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Featuring 336 Industry-First Reviews of Fiction, Nonfiction and Children's & Teen

KIRKUS VOL. LXXXIII, NO.

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REVIEWS

FICTION

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro A lyrical voyage into the mists of British folklore p. 22

NONFICTION

The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis A brilliant account of six years when four Founding Fathers, “in disregard of public opinion, carried the American story in a new direction.” p. 61

CHILDREN'S & TEEN

The Great War

illustrated by Jim Kay A collection of short stories helps us remember the war that, alas, did not end all wars. p. 99

INDIE Kevin Morris published his own stories; now, so is Grove/Atlantic. p. 140

on the cover

Sharon Draper was already a

major children’s writer, but her new novel Stella by Starlight is redefining her career all over again. p. 102


from the editor’s desk:

Look for These Books in Early 2015 B Y C la i b orne

Photo courtesy Michael Thad Carter

Claiborne Smith

Smi t h

I asked the editors of our fiction, nonfiction, and children’s and teen sections to reveal in this issue which books being published in the early months of 2015 they’re most excited about (check out pages 6, 50 and 86). In a few cases, the books that I think are going to garner a lot of attention in the next three to four months overlap with the ones chosen by our editors (which either means they’re the intelligent ones, or I am. Which is it? Wait…don’t answer that). We always hope the books we care about the most get attention from the rest of the media, but even if you don’t see these titles below covered widely or hit the best-seller lists, they’re worth your attention. The quotes below are from our reviews of these books:

• Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. “Exquisite, cruelly wise and the opposite of reassuring, these stories linger like dreams and will leave readers looking over their shoulders for their own ghosts.” • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. “Lovely: a fairy tale for grown-ups, both partaking in and departing from a rich literary tradition.” • The Battle of Versailles by Robin Givhan. “On Nov. 28, 1973, Parisian haute couture faced off against the upstart American designers, and the Americans blew them away….Readers need not be fashion mavens to enjoy this entertaining episode of history, enhanced by Givhan’s effortless ability to illustrate the models and designers who changed how we dress.” • A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer. “A meticulously detailed feat of rare footage inside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s propaganda machinery.” • Funny Girl by Nick Hornby. “Hornby makes the reader care for his characters as much as he does and retains a light touch with the deeper social implications, as women, gays, popular entertainment and the culture in general experience social upheaval.” • Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy. “In her debut, the author journeys where most fear to tread: the perennially mean streets of South Central LA, where she uses the senseless murder of a policeman’s progeny as a jumping-off point to investigate broader issues of why…that urban area sees so many of its people dying by tragically violent means.” • Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. “Hooper’s debut is a novel of memory and longing and desires too long denied. A masterful near homage to Pilgrim’s Progress: souls redeemed through struggle.” • Disgruntled by Asali Solomon. “In this witty take on 1980s Philadelphia, a young girl comes of age and learns to navigate love, loss, school and family. Blackness, feminism and the loss of virginity have never been analyzed by a more astute and witty main character.” • Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris. “A New Yorker editor since 1978, Norris provides an educational, entertaining narrative about grammar, spelling and punctuation. A funny book for any serious reader.”

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 Editor in Chief C laiborne S mith csmith@kirkus.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkus.com Fiction Editor L aurie M uchnick lmuchnick@kirkus.com Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@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 Assistant Editor CHELSEA LANGFORD clangford@kirkus.com Copy Editor BETSY JUDKINS Director of Kirkus Editorial CARISSA BLUESTONE cbluestone@kirkus.com Associate Production Editor S arah Rodrigue z Pratt srpratt@kirkus.com Director of Technology E R I K S M A RT T esmartt@kirkus.com Director of Marketing SARAH KALINA skalina@kirkus.com Marketing Associate A rden Piacen z a apiacenza@kirkus.com Advertising/Client Promotions A nna C oo p er acooper@kirkus.com

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contents fiction

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

Index to Starred Reviews............................................................ 5 REVIEWS................................................................................................ 5 editor’s note..................................................................................... 6 Harriet Lane Doesn’t Write Thrillers................................. 14 Mystery...............................................................................................37 Science Fiction & Fantasy.......................................................... 45 Romance............................................................................................48

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews..........................................................49 REVIEWS..............................................................................................49 editor’s note................................................................................... 50 Catherine Bailey & an Unforgettable British Mystery...............................................................................64

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews.......................................................... 85 REVIEWS.............................................................................................. 85 editor’s note...................................................................................86 On the Cover: Sharon Draper............................................... 102 Board books...................................................................................119 shelf space......................................................................................132

indie Index to Starred Reviews......................................................... 133 REVIEWS............................................................................................. 133 editor’s note..................................................................................134

Rachel Hartman’s fabulously complex heroine Seraphina returns for a spectacular sequel. Read the review on p. 96.

Kevin Morris’ White Man’s Problems.................................. 140 Appreciations: The Lord of the Rings Turns 60..............151

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on the web In Paula Hawkins’ debut novel, The Girl on the Train, Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. “Even the most astute readers will be in for a shock as Hawkins slowly unspools the facts, exposing the harsh realities of love and obsession’s inescapable links to violence,” our critic writes in a starred review. We talk to Hawkins about her new novel at kirkus.com. 9

w w w. k i r k u s . c o m Check out these highlights from Kirkus’ online coverage at www.kirkus.com 9 Photo courtesy Louis Kapeleris

Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places reveals a moving love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die. Teenager Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. “Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably,” notes our reviewer in a starred review; we interview Niven this month at kirkus.com.

And be sure to check out our Indie publishing series, featuring some of today’s most intriguing self-published authors. We feature authors’ exclusive personal essays and reported articles on how they achieved their success in publishing. It’s a must-read resource for any aspiring author interested in getting readers to notice their new books.

Photo courtesy Lee Kriel

After witnessing the death of his younger brother in a terrible home accident, 14-yearold Kevin and his grieving mother are sent for the summer to live with Kevin’s grandfather. Set in a peeled-paint coal town deep in Appalachia, Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, which our editors gave a starred review to, has Kevin quickly falling in with a half-wild hollow kid named Buzzy Fink who schools him in the mysteries and magnificence of the woods. The events of this fateful summer will affect the entire town of Medgar, Kentucky. Medgar is beset by a massive mountaintop removal operation that is blowing up the hills and backfilling the hollows. Kevin’s grandfather and others in town attempt to rally the citizens against the ‘company’ and its owner to stop the plunder of their mountain heritage. We talk to Scotton this month on kirkus.com.

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

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fiction THE MUSICAL BRAIN And Other Stories

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Aira, César Translated by Andrews, Chris New Directions (240 pp.) $22.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-8112-2029-3

THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty................................................................8 TURTLEFACE AND BEYOND by Arthur Bradford.............................. 9 WHISPER HOLLOW by Chris Cander................................................10

Twenty hallucinatory, open-ended short stories by Aira (Shantytown, 2013, etc.), an Argentinian master of improvi-

THE BURIED GIANT by Kazuo Ishiguro.............................................22 WORLD GONE BY by Dennis Lehane..................................................25 CROW FAIR by Thomas McGuane..................................................... 28 THE ILLUMINATIONS by Andrew O’Hagan.......................................30 THE LOST CHILD by Caryl Phillips....................................................32 A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara.................................................. 37 THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC by Brian McClellan................................. 46 A LITTLE LIFE

Yanagihara, Hanya Doubleday (728 pp.) $30.00 Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-385-53925-8

sational writing. Reading Aira’s work can give you the feeling of being swept up in a flash flood and carried along whether you’re ready or not. It’s certainly constant momentum that marks this collection of work, written over the past decade or so—stories begin in the middle, spin on a dime and are often as warped as a Salvador Dalí landscape. The opener, “A Brick Wall,” joins stories like “The Infinite,” “The Two Men” and the title tale in remembering (or dis-remembering) a childhood in Argentina but also paying testament to the enduring strangeness of a child’s imagination and sometimes mocking the author’s own literary reputation. “Daydreams are always about concepts, not examples. I wouldn’t want anything I’ve written to be taken as an example,” Aira writes in “The Infinite.” On the flip side, “The All That Plows through the Nothing” finds the first-person narrator working out in a gym, eavesdropping on local housewives and ultimately offering a tender but also funny meditation on aging and death. “Death is the exorbitant price that a failure like me has to pay for becoming literature,” he writes. Then there are the stories that are, as they say, completely different. For instance, “God’s Tea Party,” in which the creator regularly celebrates his birthday with a lavish affair to which only apes are invited as “a kind of deliberate and spiteful (or, at best, ironic) slight on the part of the Lord, aimed at a human race that has disappointed Him.” Or “A Thousand Drops,” in which drops of oil paint from the Mona Lisa run off to start creative lives of their own. Or “Poverty,” a love letter that anthropomorphizes the condition of being poor into a constant companion. Not everyone’s cup of tea, certainly, but very few can write their way out of a corner better than Aira.

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the fiction i’m looking forward to I’ll be spending the first three months of 2015 immersed in last year’s books, working with my colleagues on the National Book Critics Circle board to choose the winners of our annual awards on March 12. That’ll give me more time to anticipate this year’s fiction; there’s a lot to look forward to. Edith Pearlman, who won the NBCC prize for her previous book of short stories, follows up in January with Honeydew, which our starred review calls “closely observed, often devastating stories of more or less ordinary life.” More short stories come from Kelly Link (Get in Trouble), Rose Tremain (The American Lover) and Jonathan Lethem (Lucky Alan). Katherine Heiny’s debut collection, Single, Carefree, Mellow, reminded our reviewer of spending “a night at the bar with [an] engagingly louche friend.” Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, which reminded our reviewer of “a fairy tale for grownups,” is his first novel in 10 years, and Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl is his first in six years and his “most ambitious novel to date,” according to the publisher (we gave it a star). In September, Jonathan Franzen will publish Purity, his first novel since 2010’s Freedom. And Toni Morrison will publish God Help the Child in April. One of my favorite novels of recent years is Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies, a book that audaciously gives away the main event in its title but manages to be hilarious and engrossing for 672 more pages. Murray returns in October with The Mark and the Void, about a French banker and an Irish writer named…Paul. The fall season will feature two first novels, both set in New York, that are each said to have earned seven-figure advances. In August comes New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford’s Everybody Rise, about a group of Upper East Side social strivers. Garth Risk Hallberg, a prolific book critic, has written the 900-page City on Fire, which takes place in the East Village in the 1970s. Both books have already been optioned by Hollywood. —L.M. Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor at Kirkus Reviews.

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THE GROWN UPS

Antalek, Robin Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $14.99 paper | $10.99 e-book Jan. 27, 2015 978-0-06-230247-2 978-0-06-230248-9 e-book Over a period of 15 years, a group of affluent teenagers grows up amid parental crises and misfortunes of their own making. In the summer of 1997 in Rye, New York, 15-year-old Sam looks through the box Suzie Epstein hands him. In it are photos, taken by Suzie’s father, of all the mothers of the neighborhood, smiling, in swimsuits, perhaps conquests of Mr. Epstein, perhaps not. It’s the summer of unraveling: The Epsteins, after public confrontations, move to suburban Boston to start anew, and Sam’s mother simply leaves, abandoning Sam and his father to companionable bachelorhood. Despite their first-love–fueled fumblings, Sam and Suzie lose touch. Suzie, reeling from caring for her younger brothers once her father permanently decamps and her mother befriends a vodka bottle, cuts all ties with her humiliating past, hoping to escape to college early. Sam takes up with Suzie’s best friend, Bella, a relationship that continues through college in an undefined, convenient pattern of long weekends and longer separations. When Bella’s mother dies, they all return to Rye, to the pot fugue of Peter Chang’s basement, and even Suzie returns, shockingly on the arm of Sam’s older, medical-student brother. Sam is unstrung by Suzie and his brother’s relationship, and, coupled with a failing GPA, this ushers in a decade of drifting for Sam, a disappointment to everyone, including Bella, who later sacrifices everything for a demanding poet. Antalek’s narrative, split among Sam, Suzie and Bella, is disconnected from time and place (they are millennials though could be from any of the past four decades, there are so few details) so the focus rests entirely on their opaque emotional struggles, leaving neither plot not character to drive the story. The plot, like the protagonists themselves, wanders to adulthood in this middling coming-of-age tale.

THE MERMAID’S CHILD

Baker, Jo Vintage (320 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-8041-7263-9

Alone in an unforgiving, sometimesfantastical landscape, Malin Reed is on a journey in search of a mythical mother in this pungent early novel, newly available in the U.S., from acclaimed British writer Baker (Offcomer, 2014, etc.).


“[B]orn to a fishwoman and a ferryman, I was, I always had been, different.” So speaks friendless Malin, a self-styled freak whose gender Baker deftly conceals until a late, incontrovertible plot development. Malin’s miserable life in an undefined corner of England, in perhaps the early 19th century, shifts, after the ferryman’s death, from the nontender care of a grandmother to drudgery in the service of a brutish pub landlord. But flashes of magic light up Malin’s landscape—the passing visit of a circus; the arrival of a stranger at the pub who may be a swindler or a savior but who releases Malin into the larger world in search of mermaids. This long voyage of discovery includes time aboard a slave ship—one of the less convincing episodes in the tale—where Malin, now a sailor, finds a cross-dressing ally and also an enemy in the form of the captain. Flogged to ribbons, Malin escapes overboard, freeing the slaves on the way, only to be rescued by an eccentric librarian, alone on another vessel with his rare books. Icebergs, pirates, slavery—the thrills keep coming, with Malin sliding from one peril to another, sometimes using sex as a bargaining tool. Rescued by yet another circus, Malin learns not only a new

skill—tightrope walking—but also something that will eventually bring the long, circular journey to a fitting end. Weakened by its monotonous structure but propelled by luminous detail and Malin’s determination, this novel is not Baker at her strongest, but the promise is evident.

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THE LISTENER

Basch, Rachel Pegasus (336 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 15, 2015 978-1-60598-688-3 A young man struggling with his gender identity and a middle-aged psychologist connect with one another in Basch’s (The Passion of Reverend Nash, 2003, etc.) complex and thoughtful new novel. Malcolm Dowd is a listener, receiving updates on the lives of his patients and gleaning information where he can about his two daughters. When he feels the desire to offer up an anecdote or bit of personal information, he reminds himself “that he got paid as much for what he didn’t say as what he did, more maybe.” After the tragic death of his wife, he’s been plunged into single fatherhood, often withholding information that he believes his daughters are not ready to hear or that he’s too frightened to share. Noah, a young patient of Malcolm’s, confesses that he relates more to his feminine side, hiding makeup, wigs and women’s clothing deep in his closet. The novel alternates between the perspectives of Malcolm and Noah, linking them to one another in deep and sometimes toocoincidental ways that hinge on chance meetings and characters who are overly secretive. While Noah longs to define himself on his own terms, he’s also desperate for a father figure, which he tries to find in Malcolm. The feeling is not unrequited, with Malcolm commenting on his own paternal instincts toward this boy he barely knows. Malcolm slowly begins to realize that approaching the world as a psychologist is not enough for his family when he’s forced to reveal more about the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death to his daughters. While Malcolm’s trajectory feels complete, Noah’s seems to be an afterthought in a novel that isn’t really about him.

THE SELLOUT

Beatty, Paul Farrar, Straus and Giroux (304 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-374-26050-7 The provocative author of The White Boy Shuffle (1996) and Slumberland (2008) is back with his most penetratingly satirical novel yet. Beatty has never been afraid to stir the pot when it comes to racial and socioeconomic issues, and his latest is no different. In fact, this novel is his most incendiary, and readers unprepared for streams of racial slurs (and hilarious vignettes about nearly every black stereotype imaginable) in the service of satire should take a pass. The protagonist lives in Dickens, “a ghetto community” in Los Angeles, and works the land in an area called “The Farms,” where he grows vegetables, 8

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raises small livestock and smokes a ton of “good weed.” After being raised by a controversial sociologist father who subjected him to all manner of psychological and social experiments, the narrator is both intellectually gifted and extremely street-wise. When Dickens is removed from the map of California, he goes on a quest to have it reinstated with the help of Hominy Jenkins, the last surviving Little Rascal, who hangs around the neighborhood regaling everyone with tales of the ridiculously racist skits he used to perform with the rest of the gang. It’s clear that Hominy has more than a few screws loose, and he volunteers to serve as the narrator’s slave—yes, slave—on his journey. Another part of the narrator’s plan involves segregating the local school so that it allows only black, Latino and other nonwhite students. Eventually, he faces criminal charges and appears in front of the Supreme Court in what becomes “the latest in a long line of landmark race-related cases.” Readers turned off by excessive use of the N-word or those who are easily offended by stereotypes may find the book tough going, but fans of satire and blatantly honest—and often laugh-out-loud funny—discussions of race and class will be rewarded on each page. Beatty never backs down, and readers are the beneficiaries. Another daring, razor-sharp novel from a writer with talent to burn.

THE TAPESTRY

Bilyeau, Nancy Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-4767-5637-0 The adventures of Tudor-era ex-nun Joanna Stafford continue as she battles a lethal conspiracy. When we last left Joanna (The Chalice, 2013, etc.), a fictional daughter of the disgraced Stafford clan, she had retreated to Dartford, site of her former home, the Dominican priory dismantled by King Henry VIII’s minister Cromwell, along with the rest of England’s monasteries. There, she hopes to live in quiet retirement—no more schemes like the plot to kill King Henry in which she was once unwittingly embroiled. Her only concern is that she was prevented from marrying her beloved Edmund, an ex-friar, at the last minute when Geoffrey, the Dartford constable (another admirer) brought up an inconvenient royal edict that those who once took holy vows had to remain celibate. As she pursues her new vocation, tapestry weaving, Joanna is dismayed to receive a royal summons—King Henry needs her textile expertise at the palace of Whitehall. Immediately upon arrival, Joanna narrowly escapes kidnapping by a gruff man disguised as a page. From then on, no end of Tudor machinations and plots enmeshes her once again. Powerful relatives are pressuring teenage Catherine Howard to become the king’s mistress. Joanna witnesses Cromwell weeping just before he is to be elevated to an earldom. Her friend Thomas Culpepper seems to be involved with two other courtiers in a sinister “covenant” to bring down Cromwell using witchcraft.


“These stories move quickly and turn strange corners: Each one is like a guy who’s torn off his clothes and decided to run through an office building.” from turtleface and beyond

Joanna’s few allies at court include the portraitist Hans Holbein. When Joanna’s life is once again threatened, Geoffrey returns and removes her to Europe, where, while supposedly acquiring tapestries for the king’s collection, she will endeavor to solve several mysteries: Edmund’s disappearance, the nature of the necromancy behind the Cromwell covenant, and whether or not she will finally decide between Geoffrey and Edmund. Despite much explanatory back story, this book does not really stand alone. It should be read in sequence with its two predecessors—not all that unappealing a chore Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.

THE HARDER THEY COME

Boyle, T.C. Ecco/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $27.99 | $16.99 e-book | Mar. 30, 2015 978-0-06-234937-8 978-0-06-234939-2 e-book

TURTLEFACE AND BEYOND Stories

Bradford, Arthur Farrar, Straus and Giroux (208 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 3, 2015 978-0-374-27806-9 In his second collection of short stories, Bradford (Dogwalker, 2001, etc.) delights with surprising tales of young men and women struggling to connect. The title story sets the tone in just a few pages: While trying to impress friends with an ill-advised dive into a river, Otto badly injures himself when he collides with a turtle. Absurd enough, yes, but Bradford doesn’t stop there, and the story morphs into one of rehabilitation—not only Otto’s, but also the injured turtle’s. These stories move quickly and turn strange corners: Each one is like a guy who’s torn off his clothes and decided to run through an office building. A story about a man

Violence corrodes the ideal of freedom in an ambitious novel that aims to illuminate the dark underbelly of the American dream. In the prolific Boyle’s latest (San Miguel, 2012, etc.), the estrangement between a father and son provides the plot’s pivot. The father is 70-year-old Sten Stensen, a Vietnam Marine vet and later a high school principal, whose military training comes in handy when he’s among a group ambushed during a cruise. Three armed robbers threaten the group, and Sten kills one of them. He initially fears he might face criminal prosecution in Central America but subsequently finds himself hailed as a hero. In his mind, “He’d done what anybody would have done, anybody who wasn’t a natural-born victim, anyway.” There’s a hint of xenophobia in his attitude, a dismissal of a foreign culture where life is cheap and values ambiguous and where expediency has him cooperating with officials who let him know he has done them a favor. Sten has never been a hero to his son, Adam, a troubled youth since his days in his dad’s high school, now a self-styled mountain man on the outskirts of Fort Bragg, California. In Adam, Sten sees the chickens coming home to roost, the propensity for violence that they share twisted by drugs and paranoia. Adam has become involved with a right-wing anarchist 15 years his senior, who seems to be in the novel mainly to distinguish her misguided politics from his insanity. And even Adam and Sten function more as types and symbols than individuals, though Boyle remains a master at sustaining narrative momentum as the sense of foreboding darkens and deepens. Boyle’s vision and ambition remain compelling, though his characters here seem like plot devices. (Author tour to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.)

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WHISPER HOLLOW

taking a one-armed woman on a date becomes the story of a dead cat. A story about two strangers on a drive becomes the story of a burned kitchen and incinerated eyebrows. You get the idea. Underpinning each piece, though, however chaotic its construction may seem, is Bradford’s sensitivity to his characters. He loves these people, even as they make horrible decisions and form complicated (and sometimes self-destructive) bonds. The collection’s best story might be “Snakebite,” in which a man with the titular affliction nearly dies at a stranger’s wedding only to find Jesus and become the life of the party. The story moves swiftly and has a lot of action, but it’s the quiet moments that resonate: a misplaced kiss, a borrowed tie. Bradford has a great sense of the ways in which people reach out for one another. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the stories occasionally feel overly busy, and this busyness drowns out the heartbeats of the characters—but then there’s another crisis, another laugh, and any complaints get swallowed up by the messiness of life. A jazzy, anarchic collection.

Cander, Chris Other Press (400 pp.) $17.95 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-59051-711-6 Verra, West Virginia, is the setting of this sweeping novel, in which first- and second-generation immigrants with coalstained hands and blackened lungs forge new lives for their growing families amid secrets that run as deep and dark as the coal mines. Between the years 1916 and 1969, Alta Krol and Myrthen Bergmann encounter each other only a few times. Little do they realize their lives are as intertwined as a wreath made from the thin branches of a myrtle tree. Alta is driven by artistic passion, her love for Myrthen’s husband and a dream to flee the hills of Appalachia. “She’d never been to Florida, or anywhere but where she was right then, in a lackluster coal-mining town with mountains like arms around her, always squeezing. Every day of all of her thirty-eight years had been spent in a town that, at its greatest density, contained only a little more than seven thousand people.” Religious fervor, a desire to extricate herself from her loveless marriage and a maniacal ambition to become a nun drive Myrthen. “It seemed Heaven was the only place she might find love; none of her relationships with the living had turned out particularly well.” A devastating mine explosion buries their sins and the burdens of their shame, until many years later, when the 3-year-old town prophet, Gabriel, unearths them, providing both Alta and Myrthen, at long last, reckoning and redemption. Cander (11 Stories, 2013, etc.) divinely delves into multiple points of view, crafting a collage of vibrant, layered characters while charting six decades of poignant, precise moments. A distinctive novel that sublimely measures the distressed though determined heartbeat of a small mountain community.

FIRE FLOWERS

Byrne, Ben Europa Editions (368 pp.) $17.00 paper | Feb. 3, 2015 978-1-60945-248-3 First-time novelist Byrne explores the aftermath of the Allied bombings of Japan during World War II, both atomic and incendiary, as experienced by a varied cast of characters. Japan has surrendered, and its starving population is struggling to survive, physically and psychologically. Satsuko Takara and her teenage brother, Hiroshi, separated during the firebombings, scrabble for food and shelter in the rubble of Tokyo, each using the means afforded by his or her gender. Satsuko reluctantly becomes a prostitute, servicing the occupying American soldiers, while Hiroshi leads a gang of orphans who beg, finagle and steal to keep skin and bones together. Satsuko’s fiance, Osamu, who she presumes died during his military service, tries to drown the brutality and shame of the war in cheap liquor while seeking some feeble redemption in literary creation. And Hal Lynch, an American soldier who helped plan the bombings by photographing Japan from the air, wrestles with guilt as he comes to understand the scope of the devastation he helped cause. He attempts to make amends by documenting the destruction of Hiroshima and the radiation sickness his American superiors want to deny. Written in a series of short chapters alternating among the voices of the four main characters, the novel offers a kaleidoscope of postwar Japanese life. Unfortunately, that format also makes the story choppy and character development limited; the lack of a distinctive voice for each narrator makes it difficult for the reader to follow the unfolding action and engage with the characters. The hopeful ending feels like an afterthought. Byrne’s writing is clear and occasionally charming as he revisits this moment with a critical eye, even if his story never achieves a powerful narrative momentum. 10

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MRS. GRANT AND MADAME JULE

Chiaverini, Jennifer Dutton (352 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-525-95429-3

Two Julias, one born into prosperity, the other into slavery, witness the rise of the Civil War and the beginnings of Reconstruction. Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, 2014, etc.) continues her series of domestic novels detailing the lives of women orbiting President Abraham Lincoln’s political sphere. Spymistress Elizabeth Van Lew and dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley, from the author’s earlier novels, make cameo appearances. We begin in antebellum Missouri, where Julia Dent, beautiful yet cursed with poor eyesight, grows up |


“...a spiky modern comedy with dark undertones....” from meeting the english

Chiaverini’s fans will love this light historical romance, but readers hoping for a fully imagined slave-to-freedwoman’s journey will be disappointed.

with another, enslaved Julia. She relies on her slave to see for her when her eyes tire, yet the dear friends have only the dimmest awareness that their master-slave relationship will cause trouble. The first sign of colliding interests is, of course, their name: Only one person can have the name “Julia” on the plantation, and that privilege goes to the master’s daughter, who renames her bosom companion Jule. Their stories diverge as Julia becomes besotted with then-Lt. Ulysses S. Grant and Jule pines for Gabriel, part-time minister and enslaved stable boy. Julia’s is a love story, filled with anxiety for her beloved Grant, whose military expertise and unassailable honor ensure not only his eventual presidency, but also Julia’s unshakeable devotion. A woman from a slaveholding household married to a champion of the Union and of abolition, Julia struggles— for so long that it strains credulity—to square her upbringing with the increasingly obvious problems with slavery; even Jule has difficulty making Julia see the value of freedom. Able to read, a gifted hairdresser and determined to make her own mark on society, Jule is an intriguing character. Unfortunately, Julia’s tale eclipses Jule’s at every turn.

MEETING THE ENGLISH

Clanchy, Kate Dunne/St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $24.99 | $11.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-05977-2 978-1-4668-6513-6 e-book Tragedy and farce combine in a Scottish-born poet’s notable debut novel, which follows an innocent abroad in London during one very hot, transformative summer. In a spiky modern comedy with dark undertones, the English whom Clanchy introduces are mainly Londoners, many of them with origins in other nations, like successful Welsh novelist and playwright Phillip Prys, felled

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by a stroke in the book’s opening pages. Phillip’s incapacity galvanizes his second wife, Myfanwy, and her children, drawing them—and their mixed motives—to Phillip’s lovely and valuable home in Yewtree Row, now the residence of his third wife, beautiful Iranian artist Shirin. Into this complicated and unreliable family group walks Struan Robertson, a clever, upright but unworldly 17-year-old from Scotland, hired on the strength of experience gained in an old people’s home, to take care of Phillip. Issues of life and death, money and sex swirl around the characters in the suffocating heat of the summer of 1989, which lends a sultry, sometimes-magical edge, especially in the sylvan setting of Hampstead Heath and its swimming ponds. Struan’s coming-of-age will be matched by transformations near and far, several of the local ones involving mismatched young couples, reminiscent of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Clanchy’s prose is striking, moving easily from sharp to lyrical, while the predicaments in Yewtree Row swoop from serious to slapstick. In particular, the passages devoted to Phillip’s perspective—a larger-than-life character now trapped within a silent, slack body—movingly capture his new, remote, sometimes-terrifying dream world. As autumn arrives and the heat of this momentous year (think Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square) dissipates, Clanchy pushes her characters forward in a final flourish both grave and graceful. Fresh, funny and at times piercing, Clanchy’s novel introduces a savvy, impressive new voice.

and bank bandits. Cussler loves historical factoids: The Pennsylvania-built Baldwin decapod engine was an oil-burner rather than coal-fired; a Cleveland-built Peerless Tonneau car made as good a bribe as a Rolls-Royce; and there’s a difference between suffragette and suffragist. The usual Van Dorn detectives are useful background characters, Bell survives a balloon ride into the near-stratosphere, the psychopathic assassin gets comeuppance, and there’s a well-choreographed flaming finale at New Jersey’s Constable Hook refinery. Another action-movie–paced entertainment from Cussler’s historical-thriller series.

BONES & ALL

DeAngelis, Camille St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-250-04650-5 978-1-4668-4677-7 e-book Love is challenging for any species— but things get more complicated when you’re a ghoul who wants to eat anyone who gets close to you. In DeAngelis’ (Petty Magic, 2010, etc.) third novel, 16-year-old Maren is determined to track down her father after her mother, who clearly loves her but is scared for her own life, abandons her, leaving behind some money and the girl’s birth certificate, which includes some important information: her father’s name. Maren started eating people when she was a little kid. She devoured the kind babysitter who showed her affection, and things only got worse from there. She ate a boy who befriended her at summer camp. She ate the son of her mother’s boss during a party. She ate other people. It isn’t until she sets out on the road to find her father that she finally meets one of her own kind. Sully is a talkative man, and there’s something a bit sinister about him, too. He weaves a rope out of hair from people he’s eaten. Maren decides to find her dad by herself, and at a Wal-Mart in the middle of the country, she finally meets another cannibal closer to her own age. Lee is someone she quickly relates to. His first kill was his babysitter, too. But as she tells him: “I make friends...I just can’t keep them.” Lee joins Maren on her quest to find her father, and a good portion of the book is about their developing relationship. Even though there are entertaining moments, DeAngelis’ prose is run-of-the-mill and her observations, somewhat obvious. The book reads like a cheesy episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

THE ASSASSIN

Cussler, Clive; Scott, Justin Putnam (416 pp.) $28.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-399-17175-8 Cussler and Scott (The Bootlegger, 2014, etc.) send detective Isaac Bell on his eighth historical action-adventure, this time tackling the “Octopus,” otherwise known as Standard Oil. The authors turn the time machine to 1905, giving Bell a chance to romance the beauties Edna, “deep as the ocean,” and Nellie, who “dazzles like a kaleidoscope,” daughters of Bill Matters, a former Oil City, Pennsylvania, wildcatter co-opted into joining up as another John D. Rockefeller minion even though he was never “one of the boys.” Van Dorn Detective Agency top investigator Bell has been hired by the Sherman Anti-Trust Corporations Commission to investigate Standard Oil. But things turn deadly. Spike Hopewell, Matters’ old partner, is assassinated in a Kansas oil field. Then there’s a Texas oil patch shooting, and other supposed accidental deaths are revealed as murders. Is the monopolist Rockefeller, who prides himself on dealing “fairly and squarely and aboveboard,” resorting to murder to preserve the Octopus? Confused over whether he prefers Edna or Nellie, Bell goes undercover as Rockefeller’s bodyguard and hits the road—Kansas, Texas, Washington, D.C., Russia’s Baku oil fields—and gets embroiled in shoot-’em-ups between Tatars, Armenians, Social Democrats 12

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“A page-turner with juicy Hollywood insider details.” from from night night, sleep tight

NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT

boyfriend, Will, was away in Italy. Yet their relationship didn’t continue. After Esmé became pregnant and left the workshop with her boyfriend and fellow writing student, Jeremy Fletcher, a disagreeable Southerner with a Confederate flag tattoo, Charlotte finished her degree, married Will, moved into a tenuretrack job in Tucson and wrote four novels. Although she finds out later that Esmé also moved to Tucson with Jeremy, the two women’s paths do not cross until Esmé unexpectedly drops in on Charlotte one morning 20 years after they last saw each other. The years have not been kind to Esmé: “A stout, redfaced woman stood on our front steps. Boxy, olive pantsuit. Cropped hair the color of Vaseline.” Esmé’s visit causes a crisis for Charlotte as she looks back on the end of their relationship, scarred by a secret betrayal that still haunts her. When Esmé’s intentions turn out to be less than friendly, Charlotte has to reckon with the consequences of her past behavior and hope for forgiveness. What Esmé ultimately wants from Charlotte is intriguing and dangerous, but it comes too late in the story for it to infuse it with much-needed tension, and the most dynamic characters, Esmé and Jeremy, are pushed into the background

Ephron, Hallie Morrow/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $26.99 | $15.99 e-book | Mar. 24, 2015 978-0-06-211763-2 978-0-06-211765-6 e-book A 1963 celebrity murder has a violent aftermath as its secrets bubble to the surface decades later. “It has everything. Old Hollywood, glamour, sex, intrigue and violence.” Two of Ephron’s (There Was an Old Woman, 2013, etc.) characters are talking about a memoir a third has written, but they could just as well be describing the book in which they all appear, a mystery with those same ingredients. When Deirdre Unger finds her father, Hollywood screenwriter Arthur Unger, dead in his swimming pool, she initially has trouble believing there was foul play. Soon, however, she’s the prime suspect, and family members and friends are behaving as if they have something to hide. Somehow, it all relates to the night 22 years earlier when both a murder and a car accident changed Deirdre’s life. That night, Deirdre was sleeping over at her best friend Joelen Nichol’s house. After a raucous adult party at which the Unger parents were guests, Joelen ended up stabbing to death her movie star mother’s abusive boyfriend. Deirdre can’t remember much about that night—there’s a gap in her memory between that night and the day she woke up in the hospital, permanently crippled in a wreck that occurred when her father drove her home. Ephron—like her sisters Nora, Delia and Amy—grew up in Beverly Hills with screenwriter parents who had a troubled marriage. That autobiographical basis gives this novel emotional authenticity and scenic clarity. Furthermore, as Ephron explains in an afterword, the house where Lana Turner’s daughter murdered her mother’s boyfriend in 1958 was just blocks from the Ephron home, and the girl was just a few years older than she. A page-turner with juicy Hollywood insider details.

AS GOOD AS DEAD

Evans, Elizabeth Bloomsbury (272 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-62040-298-6

In Evans’ latest (Suicide’s Girlfriend, 2002, etc.), a friendship that has been dead for 20 years is suddenly exhumed. When Charlotte Price started at the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1988, she was thrilled to fall easily into a friendship with the gorgeous and vibrant Esmé Cole. “Female friendships always had been so hard for me, fraught with relentless deconstructions of who liked who better, but this person seemed utterly available!” narrates the older Charlotte. The two women became roommates for a semester while Charlotte’s |

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Harriet Lane

The writer’s latest novel is a thrilling read, but don’t call it a thriller By Megan Labrise at the park, pregnant and parenting a toddler, it steals her breath. “I’m scared of seeing her, and I’m scared that I’ll never see her again,” Nina confesses in Her. Nina doesn’t reveal herself to Emma that day. When she does, Emma doesn’t recognize her at all. Nina has built an enviable life—she’s a chic, successful painter with an undemanding spouse and teenage daughter—and yet she’s stewing over Emma’s relatively beleaguered existence as a full-time caregiver for her young family. “Are you enjoying it, Emma? I find myself thinking as I unscrew the cap from the tube of purple madder and squeeze a shiny worm of pigment onto a saucer. Is your life the one you were due?” Lane writes. Lane, who lives in north London with her husband and two children, enjoyed life as a successful journalist, writing and editing for the likes of the Guardian, the Observer, Vogue and Tatler, until 2008. Then, over the course of two spring days, she began to lose her sight—entirely, in one eye. “I just knew that I had to part with journalism, because at that point I was freelancing, and with freelancing, you have to be superreliable and dependable, and I just wasn’t any of those things, because I was always in MRI scanners,” she says. It took two years to get a firm diagnosis: a rare autoimmune disorder requiring lifelong medication to maintain her remaining vision. “I’m losing my sight, I’m losing my own sense of independence, my confidence in the future, my career and the sort of status that had come from that, my own sense of self,” she says. “I also lost this enormous sense of pleasure from sitting down in a room, when you’ve got all the information, and creating a story. And that’s why I found myself fumbling into fiction.”

Photo courtesy Samantha Blanch

Harriet Lane’s books are delectably chilling, but labeling them “thrillers” is a disservice. Her brand is subtle and sly. Readers who live for big twists may find themselves disappointed. “I think that there are clues all the way through [Her] that the ending isn’t going to be a big, showy, jazz hands reveal,” says Lane. “I’m not at all interested in stitching it all up neatly for my readers. I like an engaged reader, and that’s the sort I write for: someone who wants the clues and wants to assemble their own answer.” To its intended audience, Her poses a vexing question: What could be the nature of an acquaintance that means so much to one person and seemingly nothing to another? Twenty years after they first meet, Nina and Emma are living in the same north London neighborhood. When Nina discovers Emma 14

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Lane’s first novel, Alys, Always, published in 2012, is the story of Frances, a middling magazine editor, who uses her status as the sole witness of a fatal car crash to transform her life in arguably unethical ways. Like Her, it’s a fastidious, fraught and utterly compelling look at a female psyche that’s somehow slightly...off. In Her, Nina manages to exceed Frances in insidiousness: She returns Emma’s wallet when it’s lost at the grocery store. She returns another of Emma’s important possessions when it, too, goes missing. And she parlays these interactions into an unlikely friendship. In alternating chapters, Emma interprets these events as bright coincidences, spots of good luck. That she is unquestioningly susceptible to Nina’s overtures may be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that she’s drowning in domesticity—“all this buttoning and unbuttoning,” she notes, quoting a famous suicide note—and desperate to be seen, and appreciated, for who she once was. Nina is scheming to oblige. “She looks at me as if she recognizes me, the real me. It’s a shocking moment. For a second I’m scared I’m going to cry with the relief and horror of it,” Emma marvels. Sans judgment, Lane explores the difficulties of mothering young children. “There are elements of my own experience of having small children, moments that were so powerful and so isolating, and I remember at the time looking and looking for books that would echo my own experience. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places—I didn’t find those books,” she says. From Emma’s vantage, Nina’s reality—grown child, posh home, thriving career—is a world away. Invited over for lunch one day, she becomes bewitched by one of Nina’s canvases hanging in the uncluttered living room. “I’m thinking about how wonderful it must feel to make something like that, how satisfying; and to my horror I find my eyes are filling with tears. Partly it’s amazement, I realize, and partly it’s because the landscape seems somehow immediate and familiar, personal in a way that good art can be; but mostly it’s envy. An incredulity that she is free to do this. And that she can,” Lane writes. Nina wants Emma to look; she wants her envy. She wants something penitential, and she won’t rest until it’s extracted. And the motivation for all her manipulation will prove to be something Emma would never suspect.

“The conventional thing would have been something horrific...but that doesn’t necessarily feel true. I think that, actually, the things that shape [who you become] as an adult can often be spun out from tiny, easily forgotten moments that no one else would notice,” Lane says. Whether inhabiting Emma’s openness or Nina’s scheming, Lane relishes the opportunity to explore alternative perspectives. “Writing Emma was in some ways cathartic, but the Nina moments are just so delicious, you know? It’s fun to write these bad people—don’t ask me why,” Lane says. “Sometimes the ability to switch out of all the dreary stuff—laundry, picking everyone up from school, and then there’s always the background hum of the autoimmune thing—into someone’s else’s reality, even if that reality is quite dark, is a huge privilege. It feels good.” Megan Labrise is a freelance writer and columnist based in New York. Her received a starred review in the Oct. 1, 2014, issue of Kirkus Reviews.

her Lane, Harriet Little, Brown (272 pp.) $26.00 | Dec. 30, 2014 978-0-31-636987-9 |

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CASCADE FALLS

through Charlotte’s neurotic, self-indulgent narration. Because the stakes are never high enough, there is no sense of mourning for this dead relationship. A novel about friendship, betrayal and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop could have been satisfying in any number of ways, but with a floundering plot and tiresome narration, there are too many missed opportunities here.

Ferber, Bruce Rare Bird Books (280 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-940207-37-7 In the suburbs of Phoenix, marriages and careers are coming undone in this second novel from sitcom producer Ferber (Elevating Overman, 2012). Unfortunately, the shoddy craftsmanship that plagues the subdivision where the novel takes place plagues the book itself. Ted Johnson is a foulmouthed, womanizing, mantra-spouting, once-successful builder who’s now teetering on the brink of financial disaster. His middle-aged son, Danny, leaves his wife, Maya, a stymied painter, along with their young children and his job in the family business, to drive to California on a whim with a much younger waitress he met the day before at Applebee’s. Ted hires an eccentric biographer to document his life and his company, which will go under if he doesn’t land a miraculous development deal. Ted’s wife, Jeannie, finds companionship with widower Owen, who makes his living fixing the construction problems in the subdivisions her husband built with cheap labor, while Owen yearns for Maya during encounters at their children’s school. The book name-checks restaurants and retail establishments such as Red Lobster, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Denny’s and Jamba Juice as if branding were a new literary technique. Female readers will find the plentiful descriptions of women’s bodies tiresome and too good to be true: a male fantasy. Ferber may be trying to explore the consequences of the housing crash, but this soap opera is neither substantial enough to tackle that subject nor skillful enough to parody it.

A SMALL CIRCUS

Fallada, Hans Translated by Hofmann, Michael Arcade (592 pp.) $17.95 paper | Jan. 6, 2015 978-1-62872-432-5 First published in German in 1931 and loosely based on the author’s experience as a newspaper reporter, Fallada’s bleak political comedy is as relevant—and rich—as ever in Hofmann’s supremely

natural translation. These are desperate times for the citizens of the small German town of Altholm in the summer of 1929, and political and social tensions are running high. True to the title, the action starts small: A pair of bailiffs have been sent to repossess two oxen belonging to a farmer who, according to the government, owes back taxes. But the operation goes awry when the area farmers union bands together in protest, and Tredup, the hungry “advertising manager” for the local Chronicle, happens to snap some shots of the resistance on camera—pictures he might sell to the right buyer, for a price. It’s the story the papers have been waiting for, and when the farmers take their (supposedly sanctioned) demonstration into the city and the bumbling local police respond with excessive violence, the town’s unraveling is set in motion. Which is not to say the ensuing crisis is solely the corrupt government’s fault or the incompetent police’s fault, exactly, or even the opportunistic journalists’ fault: In Fallada’s hands, everyone is simultaneously sympathetic and amoral, united by an unlikely combination of total despair and joviality. Fallada’s (Every Man Dies Alone, 1947, etc.) world may be grim, but it’s not cold. And if there are a few too many characters here—a guide at the front is essential for keeping up with them all—the effort is worth it: As a tragicomedy of human failings, this novel is arrestingly authentic. A meticulously detailed chronicle of provincial politicking and small-town pettiness with haunting contemporary resonance.

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JOHN THE PUPIL

Flusfeder, David Harper/HarperCollins (240 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-06-233918-8

Flusfeder (A Film by Spencer Ludwig, 2010, etc.) entrusts John the Pupil with placing Roger Bacon’s Great Work in the hands of Pope Clement IV. John is a peasant boy plucked from his village near Oxford’s Franciscan monastery. Clever and malleable, he’s the single student to survive polymath Bacon’s rigorous tutelage. “I am the mirror he is constructing, to reflect him back to himself,” John discovers before he breaks free of obedience. In 1267, with companions Brother Andrew, “dainty and girlish,” and Brother Bernard, “silent and large and phlegmatic, half-doltish,” John is charged with carrying Bacon’s Opus Majus—containing “Truth. Wisdom. The meanings of past and future times, the details of the construction of devices that some men might call miraculous”—from Oxford to the pope in Viterbo, Italy. Flusfeder frames his novel as John’s |


contemporary journal, one discovered, neglected, rediscovered. The journal’s marked by saint’s days, each chapterlike segment highlighted by short biographies of saints known and obscure. The characters John meets are metaphorical: corrupt and duplicitous Simeon the Palmer, a rogue paid by others to do penance; Father Gabriel, “a superior soul,” who is a “master gardener” who uses his plants to heal; next, amid a war between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs, they encounter a “holy virgin” and find hedonistic luxury within the great lord Cavalcante de Cavalcanti’s castle. Each tempts John, especially after he learns Bacon hasn’t trusted him completely. John’s meeting with Pope Clement offers a poignant denouement, especially Flusfeder’s sketch of the aged and weary pontiff. There’s distance from the harsh realities of medieval times in the imagined journal text, and the author incorporates a series of notes to explain certain terms and circumstances. This virgin’s pilgrimage in service of God and wisdom is more intellectual exercise than tale of intrigue, more allegory than adventure.

OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS

QUEEN OF FLOWERS AND PEARLS

Ghermandi, Gabriella Translated by Bellesia-Contuzzi, Giovanna; Poletto, Victoria Offredi Indiana Univ. (256 pp.) $65.00 | $22.00 paper | $21.99 e-book Mar. 13, 2015 978-0-253-01546-4 978-0-253-01547-1 paper 978-0-253-01548-8 e-book Tales of the Ethiopian resistance during the Italian occupation haunt an extended family in this intricately woven debut novel by Ghermandi, who was born in Ethiopia and lives in Italy. As a young girl in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, in the 1980s, Mahlet, the youngest of five children, receives a special instruction from her favorite elder, Yacob, once a warrior for the Ethiopian resistance, to “take our stories to the land of the Italians” and “be the voice of our history that doesn’t want to be forgotten.”

Fuller, Claire Tin House (388 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-941040-01-0 What do you do if you’re 8 and your father tells you the rest of the world has been annihilated and home is now a hut in the middle of nowhere? That’s the situation in a British novelist’s intriguing debut. Wealthy concert pianist Ute Bischoff scandalized the music world when she married James Hillcoat, a teenager eight years her junior who stood in one night as the page-turner of her music score. Their daughter, Peggy, grows up in a comfortable home in London, where her father belongs to an odd group called the North London Retreaters: “We have seen the future and disaster is coming; but we are the saved.” Their conversation is all about survivalism, and one of them stresses the need for a “bug-out location.” When Ute leaves for a concert tour, James takes 8-year-old Peggy off to Europe, following a map to a spot deep in the German mountains where a tumbledown shelter is bounded by high peaks and rushing rivers. This is their new home. James tells Peggy that her mother is dead and the rest of the world has been obliterated, and the child slowly accustoms herself to their life of privation in the forest. Father and daughter barely survive their first winter but learn to subsist on what they can grow, hunt, forage and preserve. As the years pass and the teen years arrive, however, Peggy becomes aware of someone else in her life, a stranger who begins to edge her away from her increasingly unhinged parent. Fuller’s compelling coming-of-age story, narrated from the perspective of Peggy’s return to civilization, is delivered in translucent prose. Although attuned readers will likely have foreseen the final revelations, this is memorable first work from a talent to watch. |

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Two years later, on the verge of adolescence, a now-rebellious Mahlet forgets her promise to her beloved Yacob. “Something in me had tossed it into the corner of the room of my memory. Well concealed. In an invisible and untraceable trunk buried under a pile of odds and ends.” Later, as a young adult living in Addis Ababa, Mahlet becomes drawn to the stories of fellow Ethiopians who confess their triumphs and losses during the occupation. It is only then that Mahlet realizes her life’s purpose. Ghermandi’s patient, rhapsodic compilation reflects Mahlet’s own struggle with her identity as an Ethiopian and, when she relocates to Italy for her education, as a foreigner. The prose blends Italian and Amharic honorifics seamlessly, and the author’s complex study of family life during the Italian colonization, the military junta headed by violent dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and the chaos following liberation in 1991 shape Mahlet’s understanding of the bonds between generations and the connections between the past and the present. This singular coming-of-age story defined by political upheaval and ancestral secrets introduces a sensitive, perceptive storyteller on the brink of womanhood.

War II and the Nazi occupation of France loom, Coco ponders her legacy and her perennially single state. Though the book is well-written and historically accurate, dramatic tension would have been better served if the fictional Coco could have demonstrated a few more character flaws and human foibles rather than being so very competent in meeting every challenge. An homage to a couture icon whose influence is still powerful today.

ALL THE DAYS AND NIGHTS

Govinden, Niven The Friday Project (266 pp.) $19.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-00-758049-1

A dying artist meditates on the art of portraiture in the absence of her most famous subject: her husband. Govinden’s (Black Bread White Beer, 2012, etc.) latest transposes his intellectual style to Middle America, where the British writer seems to have gotten bogged down in the art of imitation. This novel, about a famous artist on the edge of death who is preoccupied with the absence of a runaway husband, is an ostentatious bit of literary fiction. Our narrator is artist Anna Brown: “Born 1905. American portrait painter said to show the changing heart of the country conveyed through two life models.” Those subjects are her husband, John Brown, and their housekeeper, Vishni—although it boggles the mind why an artist would be famous for only painting portraits of her farmer husband her whole life. As the novel begins, John has inexplicably walked away to travel around looking at his wife’s portraits as some kind of self-revelatory exercise that mostly serves as the author’s excuse to examine the relationship between creator and muse. Through some kind of narrative sorcery, the mean-spirited Anna is able to explain exactly what John is up to, even as she speaks to him in a weird second-person present tense: “You will continue to sit and I will continue to paint you, because that, John, is why you are here.” Anna, meanwhile, is visited by her posh New York gallerist, Ben, who agrees to sit in as her subject in John’s absence. “I continue to look at a partially formed canvas; fragile and imprecise,” Anna tells us. “Just one untruth will ruin it: if I lie to myself, the painting will dissolve.” This highbrow novel wants badly to be the literary equivalent of an Andrew Wyeth painting but instead lands with a thud as a ghastly, plotless mess. A pretentious novel designed to show off the author’s florid prose in lieu of telling a story.

MADEMOISELLE CHANEL

Gortner, C.W. Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $26.99 | $15.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-06-235640-6 978-0-06-235644-4 e-book An admiring portrait of the designer who first modernized women’s wear, told in the first person as she looks back over her life. Gabrielle Chanel came from humble beginnings: Her father, a peddler, abandoned his two sons and three daughters after their mother died, and she and her sisters were taken in by nuns. Eventually, an aunt offers the Chanel sisters a home, where they help with the family millinery business. Chanel soon tires of slaving in a shop and seeks her fortune as a cafe chanteuse with the stage name Coco. A wealthy lover, Balsan, launches her career in fashion: She designs hats for his friends, courtesans from the Paris demimonde. At a race track, she meets Arthur Capel, aka “Boy,” who will prove to be the love of her life. With his help, she opens a Paris atelier. Departing from belle epoque corsets and bustles, Chanel’s first designs, separates based on menswear with a neutral palette and a slim silhouette, catch on almost immediately with rich women in Paris, Deauville, Biarritz and beyond. Coco amasses great wealth and makes friends among the artistic elite of France, including Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Serge Diaghilev. After World War I, Boy dies in a car crash, and Coco becomes even more driven. She develops a scent, Chanel No. 5, derived from the signature perfume of the assassinated czarina of Russia, and signs a contract to distribute it worldwide. As more lovers, among them an impoverished Romanov and the Duke of Westminster, enter and depart her life, she builds a lavish house in southern France and enjoys a brief sojourn in Hollywood. In her 50s as World 18

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THE BIG SEVEN

SISTERS OF SHILOH

Harrison, Jim Grove (288 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 3, 2015 978-0-8021-2333-6

Hepinstall, Kathy; Hepinstall, Becky Houghton Mifflin (256 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-544-40000-9

Ex-cop Sunderson is as bemused as ever in Harrison’s follow-up to The Great Leader (2011). “The Big Seven” are those deadly sins their Lutheran pastor thundered against when Sunderson was a boy, leaving him with a permanent fixation on his own and others’ moral failings. Lechery and gluttony are definitely the big ones for the now-retired Michigan State Police detective: This semimystery contains the same abundant, enthusiastic descriptions of food found in virtually all Harrison’s work, and the heavy drinking that led to Sunderson’s divorce from still-beloved Diane doesn’t keep him from a booklong affair with 19-yearold Monica or a one-night stand with his adopted daughter, Mona (both relationships, improbably and distastefully, initiated by the young women). Sunderson’s misdeeds pale in comparison to those of the Ames family, which occupies three ramshackle farmhouses near his fishing cabin in rural Michigan. Monica is one of the low-life clan’s many women abused from childhood by male relatives; the lurid plot is launched by her sister Lily’s death in a shootout with her cousin Tom, both wielding AK-47s. It doesn’t get any more plausible after this, as an epidemic of poisonings carries off several more Ameses, none of them any great loss. Violence should definitely be considered the eighth deadly sin, concludes Sunderson, whose efforts to write an essay on the subject—and to cut down on his drinking—bring him closer to Diane and the possibility of a reconciliation. You can’t help but like feckless, unpretentiously intellectual Sunderson, inclined to tie himself in metaphysical knots when not fishing or otherwise engaging with the natural world whose splendors, movingly described, succor him in a way nothing else can. The poisonings are resolved with yet more bloodshed, and the possibility of another case for our hero is blatantly flourished. After a lifetime of deep, dark fiction like Dalva (1988) and True North (2004), Harrison is entitled to relax with these autumnal ramblings. (Agent: Steve Sheppard)

Set during the Civil War, this genderbending novel focuses on two sisters who disguise themselves as men and join the Confederate States Army—and it’s written by two sisters. Just a month or so after Libby Beale marries Arden Tanner, the Civil War breaks out. Arden is killed at Sharpsburg, and Libby and her older sister, Josephine, scour the battlefield to find his body. Anguished and irate, Libby vows to get revenge against the North by killing a Yankee soldier for each year of her husband’s life—21 in all. In 1862, the South is not overly scrupulous about the quality of its soldiers—if they have a rifle and are breathing, they tend to be accepted into the army—so the women have no problem joining Arden’s old

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FRAM

company, the Stonewall Jackson brigade. While Libby is ardent in her hatred and has a personal reason for revenge, Josephine is far less tied to the Southern narrative of Northern aggression and just wants to keep a watchful eye on her sister. As if living as male soldiers is not difficult enough—they have to pitch their voices lower and assume the mannerisms of battleweary veterans—Josephine, the “plain” sister who’d never even been kissed, falls in love with Wesley Abeline, and Wesley feels himself attracted to “Joseph” as well. After the inevitable gender unmasking occurs, Wesley and Josephine/Joseph decide to run away from the war, but not so Libby/Thomas, whose sanity comes into question when she keeps hearing her dead husband’s voice urging her to kill more Yankees—and perhaps even her traitorous sister and her lover, Wesley. The Hepinstall sisters provide a fascinating glimpse into Civil War life from an unconventional perspective.

Himmer, Steve Ig Publishing (285 pp.) $16.95 paper | Jan. 13, 2015 978-1-935439-98-1 A meek bureaucrat travels to the Arctic in this new novel by Himmer (Writing, Literature and Publishing/Emerson College; The Bee-Loud Glade, 2011, etc.). Himmer’s Everyman protagonist is Oscar, a man who once dreamed of exploring the Arctic but has instead settled for an office job at the Bureau of Ice Prognostication in Washington, D.C. Oscar’s days at this strange government agency involve regularly checking a “pole cam” (which delivers real-time images of the Arctic) and focusing on the minutiae of his office, including the overhead light bulb and his food-obsessed partner, Alexi. As Oscar dreams of a more exciting life, Himmer finds shades of Walter Mitty. Then true adventure arrives; Oscar receives a new, mysterious assignment to travel to the Arctic. But what exactly is the purpose of this trip? And who are the strange men and women who seem to be following him, from the subways of D.C. to the cobblestone streets of Portland, Maine? Himmer’s core—the bureaucrat asked to do big things—recalls Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and the work of Douglas Adams, and there’s great hope that the novel will be a stunner once its plot gets rolling. But Himmer never quite finds his tone: if adventure, the book needs to move faster; if satire, it needs a firmer target. As a result, the novel feels static in its middle sections; even though Oscar is on a great journey, he has no control over any of it, and it’s unclear where the tension and suspense lie. Himmer’s best writing is elegiac, as when Oscar reflects on his aloof wife and their disintegrating marriage. (In a great moment, Himmer makes the word “Moo” sound sadder than anything else.) But he doesn’t maintain this tone—doesn’t quite maintain any tone, really. An intriguing if unsteady novel that slips and slides on all that ice, never quite finding its footing.

