Oxford Univ. (480 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 3, 2013 978-0-19-536761-4

Two longtime observers of our government in action offer a multidimensional study of the history, traditions and culture of the United States Senate. Beginning with George Washington, the Senate has frustrated most presidents. Some, notably Woodrow Wilson, came to loathe the Congress’ upper house, in good times the world’s greatest deliberative body, in bad “the windiest and most tedious group of men in Christendom,” as H.L. Mencken observed. However, as former Time chief congressional correspondent MacNeil (Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man, 1971, etc.), who died in 2008, and former official Senate historian Baker (200 Notable Days: Senate Stories, 1787-2002, 2006, etc.) demonstrate, the framers fully intended many of the Senate’s so-called infirmities even as other distinguishing features of the institution have evolved over its history. The built-in rivalry with the House of Representatives and the ongoing duel with the presidency for federal supremacy have been constants, but the


chamber’s manner of election, its composition and organization, its conduct of business and varying styles of leadership all have undergone thorough transformations. While its Constitutional role remains the same, the Senate has spoken through the years with varying degrees of authority and influence depending on the tenor of the times and the quality of its membership. Those members include some of our greatest statesmen and not a few rogues and racists, many of whom receive attention here. Whether discussing money and elections, campaign reform, the origins of the filibuster, the Senate’s investigatory power or its role in ratifying treaties or debating the great issues of the day, the authors pack the narrative with wide-ranging information and anecdotes. A useful, engaging primer for anyone wishing to understand the politics, precedent and procedures that have shaped the Senate. (16 b/w halftones)

THE POPE’S BOOKBINDER A Memoir Mason, David Biblioasis (400 pp.) $32.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-927428-17-7

Atmospheric, informative memoir by a Canadian seller of used and rare books. Born in 1938, Mason as a kid was more comfortable in pool halls than the Toronto school system and got “permanently suspended” at 15. He wound up bumming around Europe, taking odd jobs and drugs, talking passionately about books with fellow free souls. A brief stint as a bookbinder in Spain (source of the unnecessarily mystifying and misleading title) gave him a marketable skill when he returned to Toronto in the late 1960s, but a part-time bookstore job showed him his real talents: talking to people and finding books for them. After a few years’ apprenticeship with Jerry Sherlock, one of the many rare booksellers to whom Mason pays affectionate tribute, he went out on his own. One of his first areas of expertise was Canadian editions of books by foreign authors, a bibliographic area he pioneered in a project for the National Library of Canada, until he broke bitterly with the library and a colleague over what he considered a breach of faith. His memoirs reveal Mason as a good grudge holder, and his feelings about librarians are mixed; affection for those at local branches who initiate youth into the wonders of books balances disdain for the bureaucrats at major institutions. He wholeheartedly loves anyone who loves books—no matter how eccentric—we see in a hilarious chapter about private collectors. Another great chapter about bidding at auction, and numerous passages on pricing rare books, demonstrates that Mason is a shrewd commercial operator when he needs to be, but his main focus is on the vital role nonchain booksellers play as preservers of our cultural heritage. His burning sense of mission more than compensates for some repetitious passages and a few too many instances of score settling in a narrative that gives a vivid sense of its author’s idiosyncratic personality.

Gossipy, rambling and enchanting, alive with Mason’s love for books of every variety.

OIL AND HONEY The Education of an Unlikely Activist McKibben, Bill Times/Henry Holt (272 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 17, 2013 978-0-8050-9284-4

From the founder of the environmental organization 350.org, a chatty, warm memoir of his double life as globe-trotting activist and part-time novice beekeeper. For the past couple of years, McKibben (Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, 2010, etc.) has juggled two careers: organizing campaigns to halt the degradation of the planet and working with Kirk Webster, a beekeeper whose farm in the Champlain Valley of Vermont the author helped finance. Fighting the Keystone XL pipeline has been a top priority, and the author writes with humor of the three days he spent in jail in Washington, D.C., as the leader of a major demonstration against it. He also writes from the heart about the disastrous recent floods that struck his beloved Vermont and New York City, giving the country a look at the increasing devastation of climate change. McKibben, who asserts that the fossil fuel industry is poisoning the planet and that its donations have turned one of our political parties into climate deniers and the other into cowards, advocates that what has been a political fight must now take a new economic direction: divestment in these companies. In the latter part of the book, the author focuses on his efforts to take this message to colleges across the country, whose portfolios have large investments in the fossil fuel industry. McKibben intersperses his accounts of his intense and wide-ranging efforts as an environmental activist with his sometimes-humbling experiences as a novice beekeeper, learning from Webster the art and science of raising bees and making honey. The author’s clear message: Hard work is required on both the local level and the larger scale if the fight to protect our planet is not to be lost. A personal, enjoyably rancor-free account, filled with praise for his colleagues and some pokes at opponents but void of harangues.

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“The story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England is hardly new, but the situations that prompted it on both sides of the English Channel have never been told in so much depth.” from the norman conquest

FALLING INTO THE FIRE A Psychiatrist’s Encounters with the Mind in Crisis Montross, Christine Penguin (256 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 5, 2013 978-1-59420-393-0

In her residency and now as a professor (Psychiatry and Human Behavior/ Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown Univ.) and a hospital inpatient psychiatrist, Montross (Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, 2007) describes her encounters with patients in crisis, first admitted to emergency rooms and then referred for hospital stays. The cases are bizarre: a woman repeatedly admitted for swallowing objects—light bulbs, pens, nails; a man who keeps tearing at his skin and hair, spending thousands on treatments to correct his “ugliness”; a woman so able to feign an epileptic seizure that staff feared she might die from status epilepticus; a mother terrified she would kill her infant, so she “hid all the knives.” Montross writes of these encounters with a dramatic flair, ever empathetic but unsparing of occasional negative feelings, fears and frustrations. Diagnosis is not always easy. Even when a patient’s back story reveals plausible causes of illness, there is little therapy can do if the patient is unwilling, given the limitations of insurance and the need to discharge patients once “stabilized.” Oddly, patients afflicted with extreme forms of body dissatisfaction—who want a limb amputated, for example—are “cured” if the surgery takes place. In the absence of cures, Montross offers solace—just being there with a patient. She provides background and current thinking on the particular cases she describes, discusses the legal issues of involuntary treatment and inveighs against academics who see mental illness as one side of creative genius. As an antidote to her daily coping with extreme behaviors, Montross writes serenely of a home life with her family. No triumphs of modern psychiatry on display here, but rather a sympathetic portrait of seriously ill patients that could guide future practitioners on the art of helping, if not always healing, the sick.

WILD ONES A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America Mooallem, Jon Penguin Press (368 pp.) $27.95 | May 20, 2013 978-1-59420-442-5

The plights of polar bears, Lange’s metalmark butterflies and whooping cranes frame this 60

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discussion of humankind’s relations with the animal kingdom, the environment and itself. In his debut, New York Times Magazine contributing writer Mooallem contrasts the perilous circumstances threatening some species with the conflicts that arise among sentiment, commerce and environmental science—e.g., over the polar bears that migrate through the town of Churchill, Manitoba, many of which starve and can’t feed their cubs, and the quarter-sized butterflies that are on the verge of extinction. Neither of these cases, writes the author, is as simple as it appears. The polar bears have become pawns in an ongoing discussion involving the commercial livelihood of the Churchill residents and the interests of international tourists. In a similar situation, the butterflies in the Antioch Dunes Wildlife Refuge are losing the habitat that sustained them. For the bears, longer periods of ice-free conditions increase the length of time they must survive without the diet staple their seal hunting provides. The metalmark butterflies lost out to bulldozers, but more species are now found on the dunes than before. Mooallem compares these cases to the crane-reintroduction project Operation Migration, which is attempting to rebuild whooping crane populations by helping the birds learn to do what they are unable to do on their own—e.g., assisting their first-time migrations while preserving their fear of humans. The author profiles the protagonists in each of these three situations and presents current scientific work in the context of a broader historical discussion in which many well-known figures have significant roles, including Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. An engaging nature/environment book that goes beyond simple-minded sloganeering.

THE NORMAN CONQUEST The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England Morris, Marc Pegasus (464 pp.) $32.00 | Jun. 15, 2013 978-1-60598-451-3

The story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England is hardly new, but the situations that prompted it on both sides of the English Channel have never been told in so much depth. A historian who specializes in the Middle Ages, especially that period’s monarchies and aristocracy, Morris (Kings and Castle, 2012, etc.) takes thoroughness to new heights as he compares all the available sources in this valuable text. The French relied on the writings of William of Jumièges, chaplain to William; the Bayeux Tapestry commissioned by William’s half brother, Bishop Odo; and the work of Orderic Vitalis, an Anglo-Norman born in 1075. The English viewpoint comes from the anonymously penned Life of King Edward and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. The difficulty with the Chronicles is that it was copied by different monasteries, each skewing facts to fit their particular


patron’s viewpoint. There is no doubt that King Edward the Confessor was king in name only; Earl Godwin’s family was effectively ruling England during Edward’s reign. His daughter married Edward, and his sons, including Harold (he of the arrow in the eye), held all England save Mercia. No wonder they felt the crown was rightfully theirs. William’s abilities and the Vikings’ support of brother Tostig’s greed proved them wrong. The most important source for the actual invasion is Song of the Battle of Hastings, a contemporary epic poem only discovered in the early-19th century. The English rebelled against foreign rule, new language and customs for five more years before a semblance of order was established. The author includes useful maps, an expansive genealogical tree and extensive notes. A thoroughly enjoyable book from a historian’s historian who can write for the masses. (8 pages of color illustrations)

THE LOST CAUSE The Trials of Frank and Jesse James

Muehlberger, James P. Westholme Publishing (256 pp.) $24.95 | $24.95 e-book | Jun. 3, 2013 978-1-59416-173-5 978-1-59416-557-3 e-book

A Missouri legal historian’s wellresearched but lackluster answer to the question of whether Jesse James was “the last great rebel of the Civil War or the first notorious robber after [it].” Since his death in 1882, outlaw Jesse James has been immortalized in books and films as the “noble robber” who committed crimes in the name of “protecting the former Confederate States from Northern exploitation.” Attorney Muehlberger takes exception to this myth and sets out to show that James was anything but noble. He seeks out the “smoking gun” in personal papers, newspaper reports and sworn testimonies from criminal trials involving both Jesse and his brother Frank. The author examines records of a successful suit brought against the James brothers by Henry McDougal, a man who not only founded Muehlberger’s law firm, but was also an important figure in late-19th-century Missouri politics. What emerges is a story of a man who was a faceless Confederate bushwhacker until 1869. In December of that year, he and his brother robbed a small-town Missouri bank, killed a former Union captain–turned-cashier and made off with another man’s prized thoroughbred horse. John Edwards, the Kansas City Times editor and a former Confederate soldier, seized upon the story and helped James write extravagant letters that extolled the virtues of the Confederate “Lost Cause.” According to Muehlberger, those letters not only created the Jesse James myth, but also diverted attention away from the fact that James supported his penchant for gambling and his taste for fine horses through theft and murder. James’ story is intriguing, but it often gets lost in the larger historical context Muehlberger provides, as well as in the detailed descriptions of court proceedings involving the James brothers.

Of possible interest to Jesse James and/or Civil War buffs, but not to a wider audience.

MY ISL@M How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind—and Doubt Freed My Soul

Nasr, Amir Ahmad St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-250-01679-9

Occasionally glib, yet conversational, ultimately endearing account of a Sudanese-born Malaysian youth’s reckoning with his inherited Islamic faith through the act of blogging. The identity behind the popular blog The Sudanese Thinker, Nasr re-creates his journey from a fairly religious, comfortable upbringing in Khartoum (born in 1986), Qatar and Kuala Lumpur, where he attended private schools and began to question his Islamic teachings and especially its political uses. Memorization and rote learning of the Quran were the methods of instruction, with an emphasis on hating Jews and infidels and waging jihad. When Nasr questioned the teachings, he was told that he was courting the devil. While his homeland of Sudan was undergoing a civil war, the author became aware of the huge contrasts there between the rich and poor, as well as between the conservative dictates of his Malaysian school and his relatively permissible home. In 2006, he happened upon the Egyptian bloggers The Big Pharaoh and Sandmonkey and began to join conversations by liberal young Muslims about the controversial topics of the day—e.g., the Iraq War, Wahhabi ideology, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, feminism and the oppression by Arab tyrants. Transcending national borders, blogging allowed the youth to find solidarity among Arabs, leading to many of the explosive currents that found expression in the Arab Spring of 2011. Becoming the first Sudanese blogger in English, Nasr challenged long-standing beliefs about a Jewish American conspiracy bent on destroying Islam and embarked on an “unintended exercise in intellectual and psychological self-empowerment.” Structured wittily around a love affair with Islam, in which doubt is personified as the seductress who urges him to read atheist authors, Nasr’s account is straightforward, fluent and full of lively allusions for further readings. A candid, cosmopolitan look at the experience of Islam in the digital age.

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“Five stellar personal essays by Norman that shed light on his melancholy, tragedy-struck fiction and larger human failures. ” from i hate to leave this beautiful place

I HATE TO LEAVE THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE

Norman, Howard Houghton Mifflin (208 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-547-38542-6

Five stellar personal essays by Norman (Creative Writing/Univ. of Maryland; What Is Left the Daughter, 2010, etc.) that shed light on his melancholy, tragedystruck fiction and larger human failures. Norman’s novels tend to circle around a tight range of themes: gloomy Canadian backdrops, coincidence, death and a love for wildlife (particularly birds) that gives his work a quirky, musical vocabulary. These essays suggest the mood of the author isn’t very distinct from that of his fiction, and sometimes the connections are explicit: One piece is about an affair in his 20s that ended when his lover died in a plane crash, a story echoed in his 2002 novel, The Haunting of L. Norman’s fictional tensions between fathers and sons also have a real-life analogue in this book’s opening essay, about his teenage summer working in a bookmobile as his estranged father attempts to worm back into his life. The author treats these incidents with poise and intellect (references to novelists and poets abound) but also with some glints of humor. In one essay, his criminal brother keeps calling for help crossing into Canada, and their phone exchanges are both comically absurd and exasperating for the author. The best piece is the title essay, about a John Lennon cover band in the Canadian tundra and the spate of bad weather, spirit folklore and music that consumed the community after Lennon’s death. Its most harrowing is the closing piece, in which a poet housesitting at Norman’s home in 2003 killed her 2-year-old son and herself. Written evidence of the woman’s cracked psyche keeps stalking Norman in the house, and his chronicle of shaking off its effects pays tribute to the (sometimes-malicious) power of words and the wilderness’ power as a balm for heartbreak. A bracing, no-nonsense memoir, infused with fresh takes on love, death and human nature.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine Offit, Paul A. Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-06-222296-1

A pull-no-punches attack on the hucksterism of alternative medicine and an exposé of the federal government’s failure to regulate the vitamin and supplement industry. Offit (Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Vaccinology and Pediatrics/ 62

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Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, 2011; etc.) relates shocking stories of the harm done to people by promoters of false claims, and he doesn’t hesitate to name names. His brief account of the lobbying and politics behind the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, called by the New York Times “The Snake Oil Protection Act,” is particularly eye-opening. Offit casts an especially critical eye on celebrity promoters of alternative therapies. Among those who come under his scrutiny are former actress Suzanne Somers with her so-called antiaging product line; TV’s charismatic Dr. Mehmet Oz and his “Superstars of Alternative Medicine”: Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra; and osteopath Rashid Buttar, a prolific author and promoter of an unlicensed anti-autism cream. Offit also gives his take on various common products that practitioners of alternative medicine claim have therapeutic value—e.g., garlic, ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and milk thistle. Of special interest is his chapter on what has been learned about the value of the placebo response and how it explains the positive effects of some alternative therapies. The harm, he writes, comes when their promoters recommend against helpful conventional therapies, when they promote potentially dangerous therapies without warning, when they give patients false hopes and then drain their bank accounts, and, finally, when they promote magical thinking or scientific illiteracy. A rousing good read, strong on human interest and filled with appalling and amazing data.

BATTLESHIP A Daring Heiress, a Teenage Jockey, and America’s Horse Ours, Dorothy St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 30, 2013 978-0-312-64185-6 978-1-250-02132-8 e-book

The story of an heiress, her horse and the jockey who rode it to glory. Respected horse-racing expert and writer Ours (Man O’ War: A Legend Like Lightning, 2007), who worked for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, chronicles the life of Marion duPont, heiress to the family’s fortune made from their gunpowder and chemicals business. The plucky woman grew up on James Madison’s estate at Montpelier with a passion for horses, especially for hunting horses and the steeplechase races for which an elite breed of horse is trained to run. Battleship was smaller than many of his peers in the long races characterized by jumping over hedges and fences. Bruce Hobbs, whose father, Reg, drove him to and sometimes seemingly beyond his abilities, was just a teenager when he rode Battleship to glory as he and the undersized horse, the offspring of the legendary Man O’ War, won the Grand National steeplechase in Liverpool, England, becoming the first American horse to do so. Ours clearly has a great deal of admiration for her subject. The quality of writing in the book wavers, and


SURVIVOR Auschwitz, the Death March and My Fight for Freedom

the author does not always convince that her subject matter is as vital as she thinks it is, but she shines when writing about the world of horses (“his attitude and movements speak his history, springing from everything he was bred to be, showing all he has learned and failed to learn, deciding the remaining course of his life”). She ably evokes a time when horse racing was not only the sport of kings, but captured the global imagination of millions. For horse-racing fans, an adequate follow-up to the author’s previous book and a companion for Lauren Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit (2001). (8-page b/w photo insert)

THE LOST WHALE The True Story of an Orca Named Luna Parfit, Michael; Chisholm, Suzanne St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-312-35364-3 978-1-250-03198-3 e-book

Six years in the life of a young killer whale that lost contact with his family yet managed to survive on his own. Parfit and Chisholm (co-authors: Blame It on the Weather: Amazing Weather Facts, 2002) chronicle the life of Luna, an orca first sighted swimming with his mother in 1999. Unusually, the pair appeared to be alone, with no other whales in sight. In 2002, Luna showed up alone in the coastal waters on the southern tip of Vancouver and began swimming around the docks and following boats; he appeared to be attempting to befriend humans. The authors describe how Luna evoked an empathetic response due to his obvious loneliness and hunger for social contact. He would also solicit physical contact, gesturing with his flippers and looking people in the eye. He also played with boats, sometimes carefully lifting and pushing them. Conservationists had hoped that his pod would return so that he could be reunited with them, but the pod did not come back. Scientists and government authorities tried to enforce laws prohibiting people from interfering with orcas, officially an endangered species. Luna was nonthreatening, gentle and responsive to verbal cues to stop an activity, but they feared that he would become too attached to humans. In 2004, on assignment from Smithsonian magazine, the authors first met Luna. They were reporting on a conference where his fate was being hotly debated: Would he be allowed to remain free in hopes that he could reconnect with his pod, or should he be sent to an aquarium? In 2007, the authors produced the award-winning documentary Saving Luna. A tender, nail-biting account of an orca’s fate as the Canadian Fisheries and Oceans Department considered trapping and sending him to captivity. (8-page color photo insert)

Pivnik, Sam St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-250-02952-2 978-1-250-02953-9 e-book

An eloquent, deeply intimate account of a Polish teenager’s endurance of successive deathly challenges unimag-

ined in a lifetime. At age 13, Szlamek Pivnik, a tailor’s son in the poor but vibrant, predominantly Jewish town of Bedzin, Poland, essentially said goodbye to his idyllic childhood. On September 1, 1939 (the author’s birthday), the Germans invaded: Schools closed, the town’s main synagogue was burned, the execution squads arrived, and roundups began that gradually restricted the Jews to the ghetto in the nearby quarry. Pivnik’s father’s skill as a tailor protected the family to some extent, as did the author’s job in a furniture factory. Though they tried to hide in an attic, they were forced out by thirst and hunger to join the call for deportations. On the train platform at Auschwitz, separated by the flick of the wrist (Pivnik believes it was Dr. Mengele himself making the selections) into a line left or right (that is, to the death chamber or to work camp), his family disappeared in a heartrending moment. Pivnik, then 17, was warned that to survive he had to say he was older and join whatever work crew would take him. Pivnik portrays the prisoner so brutalized by daily deprivation and violence that he loses all will to resist, even if given the opportunity, and so unused to using his free will that he became perversely attached to his jailor even when the end was nearing for the Nazis and the march headed west. Masterfully conveys the grim absurdity of the Nazi mentality and the utter dejection of the concentrationcamp prisoner. (8-page b/w photo insert)

THE BILLIONAIRE’S APPRENTICE The Rise of the IndianAmerican Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund

Raghavan, Anita Business Plus/Grand Central (512 pp.) $29.00 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4555-0402-2

Financial journalist Raghavan debuts with this account of the international web of insider trading at Raj Rajaratnam’s Galleon hedge fund. The author traces the precedent-setting prosecution and May 2011 conviction of Rajaratnam, whose 11-year jail term is the longest awarded in an insider trading case to date, from its unlikely beginnings in an investigation of his younger brother’s hedge fund. For the first time, wiretaps were used to secure |

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convictions in such a case, and Raghavan excels with her account of how the targets for taps were sifted out of more than 4 million pages of documentation over the three-year investigation. The process she reports at both the SEC and the U.S. Attorney’s office becomes compelling as the pieces of the case are identified and potential witnesses recruited. Raghavan compiled more than 200 interviews and traveled extensively in her quest to assemble the narrative. She provides an insightful account of South Asian immigration to the U.S. since the 1960s and shows how relations established in India’s elite education system provided some of the ties that bound the conspirators together. Rajaratnam and his accomplices—mainly Rajat Gupta, a former head of the McKinsey consulting company and board member at Goldman Sachs—were also highflying associates of top political and corporate circles in both India and the U.S. Gupta, in particular, frequented quarters where significant decisions were made about outsourcing U.S. economic activity. Rajaratnam’s accomplices at Intel and Advanced Micro Devices provided the information necessary to build his reputation as an expert in technology and produce spectacular financial gains. Compelling in its specificity and intriguing in its portrayal of leading financial institutions and their malfeasance.

FINDING YOUR ELEMENT How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life

Robinson, Ken with Aronica, Lou Viking (288 pp.) $27.95 | May 21, 2013 978-0-670-02238-0

Another self-help book about attaining your true potential, from Robinson and co-author Aronica. The desire to help people find a life that resonates with who they are, both on the inside and the outside, is the principle behind Robinson’s (Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, 2011, etc.) practical guidebook on discovering one’s “element” or authentic self. “Finding your element is a highly personal and often surprising process,” he writes, “that has different outcomes for each of us.” Building on ideas presented in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (2009), Robinson uses a variety of methods, such as questions and hands-on exercises (mind maps, vision boards, automatic writing and Venn diagrams are just some examples), to help readers on their quest. When followed, these prompts generate visual, progressive layers of understanding that lead readers to a place where natural aptitudes and abilities converge with one’s passions. The ultimate goal is to create a life that brings inner peace and satisfaction along with social and economic balance for the individual and society as a whole. By acknowledging one’s dreams and understanding the conditions needed to fulfill them, readers can create their own organic, nonlinear destiny and discover a lifestyle that eliminates regret and truly 64

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expresses a person’s individuality. Stories drawn from his personal life as well as from those who have followed Robinson’s other works add balance and some credibility to the process, and the books and websites mentioned throughout the text supply additional support. Mostly a rehash of The Element, but fans may glean some insight about understanding who we are as individuals and how we can have a better life that communicates our uniqueness to the world.

THE WOMAN BEFORE WALLIS Prince Edward, the Parisian Courtesan, and the Perfect Murder

Rose, Andrew Picador (352 pp.) $28.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-250-04069-5

Overly detailed look at the expert manipulations of an attractive young Parisian on the make and the English prince who fell for her. To his journalistic credit, historian and barrister Rose (Stinie: Murder on the Common, 1985) doggedly pursues the sordid, classic tale of a Parisian girl largely abandoned by her parents who used her street smarts to make her way to rather spectacular success. Marguerite Alibert, aka Maggie Meller, among other names, was raised largely in state institutions and then placed in the Parisian home of a wealthy lawyer before becoming pregnant at age 16 in 1906. Showing a promising petite figure and willingness to learn, she quickly went from being a high-class prostitute in the fashionable 16th arrondissement, where she gained all kinds of lessons in manners, dress and elocution, to being the kept mistress for wealthy benefactors such as the Duke of Westminster. The duke introduced her to the young Prince of Wales in 1917, when he was on leave in Paris during World War I. Keen to have his own French mistress, the prince lost his head for the “poule de luxe,” whose specialty was in the arts of the dominatrix. The problem was indiscretion on the part of the prince, who wrote elaborate letters to Marguerite letting slip details about the military conduct of the war, “letters very probably scabrous into the bargain” and very worrisome to British officials. Marguerite had her eye to blackmail, yet she wisely bided her time until she happened to be indicted for murdering her Egyptian husband in London’s Savoy Hotel on July 3, 1923. Rose admirably tracks down Marguerite’s intriguing story, but he provides altogether too much information. A good bit of journalistic documentation related in lackluster writing.


“Recommended as an alternative perspective on an often emotionally fraught discussion.” from one and only

RUMSFELD’S RULES Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life

Rumsfeld, Donald Broadside Books/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $27.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-06-227285-0

Two-time former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld (Known and Unknown: A Memoir, 2011) condenses the rules that he claims shaped, and were shaped by, a lifetime in business and public service. The author packages his previous memoir about his life and times into a breezier format organized around a collection of maxims, which he presents at the end in a 25-page appendix. The author writes that he has collected these thoughts throughout much of his career, and here, he assembles them in a straightforward, uninspiring book. Rumsfeld has been involved in public policy since he became a congressional aide in 1957 and brings his experience to bear in discussing the defense bureaucracy and how it has grown over time. His maxims include aphorisms, observations and quotes from Sun Tzu and Confucius, W.H. Auden and David Hume, among many others. Examples: “Never hire anyone you can’t fire”; “The way to do well is to do well”; “Remember where you came from.” Here, readers can discover Rumsfeld’s thoughts on how to apply for a job, accompanied by reminiscences of people he has hired, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who became an aide in President Richard Nixon’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Disappointingly but perhaps predictably, Rumsfeld does not provide new insight into the events that (often negatively) shaped the latter part of his career—e.g., the problematic nonexistence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the torture at Abu Ghraib and the disastrous governmental failures in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nonessential. The collection offers an occasionally intriguing but hardly revelatory view of the author’s career, but reader response will likely hinge on political affiliation. (10 b/w photos)

ONE AND ONLY Why Having an Only Child, and Being One, Is Better Than You Think Sandler, Lauren Simon & Schuster (224 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4516-2695-7

Journalist Sandler (Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement, 2006), an only child and mother of one, examines research, literature and anecdotal accounts on “singletons” who have been maligned as lonelier, less social and more troubled than peers raised with siblings.

The author also surveys attitudes toward parents of such children, who were often thought to be wealthier and more selfish. Through articles in popular magazines, current views in psychology, personal observations, interpretations of biographies on famous political and cultural figures, interviews, an 1895 study by Granville Stanley Hall, Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children, and other sources, Sandler discovered little evidence supporting the pervasive, negative perception of only children. She also found that contradicting studies, which revealed only children to be more successful, with higher self-esteem and better self-adjustment, remained largely unnoticed. The most intriguing section of the book features research on children born in China’s one-child–policy environment; less compelling chapters consider family size from demographic and economic perspectives, both in Europe and the U.S., with the expected conclusion that few, if any, adults base their consideration of whether or not to have additional children on larger trends. The author’s take on this controversial subject, which emphasizes the positives of raising one child, may be misread as an attempt to justify her lifestyle, but she does not criticize those who do choose larger families (some of whom she explores in a chapter on Christian evangelicals). Sandler also carefully notes her own occasional ambivalence. Though it’s not likely to sway those readers who believe strongly in having multiple children, the author’s argument dispels stereotypes of “onlies” and raises provocative questions about the American tendency toward prioritizing and even elevating parenthood over relationships, individuality, social networks and other aspects of adulthood, sometimes to the detriment of the family. Recommended as an alternative perspective on an often emotionally fraught discussion.

BRAINWASHED The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience Satel, Sally; Lilienfeld, Scott O. Basic (320 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-465-01877-2

Psychiatrist Satel (Yale Univ. School of Medicine; When Altruism Isn’t Enough: The Case for Compensating Kidney Donors, 2009, etc.) and psychologist Lilienfeld (Psychology/Emory Univ.; co-editor: Case Studies in Clinical Psychology, 2013, etc.) take up the cudgels against what they call “neurocentrism.” The authors debunk the proliferation of disciplines (e.g., “neurolaw,” “neuropolitics” and “neurotheology”) that have recently spawned, rejecting “the view that human experience and behavior can be best explained from the predominant or even exclusive perspective of the brain.” In their view, this approach is not only facile but mechanistic, and it overlooks the cultural and psychological determinants of human behavior and dismisses the notion of free will. The authors warn that this has crucial implications for the prosecution of crime. In the future, if brain scans are |

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deemed sufficient to determine the predilection to violence, this raises the specter of preventative detention and calls into question criminal law and the relevance of premeditation. Satel and Lilienfeld provide an overview of the development of brain scans over the past 100 years, explaining why the inference that modern scanning devices such as the fMRI can reveal consumer preferences is exaggerated. What is shown is the activation of areas in the brain; the rest is pure inference. The authors also question the brain-disease model of addiction, citing the experience of soldiers who used heroin in Vietnam but routinely detoxed in order to be discharged. They explain that their purpose is not to critique the exciting technological advances of neuroscience but rather their misapplication, and they take exception to the “assumption that the brain is the only important level of analysis for understanding human behavior, and that the mind—the psychological products of brain activity—is more or less expendable.” A valuable contribution to the neuroscience bookshelf.

BIG DADDY’S RULES Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look Schirripa, Steve with Lerman, Philip Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $25.00 | May 7, 2013 978-1-4767-0634-4

An actor’s thoughts on raising daughters. Fathers today desire to be different from their own dads; they want to be more involved with the daily ins and outs of raising their kids, and they want to avoid the phrase, “because I said so.” But for actor Schirripa (The Goomba Diet: Living Large and Loving It, 2006, etc.), from The Sopranos and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, “because I said so…is the most underrated sentence in a dad’s vocabulary.” He believes that parenting—which is “not a verb. It’s a noun. You’re a parent….You’re not there to be a friend to your kid”—means being present, up-close, personal and loud, extremely loud—and, in Schirripa’s case, full of profanity. Through sarcastic humor, the author shows the importance of tough love and tough choices. He has no patience for modern parenting methods: none of this nonsense about praising a child for his or her efforts, no putting up with back talk, no trying to hang with the kids and be “cool” in their eyes or the eyes of their friends. You get one shot at being a parent, he writes; better to be honest and let them know from the get-go who’s in charge. Throughout the book, Schirripa relies on stereotypes about both genders: “boys… they’re pretty straightforward. You toss them a ball…you roughhouse with ’em a bit, and when the time comes you give them money for condoms”; “Girls are complex. They’re really smart. But they’re really, really cunning, too.” That’s when Big Daddy melts “like a Good Humor ice cream somebody dropped on the sidewalk in the middle of July.” Schirripa’s rough-and-resilient child-rearing practices will not appeal to everyone but may raise a laugh or two from other wiseguys. 66

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TIME NO LONGER Americans After the American Century

Smith, Patrick Yale Univ. (240 pp.) $27.50 | May 21, 2013 978-0-300-17656-8

“[E]xceptionalism is a national impediment America can no longer afford,” declares journalist Smith (Somebody Else’s Century: East and West in a Post–Western World, 2010, etc.) in this challenge to Americans’ view of themselves. By exceptionalism, the author means the notion that America is a nation with a destiny, a view that “holds people out of history, in the space of timeless mythologies, where there are no choices or decisions.” In four conceptually challenging essays, Smith contends that America stood outside of history until 9/11, understanding its past and conducting its policies by reference to myth and story rather than to “what is.” The events of 9/11 comprised such a crushing defeat of America’s “fundamentalist idea of itself ” that we should take the opportunity it presented to abandon our dominant myths in favor of a vision of America as just another nation among many. Smith’s controversial and thought-provoking concepts, as elaborated from the arrival of Europeans in the New World through the first half of the “American Century,” may indeed explain a great deal about the American character. For the period after 1945, however, the author contents himself with recounting the comfortable mythology of the left, with reflexive bashing of cardboard versions of Reagan, Bush and the tea party and praise for Jimmy Carter, who appears here as a foreign policy visionary. He ends with a call for America to “advance from a belief in destiny to a commitment to purpose,” which apparently entails adopting a “culture of defeat,” more central planning, the subordination of the individual to society and an Orwellian “new vocabulary…the language must be cleansed.” Smith’s argument is further marred by sweeping and unsupported pronouncements of dubious validity and by a tone of condescension toward Americans collectively and individually that makes one bristle even at valid criticism. A difficult, unsettling and ultimately disappointing critique of the American worldview.