DRIVING THE KING

Howard, Ravi Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $25.99 | Jan. 6, 2015 978-0-06-052961-1 A historical novel places Nat King Cole, as seen through the eyes of an ill-starred friend, at the epicenter of mid-20th-century America’s racial transformation. In April 1956, Cole, at the crest of his widespread, cross-cultural renown as a pop vocalist, was assaulted by white supremacists while performing at the Birmingham State Theater in his native Alabama. Six months later, he became the first African-American to headline his own TV variety series, just as the epochal bus boycott led by Martin Luther King Jr. was about to enter its 20

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“Inoue writes with remarkable clarity and disarming simplicity....” from life of a counterfeiter

second year. Howard, whose previous novel, Like Trees, Walking (2007), was inspired by a real-life lynching, conflates these events into a novel of reimagined history in which the attack on Cole is pushed a decade back to Montgomery just after World War II. An ex-GI and childhood friend of Cole’s named Nathanial Weary thrusts himself between a pipe-wielding racist and the singer’s head. Weary is charged with inciting a riot and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Upon his release, he’s hired by Cole—who’s never forgotten his friend’s sacrifice—as his bodyguard and driver in Hollywood. Within this revisionist framework, Howard seeks to recount through Weary’s voice the harsh truths of postwar Jim Crow as it comes under direct siege in the 1950s. That narrative voice—tough, shrewd, barely containing the hurt from public and private injustices—is the novel’s finest attribute. And yet, readers may lose their moorings within the novel’s time-shifting tactics. Not that there’s anything wrong with shifting facts in fiction for the sake of larger truths; some great Western films have come from such tactics. But you’re never altogether sure at the start of each chapter whether you’re in the ’40s or the ’50s. Such uncertainty contributes to a gauzy, almost dreamlike aura that makes the characters, even the stoic Weary, elusive, almost spectral figures. This is especially frustrating with the novel’s depiction of Cole, who is conceived with much charm, some quirky nervous tics and not much else. Maybe Nat King Cole will always be something of a hallowed enigma among the great American musical icons. But one would think even a delicately woven novel that dares to reconfigure historical events might have taken more risks with its characterizations.

“the peculiar sadness of our karma.” In “Reeds,” the same narrator re-examines fragmentary childhood memories, each fraught with undefined emotion. His most developed memory concerns riding in a boat with a young couple who were making love. Even after learning the woman’s possible identity, the narrator is not sure what really happened, although “as times goes by, this supposition is slowly being transformed in my heart into a matter of unquestionable fact.” The unreliability of memory and perception also lies at the heart of “Mr. Goodall’s Gloves,” which takes place in postwar Nagasaki and revolves around a character introduced in “Reeds”: Grandma Kano, who raised the narrator through elementary school and was actually not his relative but his great-grandfather’s mistress. The narrator’s ruminations on his life and relationships add up to a new appreciation of memory, however flawed, as “sacred.” Inoue writes with remarkable clarity and disarming simplicity about feelings and concepts usually too intricate and ambiguous to pin down.

LIFE OF A COUNTERFEITER

Inoue, Yasushi Translated by Emmerich, Michael Pushkin Press (112 pp.) $18.00 paper | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-78227-002-7

This newly translated volume includes the novella of the title plus two midlength stories by Inoue (The Hunting Gun, 2014, etc.), a major Japanese author less known in the U.S. In 1942, the novella’s narrator, a journalist, was hired by the family of recently deceased artist Onuki Keigaku to write his biography, but the war intervened, and 10 years later, the book remains unfinished. As the narrator begins to refocus on his work, the true subject becomes not the famous painter but his former friend Shinozaki, who made his living counterfeiting Keigaku’s work under the name Hara Hosen. After reading Shinozaki’s name in the famous artist’s diary, he remembers his own random encounters with the forger’s work and stories he has heard from Keigaku’s son and others about Hosen/Shinozaki, who spent his last years making artistic fireworks he was too busy to enjoy. The narrator finds himself struck by the coincidental intersections between his and Hosen/Shinozaki’s lives and ultimately finds the counterfeiter’s failed life represents |

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“If Staten Island were Asbury Park, this former lawyer–turned-novelist could be its literary Springsteen.” from small mercies

THE BURIED GIANT

Charlie McNeely controls the lucrative crystal meth business in his neck of the woods; his estranged wife, Laura, is one of his customers. The work involves killing; real men kill, and the rest are pussies, according to Charlie. Having cops on his payroll provides protection. With bad McNeely blood in his veins, the self-loathing 18-year-old Jacob sees himself as trash. Two years earlier, he broke up with his childhood sweetheart, Maggie, not wanting to drag her into the abyss. Now Jacob is facing a manhood test Daddy has set up. (As narrator, he calls his parents Daddy and Mama.) Robbie Douglas, an employee, has snitched and must be disposed of. In the deep-woods shack, he finds the Cabe brothers, also employees, have Robbie tied up and bleeding. The brothers splash him with sulfuric acid and leave him for dead on the mountainside. It was a sloppy job. Robbie is found, unconscious but alive. Now it’s the Cabes’ turn. Big Daddy beats them bloody, shoots them and has Jacob help him dump them in the lake. Jacob is now accessory to two, maybe three murders, and his situation becomes even more dire when he discovers his blood-soaked Mama, who has shot herself at his Daddy’s urging. Still, there’s a glimmer of hope when Maggie, who is a Good Woman, returns to him, saying “You’re the strongest man I know.” Might Jacob overcome his fatalism? Joy struggles with that, just as he struggles to give complexity to that dead-eyed evildoer of a father, but he ultimately finds it simplest to obey his first commandment: Shed blood. A dark semiautobiographical first novel in which action flourishes at the expense of character development.

Ishiguro, Kazuo Knopf (320 pp.) $26.95 | $13.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-307-27103-7 978-0-385-35322-9 e-book A lyrical, allusive (and elusive) voyage into the mists of British folklore by renowned novelist Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go, 2005, etc.). There be giants buried beneath the earth—and also the ancient kings of Britain, Arthur among them. Ishiguro’s tale opens not on such a declaration but instead on a hushed tone; an old man has been remembering days gone by, and the images he conjures, punctuated by visions of a woman with flowing red hair, may be truthful or a troubling dream. Axl dare not ask his neighbors, fellow residents of a hillside and bogside burrow, for help remembering, “[f]or in this community, the past was rarely discussed.” With his wife, who bears the suggestive if un-Arthurian name Beatrice, the old man sets off on a quest in search of the past and of people forgotten. As it unfolds, Axl finds himself in the company of such stalwarts as a warrior named Wistan, who is himself given to saying such things as “[t]he trees and moorland here, the sky itself seem to tug at some lost memory,” and eventually Sir Gawain himself. The premise of a nation made up of amnesiac people longing for meaning is beguiling, and while it opens itself to heavy-handed treatment, Ishiguro is a master of subtlety; as with Never Let Me Go, he allows a detail to slip out here, another there, until we are finally aware of the facts of the matter, horrible though they may be. By the time the she-dragon named Querig enters the picture, the reader will already well know that we’re in Tolkienish territory—but Tolkien by way of P.D. James, with deep studies in character and allegory layered onto the narrative. And heaps of poetry, too, even as forgetfulness resolves as a species of PTSD: “I was but a young knight then....Did you not all grow old in a time of peace? So leave us to go our way without insults at our back.” Lovely: a fairy tale for grown-ups, both partaking in and departing from a rich literary tradition. (Author tour to Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.)

SMALL MERCIES

Joyce, Eddie Viking (368 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-525-42729-2

An emotionally rich debut novel about family dynamics in the wake of tragedy. If Staten Island were Asbury Park, this former lawyer–turned-novelist could be its literary Springsteen. He was born and raised in the borough, which one of his characters calls “the servants’ quarters of the city,” and he has a deep affinity for the ethnic assimilations, class struggles, marital discontents and larger ambitions of those who share his roots. Though the novel flirts with sentimentality and occasionally succumbs to cliché, depth of character trumps plot melodrama here. In the seven days leading to the birthday of Bobby Jr., the son of a firefighter who was a casualty of 9/11, every member of the family has flashbacks and reminiscences that suggest the variety of knots the plot must untangle. Bobby Sr. became a firefighter like his father, Michael, who strongly resisted becoming a butcher like his own immigrant father, thus depriving his family of some security. Gail continues to resent her husband and mourn her son 10 years after his death. She has little relationship with her oldest son, Peter, the one who escaped the borough to become a successful lawyer and marry a WASP but who will find his life

WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO

Joy, David Putnam (272 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-399-17277-9

The father’s a killer, the mother’s an addict, and the son’s just plain trapped in this blunt-force account of an Appalachian family. 22

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THE LOVE SONG OF MISS QUEENIE HENNESSY

crumbling through the most conventional of complications. Middle son Franky is the family’s black sheep, an alcoholic who’s never been the same since his brother died. And Bobby’s widow, Tina, with whom Gail is very close, has finally become involved with another man, introduced to her by Peter, and she wants to bring him to Bobby Jr.’s birthday party. Will Franky cause a drunken scene? Will Gail be civil? Will Peter reconcile with his family? The novel unpacks a lot of emotional baggage (even without the 9/11 references), but readers will get to know these characters and care about them to the very last page.

Joyce, Rachel Random House (384 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-8129-9667-8

Joyce (Perfect, 2014, etc.) offers an introspective follow-up to her 2012 breakout debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Queenie Hennessy has entered St. Bernadine’s Hospice in northeast England. Cancer has destroyed her throat and jaw, and now she awaits death among “rejects, you might say...and it was a relief, a blessed relief.” Word comes that a friend, Harold Fry, has learned of her illness. He intends to walk from Kingsbridge, 600 miles away. Harold wants Queenie to wait for him. What follows is a history of their fractured friendship, with her confession as the narrative’s heart. Decades prior, when the two worked together, Queenie fell in love with Harold but

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THE BULLET

never revealed her feelings. “I loved your voice, your walk, your marriage, your hands, your zigzag socks...for God’s sake, everything about you.” Harold had a brilliant son, David, a troubled young man—“For all his selfishness, he was as astute as a knife”— whom Queenie attempted to help. “I had promised myself that I would be a bridge between you and your son, and I was out of my depth.” David committed suicide. In Queenie’s meditative memories—“There is a huge story ahead of me, and the truth is so complicated”—her remembrance of unrequited love is shared with a sometimes-funny, sometimes-sad reflection on life’s bitter end. Any pathos is mostly subsumed by wry humor and clarity regarding life’s foibles, the story ending with a beautiful twist reminding us we all journey through life as lonely, sometimesinarticulate pilgrims. Reading Harold Fry first will allow this deeply emotional novel to resonate more fully.

Kelly, Mary Louise Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-4767-6981-3 Like Kelly’s first novel (Anonymous Sources, 2013), this sophomore effort centers on a beautiful woman who inadvertently becomes involved in a dangerous, high-stakes situation that soon becomes a matter of life or death. Caroline Cashion, 37, isn’t drop-dead gorgeous—or at least that’s what Kelly has her Georgetown professor tell readers on the opening page. However, a few short lines later, Caroline describes herself as having liquid chocolate eyes and hourglass hips. Men ogle her size DD breasts, and almost every man she meets makes a pass. Caroline is truly one hot chick. But she does have a problem that defies logic: a growing issue with her wrist leads to a series of tests that finds a bullet lodged in her neck. Increasingly drawn to Caroline, her doctor, Will, recommends that she have it removed, which in turn leads her on a journey to discover why the bullet was there in the first place. Soon the Nigella Lawson look-alike finds out that not only was she adopted, but her birth parents were murdered in their Atlanta home when she was a small child. During the as-yet-unsolved murder, Caroline took a bullet that also passed through her mother (a gorgeous woman she closely resembles). Hoping to find answers, Caroline travels to Atlanta, where she meets a cast of fancifully named characters and discovers the truth about the night she was shot. Kelly, a former NPR reporter, wallpapers the story with entertaining but overwrought dialogue (“I knew who you were. Any man under the age of ninety and still in full possession of his faculties would notice who you were”) and a surfeit of extraneous characters who clutter the story, weighing it down and distracting from an otherwise interesting premise. Brilliant, beautiful Caroline’s astonishingly bad decisions, coupled with her over-the-top reactions as events play out, make her a less-than-sympathetic protagonist in this unbalanced tale of love, perfidy and violence in Hotlanta.

LEAVING BERLIN

Kanon, Joseph Atria (384 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4767-0464-7

Set in 1949, a few years after Kanon’s The Good German (2001), this novel explores the grave moral complexities of life in Soviet-controlled East Berlin through the tense encounters of Alex Meier, a young Jewish novelist of some renown working for the CIA. A native of Berlin, Alex fled the Nazis for America before World War II. When his leftist politics got him in trouble in the U.S., costing him his marriage, he struck a deal to go back to Germany as an undercover spy with the promise that he could return to America with his record cleared. His cover story is that he missed his homeland, like other returning intellectuals including Bertolt Brecht (a minor character in the book). In fact, he has greatly missed Irene, the woman he left behind, whose romantic involvement with a Russian makes her one of his targets. Like everything else in the wreckage of the blockaded city, where going for a walk through the park attracts suspicion, his reunion with her is fraught with danger—especially after her ailing brother shows up, having escaped a Russian labor camp. The novel has its share of abductions and killings, one of which leaves Alex in the classic role of odd man out. Following his action-charged Istanbul Passage (2012), Kanon relies almost exclusively on dialogue to tell his story, which sometimes leaves the reader feeling as hemmed in as the Berliners. But the atmosphere is so rich, the characters so well-drawn and the subject so fascinating that that is a minor complaint. Another compelling, intellectually charged period piece by Kanon, who works in the shadows of fear as well as anyone now writing. (Author tour to Chicago, Denver, Houston, Iowa City, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, New Orleans, Phoenix and San Francisco)

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THE LAST WORD

Kureishi, Hanif Scribner (304 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4767-7920-1 A man opts to live with the famous— and famously prickly—author he’s writing a biography about. Whoops. Kureishi’s seventh novel (Something To Tell You, 2008, etc.) is focused on Harry, a rising young British author who’s been all but strong-armed by his agent to write a biography of Mamoon, an Anglo-Indian writer whose intellectual rages are nearly as |


“A multilayered, morally ambiguous novel of family, blood and betrayal.” from world gone by

famous as tales of his noxious relationships with women. (There’s a furious former mistress and rumors he drove his first wife to an early grave.) The agent has put Harry in an impossible spot, demanding that the book deliver sordid details about Mamoon while giving his second wife, Liana, the right to take a pass at the manuscript. Gamely embedding himself in the writer’s manse in the countryside outside London, Harry is soon tangled in complications: Mamoon isn’t interested in interviews, Liana is steering him away from talking with the ex-mistress, and Harry pursues a fling with one of Mamoon’s housecleaners (never mind he has a girlfriend). Much of the talk in this novel circles around fidelity: “[A]dultery—pleasure plus betrayal—is the only fun left to us,” Mamoon intones. Harry drifts toward his subject’s way of thinking, which Kureishi milks for both humor and pathos. But Kureishi’s interest in the moral messes of our private lives leads to a novel that never quite settles into a groove. Is it a literary satire, as the agent’s Mephistophelean antics suggest? An upstairsdownstairs tale, focused as it is on tensions between the wealthy owners and the help? Or is it an infidelity tale, marked by Harry’s sexual abandon and ultimate reckoning? A bit of all three, though

not quite enough of any one. Kureishi aims to smash preconceptions about literary greatness but only lands glancing blows. Kureishi is smart about book culture and relationships in a novel that fails to satisfyingly merge both.

WORLD GONE BY

Lehane, Dennis Morrow/HarperCollins (416 pp.) $27.99 | $16.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-06-000490-3 978-0-06-220030-3 e-book A multilayered, morally ambiguous novel of family, blood and betrayal. Working against a backdrop of World War II, Lehane continues and perhaps concludes the ambitious series of historical novels that began with the epic sweep of The Given Day (2008) and continued with Live By Night (2012). Almost a decade after the

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climactic carnage of that second novel, protagonist Joe Coughlin has apparently left the violence of his gangster past behind, mixing easily in the upper echelons of Tampa society, serving behind the scenes as “the fixer for the entire Florida criminal syndicate.” Still a widower and now a devoted father to his young son, he appears to be above the fray, a respected figure without enemies. Yet he’s haunted by the ghost of a young man he can’t quite identify, and he’s threatened by a rumor that someone has threatened a hit on him for reasons unknown. He experiences tension between some of the mob leaders to whom he feels loyal, amid rampant speculation of a rat in the ranks who’s skimming and perhaps snitching. He’s also having an affair, one that seems doomed. On the surface, this is a crime novel that adheres to convention, but Coughlin has a depth beyond genre fiction, with a sense of morality and a code of ethics that the life he has chosen frequently puts to the test. As a particularly evil adversary warns him, “You have put a lot of sin out into the world, Joseph. Maybe it’s rolling back in on the tide. Maybe men like us, in order to be men like us, sacrifice peace of mind forever.” While this seems to lack some of the literary ambition of Lehane’s best work, its cumulative thematic power and

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whip-crack narrative propulsion will enrich the reader’s appreciation past the last page. On one level, a very moving meditation on fathers and sons; on another, an illumination of character and fate.

THE UNLOVED

Levy, Deborah Bloomsbury (208 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-62040-677-9 In a rented French chateau where a group of tourists of many nationalities have assembled for Christmas, there is feasting, clandestine sex, heroin and a death. But this is no conventional murder mystery. After the success of her most recent novel, Swimming Home (2012), shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Levy’s earlier novel—with its prefiguring aspects—is published for the first time in the U.S. It’s a dark, uncomfortable story of desire and damage involving three couples (two with children) and two single women gathered together in bourgeois comfort in Normandy. The death of one member of the house party, subsequently investigated by a French police inspector, lends formal shape, but Levy’s interest is less in plot, more in psychology. While the children play and the couples interact, the focus falls on Yasmina, an Algerian woman now lecturing in London, who has had encounters with the parents of another guest, Nancy, an American, decades earlier, when Algeria was struggling to gain independence from the French. Chapters revisiting that brutal era, exposing Yasmina’s shocking story, are sandwiched between staccato scenes in contemporary France in which the subject of love is considered, uncomfortably and repeatedly: “To be in love is to be bitten”; “There is no love without rage.” The tone of the narration is theatrical, as characters cook, comment, share beds, suffer, and sometimes deliver speeches or actual lines of dramatic dialogue. Levy’s approach is cerebral and unsentimental, exploring, in prose both sensuous and supple, the sadness and perplexity of children, the unsatisfied desires of adults, and, above all, the power and role of love. Graphic, claustrophobic and fractured, this is emotionally violent and challenging work from a bold modern writer.

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“Yan is no stranger to controversy, running afoul of the censors even while taking a sidelong approach to his criticisms.” from the four books

TRANSOCEANIC LIGHTS

Li, S. Harvard Square Editions (364 pp.) $22.95 paper | Mar. 2, 2015 978-1-941861-99-8 The story of a Chinese immigrant boy is eclipsed by that of his mother’s unhappy marriage. Here they come, fresh off the flight from China: The father, Ba, the mother, Ma, and their only child, unnamed; we’ll call him Son. Son is 5, the same age the Chinese-American author was on his arrival in the U.S.; the novel has a strong autobiographical flavor. They’re accompanied by Ba’s two brothers and their families, all of them sponsored by the fourth and oldest brother, Uncle Hu, who’s an immigrant success story. He owns two profitable restaurants, and his sponsorship is self-serving; he will employ his brothers as short-order cooks. In an unnamed city’s Chinatown, they’ll live in a cramped tenement apartment where territorial disputes break out. Back home, Son taught himself with audiotapes, and he’s smart enough to enter first grade but finds school traumatic; he’s never been separated from Ma before. His rites of passage include a terrifying encounter with the school bully and friendship with a little girl. Then the focus shifts to Ma and her bitter quarrels with her husband. She accuses him of hiding his earnings; he taunts her with divorce. Ma, who’s treated sympathetically, complains to her beloved sister in China in a series of phone calls; this is about as interesting as listening in on a party line. Out of left field, the author inserts the story of another brother, Lone Eye, detailing how the bed-hopping lady’s man got his name (wrong bed, angry husband). There are more flashbacks, and a trip back to China for Ma, but the novel doesn’t break out of the stifling family circle to explore the wider world beyond. A family drama that refuses to jell.

of the so-called Great Leap Forward, the setting a re-education camp along the banks of the Yellow River—or, at least, where the river once flowed before the state trumped nature and moved it. The denizens of the camp are supposed “rightists,” bearing names such as the Scholar, the Theologian, the Technician, the Author and so forth. The Author has been charged with the task of chronicling the activities of the others within the camp—spying on them, that is, so that the overseer, who bears the name the Child, can present a thorough record to the powers that be. The Child, who “appeared to be omniscient,” is a mysterious figure, sometimes sympathetic and sometimes tyrannical. All, guards and prisoners alike, are caught up in a vast, dimly comprehensible machine that slowly grinds them to bits. Writes one suicide, having committed cannibalism before hanging himself, “A person’s death is like a light being extinguished, after which it is no longer necessary to worry about trying to re-educate and reform them.” And if the Child’s charges are reduced to such inhuman acts, his fate is no less terrible in the end, Yan’s allegory suddenly made very real. Yan cements his reputation as one of China’s most important—and certainly most fearless—living writers. (Agent: Laura Susjin)

THE FOUR BOOKS

Lianke, Yan Translated by Rojas, Carlos Grove (400 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-8021-2312-1 A searing, allegorical view of Chinese society during some of the darkest moments of the Mao era. Yan (Lenin’s Kisses, 2012, etc.) is no stranger to controversy, running afoul of the censors even while taking a sidelong approach to his criticisms. This novel, more straightforward if sometimes absurd, will doubtless earn him a few more pages in the dossier. The titular four books are an echo of the Confucian classic by that name that the Communist state sought to undo, but they are also four fictitious texts that wend their ways through Yan’s narrative—four texts that are layered onto still other texts, including the Christian Bible, which exercises an odd power over the story as a whole. The time is that |

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“...the finest short story writer of Big Sky country....” from crow fair

THE DISCREET HERO

A brief prologue establishes some significant facts about Fleming’s early life—that his father died a hero in the Great War, for example, and that his mother was far fonder of Ian’s brother, Peter. At an elite English prep school, Ian befriends American Michael Hudson and establishes the “Too Bad Club,” supposedly for those who are too bad to die. Skip ahead 26 years. Fleming has re-established his friendship with Hudson, and they’re both stationed in Cairo. Hudson’s job is vague but has something to do with Lend-Lease, while Fleming is involved in tracking down a spy known only as the Fencer, who’s in league with another spy called the Kitten. Mathews weaves a substantial and intricate tale involving an abundance of historical characters, including Stalin (crude), Churchill (wary) and Roosevelt (nervous), who are attending the Cairo and Tehran conferences in late November and early December 1943. Even more prominent in the action are Churchill’s wild daughter-in-law Pamela Digby Churchill—already involved with both Averell Harriman and Edward R. Murrow—Chiang Kai-shek and his cynical but commanding wife, May-Ling, and Alan Turing, the eccentric but brilliant scientist working on the Enigma machine to decode Nazi transmissions. Fleming lays the groundwork for his later success as a novelist by taking on the name—and to some extent, the persona—of James Bond, for he begins to introduce himself in this sly and suave way, and his adventures become increasingly dangerous the closer he gets to the Fencer. Mathews writes well, keeps the pace brisk and has great fun re-creating historical personages.

Llosa, Mario Vargas Translated by Grossman, Edith Farrar, Straus and Giroux (336 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-374-14674-0 The Nobel laureate weaves together the tragicomic misfortunes of two families and several friends in this tale of crime, passion and avarice. Vargas Llosa (The Dream of the Celt, 2012, etc.) turns from the broad historical and political concerns of his previous novel to look at how blood ties unravel when money and deceit come into play. In Lima, Peru, the wealthy, aged widower Ismael surprises everyone—not least his two wayward sons—by suddenly marrying his much younger housekeeper.When the newlyweds fly off on a long honeymoon, the sons’ anger at losing their inheritance is directed at Rigoberto, Ismael’s longtime employee and friend and one of the witnesses to the couple’s furtive ceremony. The ensuing personal threats and legal wrangling add to Rigoberto’s troubled preoccupation with his teenage son’s reports that a dapper, possibly demonic man has been appearing out of nowhere and talking to him. In the nearby city of Piura, Felicito’s peace of mind unravels when he receives an extortionate note that threatens his transport business and mistress. One of his two sons is a good fellow, the other anything but, and Felicito has never been sure he’s the father of the scapegrace. As the plots move toward various resolutions, the reunion of two sisters fits right in with all the other pairings. The themes of paternity and filial respect get a good workout, with permutations touching on the self-made man, inherited wealth, marital tolerance and sex after 70. Felicito’s is the stronger story, as he is the book’s richest character, and Vargas Llosa spends much time walking him around a city the author once lived in, giving readers a true feel for the streets, sounds and ceaseless heat. This master storyteller ensures that the book is continually intriguing and charming. Yet taken together, the two narratives don’t make a strong whole, rather more a theme and variation that can seem sometimes dangerously close to what Rigoberto at one point calls his side of the story: a soap opera.

CROW FAIR Stories

McGuane, Thomas Knopf (288 pp.) $25.95 | Mar. 15, 2015 978-0-385-35019-8 Seventeen stories, straightforward but well-crafted, that cement McGuane’s reputation as the finest short story writer of Big Sky country—and, at his best, beyond. These days, McGuane’s writing could hardly be further from the showy, overwritten prose of his breakthrough novels like Ninety-two in the Shade (1973). His sense of humor remains, but it’s wiser, more fatalistic and more Twain-like; he writes beautifully about the wilderness but always with an eye on its destructive power. As with much of his recent fiction, most of the stories here are set in Montana and turn on relationships going bust. In “Hubcaps,” a young boy observes his parents’ breakup through the filter of baseball and football games, capturing the protagonist’s slowly emerging resentment; in “Lake Story,” a man’s long-running affair with a married woman collapses during an ill-advised public outing, exposing the thinness of the connections that united them; in “Canyon Ferry,” a divorced dad’s attempt to prove his intrepidness to his young son during an ice-fishing trip pushes them to the edge of disaster during a storm. One of the best stories in the collection, “River Camp,” displays McGuane’s

TOO BAD TO DIE

Mathews, Francine Riverhead (368 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-59463-179-5

If the title sounds reminiscent of a James Bond novel, it’s no coincidence, for Mathews freely makes use of Ian Fleming’s World War II experience as an intelligence officer in Cairo and Tehran to create adventures in espionage and counterespionage. 28

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THE FIRES OF AUTUMN

skill at pairing emotional turmoil with the untamed outdoors, following two brothers-in-law whose attempt to get away from it all leads them to a tour guide of questionable mental stability, bears rustling through tents and plenty of exposed raw nerves about their marriages. “Stars” tells a similar story in a more interior mode, following an astronomer who increasingly fails to contain her anger at the workaday world—McGuane skillfully depicts the small but constant ways life goes off-plumb for her—and how she fumbles toward balance in the forest. The conflicts throughout this book are age-old—indeed, the title story evokes “Oedipus”—but McGuane’s clean writing and psychological acuity enliven them all. A slyly cutting batch of tales from a contemporary master.

Némirovsky, Irène Translated by Smith, Sandra Vintage (240 pp.) $15.00 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-101-87227-7

Another in a string of reissues of the work of the French novelist who died in Auschwitz in 1942, prompted by the discovery of her incomplete but widely acclaimed Suite Francaise; written during the same period just before her death, this multigenerational novel spans war and peace. It’s a tight fit. The short novel covers the period 1912-1941; Némirovsky always has one eye on the clock. She focuses on a small circle of bourgeois Parisians. Old timers and youngsters alike are fervent patriots. When war breaks out, one of them, Martial Brun, mans a first-aid post at the front; his early death is a shock, especially for his cousin and new bride, Thérèse. Their

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friend Bernard, dreaming of Napoleonic glory, volunteers at 18. Four years of war turn the twice-wounded Bernard bitter and cynical. Another friend, Raymond Détang, has become a war profiteer, one with a patriotic veneer. In the interwar period, the heart of the novel, Détang and his wife, Renée, become a formidable couple: He’s the consummate wheeler-dealer, and she’s the blithely adulterous society hostess. “They democratised vice and standardised corruption.” It’s disappointing that Némirovsky, with her impressively sharp eye and tart indictments, relegates them to the background. In the foreground are Bernard and the virtuous Thérèse. Bernard becomes Renée’s lover; when she discards him, he marries Thérèse. He’s also been involved in Détang’s shady armaments deals; for this he will receive savage authorial punishment. By now it’s 1939 (the clock is ticking), and Bernard’s boy, Yves, is old enough for the new war. The son, fiercely critical of his father and his moneygrubbing cronies, will become a pilot and, if necessary, a sacrificial victim, while Bernard joins the ground war. The ending is rushed and tumultuous. One of Némirovsky’s lesser works. All Our Worldly Goods (2011) covers the same period more successfully.

fellow soldiers. The story is ripe for sentimentality, but there’s a journalistic cast to the spare prose and tight dialogue that helps O’Hagan almost always avoid it. It’s remarkable how much human territory O’Hagan explores and illuminates with a restrained style that also helps drive the novel along at a good clip.

RELUCTANTLY CHARMED

O’Neill, Ellie Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $16.99 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-4767-5755-1 In this chatty and original debut, a young Irish woman’s life is turned upside down when she publishes the cryptic messages left behind by an ancestor. Kate McDaid, 26, is comfortable in her ad-agency job in Dublin, but her life takes a dramatic turn when she receives a letter from a lawyer inviting her to the reading of a will. Though neither Kate nor her parents had heard of the mysterious ancestor who shared her name, the mid-1800s Kate McDaid knew all about her future descendant and charged her with finishing what she could not. Known by villagers as “The Red Hag,” the elder McDaid was a woman gifted with “second sight” who’d written a series of prophetic poems called “The Seven Steps,” said to have been dictated to her by the faeries. If young Kate agrees to publish one poem each week for seven weeks, she’ll be awarded the estate. As the poems catch global attention, Kate is thrust into the spotlight as news agencies declare her a 21st-century prophet. The pages breeze by due to O’Neill’s accessible style, but the book falters in several crucial places. “The Seven Steps” are the backbone of the story, yet the poems are cringingly unconvincing: They display no consideration of meter, rhyme or other known staples of 19th-century Irish poetry. Then there’s the sinister cult O’Neill has constructed that frustratingly deflates at what should be the climax, as Kate is captured and realizes, “I could out-run these old people. In fact, I could out-walk them.” And she does just that. Readers may also be fed up by the time Kate realizes rocker Jim is only using her for the publicity, a coworker has been pulling the wool over her eyes, and creepy journalist Maura Ni Ghaora is not to be trusted. The true appeal of the novel is in the author’s sure-handed depiction of Ireland’s landscape, people and lore. A whimsical but flawed novel.

THE ILLUMINATIONS

O’Hagan, Andrew Farrar, Straus and Giroux (240 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-374-17456-9

The Scottish author’s fifth novel (The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his friend Marilyn Monroe, 2010, etc.) is a lean yet rich family story built of small and crucial moments in memories and reality across three generations. Anne, at 82, has come to a kind of assisted living facility on Scotland’s west coast, and her memory has begun drifting. Often she returns to a time in the 1950s when she was a talented photographer and had a child with another shutterbug. When her grandson, Luke, a British army captain fighting in the Afghanistan campaign of recent years, enters the narrative, it shifts from homey prose snapshots to harsh newsreel realism. The contrast recalls a long article by O’Hagan, also a well-regarded essayist, that looks at deaths in the Iraqi campaign and those affected at home; titled “Brothers,” it’s among the collected nonfiction in The Atlantic Ocean (2013). Anne and Luke have always been close, and he returns after a nightmarish ambush in Afghanistan to help her in the transition to a nursing home. In the process, he discovers long-concealed secrets and sadness tied to another coastal town, Blackpool, which is famous for the annual lighting ceremony that gives the book the literal stratum of its many-layered title. Family pain comes in many forms, including the exclusion Luke’s mother feels from the special tie he has with Anne, the very mixed feelings of Anne’s ever helpful neighbor toward her own brood when they visit the facility—even Luke’s father-brother relations with his 30

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ADDENDUM TO A PHOTO ALBUM

nominally the patriarch, although the question of paternity is one of the central plot points. When Malach marches off to fight in World War I, his wife, Annushka, has an affair with a mysterious, flamboyant figure known only as the Greek—“an incomparable artiste, a fabulously rich man, the owner of three circuses in China, and a sorcerer and seer besides.” From this union is born “Uncle Semyon,” who grows up to be a strange, cranky bloke with fabulously ornate side whiskers who is prone to uttering loquacious speeches and the occasional prophecy. Much of the humor and drama of watching this clan of misfits unfold during the taking of the annual family portrait. Otroshenko is clearly playing with identity and point of view, admitting to Hayden in an introductory interview that not only is the narrator unreliable—“a mirage-like figure”—but also that it’s impossible to tell whether the story is being told by a nephew to this impossible number of uncles, by Uncle Semyon himself or by our mysterious Greek. Readers who enjoy the juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy in Russian literature may be intrigued, but others are likely to be simply confused. A deeply strange novel that reads like a Chekhov play inspired by the comedy stylings of Monty Python.

Otroshenko, Vladislav Translated by Hayden, Lisa Dalkey Archive (120 pp.) $13.95 paper | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-56478-125-3 A hallucinatory novella about an enormous Cossack family endlessly at odds with one other. Linguistically intriguing but hard to follow, this work by Russian writer Otroshenko is an absurdist comedy about the ties that bind a family together, the nebulous relationships between fathers and sons, and the ghosts we capture in family photographs. The book has been carefully translated by Hayden, who contributes an introduction and an interview with the author and even reads the audio version. The story concerns a large Cossack family living under the thumb of Soviet Russia sometime in the early part of the 20th century. Malach Mandrykin is

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“What Phillips seems to be saying, in the end, is that the lost child could be any of us....” from the lost child

THE LOST CHILD

discovers offices that were left preserved almost exactly as they were on the day the bank closed. When she finds that several safe-deposit boxes still have items of value inside them and stumbles on key No. 547 in a desk drawer, Iris is determined to return the key to its rightful owner, leading her down a rabbit hole of scandal, theft and murder. Interwoven with Iris’ investigation is the story of Beatrice Baker, a 16-year-old secretary who worked in the bank in 1978 and stumbled on the same mystery of key No. 547 as it was unfolding. Reading clues written in shorthand by a friend who has disappeared, Beatrice discovered that the contents of more than 100 safe-deposit boxes were officially missing. The two storylines converge nicely, leading both characters into the same intricate web of secrets and betrayals. The author imbues the bank with great physical presence, its architecture, floor plans and structure all meticulously described, creating a setting that feels alive and haunted, but the convoluted plot, great length and uneven pacing become a bit cumbersome. While the two heroines are engaging, the mystery might not move quickly enough for many readers. For readers who do make it to the end, there is genuine suspense with satisfying surprises.

Phillips, Caryl Farrar, Straus and Giroux (272 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-374-19137-5 Award-winning novelist, essayist and playwright Phillips (Color Me English, 2011, etc.) responds to Wuthering Heights. A difficult daughter and an unhappy wife, Monica Johnson is contrary, selfdestructive and—finally—mad. That Monica, in her broad outlines, resembles Cathy Earnshaw is no accident. Her story—as well as that of her husband and their sons—is interwoven with scenes inspired by Wuthering Heights and the life of its author. This is not to say that Monica is Cathy, transplanted from the moors to Oxford in the late 1950s. This is not a retelling. The interplay between this novel and Emily Brontë’s masterpiece is much more interesting than that. For example, Phillips imagines Heathcliff before Mr. Earnshaw takes him to the Heights. This boy is the son of a slave, a woman who worked a sugar plantation before being transported to England. Phillips isn’t the first to read Brontë’s “dark-skinned” antihero as black, but he also connects the boy to Monica’s husband, Julius—a man who gives up academic life in order to take up the cause of anti-colonialism in his West Indian home country—and to their neglected, dispossessed sons. The thematic links between the modern story and Wuthering Heights only become clear over time, and—even then—they’re too rich and subtle to work as simple allegory. Empire and race are among Phillips’ concerns, but he also offers heartbreaking depictions of alienation and the fragility of human relationships. While it would be easy to identify Heathcliff as the lost child of the title, it could also refer to Monica’s younger son—or her older boy. But Monica is lost, too. And then there’s Brontë, drifting further and further into her invented world as she dies. What Phillips seems to be saying, in the end, is that the lost child could be any of us—perhaps even that the lost child is all of us. Gorgeously crafted and emotionally shattering.

KNOW YOUR BEHOLDER

Rapp, Adam Little, Brown (352 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-316-36891-9

Rapp (The Year of Endless Sorrows, 2006, etc.) brings dark humor and honesty to a story of death, divorce and disappearance. We meet 30-something Francis Falbo at the onset of his agoraphobia. He hasn’t left the house in nearly a month, has been wearing the same bathrobe for nine days and has developed a “real anxiety” that his beard might smell “gamey, like wet squirrel.” Francis writes the pages we read in the form of a personal manuscript not intended for an audience. Nonetheless, he’s compelled to explain how he came to this sorry state. His mother, we learn, has died, his wife has left him for a slightly younger man with a “chiseled, perfect jaw line,” and his once-promising rock band, the Third Policeman, has not so much dissolved as spectacularly imploded in one of the novel’s more ridiculous scenes wherein the bassist comes out as gay and the drummer comes out as a “passionate homophobe, a terrible friend, and...a hairy emotional Nazi.” Rather than deal with his paralysis and personal crises, Francis immerses himself in his duties as a landlord and follows the lives of the eccentric tenants sharing his childhood home through one interminable Midwestern winter. At his most affecting, Francis is insightful and concise in his assessments of himself and others. When he sees his own reflection, he is relieved to look “mostly sad.... Sad in the same way that weather can be sad.” Elsewhere, however, his dramatic shifts toward the absurd may thrust a reader emotionally off balance. Likewise, slapstick accounts of Francis’ many hang-ups—including the size and color of his penis—may

THE DEAD KEY

Pulley, D.M. Thomas & Mercer (504 pp.) $15.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-4778-2087-2 Pulley’s debut is a story of theft, seduction and greed in a stately bank building. In 1998, 20 years after the doors of the First Bank of Cleveland were mysteriously chained shut, 23-year-old civil engineer Iris Latch is put on an assignment of a “sensitive nature.” Happy to be out of her cubicle, she has to spend her days in the abandoned building doing a “renovation feasibility study” for an anonymous buyer. With free reign to explore, Iris 32

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stretch a reader’s patience and take away from the otherwise profound account of “all the things we must survive.” An intimate, frustrating account of a man failing to deal with his failure.

pleaded guilty to helping steal $7 million—money that’s never been recovered. But why did he disappear the day before his parole was to begin? That’s the question on the minds of everyone, from diminutive FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness to his best prison buddy, Moss. Soon after Audie runs, everyone involved in his case, from the former prosecutor to a deputy who is now the sheriff, is pulling out the stops to find him, and it’s obvious they’d prefer him dead rather than alive. Robotham generously shares information about the villains with readers, so there’s little suspense there. However, the back story, skillfully interwoven with the search for Audie, provides plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement, forcing readers to frantically turn the pages to find out how all these different strands intersect. Robotham’s skill as a writer remains undeniable: He offers memorable characters caught up in an irresistible story. But the Aussie writer’s choice of Texas as his setting is bound to ruffle some feathers since he portrays the state as uniformly and relentlessly corrupt, its citizens as the dregs of society. “Texas only executes people on death row, not when they’re brain-dead because it might mean culling most of their politicians,” reads

LIFE OR DEATH

Robotham, Michael Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (432 pp.) $26.00 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-316-25205-8 978-0-316-25204-1 e-book Australian novelist Robotham travels to Texas for this prison-break tale with a twist. Audie Palmer, who admitted his involvement in the infamous Dreyfus County, Texas, armored security truck robbery, escaped from prison with only one day remaining on his sentence. Audie

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A FIREPROOF HOME FOR THE BRIDE

one passage. And while the writing is top-notch, albeit inflammatory in places, the finished product is also puzzling in that the novelist and his editorial team populated the book with many British expressions foreign to the setting, from calling a woman’s bangs a “fringe” to terming a flophouse a “doss house” to having a very Southern character refer to lines in a bank as “queues.” Terrific storytelling that won’t win Robotham many friends in the Lone Star State.

Scheibe, Amy St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $26.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-250-04967-4 978-1-4668-6970-7 e-book Scheibe (What Do You Do All Day?, 2006) chronicles a Minnesota girl’s journey toward independence in a story set in 1958 with pointed contemporary parallels. Eighteen-year-old Emmy Nelson has known for years that she’s expected to marry Ambrose Brann, but since her father moved the family off the farm to a bigger town on the North Dakota border, she feels her horizons expanding beyond her mother Karin’s cramped notions of the proper destiny for a good Lutheran girl. She re-establishes contact with long-estranged, more easygoing relatives and gets a job on the switchboard at the local newspaper, learning the basics of journalism with the help of a friendly reporter. Emmy’s growing maturity is wellportrayed, as is postwar life in the rural Midwest, still very much governed by traditional values—which, in the author’s stinging depiction, include racism, sexism and xenophobia. Scheibe’s indictment would be more persuasive if it weren’t so overdone: It’s not enough for Ambrose to be 10 years older than Emmy and creepily under the thumb of the sinister Curtis Davidson; he has to rape her, and when she tells Karin Ambrose hit her, her mother’s response has to be, “How did you provoke him?” The unfolding story also includes three other rapes, a murder pinned on an innocent Mexican, two suspicious fires and another climactic piece of arson, all of them blatantly designed to make it clear just how dangerous Davidson and his Citizens’ Council are. Revelations about a dead relative in the Ku Klux Klan and a nice Catholic boy who turns out to be gay add to the overheated tone and will come as no surprise to attentive readers. When a rural crowd listening to Davidson rant about low-income housing and shiftless immigrants begins chanting, “Citizens united, can’t be divided,” it’s clear the author intends readers to make the connection between then and now, but she sabotages her case by making it so luridly. A good coming-of-age story lies buried underneath a ridiculously overdetermined and didactic plot.

BAREFOOT DOGS Stories

Ruiz-Camacho, Antonio Scribner (160 pp.) $23.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4767-8496-0

When the patriarch of a large, wealthy clan in Mexico City is kidnapped, it leads the family to an unintentional diaspora. Mexican-born, Texas-based journalist Ruiz-Camacho shows a wealth of talent in this fiction debut, a collection of interconnected stories about the blowback from the disappearance of José Victoriano Arteaga, a wealthy Mexican citizen. In the opener, “It Will Be Awesome Before Spring,” the don’s 19-year-old granddaughter, Fernanda, offers a flashback about what happened when the patriarch disappeared after leaving his office for lunch one day in 2004: “It is the year all the members of my family will end up fleeing Mexico, following Grandpa’s disappearance, but at that point I don’t know for sure what’s happened to him.” Ruiz-Camacho captures a younger child’s take on grief and misunderstanding in “Okie,” written from the point of view of 8-year-old Bernardo. An outstanding offshoot from the main plot comes in “Origami Prunes,” in which a young consulate officer named Plutarco Mills meets the don’s daughter Laura in a laundromat and starts an affair with her only to meet her daughter Nicolasa years later under sad, strange circumstances. There’s a funny, almost theatrical exchange in “I Clench My Hands Into Fists and They Look Like Someone Else’s,” in which two siblings, Homero and Ximena, have holed up in a Manhattan flea trap to pop pills, snipe at each other and dream of better days ahead. Another offshoot, “Better Latitude,” examines the unique heartache carried by Silvia Guevara, mistress to Don Victoriano and the mother of his 6-year-old son, Laureano, to whom she must explain where Daddy went. Finally, Ruiz-Camacho sticks the landing in the title story, transposing son Martin’s trip to the vet in Madrid with his memories of the don’s body parts’ arriving in the mail, ending with a conversation with his father’s ghost. A nimble debut that demonstrates not a singular narrative voice but a realistic chorus of them.

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“Reynard the Fox rolls up all the best wiles of Odysseus, Harpo Marx and the Coyote of North American Indian mythology....” from reynard the fox

THE OUTSIDERS

his 15th-century translation of the Old French Roman de Renart, though subtle in its satire, made it plain “how clever subjects can survive enemies and kings.” So Greenblatt writes in his introduction to this new translation by Simpson (English/ Harvard Univ.), which properly places the stories about Reynard, which emerged as long ago as the 1100s, in the tradition of Aesop and other fabulists. Simpson’s translation is fully serviceable, though there are some oddly herky-jerky clashes of diction scattered throughout: “Cousin Reynard, now’s the time to open up your bag of tricks: if you’re so clever, I suggest you help yourself. You’re in a fix, buddy.” “The wolf said: ‘Just listen to this guy! I’m the one who’s suffered and have cause to complain, and he wants me to pay him!’ ” If the characters sound like Sir Walter Scott at one moment and Lou Costello the next, that doesn’t diminish the bite and force of the stories, which, though surely not to everyone’s taste, are plenty of fun to read—especially when Reynard, having outwitted Lion and Wolf and Cat and every other creature in the French barnyard, finally talks himself into a cushy government job, at last securing a sinecure to guard the henhouse. Those who are able to navigate early modern English would do better to read Caxton, but this new version has the virtue of making the Reynard stories easily accessible.

Seymour, Gerald Dunne/St. Martin’s (400 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-250-05885-0 978-1-4668-6337-8 e-book Overrun with spies, cops and Euro mobsters, Seymour’s 29th novel concerns a female MI5 veteran’s obsessive need to avenge the death of a young colleague who was kicked to death by a Russian crime lord. Years after the brutal killing, word reaches Winnie Monks, former head of a since-dissolved organized crime group within MI5, that the mobster, known as the Major, is heading to Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol. That intel is provided by “the Gecko,” a young computer whiz working for the Major, in retaliation for getting beat up for a minor theft he didn’t commit. Plans are made to set up surveillance in the vacant house next to the one in which the Major, a former KGB man, will be staying with a drug-smuggling associate. But when Monks and her team arrive at their appointed spot, they encounter housesitters: a moody and not easily handled young British couple, Jonno and Posie. This will prove to be more than a complication; it will alter the course of events. Working on a larger canvas than usual in terms of the sheer number of characters, Seymour keeps the book’s motor humming, changing scenes and points of view with expert timing. The overall tone is lighter than in his pulsepounders; some of the scenes could even pass for satire. And various elements here will recall bits and pieces from some of Seymour’s better-known novels. But none of that diminishes his hold over the reader. A fresh Spanish setting, a stream of characters with great nicknames like “the Tractor,” and a mix of British, Eastern European and American crime fighters make Seymour’s 29th novel one of his most entertaining.

GWENDOLEN

Souhami, Diana Henry Holt (336 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-62779-340-7 Rearranging the characters in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, acclaimed British biographer Souhami (Murder at Wrotham Hill, 2012, etc.) audaciously puts a modern spin on a literary classic. “Capricious, reckless, and in need of guidance,” “petulant and hard to please”: Gwendolen Harleth points out her flaws early and often in this secret confession to Deronda, the man who offers concern but not the love she craves. Gwendolen meets Deronda at a European spa where she has fled after being wooed by a rich but possibly sinister suitor, Henleigh Grandcourt. Beautiful and headstrong but hampered by her family’s ruined fortunes, Gwendolen is expected to make a good marriage to keep her mother and four stepsisters afloat. But she does not love Grandcourt, attracted instead to Deronda’s honesty and pure-mindedness. Her family’s worsening finances, however, force Gwendolen to overlook her doubts and accept Grandcourt. Three weeks later, she finds herself trapped in marriage to a cruel, vicious man. Meeting Deronda at social events, Gwendolen becomes even more deeply aware of her misery, but Deronda is now following his own path and can offer only sympathy and encouragement, even when Gwendolen is widowed. Souhami’s narration is deft and painstaking but, confined to Gwendolen’s self-absorbed perspective, has a limited range, further hindered by the more static phase the story enters after the sadistic marriage ends. Gwendolen still

REYNARD THE FOX A New Translation

Simpson, James Liveright/Norton (256 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 9, 2015 978-0-87140-736-8 Timely translation of the medieval story cycle about a fox who constantly outwits the “not only dim-witted but also greedy, coarse and self-interested”

folks in charge. Reynard the Fox rolls up all the best wiles of Odysseus, Harpo Marx and the Coyote of North American Indian mythology; he’s a trickster, a court jester and a buffoon who, somewhat freer to speak truth to power than the rest of us, shows time and again that the emperor’s clothes are threadbare. The exiled English printer William Caxton understood this, and

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THE KIND WORTH KILLING

pines for Deronda but heals, rejoins society and spends time with George Eliot—“I had a sense of unreality, as if I was a work of fiction, a creation of her pen”—eventually learning to stand on her own two feet. Playing with ideas about creativity, exploring Victorian gender roles and women’s rights, Souhami’s first novel is a well-crafted, idea-driven curiosity.

Swanson, Peter Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $25.99 | $14.99 e-book | Feb. 3, 2015 978-0-06-226752-8 978-0-06-226754-2 e-book A chance airport meeting between strangers sets in motion a Strangers on a Train–inspired murder plot. During a delay at Heathrow, wealthy Boston businessman Ted Severson shares drinks with fellow American Lily Kintner, an archivist at a small Massachusetts college. One thing leads to another, but instead of sleeping together, the two confess their deepest secrets: Ted wants to kill his two-timing wife, Miranda, and Lily wants to help him. In case the Patricia Highsmith connection isn’t blatant enough, Swanson (The Girl With a Clock for a Heart, 2014) shows Lily reading The Two Faces of January—“not one of her best”—in the airport. While the title implies that Ted’s (and Lily’s) enemies are the kind worth killing, the reader almost immediately decides it’s the cold, heartless protagonists who should ultimately get the ax. Miranda is indeed cheating on Ted with Brad Daggett, the handsome and dim contractor who’s building the couple’s extravagant Maine vacation home, yet it’s hard to feel sorry for a man who tells a complete stranger that he fantasizes about killing his spouse, let alone a woman who openly encourages such behavior. Lily’s past is slowly, predictably revealed, and we discover her penchant for violence, but instead of making her character more complex, it merely becomes another layer of frustration. While there are twists, most of them are so clearly telegraphed that only the most careless of readers won’t see what’s coming, especially since Swanson needlessly doubles back over the same events from different points of view.

MAN AT THE HELM

Stibbe, Nina Little, Brown (320 pp.) $25.00 | $11.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-316-28667-1 978-0-316-28674-9 e-book Divorce leaves an unreliable mother and her three concerned children adrift in an unfriendly village in this first novel from Stibbe, whose memoir (Love, Nina, 2014) was an acclaimed comic debut. Narrated in a naïve yet confident voice by 10-year-old Lizzie Vogel, the middle child, the book traces an unconventional family’s progress after marital derailment in 1970s England. Filtered through Lizzie’s idiosyncratic perspective, the sad and serious prospect of a household falling apart as the mother struggles with loneliness, depression, drink and pills shades away from tragedy toward the absurd. The family relocates from comfortable suburbia to a new village home where Lizzie and her sister find themselves not only unpopular, but also, they fear, in danger of being made wards of the court. While attempting to take care of their mother, they decide their job is also to find her a boyfriend, a new man at the helm to steady and safeguard the ship of family. Making a list of local candidates, with no concern about whether they’re already married or not, the girls set up romantic encounters by writing letters in their mother’s name. The results are predictably chaotic. Ridiculous episodes, like a pony climbing the stairs, are interspersed with more perturbing developments, including financial disasters and the nervous problems of younger brother Jack. And yet, despite increasing poverty and the move to another, smaller home, the family’s fortunes eventually shift, with the helm being taken by a man almost as eccentric as the Vogels themselves. Charming and bittersweet, with a very English flavor, this social comedy is distinguished by Stibbe’s light touch and bright eye.

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THE WEDNESDAY GROUP

True, Sylvia St. Martin’s (288 pp.) $14.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-05188-2 978-1-4668-5004-0 e-book

The wives of sex addicts use group therapy sessions to bond and cope in this debut novel. Hannah, Lizzy, Bridget, Gail and Flavia are all keeping the same secret: They’re married to sex addicts. Their husbands are addicted to everything from porn to chat rooms to encounters with male prostitutes. But they aren’t the only ones dealing with issues—Kathryn, the grad student leading their sessions, hopes to run a great group despite meddling from her contradictory supervisor. As the women reveal more of their stories, they begin to form a true support system and help each other through betrayals and lies. For the most part, |


m ys t e r y

the women are strong, interesting personalities, but readers might wonder why Flavia was even included—she adds little to the plot, and her point of view is never explored as thoroughly as the others’. The behind-the-scenes drama between Kathryn and her adviser seems mostly inconsequential, as well. The lives of the other women in the group, however, are richly described and compelling. Their desperation and varied reactions feel real, as do the complicated friendships they develop. True also does an insightful job of showing why women stay in relationships with sex addicts, despite the emotional turmoil they face. A complex and captivating look at what it’s like to be married to a sex addict.

WHAT THE FLY SAW

Bailey, Frankie Y. Minotaur (336 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-04830-1 978-2-4668-4910-5 e-book A pseudo-futuristic world features two detectives investigating the death of a man no one had reason to kill. Bailey begins the second in this series (The Red Queen Dies, 2013) with a note explaining that, although the setting of the book is 2020, the reader should think of the story as taking place in an alternate world where most things are the same but some are not, adding that this book should be considered “a work of crime fiction, not science fiction.” Any reader who is not put off by this peculiar assertion and premise will continue on to a fictionalized version of Albany, New York, in which Detective Hannah McCabe and partner Mike Baxter are charged with investigating the death of harmless funeral director Kevin Novak, who was shot with a bow and arrow inside his own funeral home. There’s nothing very suspicious about what’s happened except for the lack of suspects who might want to do Kevin harm. Medium Olive Cooper offers her help with the case by hosting a séance to which she invites the detectives and Kevin’s family. When this turns out to be more dramatic than Hannah had bargained for, she tries to follow up to find out if there were secrets in Kevin’s life that are responsible for his murder. Her attentions are distracted, however, when there’s a shocking death related to the perp from her last case, making Hannah wonder if the two might be related. The distracting alternate future seems like the kind of thing that might have been dreamed up by someone writing about 2020 in 1970, not 2015. The plot is confusingly unrelated to the setting and is standard procedural fare, though a hook at the end portends better developments in the future.

A LITTLE LIFE

Yanagihara, Hanya Doubleday (728 pp.) $30.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-385-53925-8 Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined

personal lives. Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery. Two of them are straight, one is bisexual, and Jude, whose youth was unspeakably traumatic in a way that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book, is gay. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life. The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

TATTERED LEGACY

Baker, Shannon Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (312 pp.) $14.99 paper | Mar. 8, 2015 978-0-7387-4063-8 An accountant risks her life as she works to protect an area of great beauty. Nora Abbott is river rafting with her boyfriend, Cole, when her mother, Abigail, calls to tell her that her best friend, Lisa, is dead. Nora, who works for Loving Earth Trust, had gotten Lisa a grant to make a film that would probably |

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THE HIDDEN MAN

sway Congress to vote for an expansion of Canyonlands National Park—an idea that’s not popular with the local, mostly Mormon, ranchers, though local Congressman Darrell Burke backs it. Arriving in Moab for the funeral, Nora soon realizes that Lisa’s partner, Rachel, a Mormon whose community has shunned her for her lesbian relationship, blames her for Lisa’s death, a death Nora thinks was murder. Nora and Abigail are almost killed when the brakes on Lisa’s jeep mysteriously fail. To add to Nora’s stress, Cole is called away to his parents’ ranch in Wyoming, and when she phones him, a woman on the line identifies herself as Cole’s wife. One of the several people who have threatened Nora is the nephew of billionaire Mormon businessman Warren Evans, whose plans for the area are all tied up with Hopi legend. Nora struggles to discover who killed Lisa before she becomes the next victim. Nora’s third (Broken Trust, 2014, etc.) is filled with enough plotlines for several more installments. The heroine’s decisions are annoyingly bad for such an allegedly intelligent woman, but the denouement still packs a punch.

Blake, Robin Minotaur (384 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-05494-4 978-1-4668-5785-8 e-book It’s 1742. Blake returns to the English town of Preston, where a rash of crimes challenges a coroner and a physician. Coroner Titus Cragg and his friend and confidant Dr. Luke Fidelis have solved difficult puzzles before (Dark Waters, 2013, etc.). But a series of seemingly unconnected mysteries will tax their ingenuity. First, Cragg is called to the scene of the death of goldsmith Phillip Pimbo, shot dead while sitting at his desk in a locked room. Although it looks like suicide, Fidelis has several ideas about how it could have been an accident or murder. Mayor Grimshaw is furious when no funds are found in the room. Pimbo had been given the Preston Corporation’s assets and placed them with the help of the mysterious Zadok Moon in a scheme to make more money. A client Fidelis has been treating for free, a poor man suffering from a stroke, has in his possession a silver spoon that may have been part of a treasure, missing since the days of Cromwell, which had also belonged to the corporation. As Pimbo’s lawyer, Cragg must settle his estate. Accordingly, he and Fidelis go to Liverpool after a perusal of Pimbo’s papers shows that he and Moon had invested the corporation’s money in a scheme to buy slaves in Africa, sell them in the Indies and buy goods which could be sold for a large profit in England. The ship was heavily insured, but to the mayor’s disgust, an investigator for the insurance company suspects fraud, so the corporation may still lose money. When the investigator is found conveniently beaten to death, it’s up to the two sleuthing friends to tie together the chain of strange incidents. An engagingly detailed look at good and ill in the 1700s that’s cleverly entwined with several perplexing mysteries.