THE MARQUESS OF QUEENSBERRY Wilde’s Nemesis

Stratmann, Linda Yale Univ. (336 pp.) $35.00 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-300-17380-2

A straightforward attempt to rehabilitate Oscar Wilde’s tormentor as a family man. British author and crime novelist Stratmann (Greater London Murders, 2010, etc.) certainly


fleshes out this highly vilified character and father to Lord Alfred Douglas, aka Bosie, Wilde’s lover. Indeed, much of what we know about the ninth Marquess of Queensberry has been learned from his contradictory and “self-justifying” son or other unreliable sources. Was Queensberry’s vindictive pursuit of Wilde an understandable expression of paternal protectiveness, or was it an outgrowth of an insidious genetic instability that can be traced to a mad distant cousin? The Queensberry inheritance meant that, at age 14, with the sudden death of his father, the eldest son was set to inherit enormous wealth and vast land in Scotland and England. Queensberry became a naval cadet whose passions, as they had been for his father, were sports and gambling. Yet another trauma occurred at age 21, when he received news that his beloved brother had died in a climbing accident; shortly after, Queensberry married the beautiful Sibyl Montgomery, and though the match yielded children, the parents were disastrously incompatible. Strong-willed to the point of being obsessive, a freethinker ostracized by his peers in Parliament for his outspoken embrace of agnosticism and regarded as somewhat of a crackpot, Queensberry became alarmed at the company kept by his spoiled, imperious third son, Bosie, namely his “unusual friendship” with the notorious Wilde. Indeed, the author deems Bosie a rather worse influence on the elder poet, a lethal mixture of both his parents, who introduced Wilde to the low-class youths that would bring about his downfall. While formal and academic, this portrait presents compelling new evidence of Queensberry’s humanity.

THE BODY ECONOMIC Why Austerity Kills

Stuckler, David; Basu, Sanjay Basic (304 pp.) $27.99 | May 21, 2013 978-0-465-06398-7

How budget-cutting responses to recession produce increases in death rates and epidemiclike breakdowns in public health. Stuckler (Senior Research Leader/ Oxford Univ.; co-author: Sick Societies: Responding to the Global Challenge of Chronic Disease, 2011) and Basu (Medicine/Prevention Research Center, Stanford Univ.) contrast the “large and long-lasting public health improvements” brought about by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal with the documented effects of the austerity created by the Great Depression. They show how reversing what was well-established and returning to a one-sizefits-all austerity—whether in the form of the shock-therapy privatizations applied in the former Soviet Union or the IMF austerity imposed on the countries of Southeast Asia and the Republic of Korea in 1998—has led to poorer health conditions and an increase in death rates. The life expectancy of workingage males in Russia was reduced from 64 to 57 between 1991 and 1994, and the number of deaths in that age group set the country back demographically at least 20 years. In other areas, the authors examine deaths by suicide and from alcoholism, as well

as the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases, which often accompany forced reductions in health programs. Stuckler and Basu also review austerity’s effects on the British National Health Service and the effects of the housing crisis on America’s health profile. Foreclosures and homelessness also contribute to the spreading of disease—for example, unmaintained, stagnant swimming pools in California have provided a breeding ground for the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus. A dramatic study emphasizing some of the combined consequences of ideological obsessions and bureaucratic thoughtlessness.

THE PLATEAU EFFECT Getting from Stuck to Success

Sullivan, Bob; Thompson, Hugh Dutton (320 pp.) $27.95 | May 2, 2013 978-0-525-95280-0

Why “things work, until they don’t” and what to do about it. In this brisk book, two “entrepreneurial analysts” examine those times when you plateau (get stuck) in life and stop growing. “Plateaus are a sign—a tangible warning—that your life, your relationships, or your business is clogged,” write NBC News journalist Sullivan (Stop Getting Ripped Off: Why Consumers Get Screwed, and How You Can Always Get a Fair Deal, 2009, etc.) and mathematician and IT security expert Thompson, who draw on research and their own experiences to discuss how people reach a point of numbing sameness in their lives and work, no matter how much they keep trying harder. Plateaus are laws of nature and occur regularly, write the authors, but they can be overcome. Examining behavior in diverse settings—e.g., students trying to memorize material for a test, professional baseball player Derek Jeter in training sessions, diners who quickly fail to notice the dominant odor in a stinky garlic restaurant—they show how plateaus can frustrate dieters, stymie businesses and lead to exasperation, even desperation. Many readers will be fascinated by their descriptions of such underlying matters as acclimation, flow and distortion mechanisms. The importance of timing, for example, is illustrated by the work of cognitive psychologist Piotr Wozniak, who has shown that learning occurs in between the times you are trying to learn. For all their recounting of the science behind the ruts we fall into in life, the authors wind up offering utterly common-sense solutions: If things are stuck, shake it up, they write. Try new things. Take a break now and then. Breathe. Avoid distractions. Avoid perfectionism. Overblown but well-written and entertaining.

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“An intriguing, revealing study of Arabs’ changing views of themselves and the world as their countries open up—deserves a wide audience.” from the world through arab eyes

THE WORLD THROUGH ARAB EYES Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East Telhami, Shibley Basic (272 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-465-02983-9

Arab public opinion, newly codified and relevant. In the wake of President Barack Obama’s recent exhortation to young Israelis to look at the world through Palestinians’ eyes, this work holds a prescient message at how recent changes in the Middle East have certainly opened the eyes of many Arabs, as well as favorably altered American attitudes toward them. The methodology of the polling undertaken by political scientist Telhami (Peace and Development/Univ. of Maryland; The Stakes: America in the Middle East, 2002) is key. After establishing his own credentials, he explains in detail how the polling was gathered over the last 20 years, then combined with significant changes over the last two years when the authoritarian screens in many of the countries were lifted. As the author writes, “it was obvious that the Arab governments’ near monopoly of the media was crucial to limiting public discontent.” He focuses mainly on six Arab countries as representative and in which to track public opinion—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and United Arab Emirates—and divides the narrative into thematic areas of inquiry—e.g., Arab identity, the use of the Internet, the sense of empathy with others, the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, the Arab uprisings, opinion of the United States, Israel and Iran, and shifting attitudes about religion, women and democracy. Arab identity has been deeply shaped in relation to long humiliation by Israel and the West, and the “prism of pain” among all the Arab respondents was the enduring Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hence, Arabs are still deeply suspicious of Western motives, choose France or Turkey in terms of model countries, and don’t necessarily believe that the clergy should have a political role. An intriguing, revealing study of Arabs’ changing views of themselves and the world as their countries open up—deserves a wide audience.

CONFESSIONS OF A SOCIOPATH A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight Thomas , M.E. Crown (288 pp.) $25.00 | May 14, 2013 978-0-307-95664-4

The biting memoir of a “successful” sociopath, from the pseudonymous Thomas. The author is a lawyer, a teacher and a sociopath—she abjures “psycho” as a little too much—a 68

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full-blown example of anti-social personality behavior, with “a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others”—not in a legally criminal way but certainly capable of inflicting damage. Her self-portrait is not likable, but readers will admire her drawing attention to all the sociopaths out there. “We are legion and diverse,” she writes. “At least one of them looks like me. Does one of them look like you?” Thomas treats her life as a case history, reaching for cognizance while pulsing with a frankness that roves between raw self-evaluation—which might be disarming if she had more emotional capacity—and an undiluted meanness toward those she would ruin, the many “gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a gonowhere rat race.” She scours her past to see where her sociopathy was nurtured and genetics to see where it might have found a foothold through nature. She invites us into her courtroom, classroom and bedroom to witness how her behavior has stunted her work life and made her love life difficult. She explains her view of risks and consequences, “but my mind is almost always at peace no matter what I do.” Much here is chilling, but there are also cracks that make you ache for her: “Sometimes I can’t see people’s disgust for me because I’m so single-mindedly inclined to see adoration.” A work of advocacy for greater awareness of sociopathy’s reach and conduct.

MR. PRESIDENT George Washington and the Making of the Nation’s Highest Office

Unger, Harlow Giles Da Capo/Perseus (288 pp.) $25.99 | Nov. 1, 2013 978-0-306-81961-2

What starts out as a hagiographic testimony to George Washington matures into the thorough treatment readers expect from prolific history writer Unger (John Quincy Adams, 2012, etc.). After the ratification of the Constitution and election of Washington as president, both he and Vice President John Adams found there was little for them to do. Adams, at least, had the Senate to preside over, but the first president’s strength and eminence gave him the power to build a strong executive branch from a strictly ceremonial post. The author focuses on the seven pillars of the office and elaborates on the near disasters that the young country faced. Without Washington’s drive and insistence on resolution, civil war was a near certainty. He developed and solidified the prerogatives not defined in the Constitution: executive appointments, foreign policy, military affairs, government finances, federal law enforcement, presidential proclamation and executive privilege. Washington felt his Cabinet should reflect the geographic and political diversity of the United States, but regional differences threatened its effectiveness. Southern states-rights supporters butted heads with the Northern Federalists, and cooperation was nonexistent as both Hamilton and Jefferson fed vitriol to the newspapers they


“An assured yet scarifying memoir by young, supremely gifted novelist Ward.” from men we reaped

controlled. Rivals making up his Cabinet may have worked for Lincoln, but not even Washington’s strength could force these men to collaborate. Hamilton’s bank and the assumption of the states’ war debt caused the first rift, and only its unqualified success quieted that storm. The threat of war with France during the Genet affair, the Whiskey Rebellion and the discord in his Cabinet would have daunted a less forceful man. A highly focused book concentrating on a small but significant part of the evolution of American government. (24 b/w photos)

DENIAL Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind

Varki, Ajit; Brower, Danny Twelve (368 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4555-1191-4

A new answer to the question of why Homo sapiens are the only species to have developed a brain with complex

mental abilities. Varki (Cellular and Molecular Medicine/Univ. of California, San Diego; co-editor: Essentials of Glycobiology, 2002) and Brower, former professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona, shared their ideas about the origin of Homo sapiens in 2005, but Brower died in 2007 before completing his manuscript on the subject. This book is a version of Brower’s draft that Varki has adapted and expanded. They propose that when humans gained not just self-awareness but an understanding that other individuals are also self-aware and have independent minds, they thus became aware of their own mortality. The overwhelming fear that such knowledge produced would have presented an evolutionary barrier had our species not simultaneously developed a neural mechanism for denying reality. According to Varki and Brower, this convergence of self-awareness and self-delusion was a highly unlikely event that has happened only once in the evolution of life on our planet. While some other species demonstrate features of self-awareness, the authors argue that humans are unique in the mental ability to deny reality, which has led to the development of religiosity, death rituals and theories of an afterlife. Reality denial, they write, has both positive and negative consequences on the personal, societal and global level. For example, on the personal level, Varki, a practicing oncologist, cites its positive value in the experience of patients being treated for cancer; however, on the global level, he discusses the negative impact of reality denial on the issue of human-induced climate change. The final chapter presents a number of arguments likely to be offered by those unconvinced by or opposed to the theory of reality denial. A novel idea about the origins of the human mind but long-winded and repetitious in its development.

YES, I COULD CARE LESS How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk

Walsh, Bill St. Martin’s Griffin (256 pp.) $14.99 paper | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-250-00663-9

A copy editor at the Washington Post returns with his third rant-cum–English usage manual (Lapsing into a Comma, 2000, etc.). The volume sometimes has the appearance of a cut-andpaste job: Recto pages feature headers selected from the author’s tweets; occasional text boxes offer information about compound words, hyphenation, famous movie lines that people commonly misquote (Bogart said only, “Play it, Sam”) and the meanings of abbreviations (GAO is now the Government Accountability Office). Some chapters are principally argument and/or exposition (Walsh goes after Strunk and White); others are lists of usage issues and the author’s views about them. The author’s tone and diction vary from serious to silly. “The en [dash],” he writes in the latter way, “is a prissy punctuation mark that I have little use for.” Walsh does have some serious points to make. Writers should know the conventions of written English and know their audiences. Other folks still do judge our commas, our capital letters, our use of lie and lay. A little grammar helps, too. Knowing the difference between an essential and a nonessential clause, knowing when something is in apposition, when it is not—it’s hard to use commas correctly when you don’t know the grammatical structures you’re employing. He deals with many common issues, and he takes on the double possessive, the use of hopefully (lost cause, he believes), comma splices, disinterested and uninterested, who and whom (he is softening on this one), subject-verb agreement with collective nouns, and the expressions graduated high school and going to prom. A frisky reminder that usage issues are part convention, part passion.

MEN WE REAPED A Memoir

Ward, Jesmyn Bloomsbury (256 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 17, 2013 978-1-60819-521-3

An assured yet scarifying memoir by young, supremely gifted novelist Ward (Salvage the Bones, 2011, etc.). Like the author’s novels, this study of life on the margins—of society, of dry land against the bayou, of law—takes place in the stunning tropical heat of southern Mississippi. Her parents had tried to leave there and make new lives in the freedom, vast horizon and open sky of California: “There were no vistas in Mississippi, only dense thickets of trees all around.” But they had returned, and |

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in the end, the homecoming broke them apart. Ward observes that the small town of her youth was no New Orleans; there was not much to do there, nor many ennobling prospects. So what do people do in such circumstances? They drink, take drugs, reckon with “the dashed dreams of being a pilot or a doctor,” they sink into despair, they die—all things of which Ward writes, achingly, painting portraits of characters such as a young daredevil of a man who proclaimed to anyone who would listen, “I ain’t long for this world,” and another who shrank into bony nothingness as crack cocaine whittled him away. With more gumption than many, Ward battled not only the indifferent odds of rural poverty, but also the endless racism of her classmates in the school she attended on scholarship, where the only other person of color, a Chinese girl, called blacks “scoobies”: “ ‘Like Scooby Doo?’ I said. ‘Like dogs?’ ” Yes, like dogs, and by Ward’s account, it’s a wonder that anyone should have escaped the swamp to make their way in that larger, more spacious world beyond it. A modern rejoinder to Black Like Me, Beloved and other stories of struggle and redemption—beautifully written, if sometimes too sad to bear.

LOUDER THAN HELL The Definitive Oral History of Metal

Wiederhorn, Jon; Turman, Katherine It Books/HarperCollins (736 pp.) $32.50 | May 14, 2013 978-0-06-195828-1 An indispensable oral history of an often misunderstood musical genre. The most important lesson this mammoth tome teaches us is that metal means far more than one might believe. It isn’t just Black Sabbath, Slayer, Guns N’ Roses and teased hair, write Revolver senior writer Wiederhorn and Nights with Alice Cooper producer Turman. Rather, it’s an umbrella under which falls numerous subgenres, including thrash, death and black, oftentimes incorporating and/or encompassing punk, rap, and good, old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll. This is why a style of music that hasn’t completely crossed over to the mainstream more than merits this lengthy, in-depth study. The success of an oral history is primarily dependent on the quality and quantity of interview subjects, and here, the authors lined up a veritable murderer’s row of talking heads: Jimmy Page, Henry Rollins, Gene Simmons, Slash, Courtney Love, Kurt Loder, Sharon Osbourne and Dee Snider are among the dozens of high-profile musicians and industry insiders who offer up commentary. The authors also spoke with members of well-known cult bands like Slipknot, Minor Threat and Bad Brains, as well as Type O Negative, Disturbed, W.A.S.P. and Cannibal Corpse. The majority of the interviewees are forthcoming and compelling, which makes for great reading for both hard-core headbangers and general music fans. The anecdotes run the gamut from debaucherous (lots of sex, drugs and violence) to heartbreaking, but there’s plenty of factual 70

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meat to satisfy readers in search of the history behind the music and the facts behind the myths. The subtitle doesn’t lie: This hugely impressive achievement is, without question, definitive. Even if your metal collection consists of a couple of Kiss cassettes and an AC/DC CD, you’ll find this a killer read. (Three 16-page color inserts)

CEMETERY JOHN The Undiscovered Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping Zorn, Robert Overlook (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59020-856-4

Debut author Zorn makes a compelling case that the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping was orchestrated by a Bronx deli clerk who got away with the crime scot-free. The author argues that German immigrant John Knoll masterminded the kidnapping of world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s young son. Convicted of the crime in 1935, Bruno Kauptmann was executed the following year, without mentioning any accomplices. On the night of March 1, 1932, Zorn writes, kidnappers climbed a ladder up the side of the Lindberghs’ New Jersey home to steal the sleeping toddler from his bed. Although his parents met the ransom demands, their son was never returned; little Charlie Lindbergh’s remains were found near their home more than two months later. Zorn’s connection to the case is personal. His late father, economist Eugene Zorn, grew up in the South Bronx, where Knoll rented a room. The elder Zorn recalled witnessing a conversation about the kidnapping in 1931, when he was 15, among Knoll, his brother and a man Knoll called “Bruno.” Reading about the case in 1963, Eugene’s memory of the exchange returned, sparking his suspicion of Knoll, who, even by the accounts of Knoll’s own family members, was a disturbed, stamp-collecting loner obsessed with aviation and deeply jealous of Lindbergh’s fame. Eugene shared his theory with the Lindberghs in a letter but never received a response. Several of the book’s 23 photographs and illustrations reveal striking similarities between the police sketch of “Cemetery John,” who collected the $50,000 ransom, and Knoll, now deceased. Knoll skipped town just before the start of Kauptmann’s trial. Zorn’s research includes new forensic evidence, personal and historical documents, and interviews, laying the foundation for a thrilling true-crime tale that offers a resounding answer to the question of who was really responsible for the kidnapping.


children’s & teen SIDEKICKED

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Anderson, John David Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-213314-4 978-0-06-213316-8 e-book

THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP by Kathi Appelt; illus. by Jennifer Bricking........................................72 A MOMENT COMES by Jennifer Bradbury.........................................72 HENRY’S MAP by David Elliot...........................................................79 the story of fish & snail by Deborah Freedman...................... 82 ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein............................................................................................83 TWENTY-SIX PIRATES by David Horowitz......................................85 DR. RADWAY’S SARSAPARILLA RESOLVENT by Beth Kephart; illus. by William Sulit...........................................................................87 20 BIG TRUCKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET by Mark Lee; illus. by Kurt Cyrus.............................................................................. 90 BRUSH OF THE GODS by Lenore Look; illus. by Meilo So............... 92 DAREDEVIL by Meghan McCarthy.....................................................93 DARE YOU TO by Katie McGarry.......................................................93 ROBOT, GO BOT! by Dana Meachen Rau; illus. by Wook Jin Jung.......................................................................101 THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson; illus. by Ben McSweeney..................................................................... 103

Comic-book fans like to talk about how much they hate sidekicks. No one dreams about being Robin. They want to grow up to be Batman. But it turns out that a sidekick is the perfect metaphor for adolescence. Sidekicks are smart, energetic and imaginative—and they have no authority at all. They can’t drive or vote, but they can shoot electric bolts out of their fingertips. Anderson’s main character is a sidekick named Andrew Bean. Like the best superheroes, he’s down on his luck, always forgetting his utility belt when he needs it. Andrew is part of a school environmental club, H.E.R.O., that—in the novel’s best joke—doubles as a training program for sidekicks (motto: “WE KEEP THE TRASH OFF THE STREETS”). Andrew’s mentor is the Titan, an aging hero who’d rather go out drinking than fight crime. The novel’s real theme is disillusionment. Before the last chapter, Andrew will have his heart broken more than once. The best superheroes always do. The book’s big plot twists are never much of a surprise, but the smaller revelations are deeply moving. The secret that tore apart the Legion of Justice, which the now-dissolute Titan used to lead, turns out to be very simple and very sad. In the end, the tale is so heartbreaking that it’s the perfect training manual for superheroes everywhere. And that means all of us. (Fantasy. 9-12)

GOLDEN GIRL by Sarah Zettel..........................................................108

LETTING ANA GO

Anonymous Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4424-7223-5 978-1-4424-7213-6 paper Anyone familiar with the sensationalist pseudo-diary Go Ask Alice knows it won’t end well for an anonymous (fictitious) teen who chronicles her eating disorder. The journal begins as a food diary assigned by the unnamed narrator’s running coach. When the narrator goes on vacation with her friend Jill, Jill’s dreamy brother, Jack, and Jill’s perfectly |

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“Bradbury’s research…infuses but never overwhelms the narrative; the lack of solid resolution for the characters suits a book about a violent and confusing time.” from a moment comes

put-together mother, Susan, Jill convinces her to restrict her eating. As in Alice, the cautionary tale thrills readers with lurid details of the unnamed diarist’s spiral into danger. The diarist’s weight, food intake and exercise regimen are recorded in detail, with frequent mentions of dress sizes and tips such as the “Thin Commandments.” Every pressure the narrator experiences seems to be food-related, sometimes to an absurdly exaggerated degree (“Jack couldn’t take his eyes off you [last night],” Susan warns the narrator after catching her with a doughnut hole. “I just wouldn’t want you to start forming bad habits that would get in the way of that”). Readers who struggle with body image or with their own eating will surely have their own anxieties provoked by the obsessive details and the narrator’s unresolved disgust with her own and others’ bodies. A disturbing tale that feels meant to titillate rather than caution. (Fiction. 12-18)

THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP

Appelt, Kathi Illus. by Bricking, Jennifer Atheneum (384 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-4424-2105-9

When rogue feral hogs and a greedy developer threaten to wipe out Sugar Man Swamp, two raccoons know it’s time to rouse the legendary Sugar Man. Mythic Sugar Man has reigned over Sugar Man Swamp for a “gazillion yesterdays.” Raccoons Bingo and J’miah descend from a line of Official Scouts Sugar Man designated to watch over the swamp and alert him in an emergency. Twelve-year-old Chap has also grown up along the swamp, where his mother operates Paradise Pies Café. Like his recently deceased grandfather, Chap cherishes the swamp. When the swamp’s sleazy owner, Sunny Boy Beaucoup, threatens to evict them to convert the swamp into Gator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park, Chap takes his grandfather’s place to preserve what he loves. When Bingo and J’miah discover feral hogs descending on the swamp to pulverize the native sugarcane, they risk Sugar Man’s wrath and wake him. Set in the east Texas bayou, like The Underneath (2008) and Keeper (2010), this playful tale teems with bayou flora, fauna and folklore. In a honeyed dialect, the omnipresent narrator directly engages readers, ricocheting between the hilarious human and critter dramas to a riotous finale. A rollicking, ripping tall tale with ecological subtext. (art not seen) (Fantasy. 10-14)

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BURNING

Arnold, Elana K. Delacorte (320 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-385-74334-1 978-0-449-81076-7 e-book 978-0-375-99108-0 PLB A white boy afraid to leave his family meets a Romani girl who wants a brief romantic encounter in the Nevada desert. Lala’s family sells used cars in Portland, Ore., but is spending a week in the blistering heat of Nevada in order to fleece the gazhè who come to Burning Man; surely the hippies will pay generously to have their fortunes told. Ben lives in a company town that’s dying along with its shuttering gypsum mine. In alternating chapters, Lala and Ben tell of their coming-of-age crises: Lala fears the stifling sameness of her coming arranged marriage, while Ben is ashamed of the track scholarship that will provide his escape to college while his family and neighbors leave their soon-to-be ghost town for unemployment. Lala, for Ben, is his brief summer dalliance, the manic pixie dream girl who distracts him from his fears. Ben, for Lala, is the trigger she uses to take control of and redirect her life. Lala’s a powerful and independent young woman, though she also exhibits too many romantic gypsy tropes, with her “mess of dark curls...wild” and cascading over an hourglass figure, speaking in contractionfree sentences that entice Ben with their foreignness. Lyrical and inspirational, though Lala’s inexplicably outsider view of her own culture, complete with sneers at harmless cultural practices, is a deeply jarring note. (Fiction. 14-17)

A MOMENT COMES

Bradbury, Jennifer Atheneum (288 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-4169-7876-3

India, 1947: As Britain prepares to divide the country before leaving, three lives unexpectedly intersect. The partition of India and Pakistan, based on a border drawn by British civil servants, rarely appears in Western literature, much less fiction for teens. Bradbury pens a careful, respectful—but fictionalized—account of the final days before the line between the countries was announced, recounting it in the voices of three teens. Impulsive, spoiled English Margaret may not be entirely likable, but her love for the strange country she finds herself in is wholly believable and makes her the perfect stand-in for the reader; through Margaret, India in this specific time comes to life, and hard questions about British culpability are asked. Much of Margaret’s complex relationship with India plays out through her growing friendship with Sikh

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Anupreet, who has been caught in the violence between Sikhs and Muslims already, and Muslim Tariq, who hopes Margaret’s father will be his ticket to Oxford since “[e]veryone listens to the men who have the right education from the right places.” Through Tariq’s and Anu’s voices additional complexities and context are provided. Bradbury’s research (detailed in an author’s note) infuses but never overwhelms the narrative; the lack of solid resolution for the characters suits a book about a violent and confusing time. Historical fiction that brings its history to bloody, poignant life: rare and notable. (glossary) (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

DIGGER AND TOM!

Braun, Sebastien Illus. by Braun, Sebastien Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-06-207752-3 A little digger that could shows the other construction equipment that even though he’s small, he can get the job done. In a construction-truck reprise of his Toot and Pop! (2012), Braun introduces readers to the small backhoe (“Hello, Digger!”), whose “helping” doesn’t “always go quite as planned.” But this three-page introduction seems not to relate to the story that follows. Digger and Tom, the dump truck, are working together to clear the construction site of one last rock. But Digger is having a hard time of it—it is larger than it looked at first. When the other trucks arrive, they deride his efforts, telling him to step aside and see how it is done. But they get their comeuppance—Basher can’t smash it, Roland can’t flatten it, Chuck can’t bulldoze it, and Grabber can’t get a purchase on the rock. While the others are on a break, Tom and Digger exchange sly looks, and Tom encourages the little guy to try again. Of course, he succeeds, and the other trucks acknowledge him, and everyone pitches in to finish the site. Braun’s illustrations portray anthropomorphized construction vehicles whose simple, sometimes sweaty (!) faces convey their emotions: frustration, effort, satisfaction, pride and exhaustion. Simple backgrounds keep the focus on the trucks and their relationships. Not as strong as either Toot and Pop! or The Little Engine that Could, but truck lovers will be well satisfied. (Picture book. 3-6)

BORN OF ILLUSION

Brown, Teri Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-06-218754-3 978-0-06-218756-7 e-book Newly arrived in the exciting Jazz Age–era New York City world of mentalists, mediums and séances, can Anna Van Housen hide her gifts from her jealous |

mother, even as her visions become more frightening? And is she really Harry Houdini’s illegitimate daughter? Sixteen-year-old Anna, capable of tricks of illusion and escape and aware of her own growing extrasensory powers, is tired of being an assistant to her mother, Marguerite—a fraud who wants to be the world’s most famous medium. Brown ably depicts the tension between Marguerite’s jealous resentment of her daughter and Anna’s attempts at independence, as well as Anna’s confusion over the romantic intentions of two very different suitors. Indeed, characterization is a strength in this first-person narrative, in which the setting, New York City in the 1920s, is so richly drawn as to become a character in itself. Actual people, organizations and locations from the illusionist scene as well as abundant fashion details of the era immerse readers in rich historical context. Anna, able to communicate with the dead and see visions of the future, must figure out how to extricate both herself and her mother from separate kidnappings and finally learn whom she can trust. With an eye-catching jacket cover, this wordy mix of magic, history and romance will appeal to fans of Libba Bray. (Historical fantasy. 13 & up)

WINTERVEIL

Burtenshaw, Jenna Greenwillow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-202646-0 978-0-06-220929-0 e-book Series: Secrets of Wintercraft, 3 In this trilogy conclusion, the veil between life and death is so weak ghosts walk the streets, and only the heroes can stop it from falling away completely. Starting after the end of Blackwatch (2012), this installment begins with amnesiac Kate Winters under Dalliah Grey’s mind control and believing that they are student and teacher. Dalliah treats her more like a quasi-prisoner, so it’s no surprise that all it takes is a glimpse at Silas (and the tug of their connection) to shatter the ruse. Silas and tag-along Edgar then spend the story separated from Kate, simultaneously trying to find a way to stop Dalliah’s plans, preparing the citizens of Fume for a worstcase scenario in which Dalliah’s plans work and bracing for an imminent invasion by the Continent’s army. Meanwhile Kate, though free of Dalliah’s mind control, still obeys her, as Dalliah is too strong for Kate to fight, and she aids in Dalliah’s quest to destroy three critical spirit wheels to remove the veil. The protagonists find it exceptionally easy to convince others to follow commands, as plot requirements too-obviously dictate character actions. The plot moves at a good clip and explores the horrors of past experiments with the veils, but the sacrifice of character to its advancement represents a fatal flaw. Readers passionate about the series might like it, but those on the fence about continuing should pass. (Fantasy. 10-15)

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“Between the ruined world and the mutants, there’s plenty of threats to keep the pages turning.” from the testing

BEYOND THE SOLAR SYSTEM Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More

Carson, Mary Kay Chicago Review (144 pp.) $18.95 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-61374-544-1

Science writer Carson goes beyond the planets she described in Exploring the Solar System (2006) to survey the history of stargazing from antiquity to near–present day. Organized chronologically and moving rapidly to the 20th century, her history stresses key scientists and their discoveries. She includes the usual suspects, such as Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Hubble, as well as a number of lesser-known astronomers and astrophysicists, including some women and some working today. From early proofs that planets circled the sun to the discovery of quasars, pulsars, black holes and far-distant planets, this demonstration of the growth of human awareness about the universe concludes with the reminder that what we do know is far, far outweighed by what we don’t. A highly readable text is supplemented with diagrams, photographs and black-and-white illustrations, as well as biographical text boxes. Each chapter also includes step-by-step instructions for three or four hands-on activities that can support learning. From suggestions for observing the night sky or building a telescope to demonstrations of the expanding universe and the warping of the space-time fabric, teachers may find these 21 activities especially helpful, but handy readers can follow these clear directions on their own. Escaping our solar system is not easy, as Voyager has shown, but this is a useful path for budding space scientists. (glossary, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

GET OVER IT

Carter, Nikki Dafina/Kensington (240 pp.) $9.95 paper | May 28, 2013 978-0-7582-7271-3 Series: Fab Life, 6 This sixth installment brings levelheaded songwriter and pop star Sunday Tolliver’s career and romantic life to a comfortable—if not definitive—conclusion. Through Sunday’s straightforward, conversational narrative voice and casual, believable dialogue, readers are reintroduced to Sunday’s many college connections, music-industry contacts, close friends and family members. Sunday is still at college, living with six male and female friends, and her on-again, off-again relationship with her songwriting partner Sam becomes a focal point as her Twitter-savvy fans divide themselves between the men in her life, into #teamsam and #teamdeshawn. The tone throughout is gentle and positive. Sunday is responsible, loyal |

and caring, and even when a sorority pulls a cruel prank on her friend, the revenge she takes lifts someone else up rather than tearing the sorority sisters down. Although the ins and outs of two rival record companies can be slightly difficult to follow, Sunday’s internal thoughts and feelings make clear to readers what the companies’ actions mean to her and her loved ones, which is all that really matters. The ending is conclusive enough to resolve the series but open enough that another volume would be welcome. Wholesome, down-to-earth fun. (Fiction. 12-18)

THE TESTING

Charbonneau, Joelle Houghton Mifflin (336 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-547-95910-8 Series: Testing, 1 There are no grades in this dystopian future—only survival. It’s graduation day for 16-year-old Malencia “Cia” Vale, and she’s hoping to be selected for The Testing in Tosu City, a necessary prerequisite to attend the University. She is, along with three other Five Lakes colony teens. Embarking on the four-part series of challenges, Cia will learn whom to trust, even as she falls in love with Tomas, one of her fellow Five Lakes colonists. Cia must pass multiple-choice exams, hands-on survival tests and team challenges before facing the final test—a wilderness trek back to the University to prove her abilities as a leader. With a gun, compass and water in her bag, Cia will trek from the ruins of Chicago back to Tosu City, depending on her wits and her trust in Tomas. Charbonneau jumps into the packed dystopia field with a mashup of Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011) and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, but she successfully makes her story her own. Cia’s mechanical abilities are an unexpected boon to the overall character development, and it’s refreshing not to have a female protagonist caught up in a love triangle. There’s a nicely developed relationship between Cia and Tomas and genuine suspense surrounding another candidate’s motivations and intentions. Between the ruined world and the mutants, there’s plenty of threats to keep the pages turning. Though genre elements are in place, this page-turner earns an A for freshness. (Dystopian adventure. 12 & up)

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“Ananna’s struggle to balance her twin desires for affection and independence advances the story beyond conventional teen romantic angst.” from the pirate’s wish

RUFF! And the Wonderfully Amazing Busy Day

the story beyond conventional teen romantic angst. Naji’s attempts to reconcile his love for a pirate while remaining an assassin are less developed, and their romance wraps up a bit quickly. However, tantalizing tension develops as both finally realize that breaking the curse means their inevitable separation, a development both appealing and potentially devastating. Thrilling action combines with surprising character revelations in this satisfying sequel. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Church, Caroline Jayne Illus. by Church, Caroline Jayne Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-06-201498-6

Industrious dog meets charming mouse! Angry duckling falls from sky! Friendship ensues! And isn’t it great that they’ll all be together again tomorrow and probably for more overly exclamatory sequels? Ruff is a small, cheerful canine who lives alone in a cozy, caravan-style house in a big yard. While digging a new pond, he inadvertently destroys the home of Hubble the mouse. Ruff kindly builds Hubble a tiny shed next to his own home and offers his new pond as a home for Lottie, a duckling who couldn’t keep up with the older ducks as they migrated. Large-format illustrations are peppy and pleasing to the eye, with amusing animal characters and a collage style that incorporates patterned papers and cut-out leaves and flowers. The story unfolds in a breathless, wordy style, with too many jolly phrases and exclamation marks, and the camaraderie between the new friends feels forced rather than natural. The characters are sweet, the plot adequate if unexceptional, and the illustrations appealing. It’s the chatty, patronizing tone of the text that is the stumbling block that will make Ruff! a rough sell for repeated readings. Poor Ruff. Busy? Yes. Wonderfully amazing? No. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE PIRATE’S WISH

Clarke, Cassandra Rose Strange Chemistry (320 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-908844-28-6 Swashbuckling, brash pirate Ananna fights her growing attraction to Naji, the Jadorr’a assassin once sent to kill her, while trying to break the impossible curse binding them together (The Assassin’s Curse, 2012). Clarke entertainingly modernizes a classic pirate tale by including steampunk machines in naval battles, employing clever wordplay—the man-eating, beastly manticores really eat only men—and giving the requisite evil magician a femme-fatale makeover. And those aren’t the only surprises, as finely wrought introspective moments show outwardly prickly Ananna’s internal struggles to accept the secret longings for affection that she feels are antithetical to her pirate lifestyle. Informing Ananna’s growing awareness of life (and relationships) beyond the pirate ship are her close observations of her fellow travelers’ romantic entanglements. Included among these is Marjani’s tender gay relationship with Jojka’s queen, Saida, which is delicately woven into the novel. Ultimately, Ananna’s struggle to balance her twin desires for affection and independence advances 76

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CHEESIE MACK IS RUNNING LIKE CRAZY!