THE HOUSE OF WOLFE

Blake, James Carlos Mysterious Press (288 pp.) $24.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-8021-2246-9

Even for criminals, there’s no such thing as a perfect plan. The Wolfe family is a fixture in southern Texas, where its members run several successful legal businesses and one illegal gunrunning scheme. An even wealthier branch of the family has established itself across the Mexican border. Charlie Fortune, who ostensibly runs a cantina in Wolfe Landing, heads the gunrunning operation in Texas along with his cousins Frank and Rudy and other Wolfe family members. Charlie is Jessie Wolfe’s uncle, but she’s like a daughter to him, so when the relatives south of the border call warning that she’s in trouble in Mexico City, he and Rudy head down there. Jessie’s problems began when her college friend Luz Sosa asked her to be her bridesmaid. Unfortunately, the newlyweds, both from wealthy families, have attracted the attention of an ambitious gangster eager to make his mark. El Galan grew up in the depths of poverty but appears to be a man of education and refinement. Along with Huerta, who runs the security team for the groom’s family, Galan has planned a snatch that will net him and his gang $5 million. Jessie, though not her cousin Rayo Luna Wolfe, is part of the group taken to two different locations while Galan and Huerta wait for the parents to cough up the money. While they’re waiting, Galan’s team coldbloodedly slaughters Huerta and his men. Jessie tries to escape but is recaptured, Charlie and Rudy plan a rescue attempt, Rayo comes to the rescue, and suddenly everything goes wrong with Galan’s perfect plan. Slightly less violent and slower paced than Blake’s last look at the Wolfe family (The Rules of Wolfe, 2013), this installment is an absorbing look at dire poverty, depravity and the all-too-successful business of kidnapping for profit. 38

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THE EDGE OF DREAMS

Bowen, Rhys Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-05202-5 978-1-4668-5335-5 e-book Turn-of-the-century New York is plagued by an elusive serial killer. Molly Murphy returns from abroad (City of Darkness and Light, 2014, etc.) to a delightful surprise. She and her young son, Liam, had spent time in Paris with her bohemian friends Elena “Sid” Goldfarb and Augusta “Gus” Walcott after her house was destroyed by a bomb. Now her police captain husband, Daniel Sullivan, leads her to the rebuilt house, which he has made as much like the old one as possible. Since he’s not |


“Sister Hildegard has a momentous decision to make as soon as she solves some murders.” from the dragon of handale

fond of Sid or Gus, Daniel asks his mother to come and help Molly set up the new home while he works on a difficult case. The only thing connecting a series of murders, some of which look like accidents, seem to be gloating notes sent to Daniel. As a former private detective, Molly is always eager to help Daniel, who’d prefer that she stay home with Liam. When Molly and Liam are almost killed in an elevated train accident, and another note arrives on the heels of the wreck, there’s no stopping Molly, who wonders if someone has a personal vendetta against Daniel. She carefully follows up each of the deaths in search of some link among them. Meanwhile, she helps Sid and Gus, recently returned from studying with Freud in Vienna, investigate the problems of a young girl whose parents were killed in a house fire. Young Mabel Hamilton is having such awful dreams that her aunt asks the pair to visit and see if they can help. The police suspect Mabel of murdering her parents because she was found asleep and unhurt in the back garden. As Molly and Daniel continue their apparently separate inquiries, a sinister pattern emerges. Bowen shrewdly explores the tension between a husband and his very independent wife as they both work to solve a complicated series of murders. One of Molly’s best.

finding the answers to some of her problems in manuscripts in the scriptorium, Hildegard realizes she’s playing a dangerous game against powerful enemies. A dramatic mystery lavishly studded with period details: Clark’s best to date.

ASYLUM

de Beauvoir, Jeannette Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-250-04539-3 978-1-4668-4403-2 e-book An unlikely sleuth seeks to protect Montreal’s cachet as a tourist destination by tracking down a killer whose handiwork is trashing the city’s reputation. Martine LeDuc is nobody’s idea of a detective. As directrice de publicité for Mayor Jean-Luc Boulanger, her job is public relations, not homicide investigation. But when a fourth woman is found reclining on one of the city’s park benches, naked, raped and dead, Martine’s boss calls on her to coordinate communications between Police Director François Desrocher and his own office because everyone else is too busy. Martine, faced with a particularly awkward situation because her deputy, Richard Rousseau, had been seeing research librarian Danielle Leroux, the most recent victim, partners with Détective-lieutenant Julian Fletcher of the city police to track down the murderer. Even though the four victims were of different ages, social classes and walks of life, they all had a connection to the Cité de Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Asylum, notorious in retrospect for its habit half a century earlier of taking in illegitimate children, denying them any education or vocational training, and forcing them to hard labor. The truth about the asylum, the unlikely sleuthing pair discover, is much grimmer than that. Considering that this isn’t Martine’s line of work, or even her hobby, her discoveries come with disconcerting ease and swiftness; she barely takes a wrong step until the villain takes her captive in a tunnel beneath the asylum and injects a cocktail of drugs into her, cackling all the while about what he’s going to do if she’s not rescued in time. An afterword by de Beauvoir roots the mystery in reallife events that sound just as depressing, though a good deal less improbable and melodramatic.

THE DRAGON OF HANDALE

Clark, Cassandra Minotaur (352 pp.) $26.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-250-05886-7 978-1-4668-6338-5 e-book Sister Hildegard has a momentous decision to make as soon as she solves some murders. Newly returned from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela after the death of her lover, the spy Rivera (A Parliament of Spies, 2012), Hildegard is wondering whether she should remain a nun. While she ponders her decision, her prioress sends her to Handale Priory, a remote Benedictine outpost in the north of England, where rumor has it that a dragon has taken up residence in the nearby woods. Upon her arrival, she finds an atmosphere filled with suspicion, a number of badly treated penitents suffering for their sins, and a dead man, one of the masons working on a new addition for the prioress, said to be killed by the dragon. Prioress Basilda lives in luxury along with a few special cronies while the rest of the community suffers deprivations. Hildegard, tasked with keeping up the paperwork, has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and an underhanded scheme concocted by Master Fulke, a benefactor of the priory. The remaining masons are willing to help Hildegard, who soon has the fatal poisoning of the priory’s young priest to add to her list. Along the way, she discovers that Fulke is hiding illegal goods on the priory grounds, feathers destined for the arrows of King Richard II’s enemies, who include many powerful earls. Fulke is also selling women, one of them an orphaned heiress destined to be a pawn in a powerful game. Even after |

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MURDER IN THE QUEEN’S WARDROBE

makeover. No one still alive has ever seen Menendez’s new look, so Fox and O’Hare can’t go after him. Instead, they lure Menendez to them with a tale of a map that locates the wreck of the galleon Santa Isabel, lying on the ocean floor with tons of gold. Of course, it takes a village to create an illusion. They need carpenter Tom Underhill, designer of hyperupscale treehouses, to build a realistic treasure-hunting ship and big-rig aficionado Wilma “Willie” Owens to steer it. Since Willie doesn’t look like any sailor Menendez is likely to have seen, talk show host Boyd Capwell plays Capt. Bridger, alleged pilot of the Seaquest, while Willie works her magic hidden below decks. Kate and Nick also recruit computer graphics whiz Rodney Smoot to design the photorealistic CGI environment that will convince Menendez he’s looking at a billion dollars’ worth of bullion. Last but not least, Jake O’Hare comes on board, if nothing else to make sure that no one messes with his little girl. Evanovich and Goldberg offer another wild ride. Even if you can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys, there’s no doubt who’ll come out on top when the Fox is in the hen house.

Emerson, Kathy Lynn Severn House (256 pp.) $29.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-7278-8459-6

A lady of strong character is recruited as a spy in 1582 England. Rosamond Jaffrey is the bastard daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s former agent Sir Robert Appleton, whose wife is no stranger to mysterious deaths (Face Down Beside St. Anne’s Well, 2006, etc.). Spurning her birth mother’s matchmaking, Rosamond has married and is currently estranged from Rob Jaffrey, who she believes is studying at Cambridge. When she married, Rosamond got control of her fortune and cut herself off from her family. But Master Nicholas Baldwin, a man she thinks of as an uncle, has come to London to recruit her as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s secretary. Baldwin taught Rosamond Russian. She also knows French and has acquired a working knowledge of Polish from her maid. So Baldwin feels she’s the right person to take on the delicate job of watching Lady Mary Hastings, cousin to the queen. The Russians have sent an emissary from Czar Ivan IV to enter into negotiations for his marriage to Lady Mary. Rosamond is anything but eager to become a waiting gentlewoman to Lady Mary, but when Baldwin tells her that Rob is in Moscow and in danger due to the czar’s capricious temper, she agrees. While Lady Mary and her ladies are visiting the queen’s wardrobe to pick out a gown, Rosamond’s contact there dies by poison. Soon afterward, Lady Mary herself is poisoned but survives. Rosamond suspects the other waiting gentlewomen because they’re close to Lady Mary. But which one could possibly want her dead? Despite orders to ignore the murder, Rosamond investigates and puts herself in danger. Emerson’s headstrong sleuth, first introduced in her Lady Appleton series, begins a diverting series of her own with lots of twists and turns and Tudor tidbits.

A MURDER OF MAGPIES

Flanders, Judith Minotaur (288 pp.) $24.99 | $11.99 e-book | Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-250-05645-0 978-1-4668-6028-5 e-book Even in the insular world of book publishing, murder has its place. British book editor Sam Clair has her routine—she gets up early to be in the office with her second cup of coffee before anyone else arrives—and she has her staple authors, those trusted to turn out best-sellers year after year. Kit Lovell, a feisty investigative writer deeply rooted in the fashion world, has just turned in one such manuscript, a book exposing the libelous inner workings of fashion giant Vernet, as well as evidence that the death of its head man, Rodrigo Alemán, was no accident. There are many people who would benefit from this never being published, and soon, a courier delivering the manuscript is dead. When Kit’s apartment is broken into, followed by Sam’s, it becomes clear that more than the manuscript’s future is at stake, especially when Kit misses an important work lunch. Sam won’t stand for her best author and good friend being kidnapped—or worse—and she steps in to investigate. Flanders creates a layered mystery in which fingers can be pointed in a variety of directions, from seedy lawyers to Alemán’s own brother. Helping Sam are her spitfire mother, Helena, her sweet but isolated upstairs neighbor, Mr. Rudiger, and Detective Jake Field, with whom she ultimately starts a relationship (though their building attraction is curiously never shown). With so much to wrap up, especially as Kit’s troubles are found to extend beyond his controversial reporting, the end result feels cluttered; in the rush to the finish line, delightful secondary characters get lost in the mix.

THE JOB

Evanovich, Janet; Goldberg, Lee Bantam (320 pp.) $28.00 | $12.99 e-book | Nov. 18, 2014 978-0-345-54312-7 978-0-345-54314-1 e-book An FBI agent leads a motley crew that includes her father into battle against a drug lord no one’s ever seen. Kate O’Hare (The Chase, 2014, etc.) will do pretty much anything for the job, including donning a pushup bra to foil a couple of well-dressed bank robbers in Tarzana. So she doesn’t blink when Nick Fox, nonpareil con man–turned-informer, suggests going after Lester Menendez, a Colombian thug who dropped out of sight—literally—after killing the team of surgeons who gave him a full-body 40

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SHADY CROSS

The first novel by historian Flanders (The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, 2014, etc.), though a bit frazzled, is full of charm and characters worth visiting again.

Hankins, James Thomas & Mercer (334 pp.) $15.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-4778-2098-8 978-1-4778-7097-6 e-book

PURSUIT IN PROVENCE

Gobbell, Phyllis Five Star (368 pp.) $25.95 | Mar. 18, 2015 978-1-4328-3026-7

A low-level crook finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping plot and must choose whether to save a child or his own neck. Stokes isn’t the kind of man you’d want to have a beer with; in fact, he’d probably steal your wallet at the end of the night. Hankins (Jack of Spades, 2013, etc.) goes to great lengths to paint the small-town criminal as some kind of neonoir antihero: He’s gruff, practically monosyllabic, and his intentions are definitely not good. But instead of being endearingly villainous—or even haplessly troubled—Stokes is merely a caricature of a “bad guy.” After fleecing an out-of-towner for a round of drinks and all the cash in his wallet following a long night at the bar, Stokes takes a ride on his one prize possession, an expensive motorcycle, and inadvertently causes a wreck. The other driver—a man Stokes later identifies as Paul Jenkins—is killed. In the car, Stokes finds a backpack full of cash—$350,000 to be precise—and a cellphone. Since he owes one of the local loan sharks—the small Indiana town inexplicably has two—$100,000, Stokes plans to pay off his debt and take off. Then the phone rings, and he realizes the money is ransom for Paul’s 6-year-old daughter, Amanda. Trouble is, the kidnappers want the full amount. Stokes races around town against the clock to find another hundred grand, stumbling through a series of shockingly coincidental events. Even with a child in jeopardy, the tension here is entirely manufactured, and any sense of urgency is deflated early on when Hankins fails to render Stokes beyond tired stereotypes. (Agent: Michael Bourret)

A vacation in Provence turns deadly. Jordan Mayfair is a widow, an architect and the mother of five. Foreseeing an empty nest, she’s delighted to accompany her uncle Alexander Carlyle, who writes travel books, to Provence for a long-delayed vacation. Things go wrong from the start when Alex misplaces his passport and they miss their direct flight to Paris. Rushing off the commuter train in Brussels, Jordan forgets her suitcase, and when she goes back for it, the man in the compartment ignores her as the train pulls out. In Paris, they have dinner with Felicity, Jordan’s sorority sister, and Barry Blake, a Nashville entrepreneur. Jordan disconcertingly glimpses the same cowboy on the street she’d seen at the train station. The next day, he’s killed in a hit-and-run. After a shopping trip to replenish her wardrobe, Jordan and Alex take the train to the lovely town of Fontvieille and check into L’hotel du Soleil. They enjoy the historical sites, stunning countryside and delightful meals, but Jordan’s luggage is ransacked, and she’s blindsided when Felicity and Barry suddenly arrive in town. Barry’s soon shot dead in his hotel room, pictures are stolen from a local museum, and Jordan suspects she’s being followed. Her chance meeting with Paul Broussard, the wealthy, handsome patron of the museum, carries her off to a romantic dinner in Paris, but now she’s uncertain whom she can trust. Jordan finally learns from her daughter’s boyfriend, who worked for Barry, that Barry asked him to slip something utterly unexpected into her missing luggage. Now Jordan knows why she’s being followed, but only a sleuthing American lady she befriends at the hotel stands between her and terrible danger. Gobbell’s debut, first in a planned series, combines mystery, informative travelogue and enjoyable characters with just a few too many red herrings.

WITCH UPON A STAR

Harlow, Jennifer Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (312 pp.) $14.99 paper | Mar. 8, 2015 978-0-7387-3613-6 True love turns into great danger for a witch who chooses a domestic life over one of vampire drama. This prequel to a prequel (What’s a Witch to Do?, 2013) tells the tale of Anna Olmstead, a young witch who grows up in a nonmagical family. After she performs a spell for a mysterious visitor, the singularly named Asher, he decides to spirit her away, rechristen her Anna Asher and raise her as his own. Anna is thrilled to get away from her abusive family and even more excited to join Asher in his lifestyle of culture, travel and adventure. She’s even willing to say goodbye to stability and daytime activities, which are pretty much ruled out by the fact |

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STAR FALL

that Asher is a vampire. As Anna matures, her relationship with Asher changes from filial to romantic, which even Harlow acknowledges is a little creepy. Content in her simple life with Asher, Anna waits patiently for the time when he’ll turn her into a vampire. Though Asher too wishes for contentment, the simple things in life never satisfy him, and his behavior drives Anna away. Years later, Anna is happily married to Nathan West and is the mother of two young sons when a hit man’s kidnapping attempt that comes out of the blue alerts her that Asher intends to reclaim his place in her life no matter what the cost. Lacking Harlow’s usual humor or any strong roots in her home base, the town of Goodnight, this story works more as a stand-alone for readers who prefer Vampire Romance Lite.

Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia Severn House (256 pp.) $29.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-7278-8460-2 DI Bill Slider asks why the thief who killed West London television personality Rowland Egerton in his home ignored his wallet and most of his treasures and made off with exactly two items. Egerton, it turns out, didn’t know nearly as much about antiques as you’d think from watching Going, Going, Gone and Antiques Galore! His gift for charming people enough to sell them anything made him a perfect complement to John Lavender, his wooden, knowledgeable partner in the Fulham Road shop whose operations Egerton’s success on the telly largely subsidized. Now the partnership has been severed by a letter opener snatched from Egerton’s table. His alert cleaner, Molly Bean, notices two absences from his extensive collection of antiquities: a Fabergé malachite box and a Berthe Morisot painting. Neither of the missing pieces is valueless, of course, but Egerton’s killer passed up many more valuable items to take them. Was it Dale Sholto, the daughter Egerton abandoned on his way to the top? Rupert Melling, the equally charming antiquities expert he quarreled with publicly? Felicity Marsh, the television presenter whom rumor linked him to romantically? Philip Masterson, the former Minister for the Arts, whose wife, Antiques Galore! expert Julia “Bunny” Rabbet, died of a brain hemorrhage a month ago? Or was it one of the blackmail victims Egerton, nee Phil Harris, delighted in collecting from and tormenting? Though the answers aren’t nearly as interesting as the questions themselves, Harrod-Eagles (Hard Going, 2014, etc.) is never less than expert in presenting suspects, combing through the evidence, varying the tone and showing new ways that Egerton was even more of a bounder than you suspected.

WHO BURIES THE DEAD

Harris, C.S. Obsidian (352 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-451-41756-5

A collector of grisly relics meets the same fate as his most cherished items in this Regency tale. When the body of a man parted most ignobly from his head is found next to a strap from the coffin of Charles I near the Bloody Bridge in London, it’s definitely a case for Sebastian St. Cyr, former soldier, current Viscount Devlin and future Earl of Hendon. The victim, Stanley Preston, was a cousin to the Home Secretary and former prime minister, and the investigation of his murder calls for someone with Devlin’s dash, good looks, golden eyes (so different from the St. Cyr blue) and entree into the best homes in London. Preston’s murder also brings Devlin to some of the most unsavory neighborhoods— and takes him far from his reform-minded wife, Hero, and their infant son. The owner of a plantation in Jamaica, Preston was also well-known for his acquisition of odd souvenirs of history, including, it’s rumored, the head of Oliver Cromwell. Now that someone apparently enticed Preston to the bridge with the promise of an especially fine specimen, Devlin must work to sort out the roles played by a ruthless purveyor of ghoulish curios, a young man who might or might not be a relative of Devlin, the young soldier forbidden to marry Preston’s daughter and the daughter herself. Sedate banker Henry Austen may have more information than he’s revealing, and Austen’s sister Jane has a secret of her own. But a link to Devlin’s former commanding officer increasingly drags the viscount back into the darkness of his own past, and not even his aptly named wife may have the power to save him. Disembodied heads and royal corpses play almost as great a role as the living characters in the 10th installment of St. Cyr’s adventures (Why Kings Confess, 2014, etc.). Even though a long-overdue face-off falls curiously flat, the complex, brooding protagonist still dominates the action.

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COLD BETRAYAL

Jance, J.A. Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $25.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4767-4504-6 Ali Reynolds and her friend Sister Anselm are back, this time to rescue an elderly widow and a runaway teen. When Ali’s daughter-in-law, Athena, asks for help with her grandmother Betsy Peterson, Ali’s willing, even though she lives in Sedona, Arizona, and Betsy in Bemidji, Minnesota. Betsy’s on her own in the farmhouse she and her late husband bought, and she’s convinced that someone tried to murder her by leaving the gas burners on. The local police think she’s a batty old dame, and only Athena and Ali take her part. While Ali’s |


“The more toes Duffy steps on, the higher the stakes rise.... ” from gun street girl

Kirby delivers a debut that’s trickier than an R.A. Dickey knuckleball.

husband’s security company is setting up a surveillance system for Betsy, Ali’s friend Sister Anselm Becker becomes a patient advocate for Enid Tower, a pregnant teen hit by a car as she ran away from a polygamist commune near the isolated region around Colorado City. For political reasons, the state lets the commune of 25 or 30 households—calling itself The Family— govern itself. As Sister Anselm learns, the women are forced to marry as young as 15, become broodmares, stay illiterate, live in servitude and shun the outside world. Once Enid’s given birth and she’s under Sister Anselm’s protection, she and two other runaways fill in Ali and Anselm about The Family and the fate of those girls who try to escape. While Ali’s trying to discover who’s emptying Betsy’s bank accounts back in Minnesota, she helps fend off Enid’s husband, who wants his youngest wife and latest child back. A shocking discovery about how The Family affords the commune’s upkeep brings Ali and Anselm even more help than they had hoped for—and leads them straight into more danger than they expected. The two unrelated plotlines give the impression that Jance (Moving Target, 2014, etc.) didn’t have enough of either for a complete story. Yet Ali’s good heart and sense of justice combine with well-paced suspense to create a satisfying whole greater than the sum of its parts.

GUN STREET GIRL

McKinty, Adrian Seventh Street/Prometheus (280 pp.) $15.95 paper | $11.99 e-book Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-63388-000-9 978-1-63388-001-6 e-book DI Sean Duffy (In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, 2014, etc.), stuck in the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1985, struggles to close a murder case that keeps opening

wider and wider. “How can you investigate a murder in a time of incipient civil war?” wonders hard-used Duffy. Anywhere else, the shootings of millionaire bookmaker Ray Kelly and his wife would be front-page news for a week; in Ulster during the latest round of the Troubles, they barely make a ripple. The apparent suicide of their missing son, Michael, simply heightens the pressure to close the case by blaming him for their deaths. But Duffy, who was brought aboard the case over his own protests only to keep Larne RUC from unfairly grabbing it from DS McCrabban, isn’t satisfied. Once he learns that just before Michael suddenly dropped out of Oxford, he was a guest at a wild party at which drugs claimed the life of agriculture minister’s daughter Anastasia Coleman, there’s no stopping Duffy. Nothing deters him—not beatings, gunfire, threats from visiting American agents whose identities are clearly bogus, or the caresses and promises of Belfast Telegraph reporter Sara Prentice, who’s eager to move off the women’s page, or Kate Albright, who’s equally eager to recruit Duffy for MI5. The more toes Duffy steps on, the higher the stakes rise, and soon he’s looking into the theft of half a dozen missiles from a not-so-secure site in Marseilles and putting scowls on a lot of well-connected faces. The results involve less detection than head-butting, with stonewalling merely the most obvious clue that Duffy’s getting somewhere. Alert readers won’t need McKinty’s afterword to see the many motifs ripped from last generation’s headlines. Nor will they be surprised to see Duffy’s grim, lively fourth case remain defiantly inconclusive to the last drop of gallows humor.

THE PERFECT GAME

Kirby, Leslie Dana Poisoned Pen (340 pp.) $24.95 | $14.95 paper | $9.99 e-book $22.95 Lg. Prt. | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4642-0175-2 978-1-4642-0177-6 paper 978-1-61595-443-8 e-book 978-1-4642-0176-9 Lg. Prt. A trauma doctor finds her own life on the critical list when her glamorous older

sister is murdered. Now that Lauren Rose is a resident at Phoenix Good Samaritan Hospital, she hopes she’ll finally find some time to spend with her older sister, Liz, who’s married to Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Jake Wakefield. That hope ends when Detective Wallace of the Scottsdale PD walks into the ER during Lauren’s shift and brusquely informs her that her sister is dead. Although the killing looks like the result of a botched burglary, handsome Wallace and his surly partner, Boyd, keep interviewing Lauren about her movements the night Liz died. She finally consults criminal lawyer Dennis Hopkins, who advises her to dummy up. The tabloids have a field day, while local TV news reports point out that Lauren was recently named Liz’s sole beneficiary. It seems as if Jake is her only friend. He invites Lauren to the Spirit of MADD award dinner in Liz’s honor and encourages her to keep him from rattling around alone in the palatial home he shared with Liz, where the two bond over Ben and Jerry’s and their shared love of baseball. But even Jake can’t keep the police off Lauren’s case, and she quickly finds out who has her back and who doesn’t. |

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THE MOUTH OF THE CROCODILE

uncharacteristic abruptness. Wildey feels guilty but not guilty enough to cut Sarie loose. Meanwhile, Sarie’s suspicious brother, Marty, notes the change in his sister’s behavior and wonders what she could be up to. Soon after Wildey sets Sarie up to trap users with fake packets of drugs, Sarie, chafing under the officer’s control, starts to revolt in little ways. A close brush with mortality pulls her up short. Sensing her skittishness, Wildey begins to monitor her more closely. As the two seem headed for a showdown, Sarie’s family begins probing the situation, which can’t possibly end well. Inventive Swierczynski, author of the popular Charlie Hardie trilogy (Point and Shoot, 2013, etc.), breathes fresh life into a familiar plot with shifting perspectives, sly humor, puckish chapter titles and a crackerjack pace.

Pearce, Michael Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-7278-8463-3

1913. The Mamur Zapt escorts a nervous pasha home from a small town in the Sudan, where life is as predictably unpredictable as it is in Egypt. Pasha Hilmi is convinced that someone has it in for him. First someone tried to filch the briefcase he’s carrying, filled with sensitive trade documents, and then someone pushed his man Sayyid into the river, drowning him, perhaps in revenge, perhaps mistaking him for the Pasha. Nicholson, a senior administrator of Egyptian Railways, offers the Pasha, accompanied by the Mamur Zapt—Gareth Cadwallader Owen, the head of the Khedive’s Secret Police—the use of the Royal Coach back to the presumed safety of Cairo. Also along for the ride are Nicholson’s schoolboy son, Jamie; Parquet diplomatic dogsbody Yasin al-Jawad and his high-toned daughter, Aisha, and the usual retinue of servants and flunkies. The trip grinds to a premature halt when the train gets stuck in a sandstorm. The passengers are rescued in good time, but the briefcase is stolen in the confusion, laying the groundwork for the far more leisurely and characteristic second half of the story, in which the Mamur Zapt uses every resource available to find out not who stole the briefcase—that’s pretty obvious—but who hired the thieves and why. A curiosity among Owen’s 17 decorous period cases (The Bride Box, 2013, etc.): half high-risk adventure, half lowimpact sleuthing, with the Mamur Zapt overshadowed by his hireling’s investment-minded wife, the Pasha’s sheltered but charming lady, and the alarmingly precocious Aisha.

CAT OUT OF HELL

Truss, Lynne Melville House (240 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-61219-442-4 Punctuation czar Truss (The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes!, 2007, etc.) turns her very special talents to a cat mystery with a twist: The cats are culprits rather than sleuths or mascots. Everyone knows that most cats haven’t had the powers of Nietzschean Überkatzen—nine full lives, the ability to speak, the whole megillah—for hundreds of years. In every generation, however, a few Überkatzen arise, like Roger, who’s already used up eight of his lives, and the Captain, the East London mentor who put Roger repeatedly to death to test his mettle. When Roger takes up with Coventry watercolorist Joanna Caton-Jones and her actor brother, Will, aka Wiggy, things are bound to get out of hand, and boy, do they ever. By the time newly widowed periodicals librarian Alec “Bear” Charlesworth stumbles onto the scene, Jo and her border terrier, Jeremy, are dead, Wiggy is wiggy, and the police suspect Wiggy of everything from murder to raving lunacy. Why does every human whose path crosses Roger’s lose the will to live? It’s up to Alec and his faithful dog, Watson, back home in Cambridge and armed with a stolen copy of Nine Lives: The Gift of Satan, to join Wiggy in unraveling a conspiracy that places this latest round of skullduggery in an ancient succession of Überkazen and their nefarious Cat Masters. A Chinese box of anti-narrative that reads like M.R. James on bad acid with a laugh track, complete with demonic cats, murderous librarians and badly overmatched amateur sleuths.

CANARY

Swierczynski, Duane Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (400 pp.) $26.00 | $12.99 e-book | Feb. 24, 2015 978-0-316-40320-7 978-0-316-40317-7 e-book When police coerce a whip-smart college student into being a confidential informant, they get more than they bargained for. In a long, rambling and cheeky letter to her mother, Sarie Holland describes her arrest and incarceration on a drug charge. A more prosaic account from the perspective of undercover narcotics officer Benjamin F. Wildey counterpoints segments of Sarie’s letter. Wildey gives his catch a cheap burner phone and demands that she become his informant or face harsh prosecution. Shrewd Sarie immediately begins living a double life, lying to her clueless father as she fields persistent texts from Wildey and behaves with 44

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LETHAL BEAUTY

science fiction and fantasy

Wiehl, Lis; Henry, April Thomas Nelson (336 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-59554-905-1 A prosecutor focused on the murder of a young prostitute uncovers what could be a human trafficking ring. When making her final arguments in the case against David Leacham, King County prosecutor Mia Quinn tries to forge a connection with every one of the jurors. Mia wants each of them to consider what happened when David killed immigrant prostitute Dandan Lee. Though she gets eye contact from 11 of the people in the box, one refuses to meet her gaze. Dandan is one of many people who have been brought into the U.S. through the Americanized Chinese restaurant Jade Garden by owner Kenny Zhong. Zhong’s tactics involve charging exorbitant fees to the women he smuggles into the country and then forcing them into slave labor to repay the debt. Mia has no idea that this is what underlies Dandan’s case until she gets wind of something gone wrong from restaurant employee Lihong. Now Mia suspects the rogue juror’s reticence to convict may be part of a larger conspiracy, especially when the body of an Asian man washes up on the shore of Puget Sound. Mia’s not the only one out for justice; Bo, the mother Dandan was never able to reunite with, has her own vision of justice that may be beyond the law. Wiehl’s partnership with Henry brings out her humanity without the supernatural side that emerges in her other books written with Pete Nelson. Fans of Mia Quinn (A Deadly Business, 2014, etc.) will find this a well-considered addition to the series.

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EMPIRE

Connolly, John; Ridyard, Jennifer Emily Bestler/Atria (448 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-4767-5715-5 Series: Chronicles of the Invaders, 2 Second in a just-about independently intelligible alien-warfare trilogy (Conquest, 2014) from Connolly (the Charlie Parker mysteries, etc.) and wife Ridyard, who offer a helpful short summary in the first couple of pages. Advanced human-aliens, the Illyri, have conquered the Earth. Internally, the Illyri Military and the Diplomatic Corps tussle for dominance and plot to ally themselves with a third power, the Nairene Sisterhood, a secretive female society of knowledge-brokers—who bear an uncomfortable resemblance to Frank Herbert’s Bene Gesserit. Resistance to the conquest, however, smolders, particularly in Scotland, where Syl Hellais, the governor’s daughter and the first Illyri to be born on Earth, raged against the constraints imposed on her. Syl—having learned that many senior Illyri are infected with an alien parasite that apparently enhances their abilities—escaped and became involved with resistance fighter Paul Kerr. Having been captured, Paul and others agreed to be trained as fighters for the Illyri and were sent millions of light-years away. Syl was sent to join the Sisterhood in their convent, the Marque, a moon orbiting the Illyri home world. Paul vows, despite all obstacles, to return and claim Syl, but he soon learns that Illyri politics are vastly more complex and dangerous than anybody on Earth dreamed—and that there exists another alien race of unknown powers and purpose. Syl, meanwhile, concealing her immense psychic powers, learns that the Sisterhood is encouraging younger sisters to develop psychic powers and to employ them with sadistic cruelty. And they know more about the alien parasites than anybody suspects. This satisfyingly complex backdrop spins up into an intriguing web of plots and mysteries as the main characters grow along with the story, along with virile if sometimes rather implausible action. More disappointing is the way the authors allow an initially taut narrative to accumulate flab and crisp prose to degenerate into hackneyed gloats and phrases. Should particularly appeal to the more youthful section of the audience, devotees of the Kevin Anderson–Brian Herbert epics and suchlike.

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Adro is being invaded by overwhelming forces—armies, gods, dark magic—from Kez. Again, the narrative focuses on three key figures. Field Marshal Tamas, a powder mage, one who eats or snorts gunpowder in order to gain magic powers, having been trapped behind enemy lines and facing annihilation, returns to the capital, Adopest, only to find it occupied by yet another invading army. His new allies, the Deliv, won’t arrive for weeks, and in the meantime, his beleaguered, fractious army faces not only the innumerable Kez armies, but internal dissent and outright treachery. Among other problems, the traitors are pursuing Tamas’ son, Taniel Two-shot, a powder mage and master marksman, who finds his own powers growing even without the boost offered by gunpowder, and Taniel’s companion, the mute, barbarian female witch Ka-poel, who, by means of her incomprehensible magic, has confined the terrifying god Kresimir. And Tamas charges retired police inspector Adamat, who’s wrestling with his own personal tragedy, with investigating the situation in Adopest. It’s complicated by the fact that, at the beginning, none of the three knows whether any of the others are still alive. So, fully realized characters contend with a stunning tangle of plots, counterplots, perfidies and conundrums against a highly textured backdrop. The action sequences that intersperse all this are as ferocious as ever, and it’s so inventive that it sometimes seems as though McClellan’s doing it just because he can. A slam-bang conclusion to an outstanding trilogy.

Martin, George R.R.; Dozois, Gardner—Eds. Bantam (608 pp.) $30.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-345-53728-7 “What a world,” says a character in this lively old-school sci-fi anthology. “It’s like a circle in Dante’s hell.” Thronemaster Martin (The Ice Dragon, 2014, etc.) and anthologist/editor Dozois (Supermen: Tales of the Posthuman Future, 2002, etc.) plumb a promising premise: Given that science now tells us the humanoid extraterrestrials of classic sci-fi couldn’t really live on the methane and ammonia fumes of the actual planet, let’s return to the glory days of Burroughs, Bradbury, Brackett and company (and that’s just the B’s) and “rekindle the wonderful, gorgeously colored dream of Old Venus.” That old world presupposes an ocean populated by all kinds of wondrous dreams and structures; it implicates unimaginably ancient civilizations that unmake themselves, inexplicably disassembling their famed cities: “Where once was Twi-land,” Michael Cassutt writes in a nicely eldritch yarn that would have done Lovecraft proud, “would now be Noon, or Nightside.” The earthlings who come to Venus would be different from the ones we know, of course; Paul McAuley depicts a scenario in which the USSR and the U.S. are still bitter rivals in space, and moreover, he tells that tale from the Russian point of view: “You know there was no American plot. You know that the miners became infected with something that drove them crazy. You know the survivors are hiding, like the poor man up in the crane.” The people who come to Venus, naturally, find ways to mate with the locals, which fuels yarns propelled by beings of mixed heritage, a timely matter on Earth as well. The strategy of putting modern writers to work on old-fashioned themes could go south in all kinds of ways, but all the participants acquit themselves well, if sometimes, as with the opening to Tobias S. Buckell’s “Pale Blue Memories,” with a hint of tongue in cheek: “I grabbed the arms of my acceleration chair as we spun, our silver bullet of a rocket ship vomiting debris and air into the cold night of Venus’s stratosphere.” Good fun all around. Now on to Mars, Saturn, Jupiter....

MADNESS IN SOLIDAR

Modesitt Jr., L.E. Tor (496 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-7653-7985-6 978-1-4668-7061-1 e-book Series: Imager Portfolio, 9 The ninth book in the Imager series moves on some 380 years from the previous entry (Antiagon Fire, 2013). For a century, the influence of Solidar’s Collegium of Imagers has waned, due to weak leadership, lack of ambition and a willingness to contribute nothing except political loyalty in return for the Rex’s monetary support. To his own surprise, Alastar, a talented senior imager (wizard) who’s all but unknown in the capital, L’Excelsis, and has little knowledge of conditions there, learns he has been selected as the new Maitre. On his arrival, Alastar finds that imager training has languished, and senior imagers with divided loyalties have allowed factionalism and a culture of bullying to take hold among the student body. Rex Ryen, the stubborn and intemperate ruler, insists on imposing a huge tax increase on the High Holders (landowners) and factors (merchants), a demand the High Holders contemptuously disregard. Ryen angrily orders Alastar to assassinate the High Holders one by one until they comply—a command Alastar cannot obey but cannot dismiss. Neither the Rex nor the Holders consider the imagers a threat. As Alastar tries to unravel the bewildering yet overwhelmingly

THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC

McClellan, Brian Orbit/Little, Brown (592 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 10, 2015 978-0-316-21912-9 Series: Powder Mage, 3

Final part of the Powder Mage trilogy (The Crimson Campaign, 2014, etc.) about—well, mix the American Revolution with the Civil War, stir in gods, magic, power politics and what-all, and you’ll get the flavor. 46

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“Moorcock’s many fans will relish the complicated blurring of autobiographical fact and fantastical fiction....” from whispering swarm

important tangle of politics and familial relationships that swirl around the Holders and the Rex, he learns that the army— swollen to unrealistic proportions, rebellious and itching for a fight—might intervene. And renegade imager Desyrk, with ties to both the military and the Rex’s family, threatens both the Collegium and the Rex. With meticulously wrought characters and complex, logically developed plotting that towers above the fantasy norm, it’s easy to forgive the author, here, his unusually pedestrian prose, stiff dialogue and flat-footed tendency to dwell on the nondeist religion practiced by everyone. Despite the imperfections, Modesitt once again delivers an engrossing power struggle negotiated by a virtuous and talented man committed to achieving the greater good by way of the least harm.

THE WHISPERING SWARM

Moorcock, Michael Tor (480 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 13, 2015 978-0-7653-2477-1 Series: Sanctuary of the White Friars, 1 A semiautobiographical, semifantastical adventure by a legendary author, set in both real and imagined Londons. In Moorcock’s (Phoenix in Obsidian, 2014, etc.) latest book, a young man named Michael Moorcock lives and works in post–world War II London, making a name for himself as a writer and editor of gradually more and more radical fantasy and science fiction— and slipping in and out of an alternate London known as Alsacia, or the Sanctuary. In this hidden section of the city, time seems to flow differently, death is almost unknown, and folk heroes like Dick Turpin can often be found drinking down at The Swan With Two Necks. Oh, and there’s a girl, Moll Midnight, who seems to have stepped right out of Michael’s dreams. Alsacia— and Molly—becomes a kind of tempting retreat from real life, a place where Michael can participate in grand adventures and rescue romance from the clutches of modernity. Moorcock’s many fans will relish the complicated blurring of autobiographical fact and fantastical fiction, but more casual readers may find themselves impatient for Michael to stop editing groundbreaking magazines and get back to the swashbuckling. There’s a complex and beautiful book in here, with an unusually adult perspective on fantasy as nostalgia for what never was and cannot be again. But many readers will find their impatience at the initially slow-moving plot keeps them from fully enjoying it. This first book in a planned trilogy requires, but also rewards, patient readers and holds out plenty of promise for its sequels.

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ICEFALL

Philip, Gillian Tor (448 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 24, 2015 978-0-7653-3325-4 978-1-4299-67921 e-book Series: Rebel Angels, 4 The concluding part of the Rebel Angels series (Wolfsbane, 2014, etc.) which, following a fine opening book, has slipped further downhill with each successive entry. In the Sithe realm, sadistic, soul-sucking witch-queen Kate NicNiven inches closer to her ultimate goal: control of the Veil that separates her land from the human world. What nobody knows yet is that she’s forfeited her own soul to an evil oracular child-mummy known as the Darkfall. Exiled on the human side, battered Sithe warrior Seth MacGregor knows, and we’re frequently reminded, that his soul is slowly bleeding away thanks to Kate’s machinations. Along with his son, Rory; Rory’s girlfriend/cousin, Hannah; Seth’s bound partner, the witch Finn; and others of his clann, Seth endures a number of provocations from Kate’s forces, all designed to tempt or coerce a confrontation. Which, as is obvious to everybody except, apparently, the characters themselves, is inevitable. However, Seth and company—each one of them a keeper of potentially earthshattering personal or family secrets—spend the first 200 pages growling, bickering, denying, confessing or not telling people things they really need to know. Once again Philip ramps up the intensity of the narrative, but by this juncture, the plot’s lost just about all claim to intelligibility, what with the unrelenting tangle of passions, alliances and viciousness expressed through multiple narrators and viewpoints. Teenage angst with bells and whistles—still, it’s the formula that series regulars know and relish. (Agent: Alexandra Devlin)

THE SUICIDE EXHIBITION

Richards, Justin Dunne/St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | $12.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-05920-8 978-1-4668-6377-4 e-book What if Hitler’s inner circle, already obsessed with the occult, sought to harness the power of an alien race to help the Nazis win the war? In Richards’ (Dr. Who: Silhouette, 2014, etc.) sci-fi thriller set during World War II, only a select few know that the battle is not only between Allies and Axis, but between the human race and the extraterrestrial Ubermenschen. Led by Heinrich Himmler, the Nazis begin to excavate ancient burial grounds to find and liberate these alien “Supermen.” Only a motley band of British soldiers and civilians, members of the top-secret “Station Z,” can stop them, of course, but as science fiction & fantasy

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they fight against time to locate the central alien headquarters on Earth, they begin to realize that the Nazis have no real control over these beings. Rather, the aliens are testing humankind to see whether they’re worthy adversaries. The novel ends with a cliffhanger that clearly sets up more adventures and horror to come. Richards delivers a cinematic tale clearly written with the big screen in mind. He incorporates several actual highranking members of the Nazi party as well as spiritualist Aleister Crowley, and these people, along with the technical names of aircraft, lend an underlying authenticity to the black-and-white, popcorn-movie mood. The plot hangs together relatively well, though there are moments of silliness, and the action scenes are unnecessarily fragmented (again, they seem written for the movie). Richards’ true talent lies in crafting campy but believable dialogue which imbues the novel with a real sense of character. There’s also a certain slyness that suggests that the author doesn’t take himself or the subject matter too seriously. Part Indiana Jones, part X-Files, part Catch-22, it’s good campy fun.

catch your mental breath, mentally blink or rock back on your mental heels?) but is a fairly successful example of cross-genre experiments in which classic mystery and historical romance and even fantasy tropes are combined. The solution to the mystery is wonderfully unpredictable, and both Thomas and Lucilla are flawed and likable characters. A fun and fast-moving read, and better edited than many of Laurens’ past efforts. Highly recommended.

THE PERFECT HOMECOMING

London, Julia Montlake Romance (356 pp.) $12.95 paper | Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-4778-2161-9

Beautiful Emma Tyler has a flinty persona and a naughty secret; when her past catches up to her, she flees to her family’s ranch, determined to hide from the world, especially Cooper Jessup, the one man she might want but can’t face. Considered one of the most beautiful women in glamorous Los Angeles, Emma is known for her prickly, tell-it-like-itis personality and wanton reputation. Though she’s basically friendless, she’s managed to find an employment niche with her straight-talk problem-solving and has settled into an upscale if soulless existence as an event planner. Emma considers herself unlovable and has taken to seducing powerful older men who just want her for trophy sex, which only solidifies her own selfloathing. Most encounters end quickly, many of them end badly, and nearly all of them end with Emma stealing a memento from her partner, a sort of specialized kleptomania that she doesn’t understand but can’t help. When one incident nearly lands her in big trouble, she quits her job and flees LA for Pine River, Colorado, and the decrepit ranch she co-owns with two half sisters she barely knows. Which is where Cooper tracks her down, in pursuit of another trinket which is extremely valuable to an important client. Denying she has the object, Emma is doubly rattled. First, because Cooper believes she has it. Second, because Cooper is the one man she ever felt truly attracted to in her old life, because he’s the only one she ever felt a “real” connection to. Meanwhile, Emma is discovering that forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love—from Cooper, her sisters, a special friend in Pine River and, ultimately, herself—might be what she needs to create a new, easier, more content version of herself. London continues her acclaimed Pine River series with a moving story that explores dysfunction, deep emotions and even terminal illness with empathy, sensitivity and insight. Intense, lovely and poignant.

r om a n c e THE TEMPTING OF THOMAS CARRICK

Laurens, Stephanie Harlequin MIRA (384 pp.) $7.99 paper | Feb. 24, 2015 978-0-7783-1782-1

A straight-laced Glasgow businessman is drawn back into clan politics and a romance with a woman from a neighboring estate. Laurens (By Winter’s Light, 2014, etc.) returns to her popular Cynster series with this romantic mystery set in mid-19th-century Scotland. Thomas Carrick is looking for “the right sort of wife for a gentleman of the type he intended to become—a pillar of the wealthy business community.” But a plea for help from farmers on his uncle’s estate causes him to abandon Glasgow suddenly. His wastrel cousins are taking advantage of their father the laird’s lingering illness to plunder the clan’s coffers. Thomas is determined to set things right, even though it means encountering the witchy woman on the next estate, Lucilla Cynster, who has held him in thrall for many years. Lucilla, on the other hand, has been waiting for Thomas to figure out that a marriage between them has been preordained by the Lady, a local deity embodied by Lucilla’s mother. She believes Thomas is her consort, chosen by the Lady to be the future caretaker of Lucilla and her people. Together, they work to solve the mystery of recent foul deeds on Carrick land and have fabulous sex around the edges. The book falls prey to the annoying tics common in Laurens’ prose (can you really sigh inwardly, 48

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nonfiction THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD A Memoir

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Alexander, Elizabeth Grand Central Publishing (224 pp.) $26.00 | $12.99 e-book | Apr. 14, 2015 978-1-4555-9987-5 978-1-4555-9985-1 e-book

SPINSTER by Kate Bolick.................................................................... 51 YOUNG ELIOT by Robert Crawford.................................................... 57 CRUCIBLE OF COMMAND by William C. Davis..............................58

A distinguished poet meditates on the early death of her beloved artist husband. A Brooklyn psychic once told Alexander (Literature and Culture/Yale Univ.; Praise Song for the Day, 2009, etc.) that she would meet a mate sooner than she realized. What the psychic did not say was that Eritrean-born Ficre Ghebreyesus would bring her a love and fulfillment that transcended anything she had ever known. Though hailing from different worlds—Alexander from Harlem and Ficre from East Africa—the two blended their lives to create a kind of trans-Atlantic “karmic balance.” Alexander firmly grounded the husband who had seen war and poverty in his nation, and Ficre gave his American wife an abundance of family while connecting her to a history of black warriors who had never known slavery. Together, they built and inhabited an extraordinarily colorful, multicultural space made of books, art, food and friends. But then, 15 years into their marriage and just four days after his 50th birthday, an outwardly robust Ficre died of a heart attack. Now a widow with two teenage sons, Alexander began the lengthy, often wrenching process of mourning the man who had been the “light of [her] world.” With tenderness and fierce poetic precision, Alexander recalls the hours, days, months and years after her husband’s death. Grief-stricken to the point she could not produce the poetry she loved, the author marked the passage of time by observing whether she or her children still cried over his passing. At the same time, she celebrates how the love she and Ficre shared helped heal “every old wound with magic disappearing powers” so that the descendant of slaves and the survivor of a tragic war could go on with their lives. In letting go of—but never forgetting—her husband, Alexander realizes a simple truth: that death only deepens the richness of a life journey that must push on into the future. A delicate, existentially elegiac memoir.

THE LAST UNICORN by William deBuys...........................................59 GALILEO’S MIDDLE FINGER by Alice Dreger.................................. 60 THE QUARTET by Joseph J. Ellis....................................................................61 ALL THE WILD THAT REMAINS by David Gessner..........................61 FUTURE CRIMES by Marc Goodman..................................................62 SWANSONG 1945 by Walter Kempowski......................................... 69 ONE NATION UNDER GOD by Kevin K. Kruse.................................70 SHRINKS by Jeffrey A. Lieberman; Ogi Ogas.....................................70 BETWEEN YOU & ME by Mary Norris............................................... 73 MINISTERS AT WAR by Jonathan Schneer.........................................79 TARGET TOKYO by James M. Scott.................................................... 80 THE DEATH OF CAESAR by Barry Strauss....................................... 82 BOSWELL’S ENLIGHTENMENT by Robert Zaretsky........................ 84 THE DEATH OF CAESAR The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination

Strauss, Barry Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $27.00 Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4516-6879-7

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Looking Forward to 2015 After a week of decompression following the madness that is Best-of season—wading through galleys, frantically reading books, heatedly discussing with my reviewers, making lists, culling lists, etc.—it’s time to look ahead to 2015. Since we review books a few months before publication date, I can say with confidence that the first few months of the new year are packed with outstanding reading material to while away the doldrums of January and February. Sarah Manguso, Roger Rosenblatt, David O. Stewart, Barry Strauss and Alan Lightman all have new books publishing in the first couple months of 2015, and all received positive reviews in this magazine. In addition, here are five more nonfiction books I’m particularly excited to read: • Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream. In this “compassionate and humane” book, as our reviewer wrote, the author is “a sharp judge of character” who examines the many failures of the war on drugs. • Erik Larson, Dead Wake. It’s Erik Larson; need I say more? Here, the consummate storyteller tackles the mysteries surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania 100 years ago. • Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk. I love books that explore the interactions of humans and the environment, and this one looks to be top-notch. As Kirkus said, “Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.” • Michael Paterniti, Love and Other Ways of Dying. Paterniti’s previous book, The Telling Room, was one of my favorite nonfiction books of the past few years, and this collection of essays, which we called “[r]eal-world storytelling of the highest order,” certainly won’t disappoint. • David Shields and Caleb Powell, I Think You’re Totally Wrong. In a conversation with Powell, critic and writing teacher Shields, the author of the transcendent genre-buster Reality Hunger, discusses writing, fatherhood, mortality and women, among other topics, in a “stimulating intellectual interaction with lots of heart.” —E.L. Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor at Kirkus Reviews. 50

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PICNIC IN PROVENCE A Memoir with Recipes

Bard, Elizabeth Little, Brown (360 pp.) $26.00 | $12.99 e-book $24.98 Audiobook | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-316-24616-3 978-0-316-24615-6 e-book 978-1-4789-7732-2 Audiobook

A journalist’s account of the unexpectedly rich life she and her French husband made together after leaving Paris for a small town in southern France. When a very pregnant Bard (Lunch in Paris, 2010) and her husband, Gwendal, visited Céreste, it was to see the village that had been home to a French poet and Resistance leader named René Char. After they chatted with the daughter of Char’s wartime lover, they discovered that her family was about to sell the house where the poet had lived. The pair bought the house on impulse the next day, certain only of the fact that Céreste was “where [they] would become a family.” A neighbor’s move-in gift of a basketful of homegrown vegetables became the symbol of what would quickly become the couple’s organizing principle: food. Not only was it something that, in all its delicious Provençal variety, was one of Bard’s “central pleasures.” It was also the way she would continue to forge an identity for herself apart from her Brooklyn-born mother and her American supermarket tastes. Through sharing recipes—many of which she includes in this book, as in her previous book—Bard negotiated and built relationships with her French friends and extended family. When she realized that pain from her own childhood was preventing her from bonding with her son, cooking with her child became the way she repaired the rift between them and healed her own heart. Gwendal also found his own salvation in food. Faced with a decision to rejoin the corporate world and become an unhappy “cog in the wheel,” he decided instead to open an artisanal ice cream shop with his wife. Like the Provençal food and lifestyle it celebrates, Bard’s book is one to be savored slowly and with care. Delectable reading.

A FINE ROMANCE

Bergen, Candice Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-684-80827-7 Award-winning actress Bergen continues the story begun in the best-selling memoir, Knock Wood (1984). This second installment of the author’s autobiography focuses on the three great loves of her life: her two husbands and her daughter. When she met her first husband, French director Louis Malle (1932-1995), “[s]parks decidedly did not fly.” Less than a year |


“A sexy, eloquent, well-written and -researched study/memoir.” from spinster

after their first awkward introduction, however, the two were married. The showbiz woman who “dealt strictly in commerce” was soon immersed in a world of elegance and high art alongside a dynamic man she affectionately calls a “cultural commando.” During the early years of her marriage, Bergen struggled with ambivalence over whether or not to have a family. At age 39, she gave birth to a daughter, Chloe, who would in time become even closer to Bergen than the globe-trotting Malle. Her stalled acting career took off shortly afterward when she was chosen to play the lead in the iconic TV series Murphy Brown. By the early 1990s, the show would inspire a “family values” controversy for its fearless portrayal of a hard-driving career woman who becomes an unwed mother. Bergen admits that the success strained relations with her husband. At the same time, it also helped her to carve out her professional identity as a comedian while giving her the “weight” and “self-definition” she needed to define the boundaries of home and family. Her golden life ground to a temporary halt when Malle was diagnosed with a rare and fatal brain disease. Within three years of his death, however, Bergen met her next husband, billionaire New York real estate developer Marshall Rose. More settled than the peripatetic Malle, Rose not only offered the actress entree among the New York City social elite, he also brought her the next great challenge of her life: learning how to appreciate a life genuinely lived in tandem. A glamorously bittersweet showbiz memoir.

lifestyles. As Bolick traces her evolution into a woman unapologetic for her choices and unafraid of her own personal freedom, she also reclaims the derogatory term “spinster” for all females, married or not. For her, the word is “shorthand for holding on to that...which is independent and self-sufficient” rather than one that gestures toward prudery, coldness and repression. Ultimately, to be a spinster is to be part of a distinguished sisterhood of women boldly “living life on their own terms.” A sexy, eloquent, well-written and -researched study/ memoir. (8 b/w photos; 3 b/w illustrations)

SPINSTER Making a Life of One’s Own

Bolick, Kate Crown (320 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 21, 2015 978-0-385-34713-6

An Atlantic contributing editor’s refreshingly bold and incisive account of how she came to celebrate her status as a single woman. As a young woman, Bolick was in turmoil over the “dual contingencies” that govern female existence: “whom to marry and when it will happen.” She had always believed that she wanted marriage; yet even her earliest relationships revealed that while she enjoyed loving men, she was “most alive when alone.” Continually questioning how she wanted to live her life, she spent her early adulthood in and out of committed and noncommitted relationships. But it wasn’t until her 40th birthday that the still-single Bolick had the insight that would change her attitudes toward spinsterhood and show her that she “was now in possession of not only a future, but also a past.” In looking at the biographies of literary women she especially admired—most notably, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Neith Boyce and Maeve Brennan—she realized that all had lived full and vigorous lives that included loving across genders or within the context of open marriages. Moreover, she also discovered that these women were part of a larger history of women who had actively chosen to seek alternatives to traditional heterosexual/monogamous |

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THE POWER OF OTHERS Peer Pressure, Groupthink, and How the People Around Us Shape Everything We Do

Bond, Michael Oneworld Publications (300 pp.) $15.99 paper | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-78074-653-1

London-based writer Bond wades into the murky reaches of the human psyche in this exploration of how other people’s opinions shape our behaviors and attitudes. Combining decades of experimental research by social scientists with summaries of historical events, the author presents an analysis of how peer pressure, groupthink, heroism, evil, extreme environments and isolation all affect our actions. Bond begins by explaining why it is natural for humans to want to be part of a group. He goes on to define social mimicry and looks at how this mirroring of body language, and even moods, “helps us understand other people’s minds.” The author notes the importance of caution and protecting yourself when making decisions in today’s wired environment, with its vivid imagery and continuous “information cascade.” Bond also discusses how group dynamics and perceptions affect those individuals who are perceived as the “Other,” especially during times of stress or threat to the in-group, such as the months and years following 9/11. The author cites research exploding the theory of the madness of the mob, and he relates how this idea has been employed throughout history for political ends. Bond chronicles how authority, peer pressure and the environment can combine in dreadful ways, producing truly evil behavior such as that of Adolf Eichmann during World War II. The author recounts the shocking results obtained by Stanley Milgram during his infamous experiments conducted at Yale University during the 1960s, illustrating how important context is to how people behave. Bond devotes the concluding portion of the narrative to understanding human behaviors during and after prolonged solitary confinement or an extended solo stretch in a harsh environment such as the Arctic. “We can learn as much by looking at what happens to us when others are not there,” he writes, “when we are forced to get by on our own.” Bond renders a worthwhile subject into entertaining, informative reading.

Although she is certainly an idealistic thinker, Bourke (History/Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London; The Story of Pain, 2014, etc.) gets to some dark places. Her output has included scholarly examinations of murder, fear, rape and pain. Here, she turns her unflinching gaze on the militarization of society. The book was originally titled Wounding the World, which is in some ways more accurate since it is as much about the mindsets of victims as it is about those who fight. Bourke examines the nature of military violence through a variety of lenses, including economics, language, law, big business and the very nature of our humanity. After a clear introduction, she examines the language we use to describe warfare, and this may be one of the most complex sections for a general audience. “These four ways of talking about violence—aestheticizing it, converting it into an abstract formula, ignoring pertinent aspects and giving weapons agency—overlap....But converting violence against others into something attractive, abstract or absent makes it easier to bear,” writes the author. The next section examines the psychology of violence, both on the parts of the (mostly) men who perpetrate it, from the drone pilot in Nevada who feels “like God hurling thunderbolts from afar,” to those wounded inside and out. In a somewhat dated section, Bourke examines the “fetishization of authenticity” in games and other media, essentially positing portrayals of military violence as pornography; refreshingly, however, she rarely blames the creators, instead focusing on motive and audience. The most challenging section may be the summary, which posits that protests and other societal interventions could bring an end to war, a proposal some readers may find too modest to be realistic. A thoughtful but sometimes overly academic consideration of why thousands of people are, or should be, marching in the streets.