Cotler, Steve Illus. by Holgate, Douglas Random House (256 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | $18.99 PLB Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-307-97713-7 978-0-307-97715-1 e-book 978-0-307-97714-4 PLB Series: Cheesie Mack, 3

Middle school has Cheesie Mack on the run. List-loving, 11-year-old Ronald “Cheesie” Mack is back for his third outing, and this time, he’s embarking on the grand adventure of sixth grade at a new school…one he must, unfortunately, share with his eighth-grade sister June (Goon). Cheesie decides to run for class president and then decides his best friend (since kindergarten) Georgie should run instead. As they mount the strangest campaign ever, Cheesie continues his epic Point Battle against his sister (a secret game in which they score points for embarrassing or pranking each other). He also discovers track and field, kind of decides that girls are OK to hang out with and does a (sort of) good deed for Goon. Fans of teacher and children’s entertainer Cotler’s chatty, engaging Cheesie titles will be overjoyed with Cheesie’s evolving character and continued good humor and imagination. This stands alone, but events of the first two are referenced; as with the previous volumes, he invites readers to interact on his website. New-to-this-volume illustrator Holgate’s frequent black-andwhite illustrations, often labeled by Cheesie, add to the fun. Cheesie announces Volume 4 with a tantalizing list of what to expect, so the fun’s not over yet. (Fiction. 8-12)

THE GIRL WITH THE IRON TOUCH

Cross, Kady Harlequin Teen (384 pp.) $17.99 | May 28, 2013 978-0-373-21085-5 Series: Steampunk Chronicles, 3

A fast-paced steampunk adventure features a band of paranormal teammates who search Victorian streets to find their abducted friend.

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Set in 1897 London, this story gets off to a suspenseful start with mechanically gifted Emily escaping a squidlike Kraken that’s attacking her submersible in the Thames; friends Griffin, Sam and Finley come to her aid. Readers of Cross’ series (The Girl in the Steel Corset, 2011, etc.) will recognize her signature blend of kickass-yet-tenderhearted heroines (Emily’s and Finley’s superhuman abilities don’t keep butterflies from their stomachs when around certain males), mechanical contraptions (like automatons and velocycles) and intriguing side characters (meet Mila, a rapidly evolving, more-than-machine creation enriched with the team members’ own genes). When Emily is kidnapped by automatons, her friends must plot her rescue while warding off their own demons, whether in the form of wraiths populating the power-giving Aether or more complex psychological challenges posed by their pasts. Emily, meanwhile, discovers a surprising ally in Mila; their relationship raises provocative questions about where the soul resides and where humanity begins and machinery leaves off. Frequent references to Sam’s broad shoulders and Griffin’s swoon-y properties may irritate some readers, but all will appreciate the gritty, original surrealism of Cross’ steampunk world. A well-calculated blend of paranormal romance and genuinely innovative story. (Steampunk. 13 & up)

PARCHED

Crowder, Melanie Harcourt (160 pp.) $15.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-547-97651-8 With severe drought, child enslavement, and multiple shootings of people and dogs, this slim volume isn’t for the faint of heart, though it repays those who soldier on. In an unspecified African “place of dust and death,” in a story somewhere between realism and fable, Nandi the dog narrates an opening scene in which Sarel sees her parents gunned down. The gunmen, failing to find a water source, set the house afire and depart, leaving Sarel orphaned on her desert homestead. An underground grotto with a well sustains Sarel and her pack of dogs—fully family to her—while they recover from smoke inhalation and bullet wounds. In a nearby city, Musa sits in chains, taken outdoors only when gunmen (those who shot Sarel’s parents) need a dowser—Musa hears a buzz in his skull when water’s nearby. One generation ago, there were faucets and lawn sprinklers; now, gangs kill for a water bottle. When Musa escapes and Sarel’s well runs dry, the tale’s fablelike nature makes their meeting inevitable, even in the desert. The narration uses primarily Sarel’s and Musa’s perspectives, describing nature sparely and vividly. Thirst and heat are palpable as kids and dogs fight fatal dehydration. Occasionally, Nandi narrates, in broken English more distracting than doglike. A wrenching piece with a wisp of hope for the protagonists if not for the rest of their world. (Fiction. 12-14) |

RISE OF THE BALLOON GOONS

Cummings, Troy Illus. by Cummings, Troy Scholastic (96 pp.) $15.99 | $4.99 paper | $4.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2013 978-0-545-493222-2 978-0-545-49323-9 paper 978-0-545-49326-0 e-book Series: Notebook of Doom, 1

A discarded notebook with information on disquieting creatures like the Rhinoceraptor and the Forkupine isn’t the only surprise waiting in Stermont for nerdy Alexander Bopp and his oblivious dad. As if the small town’s name, three graveyards and abandoned glue factory aren’t eerie enough, Alexander is assaulted on his first day by several of the tall, fluttering “balloon guys” commonly used by stores as attention-getters. Moreover, his new class turns out to be temporarily relocated to the local hospital’s morgue, his new teacher loudly nicknames him “Salamander Snott,” and he becomes an instant target for aptly named classmate Rip Bonkowski. The next day, things get worse. Cranking up the horrorlarity with googly eyed cartoon figures and sight gags on nearly every page, Cummings pitches his nervous but resourceful newcomer into a climactic, all-out battle with an entire army of aggressive, air-stealing bendy balloons. Happily, with help from Rip and other unlikely allies, Alexander ultimately saves Stermont from a pandemic of permanently flattened tires, pool toys and whoopee cushions. An unusually promising series opener for proto-Goosebumps fans. (Light horror. 8-10)

FLYING SOLO

Cummins, Julie Illus. by Laugesen, Malene R. Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-59643-509-4 A lively biography of a pioneer in women’s aviation. In 1927, when flying was still a new phenomenon, 23-year-old Ruth Elder set out to be the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic. She and her instructor embarked on the journey with high hopes, but due to a serious malfunction, they abandoned the plane and were scooped up by a passing ship on its way to Europe. Cummins writes that Ruth “never lost her courage or her lipstick.” She made the most of the fame the unsuccessful attempt brought her, even performing in two silent movies, but her heart remained in aviation. In 1929, Ruth placed fifth in a cross-country race with 19 other women. Proud to have finished the course, Ruth accurately predicted that American women would someday be fighter pilots. Cummins’ snappy prose captures Ruth’s ebullient spirit, and her inclusion of other women acknowledges a community of female pilots often unmentioned in accounts of the most famous female

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aviator, Amelia Earhart, who is mentioned only briefly here. Laugesen’s muted illustrations render details with care, successfully evoking this exciting historical era. Cummins’ animated account of early aviator Ruth Elder’s struggles and achievements will amuse and inspire girls of all ages. (author’s note, sources, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 6-12)

HIDDEN

Curley, Marianne Bloomsbury (336 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-59990-840-3 Series: Avena Angels bring bad tidings in this teen paranormal pastiche. Violet-eyed, luxurious-haired, horseback-riding, rich, home-schooled Ebony Hawkins has a hard time fitting into her Australian high school. Strict parents, new superpowers and an interdimensional war for her affection just make things more awkward. After Ebony runs into Jordan Blake at a nightclub, they find themselves inexplicably linked. Ebony begins to question her origins, while Jordan works to forget his hard-luck life and the friend who fatally stabs him shortly after his meeting with Ebony. When Thane, an angel from the world of Avena revives Jordan and recruits him to look for a long-missing girl, Ebony finds herself torn between Thane, Jordan and the dark Luca. Ebony’s uniqueness and desirability is rooted in her foreseen power and magical potential rather than any inherent quality—though free will is prized, Ebony is a pawn. Beyond the unoriginal angelic element and trite romantic tension, the story suffers from inconsistent worldbuilding, arbitrary changes in superpowers, unbelievably dense characters and tin-eared dialogue. Narrative ping-ponging (in the present tense, natch) between Ebony and Jordan results in rehashed material and telegraphed plot points, with little resolution—with two more years to fight for Ebony’s love, the boys will battle again during inevitable sequels. Another tempestuous supernatural romance for fans of Twilight-fare, but readers looking for an original or coherent story will have to seek elsewhere. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT

Daywalt, Drew Illus. by Jeffers, Oliver Philomel (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-399-25537-3

Red is overworked, laboring even on holidays. Gray is exhausted from coloring expansive spaces (elephants, rhinos and whales). Black wants to be considered a color-in color, and Peach? He’s naked without his wrapper! This anthropomorphized lot amicably requests workplace changes in handlettered writing, explaining their work stoppage to a surprised Duncan. Some are tired, others underutilized, while a few want official titles. With a little creativity and a lot of color, Duncan saves the day. Jeffers delivers energetic and playful illustrations, done in pencil, paint and crayon. The drawings are loose and lively, and with few lines, he makes his characters effectively emote. Clever spreads, such as Duncan’s “white cat in the snow” perfectly capture the crayons’ conundrum, and photographic representations of both the letters and coloring pages offer another layer of texture, lending to the tale’s overall believability. A comical, fresh look at crayons and color. (Picture book. 3-7)

CURSE OF THE ANCIENTS

de la Peña, Matt Scholastic (192 pp.) $12.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-545-38699-9 978-0-545-48459-6 e-book Series: Infinity Ring, 4 Armageddon isn’t all bad. When the world ends, there will be earthquakes and tornadoes. There will be sheets of acid rain. There will be fires and floods and bolts of electricity surging out of the sun. That’s the first three pages of this fourth entry in the Infinity Ring series. No one will accuse the author of holding back. R.E.M. fans may wonder if the book is adapted from “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” But it turns out that an apocalypse was exactly what this series needed. As Sera uses the Infinity Ring to jump back and forth in time, from the end of the world to the age of the Maya, the story gains a sense of urgency that was missing from previous volumes. She has to prevent the Cataclysm, and her friend Riq may wink out of existence altogether. A time paradox means that his parents may never have met. These are the dangers of time travel. Like the previous volumes, this book suffers from terrible dialogue and implausible plot twists, but it also includes the funniest line in the series, a joke about TriSQuit crackers. (You had to be there.) Fans of the series will already be hooked, but even more skeptical readers may be a little curious what happens next. (Science fiction. 8-12)

Duncan wants to draw, but instead of crayons, he finds a stack of letters listing the crayons’ demands in this humorous tale. 78

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“Flat color washes, used selectively, keep the eyes moving around the page and visually make the moral point as the people and the food reach a crescendo of warmth and togetherness.” from empty fridge

OBI: GERBIL ON A SCHOOL TRIP!

Delaney, M.C. Illus. by Delaney, M.C. Dial (204 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-8037-3854-6 Series: Obi, 3

In this third volume to feature Obi, an endearingly flawed little gerbil who is always getting herself into trouble, the pampered pet accidentally hitches a ride to school. Obi shares her owner Rachel’s love with two other pets, a golden retriever named Kenobi and another gerbil named Wan, but she is secure in the knowledge that she’s Rachel’s favorite. Or is she? When Rachel writes an essay about her favorite pet, the troublemaking mouse Mr. Durkins plants a seed of doubt in Obi’s mind, and she becomes obsessed with discovering the subject of Rachel’s essay. The determined gerbil winds up stranded in Rachel’s backpack, eventually ending up at school, where she is left overnight. After all the kids have gone, Obi engages in silly hijinks with an assortment of school pets who make her pass the I’m-Really-Not-the-Principal’s-Spy Test, but ultimately, she gets what she’s after—a good look at Rachel’s homework assignment—and learns her true place in the little girl’s heart. Short chapters, interspersed illustrations and the funny narrative voice make this series a good choice for readers just wandering into chapter-book territory. Obi the gerbil’s latest adventure is an uncomplicated, entertaining romp with a lesson about the trouble that follows when we allow others to stir up doubt about our most cherished relationships. (Animal fantasy. 8-11)

EMMA EMMETS, PLAYGROUND MATCHMAKER

DeVillers, Julia Razorbill/Penguin (240 pp.) $12.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-1-59514-661-8

Emma has a gift for matchmaking and is determined to use it. Fourth-graders Emma and Claire are in different classes for the first time, and things promise to be interesting. When cool girl Annie enthusiastically credits Emma with finding her a boyfriend at summer camp, Emma is thrust into the role of matchmaker for the whole grade. Between the snarky comments of California transplant Daniel and the outright meanness of queen bee Isla, Emma struggles to find her way and build her new business. Emma hopes her new fame will allow her to be popular with her peers and leave behind some of the unfortunate nicknames of her earlier years. She commandeers the best playground spot and begins putting together romantic matches between the kids in her grade, |

inspired by the quizzes she reads in teen magazines and her own crush on teen heartthrob Jake LaDrake. Mercifully, the matches that Emma makes are, in the end, more platonic than romantic. Unfortunately, readers must put up with an overlong trip to get to the end. The journey is filled with uncomfortable crushes, one awkward playground marriage, dated language (“adorbs” and “obvi”) and too many references to cellphone usage. Emma’s quest for popularity makes her an unlikable fourth grader. Romance + fourth grade = ugh. (Fiction. 8-12)

EMPTY FRIDGE

Dorémus, Gaëtan Illus. by Dorémus, Gaëtan Wilkins Farago/Trafalgar (40 pp.) $19.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-9871099-3-4 The many and varied occupants of an apartment house in a French city have been busy all day, talking on the phone, cycling, playing music, working, having lunch; so busy, in fact, that—quel désastre!— no one has remembered to buy any food! In a wonderful chain of visits, each colorful character makes a trip up to the next floor to explore how they can pool the paltry ingredients they have scavenged to make a meal that everyone can share. Rose, on the top floor, invites all the neighbors in to brainstorm recipes. Suddenly, she has an epiphany! By combining everyone’s ingredients, they can make a quiche. A cozy quiche-baking party ensues, and the neighbors chat and laugh as they prepare the feast. Throughout this little neighborhood, the small miracle spreads. People gather sociably on all the buildings’ top floors, and impromptu cookouts sprout on every street corner. Everyone’s hunger for company has been satisfied. The whimsical European flavor of Dorémus’ line drawings will appeal to children and adults alike. Flat color washes, used selectively, keep the eyes moving around the page and visually make the moral point as the people and the food reach a crescendo of warmth and togetherness. A delicious celebration of community can-do. (Picture book. 3-6)

HENRY’S MAP

Elliot, David Illus. by Elliot, David Philomel (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-399-16072-1 Henry, an adorable pig, maps his farm world and puts everything in its place. Henry likes things organized. When he realizes that the farm outside his sty is a mess, he worries that no one will be able to find anything. His solution is to draw

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“Micay’s an appealing, if subdued, protagonist, and the rich cultural and physical setting trumps the somewhat derivative plot.” from the ugly one

a map. Going from the sheep’s woolshed to the cow pasture to the stable and the chicken coop, Henry shows his growing creation to the animals along the way. The animals are excited to see sketches of themselves and soon join the cartography expedition, ending on the hill above the farm. The parade, with chickens and sheep taking a ride on horses and Henry’s little trotters leading the way, sets the tone for comedy. When the livestock reach the top of the hill to compare the map to the actual farm, they are horrified to see that, while the map (and the hill) is filled with animals, the farm is empty! Racing back, the group checks each place and finds that now—miraculously— the animals are back in their places. Phew! Henry’s face, often filled with a worried scowl, allows readers to feel his need for order. Detailed pencil-and-watercolor illustrations add to the comedic timing, especially when Henry finds his face in the mirror, in the sty, right where he belongs. Here’s hoping for many more Henry-centric adventures. (Picture book. 3-8)

THE UGLY ONE

Ellis, Leanne Statland Clarion (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-547-64023-5 Micay’s name means “Beautiful Round Face” in Quechua, but her disfiguring facial scar has earned her the nickname Millay, “Ugly One,” from bullies in her Incan village. Fleeing to her special rock, she hides behind her long hair, but the taunts persist. Having a beautiful sister compounds her misery. When a stranger traveling to the Sacred Sun City (Machu Picchu) gives her a fledgling macaw, Micay emerges from her defensive shell. The bird she’s named Sumac, “Handsome,” becomes her companion and protector, leading her to the Paqo (village shaman), who takes her on as his apprentice. The Paqo is a mystery: Why did he forsake his powerful position in Cuzco for a humble village? He trains Micay in the healing arts, bringing her to an assembly of shamans seeking to end the relentless drought afflicting the empire. Despite their sacrifices and pleas to the gods, the drought worsens, and Micay fears the Paqo may be driven from the village. Though fantasy elements exist, the novel strives for historical accuracy. Micay’s an appealing, if subdued, protagonist, and the rich cultural and physical setting trump the somewhat derivative plot. The Incan empire’s four-century ascendance has inspired plenty of nonfiction and over-the-top fantasy but perplexingly little historical fiction for kids. This recommended title can help fill that void. (glossary, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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ZEBRAFISH SPF 40

Emerson, Sharon Illus. by Kurilla, Renee Atheneum (128 pp.) $19.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4169-9708-5 Zebrafish, the plucky band of dogooder musical misfits, returns in a sophomore offering ready for a summer of camp, video games, first jobs and art. Picking up where Zebrafish (2010) left off, Vita, Tanya, Plinko, Jay and Walt are just beginning a very different summer together. Plinko and Tanya are off to work as counselors-intraining at an arts camp, while Jay and Walt will be working on a library’s bookmobile—leaving Vita to wallow about trying to figure out what to do. With no gigs for Zebrafish on the horizon, some members of the group decide to enter a “Strings of Fury” (a fictional cousin of “Rock Band”) video game contest. Unlike its predecessor, which concentrated mainly on Vita’s experience, this plot focuses on Tanya’s and Plinko’s time at the camp. In remission from her leukemia, Tanya befriends Scott, a diabetic fellow camper, who will not only become a good friend, but may just be their necessary secret weapon in the “Strings of Fury” contest. A diverse cast of characters pulls the narrative in different directions, but then it just flops about. The onedimensionality of the art and the story makes it feel relentlessly vanilla. There is little excitement here, a sad fate for a promising summer-camp yarn. Cardboard. (Graphic fiction. 9-12)

STARBOUNDERS

Epstein, Adam Jay; Jacobson, Andrew Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-06-212022-9 978-0-06-212023-6 e-book Switching schools means making new friends and remembering a new locker combination, but at Indigo 8, Earth’s site for Starbounders-in-training, lessons tend to be a little more otherworldly. Incoming freshman Zachary Night has more than his new warp glove, the starchery range and the zero-gravity Qube to negotiate. Zachary is following in the footsteps of generations of Nights dedicated to protecting Earth from various outerverse threats. However, he is confident that with training he can live up to the legacy. But, when a custodial detail on a freighter goes awry, Zachary and his new friends are literally lost in space. The trio soon find themselves fighting space pirates, trying to survive hostile planets and negotiating a whole universe of alien species. Stock characters—a bumbling-but-lovable alien; a sassy girl with a chip on her shoulder; a hero with a legacy to claim— populate this uninspired adventure. Unfortunately, while its

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inspiration is clear (Alex Rider meets Percy Jackson in space!), the execution is anything but. Lame humor, familiar gadgets and a predictable plot collide, creating a story that will not satisfy even the most hard-core space junkies. A trek few will want to take. (Science fiction. 9-12)

LITTLE OWL’S ORANGE SCARF

Feeney, Tatyana Illus. by Feeney, Tatyana Knopf (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-449-81411-6

A little owl struggles with accessory problems. Little Owl lives with his Mommy in a tree house on the edge of the city park. He loves all the things little owls usually love: doing arithmetic, eating ice cream and riding a scooter. There is one flaw in this idyllic scenario: He does not love his new scarf. It is too long, too orange and too itchy. His mother insists that he wear it. He does his best to surreptitiously “lose” the scarf, by using it as a ribbon for a present for Grandpa and by putting it in a suitcase bound for Peru, but Mommy always seems to find it. Until one day…Little Owl returns from a trip to the zoo, minus the hated scarf. This piece of bad luck turns out to be an opportunity for a bit of mother-child bonding. This time, Mommy lets her son choose the yarn for a new scarf, a tasteful blue, and Little Owl is much happier. The new scarf is soft, the right length and not orange. The mystery of where the orange scarf went is revealed in the last picture, sure to elicit chuckles. Feeney’s naïve pencil-and-duotone illustrations, which use printmaking techniques to add interesting textures, complement the simple narrative and gentle message; both pacing and subtle adjustments to Little Owl’s expression add humor. A charming picture book for the very young, whether or not they are fussy about clothes. (Picture book. 3-5)

PIZZA IN PIENZA

Fillion, Susan Illus. by Fillion, Susan Godine (32 pp.) $17.95 | Aug. 1, 2013 978-1-56792-459-6

A little Tuscan girl introduces readers to her hometown of Pienza and her favorite food, pizza. Simple, declarative sentences take readers from Queen Margherita of Italy, circa 1889, to the streets of Pienza, where life “is still pretty old-fashioned,” to a brief history of the pizza. “[P]izza as we know it,” she says, “was really born in Naples,” but she goes back even further to inform readers that the ancient Greeks and Italians ate flatbreads before moving on to discuss classic pizza ingredients and the invention of the pizza Margherita. The first pizzeria in the United States |

opened in New York City in 1905, she continues, but pizza did not become popular around the country until after World War II: “Now there is pizza in Pienza… / …and all around the world!” Her ingenuous voice is matched by equally enthusiastic, folkstyle artwork, which looks to be made with oil pastels and is dominated by warm, Tuscan colors. Fillion spices the illustrations with humor, pairing a black-clad nonna on a bicycle to a modish young woman on a Vespa on one page and planting a demurely held slice in Mona Lisa’s left hand on another. The English text appears above an Italian translation on every page, and the story is supplemented by an author’s note, a pronunciation guide, a two-page history of pizza and a recipe. Both tasty and just filling enough, just like a slice of pizza Margherita. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

DEVIANT

FitzGerald, Helen Soho Teen (256 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-61695-139-9 A promising character study is derailed by a conspiracy-theory plot that comes out of nowhere. Ever since the death of her guardian when she was 9, Abigail has knocked around Glasgow’s foster-care system. But when she’s 16, her birth mother dies—and she’s left Abigail money, a one-way ticket to America and a letter. Abigail actually has a father and a sister in Los Angeles that she’s never met, and her mother’s dying wish is that Abigail live with them now. After the realistic depiction of Abigail’s struggles to get out of Glasgow, LA at first seems like a fairy tale to Abigail. There’s a rich father with connections, an enthusiastic stepmother and her sister Becky, who brings Abigail into the world of underground graffiti street art. But the mysterious death of her sister sends the plot swerving into conspiracy theories about teens being put under mind control, and it devolves into describing Abigail’s attempts to figure out how her father and sister are connected to this. Life for Abigail in Glasgow is presented as gritty, dark and hard, beautifully demonstrating Abigail’s inner reserves of strength, but grafting the mind-control plot onto it turns the story into a generic paranoia thriller. (Thriller. 14 & up)

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PAPA’S MECHANICAL FISH

Fleming, Candace Illus. by Kulikov, Boris Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-374-39908-5 Young Virena, one of four children, provides inspiration for her aspiring inventor papa’s latest ambitious construction: a submarine. Fleming bases her tale on the true story of Civil War–era inventor Lodner Phillips, who tried his hand at submarine design on the shores of Lake Michigan. In Fleming’s lively, enthusiastic account, Papa builds three increasingly large and more complicated underwater vehicles, each of which sinks, with Papa emerging cheerfully, if damply, ready for the next round. As Virena muses on the nature of marine life, providing Papa with ideas for improvements, the baby interjects disarmingly funny comments: “No pee pee!” chortles the baby when Virena asks how fish stay dry. The Whitefish IV has room for everyone, and Papa puts his entire family into the contraption—somehow the cheerful presentation keeps readers from worrying about the outcome. Kulikov’s expansive, comical illustrations offer exaggerated perspectives from above and below the deep blue-green water, huge and beautiful fish just under the surface and a loving family for the determined inventor. Blueprints for each version of the mechanical fish are included—a neat glimpse into the invention process—while the peculiarly human expressions on the family bulldog remind readers that this is a fantasy. An author’s note and an extensive list of adult resources give background information about the real Lodner Phillips. A humorous tribute to the zany, determined and innovative side of invention. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE SATURDAY BOY

Fleming, David Viking (272 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-0-670-78551-3

Life can be rough when your dad is at war. Derek knows. Fifth grade is hard enough without landing in the principal’s office. It gets even harder when his best childhood friend becomes his chief tormentor. It was Budgie’s mom who found him at the bus stop one rainy morning and told him it was a Saturday, and the nickname “Saturday Boy” clings, along with every other classroom embarrassment. He just can’t seem to keep his head down. But Derek is armed with 91 letters from his dad. He knows just the one to pull out when he’s mad or sad or just missing his superhero sidekick. Debut author Fleming deftly balances the building tension of the wartime absence of Derek’s supportive father against the trials of being bullied at school. Through Derek’s first-person 82

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narration, readers are drawn to the likable boy, who reveals the tension caused by anxiety for a parent’s safety. To escape his troubles at school, Derek imagines heroic adventures with his dad and misses the clues to developments at home. While he is surrounded by loving and understanding adults, the focal point of his peer interactions is Budgie, who plays a large role in unmasking the pressures of a family living with the sacrifices of war. Fleming wields a light touch with the story’s pacing and a steady hand for hard reality in this tender portrait of a boy under stress. (Fiction. 10-13)

THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL

Freedman, Deborah Illus. by Freedman, Deborah Viking (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-0-670-78489-9

Right from the title page, Freedman’s latest makes a splash. Atop a black-and-white stack of closed books sits one open book with blue pages fluttering like waves. A yellow fishtail disappears into the page, splashing water into the air above the books. This book happens to be a watery world (fish tank?) where, every day, Snail waits for Fish “to come home with a story.” Fish offers one with “a whole ocean, and a secret treasure, and a pirate ship”—but rather than telling it, “I want to show you this time, Snail!” Nope—Snail won’t go. They fight; Fish departs. Highlighted against the closed books and unobtrusive, black-and-white bookshelves in the background, Fish and Snail’s watercolor world looks clear and fine. But with Fish gone, “[h]ow can this be The Story of Fish & Snail?” Snail peers downward over the edge of the towering pile of books, where Fish has disappeared with a quiet “plimp.” Fish’s body, far below, appears murkily underwater inside the daunting new book. “F-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-S-H!” cries Snail, launching bravely into the air. Water splashes the whole height of the pile as Snail plunges into the new book. Fish peeps around a page’s corner, ready for reconciliation and adventure. Texture, scale and angle accentuate the exciting difference between the in-book worlds and the pale library background. This marvelous metabook shines in both concept and beauty. (Picture book. 3-7)

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“Grabenstein cleverly uses the tools of board and video games— hints and tricks and escape hatches—to enhance this intricate and suspenseful story.” from escape from mr. lemoncello’s library

THAT’S A POSSIBILITY! A Book About What Might Happen Goldstone, Bruce Henry Holt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-8050-8998-1

Odds are, Goldstone’s latest math title will provide readers with both the vocabulary and the practice to make them likely experts at determining probability. Certain, likely, (im)possible, (im)probable, odds: These are the words that Goldstone focuses on, highlighting them in the text, defining them and providing well-chosen, kid-friendly photos and digital illustrations so they can put them to use. Six lines of birds on electrical wires prompt the question: “If one of these birds flies away, what color will it probably be? What colors are possible, but not likely? What colors are impossible?” From gumball and prize machines to coin tosses, cards and dice, Goldstone leaves no stone unturned. His scenario involving game spinners is especially good—players have to choose between two spinners, and spots on the game board that say “Go back to START” and “Jump to FINISH” have to be taken into consideration. The book finishes with a look at permutations. A stuffed bear with 10 shirts and 10 pairs of pants has a total of 100 different combinations to choose among (and they are all shown!). A race with two racers has two possible results, but add a third entrant, and the possibilities go up to six. Backmatter provides readers with a few probability-related activities, an author’s note and a few notes on answers to the questions in the text. Certain to be popular with teachers, this is also certain to improve any child’s understanding. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY

Grabenstein, Chris Random House (304 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-375-87089-7 978-0-307-97496-9 e-book 978-0-375-97089-4 PLB When a lock-in becomes a reality game, 12-year-old Kyle Keeley and his friends use library resources to find their way out of Alexandriaville’s new public library. The author of numerous mysteries for children and adults turns his hand to a puzzle adventure with great success. Starting with the premise that billionaire game-maker Luigi Lemoncello has donated a fortune to building a library in a town that went without for 12 years, Grabenstein cleverly uses the tools of board and video games—hints and tricks and escape |

hatches—to enhance this intricate and suspenseful story. Twelve 12-year-old winners of an essay contest get to be the first to see the new facility and, as a bonus, to play his new escape game. Lemoncello’s gratitude to the library of his childhood extends to providing a helpful holographic image of his 1968 librarian, but his modern version also includes changing video screens, touch-screen computers in the reading desks and an Electronic Learning Center as well as floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stretching up three stories. Although the characters, from gamer Kyle to schemer Charles Chiltington, are lightly developed, the benefits of pooling strengths to work together are clear. Full of puzzles to think about, puns to groan at and references to children’s book titles, this solid, tightly plotted read is a winner for readers and game-players alike. (Mystery. 9-13)

THE LOST SUN

Gratton, Tessa Random House (368 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-307-97746-5 978-0-307-97748-9 e-book 978-0-307-97747-2 PLB Series: United States of Asgard, 1 When the god Baldur the Beautiful vanishes, can two teens rescue him and win their hearts’ desires? In a country very like a modern America populated by Norse-descended followers of Odin and his pantheon, 17-yearold Soren struggles against his berserker heritage and the disgrace of his father’s having lost control in a shopping mall. At his school, Sanctus Sigurd, he meets seethkona Astrid Glyn, a prophetess who’s sure her world-famous mother’s not dead. The two set off across the United States of Asgard in hopes of finding Baldur, who did not rise from his ashes as he does at the end of each winter, and thereby winning a boon from Odin Alfather. Finding Baldur turns out to be the easiest part of their quest; the duo must find a way to return him to the gods without drawing attention to themselves, as no one knows who orchestrated the god’s disappearance, and the rest of the country wants him back too. Gratton’s series opener is a wordy, languid adventure dotted with slightly twisted retellings of Norse myths. The breathless internal conflicts and easily overcome external conflicts never quite ignite. It’s chock-a-block with cornball plays on American cultural and place names made slightly Norse-y. When gods other than Baldur finally appear, things get interesting; maybe future installments will begin there. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

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“It is particularly entertaining to see what seemingly completely disparate things wind up on the same list. Evil Dead and The Sound of Music? Field of Dreams and Persepolis?” from super pop

STICKY, STICKY, STUCK!