WHERE YOU GO IS NOT WHO YOU’LL BE An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania Bruni, Frank Grand Central Publishing (176 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-4555-3270-4

New York Times op-ed columnist Bruni (Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater, 2009, etc.) shows why rejection by an Ivy League college need not be a disaster and may even be a blessing. The author attributes the frenzy attached to college admission to the emphasis on branding and privilege, which increasingly characterize our society as the income gap widens. All too often, admission to a top college becomes a goal in itself while the quality of a well-rounded education takes second place. There are many hurdles to be overcome, beginning as early as preschool. Prowess in sports, community service and other extracurricular activities are items for the student’s resume along with high grades and test scores. Only after winning a

DEEP VIOLENCE Military Violence, War Play, and the Social Life of Weapons

Bourke, Joanna Counterpoint (320 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-61902-463-2

A dense treatise on the evil that men do to one another in the name of war. 52

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SO, HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN NATIVE? Life as an Alaska Native Tour Guide

place in an elite institution can the student afford to relax. “The sale is more important than the product,” writes Bruni, who presents several cases, including his own experience, to show how being rejected by the top rung may be a blessing in disguise. Getting an education off the charted path can be a life-changing experience. Forced out of their comfort zones, students may become more self-reliant, more flexible and able to succeed, and they may get a better education to boot. The author takes the University of Arizona as an example. It offers a high-quality education with a faculty that includes two Nobel laureates, five Pulitzer Prize winners and more. Written in a lively style but carrying a wallop, this is a book that family and educators cannot afford to overlook as they try to navigate the treacherous waters of college admissions.

Bunten, Alexis C. Univ. of Nebraska (260 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-8032-3462-8

A memoir about working as a cultural tour guide in rural Alaska. This remembrance of working briefly as a guide in remote Alaska may prove a bit too academic for biography fans and a bit too straightforward to intrigue the literary crowd. Now an anthropologist (more properly, a “project ethnographer”) at Simon Fraser University, Bunten wrote this diary of sorts while she was studying for her doctorate at UCLA. There, she discovered the ferocious system that guides students to certain inevitable ends. “This brand of liberal, elite discrimination disguised as privilege followed me to graduate school,” she writes,

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“A gripping and poignant memoir.” from visiting hours

“where my advisers in the anthropology department insisted that because I’m Alaska Native, I would have to conduct original research in Alaska....Working for a tribe I’m not related to, in a place I’ve never lived, would have to be proxy for ‘real’ anthropology, the kind where the intrepid explorer travels to an exotic destination to live among strangers in a strange land.” Bunten landed a job with Tribal Tours, a small company in Sitka, Alaska, that focuses on the multifaceted Tlingit people. From here, she walks readers through the strange process of being a tour guide, which includes catering to mobs of ill-informed cruise-ship passengers, cracking bad jokes to skirt issues like cultural genocide, and developing an alternative persona to deal with questions like, “Do you live in a house?” There is also a lot of history, cultural anthropology and a little self-searching about her place among a people who only loosely share her heritage, as well as working in a business that is torn between the economic realities of tourism and the desire to offer visitors a genuine experience that reflects the nature of the Tlingit people. Bunten provides some value for invested readers, but generalists may find this equivalent to reading an intern’s autobiography. This “Tour Guide Confidential” just doesn’t have quite the same zest as other memoirs of this nature.

stopped taking his antidepressants. Butcher had understood Kevin’s impulse toward self-destruction because she had experienced it as a young teen. Yet she had done nothing to help him. Ultimately, the author realized that her distress came from the fact that her best friend’s actions had presented her with a mirror image of her own heart. With equal parts horror and anguish, she understood that “the chain of events that led to Emily’s death [were] events that could happen to any of us.” A gripping and poignant memoir.

THE SKELETON CUPBOARD The Making of a Clinical Psychologist Byron, Tanya Flatiron Books (320 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-1-250-05265-0

A British mental health practitioner and media personality’s absorbing account of the years she spent as a clinical psychologist–in-training. In 1989, Byron, then a graduate student at University College London, began the training necessary to qualify as a licensed clinical psychologist. Over the next three years, she worked in hospitals, clinics and private practices where she met individuals whose stories helped “to establish [her] thinking as a doctor.” Among the most influential was her fierce, no-nonsense female mentor, Chris Moorhead. The author often found herself at bitter odds with this woman, who relentlessly pushed Byron to move beyond her own doubt and insecurity. The most compelling portraits, however, are those of the clients. In remembering the early days of her training, the author recalls the story of her first serious case, a man who seemed to be suffering from panic attacks but was actually a knife-wielding sociopath. This encounter, along with a case that soon followed involving a suicidal 12-year-old, terrified Byron and led to a temporary rupture with her mentor. While Chris refused to let Byron give in to her fears, she also refused to offer nurturing and support. In the meantime, the author fought to stay emotionally balanced and maintain her professional bearing around clients she especially loved, including a brilliant young anorexic woman struggling with an overly developed sense of responsibility for her parents and an AIDS-infected man trying to cope with his own imminent demise. Only gradually did the author learn to “put [her] own ‘shit’ aside” for the greater good. In the end, Byron realized that the inner journeys in which she participated with her clients were far more personal than she ever knew. By working with each person, she was in fact moving from “chaos to clarity” in her own mind and heart. A lucid and compassionate memoir.

VISITING HOURS A Memoir of Friendship and Murder Butcher, Amy Blue Rider Press (260 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-399-17207-6

A writer and professor’s account of the trauma she suffered in the wake of a murder committed by a close friend. Defunct magazine editor Butcher (English/Ohio Wesleyan Univ.) met Kevin Schaeffer, the sweetfaced boy who would become her best friend, three days into her freshman year at Gettysburg College. They were kindred spirits who “enjoyed familiarity in all things,” found solace in each other for being social outsiders and knew “absolutely nothing of loss.” Then, less than two months before their graduation in 2009, Kevin suddenly snapped and stabbed to death his ex-girlfriend, Emily Silverstein. Like the rest of Gettysburg, Butcher was stunned. But what she found especially disturbing was that two hours before the murder, a normal-seeming Kevin had walked her home from an evening out. The aftermath of the murder caused chaos in the author’s personal life and relationships, yet she stubbornly refused to abandon her friend when almost everyone else did. Tormented by survivor’s guilt and eventually diagnosed with PTSD, Butcher became obsessed with the incident and with trying to understand the reasons behind her friend’s behavior. She scoured her memories and public documents for clues. What she discovered were dark truths about the nature of their relationship. Kevin was a depressive who had tried to commit suicide during his junior year. When he murdered his girlfriend, it was after he had 54

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THE END OF COLLEGE Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere

SHERMAN’S GHOSTS Soldiers, Civilians, and the American Way of War Carr, Matthew New Press (336 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-59558-955-2

Carey, Kevin Riverhead (288 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-59463-205-1

William Tecumseh Sherman’s brutal March to the Sea was not the first military rampage against civilians—even in the United States—but it continues to attract attention and comments from military leaders. Veteran journalist Carr (Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, 2012, etc.) begins with Sherman’s biography, emphasizing his 1864-1865 southern campaign and equally harsh tactics during the Indian wars that followed. Although the book’s second half ostensibly discusses his legacy in America’s subsequent wars, it turns out to be a grim account of military hypocrisy in the service of mass slaughter. Sherman considered

Carey, who directs the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank, discusses his belief that the computer and the cloud are the future of higher education. The author begins with a brief account of a course he took at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Introduction to Biology—The Secret of Life,” which he initially conceals is online. He revisits this experience throughout the book, advocating for its design and opportunities for students: The course is available to anyone with an Internet connection; students can help one another; students can rewind and redo difficult portions. Later, Carey chronicles his visit to the actual class and tells us that the online lectures were much better than the live one. The author also discusses his trips to key institutions that are moving resolutely toward a major online presence (Stanford, MIT—which has partnered with Harvard University), describes interviews with significant players in the technological revolution (he spent lots of time in Silicon Valley), and lets us know that the old way—the “hybrid university,” he calls it—is in its death throes. Tuition is soaring; many students aren’t graduating; many aren’t learning much of anything (too much partying). Carey believes that large universities, especially, are trying to do too much, with simultaneous emphases on the liberal arts, research and vocational training. Much of this, he believes, has deleterious aspects. Most professors interested principally in their own work, for example, don’t teach very well, and Harvard and a host of other top traditional universities are, well, elitist. Writing about his walk through Harvard’s campus: “The gates were open and anyone could walk through them, but they were barriers nonetheless, architectural messages that were not hard to understand.” The author, a true believer, does not spend much time on counterarguments and outlines a future that some will find exhilarating, others depressing.

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civilians essential to enemy war-making capacity. His troops mostly destroyed property, but this was not the case during the Philippine insurrection (1899-1902), during which soldiers murdered civilians en masse. Similar atrocities in Vietnam were dwarfed by the immense toll from indiscriminate bombing during World War II and the Korean War. Carr reminds readers that Sherman’s campaign produced minuscule deaths compared to the vicious Grant-Lee battles in Virginia. As America has grown intolerant of military casualties, leaders have eagerly adopted high-tech weapons (smart bombs, drones) whose operators work far from the enemy. These weapons turn out to kill a surprising number of bystanders, rendering America’s admirable, winning-hearts-and-minds anti-insurgency paradigm obsolete a mere decade after it was adopted. Sherman might have disapproved of the current tactics. When outraged contemporaries denounced Sherman’s march as a barbarous throwback, this “reflected a widespread assumption that warfare between ‘civilized nations’ had undergone a process of moral advancement in the nineteenth century.” In fact, the “principle of civilian immunity was firmly embedded in the West Point tradition to which Sherman belonged.” Carr not only examines the campaigns and career of Sherman; he also attacks the mindsets and assumptions that have continued to allow America to rationalize its wars.

GOING INTO THE CITY Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man

Christgau, Robert Dey Street/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $27.99 | Feb. 24, 2015 978-0-06-223879-5

A veteran rock critic takes readers deeper into the recesses of his thought processes than many might wish to venture. Even more than most memoirs, this is a book that only its author could write. As the self-anointed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” Christgau (Christgau’s Consumer Guide: Albums of the ’90s, 2000, etc.) could have written about the seismic cultural changes he has observed and analyzed; or about how rock music, originally dismissed as kids’ stuff, gave him a career he has never outgrown, a vocation that didn’t exist before he began writing seriously about rock and popular culture during the mid-1960s; or about the progression of the music (he goes deepest here into New York punk and hiphop); or about the changes in journalism or the proliferation of cultural criticism (and celebrity journalism). Christgau does touch those bases, fleetingly, but any number of other writers could explore those areas. What no one else could write about in such detail are the author’s IQ, childhood memories, romantic relationships and sex life. And no one but a critic—and this critic in particular—would write like this about the woman he would marry: “Sex was hot, crucial and engrossing, but not simple—she was pickier and more changeable than I was used to in 56

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hot relationships, and my faulty pleasure receptors, while not impinging on my performance quote unquote, generated emotional disconnects as they gradually righted themselves.” As his work for a variety of publications confirms, he is a provocative and perceptive critic and, by all accounts (including his own), a good editor. But his focus here is so narrowly self-absorbed that the most engaged readers will not be those who care most about the culture at large but his journalistic colleagues and contemporaries, who will want to see how they are treated and what scores he settles. Christgau indicates from the start that he is “hardly self-effacing in print,” but anyone who borrows his subtitle from James Joyce would never be accused of false humility.

KILL CHAIN The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins Cockburn, Andrew Henry Holt (320 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-8050-9926-3

An examination of the rise of the present generation of killing machines, antiseptic and seemingly inescapable. It’s not just the technology that makes a difference on the modern battlefield. It is, by Harper’s Washington editor Cockburn’s (Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy, 2007, etc.) account, the development of a doctrine that augments—and sometimes replaces—the old order of battle with the notion that enemy leaders are objects fit for assassination, adding a necessarily political dimension to the military one. This shift was marked, Cockburn writes, in the Kosovo War, when Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, a “high-value target,” became a candidate for execution from afar: “Assassination, officially forbidden and always denied, was still in the shadows but edging ever closer toward public respectability.” Arguably, it’s still disreputable, but assassination happens all the same, as witness the demise of Osama bin Laden and, less notoriously, the recent deaths of several ISIS commanders in Syria. Cockburn carefully charts the rise of the new doctrine and its supporting scholarship. It was anthropologists, for instance, who provided rationale for the unseemly bombing of Muammar Qaddafi’s family compounds, killing his sons and grandchildren, on the grounds that “in Bedouin culture, Qaddafi would be diminished as a leader if he could not protect his immediate family.” Given that current Army doctrine, developed by the enthusiastic counterinsurgency fighter David Petraeus, has a section on targeting enemies for elimination— and given that current political doctrine allows the killing of anyone who even resembles a terrorist—it appears that we’ll have to shelve any remaining romantic ideas of single combat and get used to war by murder. Sharp-eyed and disturbing, especially Cockburn’s concluding assessment that, nourished by an unending flow of money, “the assassination machine is here to stay.” |


“Although Crawford modestly claims that his biography is neither ‘official’ nor definitive, it is unlikely to be surpassed.” from young eliot

MARK ROTHKO Toward the Light in the Chapel

Cohen-Solal, Annie Yale Univ. (256 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-300-18204-0

Cohen-Solal’s (Leo and His Circle: A Life of Leo Castelli, 2010, etc.) study of Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is notable for her ability to link his strong Jewish ties to his changing, evolving art. Her access to newly available archives enables her comprehensive portrait of the man. Born in Russia, Rothko’s father insisted he attend Talmud Torah from ages 4 to 10, after which his family immigrated to Portland, Oregon, and a strong Jewish community. While he quit the temple shortly after his father’s death in 1914, his ties to Judaism and his anger at being a minority and an immigrant often obsessed him. He abandoned his scholarship to Yale after two years due to the WASPish exclusion practiced against Jews. The author seems to skip over Rothko’s art education; suddenly, at age 32, he has his first solo exhibition in Portland, followed by exhibits in New York and Paris the following year. His style changed often in the 1930s, when he was part of “The Ten,” a group of radical, experimentalist individuals rejecting regionalism and searching for the true form of American art. He went from a mythological phase to surrealism to a multiform period. Dissatisfied with realism, he explored “subjective abstraction.” When he saw Matisse’s Red Studio in 1949, he plunged fully into the realm of abstraction. The artist was always angry, especially at art institutions, which made him hostile and suspicious. They rejected the new American artists and treated his paintings as “decorative.” Rothko was obsessive and controlling in exhibitions, but his art conjured emotion out of simplicity; even in the dark, his swaths of color exuded their own light, making his work a complete experience. A sure hit for fans of art history, and readers looking to understand modern art and especially abstraction will find this wonderfully enlightening.

biographers, the author fashions an authoritative, nuanced portrait. Eliot was the seventh child of a wealthy St. Louis family whose provincialism he was determined to escape. Drawn to poetry even as a teenager, he fell into “an intense engagement” with the 19th-century Romantics. At Harvard, where he was a mediocre student, he discovered the French symbolists, especially Jules Laforgue, whose poems possessed “a compulsively insinuating music” that Eliot began to imitate. Not surprisingly, he yearned to go to Paris, a plan his doting, overprotective mother sternly discouraged. Nevertheless, in 1910, Eliot sailed for Europe, enrolling in classes with the groundbreaking sociologist Emile Durkheim, psychologist Pierre Janet and philosopher Henri Bergson, thinkers who stimulated Eliot’s ideas “about the intersection between religious mysticism, asceticism, and hysteria in ‘primitive’ and modern life.” In 1914, he again left America, this time for a year at Oxford that proved life-changing: He met Ezra Pound, who responded to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with exuberant praise. Pound opened doors, and by 1920, married, living in London, editing and reviewing while working full-time at a bank, Eliot had become “one of

YOUNG ELIOT A Biography

Crawford, Robert Farrar, Straus and Giroux (520 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 1, 2015 978-0-374-27944-8

A masterful biography of the canonical modernist. In this first of a proposed two-volume life of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), Crawford (Modern Scottish Literature/Univ. of St. Andrews; On Glasgow and Edinburgh, 2013, etc.) examines the poet’s youth and early career, ending with the publication of The Waste Land in 1922. Drawing on sources not available to previous |

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SELFISH, SHALLOW, AND SELF-ABSORBED Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids

the best networked younger figures in London literary publishing.” Crawford illuminates Eliot’s tormented first marriage to the volatile Vivienne Haigh-Wood; his complicated relationships with Bertrand Russell and Virginia Woolf; and his struggle to find an American publisher. Most crucially, he explores the swirling aesthetic and philosophical forces that shaped Eliot’s startling poetry. Although Crawford modestly claims that his biography is neither “official” nor definitive, it is unlikely to be surpassed. (16 pages of b/w illustrations)

Daum, Meghan—Ed. Picador (288 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 1, 2015 978-1-250-05293-3

Daum (The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, 2014, etc.) compiles essays from a group of noted writers— including Kate Christensen, Geoff Dyer and Lionel Shriver— holding forth on the topic of deliberate childlessness. The quality of the writing is uniformly high, but read as a whole, the pieces become repetitive and bleed into one another as the same notes are sounded over and over again. One prevalent theme concerns the oppressive conventional wisdom that holds parenting as life’s most profound and worthy calling and the stigma attached to those who choose to forgo children in the interest of other pursuits. Other recurring motifs include the incomprehension of others regarding the writers’ choices, the artistic sacrifices necessary for conscientious parenting, resentment of the physical demands of pregnancy and childbirth, frustration over prescriptive gender roles and the self-annihilation associated with domestic responsibilities. Thirteen of Daum’s contributors are women, and three are men, but the perspectives and insights offered by all of the authors remain more or less uniform. A few of the essays touch on childhood abuse perpetrated by parents as a deterrent to procreation, but the majority cite a dedication to the writing life— and the profound disruption to that path that having children promises—as a primary motivator in remaining child-free. Regret over the decision to not have children is notably absent from the book; the authors here largely profess a sense of satisfaction and relief about the choices they have made. It’s a sentiment worth considering but perhaps not 16 times in a row. Other contributors include Laura Kipnis, Sigrid Nunez, Anna Holmes and M.G. Lord. A courageous defense of childlessness and a necessary corrective to the Cult of Mommy, but Daum’s collection could have benefitted from a more diverse pool of contributors and a fuller consideration of contrary opinions.

AN UNCOMPLICATED LIFE A Father’s Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter Daugherty, Paul Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $24.99 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-06-235994-0 978-0-06-235996-4 e-book

A memoir of life with a Down syndrome child. Having a child with Down syndrome was not what Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Daugherty (Fair Game, 1999, etc.) and his wife expected when Kerry went into labor. But they were determined not to let their daughter’s condition change the way they treated her; they would address her special needs and yet not coddle her to the point of neediness. And they quickly learned that their daughter did not want to be coddled, either. Covering the time of her birth and into adulthood, the author brings readers the highlights of Jillian’s life and the truths he discovered about being a father of a special needs child, as well as about himself and the childhood that shaped him to be the man he is today. Small moments, like teaching Jillian to ride a bike, became bigger moments of letting go, both physically and mentally, which have allowed Jillian to live her life to the best of her ability. Through little scenarios, Daugherty introduces readers to the numerous people who have helped Jillian along her path: the therapist who helped her speech by teaching her how to use pronouns correctly; the teacher who realized Jillian was an individual, not just a special needs kid; Jillian’s brother, Kelly, who always made sure Jillian knew she was loved; and many others. “Having a child with a disability is like having a life coach you didn’t ask for,” writes the author. “You realize that perspective is a blessing that’s available to anyone who seeks it. Or had it forced upon him.” Through Jillian’s story, readers witness the wonder of a father deeply devoted to his daughter and who says, “I just love my life.” An expressive, nostalgic series of memories of living life with a special needs child.

CRUCIBLE OF COMMAND Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee—the War They Fought, the Peace They Forged Davis, William C. Da Capo/Perseus (688 pp.) $32.50 | Jan. 15, 2015 978-0-306-82245-2

“The cheering proved to be our folly.” Thus said Robert E. Lee, chiding Southern vanity at the outbreak of the Civil War, the setting for this thoughtful study of command. 58

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“A riveting and disturbing account of the clash between the beauty of the wilderness and civilization’s unrelenting demands on the natural world.” from the last unicorn

Recognizing that plenty has already been written about the generals who led the Civil War on both sides, Davis (History/ Virginia Tech Univ.; The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History, 2011, etc.) takes an interesting approach, using secondary sources and correcting them where applicable and relying on first-person, contemporary accounts of Lee and his formidable adversary, Ulysses S. Grant. The men had met in the field in the war with Mexico but had traveled in different orbits, Grant in particular having a flair for, if not always success in, business. Both, however, inclined to the depressive and carried the burden of the literally countless men who died in their service. Lee, writes the author, was opposed to secession and, by his account, was a reluctant slaveholder; moreover, he professed that his country was Virginia, a sentiment radical South Carolinians returned by suspecting Lee of lukewarm devotion to the cause. Yet Lee was a faithful lieutenant to the Southern government, and Jefferson Davis in particular, even though his “mistrust of politicians kept him aloof from the political morass.” Grant was less aloof, carefully gauging political mood swings, though Lee was no slouch, either, as when he instructed his Virginia troops in battle in Maryland to pretend “to be Marylanders holding their own ground,” thus rallying their allies and evidencing “a neat bit of political and diplomatic camouflage showing Lee’s subtlety in areas other than military.” Indeed, one of Davis’ chief contributions in this accessible, well-written study is to show how thoroughly politicized the war was—as was its aftermath, revealed by a charged but by no means unfriendly meeting the two had in 1868, when Grant was in the White House. A fresh look at the sources and a careful eye to leadership and character places this book high atop the list of recent Civil War histories. (History Book Club Main Selection)

THE LAST UNICORN A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures

deBuys, William Little, Brown (368 pp.) $27.00 | $12.99 e-book $24.98 Audiobook | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-316-23286-9 978-0-316-23288-3 e-book 978-1-61969-825-3 Audiobook

Dedicated conservationist deBuys (A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, 2011 etc.) undertakes an arduous trek through the wilds of central Laos in a quest to help save one of the most elusive animals on the planet, the large grazing mammal known as a saola. Following a 2009 lecture in Washington, D.C., in which the author evaluated ongoing efforts to save a forest in central Borneo, he received an intriguing offer. In 1992, the world outside of Southeast Asia became aware of a mysterious mammal when scientists came across a pair of extraordinarily long, tapered horns decorating the wall of a Vietnamese hunter’s |

cabin. Did deBuys have an interest in writing about this reclusive horned animal never seen by Westerners? Two years later, the author traveled to the Annamite mountain range, situated on the border between Laos and Vietnam. He joined an expedition whose immediate goals included studying the animal’s habitat, documenting the consistent threat of poaching, and building support for wildlife conservation among the region’s inhabitants to “save the saola from extinction.” The group traveled through the rugged terrain by car, boat and foot, accompanied by armed guards and porters, to their final destination in a remote forested canyon. The author deftly chronicles both the physical and emotional challenges that come with group travel through an isolated region. He also weaves in abbreviated natural histories of the multitude of indigenous creatures in the area—e.g., the red-shanked douc and ferret badger. DeBuys laments the destruction of the natural environment caused by the illegal harvesting of forest products. The author’s immersive narrative and numerous photos of the unremitting poaching inflicted upon the region’s wildlife cause both reader engagement and heartache. A riveting and disturbing account of the clash between the beauty of the wilderness and civilization’s unrelenting demands on the natural world.

ALL WHO GO DO NOT RETURN A Memoir Deen, Shulem Graywolf (320 pp.) $16.00 paper | Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-55597-705-4

A former member of an extremely insular Hasidic sect tells his story of becoming curious about the outside world—and the consequences of that curiosity. Unpious magazine founding editor Deen was raised in the Hasidic sect known as “the Skverers,” an offshoot of Orthodox Judaism that shuns the outside world. Radio, TV, newspapers, the Internet—these are all gateways that, once opened, let forth a flood of sinful thought and action into one’s heart. The author knows the story of how New Square, in Rockland County, New York, came to be and the travails faced by those seeking to establish it; he knows that even among strict, rigid devotees of Judaism, New Square is considered a place where the real fanaticism takes place. Like some who went before him, Deen’s intellectual curiosity led him to pursuits considered borderline sacrilegious. As a young boy, he was scolded for reading Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume, and as an 11-year-old, he would sneak off to read Hardy Boys mysteries. Turning 13, however, meant putting those texts behind him and focusing more on religious studies. Deen did so, but his interest in the world outside New Square followed him into adulthood, marriage and children. In equal measure with his interest in how others lived was a growing dissatisfaction with some of the practices within the Skverers—how on one hand, the elders kirkus.com

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would speak of the importance of offspring, but when Deen’s children arrived, it was treated as irrelevant. When instructed as a teacher to fudge the progress reports—to ensure continued approval that they were teaching, along with religion, the arithmetic and reading required—to the government, the author felt this untruth to be a betrayal. In this moving book, Deen lays bare his difficult, muddled wrestling with his faith, the challenges it posed to everything he thought he knew about himself, and the hard-won redemption he eventually found.

SECRET WARRIORS The Spies, Scientists and Code Breakers of World War I Downing, Taylor Pegasus (464 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 15, 2015 978-1-60598-694-4

TV producer and writer Downing (Night Raid: The True Story of the First Victorious British Para Raid of WWII, 2013, etc.) recounts the complete transformation of warfare during World War I, the first industrialized war. The author tracks innovations in aviation, code-breaking, the chemistry and engineering of weapons, medical breakthroughs and the birth of the art of propaganda. Gone was the idea of a gentleman’s war; spying and even chemical warfare were fair game. Those who felt things were “just not done” were overruled by the endless stalemate of trench warfare and brutality of chemical attacks. England’s scientific community successfully overcame pure science’s prejudice against applied science. With help from civilian inventors, they created airplanes that were capable of reconnaissance over the trenches. Within six hours of the declaration of war, the British cut five German cables in the North Sea and English Channel, forcing Germany to rely on wireless communication. Pure luck had handed British codebreakers three code books—one found by the Russians, one by an Australian and a third picked up by a fishing trawler. Each new invention led to another: Grenades demonstrated the need for steel helmets; chemical warfare required gas masks; planes flying recon needed aerial photography. With so many casualties, doctors needed to perfect quick fixes to return soldiers to the front, and there were vast improvements in blood transfusions, plastic surgery for horrific facial wounds, and psychology for shell shock. The greatest difficulty was convincing the Army officials; they obstructed, rejected and denied innovations that could have shortened the war. Tanks, the single most important tool in breaking the stalemate, weren’t used successfully until November 1917. A meticulously detailed, welcome addition to the literature of World War I, the “first ‘total’ war in which all the resources of the state were involved.”

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GALILEO’S MIDDLE FINGER Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

Dreger, Alice Penguin Press (340 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-59420-608-5

Dreger (Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics/Northwestern Univ.; One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, 2004, etc.) passionately investigates character assassinations in academia and how “[s]cience and social justice require each other to be healthy, and both are critically important to human freedom.” Among others, the author examines the case of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, whose blunt characterization of the Yanamomö tribe in Brazil led to accusations that he had fomented tribal violence. This was false, Dreger demonstrates, abetted by a disgraceful lack of fact-checking, personal animus and a belief in tribes as “noble savages.” Following her doctoral thesis on Victorian doctors’ attitudes toward hermaphrodites, Dreger’s writing caught the attention of the intersex movement, which she joined to support the rights of mixed-sex individuals to self-determine their sexual identity. Similarly, she supported transsexual rights but soon became a target for uncovering the dirty dealings of three transgendered females. The women were incensed by a researcher who proposed that the sex changes of some male-to-female transsexuals were motivated by eroticism. The trio exploited social media with outrageous fabrications of the researcher’s work and life. In other studies, Dreger found serious ethical issues with the research of a pediatrician who espouses the use of a potent steroid drug in certain pregnancies to forestall virilizing a female baby. The author also takes to task feminists who attacked an evolutionary psychologist for suggesting that rape, found in humans and other species, could be a way of perpetuating a male’s genes. Dreger’s investigations all turn on how human identity and behavior have been defined in history and why challenges to conventional wisdom are so inflammatory. That explains her homage to Galileo, whose mummified middle finger she saw in a museum in Florence. The finger points skyward to symbolize his opening the heavens to scientific investigation, she writes, while at the same time “giving the finger” in defiance of Vatican authority. Let us be grateful that there are writers like Dreger who have the wits and the guts to fight for truth.

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“This is Ellis’ ninth consecutive history of the Revolutionary War era and yet another winner.” from the quartet

THE QUARTET Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789

Ellis, Joseph J. Knopf (320 pp.) $27.95 | May 5, 2015 978-0-385-35340-3

A brilliant account of six years during which four Founding Fathers, “in disregard of public opinion, carried the American story in a new direction.” In a virtuosic introduction, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Ellis (Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, 2013, etc.) maintains that Abraham Lincoln was wrong. In 1776—four score and seven years before 1863—our forefathers did not bring forth a new nation. American revolutionaries hated distant governments, taxes, armies and inconvenient laws. Their Colonial governments seemed fine. Ellis reminds us that the 1776 resolution declaring independence described 13 “free and independent states.” Adopting the Constitution in 1789 created the United States, but no mobs rampaged in its favor. In fact, writes the author, the “vast majority of citizens had no interest in American nationhood, indeed regarded the very idea of national government as irrelevant to their love lives.” Ellis delivers a convincing argument that it was a massive political transformation led by men with impeccable revolutionary credentials. The indispensable man was George Washington, whose miserable eight years begging support for the Revolutionary army convinced him that America needed a central government. Its intellectual mastermind, James Madison, not only marshaled historical arguments, but performed political legerdemain in setting the Constitutional Convention agenda, orchestrating the debates and promoting ratification. Less tactful but equally brilliant, Alexander Hamilton’s vision of American hegemony would provoke stubborn opposition, but during the 1780s, the people that mattered had no objection. An undeservedly neglected Founding Father (Thomas Jefferson became our first secretary of state only after he declined), John Jay was close to the others and a vigorous advocate of reform. This is Ellis’ ninth consecutive history of the Revolutionary War era and yet another winner. (First printing of 125,000)

A LETTER TO MY MOM

Erspamer, Lisa Crown Archetype (160 pp.) $22.00 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-8041-3967-0

A collection for readers who admire or can relate to those who wholly revere their selfless, sainted mothers. A note that Erspamer (A Letter to My Cat: Notes to Our Best Friends, 2014, etc.), the former executive vice president of programming and development for the Oprah Winfrey Network, wrote to her mother |

sets the tone for this carefully curated assortment of letters intended to inspire and entertain. The contributors—distinguished and prominent people in their fields—all turned out well-adjusted and happy (neurotics need not apply). Unfortunately, the author includes no insolent voice or anyone who had a more complicated or disappointing relationship with his or her mother. Worse, much of the writing is mawkish or just plain bad: “Though your grip was weakening that night in the hospital, your hands demonstrated an incredible work ethic”; “Thank you for being the most AMAZING Grandmama in the whole world!” Singer Josh Groban’s letter is atypical, self-deprecating and comic (“I was odd, I was hyper and sometimes I spoke in my native Martian tongue”) in its expression of gratitude for his mother’s forbearance. Actress Mariel Hemingway (of the legendarily dysfunctional Hemingway clan) is a welcome tonic, offering a unique sentiment in this book full of repetitive romanticism as she expresses sorrow for her depressive, alcoholic mother’s sadness with honesty and comfort: “You had too much invested in the hurt, which became your life.” Most readers likely have a more balanced, and perhaps unpleasant, view of their mothers; this is a warm bath of a book that, for some readers, will inspire rueful and sardonic laughter. Other contributors include Kristin Chenoweth, will.i.am, Cat Cora, Monica Lewinsky, Dr. Phil McGraw, Suze Orman, Kelly Osbourne and Shania Twain. The sap flows heavily in this book about mothers who are heroes, role models, guardian angels and superwomen. (full-color photos throughout)

ALL THE WILD THAT REMAINS Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West Gessner, David Norton (320 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 20, 2015 978-0-393-08999-8

The lives and legacies of two influential environmentalists. Gessner (Creative Writing/Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington; The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill, 2011, etc.) weaves together biography, cultural criticism, travel and nature writing in this engaging record of a journey to discover the American West and two of the region’s most prominent celebrants: Pulitzer Prize– winning writer Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) and Guggenheim Fellow Edward Abbey (1927-1989). Besides reading the two men’s published works, Gessner visited the places in which they lived; interviewed family, friends, co-workers and students; and mined their manuscripts. Although both men felt passionately about the West and their commitment to environmentalism, they were starkly different: “Saint Wallace the Good” was the “intellectual godfather” of Western writers, “the man of order, the man of culture.” He taught at the University of Wisconsin kirkus.com

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“An alarming view of the burgeoning dark side of the Internet.” from future crimes

and Harvard, founded Stanford’s creative writing program, patiently sat on environmental committees, and was a devoted husband and father. “ ‘Radical,’ ” Gessner discovered, “was a word he came to despise.” Abbey, scruffy and combative, was the “the man of wildness, the counterculturalist...serious about his anarchism,” who carried out—and incited—acts of environmental sabotage. Married five times and a desultory father to five children, he was “more beatnik than cowboy...right down to the jugs of wine and many women.” Yet for all their differences in style, they converged in recognizing the increasing vulnerability of the West to drought, fires, fracking and overwhelming tourism. They both battled romantic Western myths of cowboy culture and rugged individualism. Those myths and a “lyric celebration of nature,” Stegner argued, undermined effective environmentalism, which should be focused on practical steps for ensuring responsible land use. Stegner and Abbey “are two who have lighted my way,” nature writer Wendell Berry admitted. They have lighted the way for Gessner, as well, as he conveys in this graceful, insightful homage to their work and to the region they loved.

differently, and there is no predictor why some people live to be 100 in great physical and mental health while others suffer severe debilities at relatively younger ages. The only reasonable prescription for living a long and healthy life is, somewhat anticlimactically, simply exercising and eating right. Gifford skillfully navigates the many strands of aging research to create an entertaining narrative of the perils of getting old.

FUTURE CRIMES Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It

Goodman, Marc Doubleday (436 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 24, 2015 978-0-385-53900-5

An alarming view of the burgeoning dark side of the Internet. “We are now entering the great age of digital crime,” warns Goodman, a former police detective–turned–cybercrime consultant and founder of the Future Crimes Institute. In this highly readable and exhaustive debut, he details the many ways in which hackers, organized criminals, terrorists and rogue governments are exploiting the vulnerability of our increasingly connected society. “[W]e’ve wired the world,” he writes, “but failed to secure it.” Noting how easy it is to hack into computer systems, most notably smartphones, Goodman first describes the present era of digital crime, from cyberattacks on companies (Target, Sony) to the failure to protect information by data brokers and social media to the growth in identity theft (13 million Americans affected annually) to digital surveillance, cyberstalking and hate crimes. Most companies are hacked regularly and cannot detect it; when they find out (from customers or police), they often try to hide the loss of data. “What most people do not understand...is that any data collected will invariably leak,” writes the author, and the worst is yet to come. The online world’s exponential growth is creating new opportunities, with easy profits and little detection, for sophisticated cyberunits of organized crime. The rise of the Internet of Things (chips and sensors in everyday objects, from cars to homes) will allow criminals to wreak havoc on such newly emerging technologies as robotics, 3-D manufacturing, synthetic biology and artificial intelligence. There will be no way to protect against hacking of baby cams, GPS systems, imbedded medical devices, drones, assembly lines, personal care bots and other objects, some 50 billion of which will join the global grid by 2020. Goodman suggests solid actions to limit the impact of cybercrimes, ranging from increased technical literacy of the public to a massive government “Manhattan Project” for cybersecurity to develop strategies against online threats. A powerful wake-up call to pay attention to our online lives.

SPRING CHICKEN Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying)

Gifford, Bill Grand Central Publishing (368 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-4555-2744-1 Examination of the science behind humanity’s obsession with aging and staving off death. The oldest recorded person was Madame Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. She was not exactly an exemplar of good health either; she smoked until she was 117. By contrast, the oldest clam was 507. Can humans learn something about aging from clams? Is it possible to plan for a long life? Those are only some of the questions Outside correspondent Gifford (Ledyard: In Search of the First American Explorer, 2007) tackles in his exploration of not only the health industry’s advancements—e.g., controversial hormone therapies—to prolong life expectancy and reduce the effects of aging, but also the cultural perspectives that underscore the evolutionary drive to live as long and comfortably as possible. The author points out the underlying contradiction that while life expectancy has climbed significantly in recent years, the overall health of the population is getting worse. This conundrum cannot easily be answered, but the ethical quandaries related to these medical advances lead to an alternative argument that there is simply no limit to human life. One particularly fringe idea is parabiosis, or surgically pairing a young body to an old one, thereby “distributing” the youth. Gifford chronicles other seemingly sci-fi techniques that are striving for legitimacy and expertly explains complex science in layman’s terms. He also analyzes studies of Alzheimer’s and other disorders and diseases that cause significant cognitive decline. Perplexing still is the fact that people age 62

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THE PROFESSOR IN THE CAGE Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch

Gottschall, Jonathan Penguin Press (304 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 14, 2015 978-1-59420-563-7

An English professor becomes a mixed martial arts cage fighter and then examines the history of human violence to justify the act. This nonfiction account of literary scholar Gottschall’s (English/Washington and Jefferson Coll.; The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, 2012, etc.) dabbling in combat is something of a conundrum. On the surface, it’s the story of the author’s single MMA cage match, which lasted less than a minute. At a deeper level, the author seems to want so badly for the narrative to turn out like Fight Club. But despite the graphic descriptions of blood, bruises and gore, it reads much like an intellectual justification for ritual combat in society. Early on, Gottschall defends what he calls “The Monkey Dance”: “These events range from elaborate and deadly duels (pistols at dawn), to combat sports such as MMA or football, to the play fights of boys, to duels of pure language (rap battles, everyday pissing contests). They often seem ridiculous and often end in tragedy. But they serve a vital function: they help men work out conflicts and thrash out hierarchies while minimizing carnage and social chaos.” Unfortunately, the author is largely preaching to the converted. He touches on issues surrounding literature, politics, genetics and gender, he glories in the experience of a fight, even in its small moments—e.g., when he recalls a sparring match gone wrong. “The kick sank my teeth hard into my lower lip,” he writes. “I struggled on as my opponent pushed me into the fence and tried to drag me down. The flavor of the blood pulsing into my mouth was nauseatingly good....” These explicit descriptions and Gottschall’s fractured thoughts on “Blood Porn” or “The Great Semen Glut” tend to derail the book’s more thoughtful argument that a dueling society is a more civilized one. A personal history of violence that makes Norman Mailer look nuanced by comparison.

THE UTOPIA OF RULES On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy

Graeber, David Melville House (256 pp.) $25.95 | Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-61219-374-8

Hate bureaucrats? Then stop supporting violent states. By Graeber’s (Anthropology/ London School of Economics; Debt: The First 5,000 Years, 2011) account, the unbending single-mindedness of the bureaucratic is not “inherently stupid” but is instead a function of that violence: |

Bureaucratic procedures “are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence.” Waiting in line at the DMV is, of course, better than being tortured in some dank basement. But what Graeber means by structural violence is a system “that ultimately rests on the threat of force,” whether police officers, drill sergeants, tax auditors, or all the other agents who support a system that spies, cajoles and threatens—but that also makes it possible, he reminds us, for graduate students to read Foucault and think lofty thoughts. This complex of definitions lands Graeber squarely in the anarchist tradition, and though he layers contemporary anthropological theory into his analysis, he serves up a clear and generally jargon-free argument. Interestingly, he ventures, arguments against bureaucracy tend to come from the right wing and not the left because the right, at least, has a theory of what bureaucrats do, even if “the rightwing critique can be disposed of fairly quickly.” The author’s analysis of how bureaucracies form lacks historical depth but ranges widely across the modern stage, and it offers a critique that a good leftist can use without simply watering down what a rightist might say—including his elegant “iron law of liberalism,” which holds that “any market force, any government initiative intended to reduce red tape and promote market forces will have the ultimate effect of increasing the total number of regulations, the total amount of paperwork, and the total number of bureaucrats the government employs.” A sharp, oddly sympathetic and highly readable account of how big government works—or doesn’t work, depending on your point of view.

RESILIENCE Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life

Greitens, Eric Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (320 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-544-32398-8

A former Navy SEAL’s advice on overcoming hardships in life. Since he had been on the front line, “where battles were fought and fates decided,” Greitens (The Warrior’s Heart: Becoming a Man of Compassion and Courage, 2012, etc.) knew what it was like to suffer deprivation and conquer obstacles. When he received a desperate phone call from a former SEAL comrade who was struggling with PTSD and attendant alcoholism, he knew he needed to act. What unfolded was a series of letters between the two men that explored the concept of resilience and the ability to handle whatever life throws at you, whether on the front line or at home. In a distillation of those letters, Greitens gives readers a solid core of ideas on ways to overcome adversity. He relies on his own experiences and the thoughts of both ancient Greek and modern-day philosophers, and he uses examples from his military training to build a framework upon which anyone can place his or her issues and come out ahead. kirkus.com

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Catherine Bailey

Haunted by the decline of a beautiful, massive British estate, Bailey started investigating By Bill Thompson But her book almost fell victim to the very furtiveness the family so carefully enforced. In 1972, the Fitzwilliams’ entire 20th-century archive of letters and papers was deliberately destroyed in a bonfire lasting three weeks. “Sixteen tons of documents had been burned, and my earlier excitement over the book began to fade,” recalls Bailey, a London-based author and documentary filmmaker. “I was devastated. I didn’t have the courage to go back to the publisher and say it could not be done.” Tantalizing fragments of correspondence given her by a surviving family member, Lady Juliet Tadgell, the only child of Peter, the eighth Earl Fitzwilliam, suggested a host of family skeletons. But Bailey had greater success in exhuming letters received from the Fitzwilliams by friends, relatives and other prominent families. Pivotal leads were drawn from newspaper accounts of houseguests visiting the massive family estate, Wentworth House, and of parties held there before World War II. Oral histories from coal miners and former servants at Wentworth also were useful in lending context to the picture. Bailey was drawn to the subject by the discovery of Wentworth House. A grand but little-known Georgian edifice three times the size of Buckingham Palace, it was the finest such house in Britain in 1902. Unlike such celebrated structures as Blenheim Palace, today it is largely a forgotten place, in considerable disrepair. “I first came across this house in the late 1990s while up in Yorkshire making a television documentary series,” Bailey says. “I could not believe I hadn’t heard of it. It was all shuttered and looked rather neglected, and there was something rather strange about the landscape in front of it, something not quite right.

Photo courtesy Konrad Gabriel

Private scandals and festering rivalries. A notoriously secretive aristocratic family. Decades of potentially embarrassing correspondence put to the torch. Poseurs and plots. Very juicy. Could familial discord have been just as corrosive as industrial advances and social change in the collapse of the Fitzwilliams, a coal mining dynasty that was the wealthiest family in England at the turn of the 20th century? Catherine Bailey believed so and set out to document it. Black Diamonds is her dissection of the almost impenetrable Fitzwilliams, chronicling the forces behind their precipitous fall from power. 64

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Black Diamonds enabled Bailey to spread her wings as a storyteller. “Hugely so,” says Bailey, whose other book, The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery, was released in 2012. “But having those 25 years in television as a filmmaker really helped in writing the book, because you think in terms of scenes and episodes. The book really is a series of episodes that jump in at flashpoints. One of the things I love most is getting a sense of history as it happens, not looking at it with the benefit of hindsight.” Bill Thompson writes about books, film and the arts. The Wentworth Battery in training in Wentworth Park in 1914

Black Diamonds was reviewed in the Nov. 1, 2014, issue of Kirkus Reviews.

“Two or three years went by, and I could not get it out of my mind. I felt haunted by it. In between my television programs, I started doing research. I found that there was this incredible story about a family in the early 1900s. They were the richest aristocratic family in Britain, and yet 50 years later, they had been hounded from this house and lost the source of all their wealth.” They were also dying out, with no suitable heirs to carry the family name. Bailey began work on the book in 2003, as engrossed in the story of coal as she was in that of the Fitzwilliams (and their connection to America’s “first family,” the Kennedys). All told, the book took two and a half years to write upon completion of her research, though not without some trepidation. “It was a great leap to actually embark on writing it because it was my first book and I gave up my job in television to do it,” says Bailey. “But to have the book commissioned by a publisher was one of the most exciting days of my life.” Her painstaking research, complicated by the paucity of primary sources, called on Bailey’s resourcefulness as a producer and director of films. “Making documentaries is about reaching out to people, about creating a narrative from their stories,” she says. “Although there were false trails, I gleaned a lot from the people who spoke to me. One thing led to another, and there were these extraordinary breakthroughs in terms of papers I discovered. You just have to believe that there’s something out there if you look hard enough and long enough.” Documentary filmmaking generally necessitates a degree of distillation or compression. By contrast,

Black Diamonds The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years that Changed England Bailey, Catherine Penguin (520 pp.) $17.00 | Dec. 30, 2014 978-0-14-312684-3 |

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“A rewarding book with much to offer, including the likely spark of new interest in how singular choices made by both men and nations can reverberate for generations.” from the great leader and the fighter pilot

THE GREAT LEADER AND THE FIGHTER PILOT The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom

After acknowledging that fear and anxiety are often the first hurdles to overcome, the author moves on to give readers the tools to develop inner strengths that will encourage a lifetime of resiliency. “[W]e learn best about resilience not when we focus on dramatic moments,” writes Greitens, “but when we take in the arc of whole lives. Resilience is cultivated not so that we can perform well in a single instance, but so that we can live a full and flourishing life.” Based on the practices he suggests to build compassion, confront pain and create happiness, readers can move beyond their fears and create creative, energized lives rich in wisdom and filled with friendships and mentorships. Robust, heart-to-heart lessons for moving beyond obstacles to create a better life.

Harden, Blaine Viking (288 pp.) $27.95 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-670-01657-0

The carnage of war, the rise of a dictator and one North Korean defector’s life story all come together in this combination of biography, military history and exposé. Harden (Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, 2012, etc.) skillfully fuses all his narrative threads into one united chronicle. In narrating the rise of North Korea’s first communist dictator, Kim Il Sung, Harden ties Kim’s story to that of defector No Kum Sok. The once-privileged son of a factory owner under Japanese rule, No disliked communism and its constraints from the start and began planning his escape the first time he heard Kim speak in person. No spent five years pretending to be zealously committed to the party in order to protect himself long enough to put his plan into action. He joined the navy and volunteered to become a fighter pilot in hopes of flying his way out of North Korea. Eventually, he did just that, crossing the border to South Korea in a MiG-15 and leaving Kim and communism behind for good. To complement both No’s and Kim’s stories, Harden keeps the Korean War in the foreground. He includes details that were left out of American news and military reports, using recently disclosed military documents and No’s eyewitness testimony. The U.S looms large in this book, both as a dream destination for No and a terrifying agent of death and destruction for his homeland. Using this multifaceted view, Harden explains how Kim, though laughably inept regarding military strategy and in fulfilling his nation’s needs, was able to build a lasting dictatorial dynasty. A rewarding book with much to offer, including the likely spark of new interest in how singular choices made by both men and nations can reverberate for generations.

FOUR YEARS IN THE MOUNTAINS OF KURDISTAN An Armenian Boy’s Memoir of Survival Haigaz, Aram Translated by Iris H. Chekenian Maiden Lane Press (396 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 26, 2015 978-1-940210-06-3

An account of tragic years in Armenian history. In 1915, Haigaz (1900-1986), born Aram Chekenian, his mother and sisters became victims of Armenian persecution by Ottoman Turks, forced from their homes to march across the Syrian Desert. Starving and destitute, they came to a village where they discovered that other Armenian boys, after converting to Islam, found work as servants in Turkish households. Acceding to his mother’s pleas, the young Haigaz became a willing convert. For the next four years, he lived among Kurdish tribes, tending sheep, reaping crops, feeding chickens and serving as a trusted messenger. Living in intimate proximity to the families, he learned their customs, secrets and, with astute cunning, vulnerabilities. After immigrating to America when he was 21, Haigaz began to write and publish his memories of the massacre that killed his father and brothers, and he mined his experiences in short stories that were published in The Armenian Review. The author adapted some of those stories for a memoir, published in Armenian in 1972 and now translated, condensed and edited by his daughter. Haigaz tells a harrowing story of barbaric cruelty by Turks against the people they considered infidels. Nevertheless, after he converted to Islam—a simple matter of declaration—he was treated humanely. When his first master died, Haigaz moved to the household of his younger brother, a “sensible, modest, and godly” man who had not taken part in the Armenian massacres and, in fact, “could not kill a chicken or watch a sheep being slaughtered.” His only vice seemed to be a great love of alcohol, though forbidden by the Quran. Haigaz reveals intertribal struggles and betrayals as world war raged in the background. In the spring of 1919, with the Ottoman Empire defeated, he saw his chance to escape. A richly detailed testimony to a young man’s courage in the face of unspeakable horror. 66

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COWED The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment Hayes, Denis; Hayes, Gail Boyer Norton (400 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 9, 2015 978-0-393-23994-2

A condemnatory look at the factoryfarming model that has overpopulated the planet with too many cattle, to the detriment of all involved. |


Indignant and sometimes with a holier-than-thou tone, the united Hayes, he an Earth Day pioneer and she an environmental lawyer, decry a system that “treats cows barbarously, even as it ruins some of the best soil on the planet, destroys irreplaceable aquifers, fills the air with warming gases, and creates enormous dead zones at the mouths of rivers.” Ground zero for that nefarious activity is Iowa, where the authors do a grim mathematical assessment of the cost in topsoil and corn to keep cows alive and fat long enough to make it to the nearest fast-food restaurant. Cows are necessary, of course; as the authors note, they’re essential to the dairy industry, especially inasmuch as “female bison don’t take kindly to humans handling their small teats.” Necessary or no, the authors attack the systematic mistreatment of cattle on feedlots and in holding pens, with the sentient animals reduced to cogs; cattle enrich us, but their lives are “cruelly diminished in the process.” But maybe they don’t enrich us after all. As the authors point out, pathogens can be killed by cooking beef thoroughly, but antibiotics can resist heat and can wreak havoc on the human ecosystem; if we are what we eat, then we are similarly diminished. Though their argument is sometimes preachy, and perhaps necessarily so, the authors don’t content themselves with jeremiad alone but instead offer positive things one can do. These include spending more on food to buy grass-fed and organic and homegrown, a luxury that of course not everyone can afford, and favoring bison meat over beef, to say nothing of eating less meat to begin with. Provocative though unlikely to reach far beyond the choir box. (31 illustrations)

RAVENSBRÜCK Life and Death in Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women

Helm, Sarah Talese/Doubleday (768 pp.) $37.50 | Mar. 31, 2015 978-0-385-52059-1

Just when you thought you knew all about the Holocaust camps, Helm (A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII, 2006) chronicles the history of this muchignored site for women. It was little different from other camps, its primary purpose removing those who would sully the German gene pool and using them as slave labor. In the Nazis’ obsessive recordkeeping, each inmate had a file and was identified by a colored patch dividing them into political prisoners, asocials (lesbians, prostitutes), Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews. Prussian efficiency required paperwork and approvals for every action or move. Even punitive beatings (as opposed to the everyday cruelties) required the signature of Heinrich Himmler himself. However, this is not really the story of the deaths by gas, firing squad, lethal injection, poison and neglect (starvation); the author smartly focuses on the incredible ways that a wide variety of women fought to survive. Those who were sent to factories, |

like Siemens, purposely sabotaged the arms they worked on. The imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses and Red Army medics succeeded in refusing to work on armaments. Poles who had been used in medical experiments found a way to smuggle their stories out written in their own urine. Not all had the strength to withstand the barbaric conditions, and 40,000 to 50,000 of the 123,000 prisoners died. Only a Swedish mission miraculously saved 17,000 lives toward the end of the war. This camp isn’t well-known for a number of reasons: The staff destroyed all records, it was in the Russian zone, victims wouldn’t discuss it, Russian prisoners were actually punished for being caught, the camp was on a smaller scale, and the contention was that “they were only women.” Not just another tale of concentration camp terrors, Helm delivers a gripping story of the women who outlasted them and had the strength to share with the author and us 60 years later.

MOURNING LINCOLN

Hodes, Martha Yale Univ. (408 pp.) $30.00 | Feb. 24, 2015 978-0-300-19580-4

Universal responses to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln—black and white, North and South, incredulous, gleeful or vengeful—make for grim yet engrossing reading. With meticulous scholarship, Hodes (History/New York Univ.; The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century, 2006, etc.) presents a plethora of people’s intimate reactions to the assassination of Lincoln on April 14, 1865—Good Friday, just days after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. The country was reeling from the blood bath of the Civil War, and with 2 percent of the population mowed down, death had touched nearly every American household, North and South. The news of the first assassination of an American president—a beloved one who was looked on as a father to the torn, suffering nation— sent shock waves through the country in the spring of 1865. People scribbled their grief into diaries and letters, and Hodes uses the reactions of three protagonists as a “template for broader investigations”: a couple of white abolitionists from Salem, Massachusetts, who were horrified and stricken by the assassination; and a Jacksonville, Florida, lawyer, Rodney Dorman, whose relish in the murder of the president allowed him to vent his anger and disgust at Union occupation and black emancipation. Lincoln’s death galvanized emotions about the war and fears for the future of the nation, especially for African-Americans, who wondered whether their freedom would now be jeopardized. Was the assassination a vast Confederate plot to seize power? Yet Lincoln had been lenient toward the vanquished Southerners, and newly acceded President Andrew Johnson was notoriously ill-disposed toward the rich Southern planters. From reactions by Mary Todd Lincoln to the fiery kirkus.com

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EATING VIET NAM Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table

racist Copperheads, Hodes shows the uneven responses of a nation certainly not “united in grief.” A layered, nuanced work demonstrating the mingling of “the cataclysmic with the routine.”

Holliday, Graham Anthony Bourdain/Ecco (320 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-06-229305-3

MOODY BITCHES The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy

A celebration of Vietnamese street food, with some offerings that will make readers squirm as much as the author initially did. This is the adventure-travel version of a food memoir, one that puts Vietnamese food in fresh perspective yet ultimately proves more repetitive than exotic. What began as a blog while Holliday was teaching English in Southeast Asia— living in Korea as well as Hanoi and Saigon—still retains some elements of that form, with a penchant for lists and a tendency to revisit the same themes and make the same points. Small restaurants and food stalls that serve only one dish tend to prepare it very well, and there’s often an inverse correlation between the cleanliness of the preparation and the quality of the food. Ask a native Vietnamese for a recommendation, and he’ll often tell you where tourists like to go, or what places are really popular, rather than divulging where he thinks the food is best. Eat and run is the expectation for uncomfortable street diners, since lingering hurts profits. Yet most of the cooks and proprietors, operating at the margins of legality, proved cooperative and helpful to Holliday, though almost uniformly, they had little idea how many bowls of pho they serve in a day. They know that they’ve made money when they’ve sold out and generally lost money when they have food left over. Though he initially shocks the reader with “boiled uterus” and “ pig’s intestine,” he quickly explains this as “the unlikely beginning of a long-running affair with Viet Nam and Vietnamese food. It was just unfortunate that I’d gotten started at both the wrong end of the menu and the animal.” Ultimately, he writes, “[s]treet food is a bit like smoking. It can seem somewhat disgusting at first, it takes a little time to get into it, but before too long, you’re addicted.” Readers are likely to run out of patience before the author has run out of pages.

Holland, Julie Penguin Press (432 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-59420-580-4

Beyond the provocative title, psychiatrist Holland (Weekends at Bellevue: Nine Years on the Night Shift at the Psych ER, 2009) does not cast aspersions but instead urges women to embrace their mood fluctuations as part of natural hormonal rhythms. Medical history has not been kind to women’s health. “[M]alaise, headaches, irritability, nervousness, insomnia, fatigue, low libido, high libido, water retention” are just some of the complaints by women that 19th-century male physicians characterized as hysteria. Even today, women who get angry or cry in the workplace risk being labeled as “emotional and irrational.” Holland parses the science behind mood swings to explain the natural effects and functions of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and other hormones. Sexual drive, marriage, fidelity, childbearing and bonding are all tied to hormonal activity. While the author explores a fascinating array of subjects, much of the delivery of the information is disorganized, resulting in overload and frequent shuffling of pages to review what hormone or neurotransmitter is responsible for what. Holland devotes about half the book to a potpourri of advice on achieving good mental and physical health. There’s not much new information here, and the section could have used some pruning, but the tips are worth reviewing. A top stressor for women is trying to balance job and family, and stress causes inflammation, which makes you vulnerable to chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and arthritis. Understanding what’s going on in your body and mood swings reduces stress and promotes mental health, writes Holland. Limiting inflammation with a healthy diet—light on carbs and high on fresh vegetables—exercise, sleep, good sex and communing with nature promote physical health. A hodgepodge of science and personal observation, this all-encompassing book urges women to get in sync with their bodies and embrace their moods.