Gutch, Michael Illus. by Björkman, Steve Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-06-199818-8

A well-intentioned effort with an extra-sweet ending may briefly satisfy but ultimately leaves readers wanting. Little sister Annie is always getting sticky. A stuck lollipop on her nose, exploded bubble gum over her face, ice cream dripping down her arm and “marshmallow goop” clogged in her ears are Annie’s distractions while her family members ignore her. They are too addicted to their own vices—video games, cellphone, laptop and what looks to be an iPad—to pay her much attention other than to be annoyed at the messes she makes. “One day Annie was hungry and went looking for a snack. As usual, everyone was doing their own thing, and there was no one to help Annie.” In an attempt to solve her own problem, she creates a very sticky sandwich with peanut butter and honey. When Annie accidently falls onto her dog, she finds herself stuck to the surprised canine. One mishap after another causes each family member to get stuck as well, until they are all one exasperated heap. But Annie has an idea that requires everyone to pay attention to each other and work together. The fire department and a good deal of water follow, but Annie’s family is having too good a time to become “unstuck yet.” Björkman illustrates the antics but fails to add much to the text. Although many readers will relate to being technology orphans, little else will entertain in this rather bland tale. (Picture book. 4-6)

SUPER POP Pop Culture Top Ten Lists to Help You Win at Trivia, Survive in the Wild, and Make It Through the Holidays

Harmon, Daniel Zest Books (304 pp.) $16.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-936976-36-2

to such vacation getaways as Doha and Karachi; The Darjeeling Limited; David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997); and The Amazing Race Australia. Each entry receives a paragraph or two of annotation. It is particularly entertaining to see what seemingly completely disparate things wind up on the same list. Evil Dead and The Sound of Music? Field of Dreams and Persepolis? The bizarre choices will prompt many double takes and lots of laughter. A weird, witty, endlessly entertaining compendium for the budding pop-culture aficionado. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

ON THE FARM Our Holiday with Uncle Kev

Harvey, Roland Illus. by Harvey, Roland Allen & Unwin (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-74175-882-5

Uncle Kevin has a farm, e-i-e-i-oh, there’s a lot going on there! No job is too big or too small on Kevin’s farm, and everyone pitches in. Harvey’s busy illustrations have a Where’s Waldo? feel, the first presenting an aerial view of the entire enormous place, with about 100 critters and nearly as many people working in various areas. Subsequent two-page spreads give close-up views of each area. Each has some descriptive text, and most include a bit of verse. In the shed, all kinds of farm equipment is being repaired. One woman holds a bright blue drill and has a piglet peeking out of the front pocket of her bib overalls; a man walks down the stairs holding a cow (!) in his arms; a barrel labeled “take your pick” is full of, well, pickaxes. Elsewhere, the pigs and the sheep play right next to each other; the former get washed every day, while the latter are being lovingly sheared. The orchard features a variety of trees, like pears and almonds and “ozfruit” (this is an Australian import). Signor Paddy and Signora Maria Antipasto keep all the egg-laying fowl on the farm and make great cakes and biscuits, too. There’s also a vineyard, rows of crops, stables, a diner with adjoining lawns for picnics, etc. Harvey’s mirth and ingenuity are apparent throughout, and though some components misfire, many more are delightfully daffy. Like a big box of chocolates. (Picture book. 4-7)

For anyone who has ever felt the slightest bit deficient in their pop-culture expertise, here is the ultimate guide, guaranteed to fill any void. Harmon has put together a quirky, fun, wide-ranging guide to nearly 500 different books, films, podcasts, songs, television episodes, video games and more, sorting them into kooky top 10 lists. “Stop Being Such a Philistine: Easy Access Points to the World of High Art” includes Exit through the Gift Shop, a Banksy documentary directed by the subject; Amadeus (the movie); Barry Lyndon; a 2009 ad campaign for Levi’s; and Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video, among others. “Eat, Pray, Love, Spelunk: Tag Along on a Life-Changing Vacation” recommends the VICE Guide to Travel, a Web-based collection of video guides 84

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MOTHER TERESA Angel of the Slums

Helfand, Lewis Illus. by Nagar, Sachin Campfire (88 pp.) $11.99 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-93-80028-70-5 Series: Campfire Graphic Novels Heroes Mother Teresa shines brightly both figuratively and literally in this graphic portrait of her life and mission.

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Mother Teresa glows in a spotless white sari against jumbles of dim, run-down streets and impressionistically rendered inhabitants. Her slight, erect image anchors both the stately art and Helfand’s solemn account of her devotion to helping others, from childhood on. Mixing commentary with (invented but characteristic) dialogue, the author chronicles her compassionate works and, occasionally, captures just a hint of her strong personality too: “How much medicine do you need to purchase today, Mother Teresa?” a pharmacist asks. “Purchase? I thought you might want to do something beautiful for God.” Closing with her continuing progress toward formal sainthood and a spread of additional anecdotes, this account will leave readers deeply affected and perhaps even inspired by her profound devotion to the poor, ill and needy in India and the world. “Why did she want to help? Why could she not turn a blind eye to those in need?” A searching and reverent treatment. (bibliography, foldout poster) (Graphic biography. 11-14)

SOLSTICE

Hoover, P.J. Starscape/Tom Doherty (384 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-7653-3469-5 This steamy apocalyptic-fantasyromance novel reads like the product of a committee formed specifically to design a YA best-seller. First-person narrator Piper Snow has spent her 18 years in a dying world, parched by the Global Heating Crisis. Piper, however, is more preoccupied with her overprotective mother and the two hot guys who suddenly exhibit passionate interest: the suavely seductive, golden hunk Reese and the gorgeous, brooding, bad boy Shayne. While the former tempts her into rebellion, it’s the latter whom she feels she has known and loved forever and who reveals that the gods of Greek mythology still walk the Earth— and its depths. Most of the story is spent with Piper touring the Underworld, fretting that no one answers her questions (for no reason other than that the plot requires it), and watching her parents and admirers squabble over her, lie to her, manipulate her and occasionally assault her. It’s hard to fathom her appeal; Piper’s most apparent personality traits are peevish passivity and spectacular self-absorption, and her interactions with her suitors consist of brief, banal conversations, scorching kisses and screaming for rescue. The slightest familiarity with classical legends will render the meant-to-be-shocking revelations obvious, and the moderately interesting science-fiction setting falls apart when forced into a literal mythological framework. Although Piper exerts some agency in the final chapter, enough major conflicts are left unresolved to guarantee a sequel. Generic, unthreatening, popcorn summer reading; ideal for those readers looking for more of exactly the same. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

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TWENTY-SIX PIRATES

Horowitz, David Illus. by Horowitz, David Nancy Paulsen Books (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-399-25777-3 Yo ho ho, it’s an alphabetical parade of pirates—by name! These 26 cleverly illustrated and unexpected rhyming name choices are bound to tickle readers’ timbers. “Pirate ARTY. First to the party. // Pirate BRAD. Born to be bad.” Each pirate receives a full-page portrait that depicts him (they are all boys) engaged in the behavior described. Pirate Lee, who needs to pee, quivers outside the head, hands over his crotch. Pirate Quaid, who is not afraid, nevertheless looks a little dubious as giant octopus tentacles loom. Pirate Tony, who is fall of baloney, happily munches a sandwich. And so on. The illustrations of construction paper, charcoal and colored pencils have a collage effect with comic exaggeration. Silent, clothed frogs that add to the humor appear with the named pirates on every page, brawling, cheering, laughing and gasping as circumstances demand. The final two pages depict all 26 pirates together on a boat, allowing readers to revisit them all and guess who is who. Horowitz mined the same abecedarian vein in his Twenty-Six Princesses (2008), so it’s probably fitting that these pirates are all boys. Despite the lack of gender diversity, though, these little-boy buccaneers display a nice range of skin colors and hair textures. Aye mateys, heave-ho with this bounty of pirate silliness. (Picture book. 5-8)

THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME

Huget, Jennifer LaRue Illus. by Red Nose Studio Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-375-86739-2

It’s always good to have a guide when trying something new, even if that means writing it yourself. That’s precisely what the book’s red-haired, red-nosed (hat tip to the illustrator’s pseudonym?) hero teaches readers when he decides to run away from home. With his faithful rabbit in tow, he takes readers through each step of the process of hitting the road. After snacks and other necessities have been packed, a route planned and a suitably self-pitying note left, all that remains is the leaving. Soon, the previously confident hero decides his family probably deserves a last chance to do right by him. The instructional tone of the text by and large works, though the book suffers from a needlessly long passage near the beginning detailing what to pack. Ultimately, it’s the photographed models that are the true stars of the show. Extreme use of perspective, remarkable lighting techniques and additional

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line art shine. A silent, emotionally pungent spread depicts the little boy in the close embrace of his visibly relieved mom. There is a single artistic misstep: The farewell note pinned to the family baby in one scene has mysteriously disappeared in the next, a goof children will notice. Kids may not pick up on much practical advice for their own escapes, but at least they’ll be able to enjoy this boy’s truncated journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

CHICK-O-SAURUS REX

Jennewein, Lenore Illus. by Jennewein, Daniel Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 23, 2013 978-1-4424-5186-5

Inspired by his dinosaur ancestry, a small chick drives off a wolf and so turns bullies into friends in this bland episode. Bullies Little Pig, Little Sheep and Little Donkey refuse him entry to the treehouse unless he can prove that he’s “brave and mighty.” A nascent rooster’s crow doesn’t persuade them that he or his family meet their qualifications, and they post a “No Chickens Allowed” sign on their tree. Little Chick pesters his dad into helping him dig up an “ancient ancestor” who turns out to be T. Rex. Proclaiming “I AM CHICK-O-SAURUS REX!” in a full-spread bellow, Little Chick races back to the tree with a giant bone, arriving just in time to send a startled wolf scooting off. Huzzah. After a general chorus of “For He’s a Mighty Brave Chicken,” the erstwhile bullies throw the treehouse open to all the farm animals. The thick-lined, very simple cartoon illustrations have just about as much nuance as the plotline. Hot as the “bully” topic may be, this has nothing to offer on it aside from facile wish fulfillment. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-6)

INSOMNIA

Johansson, J.R. Flux (360 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jun. 8, 2013 978-0-7387-3593-1 Series: Night Walkers, 1 Parker has been unable to sleep for three years, ever since he began to inhabit the dreams of other people. At age 16, Parker believes that his lack of sleep will kill him soon, after it drives him into psychosis. Parker calls himself a “Watcher.” Every night he believes that he sees the dreams of the last person with whom he had eye contact that day. While trapped in these dreams, he cannot sleep. One night, he meets newstudent Mia and finds that her dreams are so simple that he can lie down within them and get some real sleep while she’s 86

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dreaming. Desperate for more sleep, he begins stalking her. Meanwhile, Mia receives threatening emails that appear to come from Parker and grows terrified of him. Parker convinces his friends that his paranormal ability is real, and they agree to help him with Mia—but Parker begins to suspect that he may have entered the psychosis he has feared. Is the stalker real, or is he really Parker? Johansson, writing from Parker’s point of view, scatters clues and red herrings about. Parker’s plight will convince readers, although they will not know if he’s innocent or psychotic until the final pages. The ending sets up the sequel in what promises to be an interesting new series. The premise combines with the tension resulting from Parker’s psychological quandary to keep pulses pounding. (Suspense. 12 & up)

SPIRIT

Kemmerer, Brigid Kensington (368 pp.) $9.95 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-7582-7283-6 Series: Elemental, 5 The third in the Elemental series largely turns from the charismatic Merricks to the problems of Hunter, a spirit elemental who was introduced in the first title, Storm (2012). Hunter is now being booted from his home by an angry grandfather who seems to be protecting his passive mother, lost in grief at the death of her husband, Hunter’s father. At school, Hunter develops an attraction to newcomer Kate, another spirit elemental (Kemmerer’s mythos includes an extra element), which leads to many descriptions of kissing. And tension: Kate is apprenticed to yet another spirit elemental, who is out to kill the Merrick brothers. While it’s refreshing to have the paranormal action mostly taking a back seat to more human teen concerns, genre readers will be disappointed at the flat denouement. Unless, of course, they are attached enough to the elemental Merrick boys from the first two books to want to just hang out in their parallel universe. It’s rather odd that Hunter never seems to use his powers and equally odd that Kemmerer appends a short, “bonus” novella to the end of the book that is all about Nick, an air elemental who recognizes that he is actually gay and not ever going to grow into an attraction to girls. For dedicated series fans only. (Paranormal romance. 12-18)

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“Against the 1871 Philadelphia setting…, a faultlessly depicted world of sound, energy and ample filth, the fully developed characters of William and Career are trapped in a bleakly hopeless situation.” from dr. radway ’s sarsparilla resolvent

DR. RADWAY’S SARSAPARILLA RESOLVENT

Kephart, Beth Illus. by Sulit, William Temple Univ. Press (198 pp.) $15.95 paper | May 1, 2013 978-0-9840429-6-8 Kephart has crafted a deeply satisfying tale that’s richly evocative of its time and place. Playing masterfully with words, knitting them into new and deliciously expressive forms, Kephart’s story is one of loss and then redemption. William Quinn is only 14. With his father in the Cherry Hill prison and his genially wayward older brother, Francis, recently beaten to death by a brutal policeman, his mother has ground herself into unbearable, paralyzing grief, and the boy has to find a way to save them both. He has help from many: Career, his cheerfully ambitious best friend; Pearl, a good-hearted prostitute; Molly, a neighbor child who’s deeply smitten with Career; a wayward goat named Daisy; and the abiding memory of Francis. Gradually, William finds a way to make right some terrible wrongs that are only revealed at a perfectly measured pace. Stark, spare illustrations provide an effective counterpoint to the flowing, poetic language. Against the 1871 Philadelphia setting (five years before the related Dangerous Neighbors, 2010), a faultlessly depicted world of sound, energy and ample filth, the fully developed characters of William and Career are trapped in a bleakly hopeless situation. But they never fully give up hoping. Like the very best of historical fiction, this effort combines a timeless tale with a vividly recreated, fascinating world. An outstanding and ultimately life-affirming tale. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

THE FEROS

King, Wesley Putnam (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-399-25655-4 Series: Vindico, 2 The lukewarm sequel to the tepid supervillain series opener The Vindico (2012) underwhelms. The five former protégés of the villainous Vindico have only two more months of life among the ordinary before at last being allowed to join the League of Heroes. The kids find their time in the doldrums cut short when they are attacked by a splinter group of the League—what gives?—and one of them, computer-genius Emily, is kidnapped by a mysterious third party who controls a team of superpowered Wraiths. Could her abduction be connected to the recent disappearances of League members? James, Lana, Sam and Hayden travel from one superbase to another |

in search of their friend, leaving a trail of wreckage in their wake as they fend off rebel Heroes, Wraiths and the Vindico, who are, predictably enough, released from their imprisonment to join the fray. King’s sequel suffers from the same flaws that characterized the first book: bland protagonists, double and triple crosses that don’t do anything but move the plot from point A to point B, less-than-compelling motivations behind the various villains’ actions, overwrought dialogue and clumsy exposition. Readers new to the series will be lost in a thicket of comic-book names and superpowers, and even those familiar with the first book may find keeping track of the expanding cast a challenge. Ultimately forgettable. (Adventure. 10-14)

THE WIG IN THE WINDOW

Kittscher, Kristen Harper/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-06-211050-3 978-0-06-211052-7 e-book Mayhem ensues when 12-year-olds Grace and Sophie spot the school counselor in the act of bloody murder. The friends have been sneaking around on imaginative, late-night spying missions for some time, but they’ve been pretty tame. This changes when they see the already mysterious, cloyingly sweet and very unpleasant Dr. Agford attacking something— somebody?—with a streaming red cleaver, overhear her suspicious phone conversation and then decide to call 911. The call is traced to Sophie’s phone, and she takes full blame, since it turns out Agford was apparently just chopping beets. The girls, though, still think she’s up to something. Agford decides to begin “counseling” Sophie to keep tabs on her, kids at school begin to harass her, and the suspense ratchets up as the girls investigate the counselor’s background—and her bizarre wig. An FBI agent who at first seems likely to help begins to look threatening. Sensible and smart but socially ostracized fellow student Trista proves to be the voice of reason as Sophie’s world begins to fall apart. Sophie’s first-person narration rings true and makes the growing peril feel ominously real. Ample red herrings keep young sleuths and engaged readers guessing in this thrilling debut mystery. Reminiscent of the ever-compelling film Rear Window, this appealing and often spine-tingling tale will leave its audience wishing for more. (Mystery. 11-13)

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Aaron Hartzler

Holy Shift By Gordon West

Photo Courtesy dana patrick

Some of us would delight in taking a hammer to our questionable adolescent taste in music. It’s a completely different story when your father makes you obliterate your cassette collection with a hammer in order to save your tarnished soul from eternal damnation. Such is one of many did-thatjust-happen scenarios in Rapture Practice, Aaron Hartzler’s sweet and salty young-adult memoir about growing up evangelical. Hartzler is slim, trim and chic, appearing more like the polished GQ covers he once concealed from his parents and less like the preconceived notion of someone raised in a staunchly conservative household awaiting the rapture. Yet Hartzler is the product of just such an upbringing. Steadfast in 88

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the notion that only the righteous would be plucked heavenward, his parents resolved to lead their children toward salvation. This meant church several times a week, summers at Bible camp, an embargo on secular entertainment and the heartbreaking humiliation of having to wear socks with otherwise fashionable boat shoes. “My young life makes Footloose look like Fire Island,” Hartzler says, laughing. Laughing is easy now, but this humor wasn’t often part of his adolescent equation. Strict codes of conduct enforced by loving but watchful parents orchestrated his life. Now, maturity and perspective allow Hartzler to empathetically see why his parents were as draconian as they were. They honestly believed their eldest child’s troubled soul needed a spiritual realignment, so they resolved to do anything to protect him. Forbidding visits to the cinema and pulling him from a starring role in a school play after he defiantly purchased the soundtrack to Pretty Woman were par for the sober course. His father even archived files on one of Hartzler’s favorite performers, crossover Christian singer, Amy Grant, highlighting her questionable plunging necklines and leopard print. “The ideas that my parents wanted to protect me from in the movie Pretty Woman and the songs of Bon Jovi, they were afraid would lead me to ideas of a different way to see the rest of the world,” Hartzler says. “And they were right.” When Hartzler began to realize how aggressively censored his life was, he reacted by seeking more information, ultimately questioning the validity of his parents’, and, by extension, his own, beliefs. The realization that he no longer shared the same ideals as his parents coincided with the intensification of their focus on steering him in the right direction. This led to them sometimes humbling him to the point of humiliation (imagine your father making

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you apologize to your entire senior class for drinking alcohol at a party). If Hartzler used this debut book as a platform to vent lingering grudges, it would be understandable, but he doesn’t. “Whether they will ever see it as this or not,” he says, “this is a love note to my parents about where I came from.” Rapture Practice reads as the account of a teen trying to find the delicate balance between respecting his parents, understanding his past and looking forward to a life that will be right for his spirituality and sexuality, even if it contradicts what he’s been taught. To date, he’s unsure if his parents have read his book or ever will. At times, Hartzler’s experiences read like fiction, and he even considered writing a fictional account of his upbringing. However, he wanted to respond to what he saw as just a handful of “four or five memoirs for teenagers that were all tragedy-based.” So he opted to write a narrative nonfiction of reflective humor and honesty in the vein of revered idols like Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris. Penning a memoir has given him the chance to re-evaluate what he didn’t realize as a teenager: He has an incredibly unique story. As he begins school visits, he’s focused on relaying a message encouraging his audience to embrace their own experiences. “You don’t have to have a vampire boyfriend to have an incredible story,” he says. “Look at the kid sitting at the desk next to you. He has an incredible story.” As a young adult, Hartzler faced a field of obstacles in order to remain loyal to the unique journey that has led him to genuine adult happiness and pride. Finding balance as an adult “really pleased” in his own skin came only after he courageously diverted from a path that might have led him to the life of a Midwestern missionary with a wife and 2.5 kids. Today, as a Palm Springs–based writer and actor with a boyfriend and two canine rescues, it would appear there are still difficult choices to be made: namely, the age-old question of Wilson Phillips or Amy Grant. “I have to go with Amy Grant,” he says after growling at this near-impossible decision. “I have to go with Amy Grant.”

Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket To Salvation: A True Story Hartzler, Aaron Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (390 pp.) $25.95 Apr. 9, 2013 978-0-316-09465-8

Inside Scoop Timing Is Everything: Technological advances and storms of social media have all but eradicated the borders of privacy. Tags, posts, feeds and video are sometimes less about intelligent discourse and more about adhering facile labels: socialite, nerd, jock, straight, gay. With more potential stings than benign census categories, modernday labeling creates plenty of sensitive gray areas and potential issues for gay teens. “It took a couple of tries for me to come out to my parents,” says Hartzler. “I almost feel like there’s an issue right now, especially with young people being encouraged to come out and label themselves: ‘Be honest as soon as you know!’ For me, it was such a long process,” he adds. “I believe sexuality is a continuum, and I don’t think everyone is a perfect Kinsey 6.” Social media may make it easier to get the word out about coming out of the closet, but it also engenders its own conundrums. – G.W.

Gordon West is a writer, illustrator and sometimes photographer living in Brooklyn. He is admittedly addicted to horror films and French macarons. |

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“[Cyrus’] strength is in how he uses the boy’s point of view to expand readers’ understanding of the environment,allowing both character and readers to find an answer to the problem.” froms 20 big trucks in the middle of the street

MORTAL FIRE

Knox, Elizabeth Farrar, Straus and Giroux (448 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-374-38829-4 A detached, secretive teen discovers the mystery of her origin when she encounters a peculiar, unorthodox family with magical powers. Growing up in 1959 in Southland, a South Pacific island “in a world very like our own,” Canny graduates from tech school, where she’s a math whiz, “impervious to the point of rudeness,” with the ability to see Extra, which are cryptic letters attached to objects. Raised by a domineering mother, Canny knows nothing about her father and wonders what she’s “made of.” Her only friend, Marli, has polio. Traveling to research a 1929 mining disaster with her stepbrother, Canny enters the Zarene Valley, where she notices the air thick with Extra. She realizes the paranoid Zarenes protect themselves and their valley with Ideogrammatic spells that she can decipher. Determined to steal their magic to help Marli, Canny finds a house where time stands still for 17-year-old Ghislain, a Zarene who’s been imprisoned there by a spell since 1929. Drawn to Ghislain and driven by her need to know, Canny risks all to unlock the valley’s hidden secrets. A deeply intriguing heroine, Canny provides the focus for this powerful, perplexing story rife with enigmatic characters in a spellbound setting. This intense, complex, occasionally inscrutable fantasy requires patient readers. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

OPENLY STRAIGHT

Konigsberg, Bill Levine/Scholastic (336 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-545-50989-3 978-0-545-50990-9 e-book Going back into the closet isn’t as easy as it seems. Coloradan Rafe Goldberg has always been the token gay kid. He’s been out since eighth grade. His parents and community are totally supportive, and his mom is president of his Boulder-area chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. On the outside, Rafe seems fine, but on the inside, he’s looking for change, which comes with the opportunity to reinvent himself at the prestigious Natick Academy in Massachusetts. There for his junior year, Rafe cloaks his gayness in order to be just like one of the other guys. He hangs out with the jocks, playing soccer and football, and gets exactly what he wants—until he starts to fall for one of his new best straight friends. Konigsberg’s latest (Out Of the Pocket, 2008) might sound like fluff, but it actually works as a complicated, poignant story of a teenage boy trying on a new skin. Rafe’s exploration happens in reverse of the 90

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traditional coming-out story, and his motives, observations and feelings are captured in mini-essays he pens for his creative-writing professor, who then provides him with life-coach–like feedback on both his decisions and his writing skills. These snippets feel prescriptive, but the rest moves swiftly as Rafe tries to cover his feelings and fit in with his new friends. An eye-opening story of wish fulfillment. (Fiction. 13 & up)

A HOLE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA

Law, Jessica—Adapt. Illus. by McDonald, Jill Barefoot (24 pp.) $16.99 | $6.99 paper | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-84686-861-0 978-1-84686-948-8 paper

A too-long setup leads readers through a repetitious song that enumerates a marine food chain. In Law’s adaptation of the traditional cumulative song, there is a shark in the hole in the bottom of the sea. He is joined by an eel, a squid, a crab, a snail and a green weed. Rather than repeating the first, the second line of each verse adds a small rhyming detail—the shark is in the dark, the eel is concealed, the squid hid—increasing the level of difficulty for an already tough-to-sing tune. The sun kicks off the food chain illustrated in the final two double-page spreads. In one, the smiling animals line up, mouths or appendages reaching for their next meal; the other depicts the still-smiling animals inside each other. McDonald’s childlike cartoon gouache-and-collage illustrations are a mishmash of textures, colors and patterns that mostly reflect the marine habitat. But the setting is not consistently a hole in the bottom of the sea. Rather, the five animals (and two scuba divers) appear just under a sailboat on the surface. Backmatter provides information about blue holes, food chains, the ocean, and the featured flora and fauna. Sheet music shares the copyright page. The marble-mouthed song, too-cheerful illustrations and disconnect between the song and setting make this one to skip; for a less busy but still child-friendly look at food chains, try Mick Manning’s Snap! (2006). (enhanced CD, not seen; sheet music) (Picture book. 3-6)

20 BIG TRUCKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET

Lee, Mark Illus. by Cyrus, Kurt Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-7636-5809-0

When an ice cream truck breaks down, a truck traffic jam ensues: the perfect attraction for the vehicle-obsessed in this captivating counting book.

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From cement mixer to garbage truck, the trucks pile up— and so does the crowd—as a young bicyclist names and numbers the vehicles in rhyming text. “I start to count each truck I see. / First 1, then 2, and now there are 3.” The use of numerals in the text encourages number recognition and creates a matching game, while spelled numbers are used when appropriate. The yellow-helmeted boy weaves through the action until the solution is clear: the crane truck! His idea saves the day, and with traffic flowing once more, all ends on a deliciously sweet note. Digital illustrations done in a muted pastel palette present an amiable city block as Cyrus takes readers on a cinematic tour of the locale. His strength is in how he uses the boy’s point of view to expand readers’ understanding of the environment, allowing both character and readers to find an answer to the problem. Various perspectives capture the imagination, but the trucks are the real stars of the show. Truck-lovers will beg for repeat reads, with little ones “reading along” from memory. (Picture book. 3-5)

LITTLE RED HOOD

Leray, Marjolaine Translated by Ardizzone, Sarah Illus. by Leray, Marjolaine Phoenix/Trafalgar (40 pp.) $12.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-907912-00-9 Two colors, minimal words, no grandma and a role reversal make for an eye-opening take on the traditional story. The wolf is huge, angular, spiky. Red is tiny and round, a single line for a nose representing her features. Action starts immediately as the wolf swoops her up and announces, tying a napkin around his neck, that she is dinner. Threatened with the stew pot, Red engages him in the traditional grandma’s-cottage dialogue, pointing out what big eyes and ears and teeth he has, while he threatens her with ever-larger gestures. When he says, “[A]ll the better to eat you with!!!” she says, no, he has stinky breath. “I do?” She offers him a sweet. He swallows it and then— dies, very dramatically indeed. The last page—actually the final endpaper—faces Red directly at readers as she states, “[F]ool!” The minimalist pictures (the wolf and his words are black, Red and her words are red) are energetically scribbled on a white background, and the wolf ’s end is fairly bloody, as children’s books go. Originally published in French and then in English in the U.K., it is as subversive a telling as can be imagined. In this country, it might be more appropriate for teens than children. Maybe. It definitely conveys a sense of power and control that small children in red cloaks don’t often get to enjoy. Gruesomely satisfying. (Picture book. 6-12)

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ASHES ON THE WAVES

Lindsey, Mary Philomel (384 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-399-15939-8

A book based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” promises a haunting journey but doesn’t portend a rosecolored finale. The small isle of Dòchas lies off the eastern coast of the United States. Its name means “hope,” a cruel joke to its stoic inhabitants, whose lives are more stocked with Celtic tradition than their pantries with food. Seemingly stuck in the 1800s, stark poverty abounds in the shadow of a looming mansion (the vacation home for generations of a wealthy family) and unpredictable Otherworlders (Selkies, Bean Sidhes, Na Fir Ghorm) who torment and sometimes kill the islanders. Liam MacGregor has grown up here, the unlucky scapegoat for everyone’s frustration: Thanks to a paralyzed arm and rumors of his gruesome birth, he is considered a demon. However, the arrival of Anna Leighton, heiress to the mansion, causes a tidal shift. Liam falls hard and fast for her, the islanders grow inversely more disgusted by Liam, and the Otherworlders make a cruel wager to test the strength of human love. Setting Liam’s antique dialect and turn-of-thelast-century lifestyle against pop-culture–laden, contemporary Anna could be seen as Luddite proselytizing, but the unlikely merging of the two worlds doesn’t feel forced. A romantic potpourri of doomed amour, Celtic lore and mystery-laden suspense. (Gothic romance. 14-18)

CAVE OF SECRETS

Llywelyn, Morgan Dufour (272 pp.) $12.95 paper | Jun. 14, 2013 978-1-84717-207-5 This middle-grade historical novel set in Ireland during the mid-17th century is low on character and a little muddled in story but offers lots of history. Thirteen-year-old Tom Flynn’s father ignores him or cuffs him, devoting his attention to keeping his land and spoiling his daughters. Tom’s mother is sickly and withdrawn, and Tom escapes to the cliffs and caves of Roaringwater Bay by their home in West Cork. In those caves he discovers Donal, who speaks Irish and whose father, he says, is a king. Tom becomes intrigued by Donal’s family, and Donal’s small sister Maura attaches herself fiercely to “Tomflynn.” Tom’s father goes off to Dublin and beyond to secure his family’s place in the shifting political landscape, and Donal’s father supports his family by smuggling. Donal’s family, who makes what they need and works the sea, opens Tom’s eyes to a different life from the one his father is trying to secure. The secrets of the caves reveal not only what Donal’s family does,

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“Brush strokes emphasize and echo the liveliness of Wu Daozi’s work in the flying sleeves of his robe and a swirling shock of his black hair.” from brush of the gods

but how Tom’s mother is connected to them. The denouement involves a little more forgiveness and turnabout than one might reasonably expect. A lot of English and Irish history and culture is dropped in when the focus shifts away from Tom, slowing the storyline and frequently failing to compel; a coda explains the real historical characters around Tom and Donal. For those fascinated by Irish history, but probably not many more. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

PROXY

London, Alex Philomel (384 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-399-25776-6 Sixteen-year-old Syd is a good guy; but he’s “proxy” to a “patron,” so Syd has to pay for someone else’s crimes. In a post-apocalyptic, near future, gay teen Sydney Carton was a “swampcat” orphan from the eastern wastes of what was once America. The Benevolent Society rescued him, named him after the Dickens character and charged him for the rescue as well as his future education. (Two other orphans are named Tom Sawyer and Atticus Finch.) To repay that debt, they assigned him to be a proxy for Knox Brindle, whose father runs the powerful SecuriTech company. Whenever Knox acts up, Syd is punished, sometimes violently. When Knox’s antics kill a girl, Syd’s sentenced to years of hard labor on top of the debt he still owes. Fed up, Syd escapes and accidentally comes face to face with Knox, who’s beginning to wonder if he isn’t the one who owes a debt to his proxy. As the boys avoid the Guardians, they discover that the secret to forgiving everyone’s debts may be in Syd’s blood. Accidental Adventures author London drops his first initial for his teen debut, a smart, stylish science-fiction thriller that deftly weaves big issues like guilt, accidents of birth, redemption and commerce into a page-turning read. Whipping Boy + Blade Runner with a sprinkling of The Hunger Games (plus, of course, a dash of A Tale of Two Cities) = a treat for teen SF fans. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

BRUSH OF THE GODS

Look, Lenore Illus. by So, Meilo Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-375-87001-9 The life of the classical Chinese painter Wu Daozi is imagined as a magical artistic adventure. Look’s text is brief and impressionistic, conveying with quick brushstrokes the mythical genius of the artist and his own wonder at the miraculous work of his brush. She begins with Wu Daozi as a boy studying calligraphy but discovering 92

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that his brush has other plans: “Each day something new and surprising dripped out of Daozi’s brush,” as lively lines turn into trees, a fish, a horse. So’s friendly ink-and-watercolor paintings are a mix of graceful lines and careful detail, conveying a world in motion. The black and white of Wu Daozi’s classical-style paintings as she depicts them come alive in bright colors: A butterfly, a camel, a flying dragon fill with color and flap or step off the wall as Wu Daozi finishes painting them. A seated Buddha smiles in glorious colors as Daozi adds a last touch of his brush. Brush strokes emphasize and echo the liveliness of Wu Daozi’s work in the flying sleeves of his robe and a swirling shock of his black hair. An author’s note gives Wu Daozi’s dates and explains his importance to Chinese art, including the fact that none of his 300 frescoes have survived; a note about the legend that Wu Daozi possibly cheated death by painting himself into paradise follows the last enchanting illustration. A cheerful introduction not only to Wu Daozi, but to the power of inspiration. (Picture book. 4-9)

IN THE AFTER

Lunetta, Demitria HarperTeen (480 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-06-210545-5 978-0-06-210547-9 e-book Surviving alone after an alien invasion and the ensuing apocalypse turns out to be onlythe beginning of Amy’s trials. Fourteen-year-old Amy has her paranoid, scientist mother and hippie father to thank for her survival when the aliens land in Central Park. Though neither of her parents is home when the invasion occurs, the house is green enough to be supplied with solar electricity and rainwater plumbing, and it’s surrounded by an electric fence. Amy and a foundling girl she names Baby live there for three years, communicating via sign language to avoid detection by the acute hearing of the small, voracious aliens who have wiped out most of humanity. When their sanctuary is threatened by a very human threat, the girls escape and find New Hope, a colony of human survivors…but the secrets of the regimented survivor community prove to be every bit as dangerous, if not more so, than the alien invaders. Debut author Lunetta crafts a bang-up, twisty sci-fi adventure/thriller that begs continuation. Plucky, smart, inquisitive Amy’s first-person narration is enjoyably snarky, and this end of the world is original enough to make it a good addition to any collection of postapocalyptic fiction. Fans will be rabid for The End, scheduled for summer 2014. (Science fiction. 13 & up)

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MONSTER, BE GOOD!