HARMATTAN A Philosophical Fiction Jackson, Michael Columbia Univ. (208 pp.) $26.00 paper | Apr. 21, 2015 978-0-231-17235-6

A New Zealand–born philosopher reflects on his years studying an ethnic group in Sierra Leone, weaving in the fictional tale of a young Englishman searching for personal transformation. 68

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“From the absurd to the sublime, and everywhere heartbreaking: a collage of voices from the tail end of the world’s conflagration.” from swansong 1945

Jackson (World Religions/Harvard Divinity School; The Wherewithal of Life: Ethics, Migration and the Question of Wellbeing, 2013, etc.) calls this experimental novella “A Philosophical Fiction,” and he divides it into two distinct sections. The first, “Limitrophes,” is composed of short vignettes about West Africa, where he has spent much time, interspersed with thoughtful but generic observations about the world. His theme is often rebirth. “It’s not always where and when you were born that matters,” writes the author; “it’s where you were reborn—when you were initiated into adulthood and with whom; when you walked away from an arranged or unfulfilling marriage; when you decided to quit a dead end job; when you left your natal village and risked your life crossing the borderlands to the global north....” It’s the fiction in the aftermath from which the book takes its name; a “harmattan” is the hot, dry and dusty wind that covers West Africa in the wintertime, bringing desertlike weather conditions. Into this real-world setting, Jackson introduces a young British student, Tom Lannon, who has come to meet a writer acquaintance, Ezekiel Mansaray. Both men are locked in passionless relationships with women and are seeking genuine experiences. In Tom’s case, he is retracing the path of Scottish explorer Alexander Gordon Laing’s journey from the Sierra Leone coast to the interior, after which Tom plans to write a book juxtaposing his own experiences with that journey from 1822. His journey is ultimately transformative but certainly not in the way he might have imagined. “You see, there are no real gifts in this world!” says Ezekiel. “We pay the price for everything we get. And some of us pay more dearly than others.” A slim but thoughtful rendering of an exotic locale that recalls The Quiet American.

SWANSONG 1945 A Collective Diary of the Last Days of the Third Reich

Kempowski, Walter Translated by Whiteside, Shaun Norton (480 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 13, 2015 978-0-393-24815-9

From the absurd to the sublime, and everywhere heartbreaking: a collage of voices from the tail end of the world’s conflagration. In 2005, German novelist Kempowski (1929-2007) published this cross section of voices, ordinary and otherwise, commenting on the end of World War II in German as part of a series of compositions largely exploring German guilt for the war. Over 20 years, he collected an astonishing array of autobiographies, letters, diaries and other documents to create a raw, tremendously moving set of reactions to the momentous events of April through May 1945: the lugubrious birthday celebrations of Adolf Hitler on April 20, the Allied liberation, VE-Day, and the very different takes by the international participants on the final signing of Germany’s capitulation at Karlshorst, Berlin, |

on May 8. In the preface, Kempowski notes that he composed this wealth of voices like an imagined Tower of Babel, revealing a similarly teetering longing by frail and inadequate humans for some kind of recognition of or consolation for their experience and suffering. Among dozens of other situations, the author examines German soldiers lying wounded in American hospitals; Joseph Goebbels, the “diabolical seducer,” continuing his vituperative radio address, declaring that “Chaos will be tamed!”; the scores of Berliners vulnerable to the retribution of marauding Russians; the prisoners in concentration camps, hanging by the barest thread; Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, persistent in his maddeningly correct accounts until the very last signing ceremony; and Hitler’s own final maniacal insistence that the blame of the war lay squarely with the Jews. Kempowki juxtaposes the voices of the poignantly unknown with the famous—from Thomas Mann eagerly following the movements of the Allied armies into Germany from his home in Los Angeles to Edmund Wilson in London wondering what the “roast duck” on the menu really was (probably crow). A riveting portrait of what Kurt Weill called the “total breakdown of all human dignity,” revealed through the bric-a-brac of war-shattered lives.

I DON’T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom

Korson, Kim Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $16.00 paper | Apr. 14, 2015 978-1-4767-4026-3

A Canadian writer tells the story of how she grew into a malcontented adult. Korson grew up in 1970s suburban Montreal feeling inadequate. While her family was only middle-class, her next-door neighbors could afford a live-in maid and all the dolls their daughter could ever want. Korson’s perpetually crabby mother refused to buy her those dolls, and her makeup-wearing businessman father went to work sporting a look “somewhere between European porn director and Jewish buckaroo.” Korson started kindergarten at a French-speaking school where she struck up an alliance with an equally unhappy 6-year-old “dead ringer...for Walter Matthau.” Ever on the lookout for fellow misfits, she befriended a troublemaking girl at summer camp and nearly got kicked out for bad behavior. In high school, theater provided her a temporary respite from the “bullshit” of life. Korson spent the rest of the time mooning over an on-again, off-again relationship that allowed her to indulge in her penchant for “sadness and negativity.” After graduating from college, she found a job at a talent agency, where she was reminded of her “stupidity, incompetence and general dislikability.” The author also eventually met the “quasi-Deadhead sporto part-time vegetarian/alcoholic” who would become her husband after years of makeups and breakups. During the years she worried about making “crazy” babies and how she would die, kirkus.com

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“Vastly edifying and vigorously written—a much-needed update on how far the psychiatric industry has come, both medically and from a public perception standpoint.” from shrinks

SHRINKS The Untold Story of Psychiatry

she finally reached middle age. It was then that Korson learned she suffered from chronic low-level depression. Though only the “gluten intolerance of mental disorders,” her diagnosis helped her realize why she could never find joy in her life and why she was like a disease “to be managed” rather than a person in need of serious attitude adjustment. Though rich in descriptive detail, Korson’s attempts at humor implode under the weight of her unrelenting negativity. A whiny, snarky memoir of “the muddy field of unhappiness and constant discomfort.”

Lieberman, Jeffrey A. with Ogas, Ogi Little, Brown (340 pp.) $28.00 | $14.99 e-book $25.98 Audiobook | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-316-27886-7 978-0-316-27884-3 e-book 978-1-47897-965-4 Audiobook

An intelligent, encouraging survey of the psychiatric industry. Though he considers the profession he’s dedicated his life to as the most “distrusted, feared, and denigrated of all medical specialties,” former American Psychiatric Association president Lieberman (Psychiatry/Columbia Univ. College of Physicians and Surgeons) writes with pride of his livelihood in this exuberant and comprehensive dissection of the trade. A profession once “clouded by ideology and dubious science,” the author applauds psychiatry’s grand advancements in the medical world and the progression of modern society’s impressions of it. Lieberman offers a broad historical perspective of how the mental health profession acquired its notoriously pseudoscientific reputation through chapters mining the processes of diagnosis and treatment, including a generous section highlighting the trailblazing career of Sigmund Freud, whose work as “CEO of the psychoanalytical movement” inspired the author to become a psychiatrist. Lieberman also discusses psychiatry’s historic role regarding issues of sexual orientation, the treatment of PTSD and the riddles involved in diagnosing schizophrenia (“sometimes schizophrenia skipped entire generations, only to re-emerge later in the family tree”). The author describes the documented barbarism of psychosurgical lobotomy treatments, insulin-induced comas, chloral sedation, progressive psychopharmacology and electroconvulsive therapy—though Lieberman also documents positive results with ECT performed on patients early in his career. The practice has dramatically outgrown its negative connotations, writes the author, with the implementation of a pluralistic viewpoint toward mental illness. Technological innovations like MRI neuroimaging and advanced genetic testing also paved the way toward a long overdue appreciation of psychiatric clinical practice. Furthermore, a complement of radical, renegade neuroscientists continues to revolutionize and destigmatize psychiatry throughout its modern-day renaissance. Lieberman’s exploration of what he dubs as psychiatry’s “dark comedy of fanciful missteps” optimistically concludes with Hollywood’s evolving interpretation of mental illness through films like The Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Vastly edifying and vigorously written—a much-needed update on how far the psychiatric industry has come, both medically and from a public perception standpoint.

ONE NATION UNDER GOD How Corporate America Invented Christian America Kruse, Kevin K. Basic (350 pp.) $29.99 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-465-04949-3

Kruse (History/Princeton Univ.; White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, 2007, etc.) explains the links between capitalism and Christianity. This history is linked to industry’s reaction to reform, born during the Progressive Era, revived by the New Deal and perfected during the Cold War. The rise of the Social Gospel movement under Theodore Roosevelt redefined Christianity as faith concerned with the public good more than personal salvation. Business leaders saw new regulations as a threat to their bottom lines and looked for help redefining their roles. The author credits three men and their movements that helped build “Christian Libertarianism”: James Fifield’s Spiritual Motivation Group, Abraham Vereide’s prayer breakfast meetings and Billy Graham’s evangelical revivals. Major corporations, prominent industrialists and business lobbies supported these evangelists, who were promoting free enterprise. Using scare tactics and playing up the links between piety and patriotism, these groups sold faith and freedom. Who would be so foolish as to deny or fight either? As Kruse explains the connections, readers will begin to understand that the rallies to promote church participation and fights for school prayer were basically big business’s drive to eliminate the welfare state and labor unions. Throughout the book, the author exposes big money’s manipulation of the masses. The religious leaders no doubt had good intentions, but many of them became rich promoting the evils of unions and the dangers of socialism. Beginning with Dwight Eisenhower, Republican presidents continued the fight. Enter Madison Avenue and Hollywood, and the propaganda drive and the sacralization of the state were in full tilt. In a book for readers from both parties, Kruse ably demonstrates how the simple ornamental mottoes “under God” and “In God We Trust,” as well as the fight to define America as Christian, were parts of a clever business plan. (14 b/w images) 70

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LOVING LEARNING How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools

Little, Tom; Ellison, Katherine Norton (256 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 2, 2015 978-0-393-24616-2

One of the leaders of the progressive education movement reflects on ways to improve more than just standardized test scores. The urgency of this book comes from two directions. The first, most obvious direction is the need for change in our American education system; every semester brings more news of disinterested students and harried teachers struggling to make a difference while guarding their backs against the threat of termination if the test scores don’t add up. The second direction is Little’s personal fight; diagnosed with bone cancer in the summer of 2013, he felt a new urgency to finish writing what he’d learned. The author died earlier this year, leaving behind his legacy of work at Park Day School in California and in this book, which examines successes and challenges at that school and many others like it. Little traveled around the country, visiting “progressive schools,” a loose moniker for schools that structure lessons and the direction of learning based on where the interests of the students take them. Emphasizing critical thinking, open communication and collaboration, and hands-on learning, the model works to prepare students to leave school capable of self-directed learning. With the assistance of Pulitzer Prize winner Ellison, Little explores the different movements forming to protest the government-driven “testing mania,” noting that corporate interests have lobbied furiously to convince legislators that using standardized tests to measure student achievement and teacher efficacy has in fact hampered both. Little also writes about the accountability and rigor that critics claim progressive schools lack. When we talk about the ways children learn, it is accepted wisdom that different people learn in different ways, but with standardized testing, we’re looking at one small piece of their educations and extrapolating too far. Little’s enthusiasm and passion for the potential of progressive schools burn on every page and offer hope for a better way forward. (10 photos)

THE REAL THING Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook

McCarthy, Ellen Ballantine (288 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 21, 2015 978-0-345-54969-3

A Washington Post journalist investigates the lives of real-life couples to understand what goes into making relationships work. |

McCarthy became the weddings beat reporter for her newspaper in 2009—ironically, on the same day she broke up with her then-boyfriend. In the months and years that followed, she spoke with dozens of couples from all walks of life seeking insight on “this thing called love.” The author delivers a compilation of the best of these interviews, which she interweaves with words of wisdom drawn from relationship experts, therapists, researchers and her own experience. Like Nikki, the happily married African-American technology manager, and Daniel, her much shorter Jewish husband, singles should “never say never” to what appears different from what they expected or wanted. Openness to others, as well as to different methods of locating a potential partner, is a must. Once in a relationship, people need to steer clear of illusions that a life lived in tandem is all about “champagne and sweet nothings.” Good relationships require tolerance, compromise, and an understanding that a spouse cannot and should not be “our everything.” And while breaking up may be hard to do, those who go through it need to experience it fully and completely because nothing, including denial, “will allow [them] to sidestep the stages of grief.” When two people decide to formalize their relationship with a wedding, the biggest challenge will be to sift through the “million ways to make the occasion magical” while keeping their cools. Making that marriage last is the final frontier. But as McCarthy’s story of Bob and Henry, a couple that stayed together for 62 years, suggests, little things, like saying, “please, thank you and excuse me,” are what ultimately make the difference. Straight-talking, but hardly groundbreaking, dating advice for adults of all ages.

THE WAR THAT FORGED A NATION Why the Civil War Still Matters

McPherson, James M. Oxford Univ. (224 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 4, 2015 978-0-19-937577-6

A pre-eminent historian reflects on the Civil War’s lasting impact on the nation. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln told Congress that the struggle to preserve the Union “is not altogether for today—it is for a vast future also.” In these essays from the past eight years, McPherson (Emeritus, History/Princeton Univ.; Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief, 2014, etc.) notes the public’s continuing fascination with the Civil War, with its 750,000 soldiers dead, its “larger-than-life, near mythical” figures like Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, and its great “drama and romance and tragedy.” But at a deeper level, the conflict remains a lasting, seminal event in American history that transformed the average citizen’s relationship with government, sparked a historic shift in values toward positive liberty, and created the continuing “legacy of slavery in the form of racial discrimination and prejudice.” In many of the essays, McPherson reflects on the kirkus.com

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historiography of the war, including the ways in which academic historians’ enthusiasm for social as opposed to military history has affected scholarship on Lincoln. Several essays sharply criticize the work of specific historians, including Harry Stout for misrepresentations in Upon the Altar of the Nation (2006) and T. Harry Williams for his mistaken conclusion in Lincoln and His Generals (1952) that the president was a natural war strategist. Others explore topics from the expansion of slave states to wartime naval issues to the impact on American society of death and destruction on a massive scale. In a discussion of Lincoln and slavery, the author agrees with Eric Foner that the president was anti-slavery (deeming it a violation of natural rights) but not an abolitionist (he expected slavery would eventually die out). These authoritative essays, most of which appeared previously in various formats, will appeal mainly to serious students and specialists.

v. E.C. Knight Co., which limited the government’s ability to control monopolies, and Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Company, which exempted earnings on capital from federal taxation. Other decisions have prolonged child labor and the oppression of women while expanding arbitrary rights of ownership. An impressive debut offering explanations based on coherence between people, cases and the events they adjudicated.

17 CARNATIONS The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History Morton, Andrew Grand Central Publishing (368 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4555-2711-3

Morton (William & Catherine: Their Story, 2011, etc.) takes a break from his unauthorized biographies of the rich and famous to dig into the archives regarding the incompetent King Edward VIII and his American wife, Wallis Simpson. The story is well-known: The Prince of Wales fell for a twice-married lady from Baltimore and eventually abdicated his throne for her. Edward was effectively banished by the new king, George VI, to avoid comparisons to his much more charismatic brother, and made the Duke of Windsor. This story is really about Edward and Simpson’s close ties to the Nazis, including a visit with Hitler. While still in England, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s special deputy who was mad for Wallis, became a fixture in their set. He convinced the king of Germany’s good intentions, strengthening Edward’s support of Hitler’s economic success. But Edward overstepped his position as king when he interfered in foreign relations, attempting to forestall war. The meat of the book doesn’t arrive until halfway through, during the duke’s stay in Spain and Portugal in 1940 on the way to his gubernatorial term in the Bahamas. Under Operation Willi, Germany planned to install Edward as a puppet dictator after England’s defeat, which nearly occurred as the British were evacuating Dunkirk. Edward was surely aware of the plan. He was indiscreet, irresponsible, defeatist, childish and naïve. Days before the end of the war, copies of communications among the Germans, Spanish and the Windsors were discovered in the Russian zone and quickly spirited away by the British. This evidence of his clear knowledge of the plan would have done irreparable damage to the British monarchy. Morton insists that Edward never really wanted to be king and implies that Simpson never wanted to marry him. A better book would begin in Spain and focus on the damning papers, saving readers all the silly bits and innuendo of Simpson’s affairs.

INJUSTICES The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted Millhiser, Ian Nation Books/Perseus (368 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-56858-456-0

Center for American Progress senior constitutional policy analyst Millhiser assesses the damage caused by the Supreme Court to the Constitution, government and the citizens whose rights have repeatedly been curtailed or abrogated in arbitrary, capricious, bigoted and arrogant proceedings. The author’s historical approach presents justices and their cases in the context of the bloody disputes the nation’s highest court was called to adjudicate. He examines how the court helped undermine the results of the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as its role in stalling the adoption of the Civil Rights Act and other significant political reforms over the decades. Millhiser delineates the tradition from which current decisionmaking by the Roberts court arises, and he looks at how the court has reversed protections like the Voting Rights Act and obstacles to district gerrymandering. Intriguingly, the author claims that these actions, which reasserted the political primacy of Congress, were more responsible for securing change than the court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision of 1954. Millhiser shows that opponents of Brown were also enemies of the New Deal. He establishes continuity between advocates of enforced separation of the races—e.g., anti-Semite Justice James Clark McReynolds, who “refused to speak to Justice Louis Brandeis for Brandeis’s first three years on the Court because Brandeis was Jewish”—and pro-slavery Chief Justice Melville Fuller, an embittered opponent of Abraham Lincoln and former aide to Stephen Douglas. Fuller’s economic ideology helped produce such decisions as United States 72

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“A funny book for any serious reader.” from between you & me

BETWEEN YOU & ME Confessions of a Comma Queen

Norris, Mary Norton (240 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 6, 2015 978-0-393-24018-4

A New Yorker editor since 1978, Norris provides an educational, entertaining narrative about grammar, spelling and punctuation. The author devotes chapters to commas (who knew a printer more or less invented comma usage in 1490?); apostrophes; hyphens; the difference between “that” and “which”; the proper usage of “who” and “whom” (would Ernest Hemingway have published For Who the Bell Tolls?); dealing with profanity in a national magazine (a chapter in which Norris demonstrates that not all copy editors are prudish); which dictionary (if any) to rely on; and, as a bonus, an ode to pencils with and without erasers. Raised in the Cleveland area, Norris had a vague notion growing up of being a writer. But after attending college, she did not know how to proceed toward that goal, so she worked jobs that included delivering milk to homes, packaging cheese in a factory for sale to supermarkets and washing dishes in a restaurant. The possibility of an editing job at the New Yorker arose only because Norris’ brother knew an important person there. Once at the New Yorker, the author engaged in spirited debates with more senior copy editors about all manner of decisions about grammar, punctuation and spelling. Though she observed the rules, she also began to realize that sometimes she had to compromise due to the fact that accomplished writers for the magazine followed their own logic. Norris delivers a host of unforgettable anecdotes about such famed New Yorker writers as Philip Roth, Pauline Kael, John McPhee and George Saunders. In countless laughout-loud passages, Norris displays her admirable flexibility in bending rules when necessary. She even makes her serious quest to uncover the reason for the hyphen in the title of the classic novel Moby-Dick downright hilarious. A funny book for any serious reader.

THE IRISH BROTHERHOOD John F. Kennedy, His Inner Circle, and the Improbable Rise to the Presidency O’Donnell, Helen with O’Donnell Sr., Kenneth Counterpoint (480 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-61902-462-5

The daughter of Kenneth O’Donnell, a principal adviser to John F. Kennedy, discusses the strategies, successes and failures that led to JFK’s becoming the 35th president. |

O’Donnell, who had access to some key recordings and interviews her father had conducted, has written previously about him and the Kennedys, A Common Good: The Friendship of Robert F. Kennedy and Kenneth P. O’Donnell (1998). It was through Robert Kennedy (whom he had known at Harvard) that O’Donnell entered the Kennedy inner sanctum and became a dominant member of what the author calls “the Irish Brotherhood” (she disdains the darker “Irish Mafia” locution). O’Donnell begins the tale in Chicago in 1956, when JFK failed to win the vice-presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Then she rewinds a bit, taking us back to the late 1940s. We witness JFK’s run for the Senate, watch the warriors working during the 1952 election, return for a closer look at 1956 and then arrive at the major focus of the story— the 1960 election, which consumes nine chapters. The author ends with the inauguration and the Bay of Pigs, responsibility for which she endeavors to lay at the feet of the Eisenhower administration. O’Donnell’s subtitle is a bit misleading: Yes, she deals a bit with the other Irish advisers (Larry O’Brien and Dave Powers, principally), but the vast majority of the attention is on her father. Few of her characters have smudges. Yes, JFK had a wandering eye (mentioned once, never discussed), and RFK had a temper. But mostly it’s virtue that interests the author— JFK’s debating skills and intelligence, O’Donnell’s bluntness and fierce loyalty (we’re also told—more than once—that he was “quick as a cat”), and RFK’s organizational skills. Lines from Camelot end the text. Swollen with a daughter’s pride but also full of gripping detail.

BAD FAITH When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine

Offit, Paul A. Basic (272 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-465-08296-4

“Every year, tens of thousands of Americans refuse medical care for their children in the name of God,” writes Offit (Vaccinology and Pediatrics/Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Do You Believe in Magic: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, 2013, etc.) in this exposé. As recently as 2013, writes the author, “the CDC identified thirty-thousand children whose parents had chosen not to vaccinate them for religious reasons.” Offit examines the beliefs and practices of the Christian Scientists for whom prayer, rather than medicine, is a tenet of their faith as it relates to sickness. He also looks at the Catholic Church, which still sanctions exorcism but not abortion; instances of unsanitary circumcision practices among certain groups of ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City; and faith-healing cults such as the Faith Tabernacle Congregation, which also opposes vaccination. Targeting what he terms “destructive cults” that claim to act in the kirkus.com

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name of God when they demand that members rely solely on prayer and reject medical treatment, the author clarifies that he is not making a broadside argument against religion. He is sympathetic to parents whose decision to refuse medical treatment leads to a child’s death, but he supports the right of the courts to override such decisions in order to protect a child’s life. Offit recounts court battles in which medical authorities obtained injunctions allowing them to treat children—e.g., administering necessary blood transfusions. In 1967, a Massachusetts court sentenced a mother to five years of probation because she failed to allow medical treatment for her daughter, who subsequently died as a result. A few years later, Congress passed the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act, which included the right of children to lifesaving medical treatment but exempted parents or guardians who were adhering to “the tenets and practices of a recognized church.” A thought-provoking discussion of the conflict between society’s right to protect all children and the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

PAGANS The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity O’Donnell, James J. Ecco/HarperCollins (280 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 7, 2015 978-0-06-184535-2 978-0-06-237071-6 e-book

Georgetown University provost and author O’Donnell (The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History, 2008, etc.) offers a revisionist tour of the reach and purpose of the gods for the Romans, from the height of Rome’s temple building by Augustus in 17 B.C. to the Christian incursions of the A.D. fourth century. Senior statesmen privately consulted the ancient Greek Sibylline books kept beneath the Temple of Jupiter in Rome not to predict the future so much as to “determine what it would take to placate the gods—and thus produce a better future.” O’Donnell emphasizes how very gradual changes took place in how the people viewed their religion, as in the fluid exchange between the Greek and Roman pantheons and a general willingness by migrating people “to discern a familiar god behind an unfamiliar name.” The author describes with relish some of the various rituals practiced in ceremonies of sacrifice at the Roman temples, including prodigious spilling of blood, and popular notions of divination, such as augury (the watching of birds) and haruspicy (the reading of the innards of various animals), all of which were slowly eclipsed by the spread of Christianity. Yet Christians, too, had their magic incantations and secret societies. Examining the works of such philosophers as Plotinus, O’Donnell explores the eager adoption of new ideas about a more powerful deity and bloodless ritual. Yet Constantine’s gathering of bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 spurred the birth of paganism, as Christianity was fundamentally defined in 74

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opposition to it: as a rejection of false gods and old ways. Eventually, O’Donnell arrives at what a pagan is (from the Latin paganus, or peasant): anybody who was not a soldier of Christ. A roundabout historical lesson that employs the classical texts with irony and irreverence.

PATRIOTIC BETRAYAL The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism

Paget, Karen M. Yale Univ. (552 pp.) $35.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-300-20508-4

A multilayered, mystifying exposé of how the CIA infiltrated and ultimately directed the U.S. National Student Association in thwarting international communist goals from 1950 to 1967. As one of the students involved in the NSA in 1965, along with her husband, American Prospect contributing editor Paget (co-author: Running as a Woman: Gender and Power in American Politics, 1993) was sworn to silence when apprised of the CIA’s role in a government agency that was considered liberal and left-leaning. Why and how would the CIA financially support a student-run agency that bolstered revolutionary, civil liberties–rich causes, such as the Algerian move for independence, the Hungarian revolution against Soviet dictatorship and the American civil rights movement, while it condemned the witch hunts by the House Un-American Activities Committee? In her thoroughgoing but occasionally convoluted narrative, Paget gradually unravels the full story for the first time—since the truth first emerged from a shocking internal leak to Ramparts magazine in 1967. The NSA was initially inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s American Student Union of the 1930s, which had comfortably included socialist and communist groups until the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939. Thus the student movement had to be “restructured” in order to train a new generation of leaders, hopefully wedded to FDR’s New Deal policies and yet firmly anti-communist. Due largely to a progressive Catholic student bloc pressing for a new national student group in favor of affiliation with the International Union of Students, based in Prague, the NSA would ultimately be manipulated by CIA operatives as a rival to the IUS and a channel through which to temper the communist influence. Elaborate ruses allowed only the top NSA leaders to be “witting” accomplices to the CIA infiltration. An uneven but useful chronicle of a far-fetched history whose woeful truth is only now emerging.

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“A fun, clear and clever introduction to the rich history of philosophy in the Western world.” from the cartoon introduction to philosophy

THE CARTOON INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

Patton, Michael F. Illus. by Cannon, Kevin Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (176 pp.) $17.95 paper | Apr. 14, 2014 978-0-8090-3362-1 An obscure, pre-Socratic Greek philosopher takes readers down the long river of philosophy, explaining movements, theories, breakthroughs and ethics with the help of a few special guest stars. Oh, what cartoonist and mathematician Larry Gonick started when he launched his cartoon histories of history and the universe. Now, Hill and Wang follows up its cartoon histories about economics with this clever and high-spirited history of philosophy by Patton (Philosophy/Univ. of Montevallo) and illustrator Cannon (Crater XV, 2013, etc.) Our narrator is Heraclitus, who literally paddles readers down the river of philosophy represented in his teachings, stopping along the way to pick up passengers like a foulmouthed Friedrich Nietzsche. “Twenty-five centuries ago, when I said that ‘It is not possible to step twice into the same river’...I was remarking on the fact that everything around us is in flux, and change is the only constant,” Heraclitus explains. “This also applies to the field of philosophy, which, perhaps more than any other, is constantly changing due to its own progress and self-criticism. No two rides down this river will be the same.” The themes are broken up nicely so that in the chapter on logic, we might meet Aristotle but also John Stuart Mill; in “Minds,” we reconnect with Nietzsche but also run into the British mathematician Alan Turing and his famous “Turing Test” or even the contemporary Australian philosopher David John Chalmers. In the chapter on God, we meet classical thinkers in Thomas Aquinas and Immanuel Kant but also debate Charles Darwin over whether evolution and natural selection are possible without a guiding hand from a creator. Patton and Cannon also offer a nice visual portrait of each philosopher as well as a concise summary of each person’s work and ideas, not to mention a helpful glossary covering the spectrum from “Absolutism” to “Validity.” A fun, clear and clever introduction to the rich history of philosophy in the Western world.

THE NEW WILD Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation

Pearce, Fred Beacon (256 pp.) $26.95 | $26.95 e-book | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-8070-3368-5 978-0-8070-3369-2 e-book

Environmental journalist Pearce (The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth, 2012, etc.) examines the effects of introduced species and our responses to them. |

It is time to stand back and look at the evidence when we come to judge and respond to “invasive” species, writes the author; at this point, pretty much the majority of species is invasive rather than endemic. Pearce appears ready to swing the pendulum away from conserving the “pristine” to utterly “novel ecosystems,” and part of that change will entail sometimes-irksome invasive species. Nature is dynamic and cannot be conserved in aspic; on the other hand, to claim a noninterventionist approach is just as unreal, since humans are forever intervening in nature’s progress. When Pearce writes, “we need to lose our fear of the alien and the novel,” he hits the nail on the head. When he follows that line with, “It means conservationists must stop spending all their time backing loser species—the endangered and the reclusive,” he sounds like a crank eugenicist. Are alien species really “nature at its best”? However, few would disagree with the author that introduced species do not deserve to be ecologically cleansed. Yes, Pearce admits, alien species can cause us “inconvenience,” but then how does it follow that we should “let [nature] run wild”? For the most part, the author brings the balanced perspective of a seasoned, freethinking environmental reporter, pushing points that need to be made—nature is a hothouse of change, an often temporary arrangement, and open to being remade—and what we think of as invasive is mostly hardiness and lack of competition that in many instances finds a new equilibrium, the incomers becoming “model eco-citizens.” Pearce’s book could use some pruning and shaping of its own, but his theme is significant: There is no going back when change is the norm.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 50 YEARS My Adventure to Every Country on Earth

Podell, Albert Dunne/St. Martin’s (368 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-250-05198-1

The globe-trotting adventures of former magazine editor Podell (co-author: Who Needs a Road?: The Story of the Longest and Last Motor Journey Around the World, 1967). Having traversed the world on an ambitious, fraught, 581day Trans-World Record Expedition with Harold Stephens in 1965-1966, Brooklyn-born Podell renewed his vow in 2000 to try to reach all the countries in the world. At the time, he was “dimly aware there were between 190 and 200 countries.” Juggling a New York law practice, he set out sporadically over the next decade, either in the company of a beautiful young woman (“a legacy from my previous post as an editor at Playboy”) or stalwart male cohorts, to trek through some difficult and often politically explosive terrain. Chronicling his travels through South and Central America, West Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, he offers entertaining highlights of evidently arduous yet well-planned trips. Figuring out what constituted a kirkus.com

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country—e.g., membership in the U.N. was not always a given (Taiwan, Vatican City and Kosovo)—and obtaining visas to certain dictatorial hot spots were nearly impossible. Although his “do-do list” gets tiresome, the author’s tales are unquestionably entertaining. He trekked up Mount Vaea in Samoa to visit the grave of another “teller of tales,” his idol Robert Louis Stevenson; gamely tried all manner of ghastly edibles, including stillpulsating monkey brain; and talked his way out of numerous dangerous scrapes. Though a well-hardened traveler, Podell occasionally shows his pampered Western roots, such as in ranking a country’s comfort level by the quality of its toilet paper: the Podell Potty Paper Rating (PPPR—1 being “soft white,” and 7 means “no public toilets at all”). While he writes warmly of kindly inhabitants and creatures, he is extremely critical of Haiti and parts of Africa where the education gap neglects to teach people “how to think”—like this canny American, at least. The book features occasionally salacious details, but there is never a dull moment. (31 b/w photos)

and its spirit to evolving human truths. By the end of their year together, she realized that “opposition between [her] own postEnlightenment worldview and [Nadwi’s] Muslim one” was a false construction that not only prevented her from seeing her friend’s world clearly, but also her own. Intelligent and exceptionally informative.

THE MISADVENTURES OF AWKWARD BLACK GIRL

Rae, Issa 37 Ink/Atria (210 pp.) $26.00 | Feb. 10, 2015 978-1-4767-4905-1

Writer, producer and director Rae, famous for her popular Web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” channels her humor and attention to detail into this eponymous collection of personal essays about all the embarrassing moments that have made her who she is. Sharp and able to laugh at herself, the author writes as if she’s unabashedly telling friends a stream of cringeworthy stories about her life. Having grown up with the understanding that laughing at and talking about people was a form of entertainment and bonding, Rae continues the tradition by inviting readers into her inner circle and making her own foibles her primary focus. Almost 30, she opens up about nearly everything in her life, from her lifelong fear of being watched while eating in public to acutely awkward experiences with Internet dating and cybersex. The theme that race plays in this book is integral, although Rae’s approach, as with all of her subjects, is decidedly humorous and lighthearted; she veers, always, toward a personal tone as opposed to one that’s political or polemical. Her unwavering candidness, the sheer energy of her voice and the fact that she clearly finds herself to be terrific material make her a charismatic, if occasionally exasperating, narrator worth rooting for. Having been in a committed relationship for seven years, Rae unpacks how her Senegalese parents’ union contributed to her attitude (indifference) toward marriage. Some readers will find her proclamations and direct confessions offensive and be turned off; others may be offended but laugh out loud anyway. In Rae, her audience has landed on a singular voice with the verve and vivacity of uncorked champagne. An authentic and fresh extension of the author’s successful Web series.

IF THE OCEANS WERE INK An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran Power, Carla Henry Holt (352 pp.) $18.00 paper | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-8050-9819-8

An award-winning journalist’s account of the year she spent probing the meaning of the Quran with a conservative Muslim religious scholar. St. Louis native Power spent many years living in cities like Tehran, Kabul, Delhi and Cairo when she was a child and teenager. Eventually, she went on to study Middle Eastern societies in college and graduate school and file news reports about Islamic culture and politics for magazines like Time and Newsweek. But the more she wrote about the Middle East, the more she realized how little she really knew about “the piety [Muslims] claimed inspired them.” So she went to a friend and Oxford professor of religion, Mohammad Akram Nadwi, and asked him to enlighten her on the Quran. The lively dialogue that ensued between them covered such hot-button Western obsessions as women’s rights, polygamy and Sharia law. At the same time, it also delved into more personal topics, such as which Quranic themes her friend found the most important in his own life. The journalist and her friend debated each other in Oxford cafes, lecture halls and Indian madrassas and bonded over shared human experiences, like the deaths of their respective mothers. While Nadwi made God the center of his world, he also supported basic human rights and the importance of “individual conscience over state-mandated laws.” His religious expansiveness had its limits, however, especially where women’s domestic roles and homosexuality were concerned. Power eventually came to see that her friend’s faith derived from understanding the letter of the Quran as bound to historical context 76

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“Far-ranging look at the ultimate jam band in the acid-drenched context of their formative years.” from no simple highway

INFAMY The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II Reeves, Richard Henry Holt (340 pp.) $30.00 | Apr. 21, 2015 978-0-8050-9408-4

Former Frontline journalist Reeves (Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House, 2010, etc.) brings his reporting chops to this history of America’s less-publicized response to the Pearl Harbor bombings. The author brings a host of points of view to the story of the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans in the early 1940s, which was initiated by Franklin Roosevelt. Reeves liberally quotes politicians, reporters and citizens, rehashing the argument that “a Jap is a Jap” and therefore all Japanese aliens and even citizens on the West Coast needed to be removed. Reeves includes firsthand and secondhand accounts of life inside the camps. In addition to chronicling the poor living conditions, he also explores the details that made them livable—e.g., Boy Scout troops, high school dances and mail-order deliveries. Though Reeves’ subject is an essentially bleak picture of hysterical racism, for the most part, the author does a solid job of balancing the dreary passages with occasional shots of humor, humanity or both. Neighbors who protected and managed Japanese-American family assets in preparation for their returns, college students who asserted that “the average intelligence of people in the United States was that of a high grade moron,” and returning veterans who demanded better treatment of their comrades all serve as much-needed breaks from the norm of the day. Reeves unearths and makes public a painful national memory, but he does so while maintaining the dignity of those held behind barbed wire and unmasking the callous racism and disregard of the people who put them there. The author even allows for growth in his villains, giving credit when they later changed their positions. A few instances of repetition and the dark subject matter only occasionally slow the narrative. An engaging and comprehensive depiction of an essential, but sometimes-overlooked, era of U.S. history. (16-page b/w photo insert; 2 maps)

NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead Richardson, Peter St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $26.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-250-01062-9

Far-ranging look at the ultimate jam band in the acid-drenched context of their formative years. |

Richardson (Humanities/San Francisco State Univ.) opens his account, fittingly, with a look deep within the pages of Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a book that “recounted a single day in the life of an English intellectual tripping on mescaline in and around his Hollywood home.” Intellectual, hallucinogen, California: Voilà, the ingredients of the Grateful Dead, a band born in the heady Bay Area coffeehouse, bookstore and Beat poetry heyday. Richardson wisely locates the band within that tradition, allowing for lashings of British Invasion pop and old blues and for the particular eccentricities the region has always permitted. The author ascribes much of the culture change of the 1960s to the Dead’s discovery that, if they were the weirdest of all the guys in Frisco, there were plenty of like-minded weirdos around the country. In the days before the Internet, connecting with those people and building communities required constant touring, and so the band also became as known for its dedicated work-shopping and endless roadwork as for its devotion to the lysergic arts. It’s now more than half a century since the band began to form, so one supposes that it’s necessary, as Richardson does, to explain who Ed Sullivan was and why Harry Smith’s folk anthology was so important to the nascent counterculture. Along the way, the author raises such important matters as the ascent of Ronald Reagan, Jerry Garcia’s opposite in nearly every respect, and the role of the Dead as both cultural interpreters and cultural pioneers, a role that is very real, no matter what one might think of hourlong jams on variations of “Johnny B. Goode.” Not quite as smartly conceived and written as Greil Marcus’ Invisible Republic (1997), but a kindred book that helps locate an influential musical group in time and place.

THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS The Great War in the Middle East Rogan, Eugene Basic (448 pp.) $29.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-465-02307-3

Rogan (Modern History of the Middle East/St. Antony’s Coll., Oxford Univ.; The Arabs: A History, 2009, etc.) corrects Western assumptions about the “sick

man of Europe.” In this well-researched, evenhanded treatment of the Ottomans’ role in World War I, especially in its assessment of the Armenian genocide of 1918, the author delineates the urgent internal and external causes spurring the crumbling Turkish empire to seek a defensive alliance with Germany and counter Britain, France and Russia when war broke out in 1914. The coalition of fiery Young Turks had risen against the aging autocratic sultan and demanded a restoration of the constitution in 1908, but during the tumult, they allowed Turkey’s European neighbors to annex more territory. Russia’s territorial ambitions were most feared, while Britain and France could not be trusted. The war became a “global call to arms” for all parties, with the kirkus.com

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Ottomans declaring a jihad in order to unite Muslims. Rogan walks through the “opening salvos” of the war, at Basra, Aden and Egypt, showing the vulnerability of the Ottoman defenses; yet the Ottomans showed enormous spirit and ingenuity against the Entente assault on the Dardanelles in February 1915. Rogan elucidates the Allied debacle at Gallipoli—although the lack of maps is frustrating—a reckless campaign he blames more on Lord Kitchener than on Winston Churchill and which provoked a government crisis back in Britain. The dire campaigns in Mesopotamia, Suez and Palestine were not a “sideshow” to be dismissed by the Allied planners in their hopes for a quick victory over a weak Ottoman Empire. Actually, they produced— through the Arab Revolt galvanized by T.E. Lawrence and the drafting of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration—an uneasy armistice and partition that promised to be deeply divisive for another century. An illuminating work that offers new understanding to the troubled history of this key geopolitical region. (37 b/w images)

modified foods have replaced local shops; and especially where cultural amnesia has revised history. Unlike Germany, “Italy continues to pretend that it was not Fascist and that it won the war.” Exploring the border between Russia and the European Union, Rumiz realized that he was traveling “a seismic fault that’s only apparently dormant” because Russia, under Putin, is becoming a renewed threat. A richly detailed journey into Europe’s dark past and vulnerable present.

I AM SORRY TO THINK I HAVE RAISED A TIMID SON

Russell, Kent Knopf (304 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-385-35230-7

Generational insecurity locks horns with machismo in this hybrid collection of personal journalism and first-person profiles. Believer and n+1 essayist Russell is a type of millennial George Plimpton: the nerd conquering his fears by plunging into the unknown. “I have come to fetishize opaque brutes,” writes the author, who proceeds to meet some cautionary examples. He visited the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, the subculture of Insane Clown Posse fans—people who “weren’t born into the respectable middle class and didn’t see a path that led there, so they said fuck it.” Russell spent an even scarier amount of time with Tim Friede, who regularly gets bitten by poisonous snakes as he pursues his long-term goal of developing a “Swiss-army immune system.” Another superhuman, hockey legend John Brophy, explained to Russell how he spent a lifetime cracking heads on the ice without losing his own in the process. The author also took a class in gory special effects makeup with Hollywood’s “Sultan of Splatter” Tom Savini. On a remote Australian isle, he met a former marketing executive–turned–modern-day Robinson Crusoe. In between these and other essays, Russell weaves together his own story, focused mainly on growing up with his loudmouth Vietnam vet father, who was constantly trying to beef up the kid’s testosterone (“He thought it was important that I should greet Death as part of my morning routine”). Russell is an observant, skillful and funny writer who draws out the essence of each person he meets, but the framing device—in which each story becomes another chapter in his own process of self-realization— becomes a wearying shtick. Russell himself, staggering between ironic detachment and overt pathos, ultimately becomes a grating witness to his own life. An ambitious but patchy debut, better in parts than as a whole.

THE FAULT LINE Traveling the Other Europe, from Finland to Ukraine Rumiz, Paolo Translated by Conti, Gregory Rizzoli Ex Libris (260 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-8478-4542-2

An award-winning Italian journalist chronicles his travels along Europe’s eastern frontier. In his first book translated into English, La Repubblica correspondent Rumiz vents his anger at the European Union’s “rhetoric of globalization,” which homogenizes ethnic distinctions and threatens to obliterate traditional communities. His nostalgic, engaging search for the heart of European identity takes him from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, through presentday Finland, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland. “On my do-it-yourself map,” he writes, “there are no nation-states, only historic border regions that have been swallowed up by geopolitics.” In these regions, the author finds depopulated villages, survivors of mass deportations and exterminations that continued long after World War II. He notes that 9 million Poles and Ukrainians changed countries between 1945 and 1956. Latvia and northern Poland are “a land of ghosts and the uprooted.” In Belarus, Rumiz found only 10 Jews still living where once there was a thriving community. “Not only have they disappeared, but also the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Germans, the Ukrainians, and the Armenians,” the result of ethnic cleansing. History has left the region bereft, and the lure of the West fuels ongoing emigration, especially of young people. In Warsaw, Rumiz viewed ample evidence that the city has been “sucked into the void” of the “analgesic illusionism of the West.” He hurls severe condemnation at Italy, where, he asserts, TV and mobile phones have made people illiterate; where supermarkets with genetically 78

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“A vital piece of work that demands attention.” from they know everything about you

THEY KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy

MINISTERS AT WAR Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet

Schneer, Jonathan Basic (320 pp.) $29.99 | Apr. 14, 2015 978-0-465-02791-0

Scheer, Robert Nation Books/Perseus (272 pp.) $26.99 | Feb. 24, 2015 978-1-56858-452-2

Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Scheer (Communication and Journalism/Univ. of Southern California; The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street, 2010, etc.) examines how online convenience has supplanted bedrock American values of personal freedom and the right to privacy. Have Americans really surrendered liberties for the “freedom” of bypassing the mall and doing their shopping online? Certainly, but as the author discusses at length, the Internet has also given rise to the most perfect surveillance apparatus ever created. For years, Facebook, Google, Amazon and other businesses and organizations have amassed unprecedented amounts of data on anyone who does anything on the Internet. As long as all that personal information was being used to more effectively push products and gizmos on consumers, most everyone over the last 15 years or so just seemed to shrug and keep on surfing. Of course, hawking goods online was never that innocuous—not when the endgame was to not only satisfy desires, but to invent and manufacture them as well. When the Pentagon and the rest of the “Military-Intelligence Complex” started to fiendishly exploit the Web in ever crafty new ways, people finally began to pay more attention and question whether we were entering a scenario initially conceived by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and other prescient writers. “Disturbingly,” writes the author, “some of the research [the Pentagon] commissioned seemed to be aimed at understanding how to control or prevent public dissent inside the United States through surveillance and manipulation of information flows, like those curated by social networks.” The online giants might have tried to divorce themselves from overreaching government spooks, but Scheer provides more than enough solid journalism to show that the digital dirt is knee-deep and getting deeper. A vital piece of work that demands attention.

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During World War II, Britain was guided by a group of talented, ambitious rivals who put aside their differences to defeat their common enemy. Here’s a look at how they worked together—and how it fell apart just as victory was in hand. Schneer (History/Georgia Institute of Tech.; The Balfour Declaration, 2010) shows the inner workings of Winston Churchill’s cabinet during that critical period. After ousting Neville Chamberlain, whose appeasement of Hitler let the Germans gain momentum in their plans to dominate Europe, Churchill put together a coalition government. It combined fellow conservatives Anthony Eden, Lord Halifax and newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook with Labor Party leaders Clement Atlee, Ernest Bevin and Stafford Cripps. All saw themselves as capable of stepping into the top office, and several, even while the fight against Germany continued, made moves to seize that office. All three of the Labor ministers saw Churchill’s domestic policies as weaknesses; Cripps, in addition, argued for a stronger effort to relieve the Soviet Union after Hitler’s invasion. The Tories, for their part, never really trusted Churchill, and his concessions to Labor during the war did nothing to reassure them. Schneer details their maneuvers both in the cabinet meetings and in Parliament, along with their private thoughts, as revealed in letters, journals and other documents. Each of the major players is given a full turn in the spotlight as events brought him to the foreground. The result is a striking look inside the British government during a time when some of the most interesting characters of a challenging era were fighting for both the nation’s salvation and their own ambitions. Churchill’s role as a wartime leader is well-known from a myriad of histories, but this is one of the best recent treatments of his role as a head of government. Clear, thoroughly entertaining and full of lively detail.

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“A spirited, comprehensive and highly readable account of the tremendous wherewithal required for this extraordinary effort.” from target tokyo

TARGET TOKYO Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid that Avenged Pearl Harbor

COINED The Rich Life of Money and How Its History Has Shaped Us

Scott, James M. Norton (640 pp.) $35.00 | Apr. 13, 2015 978-0-393-08962-2

A new treatment of the daring Doolittle raids over Tokyo that fills in many of the gaps in the true story. In his glowing assessment of the bravery and innovation of the Doolittle raiders, historian Scott (The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan, 2013, etc.) does not neglect to explore the ultimate horrendous cost of the mission in human lives. After the sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt and his military commanders were desperate for a retaliatory measure that would help buoy national morale. Figuring out how to wage a bombing mission over Tokyo took the best heads of the Navy and Air Force, specifically Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold’s staff troubleshooter, the legendary racing pilot Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Immediately taking up the mission and demanding that he also lead it, Doolittle chose the “aerial workhorse” B-25 as the sole craft whose wingspan could clear the superstructure of an aircraft carrier. The problem was the fuel load required to fly from a Pacific carrier to Tokyo then onward to China—landing at approved airfields not in the control of the Japanese—all while keeping absolute secrecy. Spotted by the Japanese well over 800 miles from Tokyo (they were supposed to get 200 miles closer), the all-volunteer crews of the 16 bombers aboard the carrier knew when they took off on April 18, 1942, that they had little chance of reaching the Chinese coast. Of the 80 men, 61 survived the war; four died in crash landings, and four fell into the brutal hands of the Japanese. The damage to Tokyo spurred the Japanese to focus next on Midway, while the Japanese retaliatory slaughter against the Chinese as a result of the raids totaled some 250,000 deaths, a fact that Scott does not fail to note. A spirited, comprehensive and highly readable account of the tremendous wherewithal required for this extraordinary effort. (16 pages of illustrations)

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Sehgal, Kabir Grand Central Publishing (336 pp.) $28.00 | $14.99 e-book $35.00 Audiobook | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4555-7852-8 978-1-4555-7850-4 e-book 978-1-4789-5935-9 Audiobook

Sehgal (Jazzocracy: Jazz, Democracy, and the Creation of a New American Mythology, 2008, etc.), a vice president for emerging market equities at J.P Morgan, opens up the toolbox of his trade in this wide-ranging discussion of money and its instrumental function through human history. The author offers a traditional definition of money as “a medium of exchange, unit of account, and store of value,” which he attributes to the 19th-century British economist William Stanley Jevons. However, there’s nothing traditional about Sehgal’s elaboration. Beginning with biology, anthropology and psychology in the form of modern neuroscience, the author compares money as currency, or flow, to the energy flows in biological and botanical processes (photosynthesis and cellular respiration). “Money may be an evolutionary substitute for energy,” writes the author. His unconventional approach turns more practical when he discusses the moral, ethical and cultural values associated with money and its uses in the world’s major religions and ethical system. He cites the Sermon on the Mount—“blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”—and the laws of Moses (greed is a sin). In between, Sehgal reviews the history of money, from commodity trade to paper forms, to develop broader implications of money as an instrument symbolizing human thought and activity. He worries that “[m]oney is becoming more electronic and invisible. It has become so abstract that we risk forgetting the concrete lessons of history. As long as money remains a symbol of value, some will seek to control it.” The author traces a conflict between two views of money: one which argues that money has, or should have, an intrinsic value derived from nature, the other which asserts that money is a political creation, as President Richard Nixon did in 1971 when he unpegged the dollar from gold. A lively account with an unconventional viewpoint.

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MAMA KOKO AND THE HUNDRED GUNMEN An Ordinary Family’s Extraordinary Tale of Love, Loss, and Survival in Congo

THE WORM AT THE CORE On the Role of Death in Life

Solomon, Sheldon; Greenberg, Jeff; Pyszczynski, Tom Random House (288 pp.) $28.00 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4000-6747-3

Shannon, Lisa J. PublicAffairs (224 pp.) $24.99 | Feb. 3, 2015 978-1-61039-445-1

Shannon (AThousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman, 2010), an international human rights activist and founder of the nonprofit Run for Congo Women, tells the harrowing story of a Congolese family torn apart by the ongoing threat of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. In her home of Portland, Oregon, the author regularly visited with her friend Francisca Thelin, a Congolese expatriate. Francisca confided tales about her safe, seemingly perfect African childhood growing up on her family’s coffee plantation, followed by the intrusion of the menacing, violent Lord’s Resistance Army. Having immigrated to the United States years before, Francisca lived well, though she was haunted by phone calls from her mother, Mama Koko, detailing the mounting dangers of life in Dungu. Over the course of a year, Mama Koko called nightly to recount the tragic news of the deaths of family members, friends and neighbors who were abducted, tortured and brutally killed by the LRA; some were even burned alive on Christmas Day. Together in 2012, Francisca and Shannon traveled to Africa to visit her family and see and hear for themselves the traumatic narratives of Mama Koko, her husband, Papa Alexander, and other relatives and locals desperate for their accounts to be heard. Shannon weaves together these nightmarish stories of survival and deep grief with the history of Mama Koko’s life before the LRA invaded. She also provides details of Papa Alexander’s wild, entertaining past and Francisca’s struggle to reconcile her happy girlhood memories with the reality of unrelenting threats and cruelty. Shannon’s book both offers a rich portrait of her subjects’ lives and serves as a call to action. The author closes with a section called “What You Can Do Before Setting This Book Down,” since “the damage and the structural issues in Congo’s broken government that have allowed the violence to persist will take decades to heal.” A highly personal and memorable story.

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Psychology professors Solomon (Skidmore Coll.), Greenberg (Univ. of Arizona) and Pyszczynski (Univ. of Colorado, Colorado Springs) follow up their study of the psychological effects of 9/11 on the American population (In the Wake of 9-11: the Psychology of Terror, 2003) with a look at how the knowledge of mortality impacts human culture. The authors’ contention that fear of death has been a primary driving force of human culture is controversial, but its relevance in incontestable. They began working together on the elaboration of what they now call “Terror Management Theory” in the 1970s when they were doctoral candidates in experimental social psychology. Although other species appear to mourn their dead, only humans are aware of their own mortality and terrified by this knowledge. “The awareness of death,” write the authors, “arose as a byproduct of early humans’ burgeoning self-awareness...hurling our terrified and demoralized ancestors into the psychological abyss.” This inspired their creation of “a supernatural universe that afforded a sense of control over life and death” and the possibility of immortality. In the authors’ view, it was the practice of religious rituals associated with these beliefs that spurred the development of social organization and technology, as well as medical advances. The authors offer accounts of their experiments as evidence to buttress their contention that under stress, we look for social stability. In one, subjects were asked to evaluate candidates’ statements in a hypothetical gubernatorial election. After subjects were given a reminder of death, their choices switched dramatically to favor a charismatic leader. Conversely, challenges to the accepted social order were shown to evoke thoughts of death. The authors also examine how we are motivated by conscious thoughts of death, subliminal reminders of which we are consciously unaware can elicit more powerful, potentially destructive defenses responses. Insightful but not entirely convincing.

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“Once again, Strauss takes us deep into the psyche of ancient history in an exciting, twisted tale that is sure to please.” from the death of caesar

THE DEATH OF CAESAR The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination

A FORCE FOR GOOD How Enlightened Finance Can Restore Faith in Capitalism

Strauss, Barry Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4516-6879-7

Taft, John G. Palgrave Macmillan (304 pp.) $27.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-137-27972-9

Master historian Strauss (History and Classics/Cornell Univ.; Masters of Command: Hannibal, Alexander, Caesar and the Genius of Leadership, 2012, etc.) zeros in on the few years surrounding Julius Caesar’s assassination and delves into the strengths of the characters involved. The author traces five of the best sources: Nicolaus of Damascus, Plutarch, Suetonius, Cassius Dio and Appian. Everyone knows what happened on the ides of March, but Strauss goes deeper in his investigation of how Caesar had ill omens and decided not to attend the senate meeting he had called. It was Decimus, longtime supporter, friend and fellow diner the night before, who literally led Caesar by the hand into the senate. Of the conspirators, Decimus was the most important and the most vilified. Cassius and Brutus completed the leadership of the plot. They were supporters of Pompey and the Republic against Caesar during the recent civil war, and each had his own ambition. Brutus “wanted to kill Caesar without launching a revolution or disturbing the peace—an impossible ambition.” The author shows us a side of Caesar beyond the military genius, a man despised by Cato, Cicero and all who longed for the Republic. Ostensibly a non-noble populist who pushed for change and championed the poor, he also was wise enough to keep his army and the citizens loyal with land grants and money. Even the great Caesar was capable of making mistakes, and Strauss points to three that sealed his fate: He disrespected the senate, flirted with monarchy and dispensed with the people’s tribunes. Caesar, now a perpetual dictator, god, and a man dismissive of the senate and the people, was headed for a big fall. The author explains how Caesar’s funeral was even more dramatic than Shakespeare’s version—especially Mark Antony’s eulogy. Once again, Strauss takes us deep into the psyche of ancient history in an exciting, twisted tale that is sure to please. (8 pages of illustrations; 3 maps)

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A corporate CEO and longtime champion of “enlightened finance” gathers essays from prominent academics, executives, regulators and politicians on reforming the financial services industry, making it “a consistent and positive force for social good.” Editor Taft (Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street, 2012) charges his contributors, 25 industry heavyweights whose names are likely unknown to common readers (exceptions include Nobel-winning economist Robert Shiller, former Sen. Judd Gregg and possibly Vanguard founder John Bogle), to concentrate not on the errors that precipitated the Great Recession but on what can be done to repair the damage. Accordingly, this collection takes on the tone of a revival meeting, where congregants urge a return to first principles and a renewal of the faith. In nine sections, each gracefully introduced by the editor, Taft’s authors address topics germane to the future of finance: re-examining the contract between finance and society (with a special emphasis on the moral component of the compact); taking up the unfinished work of regulatory reform; re-establishing trust, integrity and client focus; restoring confidence in the stock market; achieving fiscal and monetary policy equilibrium; ensuring retirement savings and maximizing access to housing; encouraging a long-term investment strategy; and advocating for a “more responsible form of capitalism” that takes sustainability into account. Addressing issues like sustainability and “income inequality” perhaps necessarily accompanies any modern-day discussion of capitalism, lest we suppose a financier is in business solely for profit, but it’s somewhat surprising to find throughout this collection a repeated invocation of words and phrases like “ethical leadership,” “stewardship,” “the good society,” “fiduciary duty,” “core values,” “leadership,” “integrity,” “transparency,” “disclosure” and “authenticity”—all virtues we might have hoped informed standard operations well before the 2008 meltdown. It seems they did not. An earnest exercise wherein all the right people say all the right things.

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“A forthright, moving piece of advocacy journalism.” from dreamers

THE NEXT SPECIES The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man Tennesen, Michael Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-4516-7751-5

In the past, five mass extinctions have destroyed at least 75 percent of all living species. It is no secret that we are now in the midst of another. Joining the growing shelf of books warning of the miseries that lie ahead, science journalist Tennesen (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Global Warming, 2005) chronicles his interviews with scientists from around the world, delivering an engrossing history of life, the dismal changes wrought by man and a forecast of life after the sixth mass extinction. Competition drives evolution. Mostly, this process involves the procurement of food, the author’s major concern. It has made humans the dominant species, but our disastrous mishandling of the process threatens our future. Agriculture occupies 43 percent of the Earth’s land. It is the best 43 percent, so there is little room for expansion, and scientific advances are losing the battle with ongoing soil deterioration. Livestock eat five times more grain than we do, and they take up 30 percent of the land, a percentage that is growing. Fish are the last wild animals that we hunt in large numbers, but we may be the last generation to do so because stocks are crashing. The spread of domestic animals combined with the elimination of forests and wild species guarantee more diseases similar to AIDS and SARS. Having delivered an alarming overview of our increasingly toxic environment, Tennesen gives short shrift to the traditional how-to-fix-it conclusion because his experts seem mostly discouraged. In one chapter, the author discusses migrating to other planets. “No single cause will take humans out,” he writes. “But multiple causes have a chance.” In a mostly engaging book, Tennesen concludes that evolution will again drive survivors into a burst of creativity that will repopulate the planet, but it’s uncertain if this will include Homo sapiens.

DREAMERS An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream Truax, Eileen Beacon (224 pp.) $15.00 paper | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-8070-3033-2

In this English-language edition of her first book, an immigrant, LA–based reporter tells the intimate stories of the young people who, by no choice of their own, live without legal status in the United States. |

With both political parties posturing on the issue of immigration reform and with the consequences of the president’s controversial executive action still unfolding, Truax’s subject could hardly be timelier. And it’s impossible not to sympathize with the subgroup of the estimated 11 million illegals living in America she profiles here: young people boldly declaring their undocumented status, bringing dangerous attention to their precarious lives, and organizing to encourage passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. Truax showcases the personal histories of the Dreamers living under the constant threat of deportation and denied access to educational opportunities, housing, permits, licenses and career paths many take for granted. Here, they “speak for themselves,” relating tales of fear, frustration, courage, achievement and assertiveness: the Vietnamese honor student; the Mexican high schooler teaching English to her neighbors; the Texas student leader setting up a Dream Alliance chapter. Having covered this story for years and earned their trust, Truax introduces us to the places Dreamers go for support—the Food Closet at UCLA, El Hormiguero in the San Fernando Valley—to the political actions and to training sessions held in various states, to activists and politicians sympathetic to the cause—Gov. Jerry Brown, California state representative Gil Cedillo, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin—and even to some immigration opponents such as Maricopa County’s notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio. There is, of course, a serious economic, legal, even moral argument against immigration on the Dreamers’ terms. But Truax focuses solely on the struggle and challenges they face today, and she does so in a way that leaves a mark on any reader with a conscience. A forthright, moving piece of advocacy journalism.

CLIMATE SHOCK The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet

Wagner, Gernot; Weitzman, Martin L. Princeton Univ. (264 pp.) $27.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-691-15947-8

“Most everything we know tells us climate change is bad. Most everything we don’t know tells us it’s probably much worse.” So observe Environmental Defense Fund economist Wagner (But Will the Planet Notice?: How Smart Economics Can Save the World, 2011, etc.) and Weitzman (Economics/Harvard Univ.; Income, Wealth, and the Maximum Principle, 2003, etc.) in this dismal-science look at a very dismal subject indeed. Of course, the authors add, just because something is bad doesn’t mean it’s hopeless, and humans have adapted technologically to dangerous situations before. Wagner and Weitzman offer the case of New York City drowning in horse manure at the end of the 19th century, a problem whose fix came in the form of the internal combustion engine, which put draft horses out to pasture around the world. “No one predicted that particular invention at the time,” they write. “And it didn’t require kirkus.com

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much in terms of active policy intervention: invent car + find oil = Eureka!” Yet these are more fraught times, and we are in need of policy intervention, since the vaunted free market hasn’t done much to self-correct to avoid the end of the world. As the authors note, taxes generally don’t work as well as cap-and-trade incentives and disincentives in this Pigouvian world—if you don’t know who Pigou is, this book may not be to your tastes. Yet taxes and other social schemes do have their place in deterring bad economic behavior, considering the rapidly rising costs associated with, say, polluting: By a recent estimate, the social costs of putting a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are somewhere between $25 and $40, the real question being who will pay the tariff in a world full of free riders, another concept that may make noneconomists’ heads hurt. Specialized and a touch rarified but useful for policy workers in helping shape dollars-and-cents arguments about the environment and global climate. (3 line illustrations; 5 tables)

BOSWELL’S ENLIGHTENMENT

Zaretsky, Robert Harvard Univ. (282 pp.) $26.95 | Mar. 23, 2015 978-0-674-36823-1

James Boswell (1740-1795) comes to life in Zaretsky’s (French History/Univ. of Houston; A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning, 2013) recounting of his European grand tour in

the mid-18th century. Boswell’s search for the answers of the Enlightenment began in his Edinburgh school days. On a short holiday in southern Scotland, he began to keep a journal, a habit that scholars have benefited from ever since. Raised in the strict Calvinist religion, for a period he considered Catholicism, until his father threatened to disown him. He had the greatest minds of the time to help him search for answers: David Hume, Adam Smith, Knox, Hobbes and Francis Hutcheson. A year in London brought him to a chance meeting with Samuel Johnson, who became a lifelong friend in addition to Boswell’s biographical subject. Zaretsky follows Boswell’s travels through Europe as he honed his tactic of throwing himself at the Enlightenment thinkers he wished to meet. He became great friends with Rousseau and his nemesis, Voltaire. Perfecting the art of being easygoing and chatty, he picked the brains of the great minds of his time. The English exile John Wilkes and Corsican rebel general Pasquale Paoli showed him the meaning of freedom and changed his outlook on life. Boswell also suffered from lifelong depression—an affliction shared by Johnson—and wrote dozens of essays on the subject. Without deep, confusing discussion of philosophical issues, Zaretsky introduces the Enlightenment greats who taught and molded Boswell. The vast store of knowledge our traveler absorbed in so few years makes for truly enlightening reading. “Boswell matters not because his mind was as 84

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original or creative as the men and women he pursued,” writes the author, “but because his struggle to make sense of his life... appeals to our own needs and sensibilities.” This wonderful rendering of Boswell digs deep into his probing, enquiring life and the fast friends he made at every turn.

THE MAD BOY, LORD BERNERS, MY GRANDMOTHER AND ME An Aristocratic Family, a High-Society Scandal and an Extraordinary Legacy Zinovieff, Sofka Harper/HarperCollins (448 pp.) $35.00 | Mar. 31, 2015 978-0-06-233894-5

The story of renowned diplomat, composer, novelist and painter Lord Gerald Berners and his “cultivated, artistic milieu.” In this vivid biography, Zinovieff (The House on Paradise Street, 2012, etc.) examines the lives of Lord Berners, his partner of more than two decades, Robert Heber-Percy (the author’s grandfather and the “Mad Boy” of the title), and her grandmother, Jennifer Fry, a beautiful and witty party girl and the catalytic agent of the story. At Gerald and Robert’s parties at Faringdon, their estate, “entertainment, excitement and the pleasure principle” were paramount. However, their social circle of artists and aristocrats was more of a romantic and sexual Gordian knot: Most of the men were bisexual or gay, though several also loved women (some enough to marry them), many of whom were also sexually fluid. This impressively researched saga, which spans both world wars, is an effervescent account of the British upper class in the first half of the 20th century. When Jennifer improbably married the Mad Boy, a “wildly physical, unscholarly young hothead,” she upended their lives at Faringdon by introducing a feminine presence—and a child (the author’s mother, Victoria)—to their home. Victoria came to reject her English country home and lifestyle. The author was raised in a bohemian environment and recalls her mother’s decision not to teach her children manners “on principle.” (This is the washed-out section of an otherwise vibrant tapestry.) In a drastic tonal shift, Zinovieff takes out the knives in describing her dismay about her inheritance—Lord Berners’ manor and his chef. Though readers should find her relatable, she comes across as occasionally nonsympathetic; her story becomes tiresome as she recounts her struggle to resolve her modern sensibilities to the pastoral world of Faringdon and a “lost way of life.” A mostly entertaining story of an unconventional family and their shared trait of flouting convention across generations. (85 color illustrations)

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children’s & teen IT’S ONLY STANLEY

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Agee, Jon Illus. by Agee, Jon Dial (32 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-8037-3907-9

MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold................................................... 86 BUTTON HILL by Michael Bradford................................................... 88 BOYS DON’T KNIT by T.S. Easton...................................................... 92 THE DEAD I KNOW by Scot Gardner................................................. 94 OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY by Elizabeth Hammill—Ed.... 96 SHADOW SCALE by Rachel Hartman............................................... 96 THE DEATH OF THE HAT by Paul B. Janeczko; illus. by Chris Raschka........................................................................ 98 FATAL FEVER by Gail Jarrow............................................................ 98 PRAIRIE FIRE by E.K. Johnston......................................................... 99 THE GREAT WAR by Jim Kay—Illus................................................ 99 BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly............................................ 99 READ BETWEEN THE LINES by Jo Knowles...................................101 THE TRAGIC AGE by Stephen Metcalfe............................................ 107

The Wimbledon family—mother, father, four children, a cat, and Stanley, a brilliantly inventive beagle—have a sleepless night. One by one, mother Wilma, daughters Wendy and Wanda, and sons Willie and Wylie rouse father Walter to investigate one peculiar sound after another. It turns out that “It’s only Stanley,” noisily at work cooking, fixing drains, the oil tank and an old TV, and occasionally howling at the moon. (Beagles are famous for baying.) But Stanley has a plan that will give them an adventure in near space—a trip to the moon in their house, now a rocket ship thanks to his romantic determination and his inventive genius. Agee’s rhyming verse is set out in a rhythmic pattern that concludes each stanza after a wordless spread that illustrates Stanley’s activities, heightening the humor and the humans’ befuddlement. Each character has a distinct personality and is easily identifiable in the humorous washes—especially the worker dog, busily creating an almighty mess throughout the house. Stanley’s mechanical inventions are full of detail that will captivate young tinkerers. Readers and listeners will enjoy the adventure and know what Stanley is up to before the final climactic sequence. Fun—just plain fun. (Picture book. 6-8)

THE BOY & THE BOOK by David Michael Slater; illus. by Bob Kolar............................................................................... 112

THINGS I’LL NEVER SAY Stories About Our Secret Selves

GORDON PARKS by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Jamey Christoph....................................................................116

Angel, Ann—Ed. Candlewick (320 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 24, 2015 978-0-7636-7307-9

USE YOUR WORDS, SOPHIE by Rosemary Wells............................ 117 THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL by Lisa Yee....................................... 118 THE QUEEN’S SHADOW by Cybèle Young....................................... 118 LIES I TOLD by Michelle Zink...........................................................119 I AM SO BRAVE! by Stephen Krensky; illus. by Sara Gillingham.... 125 PLANES GO! by Steve Light..............................................................126

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A collection of 15 short stories by different authors focuses on learning, keeping and telling secrets. The theme provides a common thread, but otherwise, the stories are diverse in both genre and content. Some stories are fantasy and others, realistic; some are lighthearted and others, heavier. Some follow a classic trajectory in which a secret is kept then climactically revealed, while others are more subversive. Quality varies. Kekla Magoon reveals a universe of detail when her character, the only black girl in

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before an abundant spring, a plentiful winter Relative time is a strange thing. As I write this, it’s just around Thanksgiving. As you read this, it’s the new year. And Kirkus being ferociously pre-publication in its reviewing, I am thick into March 2015 books now, and boy, is there a lot to look forward to. Coming in January are two hotly anticipated novels, Stella by Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper, and X, by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. The first tells the story of how African-American Stella and her brother witnessed a crossburning; the second is a novel about the youth of Malcolm Little, as told by one of his daughters, with the assistance of Magoon. Two picture books everyone should take note of are Draw What You See, a biography of artist Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson and illustrated with Andrews’ paintings, and 28 Days, which gives readers glimpses into 28 landmark moments in black history as captured by Charles R. Smith and illustrator Shane W. Evans. (All of these books are clearly timed for Black History Month; here’s hoping the rest of the year sees many more books by and about African-Americans and other people of color.) Looking to February, I’m excited by Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo, an ambitious novel that plaits together four different stories and times in one exploration of the power of music. Marie-Louise Gay introduces readers to Princess Pistachio, who, like many children, is convinced she was plucked from the arms of her royal parents by an evil witch and plunked down with the perfectly ordinary Shoelaces. And Linda Booth Sweeney and Jana Christy anticipate springtime with clipped verse and saturated colors in When the Wind Blows. March brings a positive glut of teen fantasy, with sequels to Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, Leah Cypess’ Death Sworn, E.K. Johnston’s The Story of Owen and more—one hardly wants spring to come with such a winter before us. But come it will, with new books by Ed Young, Matt de la Peña, Mitali Perkins, Andrea Cheng and more. I can hardly wait.—V.S.

her grade at boarding school, tells readers she didn’t bring any of her eating-disorder–related paraphernalia with her when she left for school, “As if I already knew I wouldn’t need it.” In Louise Hawes’ “When We Were Wild,” the alcohol-soaked fairy tales told by the mother of the outcast girl the narrator refuses to admit to being friends with sparkle with twisted hopefulness. Other stories, however, are less memorable. Chris Lynch’s “Lucky Buoy” never provides enough background to give the story its full impact, and Cynthia Leitich Smith’s “Cupid’s Beaux” will resonate most with readers already familiar with the paranormal universe in which the author’s books are set. Though uneven, the collection offers many worthy entries. (Anthology. 14-18)

MOSQUITOLAND

Arnold, David Viking (352 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-451-47077-5

Encounters both dangerous and wonder-filled with fellow travelers prompt 16-year-old runaway Mim to scrutinize her perceptions about herself, her family and the world she inhabits. Convinced that her father and stepmother are hiding secrets about her mother’s health and also frustrated by her father’s insistence that she take antipsychotic medication, Mim steals an emergency cash fund to travel 1,000 miles to her mother. Aboard the Greyhound bus, Mim’s inner monologues about other passengers reveal her snarky sense of superiority, which is alternately hilarious, cutting and full of bravado. But her self-imposed, disdainful isolation quickly dissolves in the aftermath of a harrowing accident. Completing her journey suddenly necessitates interacting with a motley set of fellow travelers. Mim’s father’s doubts about the stability of her perceptions feed a continual sense of tension as readers (and Mim herself) attempt to evaluate which of Mim’s conclusions about her fellow characters—both the seemingly charming and seemingly menacing—can be trusted. Arnold pens a stunning debut, showcasing a cast of dynamic characters whose individual struggles are real but not always fully explained, a perfect decision for a book whose timeline is brief. Ultimately, Mim revises moments from her own narrative, offering readers tantalizing glimpses of the adult Mim will eventually become and reminding readers that the end of the novel is not the end of Mim’s journey—or her story. Mesmerizing. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor at Kirkus Reviews.

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“Nicholas’ voice is so earnest and endearing that readers will root for his success.” from if you find this

IF YOU FIND THIS

Baker, Matthew Little, Brown (368 pp.) $17.00 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-316-24008-6 978-0-316-24010-9 e-book Middle school misfit Nicholas embarks on a wild adventure involving long-lost family heirlooms. Nicholas is a science whiz, a music prodigy and a math genius. He has no friends and is bullied by almost everyone. His stillborn brother is buried in the backyard under a pine tree planted in his memory. Nicholas speaks to him via his violin and hears his voice in the air. He may lose this all-important relationship if his parents are forced to sell their home. His life is further complicated by the arrival of his ex-con, senile grandfather, whose rambling memories hint at buried treasure. When fellow misfits Jordan and Zeke, along with Jordan’s grandfather, form an unholy alliance with Nicholas, they uncover multiple secrets: a haunted house, a mysterious island, shipwrecks, gangsters and more. Convoluted clues, lots of red herrings, interference and danger from many directions all result in a not-so-merry chase— for the characters, though not for readers. As they careen from one mad adventure to another, the boys also discover truths about themselves and how to negotiate the morass of emotions and relationships that form the social jungle. Baker has Nicholas speak directly to readers in the form of annotations, using musical terms like “forte” and “glissando” to indicate voice tones. Nicholas’ voice is so earnest and endearing that readers will root for his success. Lively, entertaining and satisfying. (Fiction.9-12)

goes by Elizabeth and battles other character fragments in her mind; naturally, she is institutionalized in an insane asylum run by a villainous doctor. The cast must avoid the doctor’s schemes and unravel the relationships among people and Nows. The large cast—returning characters, alternate versions and new characters—results in flat personalities and a lack of character development. Additionally, the flexible reality and multiples make it hard to worry about the characters’ fates, detracting from the stakes and tension. Metatextual elements start off clever (such as literally faceless background characters) but devolve into self-referential cuteness. The lavishly described setting and Victorian lingo, however, are true stars. An ambitious, atmospheric, not-entirely-successful attempt at a head trip. (Fantasy/horror. 14 & up)

THE DICKENS MIRROR

Bick, Ilsa J. Egmont USA (576 pp.) $18.99 | $18.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-60684-421-2 978-1-60684-422-9 e-book Series: Dark Passages, 2 The world-hopping adventure begun in the previous volume (White Space, 2014) concludes in a new Now, a Victorian London crumbling right out from under the characters. In an alternate timeline, a younger Emma’s experience in her guardian’s basement leads her into the Dark Passages, where she ends up in the same Now as the older Emma from White Space. In this claustrophobic Now, a terrible fog slowly consumes the land, leaving survivors dealing with illness, starvation and poverty. Versions of Emma’s friends from White Space are among those London inhabitants—some are disturbed by dreams connecting them to the events from the previous book. Emma is now in the body of a teenage version of Lizzie, who |

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“Though strewn with scary creatures and tons of spooky bones, the tale is also leavened with…tongue-in-cheek elements….” from button hill

MESSY JESSE

dead and borderland trains lit by lanterns hung in the rib cages of skeletal conductors. Both Dekker and Riley are admirably clever, and Bradford keeps the stakes satisfyingly high. Rare, scary fun. With tomatoes. (Horror. 11-13)

Bowles, Paula Illus. by Bowles, Paula Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-58925-133-5 A picture book about the joys of messy play. Jesse is a high-spirited dog who loves to make things—paper hats, cakes and blanket forts—and the outcome of all this creative play is an astoundingly messy room. Eventually, even Jesse disappears into the clutter. The other pets in the household— Rabbit, Cat and Hamster—go looking for him in the pile, but they too become lost to view. In time, everything gets sorted out, and the room is tidied up, which allows Jesse more opportunity to create—and make another mess. This is the story’s greatest appeal; it lets the little ones in on the joke of making a mess, cleaning it up and then realizing that now they have more room to make another mess. Bowles does a good job of matching text to illustrations and varying the illustrative format on the pages. However, many of the illustrations lack the underlying geometry to lead the eyes to a page turn, and this makes the flow of the story more static than it ought to be. The loosely rendered, brightly colored watercolors are cheerful, and the variably sized type is an effective visual prompt for read-aloud readers. A lighthearted story that toddlers will relate to. (Picture book. 2-6)

BUTTON HILL

Bradford, Michael Orca (264 pp.) $9.95 paper | Apr. 1, 2015 978-1-4598-0755-6 A moment’s messing with an odd clock plunges a lad into the strange and dangerous borderland between the living world and the realms of the dead in this decidedly offbeat chiller. Great-aunt Primrose’s old house has no TV or Internet...but it does have a bone Nightclock hidden in the root cellar. Hardly has Dekker given its skull-shaped face a twist than he’s engaged in a desperate game with a malign doppelgänger—who plucks Dekker’s heart out and escapes into the shadowy Nightside. Fortunately, even though Dekker begins to decompose (his annoying little sister, Riley, rightly dubs him “zombie boy”), Aunt Prim grows special tomatoes that work as temporary heart replacements. Unfortunately, for all her joking, Riley intrepidly sneaks off alone into the borderland to get his stolen life back. Impelled to follow, he plunges into a huge impending crisis: The mighty Nightclock at the final gateway to the realms of the dead has been forcibly stopped so that no spirits can get through at all. Though strewn with scary creatures and tons of spooky bones, the tale is also leavened with such tongue-in-cheek elements as a bustling “Bizarre” of the 88

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THE LOST TRACK OF TIME

Britt, Paige Illus. by White, Lee Scholastic (320 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Mar. 31, 2015 978-0-545-53812-1 978-0-545-53814-5 e-book An overscheduled girl falls into a hole in her schedule in Britt’s whimsical debut. Young Penelope longs to be a writer and loves spending time daydreaming with her mostly idle neighbor, Miss Maddie. Her mother, however, packs every moment of Penelope’s day with work and meaningful activity: There’s no time to relax, let alone imagine anything. Then one day, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole or Dorothy being whisked into the land of Oz, Penelope disappears into a magical land, where the Great Moodler, architect of fantasy and creativity, has vanished and the whole world runs by clockwork according to the dictates of archenemy Chronos. With new friend Dill, Penelope embarks on a quest to free the Moodler and liberate the Realm of Possibility. It’s all written in over-the-top, pun-heavy prose (Penelope explores the Naughty Woulds and engages in combat with the Wild Bore) that recalls that classic allegorical journey, The Phantom Tollbooth, among other adventures. Most pages are embellished by White’s purple ink cartoons; Britt writes smoothly and seems wholly at one with her material. Not as masterful as Juster’s genre-defining work but enjoyable on many levels. (Fantasy. 8-12)

ROCK THE BOAT

Brouwer, Sigmund Orca (122 pp.) $9.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-4598-0455-5 A young musician tries to break into the business in Nashville and becomes entrapped by a shady producer. Webb isn’t sure if he can become a successful singer/songwriter, but he wants to give it a shot. On the deck of his freeto-live-in houseboat he writes a new song, “Rock the Boat,” and plays it for Gerald Dean, the indie producer he’s working with on a CD. Dean advises against pursuing the song, then demands more money to finish production of the CD. Despite reservations, Webb decides to clean out his savings to pay the man. Just after the session Webb meets Harley, a street musician, and jams with him, playing the new song. Events demonstrate to Webb

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that Dean has stolen “Rock the Boat” and is accusing Webb of stealing two valuable guitars as a distraction. Fortunately, Harley may be able to help. Brouwer keeps both chapters and book as short as possible; despite this, his characters shine as individuals, and clearly he has done his research on the dangers the music world poses for new talent. If the story relies on luck, it still works as a cautionary tale of the music industry, where newcomers easily fall prey to con artists. A quick read for music lovers. (Fiction. 12-18)

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HYPNOTIZE A TIGER Poems About Just About Everything

Brown, Calef Illus. by Brown, Calef Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (144 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-8050-9928-7 More nonsense verse from inveterate punster/illustrator Brown. Fun knows no bounds in this collection of over 80 zany poems and accompanying mixed-media illustrations, topped off by the author’s Q-and-A written almost entirely in verse. Younger children will enjoy poring over Brown’s detailed, silly drawings of animals, insects and imagined objects and hearing the tight, surprising end rhymes that bind many of the poems (a delightful pairing of “speedometer” with “vomiter” in the poem “Carsick” comes to mind). Middle-grade readers will likely revel in the sophisticated wordplay Brown employs to

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depict the humorous perspectives offered throughout, particularly those of less-savory creatures. A vulture laments, “This is my diet? / If it died, I try it?” Soon-to-be butterflies complain, “Just because we’re pupae, / people give us the poopeye.” And then there’s the ho-hum fate of lice: “I would hate to be a louse— / always feeling lousy, / even when overjoyed / or pleasantly drowsy.” Successful, too, are moments where poem and illustration work hand in hand to pun, as in the poem “Hugh”—“Meet my Belgian friend. / He lives near Bruges, on a farm. / His name is Hugh Jarm”—illustrated with farmer Hugh waving one giant arm in greeting. With verse and illustrations running the gamut from creative to kooky and occasionally gross, kids should devour this entertaining collection in one sitting. (Poetry. 6-12)

FLUNKED

Calonita, Jen Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (256 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4926-0156-2 Series: Fairy Tale Reform School, 1 When 12-year-old Gilly, eldest daughter of the shoemaker, is caught with stolen goods, she is sent to Fairy Tale Reform School for rehabilitation. Life as a commoner in Enchantasia, a fairy-tale kingdom ruled over by Cinderella, Snow White, Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty) and Rapunzel, is hardly ideal. Poverty, crime and social unrest plague this less-than-magical land. Gilly’s father, inventor of Cinderella’s famous glass slipper, struggles to feed his large family. Gilly’s thievery is both her attempt to help her family as well as her revenge against the unfair caste system. A three-strike rule finds her arrested and sentenced to reform school. However, mysterious events during Gilly’s incarceration reveal that life in Enchantasia might be a lot less magical than even she thought. With the Evil Queen and the Wolf for teachers and trolls, mermaids and fairies for friends, Gilly’s rehabilitation promises to be exciting. Unfortunately, in spite of a magical cast of characters and some genuinely sweet moments among Gilly and her friends and family, this fractured fairy tale falls flat. Hobbled by a stale premise, one-dimensional characters and forced dialogue, this first installment in a new series is less than promising. For a more enjoyable spin across similar territory (though without the petty crime), try Shannon Hale’s The Storybook of Legends (2013) instead. (Fantasy. 9-12)

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BEARS DON’T READ!

Chichester Clark, Emma Illus. by Chichester Clark, Emma Kane/Miller (32 pp.) $12.99 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-61067-366-2 George the bear is bored. He doesn’t want to “do the usual bear things” like his sisters and brothers, but he’s not sure what he does want. When he finds a book under a tree in the forest, though, that all changes. Enticed by its pictures of a bear “just like him” and despite warnings from his siblings, he heads to town to find the book’s owner in hopes she or he will teach him to read. His arrival is far from warm: All the people scream and run away. He locates the school, expecting to find children, but it’s empty. Then two things happen: Police in riot gear arrive and surround George even as a little girl shows up with her mother and claims the book is hers. Of course, the twosome pair up to the satisfaction of all, proving once again that reading is magic, and for George, it’s just the beginning. Chichester Clark’s signature style makes the story appealing. The font varies size to match the differing volume of voices and build the drama. Clever details add humor and visual interest. By the end, the chief of police is reading poetry to George; collaged-in bits of printed fabric enhance the bear’s lush and verdant wood. Inherent to the story is the subtle message that there’s a difference between not being able to read and not wanting to read. A combination of farce and fun, this will tickle prereaders. (Picture book. 4-8)

FINDING MR. BRIGHTSIDE

Clark, Jay Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (288 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 24, 2015 978-0-8050-9257-8 Two teens embark on a romantic relationship in the wake of their parents’ deaths. Even though they live across the street from each other, Abram and Juliette have never been close. But their parents were, particularly Abram’s dad and Juliette’s mom. The pair indulged in an affair that ended with a bloody car wreck and two broken homes. Months later, the teens are still coping in the best ways they can, but an unexpected encounter at the local CVS and the ensuing romance jump-starts their recoveries. It’s a high-concept premise that the author fumbles by leaning on frequent false starts in lieu of actual drama. Just when the heat’s about to kick in, something happens to derail the young couple’s journey, an effect that will surely infuriate readers that just want these two kids to get together already. This is, after all, a tale of star-crossed lovers that actually has the temerity to name the female lead Juliette, and these sorts of stories come with certain

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“All of the characters are rendered with affection….” from the brilliant light of amber sunrise

THE BRILLIANT LIGHT OF AMBER SUNRISE

expectations. Unfortunately, all the drama here is internal, as there are no external forces keeping these kids apart. Abram’s mom is a stereotypical supportive suburbanite. She fares better than Juliette’s father, who might as well be a ghost. Neither of these characters says or does anything that affects the narrative, nor does anyone else but the two leads. Deeply unsatisfying. (Romance. 12-16)

THE NITTY-GRITTY GARDENING BOOK Fun Projects for All Seasons

Cornell, Kari Photos by Larson, Jennifer S. Millbrook/Lerner (48 pp.) $26.65 PLB | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-4677-2647-4 PLB

Cornell presents gardening basics and a dozen projects, arranged by season. A six-page introduction establishes good reasons for gardening (producing healthy, colorful food and flowers; providing beneficial habitat for birds and insects). Short overviews begin each section, from spring through winter. Some projects, such as growing a plant from an avocado pit, often appear in children’s gardening books. Others, like making an under-sink compost bin with red worms, are more novel. Each activity includes a list of supplies to gather or purchase and instructions laid out in steps (these range in number from six to 13). Cornell encourages children without garden spaces to create container gardens, gearing several projects especially to them. While the author writes well and with expertise, some quibbles can be pegged to the cramped 48-page length. The introduction contains a section on soil testing that reduces this complex topic to three short paragraphs. The plant hardiness zone map is so reduced in size that it’s undecipherable. The text type’s font is small, and some activities contain complicated steps, such as the instructions for double digging a soil plot in the “Birds and Bees Garden” activity. Many ingredient lists call for “1 bag potting soil” but never stipulate what size to buy. Pleasant photographs by Larson are supplemented with clear diagrams and stock photos. Shortcomings aside, garden projects for preteens are always welcome, and Cornell includes excellent resources for further endeavors. (glossary, bibliography, websites, sources for supplies, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

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Crow, Matthew Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4814-1873-7 978-1-4814-1875-1 e-book Learning, loving and surviving with cancer. Suffering from headaches, weight loss, bloody noses and more, 15-year-old Francis is diagnosed with leukemia, to the dismay of his functioning-alcoholic mother and his older, gay brother. While in treatment at a local hospital in northeastern England, he meets tough, straight-shooting, sassy Amber, who intrigues and dazzles him. The two fall tepidly in love, and the novel progresses as expectedly any romance between two teenagers with leukemia might. From the beginning, Crow establishes that Francis is considered “sensitive” or “soft” by his mother and brother, and readers should keep that in mind as they make their ways through. Parts of their affair will have readers rolling their eyes in embarrassment, but other parts will grab their attention with Crow’s cinematic ability to create an emotion or character with such sharpness they’ll want to read it again. All of the characters are rendered with affection and plenty of detail; readers will especially like Francis’ mother and his brother’s friend Fiona, both of whom have fiery personalities set against warmer cores. Francis himself may seem a bit whiny at times, but his sense of introspection helps counterbalance the fluff. Readers who like to cry will definitely need a box of tissues before they reach the end. Mushy but satisfying. (Fiction. 13-17)

PRICKLY JENNY

Delacroix, Sibylle Illus. by Delacroix, Sibylle Owlkids Books (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 15, 2015 978-1-77147-129-9 A girl is in low spirits all day. “Jenny doesn’t say good morning because, really, what’s so good about it?” opens the story, plunging readers into Jenny’s mood. She doesn’t want her new polka-dot dress, she wants an old T-shirt; she grumbles and drags her feet on the way to the fair. Jenny doesn’t want compliments for her artwork, and she doesn’t want “you” to notice a temporary smile that sneaks out during her genuine melancholy. Sometimes she knows what she wants and sometimes not: “Jenny says, ‘Leave me alone!’ But she cries when Mommy goes away.” Delacroix uses the left side of each spread for text—dark blue lettering, shaded in with the same blue, on white background—and the right side for images. Each illustration features Jenny, with her huge head, expressive face, and small, blocky, vulnerable feet. Background coloring for the illustrations is a warm, yellowish taupe—not quite an

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“Wacky characters, a farcical plot and a fledgling romance are all part of the fun….” from boys don’t knit

unfriendly color but certainly not a comforting one. There’s no neat solution here, just welcome acknowledgement of irritation, unsettled emotions and bad days. Few readers won’t recognize the emotional core: “Jenny is feeling out of sorts, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. She just wants to be loved.” With its small trim size, this empathetic offering might be just the thing for little ones to take off by themselves when they’re feeling prickly. (Picture book. 3- 7)

BURNING KINGDOMS

DeStefano, Lauren Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4424-8064-3 978-1-4424-8066-7 e-book Series: Internment Chronicles, 2 This sequel to the innovative Perfect Ruin (2013) brings the series down to the ground, literally. The Internment Chronicles continue as Morgan, her brother and his wife, her betrothed, Basil, and her best friend, Pen, have escaped Internment, their city in the sky, and descended to Earth. There, they find a whole new world, but it might not be to their liking. With the group is Celeste, the princess of Internment, who has her own agenda. The group explores their new world, where Morgan doesn’t like the food and isn’t impressed with the different technology. The world on the ground seems to resemble 1920s America, with speak-easies, silent movies and cloche hats. But Morgan learns that kings rule here, too, and that wars dominate the lives of the people. People ran in fear from a small fire on Internment, but here, bombs fall, killing innocent citizens. Worse, Morgan learns that the cause of the war is a dispute over two islands that contain phosane, a powerful substance common on Internment. Her phosane betrothal ring alone can power a jet that might travel to Internment. DeStefano turns her attention from worldbuilding to characters and relationships in this book. The shift in focus combines with an overall slower pace to create a dragging middle volume. Committed fans will find the story only just intriguing enough to continue. (Dystopian adventure. 12-18)

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ME, TOO!

Dunklee, Annika Illus. by Smith, Lori Joy Kids Can (32 pp.) $16.95 | Apr. 1, 2015 978-1-77138-104-8 Annie is worried when her best friend, Lillemor, befriends Lilianne, the new girl at school. Annie likes the fact that she and Lillemor have so much in common, which she enumerates in large faux handwritten letters. The fourth reason adds humor to the already lighthearted art and text, when Annie declares that the girls “can both speak another language.” A genuine Swedish phrase comes from Lillemor’s cartoon bubble, translated on the page as “I can speak Swedish,” but Annie’s bubble reads, “Maka looka Oinky Boinky,” translated as, “I can speak Oinky Boinky.” Annie is worried when, instead of receiving her usual hug from Lillemor as she arrives at school one day, she sees Lillemor jumping rope with Lilianne. Her alarm rises as she notes all of the commonalities the other two girls share. All three girls have large heads with friendly faces on small bodies, with differing skin tones and hairdos. The backgrounds are simple, brightly colored and cartoonlike, making good use of negative space. There is no doubt that a happy ending is coming; the silliness and the frequent translations of phrases in three languages (two legitimate and one made up) are what will keep readers engaged. Besides, who can resist reading aloud such phrases as, “Maka kooka Uugghhh!” and “Ooga booga meow!”? With its familiar themes and fizzy text, this is one both listeners and readers will enjoy. (Picture book. 3- 7)

BOYS DON’T KNIT

Easton, T.S. Feiwel & Friends (272 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-250-05331-2 An unwilling accomplice to petty theft organized by his dim friends, English teen Ben Fletcher is annoyed that he was the one busted when he collided with a crossing guard. Probation requires him to keep a journal using a template, which he considers beneath him, as he’s been keeping a diary for years. But he soldiers on, hilariously recounting the details of the “Great Martini Heist” and its aftermath. He’s also required to take a community college class. The pathetic choices include car maintenance, taught by his father, a mechanic who’s always trying to get Ben (not a sports fan) to go with him to soccer matches. Ben opts for knitting because he has a crush on the teacher. When it turns out she’s actually teaching pottery, he’s stuck with knitting and stuck in a lie, unable to admit to his father and friends what he’s up to. It turns out that he’s a natural at knitting, able to appreciate

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HOPPER’S DESTINY

the mathematical precision of the patterns and create his own. When Ben’s coerced into entering a knitting contest, the jig is up. Despite some unnecessary Americanization of the text, this wonderfully funny novel is infused with British slang, including dozens of terms easily understood in context. Wacky characters, a farcical plot and a fledgling romance are all part of the fun in this novel that will appeal to fans of Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. (Fiction. 12-16)

FLY!

Edwards, Karl Newsom Illus. by Edwards, Karl Newsom Knopf (32 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | $18.99 PLB Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-385-39283-9 978-0-553-49654-3 e-book 978-0-385-39284-6 PLB A young fly struggles to find his special talent. Worm can wiggle. Fly tries to wiggle, but it just doesn’t look the same. Grasshopper can jump! Fly strains to jump, but his tiny feet barely make it off the ground. Poor Fly. He just can’t figure out what he is good at. From the title page, on which Fly is posed Thinker-like looking at his wings and pondering their existence, Fly’s determination is set. He goes from one garden friend to the next, trying to mimic their actions to see if he can do them too. Can he roll like the pill bug? Or march like the ants? No. It’s not until he sees Butterfly fluttering and Dragonfly flitting that he finally realizes his own special talent. He can...fly! In fewer than 20 words (action words, no less, with the exception of a single “Yes!”), Edwards pieces together a story of grand willpower and discovery. Fly is adorably earnest, with wide-set bulging eyes and six stubby legs that flail about in consternation. Setting his action against a clean, white background and drawing it in thick black outlines, Edwards shows how effective simplicity can be. Toddlers will cheer this tale of exploration while simultaneously jumping to their feet to try every action, right along with Fly. (appended bug facts) (Picture book. 2-5)

Fiedler, Lisa Illus. by To, Vivienne McElderry (352 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-1-4814-2089-1 978-1-4814-2091-4 e-book Series: Mouseheart, 2 In this sequel to Mouseheart (2014), warrior mouse Hopper finds himself on the streets of Brooklyn, where he discovers new allies for his efforts to bring peace to the rodents of the subway tunnels. Although he’s the Chosen One of the Müs, Hopper believes his destiny lies with the rat colony, Atlantia, and Prince Zucker. Following a battle to depose the despot Titus, Atlantia’s a ruined city. To protect its starving citizens from feral cat attacks while the city’s being rebuilt, Hopper hopes the Müs colony, ruled by his bellicose sister Pinkie, will offer temporary sanctuary. When Pinkie refuses to cooperate, Atlantia’s attacked by human exterminators. With Zucker presumed dead, Hopper’s accidentally carried aboveground and rescued by a likable cat named Ace, who eventually convinces him to return to Atlantia and find his younger brother Pup. Joined by feisty new friends, Hopper finds rats rebuilding Atlantia and launches an attack on the feral cats. Unexpectedly reunited with a stranger from their past, Hopper and Pinkie prepare to confront the now-embittered, estranged Pup. Harrowing plot twists, moral dilemmas and colorful animal characters make this second volume as supercharged and thought-provoking as the first. Atmospheric illustrations add drama. Mouse fantasy fans will cheer brave-hearted Hopper’s latest adventure. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)

ROCKIN’ THE BOAT 50 Iconic Rebels and Revolutionaries from Joan of Arc to Malcom X Fleischer, Jeff Zest Books (224 pp.) $13.99 paper | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-936976-74-4

A gallery of historical troublemakers starting with Hannibal and ending with Martin Luther King, Jr. Fleischer chooses figures who worked, with high visibility but varying levels of success, to overthrow governments, liberate countries from foreign rule or fight for the rights of the oppressed. He arranges his entries by birth date, opens each with an old or period image and spins out career portraits in an occasionally breezy idiom: Julius Caesar’s heir Octavian was “ticked off,” Guy Fawkes was a man “jonesing to fight” Protestantism, and Elizabeth Cady and Henry Stanton were “an activist power couple.” Snarky picture captions (“Emma Goldman is |

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not interested in your nonsense”) and sidebar references to pop culture further lighten the overall tone. Still, the author does not soft-pedal the brutality to which some of his subjects turned, however idealistic they may have started out, or the violent ends to which many of them came. Though the cast is largely European and/or male, it includes such less-well-known male freedom fighters as Metacom (aka King Philip), Maori leader Hone Heke and Daniel Shays and such women as Boudica and New Zealand feminist Kate Sheppard. Suggestions for further reading, a discussion guide and relevant updates will be available online; alas, there are no bibliography or source notes as such, nor is there an index. Salutary portraits in radicalism. (Collective biography. 11-14)

DECEPTION’S PAWN

Friesner, Esther Random House (336 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Apr. 28, 2015 978-0-449-81867-1 978-0-449-81869-5 e-book Series: Princesses of Myth, 2 A fiery Irish princess determined to make her own life decisions has trouble keeping her heart, and her men, in line in this overheated sequel to Deception’s

Princess (2014). Glad to be free of her beloved but manipulative father, High King Eochu, at last, Maeve joins a trio of fosterlings in neighboring Dún Beithe, where, along with meeting hunky Kian, son of the local lord, she is reunited with her adored kestrel, Ea. Besides briskly staving off blushing, smitten Kian and the much more aggressive Conchobar, the young king of the Ulaidh, Maeve faces a hard challenge in Bryg, a clever new foster child who nurses a deep grudge against her and orchestrates a campaign of not-so-petty torment. Except for a sojourn to meet Odran, her crush from the previous episode, this vicious little war takes up the story’s heart. Maeve isn’t exactly a model heroine, as she demonstrates by sneaking off to Odran after twice swearing to stay and endure her foster sisters’ bullying and then concocting a lie that she had been stolen by the Fair Folk to cover her absence. Also, as hinted in her uncritical acceptance at the end of scheming Eochu’s gift of part of his kingdom (and acknowledged in the tale’s title), she’s not the brightest bulb. Well, she’s a dab hand at sharp repartee and generally tries to be kind to her social inferiors. For readers who like their ancient Irish legends larded with mean girls. (pronunciation guide) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

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THE DEAD I KNOW

Gardner, Scot HMH Books (208 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-544-23274-7

A taciturn teen finds solace as a funeral director–in-training. Aaron Rowe speaks few words aloud and initially reveals little to readers about his life or what haunts him. Instead, they are taken with him under the wing of John Barton, one of two funeral directors in a small Australian town. “We don’t want to bring them back to life,” Barton says of the bodies Aaron helps him prepare for funerals; “we only want to give them dignity.” This sentiment holds true throughout. Scenes of encountering, moving and dressing dead bodies are quietly and carefully observed, and the physical realities of death—smells, bodily effluvia, decay—are described frankly but respectfully. Meanwhile, Aaron dreams about death and sleepwalks, waking up sometimes miles from home, and Mam, the woman he lives with in a caravan park, becomes less and less lucid while awake. Aaron’s and Mam’s disorientation provides a chaotic counterpoint to the somber but orderly world of JKB Funerals. Skye, the Bartons’ precocious and blunt daughter, adds both warmth and levity. Each plotline is woven skillfully in among the others, and each is resolved with gravity, dignity and care. The sense of family—both found and lost—is palpable throughout. Simply told and powerfully moving. (Fiction. 14 & up)

ROOM FOR BEAR

Gavin, Ciara Illus. by Gavin, Ciara Knopf (32 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-385-75473-6 978-0-385-75475-0 e-book 978-0-385-75474-3 PLB Creating a blended family demands a new choice in housing in Gavin’s picture-book debut. The matter-of-fact text begins, “One spring, Bear came to visit and never left,” as it introduces the title character’s integration into a family of ducks. While they get along fabulously, the ducks’ small, lakeside house isn’t spacious enough for Bear, so they head out in search of a home that will better accommodate everyone. Unfortunately, nothing is quite right, and they return to the small house by the lake. An interior spread that doubles as cover art shows the poor outcome of this decision, with Bear crowding the ducks on their sofa, his weight causing it to tip precariously to one end. Feeling like a nuisance, Bear departs and finds a cave dwelling. Although this solves the problem of living space, the separation smarts. In a clear case of absence making the heart grow ever fonder, not to mention

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“Inked contour lines and looping calligraphy skitter and skip like Diz’s staccato trumpet bleats.” from bird & diz

more resourceful, Bear builds the ducks a small home that can sit right at the entrance to his cave. Problem solved! Throughout, Gavin’s soft watercolors capture the shifting moods of the story while taking full advantage of the contrast in size between Bear and the ducks to maximize humor. Combined with her understated text, they mark her a new artist to watch. Just ducky. (Picture book. 3-6)

I SEE A PATTERN HERE

Goldstone, Bruce Illus. by Goldstone, Bruce Henry Holt (32 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-8050-9209-7

Goldstone tackles slides, turns, flips and folds in his latest, a look at patterning. Beginning with the basic example of repeating elements to define a pattern, Goldstone involves readers right from the start by asking them to complete eight basic patterns made with beads on a string (there is an answer key in the back). He then branches out, describing the many ways patterns can be formed, using basic vocabulary in the paragraphs but including “MathSpeak” speech bubbles at the bottoms of the spreads to introduce readers to the real mathematical terms: translation, rotation, 180-degree turn, reflection, symmetry, scaling, tessellation and transformation. Goldstone’s examples and photos are a mix of modern (a brick wall), natural (a honeycomb), world cultural (Malinese mud cloth) and historical (a Peruvian cloak), and he ingeniously uses them to clearly illustrate each of the patterning concepts; readers are likely to find patterns everywhere they look in their homes and communities. A final bright spread depicts a mosaic and challenges readers to find examples of each kind of patterning presented in the book. The backmatter gives children some ideas for creating their own patterns with plastic blocks, stamps and paper cutouts. A solid resource for both introducing and reinforcing patterns. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

BIRD & DIZ

Golio, Gary Illus. by Young, Ed Candlewick (32 pp.) $19.99 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-7636-6660-6 The innovative collaboration between jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker is celebrated within a double-sided, accordion-fold format. Golio’s text both describes and echoes the playful aspects of Bird and Diz’s music as “They take turns, / tossing notes back and forth like jugglers, // or play at the same time, / saxophone and trumpet / singing together.” Then, “Diz’s cheeks swell up, / like a frog with glasses. / He points his trumpet and shoots out |

fireworks. / Tag, Bird—you’re it!” On the first 12 panels, which make up one long, unfurling side of the pleated sheet, Golio focuses on the musicians’ onstage interplay. On the reverse panels, the music itself ’s the focus. “Bebop—fast jazz.... // It’s fall on your face or fly!” Young layers pastels and gouache on golden brown, water-resistant paper, giving each musician a distinctive color aura. Dizzy’s is neon orange and fuchsia, while Bird’s is teal green and periwinkle with violet accents. These auras not only visually distinguish each musician, but morph, on the verso panels, into a color-coded visual notation, articulating solos and unison playing—a bebop ECG! Inked contour lines and looping calligraphy skitter and skip like Diz’s staccato trumpet bleats. Alas, the choice of Tempus Sans for the text type sounds the one sour note here: Its twee whimsy’s more suited to lullabies than hip, mid-20th-century bebop. Exuberant and gorgeous—like the music. (afterword, suggested recordings) (Picture book. 4-8)

LOST BOY

Green, Tim Harper/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-06-231708-7 978-0-06-231710-0 e-book Life for Ryder and his mother isn’t perfect, but they manage by facing the world together, until a freak accident leaves Ryder alone with a lot of problems. When his mother suffers a road accident, Ryder has to dodge the attention of social services while trying to find ways of raising money for the operation that could save her life. Add to this the stress of being caught by the police when a gang of kids tricks him into breaking into Yankee Stadium, and he starts to feel like his whole world is on the verge of collapse. Luckily he’s got unlikely friends in the form of a guilt-ridden firefighter and a neighbor who suffers from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a connective-tissue disorder that confines him to a wheelchair. But will that be enough to save his small family? Best-selling author Green has had much success with books that feature lonely boys with family issues who rely on innate talent to carve escape niches in sports. This one is written in the same vein, though the plot, complete with unlikely medical scenarios, is slightly less believable than his previous books. The strength of the cast—cranky ex-reporter, firefighting teddy bear, sympathetic visiting nurse—carries the book despite its weak plot. Those who appreciate consistency are the most likely to welcome Green’s latest. (Fiction. 10-13)

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“The diversity of illustration styles and subjects coincides nicely with the diversity of rhymes, which refreshingly move beyond Anglophone origins.” from over the hills and far away

SECRETS BENEATH THE SEA

Gurtler, Janet Illus. by Wood, Katie Capstone Young Readers (288 pp.) $12.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-62370-187-1 Series: Mermaid Kingdom, 1

Three young mermaids work hard to keep their friendships strong against a tidal wave of drama, secrets and envy. Whether it is navigating changing friendships, dealing with family loss or simply finding out who you are, being 12 is difficult. After two years, Shyanna is still mourning the disappearance of her father. Entering the Melody Pageant might bring music back into her and her mother’s lives. As a half-mermaid, Rachel must deal with prejudice from other mermaids and the need to hide her form from her landlocked friends. Cora must choose between her dream of being on the Spirit Squad and standing up for what is right. The three linked stories, told from each mermaid’s point of view, make it clear that life under the sea is just as complicated as life on dry land. While the stories touch on some difficult issues, the tone is, overall, lighthearted. Social drama, fashion and mermaid magic will keep sparkle-happy readers entertained. But an emphasis on friendship, loyalty and kindness gives the stories some substance. Brightly colored illustrations of frolicking mermaids pepper the text. A new underwater series for fans of My Little Pony and like uncomplicated fare. (Fantasy. 7-10)

OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes Hammill, Elizabeth—Ed. Candlewick (160 pp.) $21.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-7636-7729-9

A sumptuous multicultural collection of nursery rhymes includes art by over 70 illustrators. The diversity of illustration styles and subjects coincides nicely with the diversity of rhymes, which refreshingly move beyond Anglophone origins. Hammill’s skills as collector are especially sharp in juxtaposing cultural variants of rhymes—for example, a spread with the English Little Miss Muffet includes the Jamaican Lickle Muss Julie, the American Little Miss Tuckett and the Australian Little Miss Muffet, who gets frightened away by a pugnacious wombat rather than a spider. Also pleasing are inspired rhyme pairings. Isn’t it fitting that naughty Georgie Porgie is on a page facing one devoted to the sometimes-horrid little girl with a curl? Or that the tongue twisters about Betty Botter and Peter Piper share a double-page spread? Or that Yankee Doodle and the grand old Duke of York face each other, too? It’s also delightful to see rhymes including oft-omitted stanzas, 96

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including five in all for a not-so-little Bo Peep. Illustration highlights include: Emily Gravett’s delicious, posterlike rendering of six-and-twenty mice alphabetically indulging in apple pie; Nina Crews’ delectable photomontage illustrations for a variety of food-related rhymes; Robert Ingpen’s gorgeous interpretation of “The lion and the unicorn”; and in a callback to his Caldecott Honor, Jerry Pinkney’s interpretation of Brother Noah who built the ark. Never mind far away, keep this collection close by. (Poetry. 1-8)

SHADOW SCALE

Hartman, Rachel Random House (608 pp.) $18.99 | $10.99 e-book | $21.99 PLB Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-375-86657-9 978-0-375-89659-0 e-book 978-0-375-96657-6 PLB Series: Seraphina, 2 Having come to terms with her own heritage, both dragon and human, Seraphina is back for more, following her eponymous first outing (2012). The dragon-dragon war continues to rage, and it seems a cohort of half-dragons might make a difference. The mental garden Seraphina built to control her visions of other half-dragons is a map to that cohort, and so she crosses kingdoms to raise a different kind of army in hopes of saving the world. Along the way, Seraphina uncovers the truth of the Goreddi Saints, searches for her missing uncle, navigates a complex relationship with a man she can’t have and must come to terms with Jannoula, a powerful half-dragon who seems the shadow to Seraphina’s light. Love, betrayal and sacrifice wind throughout, all narrated in Seraphina’s appealing, slightly stiff voice. Every now and again, a book comes along that reimagines a familiar trope so magnificently it resets the bar, which is exactly what happened with Seraphina, Hartman’s debut. Here, she continues to expand her world with enough history and detail to satisfy even the most questioning of readers, doing it all so naturally that it’s hard to believe this is fiction. Dragon fiction has never flown higher. Seraphina’s adventures may be over, but here’s hoping there are more Goreddi tales to come. (map, cast of characters, glossary) (Fantasy. 13 & up)

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ME BEING ME IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS YOU BEING YOU

Hasak-Lowy, Todd Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (656 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-4424-9573-9 978-1-4424-9569-2 e-book Darren does his best to process his father’s coming out by chasing the girl of his dreams. Things in Darren’s life have changed a lot over the last few months. His older brother has gone off to college, his parents are recently divorced, and now his father has chosen to officially come out of the closet. In a desperate attempt to get away from it all, Darren catches a bus to his brother’s school, with the mysterious and beautiful Zoey along for the ride. After an unforgettable night, Zoey disappears, and Darren continues to try and pick up the pieces. Telling Darren’s story entirely in a series of lists, the author hides his paint-bynumbers narrative behind an eye-catching gimmick. The first few dozen lists are cute, but even the most indulgent readers will roll their eyes at the novel’s 640-page bulk, over twice the size of The Catcher in the Rye. Making matters worse are the paper-thin characters. Zoey is a typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl; Darren is a whiny limp noodle who somehow attracts not just Zoey, but other girls as well, making the story feel more like wish-fulfillment at times than anything else. Too self-conscious for its own good. (Fiction. 12-16)

NOISY BIRD SING-ALONG

Himmelman, John Illus. by Himmelman, John Dawn Publications (32 pp.) $16.95 | $8.95 paper | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-58469-513-4 978-1-58469-514-1 paper A say-along, sing-along invitation introduces the art of birding by ear through simple, recognizable bird songs and sounds and, mostly, familiar birds. From the “Cheery up? Cheerio!” of the robin to the “tap, tap, tap” of the downy woodpecker, each spread includes a common phonetic description of a bird’s sound (“Oh Sweet Canada”; “Who cooks for you”; “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee”) and where and when the bird might be found. Spare illustrations accurately show the birds and something of their environments: a yellow warbler on a cattail, a mallard in a pond, a house sparrow on a brick wall. Many of the birds are familiar daytime visitors to backyards and parks; young readers are less likely to encounter nocturnal singers like the barred owl, whip-poor-will and woodcock. A few are specifically northern or eastern. The Anna’s hummingbird is only found on the Pacific coast, but its sound and appearance are not too unlike its eastern ruby-throated counterpart. Further information is included in the backmatter, where readers will find a description of the male woodcocks’ |

dance and the advice to “pinch your nose shut” while imitating the call of the white-breasted nuthatch. There are also suggestions for other birding activities. For fostering nature awareness, this is a welcome companion to the author’s previous titles about noisy bugs and noisy frogs. (Informational picture book. 4-9)

NIGHTBIRD

Hoffman, Alice Wendy Lamb/Random (208 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | $19.99 PLB Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-385-38958-7 978-0-385-38960-0 e-book 978-0-385-38959-4 PLB There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near

her house. It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and selfimposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future. Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

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THE DEATH OF THE HAT A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects Janeczko, Paul B. Illus. by Raschka, Chris Candlewick (80 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-7636-6963-8

Janeczko and Raschka reunite for a fourth anthology, featuring poems spanning two millennia. The unifying conceit—all the poems focus on objects—has a grounding effect, helping readers perceive linkages among the poets across centuries. As Janeczko observes in a pithy introduction, poems are grouped within nine sections named for major periods of Western cultural history, such as the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Nonetheless, he “could not ignore the strong poems...found from Eastern poets.” The 13thcentury Persian poet Rumi observes a candle, “made to become entirely flame.” Seventeenth-century Japanese master Bashō muses, “Midnight frost— / I’d borrow / the scarecrow’s shirt.” Twelve women are represented, including Phillis Wheatley, Christina Rossetti and Sylvia Plath. Some poems are famous: William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” is here, as well as Robert Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose.” Less familiar choices are poignant, even cheeky: John Updike’s “Lament, for Cocoa” rues, “The scum has come. / My cocoa’s cold.” Raschka’s playful watercolors on crisp, white backgrounds distill both images and emotions from the poems. In “The Cat and the Moon,” he visually parallels William Butler Yeats’ lines, the cat’s eyes echoing the crescent moon’s shape. The white goose of Cui Tu’s “A Solitary Wildgoose” appears throughout, flying alone until uniting with a flock on the back endpapers. Another winning collaboration from two luminaries. (acknowledgements) (Picture book/poetry. 8-12)

FATAL FEVER Tracking Down Typhoid Mary

Jarrow, Gail Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills (176 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-62091-597-4

This engrossing story about Typhoid Mary relates the grim history of typhoid fever, which killed tens of thousands of Americans in the early 1900s. The narrative opens in 1907, when Dr. Josephine Baker, a New York City medical inspector, and three police officers paid a visit on Irish immigrant Mary Mallon, later known as Typhoid Mary. Mallon was a healthy-looking, middle-aged cook suspected of carrying typhoid bacteria and infecting those she worked for, sometimes fatally. Chapters about finding and imprisoning Mallon alternate with those on typhoid, its symptoms, how it spread and how it was largely eradicated. Lively 98

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writing uses primary sources to relate well-chosen, sometimesgruesome details about the disease and convey the personalities of Mallon, Baker and George Soper, a sanitary engineer who tracked down Mallon through her employment history. An unusually attractive design incorporates many photographs, such artifacts as posters and cartoons, and sidebars. More than a chronological account, this exploration pays tribute to the power of public health measures and raises questions about the ethics of protecting the public by quarantining someone like Mallon, who sued for her freedom. A top-notch addition to the popular topic of deadly diseases. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

EGG Nature’s Perfect Package

Jenkins, Steve Illus. by Page, Robin HMH Books (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-547-95909-2

With their characteristic design and choice of intriguing details, this prolific author-illustrator pair introduces “nature’s perfect package”: the egg. An egg-shaped introduction encapsulates the main ideas of this latest offering in a series of titles exploring nature’s wonders. Almost every animal begins life in an egg. Some, like human eggs, are nurtured internally, but many more develop outside. Eggs come in an astonishing variety of shapes, sizes, colors and numbers and are tended to in myriad ways or simply strewn, developing on their own. All contain what’s necessary to form and nurture the new creature. Spread by spread readers learn about the range of egg layers, egg sizes, how many are lain and where, egg eaters, egg protection, packaging, carrying, incubation and emergence. A final spread looks inside the eggs of a chicken and alligator as each creature develops over time, in five stages from embryo to hatchling. Text in the upper-left corner of each spread presents the topic. Realistic torn- and cut-paper images set on a plain white background are identified and explained in short paragraphs. The backmatter includes thumbnails and further information about the 54 egg-laying creatures pictured—from slugs and simple animals through insects, spiders, fish, amphibians and birds, plus two mammals (the mongoose and the platypus). Appealing, accessible and accurate, this is another admirable creation. (additional reading) (Informational picture book. 4-9)

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“Each character in Kelly’s debut novel… is portrayed with remarkable authenticity.” from blackbird fly

PRAIRIE FIRE

Johnston, E.K. Carolrhoda Lab (304 pp.) $18.99 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-4677-3909-2 Series: Story of Owen, 2 This follow-up to the acclaimed The Story of Owen (2014) is part adventure, part alternative history, part friendship story, part ecological fable and all heroic saga. Once dragon slayer Owen Thorskard graduates high school, he signs up for his mandatory service in the Oil Watch, and of course Siobhan McQuaid, his bard and best friend, enlists as well. Their previous exploits (chronicled in Siobhan’s songs, now a YouTube sensation) have made the pair unpopular with those in power, so they receive the dreariest, most remote deployment: Fort Calgary. Grueling practice gradually coheres their raw support team into a tough fighting unit—and trusted friends. But are they prepared for the test of the biggest, deadliest dragon of all? This sequel is not as perfectly crafted as Johnston’s debut: The plethora of new characters is hard to keep straight, the minutiae of military training drag on the pace, and promising subplots peter out without resolution. Still, the narrative is held together by Siobhan’s unique voice, which casts every character as an instrument, every event as a melody; all she witnesses is knit together in a symphony expressing universal themes of friendship, duty, loyalty and sacrifice. For all Siobhan’s insistence that she merely channels Owen’s story, it becomes evident that tales are as much about their tellers and that heroism comes in all forms. Grand, heartbreaking, ennobling and unforgettable. (Fantasy. 12-18)

THE GREAT WAR Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War

Kay, Jim Candlewick (304 pp.) $19.99 | Apr. 14, 2015 978-0-7636-7554-7

A group of celebrated writers, including Michael Morpurgo, A.L. Kennedy, David Almond and John Boyne, reflects on simple artifacts from World War I to create a collection of short stories. The items themselves are simple, even mundane. A wartime butter dish. A compass. A school magazine. But the stories themselves, ranging in setting from the apex of the war to its centenary now, combine each small treasure with a child’s point of view to say something profound about memory and loss and what it means to wage war. In Timothée de Fombelle’s “Captain Rosalie,” a small girl imagines herself a secret spy as she works to uncover the code that will let her read her father’s letters. |

Tanya Lee Stone’s story in verse, “A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” takes readers from America’s racially divided cities to Belleau Wood, where a young musician learns that “Maybe making something of yourself is as / simple / as...walking, no / marching / straight into the center of / fear / all while playing a horn.” Each story, lovingly crafted, shows a different facet of war in the same way that each artifact reflects something different about the time. Perhaps most moving is Tracy Chevalier’s “When They Were Needed Most,” in which a small boy’s theft of a cigarette from a Christmas package meant for soldiers becomes the very thing that saves his father’s life. Black-andwhite illustrations by Kay and photos and descriptions of each artifact complete the whole. Extraordinary. (Short stories. 8 & up)

BLACKBIRD FLY

Kelly, Erin Entrada Greenwillow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 24, 2015 978-0-06-223861-0 978-0-06-223863-4 e-book Apple Yengko has one possession from the Philippines—a Beatles cassette tape with her father’s name written on it. She knows every song by heart. After her father’s death when she was very young, Apple and her mother moved to the United States. There is not much diversity in Apple’s small Louisiana town. Her classmates call her Chinese though she is Filipina and bully her with taunts of “dog-eater.” Apple’s self-esteem plummets when she learns she is on the Dog Log, the boys’ list of the ugliest girls, and her friends abandon her. She hates her name, her mother’s accent, the shape of her eyes, everything that makes her different. She takes refuge in music, becoming determined to get her own guitar, despite her mother’s protests. Slowly, Apple develops new, healthy friendships. She comes to see through the cruelty of her classmates and to discover the unique characteristics that make her special. Each character in Kelly’s debut novel—the mean kids, the misfits, the adults and Apple herself—is portrayed with remarkable authenticity. The awkwardness and intense feelings inherent to middle school are palpable. Children’s literature has been waiting for Apple Yengko—a strong, Asian-American girl whose ethnic identity simultaneously complicates and enriches her life. (Fiction. 9-14)

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“The background details are sure to catch youngsters’ attentions, especially the evolution of Burple’s lunch from snack to monster pet.” from a monster moved in!