McCarthy has spun an adventurous story about this little-known woman, highlighting her groundbreaking triumphs with respectful whimsy. (“Fun Facts,” additional quotes, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Marshall, Natalie Illus. by Marshall, Natalie Blue Apple (24 pp.) $12.99 | May 14, 2013 978-1-60905-314-7

DARE YOU TO

A blatantly psychotherapeutic variation on Where the Wild Things Are and like

empowerment fare. An invisible narrator addresses young children: “Don’t be scared! You are in charge of the monsters. If you tell them how to behave, they will listen.” Depicting externalization in action, Marshall crowds each busily colored and patterned spread with mildly scary cartoon cousins of Ed Emberley’s Big Green Monster. They are all acting out or being selfish, mean or grumpy, but they are quickly brought into line with a corrective command like “Be quiet!”; “Sit still!”; or “Take turns!” Whether such direct orders will be more effective in real life coming from a child’s mouth than an irritated caregiver’s is anybody’s guess, but children (and, for that matter, parents) may derive some satisfaction from at least the pretense of authority that is offered here. “If a monster is tired and grumpy, send it to bed and say, ‘GO TO SLEEP!’ ” Like that would work. (Picture book. 3-5)

DAREDEVIL The Daring Life of Betty Skelton

McCarthy, Meghan Illus. by McCarthy, Meghan Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (48 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4424-2262-9

Ever hear of Betty Skelton? Most people haven’t, yet this woman was a whirling daredevil who liked to go fast and broke records in aviation and auto racing. In the 1930s, most girls played with dolls, but not Betty: She was obsessed with airplanes, and at age 16, she soloed. She wanted to be a commercial pilot and fly in the Navy, but she was laughed at. So she became a stunt pilot with her dog, Little Tinker, by her side and no shoes on her feet. In 1951 she broke an altitude record. Then she traded planes for race cars and drove into a new career, breaking the women’s record at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a speed of 315.74 mph. Those challenges weren’t enough for Betty, and she went on to driving a stunt boat. What was next? She trained to be an astronaut, but NASA wasn’t ready to send a female into space. Even so, Betty had “proven that women could do it as well as men.” The acrylic cartoon illustrations play up Betty’s spunk and derring-do with McCarthy’s trademark googly eyed expressions. Her achievements are stated in the straightforward narrative, but the author allows readers to tap into her personality through use of quotes: When Betty flew higher than Mount Everest, she said: “My feet darn near froze to death.” |

McGarry, Katie Harlequin Teen (480 pp.) $17.99 | May 28, 2013 978-0-373-21063-3 A hard-bitten street girl and a seemingly perfect baseball hero fall for each other. Through alternating chapters, readers immerse themselves in the lives of Ryan and Beth. Ryan lives in a small town outside Louisville, Ky., where he’s an ace baseball pitcher with real prospects for a professional career. Beth, 17, has been taking care of her addled, drug-addicted mother ever since they moved to Louisville when she was a child. Beth has found solace with two friends, Isaiah and Noah, avoiding her mother’s squalid apartment and her mom’s violent boyfriend. When events lead to Beth’s arrest, her wealthy, retired baseball-pro uncle Scott takes custody of her, bringing her into Ryan’s orbit. Despite an inauspicious start, the two begin a secret romance in defiance of their families and friends, until circumstances lead to a crisis. McGarry incorporates the two main characters from her debut, Pushing the Limits (2012), Noah and Echo, and mirrors its approach. (The author plans a third book that will follow Isaiah.) At first, readers may find Beth’s story the more compelling, but as Ryan’s too-perfect-tobe-true, community-leader family and controlling father reveal themselves, both characters spring to life. As in the first book, these two protagonists differ on the surface but have many similarities under the skin. Everything—setting, characters, romance—about this novel works and works well. (Fiction. 12 & up)

THE APPRENTICES

Meloy, Maile Illus. by Schoenherr, Ian Putnam (432 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-399-16245-9

“Our work is an ongoing struggle with unintended consequences,” says Marcus Burrows, the titular apothecary of Meloy’s previous novel for young adults (2011). The work to which he refers is using alchemy to halt the spread of nuclear weapons in the 1950s, and in this sequel, he is joined in his quest again by the resourceful and quick-witted 16-year-old Janie Scott. Meloy’s deft exposition sets the stage swiftly, so that when the boarding school where Janie has been sent for safekeeping is quickly revealed

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as a treacherous place and her bogus expulsion in the second chapter plunges her into action, readers already understand her history. The narration shifts among Janie and her allies: Benjamin Burrows, the apothecary’s brave son; Pip, the wily London con artist; and Jin Lo, the tortured Chinese chemist. This mirrors their experiences when they discover an elixir that enables them to see through one another’s eyes while they cross the globe to reunite, head off nuclear disaster and cope with the fallout from their own alchemical experimentation. The denouement leaves room for both optimism and a third (as yet unconfirmed) installment. This sober and well-constructed adventure accurately conveys the geopolitical instability of the era and is leavened with just enough magic, chaste romance and humor to appeal to middle-grade readers through teens. (art not seen) (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

A TRICK OF THE LIGHT

Metzger, Lois Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (208 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-06-213308-3 978-0-06-213310-6 e-book A young stop-motion-film enthusiast’s encounter with anorexia, as narrated by...his eating disorder? Readers first meet Mike through the eyes of an unidentified narrator who is following him. It gradually becomes clear that the narrator is not a person but a voice Mike sometimes hears. The voice gains influence when Mike’s father leaves his mother for a younger woman, and soon, Mike is starving himself. A new friend, Amber Alley, teaches him to eat as little as possible and gives him tips on how to hide what he’s doing from his parents. Mike’s eating disorder ramps up jarringly quickly, particularly given that its only apparent external trigger is a conversation in which Mike hounds a girl to go out with him, then demands to know if her refusal is because he’s fat (whether Mike is fat by anyone’s standards but the voice’s is unclear from the text). The story is wellplotted and its prose engaging, but the central conceit leaves a distracting number of questions unanswered. Who is this voice? What are its motivations? Why does it choose Mike? An ambitious and unusual take on teens and eating disorders—but not an entirely satisfactory one. (Fiction. 12-18)

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ZERO TOLERANCE

Mills, Claudia Farrar, Straus and Giroux (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-374-33312-6 After turning in a paring knife she accidentally brought to school with her lunch, a high-achieving, rule-following seventh-grade girl is suspended, and her case becomes a media sensation. Rules require exceptions, people are more complex than they seem, and bigheartedness trumps revenge: These are some of the many themes author Mills takes on in this idea-stuffed, somewhat overpopulated but thoughtprovoking novel. No one is more surprised than the slightly smug Sierra Shepard when she goes from teacher’s pet to class pariah. Before you can say “knife fight,” she’s clapped into the duller-than-dull in-class suspension room and given a hearing date for likely expulsion. This enrages Sierra’s hard-driving attorney father, who alerts the media, bringing attention to her plight. Unfortunately, it also puts the well-meaning Principal Besser between a rock and a hard place and stirs conflict with Sierra’s artsy mother. Being treated like a criminal causes Sierra to do something surprisingly rotten that could upend her case, and, straining credibility, Principal Besser has a secret he’d rather not reveal. Ideas and personalities compete for page time, giving some of the scenes a sketchy feel, but readers should be fully engaged by the suspenseful climax. Sierra learns that her fellow detainees are sympathetic individuals, particularly her always-in-trouble classmate, Luke Bishop, and ultimately, the situation gives her a more nuanced perspective and generosity of spirit. Provocative and fun, from a master of the school story. (Fiction. 8-12)

DEFY THE DARK

Mitchell, Saundra—Ed. Harper/HarperCollins (480 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 paper | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-06-212354-1 978-0-06-212353-4 paper Sixteen darkly alluring stories relate horrid and extraordinary events that can occur only in the absence of light. Each uniquely eerie, goose bump– raising tale confidently journeys into the unknown, and almost every one has a thread of teen romance. The quietly disturbing opening story, Courtney Summers’ “Sleepstalk,” tells of a girl so obsessively in love that she stalks her sleepwalking ex-boyfriend. She feels she can’t exist without him and will make sure he doesn’t exist without her. In Dia Reeves’ “The Dark Side of the Moon,” a town is perforated by fissures through which monsters enter. The well-adjusted citizens know how to battle everything but the night trolley, which

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“Using a successful blend of traditional prose, dialogue bubbles and bold-lined, black-and-white illustrations, Montijo delivers laughs all the way through, ensuring that the ‘moral’ never hampers the fun.” from chews your destiny

goes to a place from which no one has ever returned alive. One young man, however, intent on impressing his girlfriend, takes the ride of his life. Four friends find themselves stuck on a roller coaster in “Almost Normal,” by Carrie Ryan, awaiting the zombie takeover of their town. Before the gory finale, the teens ponder the end of the mundane and the beginning of eternal hungering, craving oblivion. Christine Johnson offers the heartbreaking “Shadowed,” in which a cursed girl must never leave the dark lest her shadow murder her. This thick volume should conjure the heebie-jeebies for even the most experienced of supernatural connoisseurs. (Supernatural/short stories. 14 & up)

CHEWS YOUR DESTINY

Montijo, Rhode Illus. by Montijo, Rhode Disney Hyperion (128 pp.) $14.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-1-4231-5740-3 Series: Gum Girl, 1

Chewing gum imbues a girl with gooey superpowers in this laugh-outloud early chapter book. Gabby Gomez loves chewing gum, anyplace, anytime—even in her sleep. So when she wakes up with gum stuck in her hair, her mother decides she’s had enough and outlaws the sticky substance. Poor Gabby doesn’t mean to disobey her mother, but when she discovers a piece of MIGHTY-MEGA ULTRA-STRETCHY SUPER-DUPER EXTENDA-BUBBLE BUBBLE GUM, she can’t resist. The special gum results in the biggest bubble ever, and when it pops, the outcome is not just a gum-covered girl, but one with sudden, gummy superpowers. Gabby’s new powers enable her to help people in need, but the price of hiding them from her mom is hard to bear. Using a successful blend of traditional prose, dialogue bubbles and bold-lined, black-and-white illustrations, Montijo delivers laughs all the way through, ensuring that the “moral” never hampers the fun. The one place Montijo stumbles is in the disappointing portrayal of class bully Natalie Gooch, a stereotypically large, boyish-looking girl; there are plenty of small “girly-girls” who are horrible bullies—let’s see more of those. Perfectly paced and bursting with laughs, the tale will appeal to fans of humor and reluctant readers alike, who will identify with Gabby’s sticky situation. (Fiction/graphic hybrid. 6-9)

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JOONE

Moon, Emily Kate Illus. by Moon, Emily Kate Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-0-8037-3744-0 Joone is a free-spirited preschooler who shares what appears to be a pleasantly pastoral life with her grandfather and a pet turtle named Dr. Chin in this

quirky debut. The brisk and breezy depiction of a single summer day features familiar activities, unusual settings and a cheerfully childlike first-person narration. Joone’s individuality is obvious from the first page, where she notes that she spells her name with “a smiley face.” She addresses readers directly, telling them that she lives in a yurt with her grandfather and that she likes ice cream sandwiches and swimming. Moon’s bright and colorful illustrations provide additional details and amplify the gentle humor. Joone’s red wagon full of rocks, for example, turns out to be the basis for a clever way to make the steps navigable for Dr. Chin, and her generous impulse to leave an ice cream sandwich for the “mail lady” seems destined to turn out not exactly as she plans. The artless charm of the pictures is a perfect match for Joone’s endearing personality. Not much really happens, but it’s still likely that listeners will request repeat readings to pore over the details of Joone’s unusual home and enjoy her creative approach to life. Joone could be a contemporary, country-dwelling cousin to Eloise: another precocious, articulate and turtleloving child with charm to spare. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE EMU THAT LAID THE GOLDEN EGG

Morrison, Yvonne Illus. by McKenzie, Heath Little Hare/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-921894-00-8

When some Down Under desperadoes birdnap a voracious emu, they get more than they bargained for. A flock of wild emus moves into town, eating pretty much everything in sight. Emma emu finds some kernels of corn in a creek and gobbles them up, but they give her a stomachache. She lies down to sleep, and when she awakens the next morning, she’s famished...and sitting on the shiniest and biggest egg she’s ever seen. She figures she must have laid it the night before. She goes looking for food, and two rotten possum scoundrels called Pongo Pete and Nasty Ned sneak up on the egg. Mighty hungry themselves, they first plan to eat it, but then they decide instead to kidnap Emma, figuring she can lay them a bunch of golden eggs. They take her to their hideout, where she voraciously chews whatever she can get her beak on—cushions, chandeliers, shoes and more. In a single thrashing move, she escapes! But left

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“The text has appropriately limited vocabulary with the occasional challenging word, a natural flow, generous onomatopoeia and just enough repetition to give young readers confidence and encouragement.” from squirrel’s fun day

behind is an array of giant eggs, one of glass, another of brass, and silk and leather ones as well. Morrison’s offbeat adventure is told in vigorous verse, ably abetted by McKenzie’s illustrations, which seem to bring Emma’s feathers to ruffled life. Pete and Ned make nicely scruffy foils to Emma’s gawky greed. A riotous romp, with appealingly quirky creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

SQUIRREL’S FUN DAY

Moser, Lisa Illus. by Gorbachev, Valeri Candlewick (48 pp.) $14.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-7636-5726-0

This squirrel is ready for adventure! Take one appealing, energetic, spunky and absolutely indefatigable squirrel. Add a quiet mouse who loves his house, a slow-walking, fast-swimming turtle, and a rabbit full of habits, and you have the recipe for an advanced early reader replete with action, humor and warmth. The text has appropriately limited vocabulary with the occasional challenging word, a natural flow, generous onomatopoeia and just enough repetition to give young readers confidence and encouragement. Each chapter describes a different part of the day, and lively, engaging watercolor-and-ink illustrations show Squirrel as he valiantly attempts to include his friends in his very fun day but doesn’t quite manage to take into account their quirks and varying abilities. When Squirrel can’t find his friends, he pauses to reflect and realizes he may have made some mistakes. Will he ever be forgiven? A very happy surprise awaits. Lovable characters, accessible text, and fresh, spirited illustrations combine nicely here to create a story even the most reluctant readers are sure to enjoy. (Early reader. 5-8)

HELPING THE POLONSKYS

Muhammad, Khaleel Illus. by Nayzaki, Hilal Kube Publishing (80 pp.) $8.95 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-86037-454-1 Series: Muslim All-Stars

hospital. Pausing twice a day for prayers, the companions not only learn to work together to do the deed and make a “Welcome Home” banner, but consign the money they earn to charity. When she arrives, Mrs. Polonsky violently orders them out (supposedly not because of their religion, but even younger children will read between those lines) before being humbled by their selflessness. Slapstick encounters with a mud puddle and a crazed washing machine lighten the load, and in Nayzaki’s brightly colored cartoons, the children sport appealingly huge manga eyes. Thoroughly agenda-driven fodder for discussions about values and diversity, but its streak of silliness should draw a few chuckles. (Fiction. 8-10)

ZOE’S ROOM (NO SISTERS ALLOWED)

Murguia, Bethanie Deeney Illus. by Murguia, Bethanie Deeney Levine/Scholastic (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-545-45781-1

Zoe (Zoe Gets Ready, 2012) has proclaimed herself queen of the universe, and her realm is her bedroom—where absolutely no sisters are allowed. Every night at bedtime, after her mom shuts the door, Queen Zoe sets out to explore her kingdom. She builds grand empires (wobbly towers of blocks), discovers uncharted lands (like the top of her bookcase) and carefully prepares morning tea for the court—her toy penguins, ranged round her on a blanket on the floor. But one day, her reign topples: Her parents tell her that she has to share her room with her little sister, Addie. They put her crib right on top of the royal table! How is she ever going to explore now? Queen Zoe pouts, with a gloomy frown and arms crossed in defiance. Every single noise wakes Addie up, and it looks like Zoe’s nighttime fun must come to an end. However, a sudden crash of thunder makes Zoe realize just how much she likes having a roommate after all. Murguia’s dark blue washes set the quiet night tone, and Zoe’s abundant curiosity shines from the top of her crown to the bottom of her stretched tippy-toes. Transitioning into a shared room can be a tricky situation, especially with jealous sibling squabbles. But Zoe’s flair will certainly help. (Picture book. 3-6)

Muslim children help out an elderly (Jewish) couple in a British import that creaks but doesn’t quite collapse under the weight of its worthy purposes. Responding to a want ad seeking housecleaners, the five young teens—Imran from Pakistan, Leila and Sumaya in stylish hijabs, Adam (a Jamaican convert) and Che Amran, a “Malaysian-looking boy” with Asperger’s—meet on the doorstep of Shimon Polonsky. The elderly gentleman has three days to get an outsized house—in which he keeps dogs, goats and other wildlife—cleaned up before his wife gets home from the 96

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A SINGLE PEARL

Napoli, Donna Jo Illus. by LaMarche, Jim Disney Hyperion (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-4231-4557-8 A potentially charming tale about a perfect pearl that takes form from a simple grain of sand is laden with heavyhanded life lessons. The grain becomes embedded in an oyster and is slowly coated with protective layers until a diver brings it up, discovers the beautiful pearl it has become and sets it on a journey that carries it home to a lovely young princess. The tale might have succeeded as a story of how the pearl became the imperial jewel of Persia, the nominal plot, but Napoli missteps by endowing the grain of sand with deep emotions of hopelessness and helplessness and, eventually, love and joy. The message that each person has the ability to change and grow is clearly intended to be uplifting and encouraging. However, all the changes to the grain of sand come about naturally: It does not make itself into a pearl; that outcome is accomplished by the oyster and time. Moreover, a pearl has no value beyond what humans place upon it. The princess loves the pearl, certainly with no thought to the grain of sand at its center. LaMarche’s lovely illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint and colored pencil in a palette of pink, purple and turquoise, with appropriately luminescent pearls, transcend the weaknesses of the text. A well-meaning tale is overwhelmed by an over-the-top attempt at inspiration. (Picture book. 4-7)

MISTER AND LADY DAY Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her

Novesky, Amy Illus. by Newton, Vanessa Brantley Harcourt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-15-205806-7

Using simple, reductive prose, this appreciation of jazz great Holiday focuses on the dogs in the singer’s life. “Lady Day’s dogs were her best friends of all.” Novesky supports this assertion with evidence: a pocket-sized poodle, a beagle, Chihuahuas; a mutt called Rajah Ravoy. But the spotlight’s on Mister, Holiday’s elegant, devoted boxer, who went to gigs, dined on steaks and even wore a mink coat. While an author’s note provides background, the text is resolutely oblique on the subject of Holiday’s 1947 drug conviction and jail time. “[J]ust when her career was at the top, Lady got into trouble. She had to leave home for a year and a day. And Mister couldn’t come.” While much of the narrative is fact-based, Novesky does take an acknowledged liberty in speculating that Mister might have attended Billie’s successful post-prison show at Carnegie Hall. (Illustrator Newton places Mister there, on the final spread.) Newton’s appealing |

mixed-media pictures, containing elements of gouache, charcoal, collage and digital layering, range from images derived from concert photos to a playful imagining of napkin-draped Mister drooling over a steak. Her reliance on period photos has one drawback: Holiday’s face and physique alter in several spreads, belying the compressed, undated narrative arc. By highlighting Lady Day’s affectionate relationship with Mister, Novesky and Newton invite readers to admire the illustrious singer in a sparkling new light. (author’s note, website, adult bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

PLAGUE IN THE MIRROR

Noyes, Deborah Candlewick (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-7636-5980-6

May’s trip to Florence with family friends takes a frightening turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to find her ghostly twin standing at the foot of her bed. Determined to forget her parents’ divorce and their request that she decide with whom to spend her senior year of high school, May travels with her childhood friend, Liam, and his travel-writer mother, Gwen. But her study of history becomes supernatural when her ethereal doppelganger appears, inviting her back in time. May becomes a ghostly version of herself as Cristofana leads her through a time portal into the middle of the Black Death. However, when Cristofana slips back into the future, May is left very human and very vulnerable in the past. Clever and dangerous, Cristofana lures May away from her life using Marco, a handsome artist. Historical details, opulent settings and awakening passions paint a rich landscape. The gritty reality of pre-Renaissance life comes alive set against the relative ease of modern times. Unfortunately, the setting is the star, overshadowing the characters. Noyes’ story lacks mystery and dread, becoming more a study of the Middle Ages than an evocative ghost story. An informative tale, but it lacks spark. (Ghost story. 14 & up)

KENNEDY’S LAST DAYS The Assassination That Defined a Generation O’Reilly, Bill Henry Holt (336 pp.) $19.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-8050-9802-0

Aiming for a young audience, the popular political pundit pares down his Killing Kennedy (2012) considerably (and leaves out the sexual exploits) while shoveling in sheaves of documentary photographs.

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O’Reilly writes in staccato bursts of present-tense prose chopped into short chapters and featuring quick shifts in point of view. This effectively cranks up the suspense despite tinges of purple (“The man with fewer than three years to live places his left hand on the Bible”) and the foreordained outcome. The book chronicles John F. Kennedy’s course from PT-109 through a challenging presidency and positively harps on Lee Harvey Oswald’s determined but doomed quest to become a “great man.” Though he ends with a personal anecdote that hints at the possibility of a conspiracy, the author’s closely detailed account of the assassination itself and its aftermath follows the Warren Commission’s version of events. News photos or snapshots on nearly every page provide views of the Kennedy and Oswald families over time, as well as important figures, places and major world events. Aside from a perfunctory list of “Fun Facts About the Early 1960s” that seems misplaced considering the somber topic, the backmatter is both extensive and helpful for further study of Kennedy’s career and accomplishments. The melodrama is laid on with a trowel, but it’s nevertheless a thoroughly documented, visually rich presentation of the official version. (timeline, quotes, capsule bios, sites, books, films, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 11-13)

IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT

Ochiltree, Dianne Illus. by Snyder, Betsy Blue Apple (32 pp.) $12.99 | May 14, 2013 978-1-60905-291-1

On a summer’s night, a child sails out into her yard to gather (and then release) lightning bugs. Just like the stars that seem to wink and glimmer in Snyder’s moonlit, mist-streaked night skies, fireflies glow in the grass amid scattered trees and flowers. They smile in close-up views as the child, barefoot and nightgown-clad, gently gathers them into a big jar while her father looks on. Reflecting that “I love catching fireflies, / but they are not mine,” she cups each captive in her hand before “easy and slow, / I whisper good-bye, / then I let it go!” A spread of firefly facts caps the idyllic nighttime foray. Rough sparkly patches on the jacket add a tactile element that compensates, at least in part, for inner flaps that cover parts of the endpaper nightscapes. The bugs and brushwork resemble Eric Carle’s, but Snyder’s art works its own magic. An intimate encounter with nature lit not just by stars and fireflies, but also an affecting dose of daddy-daughter warmth. (Picture book. 4-6)

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ROBOTS

Oxlade, Chris Illus. by Bull, Peter Kingfisher (32 pp.) $10.99 | Jul. 16, 2014 978-0-7534-6816-6 Series: Explorers This haphazard jumble of military, domestic, space, toy and industrial robots is unlikely to draw young technophiles for more than a quick once-over. The design is dizzying: Crammed over and around pictures of robots in visually overstuffed mixes and even composites of photographic and photorealistic digital elements, scattered blocks of text in different point sizes extol the range of robotic capabilities. Robots that are actually functional now are not differentiated from those still in the experimental or concept stages, and the commentary is often misleading—“To communicate feelings, androids have mechanisms in their heads”—or too vague to be meaningful: “Robot animals move in the same way as real animals”; “The ultimate medical robots operate on human patients.” These and many other statements cry out for explanation and clarification. Some readers may find the pervasive focus on robots with cute features, from Sega’s “Dream Cat Venus” to a Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) that sports little ursine ears, off-putting, if not downright creepy. Furthermore, there are no source notes or leads to further information. Substandard nonfiction series fare, aimed at a slightly older audience than the publisher’s Kingfisher Young Knowledge entry on the topic (2003) but a clean miss. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET

Palmer, Robin Speak/Penguin (400 pp.) $9.99 paper | Jun. 27, 2013 978-0-14-241250-3

A teenage girl and her showbiz mom are forced to re-evaluate their relationship after rehab in this lightweight recovery story by the author of Geek Charming (2009). After her washed-up actress mother, Janie Jackson, is arrested for drunk driving and enters rehab, 16-year-old photographer Annabelle has a hard time believing that Janie will be able to stay off the vodka. To learn how to cope, Annabelle joins Alateen. But when Janie scores a role in a new movie with hot young superstar Billy Barrett, Annabelle frets that if anything goes wrong, it could put her mom right back on the bottle. Fortunately she’s distracted by her own crush on small-town boy Matt and the lure of a college photography fellowship. Annabelle and Janie eventually learn that their roles have changed and that they each have some growing up to do. Though the page count is too long and the plot predictable, Annabelle’s

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“Parry…writes with respect and affection for the people of the Washington coast, suggesting without didacticism what their right to hunt whales means to the Makah people.” from written in stone

neurotic, self-deprecating voice and hilarious habit of huffing Play-Doh when she’s anxious will keep readers rooting for her. Palmer’s television background is evident from the bouncy dialogue she creates among characters, which is the novel’s greatest strength. Despite the humorous tone, the serious subject of recovery is sensitively handled. Anyone who’s ever struggled with a family member’s alcoholism will find a welcome and familiar friend in Annabelle. (Fiction. 12 & up)

WRITTEN IN STONE

Parry, Rosanne Random House (208 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-375-86971-6 978-0-375-98534-8 e-book 978-0-375-96971-3 PLB Five years after her mother and baby sister die in the 1918 flu pandemic, Pearl’s father is lost in the last Makah whale hunt. Pearl, 13, is determined to create a future for herself that honors her distinguished heritage; still, her extended family’s unaccustomed financial hardship and loss of status stings. The New York collector interested in their masks and carvings might offer a way out, but does he have a secret agenda? Pearl’s loving extended family supports her (the Makah have no word for orphan), but her mother’s skill at weaving and the dances and teachings she’d have given Pearl are gone forever. For guidance, Pearl turns to independent Aunt Susi, who drives a car and works for the post office, and her grandmother, who encourages Pearl’s talent for language. “When you write a word down, you own that word forever,” she says. However, becoming an adult is fundamentally a solitary journey; shipwrecked on a wild beach, Pearl begins hers. Stubborn, determined and resourceful, she’s good company. Parry, who taught school on the Quinault Indian reservation (neighbors of the Makah), writes with respect and affection for the people of the Washington coast, suggesting without didacticism what their right to hunt whales means to the Makah people. This vivid, character-driven historical novel captivates. (map, bibliography, glossary, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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BELLADONNA

Paul, Fiona Philomel (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 16, 2013 978-0-399-25726-1 Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose, 2 The second in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series finally begins to explore said secrets. Spunky Venetian teenage sleuth Cassandra finds her life upset all over again when the doge’s soldiers haul her fiance, the ultradecent, churchgoing Luca, off to prison for heresy. Might it have something to do with the Order of the Eternal Rose, with which her scientist parents had been involved? Determined to prove Luca innocent, she hies to Florence, to which one of his accusers has abruptly removed herself. There she becomes caught up in a web of intrigue that involves a sudden rash of vampirism and centers on the estate of an impossibly young-looking noblewoman—where Cass’ erstwhile inamorata, the hot, impetuous (and actually heretical) Falco, happens to be artist-in-residence. Many embarrassingly clichéd clinches ensue. Cass’ detecting methodology relies heavily on luck, conveniently found documents and the willingness of key people not to notice her while she is wearing borrowed cloaks, making for a pretty uninteresting mystery. Chapters are introduced by sinister snatches from the Order’s secret book, which include Renaissance medical theory and anthropological observations as the plot demands, as well as the expected hints of the clandestine. Paul’s exploration of setting, especially the depth of information she offers on attire, is genuinely interesting, but it’s not enough to lift the plot above pedestrian. A wildly unlikely cliffhanger promises more of the same to come. (Historical mystery. 14 & up)

RULES OF SUMMER

Philbin, Joanna Poppy/Little, Brown (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-316-21205-2 When a middle-class girl spends the summer living with a superrich family on Long Island, conflict and romance result. As Rory’s mom moves from cheap, young boyfriend to cheaper, younger boyfriend, Rory looks for escape. Her aunt, the housekeeper for the wealthy Rule family, invites her to stay in East Hampton on Long Island for the summer. Rory agrees to do minor errands for the family in exchange for her beautiful room, and inevitably, she is thrown together with the Rules’ spoiled-brat, youngest child, Isabel, who tries to help Rory find a boyfriend. Unbeknownst to Isabel, however, Rory and Isabel’s brother Connor fall in love, although Rory knows the Rule family will never approve. Meanwhile Isabel falls for a

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“A satisfying psychological journey.” from the hidden summer

local surfer, another forbidden and therefore hidden romance. As the summer progresses, Isabel begins to mature beyond her wealthy girlfriends at the local country club, and Rory realizes that no matter how nice the Rules appear on the surface, power and money trump all, although that verdict does not fit everyone in the family. Many of the wealthy characters turn out to be shallow, but a few grow to realize that surface appearances and arbitrary power don’t matter much in real life, a predictable, simple character arc. Philbin hits all the buttons designed to attract chicklit readers—major wealth, casually mentioned fashion, hot boyfriends and, of course, universal beauty—for a summertime diversion. (Chick lit. 12 & up)