ASTROTWINS—PROJECT BLASTOFF

Kelly, Mark; with Freeman, Martha Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (224 pp. ) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book Mar. 24, 2015 978-1-4814-1545 978-1-4814-1547-7 e-book With co-author Freeman, Kelly takes readers back to 1975, when long-distance telephone calls cost money, calculators were expensive luxuries, and Americans fizzed with excitement about the U.S. space program. Former astronaut Kelly takes a cool biographical fact—he and his identical twin brother, Scott, are the only siblings ever to fly in space—and spins it into an absorbing adventure. To get visiting 11-year-old twins Scott and Mark out of his hair, Grandpa suggests they build a spaceship. Taking him at his word, they enlist the help of brainy Jenny O’Malley and their neighbor Barry Leibovitz, a math nerd, and so begins a summer of clandestine research and construction. Eventually the team expands to include Howard Chin, who has a computer, and Lisa Perez, whose dad owns an auto body shop. The team studies physics at the library and scrounges for materials, promising all the adults they won’t blow anything up. The kids’ enthusiasm is infectious, and Kelly’s expertise comes through in telling, kidfriendly details, as when Barry’s older brother, a former pilot and Vietnam POW, takes them on a trip to an amusement park to determine which kids have the right stuff. If the characters often speak in infodumps, it’s because they are learning along with readers, and the information imparted is staged just right. Intriguing subject matter and rock-solid pacing combine for a nifty adventure—one that may well spark a new generation of astronauts. (further reading) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

THE THING ABOUT SPRING

Kirk, Daniel Illus. by Kirk, Daniel Abrams (32 pp.) $16.95 | Feb. 17, 2015 978-1-4197-1492-4

Rabbit is apprehensive about winter turning to spring, and his friends Mouse, Bird and Bear help convince him that spring is equally wonderful. Rabbit’s concerns run from not having snow to play in and find his friends’ footprints in to how bad Bear smells when he wakes up from hibernation to unpredictable rain showers to longer days: “I am a cranky bunny when I don’t get enough sleep!” There is a cute surprise at the end, when Rabbit offers his own solution to his thirst, brought on by spring’s warmer weather. In a pleasing nod to young readers’ enjoyment, the text makes 100

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good use of repetition and pattern; each time Rabbit protests spring with the expression, “The thing about spring is...,” one friend counters the claim, and another says, “me too” or “me three.” The animals are appealing in their appearances and in their obvious devotion to one another—even to the Eeyore-like Rabbit. Children from northern climes, where even those who love snow and ice are excited by spring, may find it difficult to feel empathy for Rabbit, whose cartoonlike bunny face has a perpetual look of angst until the end. Although the underlying idea is that resistance to change is normal—and acceptance of change is healthy— an easier sell would have been an animal who dreaded the cold and dark of winter. (Picture book. 3-6)

A MONSTER MOVED IN!

Knapman, Timothy Illus. by Schauer, Loretta Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-58925-176-2

A maniacally cheery Mom and Dad give bored Ben a number of rainy-day activity suggestions, from reading to building a rocket to going on a dragon hunt, in Knapman’s silly boy-meets-monster tale. Ben decides to build a fort instead, which alarms his parents, as forts, of course, attract monsters. Even in the fort, though, playing at pirates, knights and wizards is still so boring that Ben wishes for a monster. Suddenly, Burple, a green boy monster, pops in with a lunch box. “He seems harmless,” is Ben’s last thought before the monster inexplicably starts howling. Burple’s pink, snaggletoothed, dog-collared, amorphous lunch takes advantage of the commotion and escapes. The boys wrangle the “disgusting packed lunch” and stuff it back into the lunch box and sit on it. Monster and kid bond and proceed to read, build a rocket and hunt a dragon—sound familiar? Schauer’s crayonlike digital illustrations are bright and cartoonish. The background details are sure to catch youngsters’ attentions, especially the evolution of Burple’s lunch from snack to monster pet. Still, Knapman’s previous foray into unorthodox friendships, Guess What I Found in Dragon Wood, illustrated by Gwen Millward (2008), was cleverer and more successful in both concept and execution. The lunch is the star of this book; both plot and humor are otherwise predictable. (Picture book. 4- 7)

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READ BETWEEN THE LINES

Knowles, Jo Candlewick (336 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-7636-6387-2 Over the span of one day, Knowles’ novel offers glimpses into the intertwined lives of nine teens and one high school teacher. These days, “to read between the lines” means two very different things: One, with a gesture, is the ultimate insult, and the other is to garner more insight than is readily apparent. Here, both definitions fit. Each character either receives or “gives the finger,” and each chapter provides a “between the lines” peek into the characters’ lives, always revealing a disconnect between the realities of their lives and the ways in which they are perceived by others. First up is Nate Granger, a much-harassed high school freshman whose middle finger is broken by a bully during gym class. Nate is tormented by the fact that his mother died in a hit-and-run crash while on her way to pick him up at school and struggles to deal with his abusive and resentful father. While Nate is in the nurse’s office, Claire—another student, and the next character to come into focus—comes in, feigning cramps, and is dismissed from school. Feeling her life and relationships superficial, Claire takes a bus into the city in search of a meaningful experience. The book proceeds, each new character entering, with his/her realities, dreams and secrets becoming another masterfully woven thread. With emotional explorations and dialogue so authentic, one might think Knowles isn’t creating but channeling the adolescent mind. A fascinating study of misperceptions, consequences and the teen condition. (Fiction. 14-18)

MARILYN’S MONSTER

Knudsen, Michelle Illus. by Phelan, Matt Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-7636-6011-6

Marilyn’s feelings as her days without a monster wear on; she’s hopeful, wistful, wary, dismissive, angry and finally determined. “That’s it,” Marilyn declares one day. “I’m going to find my monster.” Grit, persistence, and a good, loud shout bring the two together, and as Marilyn untangles his wing from a high limb, children might ruminate on some larger lessons that hover around what initially seems a sweetly silly monster story. A surprising spin on monsters with nicely effective artwork—and heart.(Picture book. 2-6)

EDMUND UNRAVELS

Kolb, Andrew Illus. by Kolb, Andrew Nancy Paulsen Books (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-399-16914-4 Edmund, a ball of teal yarn, explores the world but returns to his family. Edmund Loom is an adventuresome little ball of yarn. At first, he just bounces down the stairs to play with other balls of yarn, forcing hours of reeling him in and winding him back up on his parents. The older he gets, the bigger he gets, and his parents have more trouble pulling him back. Eventually, he travels the world, returning home when adventure palls and he becomes lonely. Pencils and pixels come together in sunny illustrations that bring this little round guy to life. His trailing tail, goofy smile, twirly “bangs,” baseball cap and jaunty backpack will allow young readers to identify with him, even when he is sweaty and scared when (not-so-scary) cats chase him. They will smile with recognition when he meets “interesting people” in the shapes of bottles, toilet paper rolls, buttons and even a friendly pincushion. They will undoubtedly cheer when Edmund exhausts the possibilities of travel and rolls himself home to family and friends—and they may hope he finds a pal to roll around with on another journey. This long extended metaphor filled with laugh-worthy wordplay will comfort children and parents alike. (Picture book. 4-8)

GREAT BALL OF LIGHT

Marilyn waits and waits for her monster to find her, the way all her friends’ monster companions found them, until she finally gives up and goes looking for him. Say goodbye to scary monsters. Here lurk monster buddies (anatomical amalgams with horns, fangs, fuzz, fur and sometimes antennae) who arrive unannounced to serve as superspecial sidekicks to every child. Much fun comes from seeing a multitude of monsters in everyday settings, like school and the park, and from marveling at their confounding shapes and sizes. Mellow pencil-and-watercolor illustrations soften their freakishness, convincing even the most jittery nighttime readers that they too might pine for a monster pal just as Marilyn does. Wonderfully telling, finely wrought facial expressions communicate |

Kuhlman, Evan Illus. by Holmes, Jeremy Atheneum (304 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4169-6461-2 978-1-4424-2661-0 e-book When a lightning strike near the dead maple tree seems to produce a ball of lightning, Fiona and her twin are certain something extraordinary is at hand. Sensible narrator Fiona North is nearly 13. At the urging of the less-cautious Fenton, she captures the ball of light in a canning jar. When the twins notice new growth on the tree,

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INTERVIEWS & PROFILES

Sharon M. Draper

In a career already full of achievements, Draper deserves acclaim all over again for her latest novel By Claiborne Smith

The first thing Sharon Draper will tell you about her 1994 debut novel, Tears of a Tiger, is that the race of the protagonist isn’t an issue in the book (actually, that’s the second thing; the first, she notes with evident pride, is that Tears of a Tiger is still being taught in schools all these 20 years later). Draper’s career was ignited when she won Ebony’s short story contest in 1991. Alex Haley wrote her a letter congratulating her “in his own handwriting,” Draper stresses. “And he took the time to write out my address.” That was good enough for her: After Tears of a Tiger was published, Draper never really looked back. She is an amazingly prolific and versatile author who writes both middlegrade and teen books, has been a Coretta Scott King 102

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Author Award winner or honoree five times, has been honored at the White House six times and landed on the New York Times best-seller list several times. But in 1994, Draper had the same worries most first-time authors do: How many readers will really care enough about this novel to buy it? “Regardless of the race of the main characters, anybody who picked up the book could identify with the main characters,” Draper says now about her conception of Tears of a Tiger as she was writing it. “If you’ve ever been 16 and fighting with your girlfriend…any teenager reading the book could identify with this character’s anguish, and the fact that he was African-American, it was significant, but it wasn’t the plot.” That line of thought couldn’t be more different than the way Draper considers her new middle-grade novel, Stella by Starlight. It begins: “Nine robed figures dressed all in white. Heads covered with softly pointed hoods. Against the black of night, a single wooden cross blazed.” Set during the Great Depression in rural North Carolina (where Draper’s father is from), Stella by Starlight is about the mental anguish and physical violence spurred by racism, but it’s also about a conscientious, ambitious, observant girl who thinks she’s the “dunce” of all the students in her oneroom school. Some nights, Stella manages to sneak away while her family’s asleep—at a time when the Klan has become ever more active—by quieting the squeaky door hinge with a little lard. Under the front porch, wrapped inside a bit of old leather, is a cigar box. Stuffed inside are newspaper clippings and the notebook where she puts her thoughts. Stella is a writer, a “gemstone hiding inside a rock,” as her mother tells her—though Stella thinks she’s just a rock. In other words, Draper’s typically sensitive characterization

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is evident in her new novel but in a story where race matters deeply. In a career that’s full of achievements, Draper deserves to be rewarded all over again for Stella by Starlight. The fact that the novel arrives at a moment when the issue of diversity in children’s books is at a fever pitch is, given the lengthy gestation of most books, accidental. But it’s not inadvertent. Draper was in elementary and junior high school in the 1950s and remembers going to the library every Saturday with her mother. She read Little Black Sambo and felt “really offended” by it; the other books she read didn’t have characters of color. “Nobody ever said, ‘Hey, you’re missing something here,’ ” she says now. She remembers being in junior high in 1959 when a teen book by Dorothy Sterling, Mary Jane, was released. The novel is about a black student in the South who’s one of two nonwhite students chosen to integrate a high school. When Mary Jane appeared, the Kirkus review of the novel said that “the real value for the high school reader is the clear, undeviating challenge to prejudice.” At the time, “you couldn’t just have a character who happened to be black,” Draper says. (That novel that Draper read in 1959 that had the distinction of being told from an African-American girl’s point of view was written by a white woman who was the descendant of German Jews. According to a Los Angeles Times obituary, Sterling wanted to become a writer after joining the Federal Writers’ Project, the New Deal work-relief program that happened in the same era as Draper’s new novel about a very young writer is set.) “If someone had said, ‘we need diverse books’ in 1955, they would’ve been laughed at,” Draper points out. “They would’ve been told, ‘You’re lucky you get to go to the library.’ ” That particular history is the echo Draper heard at the National Book Award ceremony in November when master of ceremonies Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) made a racist joke after AfricanAmerican writer Jacqueline Woodson won the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. |

Draper was the chair of the Young People’s Literature category last year and had been onstage introducing the finalists and Woodson just before Handler returned to the stage. “ ‘Dismayed’ I guess is the word” that describes how Draper says she felt after Handler’s joke, “because he should’ve known better and ‘disappointed’ because he did it on purpose.” Stella by Starlight is dedicated to Draper’s father and grandmother. Starting in 1983, her father, Vick Mills, began asking his daughter when she was going to tell the story related in Stella (he died on Dec. 16, but Draper says that even though he had developed Alzheimer’s, he understood she had written the book for him). Draper has written books in which a character’s race is known but not highlighted, in which race is indeterminate (in one of her best-selling titles, Out of My Mind, she says she “purposefully” made the protagonist “no race at all”), and in which race matters. “I want the characters in each story I write to be resounding regardless of who they are,” she says. Considerations of race, which pervade so much of her life, are secondary. “The character drives the plot, not the other way around,” she says. “Why don’t you write about Chinese kids?” a student asked her at a school visit she once made. “Because I write about what I know about,” she said. Claiborne Smith is the editor in chief at Kirkus Reviews. Stella by Starlight received a starred review in the Nov. 15, 2014, issue of Kirkus Reviews.

Stella by Starlight Draper, Sharon M. Atheneum (336 pp.) $16.99 | Jan. 6, 2015 978-1-4424-9497-8

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Fenton’s interest at first is in fame and fortune, experimenting with various small dead creatures to determine the ability of the ball of light to restore some kind of life. The tree, impressively abundant, turns itself into a hybrid maple/apple. A beetle’s missing leg temporarily regrows, yet other results are mixed. The dog is next, followed by Grandpa, whose reappearance they hope will enliven his depressed widow. Scruffy the dog and the grandfather remain partially decomposed, incomplete. Still, each thing brought back to life is changed, and not only from dead to undead. Fiona’s explanation: Free will to choose the deepest self is available both in life and death. Though the family finds itself on the run after the accidental shooting death (and subsequent reanimation) of the father’s fiancee, Fiona’s analysis of their predicament remains optimistic. Kuhlman’s voice for Fiona is both wry and earnest, the gravity of her philosophical musings balanced by un–self-conscious humor. Eerie and hopeful: family tragedy and reconciliation wrapped in a zombie encounter. (Fantasy. 10-14)

THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall

Lang, Heather Illus. by Beaky, Suzanne Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-0-8075-2931-7

The story of famed rodeo queen Lucille Mulhall is retold as a lesson in girl power and following one’s dreams. As a girl growing up in the 1890s in Oklahoma, Lucille showed a natural talent for roping and horse riding, pursuits that weren’t considered ladylike at the time. But through dedication and the support of her father, Col. Zack Mulhall, Lucille impressed others with her skills, besting boys in competitions and eventually performing for then–vice president Teddy Roosevelt. She toured the world as her fame grew, paving the way for other cowgirls. As told by Lang, who previously wrote about Olympian Alice Coachman (Queen of the Track, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, 2012), Mulhall’s life was filled with doubters she proved wrong with undeniable skill. Though there’s plenty of history, including a supplemental two-page biography and timeline in the backmatter (though no sources), there’s no lack of sass and color. Lang writes colloquially (“Colonel Mulhall reckoned it was a fine idea”) without overdoing it. The rodeo scenes contain the right amount of suspense, given Lucille’s obvious trajectory. Illustrations are expressively bright and splashy, with amusing expressions on the roped horses and cattle as well as more staid representations of the vast Oklahoma landscape. Mulhall may not be a household name, but Lang makes her memorable for anyone who admires go-getters who beat the odds and break barriers. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)

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RIVALS IN THE CITY

Lee, Y.S. Candlewick (304 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-7636-5914-1 Series: Agency, 4

Intrigue, romance and the rich details of Victorian life are the focus in the fourth installment of this mystery series featuring a complex female detective. As the book opens, heroine Mary Quinn is living a life she could not have imagined in her earlier years. She is independent and beginning a detective agency with her fiance, James Easton, who would like to marry soon. Her sense of gratitude causes her to take one more case for the Agency, where she learned her trade. Mary’s skills have become formidable, but the ruthless criminal she agrees to track threatens to unravel the future the young couple has planned. Meanwhile, an important engineering project keeps James busy and away from Mary. In addition, a surprise appearance by a family member from China provides some answers to Mary’s questions about her father’s past. Lee successfully weaves all the threads together in this fast-paced mystery. As with the previous volumes, the elements of Victorian life are well-drawn, adding rich texture to the storytelling. The author demonstrates her expertise in the period with insight into its social mores that strengthens the narrative. Most of all, Mary Quinn and her supporting cast continue to reveal intriguing twists to a familiar setting. Readers of the series will find this addition deeply satisfying as both a mystery and a historical romance. (Historical mystery. 12 & up)

THE MEMORY KEY

Liu, Liana HarperTeen (368 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-06-230664-7 978-0-06-230666-1 e-book Mysteries abound as one girl struggles to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death while grappling with a malfunctioning memory device and the monolithic company behind it. Lora’s world was turned upside down when her mother, a senior scientist at Keep Corp, was killed in a car accident five years ago. As manufacturers of the memory key, the device created to function like a normal human memory but with the added benefit of guarding against the once-widespread degenerative Vergets disease, Keep Corp holds unknowable power. When Lora’s memory key begins to deteriorate, memories long forgotten re-emerge in a painful wave, and one in particular stands in contrast to the familiar narrative of her mother’s death. Suddenly she can’t trust anyone, her headaches

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“A satisfying close to this trilogy that began with a clever high school prank and morphed into a full-scale action adventure.” froms pretty wanted

become overwhelming, and the secrets of her family’s connection to Keep Corp unravel at a startling rate. Liu’s addition of an Alzheimer’s-like disease to the popular memory-loss trend makes for an absorbing start. But her penchant for repetitive phrasing and short, stilted sentences distracts from the plot. Supporting characters such as Lora’s one-time uncle, an activist, and Lora’s elusive mother read authentically and keep the pages turning, while Lora herself rings hollow; she’s more a moody pawn than a compelling protagonist. However, the unexpected ending satisfyingly subverts easy clichés. A fascinating spin on the memory-loss trope weighed down by a wooden lead. (Thriller. 13-18)

HOPPELPOPP AND THE BEST BUNNY

Lobe, Mira Illus. by Kaufmann, Angelika Translated by Kovács, Cäcilie Holiday House (32 pp.) $16.95 | $16.95 e-book | Apr. 1, 2015 978-0-8234-3287-5 978-0-8234-3334-6 e-book A pointed fable on the hazards of competition and the benefits of cooperation. Published in Europe five years ago but not previously available here, the episode is played out by bunnies who gambol fetchingly through grassy fields in Kaufmann’s stippled watercolors. Binny, Benny, Bernie, Bonnie and Buddy live together, play together and share the food and fun they find—until, that is, a big stranger bunny named Hoppelpopp arrives and asks which one is the “best bunny.” When the others answer that they’re all the same, he sets up a race and other contests so that soon, all but the smallest, Buddy, are aggressively declaring themselves the fastest, strongest, smartest or bravest. When, however, Buddy draws his burrow mates back together to chase off a badger, they see the error of their ways—and Hoppelpopp, ignored, anticlimactically hops away. For all the worthy values on display here, readers will likely be left hanging by the abrupt ending; the big bunny’s evident lack of motive or agenda render him superfluous to the story and irrelevant to its theme. At best an incomplete discussion starter, without much political or psychological depth. (Picture book. 5- 7)

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HIPPOS ARE HUGE!

London, Jonathan Illus. by Trueman, Matthew Candlewick (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-7636-6592-0

Hippos are huge, graceful and dangerous, as depicted in this colorful, informative book for the youngest naturalists. From the cover image of a hippo’s gaping maw and the pink endpapers resembling the interior of the hippo’s mouth, readers understand that they will be immersed in details about the unusual creature. Bold claims about its characteristics and prowess appear in big type. The conversational narrative asks questions and directs readers’ attention. Additional fascinating facts appear in a smaller font. It begins with the declaration that hippos are HUGE: “They can weigh as much as fifty men,” or 4 tons. Hippos are fast on land and in water. They can bite a crocodile in half. And although children will undoubtedly giggle upon learning that bulls begin their battles by standing rump to rump batting balls of dung at each other (SPLAT! SPLOP!), the point that the fight can be ferocious is well-made. Mixedmedia illustrations—which vary from double-page spreads to spot art—add to the free-flowing style and highlight the hippo’s mottled skin and mostly watery habitat. The combined effect is a playful, clever introduction to the hippo that works for read-alouds or independent study. (index, author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

PRETTY WANTED

Ludwig, Elisa Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-06-206612-1 978-0-06-206614-5 e-book Series: Pretty Crooked, 3 This conclusion of the Pretty Crooked trilogy follows the continuing adventures of Willa and Aidan. Picking up where Pretty Sly (2014) left off, Willa and Aidan, on the run, make their way to St. Louis, where Willa hopes to learn more about her murdered mother. Although she doesn’t expect to solve the cold case, as she uncovers clues and speculates about their meanings, she becomes obsessed with following the trail to its end, no matter that she and Aidan have become fugitive celebrities, with the whole nation following the hunt. The two begin staying past closing time in public buildings to find safe places to sleep overnight, in the daytime managing their shrinking funds to eat and move on as Willa uncovers more clues. They break into houses and race from pursuers until they finally get help. Ludwig keeps pulses racing as she gets Willa and Aidan into and out of close scrapes, introducing drama with Aidan’s increasing carelessness, which causes Willa to wonder if she’s made a mistake in choosing a

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“The author’s storytelling is incredibly cinematic, equally adept at capturing extended flight sequences and…interpersonal struggles.” from breaking sky

boyfriend. Is he really just a rebellious little rich boy? Things become even more complicated when a more emotionally mature potential love interest enters the picture. Ludwig maintains suspense all the way to the climax, when it looks like the criminals might just win after all. A satisfying close to this trilogy that began with a clever high school prank and morphed into a full-scale action adventure. (Thriller. 12-18)

BREAKING SKY

McCarthy, Cori Sourcebooks Fire (416 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4926-0141-8 Teen pilots fight for the cause in a dystopian future. Despite her checkered past, Chase Harcourt has become one of the top pilots in the United Star Academy. Going by the call sign “Nyx,” Chase and her team are piloting the Streakers, a new aircraft that may be America’s last hope in ending the Second Cold War. While out on a routine training exercise, Chase sees something that should be impossible: a Streaker with enemy markings. Even though her superiors and commanding officers call her crazy, Chase has no choice but to find out what exactly she saw, even if it means breaking every rule in the book. Mixing the thrills of Top Gun and the political intrigue of the Hunger Games makes for an alluring read. Leading with a strong, multifaceted female character certainly won’t hurt the novel’s chances with its target demographic. It’s no stretch to imagine a Hollywood announcement of development soon after release. And they’d be right to do so: The author’s storytelling is incredibly cinematic, equally adept at capturing extended flight sequences and Chase’s interpersonal struggles. Emotions run high toward the novel’s end, and the author isn’t afraid to play a bit rough, making this feel less like a novel capitalizing on current trends and more like a great story being told in a very cool way. Smart, exciting, confident—and quite possibly the next Big Thing. (Dystopian thriller. 12-16)

DEAD TO ME

McCoy, Mary Hyperion (304 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4231-8712-7 A privileged girl turns detective in a gritty noir thriller about the not-so-glamorous side of Hollywood in the 1940s. Alice Gates has always lived a comfortable life in her spacious Hollywood home. Her father does PR for a prestigious studio, and Alice and her sister, Annie, have spent their 106

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childhood hobnobbing with famous movie stars and attending glitzy parties. Suddenly, when Alice is 12, Annie leaves home with no explanation. Four years later, Alice receives a call that her sister is in the hospital, beaten and unconscious. As Alice tries to track down Annie’s assailant, she finds herself in the thick of a Tinseltown that isn’t quite so shiny, one full of runaways, pornographers, malicious gangsters, crooked cops and psychotic movie stars. As she begins to pick her way through the tangled web, she learns that the present-day events may ultimately lead back to the truth about her sister’s leaving home all those years ago. McCoy’s mystery unfolds slowly and cautiously, offering enough clues—and red herrings—to keep readers hooked. Its conclusion is tidily, perhaps a bit too conveniently, resolved, but against the richly envisioned backdrop of golden-age Hollywood’s sinister underbelly, this minor quibble is easily forgiven. Step aside, Nancy Drew; this dark mystery holds nothing back. (Historical mystery. 13 & up)

IN A SPLIT SECOND

McKenzie, Sophie Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-4814-1394-7 978-1-4814-1396-1 e-book In a very near future, two teenagers in a scarcely functional London are caught up in terrorist plots. Nat and Charlie live in an England with an economy just a touch worse than the real thing: Austerity cuts are closing hospitals, shrinking police departments, and leaving countless people unemployed and hungry. As the novel opens, Charlie, fighting with her mum in the free food line, barely survives the terrorist bomb that claims her mother’s life. Nat knows about the bomb but— convinced his brother, Lucas, is the bomber—tries and fails to stop the attack in time. Now Charlie lives with relatives, and Nat (who hasn’t reported his suspicions about Lucas) needs to understand his now-comatose brother’s motivations. How had cheerful, peaceful Lucas fallen in with the racist terrorists of the League of Iron? In a series of brief first-person chapters, Nat and Charlie cope with the bombing’s aftermath. Nat’s attempts to infiltrate the League of Iron lead both teenagers into dangerous plots against the people and government of England (and into conversations with thugs who make violent, despicable, racist threats). Despite their attempts to defeat the villains, everything goes to hell just in time for the heavily foreshadowed reveals to set up the sequel. Though the action-packed suspense is up to snuff, heavy-handed Americanization leaves both characters and setting bland and flavorless. Lucky U.K. readers get cliffhangers and toothsome prose, but at least Americans still get the thrills of the shooting practice and bombing plots. (Thriller. 13-15)

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EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU

McStay, Moriah Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-06-229548-4 978-0-06-229550-7 e-book One girl, two lives: Debut novelist McStay explores the impact of a childhood accident. When Fiona was 5, an accident burned her face and left her scarred. Always self-conscious about her scars, Fiona won’t perform the songs she writes or tell crush Trent how she feels. At least she has her brother, Ryan, and best friend, Lucy. She undergoes an operation that heals her scars—but Fiona’s insecurities remain even after starting college and falling for handsome Jackson. In a parallel storyline that alternates with Fiona’s chapter by chapter and month by month, Fi is physically unflawed, but there are cracks under the surface. She’s a fierce lacrosse player, living for the dream of playing in college, even if it means barely having a relationship with her brother, Ryan, and pushing away Trent, her best friend, who wants to be more. But a horrible ankle injury takes away lacrosse, leaving Fi adrift until she falls in love with the sickly, optimistic Marcus. Readers accustomed to time-slip and parallel-universe fiction should control their expectations, as intersections between the storylines are fairly subtle. McStay plays out her “what if ” scenario in two separate plots; as separate reads, Fiona’s story is straightforward, while Fi’s is more interesting yet less successfully executed. As an experiment, the premise may intrigue more than the product, but readers who enter it on its own terms should find it satisfying. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE ORPHAN QUEEN

Meadows, Jodi Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-06-231738-4 978-0-06-231740-7 e-book A displaced teenage queen acts as a thief, spy and vigilante while plotting to reclaim her throne. The One-Night War stole the lives of Princess Wilhelmina Korte’s parents and her kingdom, Aecor. Ten years later, in Skyvale, capital of the conquering Indigo Kingdom, Wil and her band of ragamuffin teens, the Ospreys, are attacked by glowmen—humans corrupted by wraith, the noxious supposed residue of magic, which is forbidden—and survive only with the help of vigilante Black Knife. Patrick, leader of the Ospreys, sends Wil and her friend Melanie to the Skyvale Palace as spies. There, Wil has an understandable but frustratingly difficult time controlling her anger—especially |

toward ailing King Terrell and aloof Prince Tobiah—even under threat of exposure. Wil reconnects with Black Knife—known for targeting thieves and magic users—and a bond slowly builds, despite Wil’s magical abilities. Some may guess Black Knife’s identity, but that doesn’t diminish the intensity of the inevitable kissing scene. What’s not so obvious is the connection between Wil’s magic and the encroaching wraith; readers will have to wait for that. The story is not perfect. It’s pushing credulity that Patrick, so young himself, trained the Ospreys so well, and problems sometimes resolve rather simply. Still, solid worldbuilding, interesting characters and just enough romance make this an enjoyable read. Despite what’s possibly the most agonizing cliffhanger since Catching Fire, genre fans will find it worth their time. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

THE TRAGIC AGE

Metcalfe, Stephen St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $18.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-250-05441-8 978-1-4668-5735-5 e-book Less Than Zero (1985) meets Catcher in the Rye (1951) in this biting bildungsroman. Whip-smart, 17-year-old speed metal drummer Billy Kinsey has a port-wine stain on his face and a chip on his shoulder. He no longer sees the point in trying to connect with others after watching his twin sister, Dorie, die of cancer and his lottery-winning parents’ marriage disintegrate. All this changes when he meets Twom Twomey, a tattooed dyslexic with the soul of a poet. Together with Deliza, a poor little rich girl who lusts after Twom, and Ephraim, a skinny computer hacker, they take out their anger on the 1 percent by breaking into local mansions and using them as crash pads for eating, playing computer games and sex. Then the unthinkable happens: Billy falls for a girl who’s the sunny opposite of Twom. Now that Billy has something real at stake, his secret life begins to unravel with catastrophic results. Not everyone survives, and Billy is left hoping adults understand “It’s not our fault, really. It’s this age we’re at. The tragic age.” Written in an insightful, frenetic tone that occasionally turns surreal, Metcalfe’s debut novel is a sexy, violent portrayal of disengaged youth attempting to feel something authentic in the antiseptic age of the Internet. Exhilarating and indicting. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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THE CRIMSON GATE

Miller, Whitney A. Flux (312 pp.) $9.99 paper | Mar. 8, 2015 978-0-7387-4204-5 Series: Violet Hour, 2

The story of a bizarre cult morphs into a horror novel in this sequel to The Violet Hour (2014). Harlow should have become the Matriarch of VisionCrest, the new worldwide religion founded by her father, but Isiris, the evil goddess the cult worships, has trapped her in a temple in Cambodia. Somehow Harlow must find the single door among thousands that will allow her to escape from the labyrinthine temple. Meanwhile, through the eyes of Isiris, she sees the murders the goddess commits, having taken her place in the outside world. Masquerading as Harlow, Isiris kills thousands of innocents in horrific ways, effectively destroying civilization as we know it. Once outside the temple, Harlow meets Parker, a girl who joins with her to find Hayes, now the leader of the faltering Resistance. The pair travels across China and Russia, avoiding the death-dealing Watchers who enforce the wishes of the goddess. Miller alternates chapters between Harlow’s time trapped in the temple and what happens after she escapes, a device that disrupts the flow of the narrative. This novel is full-on horror, the gruesome murders so horrific they might make Stephen King blush. The story concludes with a hint of parallel worlds, leaving readers to wonder if there may be yet a third novel to come. Extreme gore and exciting suspense in a highly strange package. (Horror. 14-18)

NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED

Moskowitz, Hannah Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $17.99 | $11.99 paper | $8.73 e-book Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4814-0596-6 978-1-4814-0595-9 paper 978-1-4814-0598-0 e-book Etta, self-described “rich black wasballerina,” is blessed with a strong will and personality to match and an enviable gift for achieving her goals—if only she knew what they were. Ever since she dated a boy, bisexual Etta’s been on the outs with the few uncloseted lesbians at her Nebraska private school. Refusing to stay on their side of the cultural line has netted her nonstop bullying and the cold shoulder from her best friend, Rachel. What hurt most, though, was being told she’s not ballerina material (i.e., not bird-thin and white). Still, through sheer grit Etta’s battled back from an eating disorder, unlike Bianca, the dangerously thin girl with a gorgeous singing voice in their therapy group. When both girls audition for Brentwood, a New York arts school, Etta’s drawn into Bianca’s orbit, which also 108

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includes her closeted gay brother, James, and his straight friend, Mason. Etta may be conflicted about Brentwood (could/should she attend dance school instead?) but not about what matters most: finding a niche where she can thrive. Smart, assertive teens with take-charge personalities turn up more often in fantasy than realistic teen fiction, making Etta stand out. As she figures out what she needs and where to find it, Etta’s stubborn persistence engages readers’ sympathies and sends the bracing message that sisters can (still) do it for themselves. A smart, insightful love letter to line-crossing individualists. (Fiction. 14-18)

THE YEAR WE SAILED THE SUN

Nelson, Theresa Richard Jackson/Atheneum (432 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-689-85827-7 978-1-4814-0649-9 e-book Spitfire Julia Delaney is orphaned when her father dies in the gang-ridden Kerry Patch, an Irish neighborhood in 1911 St. Louis. Eleven-year-old Julia is quickly hauled off with her older sister, Mary, to the House of Mercy Industrial School and Girls’ Home, while their older brother, Bill, goes with Father Dunne’s boys. Julia immediately breaks records for escape attempts and waits for the sign Bill has promised, when they will run away together. She develops friendships despite herself, and she watches the gang war evolve through glimpses and rumors, coming to a clearer understanding of how and why her father died and who are the true heroes in her community. Julia’s stubborn voice and limited perspective are evoked in Nelson’s conversation-rich, first-person prose. A happy ending feels tacked on, though it is the only explanation for the otherwise incongruous prologue and cover image, but it’s forgivable as the logical resting place for a story that is really about a character, her time and her place. Fans of historical fiction will find treasure here in a complex perspective that delivers both a satisfying arc and a desire to know more. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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“...Newman’s mixed-media illustrations are bright with crisp details, which can make Bobbie’s messy room seem especially overwhelming—and her new room seem all the more ‘glamorous.’” from glamorous garbage

GLAMOROUS GARBAGE

Newman, Barbara Johansen Illus. by Newman, Barbara Johansen Boyds Mills (40 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-62091-626-1 Can collecting other people’s castoffs really help Bobbie transform her cluttered room, or will it just makes things messier? Joanie, Bobbie’s cousin, doesn’t see how Bobbie can live amid the mess, and Bobbie’s mother agrees, setting a two-week deadline for the cleanup. Bobbie has no problem coming up with a poster of ideas for a glamorous big-kid bedroom, but the family budget’s empty. What’s a girl to do? Reuse other people’s junk, collected from yard sales and the Swap Shed at the town dump, of course. But with just a few days left and a room more cluttered than ever, Bobbie has to admit to her mother that she needs help making a start. For several days they work to weed out, clean up and then remake all the things Bobbie brought home, putting them back together in new ways to create furnishings that match her personality. While the text can be a bit wooden at times, Newman’s mixed-media illustrations are bright with crisp details, which can make Bobbie’s messy room seem especially overwhelming—and her new room seem all the more “glamorous.” And there are some good ideas here for kids who need help sorting items into keep-it, fix-it-up and time-togo piles. The story is likely to spark ideas for kids longing for room overhauls of their own. (Picture book. 5-8)

KING

Oh, Ellen HarperTeen (288 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 30, 2015 978-0-06-209115-4 978-0-06-209117-8 e-book Series: Prophecy, 3 In the conclusion to the Prophecy trilogy, Kira must decide if she can fully embrace her destiny as the Dragon Musado. A malevolent dragon has abducted Kira’s royal cousin, Taejo, and given her just 10 days to exchange the two magical treasures in her possession for Taejo’s life (Warrior, 2013). Making the trade isn’t an option: Kira needs the treasures to defeat the Yamato invaders and their demon lord, and she needs Taejo to survive to become king. So Kira and Jaewon race to rescue Taejo and claim the third and final treasure before the final battle. Though the story starts slowly—Kira and Jaewon’s journey has more awkward flirting than fight scenes—it offers readers plenty of action by the end. However, reading the novel is rather like watching another person clear the levels of a video game en route to a showdown with the final boss: It’s hard to feel much emotional |

investment in the outcome. Old friends and enemies return, but they don’t make much of an impression thanks to their flat characterization. In addition, the colloquial dialogue continues to feel too contemporary for a story set in an alternate feudal Korea. It takes a skilled stylist to pull off such a fusion, and Oh’s attempt unfortunately falls short. This finale is recommended only for completists. (map, glossary) (Fantasy. 13-16)

VANISHING GIRLS

Oliver, Lauren Harper/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $18.99 | $9.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-06-222410-1 978-0-06-222412-5 e-book Two sisters’ lives are irrevocably changed by a shared accident. Nick and her younger sister, Dara, are two sides of an impossibly complicated familial coin—different in almost every way yet bound together by blood and circumstance. When Nick walks away from a terrible accident that leaves her sister permanently scarred, the resulting wounds, both physical and emotional, leave both girls reeling, struggling to redefine who they are as individuals and in relation to each other. The “Before” and “After” are told from both Dara’s and Nick’s points of view through a series of flashbacks, presentday accounts, and diary and blog entries. Unfortunately, what could have been a powerful exploration of two young women picking up the pieces after a sudden and costly accident becomes lost in a novel that simply tries to do too much. Most notably, Oliver attempts to weave together Nick and Dara’s story with a tangential plotline about the disappearance of a 9-year-old girl. It takes far too long for the threads connecting the two to become apparent, and for the better part of the novel, the subplot feels like a distraction. Far too much time is spent on a tepid love triangle when it would have been put to better use developing some of the more intriguing aspects of the story. This is an uneven read that suffers from grandiose ambitions. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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“This series conclusion has all the ingredients that made the first four installments so easy to read….” from terminal

GET MOONED

Pallace, Chris Illus. by Serwacki, Kevin Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $12.99 | $9.49 e-book | Mar. 30, 2015 978-0-06-229933-8 978-0-06-229934-5 e-book Series: Joey & Johnny: The Ninjas, 1 Meet Joey and Johnny—two students at Kick Foot Academy, “the world’s premier ninja school,” who are as irreverent, bumbling and hilarious as they come. They are pals, though Joey is on the serious side, and Johnny has “a dooley-bopper sprouting from the top of his ninja mask.” Somehow the much-feared, extremely intimidating Headmaster FangSwan has chosen this dubious duo to watch over exchange student Knight-Lite. The headmaster suspects this boy is a spy and directs them to “watch everything he does,” including “bathroom time.” Pallace and Serwacki clearly delight in writing over-the-top dangerous situations that the boys and their friends must survive. At the crux of the book is a battle between Red Moon Clan and KFA. Red Moon is all about utilizing the latest technology to give them tactical advantages even if the students do not really know how to use it properly. But Joey and Johnny, running on adrenaline and a fierce desire not to let down their teachers, who are dedicated to the traditional ninja way, rely on their outlandish ideas to unbelievably save the day. Spot illustrations and occasional comic-strip sequences are liberally used throughout, adding more opportunities for readers to chuckle. Those in search of a humorous, high-interest title that will especially appeal to boys need look no further—and a projected sequel will continue the madcap adventures. (Adventure. 8-12)

OMEGA CITY

Peterfreund, Diana Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $16.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 28, 2015 978-0-06-231085-9 978-0-06-231087-3 e-book Series: Omega City, 1 Gillian’s dad’s conspiracy theories ruined the family...but what if he’s right? With their parents divorced, 12-yearold Gillian and her brother, Eric, live with their disgraced scientist father in their former summer home. Mom is abroad researching a book and not likely to come back to the States soon. Dad’s biography of the controversial (and missing) engineer Aloysius Underberg ended his career. Now, all the unemployed history professor does is speak at conspiracy conventions and read seminars on the like. That’s where he met his new more-than-friend Fiona. Gillian’s distrust of Fiona leads her and her friends to discover missing pages of 110

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Dr. Underberg’s journal...which leads them to discover a secret underground bunker-city that is twice as hard to escape as it was to find, especially with gun-toting secret agents on their heels. Gillian wants to find Dr. Underberg’s 100-year battery or at least proof that her father is not crazy, but what she and her friends find is much more amazing...and dangerous. Teen author Peterfreund tries her hand at a sci-fantasy thriller for a younger audience and misses the mark. Though her conversational firstperson narrator is personable enough, the coincidence-dependent plot has significant holes, and the thrills are sadly uneven. A secondary-at-best middle-grade thriller—here’s hoping the sequels improve. (Adventure. 9-12)

TERMINAL

Reichs, Kathy; Reichs, Brendan Putnam (432 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-59514-528-4 Series: Virals, 5 The final installment of mother-andson Virals series finds Tory and her friends at a turning point: If they don’t take action soon, their world will change beyond their control. Tory and her fellow Virals are happy with their life on an isolated island in Charleston harbor, commuting to school on the mainland, participating in sports—and spending their free time communing with Tory’s pet wolf cub and exploring their own virus-generated wolflike traits. But just when it seems that life is settling down, they find that they are not unique; there’s another pack of Virals in town, determined to mark the territory as theirs and theirs alone. And worse is yet to come: It seems that a secret government agency is tracking both packs down, fully intent on capturing them and learning all their secrets...even if that means subjecting them to invasive surgery. But worst of all, their own independent research tells them the virus has changed their cellular makeup and may even threaten their lives. This series conclusion has all the ingredients that made the first four installments so easy to read: solid character development, a viable plot incorporating both teenage angst and teenage adventure, and high stakes readers can believe in. A worthy coda to a gripping multivolume adventure. (Thriller. 9-12)

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THE TAPPER TWINS GO TO WAR (WITH EACH OTHER)

Rodkey, Geoff Little, Brown (240 pp.) $13.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-316-29779-0 978-0-316-29782-0 e-book Series: Tapper Twins, 1 An escalating sibling spat delivers “a buttload of life lessons” along with tears, terrible smells, a dorky mohawk and massive numbers of video game casualties. Following a one-sided introduction—“We are, unfortunately, twins. I am twelve years old. Reese is six”—sniffy Claudia and her brother offer somewhat different versions of how it begins: either at breakfast, when she eats his toaster pastry, or later, in the lunchroom of their upper East Side school, when he loudly dubs her “Princess Farts-A-Lot.” Be that as it may, the getback pranks proceed from a rotting fish in Reese’s backpack to a mortifying video posted on the local social network. They nearly get out of hand after Claudia’s fixation on destroying the properties that Reese and an obnoxious friend have laboriously built in digital MetaWorld morphs into cyberbullying. Along the way, both sibs enlist allies, do things they come to regret and discover that revenge somehow isn’t as satisfying as it should be. The narrative is framed as a transcript dictated by Claudia and other participants, with text-message exchanges between clueless parents as well as photos, screen shots and frequent interjections from Reese pasted in. Though Claudia’s is the main voice, for all his immaturity, Reese comes off as the more likable, less-driven of the duo. This frothy family contretemps ends on a note of sincere reconciliation (once Reese’s hair grows back out, anyway)—that’s presumably upended in time for the sequel. (Fiction. 10-12)

BLUE BIRDS

Rose, Caroline Starr Putnam (400 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-399-16810-9 Rose’s novel in verse explores the mystery of the Lost Colony. Set in 1587, when 117 men, women and children arrived on Roanoke Island to start a new English colony, the story begins from the perspective of 12-yearold Alis, the only girl among them. Although no girls were among these colonists in actuality, as Rose explains in an author’s note, she imagines Alis there as a nursemaid to the younger children in the fort. Always eager to flee her job, to give vent to her grief for her missing uncle (a colonist who arrived on the island earlier), and to explore the “strange and wondrous” land, Alis defies warnings to stay inside the safety of the fort and explores more |

of the island. When she drops a beloved wooden bird carved by her uncle and it’s found by Kimi, a 13-year-old Roanoke Indian, the poems alternate viewpoints between both girls as they form a secret friendship. Composed in varying formats, the descriptive and finely crafted poems reveal the similarities the two girls share, from loved ones lost to hatred between the English and the Roanoke to a desire for peace. The inclusion of Manteo, the first Native American to be baptized into the Church of England, mirrors the girls’ desire to bridge their two cultures. Fans of Karen Hesse and the author’s May B. (2012) will delight in this offering. (author’s note) (Historical fiction/verse. 10-13)

THE ABC ANIMAL ORCHESTRA

Saaf, Donald Illus. by Saaf, Donald Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-8050-9072-7

The title says it all—kind of. Twenty-six different animal characters each play an instrument; they are introduced one by one, with the final double-page spread bringing the whole orchestra together. A banner runs across the bottoms of the pages with three lines that name each creature and cite the action of the scene in both upper and lower cases. “N is for NEWTS making lots of NOISE! It’s also for nightingale and nest.” In the accompanying illustration, five gaily dressed newts sing, bang pots and blow a horn, while in the background, a top-hatted nightingale sings from its nest. Not all letters are able to achieve such thematic unity. For the tricky letters, Q is for quiet, quail, quilt and queen, and “X is for XANTHUS hummingbird playing the XYLOPHONE. It’s also for x-ray.” In these and other cases, the additional words often have nothing to do with either animals or music, but they do help with letter-recognition practice. The animals are outfitted in clothing, hats and glasses in a bright and offbeat style that mixes collage and paint. The endpapers, on which the animals form the alphabet letters, are perhaps the cleverest part of the book. Preschoolers may not know all of the creatures (aardvark, kiwi, ibex), but they will have fun pointing out what’s happening and connecting letters with them. Isn’t that what alphabet books are supposed to do? (Picture book. 2-4)

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL

Schwartz, Simon Illus. by Schwartz, Simon Translated by Watkinson, Laura Graphic Universe (112 pp.) $9.99 paper | $29.32 PLB | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-4677-6028-7 978-1-4677-5840-6 PLB

A stark and pensive glimpse at a young boy’s family as they immigrate to West Berlin prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Through the dual lenses of childhood innocence and adult hindsight, Schwartz tells the story of how his parents fled East Germany, leaving behind all they had ever known and even severing ties to loved ones who disagreed with their defection. More artistic than allegiant, and keenly observant, his parents come separately to their own realizations that they want to leave their oppressive homeland. When they apply for leave, they face the wrath of the fierce Stasi—East Germany’s police force, which knows no boundaries—and suffer ridicule, loss of privacy and humiliation as they are slowly denaturalized. Readers will feel the force of the stern and smothering oppression and should re-examine their own given freedoms. However, while significant and evocative, Schwartz’s offering—bobbing about in a veritable sea of graphic memoirs—doesn’t leave enough that lingers, down to its art, which is reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi’s or Zeina Abirached’s. For a more memorable—and visually striking—look into this time, check out Peter Sís’ remarkable The Wall (2007). Though important both culturally and historically, unfortunately what should be haunting is less than. (glossary, timeline, map) (Graphic memoir. 12-18)

EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME

Seigel, Andrea; Bradshaw, Brent Viking (352 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-670-01562-7

Talented teens from different backgrounds are hosted in grand style at a swanky mansion in Los Angeles, where they are competing in Spotlight, a combination talent and reality show. Parallel first-person narratives by the two protagonists illustrate the ways in which personal dreams can either falter or become reality, while providing a fascinating insight into the very public world of showbiz. Singing contestant Magnolia is forced to confront the fact that although she has made it onto the show, her success is due to her star-struck mother’s ambition and not from an inherent desire to shine. Ford sees the contest as a lifeline out of his dirt-poor existence in rural Arkansas. Desperate to escape from his rabidly dysfunctional family, Ford races to LA on his motorbike, only to find that his 112

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domineering brother, crazy sister and deadbeat parents pursue him in their RV, angling for a piece of his success. Inevitably, romance ensues, and Magnolia and Ford discover a real bond in spite of their very different circumstances. The endearing and well-rounded character of Ford prevents descent into cliché. Readers will find themselves swept along by his narrative when he finally and dramatically overcomes the obstacles in his path. Magnolia’s character is less well-defined, but perhaps her reticence befits the writer she hopes to become. Funny, poignant and worldly-wise with a light touch. (Fiction. 14-18)

WANDERING WHALE SHARKS

Shingu, Susumu Illus. by Shingu, Susumu Translated by Cary, Ann B.; Shingu, Yasuko Owlkids Books (48 pp.) $18.95 | Mar. 15, 2015 978-1-77147-130-5

The largest living fish on the planet is feted with spare text and illustrations in blue, black and white. The artwork is spectacular, all double-page spreads that appear to use pen and ink as well as airbrush to create a feeling of the oceanic world. In the beginning, just enough suspense is built to intrigue young readers. Over the time it takes to turn three pages, the text moves slowly: “In the full light of the ocean, / suddenly, an enormous shadow / looms....” The fourth spread completes the sentence with the words, “bringing along a crowd of friends.” The accompanying art begins with a striking penand-ink illustration of the sky seen from beneath the sea and moves to sketches and airbrushed images of a large mass moving in and to the gentle giant swimming along with scores of small fish. The rest of the book emphasizes the nonthreatening aspects of this animal that dines solely on plankton and swims amicably with divers. It seems a missed opportunity that a diver is shown swimming alongside the fish, when, according to the endnotes, people have successfully clung to its fins for a ride. The overall imagery and poetic text combine to create a pleasing book on an unlikely topic for the youngest children. (Informational picture book. 3-8)

THE BOY & THE BOOK (a wordless story)

Slater, David Michael Illus. by Kolar, Bob Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-1-58089-562-0

A nearly wordless picture book presents the “I can read” moment. A small boy with a determined, mischievous expression enters a library in the company of his mother. The look on the boy’s face, perfectly rendered by Kolar (as are all the

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“The character development gracefully augments the fun high jinks of the heist storyline.” from the sweetest heist in history

expressions), alarms the library books, and they run for their lives. The boy captures a blue-bound book and begins manhandling it as he would any toy, in the process ripping and creasing the pages. The other books look on, horrified. The boy’s mother (who, unsettlingly, seems to care not a whit that the boy has mistreated a book) comes to get him. He tosses the book to the floor as he leaves. The other books lovingly glue and tape the battered book back together. A new day, and—horrors!—the boy returns. Again, the books scatter. But then the blue-bound book sees the boy’s forlorn expression and suddenly understands. The book leaps from its safe perch to the boy, the boy opens the book, and it is here that the four words of text make their powerful statement—“Once upon a time.” For the boy has learned to read, and now books are cherished and library manners learned. Presented as a grand adventure, the moment when a child first learns to read is powerfully rendered in this wellmade story. (Picture book. 2-5)

THE SWEETEST HEIST IN HISTORY

Spencer, Octavia Simon & Schuster (224 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 31, 2015 978-1-4424-7684-4 978-1-4424-7686-8 e-book Series: Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective, 2 Deer Creek’s middle school ninja detectives of The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (2013) take on crime in New York City. There’s not a lot of excitement and crime in Deer Creek, so Randi can’t wait for her Thanksgiving visit with her Brooklyn aunt. But her father’s publisher wants to send him on a book tour that week, devastating Randi when he chooses work over family. Luckily, Pudge’s dad offers Randi and D.C. (whose father has just canceled his Thanksgiving visit, which would have been the first visit in years) a ride to New York, as it’s on the way to Pudge’s grandmother in Boston. They talk Pudge’s dad into letting him stay in New York, beginning his rule-free vacation—a comedic subplot. But the museum across from her aunt’s apartment is hosting an exhibition of priceless Fabergé eggs, and shady characters are circling. Around their uncovering a mob boss’ schemes, Randi and D.C. grow through their subplots. D.C.’s attempts to locate his father undermine his confidence but bring him into contact with a personal hero and an exciting opportunity. Randi learns cool secrets about her deceased mother, which she absorbs with believable complexity. Ultimately, they help her to come to a mature understanding of her father. The character development gracefully augments the fun high jinks of the heist storyline. Good sleuthing fun supported by compelling character arcs. (spy tips, crafts, recipes) (Mystery. 8-12)

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THE UNBELIEVABLE TOP SECRET DIARY OF PIG

Stamp, Emer Illus. by Stamp, Emer Scholastic (192 pp.) $9.99 | $9.99 e-book | Apr. 28, 2015 978-0-545-69466-7 978-0-545-69467-4 e-book Can Pig and friend Duck best the evil chickens and escape Farmer’s roasting oven? “Me I is Pig....I live in Pig House....I has only ever been called Pig, so Pig is my name.” Pig writes (in Pig language—good thing we can read that!) in his diary, which he found with a chewed pen in the garbage. At first, Pig loves Farmer because of all of the slops. The chickens are evil because they are mean to Pig and his friends Duck and Cow. Pig loves eating and stinking up the chicken coop and making bubbles in Duck’s pond with his farts. But when Pig discovers Farmer’s plans for him (roasting), Pig agrees to act as pilot in the poo-powered tractor-rocket the chickens have created. The mission goes awry, but Pig and Duck hatch a new plan to rid the farm of evil...however it’s going to take a lot of poo and no small amount of pig farts to enact. Those not initially bothered by Pig’s simple sentences and difficulty with subject-verb agreement will no doubt laugh (a lot) at the goofy, scatological antics. Stamp’s abundant line drawings and the smudgy pages (one can just imagine the slops on them) add to the fun. While practiced readers may grow tired of the faux bad grammar, kids who prioritize fart jokes over proper diction will hope the sequel hops the pond soon. (Humor. 7-11)

POWER DOWN, LITTLE ROBOT

Staniszewski, Anna Illus. by Zeltner, Tim Henry Holt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-62779-125-0

This little red robot will do anything to avoid going to sleep. When Mom Unit announces that it is time to power down for the night, Little Robot quickly initiates his stalling program (a program equally familiar to toddlers and robots alike). He takes twice as long to brush his cogs, he begs for an extra can of oil, and right before the door is shut, his circuits begin to hurt. Mom Unit patiently solves every problem, from error messages (nightmares) to rust monsters hiding in the closet, but she knows when it is time for a firm, “Enough!” Despite every effort to the contrary, Little Robot’s large, bulbous eyes finally begin to close. After all, who can resist the warmth and coziness of the sleep module? Zeltner uses a creative wash of acrylic on plywood with various stains and glazes to create this space-age family. Mother Unit looks especially svelte in a lilac metal dress, while Little Robot is boxy and bright red, appropriate for his defiant streak.