THE HIDDEN SUMMER

Phillips, Gin Dial (208 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-0-8037-3836-2

A muted fairy-tale–like story about two 12-year-old girls who spend their summer days at an abandoned mini-golf course. Neither Lydia nor Nell feels loved or appreciated at home; perhaps because of this, they are best friends and each other’s support system. When Lydia’s cold, self-involved mother has a tiff with Nell’s moody, perpetually dissatisfied mother, she forbids Lydia to see Nell. Nell takes action, faking summer programs targeted to appeal to their mothers for both of them: an environmental art camp for Lydia and summer school for her (a psychologically revealing move, as Nell is a straight-A student, something her mother doesn’t know and wouldn’t be pleased about). Free from parental eyes, the girls decide to spend their days in a place that has always had great emotional resonance for Nell, an abandoned golf and tennis club, complete with a fanciful putt-putt course, and the real meat of the story—Nell’s emotional strengthening—begins. Despite a clear plot, the book has a dreamlike quality, and Nell’s evolving feelings are so nuanced that it’s sometimes difficult to get a handle on what the author is trying to convey. The story ends on a hopeful note; Nell’s new perspective lessens her mother’s poisonous power, and she learns that it’s possible to have two families, “the one you’re born with and the one you make yourself.” A satisfying psychological journey. (Fiction. 10-15)

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THE LIFE OF JESUS

Piper, Sophie Illus. by Ruta, Angelo Lion/Trafalgar (128 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-7459-6367-9

The story of the life of Jesus is retold for school-age children using a small, attractive format that will be popular for

the gift market. This thoughtful retelling of the major events of Jesus’ life uses contemporary language based on the Good News Bible. The book is arranged as a series of very short stories, with each event succinctly summarized, usually in one or two pages. Each story has its own title, with the relevant Bible chapter and verses noted below. The type size is rather small, and the volume size itself is also small, so this would be best shared by an adult with one child or read individually by older children rather than shared with a group. The shortened, British version of the Lord’s Prayer is used in the text. Both full-page and spot illustrations in muted tones are integrated into each story, providing details of the time and place and keeping the interest level high through a wide variety of design formats. Brief introductory and concluding notes help to place the biblical stories in historical and geographical context, and the final page is a map showing the area where Jesus lived. A brief but thorough introduction to a complex subject. (Religion. 5-10)

ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE

Quinn, Kate Karyus HarperTeen (432 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-06-213595-7 978-0-06-213594-0 e-book Is this a psychological or paranormal novel? Readers will decide as they explore the possible past lives of a girl who claims that she really isn’t who or what people think she is. Missing for nearly a year, Annaliese remains certain that she is actually a razor-wielding monster who takes girls’ lives and then their places until she moves on to another. Returned home to her stoic father and hysterically possessive mother, Annaliese stays so distant from her parents that she refers to them as “the mom” and “the dad.” She connects only with Dex, the strange boy next door, who takes videos of people’s deaths. She keeps finding intriguing poetry signed “Annaliese” that often connects to events she experiences, but she hides these. Convinced that she’s actually a girl called Anna, an unpleasant boy named Eric stalks her, as does Logan, the popular jock Annaliese once loved but now finds annoying. Although the writing remains interesting throughout, the plot unfolds at such a glacial pace that readers may become frustrated. They identify scenes from

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Annaliese’s possible past lives mainly from the changing character names, and these become so numerous that readers may need to chart them to keep track. Late in the book, the plot begins to cohere, but many readers may have given up by then. Nevertheless, fans of gruesome paranormal fiction may enjoy something this original. (Suspense. 14 & up)

IVA HONEYSUCKLE MEETS HER MATCH

Ransom, Candice Illus. by Ross, Heather Disney Hyperion (192 pp.) $14.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-1-4231-3514-2 Series: Iva Honeysuckle, 2

down in stages to a scowl as the work is piled on. At last, the exhausted robot plops itself down, then in response to its tormentor’s angry “Don’t say no, Bot!” stomps off in a huff. In one to four spacious, sequential panels per spread, Jung develops both the plotline and the emotional conflict using smoothly modeled cartoon figures against monochromatic or minimally detailed backgrounds. The child’s commands, confined in small dialogue balloons, are rhymed until her repentant “Come on home, Bot” breaks the pattern but leads to a more equitable division of labor at the end. A straightforward tale of conflict and reconciliation for newly emergent readers? Not exactly, which raises it above the rest. (Easy reader. 4-6)

OVER YOU

Summervacation,IvaHoneysuckle–style. When Iva’s cousin Heaven pulls a card from her Daily Life deck and reads, “Pack for a long trip,” both 9-year-olds find it hard to believe they are going anywhere. Living next door to each other in Uncertain, Va., means they never go anywhere. Turns out the Daily Life card was right, and soon, both families load into cars and head to the beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Staying in a small house with six kids and their mothers turns out to be harder than anyone expected. The older cousins are boy-crazy, the little kids need constant watching, and Heaven and Iva compete for the affections of glamorous London Howdyshell, straining their already fractious relationship. Iva adds to the friction by refusing to shower or brush her teeth for the vacation. The arguing and sniping drags on the narrative, leaving few likable characters. Iva, who gets into trouble at every turn, often chooses to simply cover up her errors rather than make them right. The vacation is made more confusing by colloquialisms (“A goose walked over Iva’s grave”) that may tantalize but will make little sense to young readers. The girls do learn that blood is thicker than water, but it takes a painfully long time to realize it. (Fiction. 7-10)

ROBOT, GO BOT!

Rau, Dana Meachen Illus. by Jung, Wook Jin Random House (32 pp.) $3.99 paper | Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-375-87083-5 In this deceptively spare, very beginning reader, a girl assembles a robot and then treats it like a slave until it goes on strike. Having put the robot together from a jumble of loose parts, the budding engineer issues an increasingly peremptory series of rhymed orders— “Throw, Bot. / Row, Bot”—that turn from playful activities like chasing bubbles in the yard to tasks like hoeing the garden, mowing the lawn and towing her around in a wagon. Jung crafts a robot with riveted edges, big googly eyes and a smile that turns |

Reed, Amy Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-1-4424-5696-9 In Max and Sadie’s friendship, wild Sadie is the one who has all the fun, while responsible Max deals with the consequences. Max has never questioned that dynamic, but she begins to see how onesided their relationship is the summer before senior year, when they stay with Sadie’s divorced hippie mom on an organic farm in Nebraska. Compared to Sadie, Max finds the other commune members kind and undemanding, and the mindless farm work is preferable to Sadie’s manufactured drama. Max’s burgeoning flirtation with bad-boy Dylan drives them even further apart. But their bond finally breaks the night a tornado leaves Max’s life hanging in the balance with no Sadie in sight. Author Reed effectively portrays the end of an obsessive adolescent relationship through Max’s precocious voice, which initially addresses itself directly to Sadie. As the story progresses, Max refers to Sadie by name instead of “you,” demonstrating their growing distance: “Sadie, maybe this story isn’t about you anymore.” Less well-developed are the secondary characters that never rise above stereotype and neglected subplots involving both girls’ parents and Max’s bisexuality. The strained retellings of Greek myths inserted between each chapter that seem intended to deepen Max’s character and to further illustrate the girls’ troubled relationship only serve to interrupt Max’s more compelling first-person narration. Teen girls who have experienced similar friendships will find this resonates; other readers probably won’t. (Fiction. 14-17)

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THE LONELY SHADOW

PRINCESS NINA

Rice, Clay Illus. by Rice, Clay Familius (48 pp.) $19.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-938301-08-7

A songwriter/silhouette artist combines his skills to tell a sweet story of companionship. Over the course of a day, the black figure of childlike shadow searches inside and out, looking for a mate. He tries out various possibilities until an owl sends him to where the children are, and he finds a matching boy. Intricate cut, black-paper illustrations carry this slight story. These images go far beyond silhouette portraiture. Some make use of negative space (open or filled in as white) to add objects to scenes, as the artist has done with the heron and rabbit on the cover. Some are full scenes, some include frames, and smaller ones could almost be the animals that were cut out. Paper-cuts and text are sometimes set on a background of varying colors and sometimes directly on the glossy white pages. In the narrative, the shadow repeats a refrain, “I have no you / you have no me, / you and me / we have no we.” But beyond the song lyrics, further use of rhyme and alliteration adds to the pleasure of reading the story aloud. Grandpa’s polka-dot underwear adds bathroom humor, sure to be appreciated by small listeners, as well. This friendship tale may inspire some craft projects as well as appreciation. (Picture book. 3-7)

MAMA, LET’S MAKE A MOON

Rice, Clay Illus. by Rice, Clay Familius (32 pp.) $16.95 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-938301-06-3

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Trapped in a textbook, Nina, a purple-haired Everygirl, and her turquoisetressed fairy friend, Sibyl, take an impromptu tour through history. It’s all the fault of blonde mean girl Laurie and her malicious, ash-topped sprite, Amanite, who cop the book and riffle the pages while Sibyl is conducting Nina on a field trip to Napoleon’s coronation. This propels Nina into quick encounters with Napoleon and Josephine, Leonardo da Vinci, the French Revolution’s deadly “Madame Sans-Gêne” and Pharaoh Rameses, along with various attacking monsters. Worse, she might miss Laurie’s high-fashion costume party. The sequential panels are cramped and stuffed with partially seen figures and snarky dialogue, but the big-eyed main characters (particularly Nina, who resembles a punk Dora the Explorer) are easy enough to track by their hair colors. Thanks to Sibyl’s loyal gremlin, Pandigole, Nina escapes captivity at last and, clad in dazzling ancient Egyptian garb, makes a splashy entrance at the party to whirl hunky new classmate Antoine out of the clutches of her fuming nemesis. Middle schoolers saddled with mean girls of their own will glory in this one’s comeuppance. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have personal fairies to help with homework, either. (Graphic fantasy. 8-10)

BELLE EPOQUE

A mountain family spends a day together in imaginative play. Through beautifully detailed silhouettes, Rice offers an unfolding tableau of charming, evocative scenes in which a bored little girl begs her mother to leave her sewing and make a moon from “secondhand stardust, and leftover love.” Her little brother, the dog and even the animals from the holler get involved in the effort to hang the moon “in the heavens, from star steps of love.” The artist’s skill is evident in the well-designed pages. Some silhouettes are presented in traditional black-on-white style, some against colored backdrops, but all are crafted with attention to bringing out the joy of the family members as they cavort in the assembly of real and imagined ingredients from Mama’s recipe. But while the art is appealing and will invite repeated viewings of the pages, the story is less successful. It’s whimsical and rhythmic— Rice is a songwriter—but the syrupy message doesn’t provide quite enough of a storyline to match the quality of the art. For those who appreciate a touch of nostalgia and oldfashioned family values. (Picture book. 4­–7) 102

Rodrique, Michel Illus. by Dalena, Antonello; Giumento, Cecilia Papercutz (48 pp.) $10.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-1-59707-415-5 Series: Sybil the Backpack Fairy, 4

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Ross, Elizabeth Delacorte (336 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-385-74146-0 978-0-375-98527-0 e-book 978-0-375-99005-2 PLB The aristocrats and the poor clash in 1888-9 Paris. Most Parisians dislike the new tower under construction by Monsieur Eiffel, but Maude, a 16-yearold who has run away from home, loves what others see as a monstrosity. Maude, too, is a monstrosity to some. A girl with no better than plain features, she nearly starves until she takes a job as a repoussoir. Wealthy women hire ugly women such as Maude to join them in public so that they will shine all the brighter in comparison. Countess Dubern hires Maude as a companion for her daughter Isabelle during the girl’s first social season, with the expectation that Maude will steer Isabelle into an engagement with the handsome and wealthy Duke d’Avaray.

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“Fantasy readers should devour this well-crafted mix of action and setup, enriched by a thoroughly detailed cultural and historical background and capped by a distinctlyunsettling twist.” from the rithmatist

Rebellious Isabelle intends to study science at the Sorbonne instead, refusing to marry. The two girls develop a real friendship, leaving Maude torn between her job and her loyalty to Isabelle. Ross models her plot on an 1866 story by Zola, “Les Repoussoirs,” expanding its focus to highlight Maude’s plight and using that to illuminate the chasm that existed between the wealthy and the poor. Maude, with her artistic insight, her pluck and her intelligence, despite her lack of formal education, perhaps comes across as a less-than-typical adolescent of that time but holds readers’ interest throughout. A refreshingly relevant and inspiring historical venture. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

THE RITHMATIST

Sanderson, Brandon Illus. by McSweeney, Ben Tor (368 pp.) $17.99 | May 14, 2013 978-0-7653-2032-2

The inhumanly prolific author of the Mistborn trilogy conjures similarly baroque magic for a lapidary series opener aimed at a somewhat younger audience. Set on an alternate, steampunk Earth among the many squabbling United Isles of America, the tale pits Joel, teenage son of a poor chalkmaker, and allies against mysterious baddies who are snatching students of exclusive Armedius Academy. Among other subjects, the Academy teaches Rithmatics—a geometry-based system of offensive and defensive shapes chalked on flat surfaces and then animated by those endowed with a special magical ability in a ceremony as children. Though he himself cannot bring his figures to life like a true Duster, years of obsessive study have made Joel a brilliant theorist and designer. His skills plunge him into the middle of the kidnapping investigation and ultimately lead to hints of a larger plot to release floods of deadly wild “chalklings” against humanity. Stay tuned. Between (and occasionally within) every chapter, labeled diagrams and smaller drawings lay out an elaborate but generally logical set of rules and behaviors for Rithmatical attack and defense. Fantasy readers should devour this well-crafted mix of action and setup, enriched by a thoroughly detailed cultural and historical background and capped by a distinctly unsettling twist. (Fantasy. 10-13)

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CHICK ’N’ PUG MEET THE DUDE

Sattler, Jennifer Illus. by Sattler, Jennifer Bloomsbury (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 25, 2013 978-1-5999-0600-3

Odd-couple friends Chick and Pug return in a nonsensical tale so slender that it barely registers. Pug is totally laid-back, spending his days resting in the grass and allowing Chick free rein to indulge his vivid imagination. Chick dubs Pug a superhero, a wonder dog, but all their exciting adventures are enacted by Chick alone. A favorite toy goes missing, and Chick puts all his energy into investigation and recovery. Dude the sheepdog is the culprit, and the mad chase ensues. The text only imparts the bare bones of the tale; many additional details are visual. Chick in detective mode employs a magnifying glass and a gumshoe costume, images quite possibly beyond the experience of the intended audience. There’s lots of silliness involving laundry and a sprinkler, but it is the distraction of a “nummy bone” that brings about the anticlimactic and gushing denouement. Large-scale acrylic-and–colored-pencil illustrations depict a very green and vast yard. Pug and the Dude have charm and appeal, and their physical characteristics and personalities nicely represent their breeds. Chick, however, is of an indeterminate species, neither songbird nor farmyard fowl. His antics seem demented rather than cute, and his huge eyes, triangular beak and skinny neck appear a bit creepy. There is some fun here, but lack of cohesion and substance outweighs any humor. Skip this one in favor of Sattler’s Uh- Oh, Dodo! (2013) and Pig Kahuna (2011). (Picture book. 3-6)

SHIP OUT OF LUCK

Shusterman, Neal Dutton (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-0-525-42226-6

Teenager Antsy Bonano gets into an amazing amount of trouble while spending a week on a luxurious Caribbean cruise ship in this agreeable companion to The Schwa Was Here (2004). Old Man Crawley, a filthy-rich irascible codger with a soft spot for his blind, 16-year-old granddaughter, Lexie, is about to turn 80. To celebrate, he invites—commands, really—Antsy and his family to join him and Lexie for a week aboard the incredibly fabulous cruise ship Plethora of the Deep. After a precise setup that neatly lays out the well-detailed characters and their situations, Antsy meets the attractive and intriguing Tilde, who claims she’s a stowaway and smuggler of illegal immigrants. Reluctantly, bighearted Antsy, who for all his smarts can’t seem to stop himself from getting involved in people’s problems, begins helping her. The comedic,

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“There’s foolery aplenty, but this is the sort of sequel that offers more of the same rather than any new twists or developments.” from worse things happen at sea!

larger-than-life climax showcases the interaction among social media, the legitimate press and storytelling (aka lying), giving Antsy the opportunity to prove that he has both guts and heart. The story, which has a lot going on and is full of sharp quips and amusing observations, is beautifully constructed and contains a meticulously foreshadowed yet completely surprising plot twist and, later, an unexpected reveal. For all its dazzle, though, it sometimes seems more interested in its own cleverness than in pulling readers along, and they might find themselves full of admiration at its wit and wisdom, yet rather uninvolved. Nevertheless, a highly enjoyable ride. (Fiction. 12-18)

WORSE THINGS HAPPEN AT SEA! A Tale of Pirates, Poison, and Monsters

Snow, Alan Illus. by Snow, Alan Atheneum (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 9, 2013 978-0-689-87049-1

More cheese-centric shenanigans take the multispecies cast of Here Be Monsters (2006) far from the town of Ratbridge. Faced with a heavy fine for drying their customers’ knickers in public, the rat and ex-pirate crew of the Ratbridge Nautical Laundry reluctantly set out for Black Cabbage Island in the South Pacific to fetch the active ingredient of a popular nostrum called Black Jollop. The revelation that Black Jollop infects all who take it with insatiable “cheese lust”—thus casting Ratbridge’s population of meek, ambulatory cheeses into mortal danger—turns the voyage into a race against time to bring back the cure. Snow trots in challenges ranging from the previous episode’s archvillain Archibald Snatcher and other members of the discredited Ratbridge Cheese Guild to attacks from a rushing horde of “shopping birds.” He intersperses his narrative with so many flashbacks, news reports, farcical set pieces (often involving various sorts of glop), small ink drawings, and larger diagrams or maps that the mission takes on a rambling pace. There’s foolery aplenty, but this is the sort of sequel that offers more of the same rather than any new twists or developments. (partial cast list) (Fantasy. 11-13)

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ROMEO BLUE

Stone, Phoebe Levine/Scholastic (352 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-545-44360-9 978-0-545-52070-6 e-book In the sequel to The Romeo and Juliet Code (2011), 12-year-old Flissy’s World War II adventures continue. Flissy is living with her grandmother, aunt and father, Gideon, as her mother and stepfather (who is—complicatedly—also her father’s brother) have disappeared while spying in Europe. In a voice that is somehow both charmingly lyrical and also notably authentic, Flissy relates the events on the homefront, as foster cousin Derek, just a year older and—she believes—the love of her life, attempts to track down his father. Unfortunately, a man claiming to be him shows up, but it’s perfectly clear to Flissy, who’s sworn to secrecy, that the man is a fraud. Finally, in despair over the wreckage of her family, Flissy runs screaming into the nighttime sea, only to be saved from certain death by Gideon—an epiphanic moment. Even after the fraudulent-father plotline is resolved in a suspenseful climax that comes only midway through, the tale goes on. When her mother finally returns after being rescued by Gideon, who’s then lost in the fog of war, Flissy has much to work out with the woman who has become a stranger to her. In an attractively depicted Maine coastal setting, her relationship with Derek evolves, she mends fences with her mother, and she waits for a resolution of her father’s and stepfather’s situations. While realistic and employing lovely language, the slow, deliberate pacing sometimes diminishes the overall effect. Patient readers will nevertheless enjoy this combination spy novel/coming-of-age story. (Historical fiction. 11-16)

CONFEDERATES DON’T WEAR COUTURE

Strohm, Stephanie Kate Graphia (240 pp.) $8.99 paper | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-547-97258-9

History-nerd extraordinaire Libby Kelting returns for another summer of costumed drama. Having spent the previous summer in colonial garb (Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, 2012), Libby doesn’t find it too hard to agree to spend the months before college on campaign with Civil War re-enactors, in partnership with her gay, designer BFF, Dev. They will be sutlers to the Confederate armies (who have a way better sense of style than the Yankees). Libby will model the gowns; Dev will take orders and sew them up when they get home; they will make buckets of dough. The only problem? Libby will have to spend the summer far from her boyfriend, aspiring journalist Garrett. Once in the South, Libby and Dev meet their sponsors,

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a canny businesswoman and her adorable, history-loving son, Beau, an officer with the regiment they’re attached to—and whose family is bedeviled by a ghost. Hijinks and romantic anxiety ensue. The merriment is compounded by a troop of overeager Boy Scouts, an evil land developer and the arrival of Garrett, who uses the excuse of the ghost to extend his internship with the Boston Globe to the battlefields of the Deep South. The ghost plot feels tired and Scooby-Doo–ish—in fact, Scooby is explicitly invoked, joining a host of other pop-culture references that range from Glee to Twilight. It’s all harmless summer fun, but it has the feeling of the retread that it is; perhaps next year Libby should get a different sort of summer job. (Fiction. 12 & up)

ESCAPE FROM THE PIPE MEN!

Thompson, Mary G. Clarion (352 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-547-85905-7

In this uneven space adventure, two children defy their alien overlords to go on an intergalactic search for a cure for their dying father. Ryan and Becky’s parents have always taught them to respect and obey the family’s secret alien benefactors, the Pipe Men. But when their father is accidentally poisoned and the Pipe Men refuse to release him for treatment, their mother sends them on an illicit journey through the Pipe Men’s interplanetary portals to search for the Brocine, the aliens who have the only antidote. Before long, the children find themselves in the middle of a galactic power struggle over control of the portals. While the highly implausible worldbuilding doesn’t stand up to close inspection, it does have a certain pulp appeal, and the detailed descriptions make it easy to visualize the different aliens that Ryan and Becky meet. Unfortunately, the novel can’t decide whether it’s taking itself seriously or not. Silly character names like “Grav-e” (pronounced “gravy”) and “Tast-e” (pronounced “tasty”) might have worked in a pure farce or parody, but Thompson is also using Ryan’s earnest first-person narration to condemn the Pipe Men’s exploitation of other alien races. Follow the title’s advice—escape from the Pipe Men and avoid this unfunny mess. (Science fiction. 9-12)

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CUTE & CUTER

Townsend, Michael Illus. by Townsend, Michael Knopf (40 pp.) $15.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-375-85718-8 Janie Jane’s birthday presents are cute—and in competition for her attention. When Janie Jane, maven of cute, receives the adorable puppy Sir Yips-a-lot, she is in cute heaven. The two spend all their time together until Janie Jane’s next birthday, when she opens the pink packaging to reveal an even more adorable gift: a kitten. Lady Meow-Meow captures her new owner’s heart, and the inevitable occurs: Sir Yips-a-lot feels left out and plans the demise of this feline interloper. Seeing Janie Jane’s distress, the dog repents and rushes to correct his transgression. The search and rescue of the little kitty allows the two pets to make amends and appreciate each another. Each spread is a lively mixture of comic-book elements such as speech bubbles, small and large frames, exaggerated types to show emotion and traditional narration. The design often overwhelms the story—at times readers need some relief from the garish, supersaturated blues, greens and pinks. The art style is comedic as well, with widemouthed grins and billiard-ball eyes the order of the day. The simplistic style will be easy for young readers to imitate if they want to continue the story on their own. Families with a new baby might find this helpful for older children exploring their own feelings of jealousy. Others may find Townsend’s delivery is just too darn effective. Cute overload. (Picture book. 4-7)

ONE VERY TIRED WOMBAT

Treml, Renée Illus. by Treml, Renée Random Australia/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2013 978-1-74275-578-6

Count from one to 10 with some unusual avian creatures (and the titular mammal). “1 very tired wombat” curls up to sleep in the middle of a left-hand page; a four-line verse describes this on the right-hand page, and two curlews poke their heads into view in the lowerleft and upper-right corners. And so the book proceeds, counting “2 curious curlews,” then “3 furtive frogmouths…4 peaceful pigeons” and so on, all the way up to “10 flittering fairy wrens.” In between, there are magpies and galahs and penguins and budgerigars and kookaburras. Such a collection of birds inevitably wakes the wombat, whose enormous sneeze covers several pages and turns the book into a bird countdown from 10 to one. At the end of the day, the exhausted wombat settles back to sleep. An appendix entitled “About the Animals” explains, among other things, that all these birds and the wombat come from Australia. Teml’s verse is forgettable, but her illustrations

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place beautiful pen-and-ink drawings against delicate pastel washes and capture lots of personality in her creatures. The judicious use of color and white space makes each two-page spread a work of art as well as a visual delight. Elegant, informative, engaging. (Picture book. 4-8)

BOGART AND VINNIE A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship

Vernick, Audrey Illus. by Cole, Henry Walker (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 18, 2013 978-0-8027-2822-7

This story of an unlikely animal friendship is an unnecessary send-up of the plethora of videotaped accounts of interspecies pals but still has its charms. Ever since, and possibly before, Horton decided to sit on that egg, the celebration of warm bonds between disparate animals has been a staple of picture-book friendship stories. A “crazy-happy” dog finds himself in a wild-animal preserve, where he discovers intriguing new friends: a pair of zebras, five brightly colored parrots and, finally, the impressively horned Bogart, a square-lipped (white) rhinoceros. Enthusiastic Vinnie wears his doggy heart on his sleeve; Bogart remains impassive, stoic and long-suffering as he endures the attentions of the dog. Cole, impressively versatile as always, here works in a style that calls to mind animated Saturday-morning cartoons: Big gestures, broad expressions, round eyes and bright colors, along with dialogue balloons for irrepressible Vinnie, give each spread a lighthearted energy. Children won’t need—or won’t get—the jokes about fleeting Internet fame (news is news whatever its medium), but they may enjoy the irony in the rosy spin that everyone puts on this animal friendship, and children who enjoy occasional solitude may sigh on poor Bogart’s behalf. In a final satirical wink at the way humans admire and celebrate these sorts of animal connections, Vinnie’s boy and his family adopt not only the rhino, but also the zebras and parrots, to the dismay of their own, same-species, neighbors. Diverting and comical. (Picture book. 4-7)

REMEMBER DIPPY

Vernick, Shirley Reva Cinco Puntos (162 pp.) $16.95 | $9.95 paper | May 14, 2013 978-1-935955-48-1 978-1-935955-49-8 paper Summer is supposed to be about lazy days, but for Johnny, summer doesn’t quite turn out the way he expects. When his mother gets a job in upstate New York, too far from Hull, Vt., for commuting, rising freshman Johnny is sent to live with his aunt 106

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and her son for the summer. This wouldn’t be so bad except that his cousin, Remember Dippy, isn’t like other kids—his name is just the start. He likes his days to follow a certain order, and the introduction of excitement often has disastrous results. Johnny, on the other hand, enjoys the occasional adventure, especially when a certain pretty girl is a part of it. Despite Remember’s reluctance, risky escapades seem to find the two cousins: A pet ferret goes missing, a close friend suffers a fall, and a new love interest might change Remember’s life in ways he doesn’t even suspect. Author of the Sydney Taylor Honor–winning The Blood Lie (2011), Vernick displays both tenderness and humor in her story about an unusual relationship. By throwing challenges in the way of authentic, fully-formed characters, she invites readers to question assumptions about what young people are capable of, and she shows how willing they often are to view the world from a new perspective. An enjoyable and provocative exploration of the clash between “normal” and “different” and how similar the two really are. (Fiction. 12-15)

NEPTUNE’S TEARS

Waggoner, Susan Henry Holt (224 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-8050-9677-4

A star-crossed (literally) romance plays itself out in London in 2218. Seventeen-year-old Zee is a gifted empath, someone who is able to heal psychic and physical traumas through the power of thought. Her talents prove to be a liability when she falls in love with a supposed alien whose motives are less than transparent. Realizing that their relationship is impossible, Zee throws herself into her work. Her favorite patient is a 200-year-old woman who possesses some of the titular Neptune’s Tears, priceless diamonds that were harvested by robots on that planet. Zee is called to action during the chaos that results when anarchists try to destroy London with powerful shock bombs. Realizing that she is also telepathic, Zee signs on to be trained as a diviner, which permits her to predict a catastrophic attack and save Earth from certain doom. Her extreme attraction to the supposed alien boy propels her to travel to Southeast Asia for a final fling, hoping to lure him back to live with her. A final surprising plot twist removes the mystery surrounding Zee’s lover but does not serve to ensure their future life together. The premise of the skilled telepathic protagonist is intriguing, but the story is thin, the ending is disappointingly vague, and there are a few too many loose ends to make a satisfying read. A miss. (Science fiction. 12-17)

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“Themes of prescription drug abuse, death and teen pregnancy…are expertly balanced by Kana’s spunk, Danny’s pained but authentic voice, and the overarching theme of love.” from when you were here

WHEN YOU WERE HERE

Whitney, Daisy Little, Brown (272 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 4, 2013 978-0-316-20974-8

As Danny Kellerman prepares for his high school graduation, the absence of his loved ones pitches him into a dangerous tailspin. Estranged from his adopted sister, separated by death from his parents and inexplicably jilted by his childhood sweetheart, Danny feels nothing but empty. Following graduation, Danny seeks connection with his mother, who succumbed to cancer only eight weeks prior, by heading for Tokyo—a foreign but familiar city, where his family maintains an apartment and his mother spent some of her last days in a state of peace that is baffling to Danny. Upon arrival, Danny seeks clues to better understand his mother but ends up uncovering even more questions about her and those absent from his life. Determined to learn more, Danny partners with Kana, a fierce Japanese teen who helps maintain the Kellermans’ apartment and who had been his mother’s friend. Kana provides Danny a unique lens to view the city, his mother and his life. Themes of prescription drug abuse, death and teen pregnancy make this a heavy go, but they don’t drag the text down, as they are expertly balanced by Kana’s spunk, Danny’s pained but authentic voice, and the overarching theme of love. A poignant coming-of-age story intertwining loss and hope against a background of Japanese culture. (Fiction. 14 & up)

MEERKAT MADNESS

Whybrow, Ian Illus. by Hearn, Sam Barron’s (208 pp.) $6.99 paper | May 1, 2013 978-1-4380-0303-0 Series: Awesome Animals

Meerkat adventures in the Kalahari Desert. Uncle Fearless used to be the king of the Sharpeyes, but after an unfortunate run-in with an eagle owl, the Silent Enemy, he was demoted to baby sitter. His three charges, Mimi, Little Dream and Skeema, are ready for their first visit Upworld. They’ve been raised on tales of Uncle Fearless’ adventures during his Glory Days, when he was among the Blah-blah Tribes (humans): tales of the Ooolooks, the Whevubins and the Click-clicks, not to mention their huge, scary Vroom-vrooms. When Fearless and the young ones venture up, the young trio find the rest of the Sharpeyes don’t think much of Fearless. So when they find a pink, elephantshaped case full of Blah-blah artifacts, they decide to cross the desert to return it. Will they survive Vroom-vrooms, the return |

of the Silent Enemy and bands of hostile meerkats to find the pointed anthills of the Blah-blahs? Britain’s Awesome Animals series penned by several stars of British children’s literature comes to America. Each author creates adventures starring a different species; publishing simultaneously are Jeanne Willis’ Penguin Pandemonium, Jamie Rix’s Panda Panic and Andrew Cope’s Raccoon Rampage. Prolific funnyman Whybrow’s first of four (so far) meerkat adventures is a goofy mix of misunderstandings and mayhem with black-and-white spot illustrations by Hearn that add to the fun. An associated website and club extend the goofy fun. (Humor. 7-10)

THE HOSTAGE PRINCE

Yolen, Jane; Stemple, Adam Viking (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 13, 2013 978-0-670-01434-7

Two standard character types—a spunky lower-class girl and a prince without a kingdom—reluctantly bond in a series opener that features colorful aspects mortared together with tired tropes. Snail is a midwife’s apprentice in the Unseelie Court, which occupies a harsh, chaotic castle brimming with many kinds of fey. Snail’s midwifery role is strictly prescribed, but she’s clumsy and tends to stumble into trouble. Elsewhere in the castle lives Prince Aspen, called the Hostage Prince since he doesn’t belong to the royal Unseelie family—he belongs to their enemies. By birth, he’s the third successor to the faraway Seelie throne. Seven years ago, each court sent a son to their enemy’s home as a hostage against the possibility of war. When a drow’s lie and a queen’s hostility send Snail and Aspen tumbling into a frantic escape from execution, they grudgingly work together to cross changing landscapes and reach his Seelie family—which doesn’t offer the safety they expect. A comical troll birthing scene, an ending twist and an intriguing riddle that Aspen’s charged to carry balance out the uneven creativity and the fact that Snail’s plucky impudence—a central aspect of her characterization— receives only the thinnest justification. This isn’t the absolute freshest fantasy for this age group, but the prince’s boldly impossible plan will carry readers forward to the next installment. (Fantasy. 8-11)

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“In this sparkling sequel to Dust Girl (2012), showcasing Callie’s cleverness versus the mystical glitterati, neither Callie’s persistence nor the trilogy’s pace flags.” from golden girl

BOY NOBODY

Zadoff, Allen Little, Brown (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 11, 2013 978-0-316-19968-1 An unnamed teen assassin finds himself torn between a girl and his mission. Zadoff ’s 16-year-old protagonist saw the life of his father ripped away by a close friend when he was 12. Since then, he’s been under the employ of “Mother” and “Father,” the heads of an organization that uses children as hired killers. He’s one of the best: He’s professional and always finishes the job smoothly and cleanly without a mess. The killings all have low levels of blood and gore and usually look like accidents so he can escape the scene without any suspicion. When he’s charged with taking out the mayor of New York City, however, things get complicated—especially when he crushes on the mayor’s daughter, who goes to his school. Zadoff ’s chapters are short, staccato and to-the-point, mirroring the narrative voice of his protagonist. His paragraphs rarely run over four lines long. His nameless, tough-as-nails lead character has just the right balance of cunning, heart and conscience to win the respect and admiration of many teen readers, even reluctant ones. The plot speeds along seamlessly with plenty of action and drama, and hairpin turns will keep readers guessing; a twist in the end will have them begging for more. Fast, furious and fun. (Thriller. 14 & up)

GOLDEN GIRL

Zettel, Sarah Random House (320 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Jun. 25, 2013 978-0-375-86939-6 978-0-375-98319-1 e-book 978-0-375-96939-3 PLB Series: American Fairy Trilogy, 2 It’s hard for a brown-skinned girl to search the Depression-era back lots of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for a gateway to fairyland and harder still if both the Seelie and Unseelie courts are after her. It’s 1935, and Callie LeRoux has journeyed to Hollywood from Slow Run, Kan., in search of her white human mother and black fairy father. A fairy kidnap attempt is foiled by none other than the famous Renaissance man Paul Robeson, a human who seems impervious to fairy magic. But Callie ignores Mr. Robeson, choosing instead the friendship of a Shirley Temple–like child star with golden curls, perky tam-o’-shanter and bewitched caretakers. Callie just wants to find her parents and get the heck out of Dodge, but with a prophecy hanging over her head, it won’t be easy. Her father’s people, the brownskinned fairies of the Midnight Throne, want her as much as the fair-skinned power brokers of the Shining Court. Real-life 108

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historical figures and cultural norms flavor this coming-of-age tale set in the golden age of Hollywood with period gravitas, but they never overwhelm the adventure or diminish the Seelie and Unseelie courts to an allegory for racism. In this sparkling sequel to Dust Girl (2012), showcasing Callie’s cleverness versus the mystical glitterati, neither Callie’s persistence nor the trilogy’s pace flags. (Fantasy. 12-14)

interactive e-books JAMES & MAC

Cricket Design Cricket Design $1.99 | Feb. 27, 2013 V2; Mar. 12, 2013

With the appeal of a Saturday-morning cartoon, this app will draw in kids— but leave them wishing for more. James wakes up one night as “a terrifying sound echoed through the air.” The next day, James discovers his mother in tears, for all of the carrots have been stolen from her vegetable garden, where James finds a monster’s footprints. With his trusty ferret’s help, James follows one clue after another to discover the culprit. Unfortunately, the logical connections among clues seem tenuous, and the odd sounds James hears at the beginning never are explained. The story progresses in animated chapters, only pulling the reader in to interact at isolated points. This puts the reader in a passive stance, like watching a cartoon. The illustrations evoke the goofy humor of Scooby Doo, but the pacing is more controlled and suitable to a storybook app. The app defaults to a text-free, voice-only presentation, but there is a pull-down option to show “subtitles” if children want to read along. Certainly entertaining and visually appealing, but the mystery is resolved through chance rather than clear detective work. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

THEO THE WHITE BEAR

Hazuki, Iroha Illus. by Nikolov, Nikolay Stella 28 $3.99 | Mar. 23, 2013 1.0; Mar. 23, 2013

Two polar bear cubs meet and scan the evening sky for a special star. Theo is a polar bear out trooping around in the snowy wild of the far north when he happens across another cub, Lena, who is patiently sitting in the snow. Lena tells Theo that she is waiting for the night to see her

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mother, who is now a star. Theo catches the drift when he remembers that his parents told him that his deceased grandparents were stars. Theo offers to join Lena in her vigil, and, together, night falls around them and the stars come out. This is a wistful and rather stiff story, but in its simplicity there is a sense that the future is wide and open and that memories will always be part of it. The app is designed to look like a book, with text on the right and a looping animated video on the left. There is no interaction with the video other than to set it in play, and it does a good job depicting the ghostly, bluish light of the northlands, with awesome snow peaks and what looks like really cold water. Occasionally the narrator will fumble a line, but the mishaps will keep early readers on their toes, and there is a record-your-own-narration option available. A dreamy story of lost, found and abiding affection in the Arctic. (iPad storybook app. 4-7)

ALPHABET ANIMALS A Slide-and-Peek

MacDonald, Suse Illus. by MacDonald, Suse Auryn $1.99 | Feb. 27, 2013 1.0.0; Feb. 27, 2013

Voicing, small-scale animations and a matching game suit MacDonald’s 2008 abecedary to a T. Realistically reproducing the original’s square pages with their slide-out cards, each screen of this digital version features a simple, brightly colored, graphic-style animal portrait based on a clearly recognizable capital letter. Beneath that is a “tab” that pulls out an image of the letter unadorned and that triggers a simple animation. Young viewers can hear both the animal’s name and the letter pronounced with taps, and they may either swipe to the next letter or choose it from a strip running below. The names do not appear in print, but aside from xenops (a type of South American bird), all of the animals are common (and real, except perhaps for the unicorn). A “Game” icon on the title page opens a screen on which children are invited to spell their names and then drag animal thumbnails to match the letters. Overall, a well-designed edition with extras that will appeal to diapered digerati. (iPad alphabet app. 1-3)

JUST ME AND MY LITTLE BROTHER Mayer, Mercer Illus. by Mayer, Mercer Oceanhouse Media $0.99 | Mar. 11, 2013 2.1; Mar. 11, 2013

Oceanhouse applies its characteristically clean treatment to a Mayer standard. As scraggly haired Little Critter relates all the cool things he will do with his little brother |

through the seasons, readers can tap the screen for voiced and spelled-out identification of various items in the picture. Many of these objects are crushingly obvious—“snowball,” “fence,” “basket”—but others are more nuanced. In an apple-picking scene, for instance, tapping the row of apple trees in the background yields “apples,” “apple,” “tree” and “orchard,” depending where the finger hits. While most preschoolers will be able to parse the differences among the first three with little difficulty, understanding exactly how the collective “orchard” incorporates them may not be quite so clear. Too, the tufty, inky lines found on many pages are variously identified as “grass,” “plants” and “weeds,” though there is little to distinguish the one from the other visually. Tapping the ubiquitous mouse elicits a “mouse,” a volley of squeaks and sometimes a little chime; tapping Little Critter himself brings up his name, voiced with extra enthusiasm by the child narrator. Particularly unfortunate is the cowboys-and-Indians scene, in which one child is reductively described as both “friend” and “Indian.” As vocabulary-builder, this app may muddle more than it enlightens. By this time, both Little Critter and the “omBook” are tried-and-true brands, so there’s a feeling of sameness about both story and treatment that will reassure many children even as it, perhaps, fails to thrill their parents. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

MIBBLIO

Mibblio Mibblio, Inc. Jan. 30, 2013 1.1; Mar. 6, 2013 This collection of illustrated children’s songs is an interactive musical playground. The Mibblio app itself is free and serves as a platform for individual songs available for purchase within the app ($1.99 each). Each storysong is called a “mibblet,” and it launches within an interface that features an illustrated, automated “book” that’s surrounded by interactive elements. As “On Top of Spaghetti” plays, for example, readers can single out instruments to add or subtract from the prerecorded arrangement, as well as make musical contributions of their own. All the while, the noninteractive pages scroll automatically (in silent mode, which can be selected on the home screen, the pages turn with the swipe of a finger). A brightly colored keyboard offers different options for improvisation or imitation, including a xylophone, an accordion and a violin. A panel to the right provides several rainbow-stringed instruments that readers can “strum” (swipe) along with each song, as well as percussive options. Some mibblets are old standards, like “Old MacDonald” and “The Wheels on the Bus,” while others are more obscure. The quality of each story varies. “Millie and Her Curling, Whirling Hair” for instance, has an interesting, well-told (sung?) storyline and features simple yet distinctive black-and-white illustrations. But “Superhero Vacation” and “Wibblesmacks” are awash in sloppy, shallow storytelling and graphics that look like

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they came out of middle school art class or somebody’s glorified clip-art library, respectively. Still, it’s a great concept, and artistic flaws notwithstanding, a fun time. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

WHAT WILL I BE?

Sinclair, Richard Illus. by Lycett-Smith, Jon Digital Leaf $2.99 | Feb. 27, 2013 1.0.3; Feb. 27, 2013 A cheery story tells children that they can be whatever they want to be. Lewis sits on his father’s knee and wonders, “Of all the jobs that people have / I wonder what I’ll be.” With pleasant rhyming text, this storybook app shows the young boy imagining the many different careers ahead. From sailing the ocean to creating world-class pies, the world is full of possibilities. A clear option at the beginning of the app allows readers to hear the story with a young girl, Maddi, as the main character. (Both Lewis and Maddi appear Caucasian.) All of the illustrations change to reflect the young girl in the same roles as before. This option sends the message that girls and boys can be whatever they want to be, without any gender stereotyping. The buoyant illustrations, done with a digital watercolor effect, reflect the upbeat mood of the text. The narration, sound effects and navigation are well-executed, but the pages are sluggish on the page turn. Unfortunately, the interactive features focus on finding a dog hiding on each page, something completely unrelated to the content of the story. Despite meaningless distractions, a happy story full of possibilities. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

ZOE’S GREEN PLANET

Tousnakhoff, Nathalie Illus. by Roussell, Matt Square Igloo $2.99 | Feb. 28, 2013 1.0; Feb. 28, 2013

Two little girls from planets which are different in only one big way become friends in this visually striking app. Green Zoe is the middle child in a green family that lives on a green planet. Their green lives are shaken up when a big, red spaceship lands, depositing a red family from a red planet. The visitors send their daughter, Maho, to school with Zoe, and the two become friends, despite some color-coded bullying from another student. The friendship lasts, but Maho’s parents become homesick and decide to go back home. It’s a sad goodbye, but maybe Zoe can visit the red planet someday. The lesson of tolerance in the app is simple. The visuals are lovely, with green-hued cars, pets and people made of what appears to be carefully crafted papier-mâché. 110

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The spots of red, like Maho and her spaceship, pop amid all the green. Unfortunately, the red Takino family’s outsider status is emphasized by Asian stereotyping, including slanted lines for eyes and World War II propaganda–worthy buckteeth on the father. The text is unremarkable, simply moving the story along and prompting readers to perform simple on-screen actions. Five games from the story are available to play on their own from the app’s main menu. A simple story about planet-crossed friendship but one in which the eye-catching artwork both accounts for and counteracts much of the colorful charm. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

SPATTER & SPARK

Underwood, Deborah Illus. by Powell, Luciana Navarro Polk Street Press Feb. 21, 2013 1.1; Feb. 25, 2013 A peppy yet, paradoxically, painfully slow story about a porcupine on an artistic quest. Spatter the porcupine wants to give a gift to Hubert, a baby crow. Since he loves to paint, Spatter decides to paint Hubert’s picture. But there’s one problem: He’s never seen the baby crow. Spatter finds his inventor friend Spark, and the two set out to find a way to help Spatter catch a glimpse of his would-be subject. The graphics are bright, crisp and clear, but the corresponding animation and interaction are exceptionally sluggish. When Spatter arrives at Spark’s house, it’s covered with levers and tubes and springloaded contraptions. The lull in dialogue will undoubtedly prompt little fingers to get busy, but alas, none of the gadgets pays off or advances the story until the next screen (which isn’t accessible until a listless arrow appears). From there, Spark’s random inventions bog down the plot, but one finally inspires the duo to find a supposed solution to Spatter’s problem (which ends up being a moot point in the end). All of the bonus activities are in-app purchases, which is sure to cause frustration for both parents and children. Regardless of which reading mode is chosen, this app has one speed: s-l-o-w. (for iPad 2 and above) (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

This Issue’s Contributors # Alison Anholt-White • Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Marcie Bovetz • Louise Brueggemann • Connie Burns • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Andi Diehn • Carol Edwards • Omar Gallaga • Judith Gire • Jessie C. Grearson • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Julie Hubble • Jennifer Hubert • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • Joy Kim • K. Lesley Knieriem • Peter Lewis • Lori Low • Lauren Maggio • Joan Malewitz • Hillias J. Martin • Shelly McNerney • Kathie Meizner • Daniel Meyer • Lisa Moore • R. Moore • John Edward Peters • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Leslie L. Rounds • Mindy Schanback • Mary Ann Scheuer • Stephanie Seales • Chris Shoemaker • Karyn N. Silverman • Robin Smith • Edward T. Sullivan • Jennifer Sweeney • Jessica Thomas • Bette Wendell-Branco • Gordon West • Monica Wyatt • Melissa Yurechko

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indie THE GODDESS PAGES Honey, Full Moons and Daggers

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: The Alpha Strategies by Alan W. Kennedy; Thomas E. Kennedy............................................................................114

Shepsa AuthorHouse (116 pp.) $23.99 | $14.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Apr. 16, 2012 978-1-4685-7727-3

Powderhorn by Joseph McInerny................................................ 115 Project GITMO by Daniel J. Rich..................................................120 The Woman Who Sparked the Greatest Sex Scandal of All Time by Eli Yaakunah.......................................................... 123

PROJECT GITMO Resurrection Rich, Daniel J. CreateSpace (344 pp.) $9.95 paper $3.95 e-book Feb. 1, 2013 978-1-4820-5116-2

This debut collection of uninhibited, narrative-driven poetry tackles expansive contemporary notions of black womanhood. Shepsa’s energetic poems are passionately written and saturated with pop-cultural, historical and mythological references. The book is divided into three sections—“Honey,” “Full Moons” and “Daggers”—and the author explains her relation to these themes with the simple declaration: “I am warrior, mother and lover.” “Honey” covers love and desire; “Full Moons” faces issues of lineage, cultural heritage and motherhood; and “Daggers” deals with racial and cultural injustice and misperception across space and time. The author’s graphic diction spreads across short, spitfire lines in these prose poems. Shepsa’s voice is strongest in “Honey,” with poem titles like “Letters to My Man (for tonight)” and “I AM Goddess.” Her messages of strength, sexual agency and fantasy extend throughout the work. At times, these themes overpower individual poems’ content; the words “thighs” and “thunder,” usually pertaining to the physical act of love, are repeated often, muddling more subtle nuances of femininity and sexuality. In “Inspired,” Shepsa provides examples that can either be impactful or overwhelming: “I think you are Joplin / or Hendrix / or Baldwin / call me Zora / or Josephine / or Nina / let’s make a Renaissance.” “My LOVE” summarizes the spirit and tone of all 14 poems in the first and longest section: “that unleashes coiled serpents / as dangerous as acid / that electrifies the brain // my love is a / rare and sacred orchid.” Throughout the work, Yoruba, Egyptian, Anglo-Saxon, Senegalese, Greek, Hindu and Haitian mythology figure prominently—mostly love gods and goddesses and sexualized symbols, typically provided without context. In parts 2 and 3, “Supernatural” and “Generations” stand out with their amalgamations of African diaspora concerns. Powerful poems for erudite readers.

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BY U.S. BONDS That’s My Story

Bonds, Gary U.S.; Cooper, Stephen Wheatley Press, LLC (230 pp.) Jun. 1, 2013 Rock ’n’ roll pioneer Bonds details his remarkable half-century career in popular music. Gary U.S. Bonds—born Gary L. Anderson—was barely in his 20s when his performances of rollicking tunes like “New Orleans” (1960) and “Quarter to Three” (1961) allowed him to break into the upper echelons of rock ’n’ roll music. Just five years later, however, Bonds’ shooting star had already begun to fade. Despite widespread critical acclaim, the Norfolk, Va., resident would spend the next four decades trying to scrape by on the golden-oldies circuit, playing in hotel lounges and even shopping malls. But as this briskly-paced career retrospective demonstrates, he rarely dwelled on the negative, even when performing to largely empty ballrooms and reading starkly worded foreclosure notices. Bonds’ persistence and belief in his own talents paid off in the early 1980s when he defied industry expectations and reignited his career after meeting Bruce Springsteen. Together with the Boss’ E Street Band alums, Bonds appeared in front of sold-out crowds and started recording such hits as “This Little Girl” (1981). Sadly, this rejuvenation was short-lived, and Bonds was soon back to struggling to make ends meet. Undaunted, the distinctive singer picked up and continued on as before, buoyed by what had sustained him throughout his turbulent career—loyal friends and a loving family. Bonds wastes little energy sniping at Frank Guida, the late Legrand Records producer who helped give him his start in music and, according to the author, deprived him of many hard-earned dollars—an all-too-familiar story. However, this decades-spanning professional memoir contains strikingly little bitterness; instead, Bonds’ incredible devotion to music shines through. It took Bonds, now in his seventh decade, this long to write his story, but it just might signal another professional rebirth. He’s done it before. A worthwhile rock ’n’ roll memoir, and an inspiring story about following one’s bliss.

THE GRAMMIE GUIDE Activities and Answers for Grandparenting Today

Eby, Jan; Mobilio, Laurie; Noel, Lynne; Summers, Cindy Tell-A-Gram Publishing, LLC (214 pp.) $17.95 paper | Oct. 25, 2012 978-1-4675-4486-3 This bighearted guide is here to help Mom become Grandma. Some of the rules of parenting have changed in the last two or three decades, and even what hasn’t 112

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changed may require a refresher course. Moreover, the role of grandmother has in some ways changed, too. Eby, Mobilio, Noel and Summers, who all have backgrounds in early childhood education, bring healthy doses of encouragement, research and guidance to their debut book. Grammie will likely need to outfit her house and car when her grandchild comes to visit, using a kit of gadgets and tools that may not have existed the last time she was in the baby-raising business. She’ll have to baby-proof her house and reacquaint herself with a baby’s schedule and needs. She’ll have to learn or relearn some songs, games and soothing techniques, and she’ll have an opportunity to establish or bring back family traditions for the holidays. A grandmother who lives far away will want and need to maintain long-distance relationships with her grandchildren, and she’ll have to navigate a new kind of relationship with the baby’s parents. In all of these areas, the authors’ tips are specific, useful and up-to-date, from recipes for salt dough, the words to half-forgotten nursery rhymes, and, perhaps most importantly, reminders to respect the new parents’ authority and right to parent in their own way. Each chapter has sections pertaining to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. While Grammie gets the spotlight, Grandpa gets his own chapter—“And Now for Grandpa”—in which the authors acknowledge the different approaches men and women might take. This chapter is also written as if it’s still Grammie reading, so it’s packed with suggestions she might make for Grandpa when he spends time with the kids: Take the baby outside for a walk, go build something, tell stories, and change that diaper. In both their advice and the personal stories they share throughout the book, the authors make their enthusiasm for grandmas clear, and it’s positively infectious. An excellent guide, full of friendly advice and inspiration for proud grandmas.

TRADE

Hassan, Tareq A. CreateSpace (364 pp.) $12.99 paper | $2.99 e-book Mar. 23, 2012 978-1-4700-9579-6 When the CIA cracks a local terrorist cell in Hassan’s debut spy thriller, the higher-ups begin planning an international operation—then 9/11 happens. For the past 10 years, CIA agent Patricia Foley, a one-time star of the agency, has been stuck in the basement after a list of operatives fell into the wrong hands. There was never clear evidence that Pat cracked, but the list ended up with Mossad, and at the time, she was romantically involved with Danny Golan, an Israeli agent. Now, Pat’s near retirement, and her boss, Chase, is feeling like Pat got the short end. A new operation is afoot: An FBI team comprised of Peter Marcone and Dre Parish has just broken into a domestic Muslim cell, and a joint operation is being set up to find the masterminds. Chase offers it to Pat, seemingly as consolation, but Pat’s learned that in the spy trade,


few things are ever that simple. After 9/11, the president’s men demand action. To save face, the CIA needs an operation on the ground, so, just like that, Pat’s last hurrah becomes the biggest game in town. She lines up a patsy—a man who’s not even aware he’s part of the operation—and in a month’s time, they’re overseas, following the rabbit hole from the Israeli ecstasy trade to the jihad in Chechnya. If Pat has her way, she’ll find Danny at the other end. But whether she’ll kiss or kill the lover who ended her career is anyone’s guess. Like the characters themselves, Hassan’s writing is brief and rather brusque. Reflecting the story’s shortened time frame, scene after scene flies by as the plot twists and new players enter—and exit—the game. Most impressive is how real and distinct each of the many characters feels, especially with so few words afforded them. Readers might struggle early on with the multitude of characters and their overt and covert motivations, but as Hassan layers the meaning of the novel’s title, readers who endure won’t be disappointed. A fast, brutal thriller about manipulation, drugs and terrorism.

DANCE FOR A DEAD PRINCESS Hawkins, Deborah Self Mar. 30, 2013

A debut romantic mystery that spans centuries, with a modern love story at its center. Nicholas Carey, the 18th Duke of Burnham, has been wining and dining the loveliest stars in the Hollywood firmament since his beloved wife, Deborah, died almost 10 years ago at the Abbey, their English country estate. But Nicholas’ life isn’t all glitz and glamour: His grief, and his conviction that Deborah’s close friend, Princess Diana, was murdered, has left him with a heavy emotional burden. In addition, his 15-year-old ward, Lucy, who’s deep into drugs, alcohol and teen angst, has been sent away from her boarding school. Then Taylor Collins, one of the most highly accomplished young lawyers in her American firm, arrives to mediate the sale of the Abbey. She doesn’t fall immediately for the duke, as most women do, but maintains a chilly distance, as she’s nursing her own heartbreak and grieving the loss of a treasured friend. But when Taylor stays with Nicholas at the Abbey to look over ancient land documents, she finds, to her surprise, that she not only feels compassion for the pain Nicholas has experienced, but also a growing attraction to him. Taylor’s discovery of Nicholas’ 16th-century ancestor’s personal diary reveals a tumultuous love affair and a murder accusation. How exactly did Deborah die, and has Nicholas been telling the truth about Lucy’s parentage? Furthermore, Nicholas believes that the princess of Wales left behind an audiotape naming those who wanted her dead—and that Mari, Taylor’s late friend, had the tape among her possessions. Was Mari, thought to be a victim of a botched burglary, actually

murdered? Hawkins delivers an efficient, suspenseful tale that weaves together the past and the present. The prose is lively, if not poetic, and its atmospheric descriptions of the Abbey not only bring to life the contemporary love story between Nicholas and Taylor, but also add richness to the ancient tale that Taylor uncovers. It’s a great book for a long journey, as it’s both easy to read and intellectually gratifying. Although the ending is rather abrupt and somewhat heavy on the explication, its emotional payoff is well worth it. British history and contemporary conspiracy collide in this satisfying novel.

JOURNEY TO DELPHI

Iannella, Frank D. CreateSpace (366 pp.) $14.95 paper | $7.50 e-book Aug. 22, 2012 978-1-4679-3639-2 An entertaining debut historical novel that depicts tumultuous ancient Greece as seen through the eyes of a young, orphaned slave. Damian is only 12 years old when his parents are killed and most of his village, followers of Orpheus’ gentle philosophy, is destroyed by marauders from another Greek village in the early sixth century B.C. He escapes with his tutors, but one of them sells Damian into slavery. At first, the young man performs menial labor on a construction site, but when his masters notice his skill at reading, writing, mathematics and running, he’s allowed to train for competitive races and work on building plans. After a spiteful master rapes and cripples Damian, the boy gets his revenge and escapes, and he’s eventually reunited with his beloved tutor, Lysis. The two travel to Delphi, Greece’s spiritual center, so that Damian may undergo ritual cleansing and serve as a tutor at Delphi’s school. He visits the famous Oracle, where he receives an enigmatic message that spurs him to investigate the meaning of his life. Debut author Iannella effectively presents the atmosphere of long-ago Greece, vividly describing its food, clothes, customs, landscape, religion and philosophy. (There are occasional missteps, including characters using the terms “okay” and “guys,” which readers may find a bit too modern, and eating potatoes, which didn’t make it to Greece until some two millennia later.) He also provides intriguing cultural discussions about the wisdom of sentencing prisoners to death versus banishing them, the real importance of good bookkeeping and the evergreen difficulty of teaching fractions. The novel also paints an engaging, well-rounded portrait of the tough-minded historical tyrant Kleisthenes; after an earthquake, for example, he goes where the fires are thickest, using his authority for the most good. The story perhaps supplies a few too many opportunities for Damian to play the hero, which might have been pruned to better effect. Damian’s adventures will continue in a planned second volume. Absorbing adventures in ancient Greece, full of betrayal, friendship, mysticism and science. |

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“Amid this plethora of vicariously thrilling and erotic ‘sexual fiestas,’ O’Donahue takes time to philosophically ponder the nature of strippers.” from the lunarium

THE LUNARIUM

K., Kathleen CreateSpace (196 pp.) $7.77 paper | Nov. 2, 2011 978-1-4662-3301-0 Provocative, orgiastic snippets from a sexual voyeur’s social life. Known for an oeuvre of titillating material, anonymous author K. (Honey B., The Suite Life, 2012) explores the fascinating, visually active life of bearded, middleaged “watcher” James Boyle O’Donahue. Irish, single and unlucky in love, O’Donahue fully embraces his penchant for voyeuristic, erotic, group events. Unapologetic to a fault, he allows himself to revel in this clandestine fetish, defensively remarking that the ones being watched are indeed willing participants—their “secret passions are not spoiled by a witness participating in the redefinition of privacy.” Armed with boundless energy, dynamic tour guide O’Donahue directs readers through a wide array of creatively themed sex clubs: Revelry, a “small luxurious pit surrounded by theater seats”; the Lunarium, a fantasy event where he accompanies an unnamed companion; and the Beach, with its taboo “Beyond the Rocks” private area that’s a “sexual potluck” starring 12 randy, experimental couples and a roomful of writhing performers at a lactating “tit talent show.” Written with verve and a contagious sense of exhibitionism, K.’s first-person narrative is divided into 70 “things”: brief chapters that descriptively chart O’Donahue’s carnivalesque adventures at risqué live theater performances. Amid this plethora of vicariously thrilling and erotic “sexual fiestas,” O’Donahue takes time to philosophically ponder the nature of strippers, compares gawkers to voyeurs, gets schooled by a sex professor and breathlessly observes amazing (and not so amazing) feats of carnality. K. doesn’t aim for subtlety, but as a whole, the sexual observances form an enlightening examination of voyeurism. A wild, steamy story with erudite sex-as-art undertones.

IN THE SHADOW OF HAGIA SOPHIA

Karakostas, Theodore G. CreateSpace (102 pp.) $14.99 paper | Feb. 25, 2013 978-1-4801-7980-6 Covering a period of nearly 20 years in the author’s life, Karakostas’ writing details his visits to various sites important to Greek Orthodox followers, including Hagia Sophia in modern-day Istanbul and the island of Patmos. History can inform one’s faith in unexpected ways, although those ways may be more academic than spiritual, according to this slim collection of essays that often succeeds with the historical aspects more than the personal. Karakostas records his personal impressions of the sites covered and provides clear, 114

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succinct background on their importance to the Greek Orthodox faith and on how modern events have affected these sites. Using citations, photographs and his own perspective as an American who came to understand his faith later in life, Karakostas also discusses how politics and Western values have combined at times to put the people of Greece at a disadvantage, and he outlines certain nationalistic viewpoints as he perceives them. Although Karakostas doesn’t claim objectivity—his disdain for Turkey, primarily due to its long-standing enmity toward Greece, is thoroughly described—his academic tone does much to lower the temperature on his statements. In blending his personal experiences with thorough historical research, Karakostas reveals his fervor for his ancestry, his faith and the untold millions who came before him who shared his viewpoints and religious beliefs. While the holiness of these sites may not get as much emphasis as Karakostas’ stated thesis forecasts, these short essays capably contextualize their places in history. Lucid writing and a strong grasp of Byzantine history, with an emphasis on the historical rather than spiritual.

THE ALPHA STRATEGIES Understanding Strategy, Risk, and Values in Any Organization Kennedy, Alan W.; Kennedy, Thomas E. Xlibris (194 pp.) $29.99 | $19.99 paper | May 2, 2013 978-1-4771-5286-7

In their debut, consultants Kennedy and Kennedy attempt to demystify the business strategy process. Too many organizations try to engage in strategic planning without understanding what their current strategy is, according to the authors, a father-son duo with Toronto-based consultancy Gibson Kennedy & Company. Conventional approaches dictate that a company should begin by asking, “Where do we want to be?” The authors contend that a more logical question is, “Where are we?” After all, you can’t change something if you can’t agree on where things stand now. Strategy discussions are also often muddled by intimidating terms like “mission,” “goals” and “objectives”—which are really just synonyms; in this work, the authors avoid such corporate buzzwords, instead offering a streamlined method. Their titular Alpha Strategies are eight “courses of action,” found in all organizations, which encompass every facet of business: production, marketing, growth, research and development, risk, financial management, business definition and organizational management. While the components themselves aren’t new, the authors assert that it’s the relationship among them that ultimately matters: One dominant Alpha Strategy sets the overall culture, they write, while the other seven take secondary roles as “influencers” or “enablers.” Leaders need to agree on how the eight strategies are configured and then ensure that all are executed properly. To make their case, the authors examine the strategies of such


“McInerny balances Moon’s moments of introspection with bursts of action that keep the pace quick and the pages turning.” from powderhorn

prominent corporations as Ford, Stantec and IBM. The book’s easy-to-follow approach is surprisingly versatile, given its simple design. The authors convincingly demonstrate how the Alpha Strategies function in a range of industries, including nonprofit and public service organizations, and by the final chapter, readers will likely find the difficult task of strategizing less daunting. Although proponents of metric-based strategic models may disagree with the process-orientated Alpha Strategies model, the authors believe such popular methods are shortsighted. Their succinct, elegant approach focuses on the hows and whys of strategy—not just the numbers. A no-guesswork guide to business strategy and a persuasive thesis on why some organizations are more successful than others.

DEAD TIDE Mercury Spill

Leaphart, Alvin CreateSpace (210 pp.) $13.99 paper | $3.99 e-book Dec. 15, 2012 978-1-4791-8217-6 In Leaphart’s debut novel, an avid environmentalist, his chauffeur/bodyguard and others fight to bring down a company that’s dumping mercury into

Georgia’s waters. A chemist at Trans-Atlantic Chemical Company was killed trying to deliver an envelope to Alex Bosche; is a coverup underway? Alex; his employee and friend, Elijah; a detective; and the dead man’s widow risk a daring infiltration of TRACCO’s plant in search of enough evidence to prove that the company is polluting Glynn County’s Turtle River with mercury-infused waste. But TRACCO has hired its own people to ensure that witnesses to any transgressions aren’t alive to tell their story. Leaphart’s book begins as a mystery: two men cryptically discuss a dead chemist, a desired envelope and the enigmatic “Shooter.” But after questions surrounding the murder are quickly answered, the novel becomes a story about exposing a larger crime: mercury’s deadly effects on marine wildlife, as well as on humans. The author instills his novel with sturdy components that help maintain a solid pace—Morris, the Shooter, is a formidable foe who won’t go down easily; copious amounts of action fire up the plot, including gunfights, fending off a helicopter attack and battling a storm at sea; and a surprise ending leaves some characters in unexpected circumstances. Alex and company spend much of their time on a boat—often being pursued— which allows detailed descriptions of sailing that, like Alex’s occasional tirades on nature or the harms that befall nature, can be a bit excessive. But such excessiveness works well for droll prayers—a priest blesses beer and pizza and prays that the killer is killed—and seafood descriptions, especially the loving depictions of Southern cuisine. Some readers may be offended by repeated racial slurs—often in reference to Alex, who’s Cuban, and Elijah, who’s black—as well as the socially disdained word

for mentally challenged children, the result here of mercury poisoning. Not that Leaphart underplays the connotation of these words: The slurs are spoken by insolent characters, and the other word (“retard”) is usually uttered during emotionally heightened dialogue. An enticing villain, loads of action and a dash of Southern flair make for a great read.

POWDERHORN

McInerny, Joseph Tanglefinger Books (344 pp.) $12.50 paper | $2.99 e-book | Feb. 8, 2013 978-0-615-65083-8 Set in Minneapolis during the Great Depression, McInerny’s novel tells the story of Horton Moon, whose love of drink and women leads to his downfall. Moon’s life is something short of perfect. He has a job, but it doesn’t pay nearly enough; with four kids and a fifth on the way, he’s struggling. He loves his wife, Annie, and most of the time they get along, but she doesn’t like how much time he spends drinking at the neighborhood bar. Then Moon meets and falls in love with Caroline, a young woman freshly arrived from the prairie. Though he never stops loving Annie, he takes up with Caroline; it isn’t long before Annie learns of the affair. Things are bleak, and when Moon loses his job, they grow bleaker. That’s when he decides to take his friend Peterson up on his offer to partner together for a robbery. It seems to go well, and Moon is relieved to be suddenly flush with money—until he learns that the guys they stole from want him dead. For a while, Moon goes underground, living among the hard-luck guys at the poor end of town before leaving the city, but for him, Minneapolis is home. So, he comes home to face his fate. With the exception of a short prologue and epilogue, Moon draws readers in while narrating in the present tense, and McInerny’s simple, spare style captures the feel of 1930s Minnesota. In describing a key character, Moon says, “There’s a history between Uncle Jack Morrison and myself that I maybe need to spell out right here. I don’t like Jack. And he doesn’t like me.” The short prologue introduces an element of mystery that will keep readers guessing until almost the very end of the novel. As the prologue states, the real story is that of Moon and how he changed; though the novel is essentially a character study, it avoids the dull, self-indulgent style that can sometimes weigh down similar novels. McInerny balances Moon’s moments of introspection with bursts of action that keep the pace quick and the pages turning. This tale of a flawed man in a gritty setting manages to be both intense and beautiful.

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GAME OF HEARTS

Nemer, M.J. CreateSpace (372 pp.) $14.95 paper | $4.99 e-book Nov. 27, 2012 978-1-4802-6229-4 Nemer’s debut novel unfolds against the backdrop of the world wars and 1950s Europe. An American couple decides to spend a year living in Brussels in 1958. Ben plans on doing scientific research at a university lab, while his wife, Charlotte, will be continuing her art studies. A slight mix-up on their first day in town brings them to the doorstep of a local figure known as the Countess, who becomes fast friends with the pair. Ostensibly, everything is fine with Ben and Charlotte’s marriage, but surgery has left Charlotte with the inability to have children. The issue, lurking just below the surface, is a touchy one for the couple. Charlotte’s regular visits with the Countess turn the unique woman into a confidante who reveals her somewhat mysterious past. The novel blends two distinct stories: that of Ben, Charlotte and their European adventures, told by way of an omniscient third-person narrator, and that of the Countess, told in her own voice, beginning with her unconventional family life and continuing to her teen years, when a World War I romance with a prince—who would go on to become the king of England— forever changed her life. A mystery lies at the intersection of these two stories. What connection do a possible poisoning, spies and a man who knocks Charlotte down on the sidewalk have to the Countess? Is the Countess correct in thinking that these shadowy men mean to isolate her in an attempt to prevent her from trying to claim what she feels is her rightful share of her royal family’s inheritance? Readers who prefer conclusive answers may be disappointed to find that, at novel’s end, all Ben and Charlotte have to go by are their own best guesses as to what’s behind the bizarre incidents. Despite this ambiguity, Nemer deftly weaves together the different story strands, with the Countess’ ill-fated royal love affair and Ben and Charlotte’s marital struggles convincingly intertwining. A compelling novel that captures the feel of midcentury Europe, bringing it to life with complex, sympathetic characters.

TOBAGO The Union with Trinidad 1889–1899 Myth and Reality

Nimblett, Lennie M. AuthorHouse (374 pp.) $41.19 | $24.34 paper | $3.99 e-book Nov. 9, 2012 978-1-4772-3449-5 In this intelligent history, Nimblett analyzes the troubled but ultimately successful union of two Caribbean peoples. The 1889 annexation of Tobago, a small island off the coast of Venezuela, to its much larger neighbor Trinidad is still 116

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a subject of controversy. The author, a journalist and native of Trinidad and Tobago, seeks to correct misconceptions by undertaking a careful reading of the historical record. On the surface, Nimblett tells a prosaic story of cost-cutting by the British Empire, which ruled both islands as colonies; Colonial Office functionaries advocating for the merger complained of the expense of maintaining a separate administration for Tobago’s 18,000 people. After the annexation, Tobago’s insistence on fiscal independence led to disaster when the island lost most of its customs revenue on items imported from Trinidad. Tobago petitioned the Colonial Office to rescind the union, but the British government instead abolished Tobago’s separate tax, budget and treasury systems. Nimblett gets at deeper issues when he writes of how, in the 19th century, the island gradually lost its status as a self-governing colony. He details the class struggle behind Tobago’s constitutional wrangles, as Tobago’s legislature, representing a tiny, propertied minority, stymied reform initiatives to stop the exploitation of disenfranchised black workers. Nimblett’s lucid but sometimes repetitive narrative presents a wealth of documentary evidence and adds context with accounts of the West Indies’ legacy of slavery and racism and the economic effects of the collapse of Tobago’s sugar industry. In a challenge to other historians, Nimblett makes a compelling case that Tobago’s annexation helped alleviate many of its problems by sparking investment, land reform and agricultural diversification. His thought-provoking take will influence the ongoing debate over the island nation’s past— and its future. A well-researched, illuminating interpretation of Trinidad and Tobago’s formative crisis.

FROM PRESCHOOL TO GRAD SCHOOL Strategies for Success at Any Level of Competitive Admissions

Palacios, Kim CreateSpace (288 pp.) $13.95 paper | $9.95 e-book | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-9857983-0-7 An experienced college-admissions advisor offers a comprehensive guide to gaining entrance to competitive schools, from preschool to graduate school. Debut author Palacios presents an engaging, no-nonsense primer for school admissions, asserting that “most competitive schools, regardless of education level, rank candidates in similar ways.” The author draws upon her experience—as a graduate school admissions committee member, a successful applicant to several nationally known private schools and a parent of a child admitted to a prestigious preschool—to make the case that the same principles govern all successful competitive admissions, no matter the school or grade level. After examining current trends in admissions and discussing the increasingly competitive environment for private school applications, the guide helps


applicants explore essential questions: Why are you on this path? Why are you interested in this school? It offers wide-ranging, practical tips on writing the personal essay, gathering letters of recommendation, avoiding common mistakes, distinguishing oneself from other applicants, choosing the right schools, and using storytelling and personal anecdotes to bring an application to life. The author cites personal examples to show that competitive admissions are not just about good grades and test scores. She maintains that the process also involves matching shared values and effectively communicating a favorable image through interviews, essays, recommendations, and the student’s activities and interests. Palacios provides insider tips on determining the bar for admission and deciphering admissions-committee jargon, and she discusses topics such as being wait-listed, handling rejection, admissions consultants and reapplying. She also gives readers a rare nugget of wisdom that could prove worth the price of the book—advising students not to “weed out expensive schools too early,” due to the availability of often hidden sources of financial assistance from some of the top schools. References with citations for each chapter are found at the back of the guide, and the author provides a website and blog for additional coaching and guidance. A valuable guide to competitive school admissions.

10 DISCUSSIONS FOR EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP

Perras, Raymond; Bellefeuille, Marcel; Lindia, Bruno AuthorHouse (280 pp.) $28.99 | $19.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Nov. 7, 2012 978-1-4772-7769-0 Three authors with distinctly different perspectives shed new light on 10 less-often-regarded but important aspects of organizational leadership. Perras, a managerial coach and trainer, builds on his previous book (AIM for Life Mastery, 2011) in this series of discussions, carefully coordinating his ideas with those of a professional sports coach, Bellefeuille, and a business executive, Lindia. Together, the trio attempts to raise the reader’s awareness about opportunities and techniques available to organizational leaders. They identify 10 distinct, critical leadership issues, including making leadership choices from a broaderthan-usual perspective, aligning team members’ responsibilities with their leader, nurturing trust, communicating honestly, optimizing plans through greater team involvement and clarifying how the team can best function. In each discussion, Perras summarizes basic assumptions and considerations and wraps up with his own summary statement. Bellefeuille offers personal insights and experiences (within the relatively straightforward context of competitive sports) to drive home the essential elements of each leadership issue. Lindia grounds each discussion in bottom-line factors. Interesting examples include Bellefeuille’s assertion that “the goal is not at the end of the road,

the goal is the road”; Lindia reminds readers, “you need very strong technical people to create and move your company, [yet] you should consider the differently skilled and more creative people too. Otherwise there will be something missing in your joint plan.” Since leadership issues are split into three divergent but complementary perspectives, the book’s content is highly compartmentalized and more easily absorbed, as well as readily accessible for reference. Some readers may feel Perras casts too much of the discussion in his own highly ambiguous terms (most notably: “the right stuff, in the right amount, at the right time”), which forces the reader to use his or her own judgment when applying the book’s ideas to real-world leadership situations. This book provides material support to readers in leadership positions, however, and offers out-of-the-ordinary ideas and examples that may help leaders overcome barriers to achieve peak performance. An interesting, original guide to leadership.

ABSTRACT PAINTING, A PRACTICAL APPROACH Reimer, Hennie CreateSpace (134 pp.) $29.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Dec. 5, 2011 978-1-4635-2658-0

Reimer’s instructional debut portrays the “adventure of abstract painting” for neophytes and admirers of modern art. Innately human, the need to create images stems from our need to communicate, says the author, an accomplished artist. Since it concerns the “personal feelings and perceptions” of both the artist and the viewer, “works of art should not be translated into words,” contends Reimer, “least of all by the artist.” Nonetheless, from approaching and interpreting others’ work to setting up the proper space in which to create your own, the Danish-born author teaches basic skills and techniques through “fun projects” in acrylic and watercolors—due to their shorter drying times—and helpful instructions, including a foolproof, step-by-step method of stretching your own canvases. Reimer covers the importance of practicing three crucial steps—drawing, underpainting and overpainting—as well as critical self-evaluation and knowing when to put down the brush. To generate ideas, she suggests listening to music and picturing the “sounds as shapes” or placing limits on your use of color, tools, materials and media to help discover various possibilities. Reimer’s at her best discussing the “color compass” and the visual harmony of complementary, related and tertiary colors. She also explains how organic subjects display warmer, redder hues, while inorganic subjects are marked by cooler, bluer colors. Surrounded as a child by Viking mythology, Reimer conducts an ancestral conversation as she appropriates ancient motifs into her bright, minimal work, shown here alongside her more representative flower watercolors. Although intended for “serious artists” unable “to obtain a formal arts education,” the author provides useful information and advice for anyone with |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Eriq La Salle

Martyr Maker, Self-Starter By Tom Eubanks

“Jesus’ death wasn’t the worst of the persecution of the Martyrs. The greater and even lesser known Apostles died equally horrible deaths,” writes Eriq La Salle in his debut thriller, Laws of Depravity, which Kirkus calls “a delightfully twisting roller-coaster ride through light, dark and the shades in between,” in a starred review. These killings—crucifixions, beheadings, flayings—are mirrored in the crime scene photos of the more than 30 victims, all clergymen, of the “Martyr Maker.” They were also the initial inspiration for La Salle, a successful actor and director, to assume the role of novelist and take on the serial-killer genre. “I read an article about how all of these disciples were brutally murdered,” the former E.R. star says from Los Angeles. “I had never heard about it. Come to find out, a lot of people—religious and nonreligious—didn’t know it as well. I thought, there’s a 118

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story here somewhere. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something interesting.” Once he decided to try his hand at writing, La Salle recalled that article. “One of the staples of a good thriller is having a great killer, a killer who does things in an original way. I thought, this is kind of original,” he remembers. So, with methodology first, he set out to establish the twisted mind and motive of the man who might perpetrate such vicious crimes. “I knew what type of killer he would be before I created my protagonists,” he says, referring to Detectives Quincy Cavanaugh and Tavares “Phee” Freeman, partners in Manhattan’s Fifth Precinct for more than four years when they first confront the gruesome handiwork of La Salle’s killer: a 70-year-old Catholic priest, skinned alive, with hands and feet “severed and neatly placed next to his body.” With the help of Special Agent Janet Maclin and her trusty iPad, the detectives search New York City for the man—or men—behind what the FBI has dubbed “the Martyr’s Murders.” Laws of Depravity is the first of an intended trilogy, to be followed by Laws of Wrath and Laws of Affliction. La Salle offers a short prequel, Laws of Innocence, for free download on his website as a gift for fans, “something to hold them over,” he says, until the second book. “Quincy and Phee are the heart of the franchise,” explains La Salle, but “Maclin became a readers’ favorite. When I was thinking about the sequel, she just made a cameo. Because I have a very strong female following, I wanted to give my fans a very strong, original female character to follow.” The author laughs at the power of his creation to engage fans. “So, Maclin started working her way back in.” La Salle’s dedication to the project can be summed


up in his outlook on writing. He practices the “oldfashioned rule of getting up every day and writing something.” He put in upward of 12 hours a day, every day, for six months to complete the first book. “Some of those days wield several hundred words,” he says, “and some of them are much more painful.” Which leads to the process of actually bringing his manuscript to the public. He went the “traditional route” and learned “how human editors and publishers really are. They have their reasons. Some of them make sense, and some of them don’t.” Due to changes in technology, La Salle decided to self-publish. “When you believe in something, you make an investment,” he declares. Although he finds “there’s still a little stigma in the self-publishing world,” he’s found “some gems in there as well.” To ensure the veracity of the religious references and crime and autopsy scenes, La Salle ran his book by a pastor and one of the technical advisors he met on the set of E.R. “If [being on that show] taught me anything, it was respecting technical advisors,” he says. “Books like this have to ring true.” Once completed, La Salle assembled a competent editorial team and hired the same graphic designer to design the covers of all the books in order to retain the uniformity necessary for a series. “A friend helps with publicity and sets up certain things, but basically, it’s all me,” he adds. Proud of the five-star reviews he’s garnered online, La Salle claims sales have been steadily growing. When he received the Kirkus star, he thought, “Whoa, the game has definitely changed.” He believes that authors are “more empowered” in today’s publishing climate. “We’re at an interesting point where things work more in favor of the artist.” But his success as an author and publisher has paid off in more than sales. His debut raised the interest of an agent, with whom he has been discussing finding support for the trilogy in print and on the screen. Regarding his added duties as publisher, La Salle cautions, “It’s a lot of work. I won’t downplay that. You have to be built for this. It is a marathon.”

Laws of Depravity La Salle, Eriq CreateSpace (238 pp.) $15 | June 1, 2012 978-1-477-58211-4

Tom Eubanks is a writer and editor. In publishing for over two decades, he also represents authors and artists. He’s currently working with fashion icon Pat Cleveland on her memoir. He lives in NYC. |

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“[Rich’s] big, complex plot sprawls over 10 years and two continents, but he manages it all with a confident hand.” from project gitmo

“the urge to paint.” Her discussions on the meaning and interpretation of paintings would be great for kids just discovering abstraction and tremendous help to anyone who can’t understand why a Pollock or a Rothko affects them the way it does. An educational, eye-catching primer on how to look at art and “see as an artist.”

PROJECT GITMO Resurrection

Rich, Daniel J. CreateSpace (344 pp.) $9.95 paper | $3.95 e-book | Feb. 1, 2013 978-1-4820-5116-2 A debut sci-fi technothriller in which U.S. troops find themselves the subjects of a bizarre government experiment. In 1991, U.S. Air Force Maj. Frank Craymer’s F-16 crash-lands in remote Iraq—just another tragedy in the first Gulf War. When Iraqi forces reach the crash site and find the dead pilot, they also discover an uncovered, underground chamber containing a centuries-old Latin manuscript and a group of eerily preserved human bodies. The manuscript, a diary, tells the story of a group of superstrong men and women living through the centuries, experiencing firsthand the 1066 Battle of Hastings and the coming of the Black Death. This secret race survived by drinking human blood, and the bodies of the last members have been interred in the Iraqi desert for hundreds of years. News of the discovery reaches Saddam Hussein, who wonders if fate has delivered him an unbeatable weapon in his fight against the West. He dreams of creating a supernatural army and sets his scientists to the task of using fluids from the site’s dead bodies to transform humans into unstoppable vampires who don’t fear garlic or sunlight. In Rich’s extremely clever, infectiously readable narrative, readers follow both the progress of Saddam’s program and, as the war on terror continues the U.S. presence in Iraq, the enlistment of Maj. Craymer’s nephew, Aaron. Thanks to a devious CIA operative, Aaron finds himself part of a group of servicemen who have been transformed into vampires and sent on covert missions. When the U.S. government changes its mind and tries to terminate them all, Aaron and his teammates use their newfound abilities to survive. The author’s big, complex plot sprawls over 10 years and two continents, but he manages it all with a confident hand. His dialogue is immediately believable, his tensely controlled action scenes build in intensity as the plot advances, and his pitch-perfect blending of sci-fi and military action will appeal equally to fans of Tom Clancy and True Blood. An ingenious, thoroughly absorbing twist on the military-fiction genre.

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I WANT TO DO YOGA TOO Roman, Carole P. CreateSpace (24 pp.) $9.25 paper | $0.99 e-book Dec. 24, 2012 978-1-4750-1558-4

A little girl has fun learning to do simple yoga poses in Roman’s picture book. Hallie joins her mother on a trip to the yoga studio, but to her dismay, she doesn’t get to come along for class. Instead, she has to stay in the kid’s room with Robin, the baby sitter. But while Hallie pouts, Robin has an idea: She demonstrates how to be a tree by standing on one leg and raising her arms in the air. “Trees are peaceful, quiet, and strong,” she explains. Hallie copies the moves and strikes the pose too. She also learns how to be a sleek airplane with outstretched arms, to flap her knees like a beautiful butterfly and to stretch out like a hissing cobra. The story is short—just seven pages of text—but sweet. Roman (Captain No Beard, 2012, etc.) uses simple language to begin to demystify an activity that may bewilder many young children. Uncomplicated but visually appealing illustrations make it easy for readers to try the four poses themselves. The skillful illustrations include details that exemplify a typical yoga studio: serene posters on the wall, mats and women exercising in class. While color highlights the main subjects on every page, a closer look at background images reveals amusing happenings: A giggling boy in the kid’s room uses a hand puppet to tease a playmate; a baby crawls on Robin while she’s sitting in the butterfly pose; and the mommies in class stand on their heads. The story includes a few basic but potentially new vocabulary words, such as “sleek,” “sole” and “cobra.” Hallie’s adventure conveys two subtle lessons: It’s fun to learn new things, and you don’t have to be a grown-up to do yoga. The very succinct book may introduce more questions about yoga than it answers, but the messages are clear. A cute story likely to inspire little yogis.

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT... Reagan/Gorbachev and the Correspondence that Ended the Cold War Saltoun-Ebin, Jason CreateSpace (150 pp.) $14.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Jan. 27, 2013 978-1-4538-2565-5

Independent historian Saltoun-Ebin delivers a timely compilation of more than 30 letters between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. In this debut collection, the author provides explanation and background for each letter’s origins and slowly reveals the nature of Gorbachev and Reagan’s relationship. Saltoun-Ebin notes that important events leading to the end of the Cold War might


“Spencer, a screenwriter and television executive, shapes his scenario into a boisterous sendup of the crassness of connoisseurship.” from the architect

not have taken place “without the trust each leader gained in the other through their private correspondence.” He begins the collection with Reagan’s incredibly hopeful first letter in March 1985, but the relationship between the two leaders would later unravel, and not all the correspondence that follows is as optimistic. Regarding the United States’ actions in Nicaragua, Gorbachev wrote in December 1985: “I will be frank: what the United States has done recently causes concern. It seems there is a tilt in the direction of further exacerbation of regional problems.” The letters show the leaders’ disagreements but also their important attempts toward diplomacy. The collection not only includes formal correspondence, but also Reagan’s handwritten notes, which give readers a deeper look at his personality and his motives. With this collection, readers get the unusual opportunity to examine two extremely different individuals: a patriotic president and a communist leader, each of whom staunchly disagreed with many of the core values espoused by their counterpart’s nation. Taken alone, the letters might be extremely difficult to decipher, but Saltoun-Ebin helps the reader along the way with detailed explanations of the context behind Reagan and Gorbachev’s interactions. His language is clear, polished and astute throughout. An insightful collection of curated letters between two leaders that made history.

THE ARCHITECT

Spencer, R.J. AuthorHouse (220 pp.) $19.95 paper | $7.99 e-book Dec. 20, 2012 978-1-4772-9033-0 An architect persecutes his clients for crimes against good taste in a surreal debut novel that is a sendup of the world of high-end design. In an off-kilter 12-step program, a group of shellshocked faux aesthetes recount their victimization by a godlike figure known only as “The Architect,” an egocentric designer of acclaimed avant-garde houses. The Architect insists that his clients agree never to alter any detail of their homes—not a door handle, a bathroom tile or a color scheme. He even installs secret video cameras to verify that they are keeping his masterpieces inviolate. His voyeuristic Assistant pores over the video footage for infractions and dreams up fitting punishments that turn the clients’ beautiful houses into hellholes. For example, the owner of an all-steel desert home modeled on a lunar landing module finds that its every surface zaps him with electric shocks, and a corporate CEO finds rats swarming out of his toilet every night. In the subtlest purgatory, The Architect arranges for a rich art collector to take in a fashionable young painter whose ulterior motives undermine the collector’s marriage and manhood. As the homeowners’ lives spin bizarrely out of control, The Architect increasingly finds himself a prisoner of the chameleonic Assistant, who’s trying to usurp The Architect���s identity. Spencer, a screenwriter and television executive, shapes his scenario into a boisterous sendup

of the crassness of connoisseurship. His well-heeled characters spout pretentious art-world cant—“the ultimate priority is a confronting work”—while treating actual art like luxury brand-name furnishings. (The Architect calls one giant abstract painting “[i] ncredibly livable” to sell it to a client.) The author satirizes this ripe milieu with raucous humor and droll, insinuating prose. At times, his caricature is a bit too broad and gonzo, with gratuitous sexual transgressions that verge on the pornographic. More often than not, however, his well-aimed potshots hit their targets. A rudely entertaining satire.

THE HOUR BEFORE MORNING

Spicer, Arwen Lulu (200 pp.) $17.00 paper | $2.99 e-book | Jan. 8, 2012 978-1-105-08111-8 Three prisoners reflect on their violent lives as they face execution in this debut sci-fi novel. In the future, humanity has colonized the galaxy, developed telepathic communication and mastered gene manipulation, but conflict between various groups persists. The world-conquering Ash’torians imprison Jenchae, a rebellious, mind-reading Striver who resists being absorbed into their religious culture. They’re transporting him via spacecraft to a Quol’shab, or Death Planet. After several days alone in a dimly lit cell, he is joined by Elek, another Striver, who has been jailed for murder. Elek is a sverra, a human genetically engineered for physical labor and longevity, and his violent mind is closed to Jenchae’s mental probing. After sharing a few stories, the prisoners make mental contact and exchange their philosophies on trust, faith and resistance. After the transport ship is attacked, an attractive, half-sverra woman, Meravyn, is thrown into their quarters. She reminds Elek of an unrequited love, which threatens the murderer’s peaceful mental state. Early on, Spicer draws readers in with elegant atmospherics: “From the ceiling, twilight lamps looked down like facets of an insect’s eye.” The cell and its contents (mainly red bowls and black tiles) are described with wondrous intimacy; the novel also brings readers, via flashbacks, to the characters’ home planets of Manyrock and Yorun. Packed with quotable speeches and history, Spicer’s realm may remind readers of the one portrayed in Frank Herbert’s classic Dune series. Yet this world is more akin to Earth, full of religious strife that contorts people into heroes, killers and sometimes both. The author’s consistently engaging dialogue speeds the reader through the idle days of the imprisoned trio; for example, when Jenchae asks Elek how he killed the “very many people” that weigh on his soul, Elek simply responds, “Fast.” Indeed, the philosophically stimulating conversation is this novel’s strongest point, despite the fact that the Manyrock dialect contains awkward instances of “thee” and “thou.” This small criticism hardly detracts from the novel’s remarkable, unpredictable ending. A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut. |

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“Töttösy’s resilience will stagger even the most stoic reader.” from mind twisters

ASSURED DESTRUCTION Stewart, Michael F. Manuscript (174 pp.) Mar. 22, 2013

The real-world consequences of a teenage hacker’s online exploits threaten to bring down her family business in the first book of Stewart’s (Ruination, 2012, etc.) projected teen thriller series. You can learn a lot about someone by looking through their hard drive. Sixteen-year-old Janus Rose and her divorced mother run Assured Destruction, a business that protects personal information by destroying computer hard drives in an industrial shredder in Ottawa. But no one knows that Janus, a talented hacker, has built an entire network she calls Shadownet from some of the identities she has illicitly collected. In a social network of sorts, each of the hard drives in Shadownet has become something of an alter ego of hers, and she’s come to see Shadownet as her own group of family and friends. When Janus begins to develop a crush on the newest addition to Shadownet and questions whether what she’s doing is right, bad things start happening to the real people whose hard drives Janus stole. It seems like too much of a coincidence not to suspect the unthinkable—Shadownet has been hacked. But by whom? If it gets out that Janus has been stealing hard drives, Assured Destruction will be ruined. She can’t go to the police or even tell her mother, but as things go downhill, it becomes clear that Janus is in over her head. Stewart seamlessly incorporates the fast-paced world of social media into a unique writing style that perfectly captures the world of a modern teen. Janus’ complicated web of computer networks is intricate enough to leave readers thoroughly engrossed by her hacking acumen while remaining accessible to even the least tech-savvy readers. Many teenage girls will find unconventional, strong Janus to be an intriguing role model, but as a clever, talented and often slightly dark hacker, she transcends gender stereotypes and will find fans among teen boys as well. A fun, fast-paced thriller guaranteed to distract teens from Facebook for at least a little while.

MIND TWISTERS Memories for the Future Töttösy, Ernest; Translated by Szablya, Helen M. CreateSpace (192 pp.) $9.95 paper | $4.95 e-book Aug. 10, 2012 978-1478168171

A shocking glimpse into the mind of a victim of psychological and physical torture at the hands of the Hungarian secret police under Stalinism. Töttösy’s first memoir, translated by Szablya, delves into his psyche under the extreme stress of torture, as well as his mental 122

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destabilization as a result of hallucinogenic drugs he ingested under duress in 1952 and ’53. During Stalin’s reign, the Hungarian secret police, the AVH, were utterly ruthless in extracting confessions from their political prisoners. Töttösy was a victim of their so-called truth serums, which, coupled with tactics such as repeatedly beating him with clubs, caused him to manifest symptoms of schizophrenia. A voice began speaking in his head, commanding him to tell the truth. Each time he spoke, he was beaten, often so brutally he welcomed the passage to unconsciousness as a brief respite from torture. Mysteriously, he managed to survive; despite the voice in his head forcing him to confess to a conspiracy, it seemed to repeatedly save his life by warning him against the dangers of his actions. Töttösy’s resilience will stagger even the most stoic reader. As the memoir progresses and his insanity clashes with the absurdity of the punishments enacted by the secret police, his frenzied mind almost becomes a force of good against the evil madness of their actions. The fact that his memory remained so sharp in the grip of mental illness and abuse is miraculous. Szablya’s fluid translation carries the weight of historical importance, providing deep insights into the hidden brutality of the AVH. More information and research about the Hungarian regime may have strengthened the work’s readability to those unfamiliar with the surrounding history, but this unflinching portrayal of inhumanity will capture anyone’s attention. A courageous account of torture and insanity that beams with hope of a soul’s survival.

OUR LORD WAS BAPTIZED, YOU KNOW Weeks, Marta Sutton iUniverse (338 pp.) $22.95 paper | Mar. 29, 2007 978-0-595-40501-5

Weeks’ debut memoir chronicles both the geographical and spiritual journey of a female priest who arrived at faith through doubt. With her mother and older sister, Marta Sutton Weeks left Buenos Aires for Utah when she was only a toddler. Her maternal family history was rooted in Mormonism in a town just outside Salt Lake City, and Weeks’ great-grandfather had been a polygamist and contemporary of Brigham Young, although by the time Weeks’ family returned to Utah, they had largely abandoned religion. Weeks was fascinated by religion’s role in her community, but it wasn’t until she met her husband that she was baptized into her in-laws’ Episcopalian faith. After marriage, college, adventures involving her in-laws’ work in petroleum and raising her family, Weeks began taking theology classes at a theology center. Eventually, nearing 60, she went to seminary in Austin, Texas. Her religious studies took her around the world, only to deliver her back to a grueling set of exams and more self-doubt. In this memoir, her treatment of doubt—the impetus behind both her religious education and her practices as an ordained


Episcopalian priest—helps this deeply reflective memoir transcend mere narrative. Weeks doesn’t preach; in fact, she deftly explores the role of uncertainty in her attraction to the Episcopal Church as well as its progressive policies that allow women and gays to be ordained. Her own husband’s agnosticism, which informs much of Weeks’ ministering, is also used to characterize her marriage, an endearing union in which they’re alternately at odds with and supportive of each other’s ideological mindsets. In an effort to be thorough and historically accurate, Weeks occasionally digresses into irrelevant material about other people’s backgrounds, and the inclusion of her mother’s and sister’s writing detracts from the fluidity of Weeks’ simple, melodic prose. But the perspective Weeks brings to her spiritual journey and to the allure and repulsion of religion is worth it. A searching outlook and meditative tone that will satisfy the faithful and doubtful alike.

a high-paying job blinds her to her employers’ totalitarian control of the news. Touches of wry humor reinforce an already sturdy novel; the fictitious story, “Do Aliens Have Claws?” is presented in its entirety. A virtuosic, erotic sci-fi debut.

THE WOMAN WHO SPARKED THE GREATEST SEX SCANDAL OF ALL TIME Yaakunah, Eli CreateSpace (230 pp.) $9.95 paper | $0.99 e-book Feb. 25, 2013 978-1-4810-3177-6

First-time novelist Yaakunah’s erotic dystopian novel follows a questioning journalist searching for a missing co-worker. In a future New York, Journalist Ishtar Benten of the News Agency is promoted from the Department of Written Chronicles to the Department of Scriptwriting. Concurrently, a man named Utu, whom she’d met in the break room for “erotic coffee,” disappears. As she looks for him, she seeks help from Arianne, a memory thief, and Harlequin, a sad but sympathetic clown. Her investigation ultimately makes her ask herself hard questions: Is truth fundamental or simply a byproduct of the News Agency? This delicately intricate work provides a full dance card of themes: sex, romance, mystery and a grim peek into a devastated future. It’s mainly an erotic novel, but its eroticism is complicated. For example, Ishtar envisions people she first encounters as being physically transformed during sex—strange, violent thoughts that appear to be routine for someone in her line of work. The book’s text is also laced with sexual metaphors—she drives her “motoregg” into her home’s “womb,” and she and Arianne “penetrate” the agency’s security; later, Ishtar describes herself as “pregnant with betrayal.” The ever-present eroticism makes the sex scenes, real and imaginary, seem less explicit; they’re often lyrical and eccentric, as when Ishtar is intimate with a guide during the virtual tour of a villa. The author also touches on detective fiction tropes when Ishtar shadows a man, hoping to find answers; nostalgia, when she laughs and cries while watching Charlie Chaplin movies; and moral doubt, when the fear of

K i rk us M e di a L L C # President M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N Chief Financial Officer J ames H ull SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2013 by Kirkus Media LLC. KIRKUS REVIEWS (ISSN 1948-7428) is published semimonthly by Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Road, Austin, TX 78744. Subscription prices are: Digital & Print Subscription (U.S.) - 12 Months ($199.00) Digital & Print Subscription (International) - 12 Months ($229.00) Digital Only Subscription - 12 Months ($169.00) Single copy: $25.00. All other rates on request. 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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May 01, 2013: Volume LXXXI, No 9