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“Survival isn’t taken for granted in this often grim, bleak landscape of battles, destitution and—as the title implies—death.” from the black reckoning

FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY

Riddled with robotic terms, this bedtime story is clearly one-note, but it’s still charming enough to earn fans of all youngsters who engage in bedtime battles. (Picture book. 3- 7)

Vaught, Susan Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (240 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | Mar. 3, 2015 978-1-4814-2276-5 978-1-4814-2278-9 e-book

THE BLACK RECKONING

Stephens, John Random House (432 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | $20.99 PLB Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-375-86872-6 978-0-375-89957-7 e-book 978-0-375-96872-3 PLB Series: Books of Beginning, 3 Kids grow up so quickly these days— at least they do when they are prophetically linked to magical relics. When last readers saw the Wibberly children (The Fire Chronicle, 2012), Emma had been kidnapped by the Dire Magnus, and Kate and Michael were left frantic in Antarctica. The Dire Magnus’ malevolent power has since multiplied, and the magical world, complacent in its underestimate of his capability, is ill-prepared. In turn, death, destruction and mounting anxiety breed tension and cultural clashes (namely between elves and dwarves), and Kate and Michael fear they won’t see their sister again. Ultimately, the final Book of Beginning, the Book of Death, must be found before the Dire Magnus locates it, and 12-year-old Emma, the book’s destined Keeper, is the only one who can travel to the world of the dead to retrieve it. Survival isn’t taken for granted in this often grim, bleak landscape of battles, destitution and—as the title implies— death. With over two years having passed since Chronicle, the first sixth of the book serves as a welcome recap (who is Hugo Algernon again?). Emma’s feisty, humorous voice is the most prominent narrative focus here, though as with both previous books, Kate’s perceptive compassion and Michael’s inquisitive practicality share the stage. This fantasy trilogy closes with both satisfying finality and the realistic, requisite heartbreak that comes with saying goodbye. (Fantasy. 10-14)

“I was so far from normal, it wasn’t even funny—except, of course, when it was,” remarks Footer Davis, establishing the tone for an investigation into missing kids and parental mental illness. For Footer, normality includes her mother going off her medication and pulverizing snakes with an elephant gun, leading to hospitalization for her bipolar disorder. Coinciding with her mother’s latest episode is the case of two children who disappeared in a fire after a murder, which Footer and her friends are determined to solve, their record of the investigation playing out via interviews and banter in their notebooks. The notebook entries provide levity, light romance and strong touches of character development in an increasingly tense plot. Suddenly, Footer is seeing a girl in flames and hearing her mother’s voice. What if Footer is inheriting her mother’s illness? Worse, what if her mother was involved in the murder? When everything seems like a symptom on the Internet, the line between “normal” and “crazy” blurs, and Vaught traces it with realistic care. As Footer tries to make sense of her mother’s disjointed conversations, the line touches her mother, too—readers will be moved and reassured to discover that even in her illness, her mother is still a mother, watching out for Footer in her own ways. A sensitive, suspenseful mystery that deftly navigates the uncertainty of mental illness. (Mystery. 10-12)

MONKEYS ON A FAST

Viswanath, Kaushik Illus. by Ranade, Shilpa Karadi Tales (32 pp.) $19.99 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-81-8190-156-9

Chakku the monkey chieftain tries to control his chubby tribe. Living near a Buddhist temple in the hills means Chakku and his monkeys are regularly fed (and fed well) by pilgrims. His monkeys are getting so fat that they break the branches they sleep on. When Chakku overhears the human priest announce a day of fasting, the monkey chieftain decides his tribe must fast as well, mostly to lose weight but also for the spiritual benefits. Once he explains what fasting is, Chakku faces an all-out (if slightly sneaky) rebellion. On fast day, Bonnet suggests they meditate under the shade of the banana trees instead of in the sun. Macaque interrupts meditation to suggest they sit in the trees to be closer to heaven. Bonnet suggests they each just 114

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hold a banana to be ready when the fasting is over—and the fast ends pretty swiftly. Viswanath’s adaptation of an old Buddhist tale about temptation and dedication entertains with the extra emphasis on monkey weight loss (a twist not found in the original). Ranade’s hyperdistorted charcoal illustrations make the monkeys look like demonic pears and figs; though striking and evocative, they may trick readers into thinking they are spiders rather than monkeys. “Fun Facts About Fasting” follow the story. An amusing folk tale equally suited to multicultural programming and wellness collections, if not monkeythemed storytimes. (Picture book/folk tale. 3-6)

GAME SEVEN

Volponi, Paul Viking (256 pp.) $17.99 | Mar. 10, 2015 978-0-670-78518-6 Sixteen-year-old Julio Ramirez Jr. dreams of being a junior Nacional and playing for Cuba against the best young players around the world. Baseball is “practically a religion” in Cuba, and Julio’s father was like a Cuban god, an all-star pitcher for the Cuban National Team. Now, having defected, he’s a star for the Miami Marlins. But instead of pride, Julio feels resentment toward his father for abandoning his family to a life of poverty while he, the great El Fuego, lives the high life in Miami with his multimillion-dollar contract. Moreover, Julio’s baseball dreams may not come true: How can he be trusted to leave the country when his father defected; won’t he do the same? So Julio defects too, and in a tense and slightly comic scene, he drives to Florida in a green ’59 Buick that’s been converted into a boat. Julio’s reconciliation with his father is handled deftly in its poignant awkwardness, and baseball action is appropriately exciting, though the notion that Julio is allowed to hang out with his father during Game 7 of the World Series is seriously implausible. Volponi wisely shies away from a tidy, inspirational ending but does leave room for hope for reconciliation. An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty. (Fiction. 10-14)

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THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL

Wan, Joyce Illus. by Wan, Joyce Farrar, Straus and Giroux (40 pp.) $17.99 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-374-30037-1 A little boy of pleasingly indeterminate ethnicity goes out to his little backyard inflatable pool to find a whale in it. It’s a very large, round, blue whale, which is kind of squished on top of the pool. It is way, way too big for it. Mom is reading and does not see the whale. The boy tries persuasion, counting to 10, enticing the whale into a game of fetch, even offering his allowance, but the whale does not budge. He even offers his neighbor’s much larger in-ground swimming pool (alert young readers will note the dorsal fin visible in the neighbor’s clear blue waters). Finally, he puts his floatie on top of the whale’s spout, just in time to hear Mom call naptime. That presents its own set of problems: not the toys and socks that are strewn about the bedroom floor, but the snoring occupant of his bed—a large bear with its own teddy. The front endpapers show the blue whale in various positions on the wading pool, the back endpapers show the bear tossing and turning and snoring, all the while clinging to that teddy. All the art is drawn in thick strong line and flat color, simple and accessible. The text comprises the boy’s play-by-play narration of the events, including an endearingly believable whine to his oblivious mother. Both very silly and very appealing. (Picture book. 4-6)

THE GREAT CHEESE ROBBERY

Warnes, Tim Illus. by Warnes, Tim Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 2, 2015 978-1-58925-174-8

Fathers aren’t afraid of anything— are they? Patrick, a young elephant, is afraid “of a lot of things, like the dark, ghosts, bees, and the fluff you find under the sofa.” Daddy Elephant, on the other hand, is big and strong and completely unafraid of anything—or so Patrick thinks. The truth comes out when mice appear at the house, and Daddy Elephant begins to stammer and shake. Colorful, appealing cartoon illustrations are at the forefront here, as the simple story moves somewhat bumpily along. Unperturbed and not realizing that the mice are thieves, the innocent young Patrick politely helps the small marauders as they steal the family’s cheese, then the refrigerator, and then everything else, even Daddy Elephant! What’s a young elephant to do? Just in time, the front door opens. It’s up to Mommy Elephant to save the day and explain that everyone is afraid sometimes. Patrick still knows that Daddy Elephant is the biggest and strongest, and Daddy is proud to say that Mommy Elephant is the bravest

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THE CASE OF THE VANISHING EMERALD

of all. Still, the hordes of masked mice in their striped shirts making off with everything are way more fun than the feelgood message. The throngs of felonious mice make this story worth the read. (Picture book. 3-6)

GORDON PARKS How the Photographer Captured Black and White America

Weatherford, Carole Boston Illus. by Christoph, Jamey Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Feb. 1, 2015 978-0-8075-3017-7

He aimed his camera lens at fashion models and at struggling African-American workers. Parks, a talented and multifaceted man, was born in the Midwest in 1915 and attended a school where the white teacher told the black students that they would “all end up porters and waiters.” But Parks, at 25, was inspired by a magazine article and spent $7.50 on a used camera. He went on to work in Washington, D.C., for the Farm Security Administration, capturing pictures of African-Americans in their everyday lives— not the white men of the monuments. Famously, he portrayed a cleaning lady name Ella Watson in a portrait that became known as his American Gothic. Echoing the farmers in Grant Woods’ painting, Watson posed in front of an American flag with a broom in one hand and a mop in the other. Weatherford writes in the present tense with intensity, carefully choosing words that concisely evoke the man. Christoph’s digitally rendered illustrations brilliantly present Parks’ world through strong linear images and montages of his photographs. One double-page spread hauntingly portrays run-down buildings with the Capitol Dome hovering in the distance. Parks’ photography gave a powerful and memorable face to racism in America; this book gives him to young readers. (afterword, author’s note, photographs) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Webb, Holly Illus. by Lindsay, Marion HMH Books (176 pp.) $14.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-544-33927-9 Series: Mysteries of Maisie Hitchins, 2 “Naturally nosy,” Maisie Hitchins reprises her role as amateur detective in The Case of the Stolen Sixpence (2014) to tackle the disappearance of a priceless emerald necklace from a London theater. Maisie adores solving mysteries, but nothing even slightly mysterious has happened for ages at her grandmother’s boardinghouse until actress Lottie Lane asks for Maisie’s help. Lottie’s friend, popular new actress Lila Massey, has discovered the necklace her titled fiance gave her is really the Stone of Saint Cecilia, a family heirloom reputed to bring disaster to its owner if lost. After the necklace disappears, Lila’s afraid to tell her fiance and is convinced she’s cursed. The victim of a series of dangerous pranks, a distracted Lila’s close to losing her leading role. Thrilled to have a real case to solve, Maisie works undercover as Lila’s dresser at the theater, where she realizes someone’s trying to get Lila fired. But did the same person steal the necklace? With help from her canine sidekick, Eddie, clearheaded Maisie pieces together clues amid backstage intrigue. Precise linear illustrations emphasize period décor and costume while rendering Maisie with a wide-eyed innocence, belying her true mettle. Though it’s a tad formulaic, Maisie’s second mystery offers middle-grade readers colorful characters, a theatrical setting and a plucky heroine. (Mystery. 9-12)

MYSTERY IN MAYAN MEXICO

Wells, Marcia Illus. by Calo, Marcos HMH Books (224 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-544-30206-8 Series: Eddie Red Undercover, 2

A free trip to the Yucatán pitches Edmund, a young artist/sleuth with a photographic memory, and his OCD pal Jonah into a new investigation involving an unsolved old crime and disappearing gold. Edmund opens his account sitting in a jail cell, clad in a wet Darth Vader costume, covered in scratches, blood and barf (“I smell awesome”), his wrist in a cast—and really not looking forward to calling his parents. Following this magnificent lead-in, though, the tale goes downhill rapidly, from the disappearance of an ancient gold mask to the climactic struggle with a knifewielding thief atop a rain-swept Mayan ruin. In between, Wells concocts a nonsensically contrived caper involving Hebrew 116

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“This is Wells at her comedic best, and readers will be left in stitches.” from use your words, sophie!

orthography, poorly integrated “evidence” from false fingerprints to glimpses of the bad guy dressed as a museum guard, and an obvious, no-brainer clue to where the gold is hidden that has somehow gone misunderstood for decades. Moreover, even less-reflective readers will wonder how Edmund and Jonah can break into an apartment and bend various other laws in the course of their investigation without suffering any legal consequences. Along the way, Jonah’s practice of smearing a gift-store Mayan effigy with peanut-butter and blood “sacrifices” comes off more like cultural mockery than harmless fooling. Calo’s accomplished drawings bring characters and details to life but are both rare and, sometimes, too finished to believably represent Edmund’s quick sketches. Comical and clever in spots but overall, a sad follow-up to Mystery on Museum Mile (2014). (appendix of Mayan gods) (Mystery. 9-11)

USE YOUR WORDS, SOPHIE!

Wells, Rosemary Illus. by Wells, Rosemary Viking (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 17, 2015 978-0-670-01663-1

Sophie, the spirited mouse toddler, is back—navigating sisterhood with mis-

chief and delight. When Sophie’s baby sister arrives home sans name (her parents are still deciding, a running joke), the vivacious 2-year-old decides to only speak Jellyfish...or Hyena, or sing Baboon (at the top of her lungs). The latter of which wakes her delicate, pink bundle of a sister, who proceeds to wail inconsolably. Nothing can calm the infant, not food nor change of diapers—not even Granny! Finally, Sophie uses her words, quietly singing to her sister, who becomes calm, but how? Sophie proclaims it was easy, as she knew the baby’s name, so she sang “Jane, Jane, don’t be a pain!” Wells perfectly captures the honesty and hilarious insight of a precocious youngster; and her mixed-media illustrations, rich in color and pattern, emit an earnest warmth. Here, her captivating character illustrations—with their hysterical expressions, silly (yet so recognizable!) poses and tender connectedness—shine. This is Wells at her comedic best, and readers will be left in stitches. Absolutely enchanting—a must-have for the new-sibling shelf. (Picture book. 2-6)

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PLAYING A PART

Wilke, Daria Translated by Schwartz, Marian Levine/Scholastic (176 pp.) $18.99 | $17.99 e-book | Mar. 31, 2015 978-0-545-72607-8 978-0-545-72608-5 e-book A boy raised by his parents in a Moscow puppet theater faces the ugliness of homophobia as one of the actors, who is gay, decides to leave Russia for the Netherlands in order to escape it. Grisha is bereft to hear that his friend and mentor, Sam, will be leaving. At the same time, his friend Sashok, who prides herself on flouting gender stereotypes, tells him that she will be having heart surgery, and the longstanding puppet master at the theater, Lyolik, is ousted to make way for someone new. Grisha is an earnest, even sweet-natured, narrator, rendering particularly ugly the harassment he faces from his peers and from his cruel grandfather, who routinely calls Sam a “queer” and Grisha himself a “sissy.” It also makes Grisha’s age elusive. The language he uses at times seems very young, as when he imagines retaliating against a boy at school “right in his smiling bully face,” though the issues he faces suggest a worldliness hinting at a somewhat older teen. This is a minor quibble, however, as readers will be engrossed by the plot hatched by Grisha and Sashok to get Lyolik back and moved by the story’s themes and the rich, image-laden language: “The theater starts murmuring, speaking, tramping, and rustling.” A lovely, moving novel with a bittersweet conclusion. (Fiction. 12-18)

MILLIE’S CHICKENS

Williams, Brenda Illus. by Cis, Valeria Barefoot (40 pp.) $16.99 | $8.99 paper Mar. 31, 2015 978-1-78285-082-3 978-1-78285-083-0 paper

In a tale with a warm tone and an instructional bent, a suburban child tenderly tends a rooster, a trio of hens and their hatchlings in her backyard. In verse that suffers due to the overuse of “around” as a rhyming word and end words elsewhere that rhyme only in England (and certain parts of New England), Williams introduces young Millie’s small multibreed flock. She describes the girl’s daily routines, from feeding and cuddling to gathering eggs, and closes with Millie and her mom enjoying a delicious meal of eggs on buttered toast. This is followed by pages of more specific comments on chicken breeds, anatomy and care, plus recipes—just for cooking the aforementioned eggs (Millie’s reasons for keeping a rooster go unexamined). Cis captures the idyllic tone with a small but spacious, neatly kept peaceable kingdom

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“Yee captures the intensity of popularity measured in yearbook pages and the strength of genuine teen melodrama….” from the kidney hypothetical

surrounded by a properly high, solid fence. A movable coop and the hopper that Millie fills with corn and grit are the only special items to be seen. Cis’ folk-art style results in occasional inconsistencies from page to page and sometimes-peculiar scale. An equally sweet companion to Laurie Krebs and Cis’ The Beeman  (2008), though young children (and their parents) with a yen to raise poultry for pets or other purposes will be better off with a conventional manual. (Picture book. 6-8)

THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days

Yee, Lisa Levine/Scholastic (272 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Mar. 31, 2015 978-0-545-23094-0 978-0-545-63399-4 e-book A perfect, glowing ending to a stellar high school career veers off course when debate-team captain Higgs Boson flunks girlfriend Roo’s easy question: If she needed a kidney, would he give her one? Yee turns her clever, insightful humor on one wounded family: There’s the dentist dad, retired NASA scientist mom, Higgs, named after “the God particle, the missing link, the answer to all the questions of the universe”—and who could forget little sister Charlie? Well, pretty much everyone; tragically dead older brother Jeffrey is still eerily center stage despite Charlie’s straight-A grades and Higgs Boson’s acceptance to Harvard, the path Jeffrey was supposed to tread. (Next step? Dental school.) But while Higgs Boson may be the answer, he doesn’t have the important-to-teens answer: “Roo’s kidneys are fine and I’m not into hypotheticals” leads to an epic breakup, the loss of his best friend, troubles at school and home, and a chance encounter with an intriguing homeless girl wise enough to joke about his name. She forces the self-reflection and introspection Higgs has avoided; now, instead of the iconic happy, hazy final days of high school, he’s “buying cigarettes for a tattooed stranger” and taking life-threatening risks. Yee captures the intensity of popularity measured in yearbook pages and the strength of genuine teen melodrama; Mom’s “Robe of Depression” and Higgs’ therapeutic garden add touching depth; ironic twists save the finale from predictability. Smart, funny-but-ruthless teens and self-absorbed, grieving adults prove to be enormously appealing. (Fiction. 13-18)

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STONE ANGEL

Yolen, Jane Illus. by Green, Katie May Philomel (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 3, 2015 978-0-399-16741-6 A young Jewish girl and her family must flee when the Nazis march into Paris. Before the Nazis came, life was good. But when the “bad men came / in their brown shirts, guns in hands,” everything changed. All Jews must wear yellow stars, Papa can no longer work, the family is forced from their home, and they are cursed in the streets. They leave the city to live in the woods, enduring hunger, cold and fear of capture. They embark on a long, arduous journey over the mountains to Spain and then across to England and loving relatives. The little girl is aware of the dangers and her parents’ courage, and she remains steadfastly sure that a guardian angel is watching over them. When they return to Paris at the end of the war, there is a beautiful, monumental angel, surely the very one who had kept them safe, holding up the roof of their new apartment building. The girl narrates in an oddly dispassionate free-verse voice, so sure is she of the happy outcome for her family. Though an author’s note provides additional information about the war and the Holocaust and the staggering number of deaths, it will be difficult for young readers to make the connection between the narrator’s experience and the grim reality of the millions who perished. Green’s mixed-media illustrations are appropriately dark and menacing. A different take on a difficult subject. (Picture book. 8-10)

THE QUEEN’S SHADOW A Story About How Animals See Young, Cybèle Illus. by Young, Cybèle Kids Can (40 pp.) $16.95 | Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-894786-60-7

When a queen, looking severe in her ball gown, suddenly misses her shadow at her own ball, the visual capabilities of her guests are put to the test in this mystery infused with natural science. The Royal Detective, a mantis shrimp, confronts each guest to determine which might have taken advantage of the chaos following a thunderclap and momentary loss of light to steal the shadow. Each—chameleon, shark, snake, goat, dragonfly, colossal squid, pigeon—has an alibi, however: His or her attention and sight were focused elsewhere during the moments in question. By the time two young (sea) urchins provide the amusing solution, readers will have encountered multiple definitions of sight. Double-page, digitally worked pen-and-ink illustrations offer a look at the scene from each guest’s perspective and provide visual explanations for unique ways of seeing. Areas of

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light and dark, perspectives from above and the side, washedout and saturated color are used to reveal the scope and limits of specific types of sight. Inset text boxes provide descriptions of how sight works for each creature. The slightly formal prose and zany details and dialogue accentuate the silliness of the narrative. Backmatter includes an overview of the mechanics of sight in humans, more about each animal and a glossary; there is no resource list. Wonderfully odd and cleverly informative. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

DIGGER AND DAISY GO TO THE CITY

Young, Judy Illus. by Sullivan, Dana Sleeping Bear Press (32 pp.) $9.99 | $4.99 paper Mar. 1, 2015 978-1-58536-847-1 978-1-58536-848-8 paper Series: Digger and Daisy

In their fourth sibling adventure, Digger and Daisy are as fresh and curious as when readers first encountered them (Digger and Daisy Go to the Zoo, 2013); at this pace, there’ll be no issues about ever having to grow up. And, frankly, who wants them to? These two young canines—the older Daisy, in glasses and a skirt that looks like a pink banana; the younger Digger, all roving eyes and nose—are the kind who can squabble and keep it to a sentence in length, not a daylong misery. This outing is to the city, and Daisy cautions Digger (she frequently cautions Digger just before Digger sets in motion whatever she has cautioned him about) to “Stay by me.…You do not want to get lost.” This refrain is a touchstone for beginning readers and, of course, one that Digger will (almost) lose track of. Daisy wants to visit all the clothing stores—Digger offers resistance but complies—but when Digger wants to visit just one store, Daisy decides not. It is Digger’s charm to find a simple but canny way to get his satisfaction and Daisy’s to know when she has been had. Sullivan’s artwork is as affable, diverting and gumball-bright in the city as in the country. If taken to heart, a beginning reader with lasting impact. (Early reader. 4-6)

LIES I TOLD

Zink, Michelle HarperTeen (352 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | Apr. 7, 2015 978-0-06-232712-3 978-0-06-232714-7 e-book A girl struggles to hold onto her own identity within her family of thieves. Grace disobeys her parents by keeping mementos from her family’s previous criminal jobs. She hopes she hasn’t completely become the deceptive creature her parents trained her to be from the time they adopted her as a young teen. Now 17, Grace has moved with her family to an affluent area as part of a plot to steal millions in gold from Warren Fairchild, a wildly wealthy but mentally unstable man. Her parents assign Grace to get close to Logan, Fairchild’s son, a task she finds only too easy, as she and Logan truly fall for each other. Grace likes her new friends in Playa Hermosa, making one truly good friend for the first time in her life, her family having moved incessantly to keep up with jobs and ahead of the police. She lives with the realization that she must lie to these good people constantly, and she knows she must betray Logan, whom she loves. Zink deftly weaves the story together, employing foreshadowing and symbolism to support the plot. Although readers know from the prologue that things will turn out badly, suspense ripples throughout the story. Grace’s character blooms as she balances between the good person she hopes to be and the bad one she’s forced to be. Highly readable, gripping and touching. (Thriller. 12-18)

board books ABC INSECTS

American Museum of Natural History Illus. by American Museum of Natural History American Museum of Natural History (18 pp.) $7.95 | Sep. 2, 2014 978-1-4549-1194-4 Series: American Museum of Natural History A boldly designed, oversized board book features a creepycrawly for every letter of the alphabet. Each capital letter sprawls across a half or whole page, accompanied by a realistic image of an insect beginning with that letter, the name of that insect, and a fact or two about its habitat or behavior. The extra-large letters paired with vivid images of insects against solid backgrounds make

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for a visually striking presentation. Familiar creatures such as fireflies and grasshoppers appear alongside less-obvious selections, such as jewel beetles and water scorpions. The board-book format, the ABC arrangement and the insect images will appeal to toddlers, while a slightly older crowd will be better able to understand and appreciate the concepts and sometimes somewhat gruesome facts included with each insect, such as, for example, the following: “Kissing bugs are part of the assassin bug family. They feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles.” This ABC book with its parade of interesting insects will have special appeal for budding naturalists, who will be inspired to head outdoors and root around in the dirt to see what exciting creatures they might uncover in their own backyards. (Board book. 2-6)

SNOW BABIES

Anderson, Laura Ellen Illus. by Anderson, Laura Ellen Boxer Books (26 pp.) $8.95 | Oct. 7, 2014 978-1-907152-23-8 Anderson’s square, sturdy board book features baby animals romping, playing and snoozing in the snow. Each page spread features a group of animals against a wintry landscape, while a single brief sentence identifies them and describes what they are up to. “Roly-poly polar bear cubs play. / Reindeer fawns leap. / Baby beaver kits build.” Readers also meet arctic fox cubs, arctic hare bunnies, husky puppies, penguin chicks and snowy owl chicks. All these baby animals are busy enjoying the day, but when night falls, “Wolf cubs howl at the moon. / Baby harp seal pups snuggle. / And baby panda cubs snooze.” The concept here is simple. It’s the illustrations that make this one shine. The hues and shades of Anderson’s palette convey a chilly atmosphere that is neither bleak nor sterile but alive with color and cheer. Blues, yellows, reds, greens and purples all find their ways into this wintry world. And the adorable animals all seem to be enjoying themselves tremendously, from the arctic bunnies bounding high into the sky, heads and ears thrown back with joy, to sleeping panda cubs piled into a happy heap. A simple and beautiful introduction to animals that make their homes in snowy climes. (Board book. 1-3)

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WHAT’S IN MY TRUCK?

Bleck, Linda Illus. by Bleck, Linda Cartwheel/Scholastic (10 pp.) $6.99 | Aug. 26, 2014 978-0-545-53525-0

Readers can explore the cargoes of five different trucks by lifting 30-plus flaps. With each truck depicted in profile across a double-page spread, little fingers can open the passenger-side door and several other moderately sturdy flaps to reveal the appropriate freight inside a dairy/produce truck, a carnival truck, a car carrier and more. A couple of simple sentences set the scene on the far left of the spread, and the driver asks readers to locate items of note hidden within the truck. (Alas, the sole obviously female driver asks readers to help her find her pink purse, stowed beneath her seat. So much for women’s lib.) From the friendly critters on their way to the petting zoo to the marine animals revealed in the aquariumtransport vehicle, what’s under the flaps is playfully engaging. Bleck’s cartoons, in carnival-bright colors, are simple enough to allow for recognition by the youngest readers and offer enough detail to draw in older preschoolers. A few of the spreads address different concepts (such as counting, colors, etc.), but the “orange lion” on the carnival truck’s merry-goround is yellow as much as orange. This convoy is sure to please the toddler set and beyond. (Board book. 2-4)

THE TEDDY POTTY BOOK

Channing, Margot Illus. by Channing, Margot Scribblers/Sterling (16 pp.) $6.95 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-1-910184-14-1 Series: Bright Start Right Start

This tall, sturdy volume of potty basics is another entry in the British Bright Start, Right Start series (First Numbers, 2014, etc.). The text here reads like a beginner’s nonfiction title, introducing items such as diapers, underwear, toilets and training pants without much of a storyline to anchor the concepts. To begin, readers are introduced to Baby Bear: “This is Baby Bear wearing a diaper. / Baby Bear pees and poops in the diaper.” A note in small print suggests that parents replace the words “pee” and “poop” with whatever terms their family prefers. Readers then see Baby Bear wear training pants and underwear, use the potty successfully and unsuccessfully, and wash up afterward. Mommy Bear is there to help wipe Baby Bear’s bottom and flush the toilet. Unfortunately, the text doesn’t always flow smoothly at the sentence level, perhaps a result of the assiduous avoidance of gendered pronouns, and the connections between events are

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“Almost half of the cute and bubbly images depict families of color.” from lots of kisses

sometimes unclear. Further contributing to this disjointed effect are the mixed-media illustrations, which feature photographs of dressed-up teddy bears set against cartoon backgrounds, making for a busy, sometimes-dizzying blend of reality and fiction. With all the potty titles out there—many with clearer presentations of the concepts or stronger storylines and characters—this is one to skip. (Board book. 2-4)

SWEET CHILD OF MINE

Church, Caroline Jayne Illus. by Church, Caroline Jayne Cartwheel/Scholastic (26 pp.) $8.99 | Aug. 26, 2014 978-0-545-64771-7

A simple, joyful expression of love at all hours and through all seasons. In short, rhyming verses, a doting parent professes love for his or her toddler all through the day and night: “I love you in the morning at the start of every day. // I love you in the evening when sunshine goes away. // I love you when the stars glow in the dim moonlight. // I love you in the silence that comes with every night.” In the verses that follow, the narrator continues in this vein, describing his or her love for the child in spring, summer, winter and fall, ending with: “Let’s watch the world together, in rain, or snow, or shine. // I love you always and forever, sweet child of mine.” The endearing, cartoon-style illustrations feature a blond, curly-haired Caucasian girl and her stuffed bunny sidekick in appealing yet uncluttered natural scenes, with the narrator/ parent never pictured. Both the text—with brief lines that scan well and read smoothly—and the illustrations are wellsuited to the toddler crowd. This one serves as a gentle introduction to the concepts of day, night and the four seasons while celebrating and cementing the parent/child bond—if only it were more ethnically inclusive. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

the water with the ducks, and finally succeeds in getting rid of it by propping it on the head of a passing puppy. While Little Sister’s antics provide comic relief, the real meat of the story is Jacob’s development, specifically the pleasure he gets from taking care of his sister and the bonding time he shares with Daddy. When Little Sister runs toward the duck pond, Jacob runs after her, wrapping his arms around her securely just as she reaches the edge. When the family stops for some ice cream, he and Daddy laugh together as Little Sister makes a mess, and they enjoy a needed rest when she finally takes a nap. The unfussy illustrations feature the three characters against solid backgrounds, emphasizing the interpersonal dynamics at the heart of the story. The sweet sibling relationship and the focus on Daddy as primary caregiver make this one stand out. (Board book. 2-4)

MAISY’S CHRISTMAS TREE

Cousins, Lucy Illus. by Cousins, Lucy Candlewick (16 pp.) $6.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-0-7636-7457-1

Maisy, Cousins’ iconic mouse, decorates a Christmas tree with her entourage in this simple holiday offering. On evergreen-tree–shaped board pages, Cyril the squirrel strings the lights, Charley the crocodile hangs candy canes, Eddie tops the tree with an angel, and more. Featuring bold black lines filled in with highly saturated planes of color, the art is as toddler-friendly and accessible as any of the many Maisy titles that have come before it. The text, drawn in the same thick line as the art, is one declarative sentence per page. The final scene of the gang caroling around the tree, complete with paper crowns from British Christmas crackers, is delightful. Toddlers celebrating the holiday will enjoy opening this Christmas present again and again. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

JACOB’S LITTLE SISTER

LOTS OF KISSES

Cohen, Miriam Illus. by Cohen, Miriam Star Bright (16 pp.) $6.99 | Oct. 15, 2014 978-1-59572-689-6 Series: Backpack Baby

Crozier, Lorna Orca (24 pp.) $9.95 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-4598-0745-7

Big brother Jacob helps Daddy take care of mischievous Little Sister in the newest offering in the Backpack Baby boardbook series. Neither Jacob nor his sister rides on Daddy’s back in this book. Here, Jacob walks, and Little Sister rides in a stroller— for a little while anyway. Adorable, grinning Little Sister wears a yellow dress with pink flowers and a matching hat, which she is desperate to jettison. She tosses it off her head, flings it into |

Babies are kissed by their grown-ups, from head to toe. In the preamble, a variety of mothers and fathers ask what happens if they kiss their babies’ eyelids, toes, heads, wrists and fingers. The lilting rhymed text continues: “If I kiss your belly // If I kiss your ears // If I kiss the knobs of your knees // Will I kiss away your tears?” These lines are meted out spread by spread, printed on one page in a bold, black typeface against gently patterned backgrounds, while a full-color photo of a solo baby or a kirkus.com

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“Peskimo’s muted color palette and droll cartoon style works well with the playful concept.” from countablock

parent (or parents) engaging with their little one appears on the facing page. Almost half of the cute and bubbly images depict families of color. While the ending is a bit abrupt and the order of body parts kissed is not particularly logical, this title is bound to encourage lots of bonding. (Board book. 6-18 mos.)

LLAMA LLAMA TRICK OR TREAT

Dewdney, Anna Illus. by Dewdney, Anna Viking (14 pp.) $5.99 | Aug. 19, 2014 978-0451469786 Series: Llama Llama

In this board book designed for the littlest llama lovers, adorable-as-ever Llama Llama (Llama Llama Red Pajama, 2005, etc.) gets ready for some Halloween fun. Dewdney’s characteristic spare, apt rhymes convey a lot of action in effortlessly readable fashion. A charming and simple introduction to Halloween and its associated activities, this title finds little Llama Llama choosing and carving a pumpkin, pouring candy into bowls, picking out a costume and, finally, trick-or-treating. The costume Llama Llama decides to don—pointy teeth and a black mask and cape—is enough to frighten and fool his friends but not readers, who will immediately recognize and smile at the silly little mini-Dracula. With Dewdney’s characters as expressive as ever, young readers will be drawn right into the holiday fun, eagerly anticipating which costume Llama Llama will choose and excited to see him scare his friends and score some candy at trick-or-treat. In the equally appealing companion title, Llama Llama Jingle Bells, the little fellow gets ready for Christmas, baking and decorating some cookies in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. This simple holiday title will win Llama Llama new fans, and old friends will want to add it and its companion to their collections. (Board book. 1-2) (Llama Llama Jingle Bells: 978-0-451-46980-9)

GLASSES TO GO

Eliot, Hannah Illus. by Roode, Daniel Little Simon/Simon & Schuster (16 pp.) $7.99 | Nov. 11, 2014 978-1-4814-1791-4

of positions and uses: a pilot, a rock star, for reading, for calculating, for “someone totally FAB,” for someone looking for romance, for a birthday party. Cutouts of seven styles of glasses are included in a pocket in the front, to be inserted in a very small tab on the corresponding page. However, only five slots are available to receive tabs, and inserting the tab requires a degree of manual dexterity that is not realistic for young children. Fortunately, once inserted, the glasses seem to stay inserted, even with repeated page turns. Some of the metaphors (“true love is blind,” for example) are also beyond the understanding of literal-minded young children. Still, parents of children with new glasses prescriptions may find this novelty useful for their home libraries—public libraries will want to give it a miss. (Board book. 3-6)

COUNTABLOCK

Franceschelli, Christopher Illus. by Peskimo abramsappleseed (94 pp.) $16.95 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-1-4197-1374-3 Shaped pages help youngsters count to 10 and beyond. Two stylish double-page spreads are devoted to each number one through 10 and then, counting by 10s, to 100. In the first spread, the right-hand side is a page-high, die-cut numeral that spills off the page; to its left, a squirrel holds an acorn. With the turn of the page, there’s a transformation. “One acorn becomes... / one oak tree!” A portion of the object, animal or person being altered is visible through the die-cut openings; a sand castle peeks through the “0” of the number 10, for instance. Once the page is turned, the background from the previous lefthand page merges with the full double-page spread. As in the earlier Alphablock (2013), the helpfulness of these visual hints is uneven. After 10, 20 caterpillars become 20 butterflies, 30 baskets of cucumbers become 30 jars of pickles, and 40 eggs become 39 chicks and one dinosaur. The whole shebang ends with 100 puzzle pieces fitting together into “one big puzzle!” in the book’s only double gatefold. Peskimo’s muted color palette and droll cartoon style works well with the playful concept. The same worries about the binding that arose with Alphablock are an issue here, but the conceit will likely appeal to older children anyway. An inventive and extensive counting experience that will delight youngsters. (Board book. 2-4)

A clever concept presents a variety of different faces and separate pairs of glasses to try on each, executed with eye-catching graphics designed to appeal to hip young parents. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to imagine a board-book–age child understanding the concepts or being able to manipulate the pieces of this book. Bright blue, black, gray, white and silver graphics highlight different kinds of glasses for a variety 122

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MAP WORK

George, Bobby; George, June Illus. by Nassner, Alyssa abramsappleseed (20 pp.) $9.95 | Jul. 15, 2014 978-1-4197-0934-0 Series: Montessori A simple exploration of geography via the continents and the animals that live on them. The first double-page spread distinguishes the continents from the oceans. The subsequent spreads are devoted to one continent each. A large map of the continent appears in the upper-left corner, and a slightly rough tactile element outlines the land masses for little fingers to trace. Three animals are pictured and named (North America features a bison, a bald eagle and a moose) in the center of the spread. A world map appears in the lower-right corner showing readers where they will be off to next when they turn the page. The final spread has a gatefold panel that opens to reveal a world map with the continents labeled and the animals again pictured in their appropriate locations. Nassner’s images are simple, clear and handsome in muted colors against subtle faux wood grain. The authors explain their approach as rooted in the Montessori method. There is potential for confusion, as the shapes as presented on the opening circular map are inevitably different from those presented on the subsequent flat projection; Antarctica in particular suffers from the transition. Despite these quibbles, this is a clear and developmentally appropriate introduction to our world for the youngest children. (Board book. 3-6)

A DAY WITH MONSTER

Gleiner, Kelli Illus. by Gleiner, Kelli blue manatee press (14 pp.) $7.99 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-936669-26-4

day features many ordinary actions that children either accomplish themselves or see their parents perform. Sharp-eyed children will be intrigued to see that the upper tooth migrates back and forth from one side of Monster’s mouth to the other as the day progresses. Nothing flashy or overly ambitious, this small board book starring an odd-looking little monster is a quirky way to introduce little ones to the concept of a daily routine and its constituent parts. (Board book. 1-3)

GLOBAL BABY BOYS

Global Fund for Children Charlesbridge (16 pp.) $6.95 | Sep. 9, 2014 978-1-58089-440-1

In the natural follow-up to Global Baby Girls (2013), youngsters can meet the sons of such nations as Australia, Canada, Guatemala, France, Mexico, Taiwan, Tobago, the United States and more. In vivid close-up photos and full-body shots, most boys sport modern dress, though a few wear traditional garb. The simple, encouraging text follows the formula established by earlier Global Baby books, asserting that “Around the world,” baby and toddler boys share universal attributes. Each eye-catching photo is labeled to indicate where the child or children are from. Many are bordered by bright colors to allow the bright yellow type to pop. In some subtle messaging, the boys are described as “kind” on a double-page spread that captures two babies hugging on the verso and a toddler nuzzling a dog almost the same height as he is on the recto. While the ethnic representation here is quite diverse, the lack of representation of babies from any African countries is surprising. Oh boy, oh boy! These bright-eyed tykes are sure to draw any baby in. (Board book. 3 mos.-1)

LITTLE BUBBA LOOKS FOR HIS ELEPHANT

See what Monster’s day is like, from his morning stretch till he returns to his bed at the end of a long day. Fuzzy and gray, with blue eyebrows and two sharp teeth (one upper, one lower), Monster is a hand-felted creation by fiber artist Gleiner. To create the illustrations, she poses and arranges Monster along with props made of fiber and other materials and then photographs the tableaux. The process results in 3-D images with a whimsical feel. The intentionally simple storyline follows Monster through the course of a typical day. He eats breakfast, goes to work, eats lunch, takes a nap and walks his dog. In the evening, he eats dinner (a plate of spaghetti and meatballs that, upon closer inspection, appear to be orange yarn and red pom-poms), plays his guitar, takes a bath, brushes his teeth (all two of them) and reads a bit before bed. Monster’s |

Ho, Jannie Illus. by Ho, Jannie Nosy Crow/Candlewick (8 pp.) $7.99 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-0-7636-7401-4 Series: Tiny Tab

This Tiny Tab book offers toddlers a playful interactive game of hide-and-seek with substantial, oversized tabs. Elly, Little Bubba’s toy elephant, has gone missing at her boy’s multispecies preschool, and the little frog must search the classroom to find her. Four large, semicircular tabs poke out from the side and top of the book, partially hiding the faces of his fellow animal classmates. Once pulled, the tabs reveal the entire creature and another friend or toy that is hiding in a diecut section at the center of the page. Mrs. Jones, Bubba’s hippo teacher, suggests the frog check his bag, and Elly and Bubba are kirkus.com

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joyfully reunited. Ho’s cheery, digitally created cartoons will engage youngsters and offer a tour of preschool to the uninitiated to boot. Publishing simultaneously is Wickle Woo Has a Halloween Party, in which an owl host must find the fancy-dressed guests attending his Halloween bash. It’s full of equally satisfying interaction, although some of the costumed critters may be difficult for the youngest toddlers to recognize. Sturdy, engaging fun. (Board book. 1-3) (Wickle Woo Has a Halloween Party: 978-0-7636-7400-7)

BE PATIENT, PANDORA!

offers helpful tips such as “Please don’t yell and don’t be rough” and “Play soft music, soothe my head.” Each page features softly toned illustrations to match the easy listening the book promotes. The narrative works as a piece of encouragement for new parents, but babies will get very little out of the deal. The illustrations don’t pop or attract attention in any significant way, making this read clearly targeted at new moms and dads. This book may find its best application as a maternity-ward or well-patient giveaway rather than as an item for purchase or loan. Good for stressed adults but not so much for the little one. (Board book. 0-6 mos.)

Holub, Joan Illus. by Patricelli, Leslie abramsappleseed (24 pp.) $6.95 | Sep. 16, 2014 978-1-4197-0951-7 Series: Mini Myths

PLAY

Pandora, a curious, modern-day tyke, is forbidden by her mother to open a certain box in this tale loosely based on the Greek myth. She touches, leans, stands and bounces on the box, which, in kid logic, is not actually opening it. After one bounce too many, the box opens, and cupcakes explode all over the floor (luckily not plagues and other evils, but smashed cupcakes are equally upsetting). Pandora and her mother find one intact cupcake left in the box as the girl asks, “Do you still love me? I hope so.” Her mother answers in the affirmative, and they hug. While light on mythology, Pandora’s encounter with the box is remarkably entertaining, and youngsters will relate to the glee she takes in bending the rules. Patricelli captures Pandora’s chutzpah in delightful painted cartoons in rich colors, while Holub contributes only one or two lines of text per page. The companion title, Play, Nice Hercules, is an even looser interpretation of the 12 labors of Hercules, but little ones will identify with his impossible task of playing nice with his sister. A paragraph-long note appears on the back page of both titles relating the Pandora and Hercules myths in simple language, but this will likely go over the heads of most toddlers. Parents expecting to introduce tots to classic myths will be disappointed, but the life lessons the source material inspires are spot-on. (Board book. 2-4)

Hutton, John Illus. by Jones, Sarah blue manatee press (14 pp.) $7.99 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-936669-23-3 Series: Baby Unplugged The 10th in the Baby Unplugged series, an earnest exhortation to play. A multicultural cast of preschool children and a few parental figures go through a happy day of play with nary an iPad, television screen or Kindle in sight. Curiously, the adults are mostly light-skinned, but some of the children have darker skin and curly hair. For the most part, the rhyming text works: “Roll a ball across the floor. / Build a box house with a door.” But occasionally, extra words inserted to keep the syllable count consistent interrupt the flow: “Bang pots and pans, make fun sounds! / Stack blocks high off of the ground.” Pastel-tinted line drawing by Jones are pleasant but not distinct. The clear graphic illustrations by Andrea Kang that grace the earlier books in the series provide stronger images for very young children. The back cover lists nine rules to “Unplug and Play Every Day.” That message seems to be the real purpose of this book. Parents seeking to unplug their children from electronic devices should seek out more interactive board books, such as those by Lorena Siminovich, Brian Biggs and Herve Tullet. (Board book. 18 mos.-4)

WHAT DOES BABY LOVE?

Katz, Karen Illus. by Katz, Karen Simon & Schuster (14 pp.) $6.99 | Dec. 16, 2014 978-1-4814-0521-8

CALM BABY, GENTLY

Hutton, John Illus. by Busch, Leah blue manatee press (14 pp.) $7.99 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-936669-28-8

A tiny baby aims to ease her parents’ frustration. The trials of a newborn’s incessant crying are addressed in this board book that preaches patience. Designed to tutor parents through the difficult process of calming their baby, the book 124

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Babies play with things they love in this lift-a-flap book. The simple format shows a series of babies having a good time, and for each, readers are asked, “What does baby love?” With help from their caregivers, little ones are meant to guess what each baby loves before lifting a flap to reveal the answer. Unfortunately there aren’t any visual clues that help readers

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“The skillful verses read smoothly and depict situations that toddlers and preschoolers will relate to.” from i am so brave!

guess the answer, creating an often arbitrary guessing game. A baby sits happily behind a scattering of toys including a teddy bear, alphabet blocks and a drum. Question: “What does baby love?” Answer: “Noisy toys!” the text proclaims, and the baby is shown banging on the drum. Readers may legitimately wonder, what is wrong with the bear and the blocks? Cumbersome fullpage flaps make the game even more unpleasant, requiring an effort that makes the payoff hardly feel worth it. Katz’s trademark bland color scheme and minimal design do little to entice readers either. For all Katz’s track record, this effort feels pretty phoned-in. A board book that’s about as exciting as plain oatmeal. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE A Collection of Joyful Songs Kolanovic, Dubravka—Illus. Tiger Tales (22 pp.) $8.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-1-58925-569-2

Starting with the traditional “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and ending with “Now the Day is Over,” this collection of 10 Christian hymns, songs and prayers is aimed at parents wanting to pass on their faiths. Each song is paired with cheery drawings of happy children, dancing animals, rainbows and flowers, among other traditional nursery iconography. Printed on board pages with a padded cover, it will hold up to many bedtime readings. Odd editorial choices may bother some readers. “If You’re Happy and You Know It” starts with the well-known refrain of the title and then goes to “If you’re happy and you know it, say amen” skipping the better-known and frankly more enjoyable verses—clap your hands, stamp your feet, shout hooray. A song about Noah’s ark set to the tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” while widely available on the Internet, isn’t true to the Biblical text. Since Noah only took two of each animal, singing that they went five-by-five or seven-byseven will rub children the wrong way. Additionally, in a book this sweet, it just seems mean to say, “they turned out the monkey because of his tricks.” Jesus is drawn as a white man with a curly blond beard. Better—and more multicultural—choices are available. Still, those willing to overlook these annoyances will find this title acceptable. (Board book. 2-5)

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I AM SO BRAVE!

Krensky, Stephen Illus. by Gillingham, Sara abramsappleseed (12 pp.) $6.95 | Jul. 15, 2014 978-1-4197-0937-1 Series: Empowerment This upbeat ode to conquering fears will resonate with tots both timid and not. The sparse text of this sturdy board book is a series of three quatrains, presented one brief line per spread, describing the various fears a little boy has overcome: “I was scared of big dogs. / Then I made a new friend. // I was scared of the water. / Now I love the deep end.” Having also conquered fears of the dark, loud horns and goodbyes, he proclaims on the final pages: “I’m not scared like before. / I am so brave!” The skillful verses read smoothly and depict situations that toddlers and preschoolers will relate to. The illustrations center around a wide-eyed African-American child as the main character, with Caucasian children also populating some of the scenes, including the final spread, which features the narrator leaping boldly into a pit of colored balls. The design and color scheme, mostly bright blues, yellows and reds, give the title a distinctly vintage feel, which will lend it appeal to both adults and children. A comforting celebration of everyday courage with lots of charm to boot. (Board book. 1-3)

OPEN WIDE!

Krensky, Stephen Illus. by Burks, James Cartwheel/Scholastic (14 pp.) $6.99 | Jul. 29, 2014 978-0-545-53368-3 Baby Sam, a reluctant eater, finally takes a bite with the help of the spoon-as-airplane trick. The book comes with a set of cardboard wings that adults can punch out of the back of the book and then fold around any adult-sized spoon to make it into an airplane. At the beginning of the book, Sam stubbornly sits with mouth shut tight in his high chair. Mom holds a wing-adorned spoon, promising, “These yummy green beans will make you big as an elephant!” Across the gutter, Sam’s father casts an elephant-shaped shadow on the wall. The pattern repeats with other foodstuffs and animals. When his parents have given up all hope, Sam proudly grabs the airplane spoon and shovels in a mound of grub. Burks’ retro cartoons in a muted color palette look hip, and the expressions of the various family members will be clear and accessible to little ones. While the cardboard-plane spoon is a very clever idea and it is relatively easy to construct, it will be difficult for toddlers to grasp on their own as depicted and will likely not survive very many repeat “landings” (the instructions recommend using the original as a pattern to trace and cut out a replacement). Since many parents may want to share this title kirkus.com

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“…the blocky type in a rainbow of colors animating the expressive text is what propels readers forward.” from planes go!

at meal times, a sturdier, washable material would have been a better choice for this project. Enjoyable propaganda. (Board book. 1-2)

PLANES GO!

Light, Steve Illus. by Light, Steve Chronicle (16 pp.) $9.99 | Aug. 12, 2014 978-1-4521-2899-3 Eight flying machines whoosh across Light’s extra-wide board-book pages. “The seaplane goes, GGRRRRRRRRRRRRR Putt Putt Putt SSSPLAAASHH! // The helicopter goes, PITTATATTATA PITTATATTATA PITTATATTATA.” Readers continue their onomatopoeic journey via jumbo jet, propeller plane, fighter plane and, despite the title, a couple of contraptions that aren’t exactly planes, such as a blimp. Light’s gestural watercolors in bold colors against white backgrounds capture the planes clearly in profile, but as in Trains Go, Trucks Go and Diggers Go, the blocky type in a rainbow of colors animating the expressive text is what propels readers forward. Would-be readers will probably want to give the book a test flight before sharing it with little ones due to the multiple consonants and vowels. While the reference may be a little dated, the inclusion of the space shuttle provides a welcome change in the playful text as well as the book’s orientation: “The space shuttle goes... 3 2 1 LIFT-OFF!” High-flying fun. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

SNAP A Peek-through Book of Opposites Litton, Jonathan Illus. by Galloway, Fhiona Tiger Tales (16 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-1-58925-566-1 Series: My Little World

Various animals take turns leading readers in a game of finding shapes that match. Bright, bold images of animals accompany rhyming couplets. For example: “Dolphin dives into the sea / and spots a spinning star. / Now try to find another one. / Look closely. It’s not far!” The illustrations feature a dolphin and starfish on the left and an assortment of sea creatures with different shapes for the bodies, including a die-cut star, on the right. These cutouts neatly serve to reinforce the concepts being presented. The “Peek-through” device is not nearly so successful in companion title Tall and Short, which illustrates some basic opposites such as big/small, fast/slow and hot/cold: “Giraffe is tall,” and “Dog is short,” for example, or “Elephants are trumpeting: young and old.” The images are appealing, and they successfully convey 126

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the concepts presented. However, here the die cuts are a distraction at best and confusing at worst, since the cutouts are apparently arbitrary shapes and colors, entirely unrelated to the concepts presented. While this title is a strong choice for learning about shapes, there are better options for opposites than its companion. (Board book. 2-4) (Tall and Short: 978-1-58925-565-4)

HOOT A Hide-and-Seek Book of Counting Litton, Jonathan Illus. by Galloway, Fhiona Tiger Tales (16 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-1-58925-595-1 Series: My Little World

This simple concept board book combines colors and counting. In a rhyming game of hide-and-seek, a little blue owl finds four brightly colored friends. When it’s his turn to hide, he goes back to sleep. Some of the scansion falters: “Little Blue says to the owls, ‘It’s my turn everyone! / Now close your eyes and count to 5— / our play time’s almost done.’ ” “Everyone” and “done” technically rhyme, but the rhythm is slightly off. The eye cutouts that begin with the front cover and grow a tiny bit smaller with each turn of the page make convenient finger holes for young children to grasp but become increasingly ineffective as owl eyes as they diminish in size. Consequently, Little Blue looks the most like an owl, while Little Purple looks owlish only because he is the exact same shape as Little Blue. The presentation of concepts is more successful. Little Blue counts just five colors—perfect for a baby’s attention span. A graphic on the back cover highlights which developmental skills the book aims to address. The cheerful simplicity and sturdy pages ensure that this offering will both see and stand up to hard use until readers are ready for Pat Hutchins’ classic Good-night, Owl! (1972). (Board book. 1-4)

GOBBLE, GOBBLE, TUCKER!

McGuirk, Leslie Illus. by McGuirk, Leslie Candlewick (32 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 9, 2014 978-0-7636-6887-7

This brief introduction to Thanksgiving stars a winsome white terrier named Tucker (Ho, Ho, Ho Tucker!, 2005, etc.). Tucker wakes up to the smell of turkey on Thanksgiving Day and hangs out in the busy kitchen, hoping to sneak a bite. Later, he helps to clean and prepare the house for the day’s festivities. When Tucker’s canine cousins Tiger and Murphy arrive,

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they beg for food before being shooed outside to play football. Finally, the big meal is served. The dogs wait patiently, their rear ends and tails shown sticking out from under the table, until they are served their own feast at the end of a wonderful day. The story is best suited to toddlers and preschoolers just being introduced to the holiday, as the very simple plot highlights the bare bones of the celebration, including careful preparation and the coming together of family and friends for a special meal. Oddly, there is no mention of giving thanks. The illustrations, rich with vibrant fall colors, gently falling leaves, and cheerful pups and people, help to set a warm atmosphere of familiarity and fun. A meandering tale about a special day that Tucker fans will gobble right up. (Board book. 2-4)

BABY PIG PIG WALKS

McPhail, David Illus. by McPhail, David Charlesbridge (14 pp.) $6.95 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-1-58089-596-5

A piglet toddler learns to walk. After growing bored, Baby Pig Pig learns to pull himself up, climb out of his playpen and walk out of the living room into the kitchen, all in the course of a day. Simple declarative sentences narrate the adventure. “He stood up and tried to walk. / He fell down. // Baby Pig Pig tried again. / This time he did it!” In companion title Baby Pig Pig Talks, the piglet struggles to say his first word. While walking with his mama, stroller-bound Baby Pig Pig tries to repeat words his mother utters as she points things out to him, to funny effect. She says, “Cat,” and he says, “Duba.” In both titles, when Baby Pig Pig finally reaches his milestone (taking his first steps, saying “Mama”), he receives a loving hug from his mom. An older Pig Pig previously starred in several picture books by McPhail, and here, he employs the same droll pen, ink and watercolor cartoons in muted tones. While the porcine tot progresses through developmental stages much too quickly and parents may wonder about his mother’s parenting skills (she leaves him on his own for extended periods and introduces him to a hissing snake), McPhail understands the simplicity required for a story for the youngest toddlers. Clarity and humor carry the day. (Board book. 1-2) (Baby Pig Pig Talks: 978-1-58089-597-2)

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PETER LOVES PENGUIN

McPhail, David Illus. by McPhail, David abramsappleseed (22 pp.) $8.95 | Oct. 7, 2014 978-1-4197-1337-8

A little boy and his stuffed penguin enjoy an early-morning romp in the snow. This companion title to Ben Loves Bear and Bella Loves Bunny (both 2013) is equally warm and playful. In full-page and double-page scenes set against white backgrounds, Peter and Penguin bundle themselves up, engage in a snowball fight and construct a snowman. The two journey inside for hot cocoa and toast with jam when Penguin, surprisingly, gets chilly and Peter gets hungry. One or two sentences per page narrate the action. McPhail is able to capture emotion and affection in a few deft pen-and-ink lines, and his muted watercolors are perfect for the wintertime setting. Since Ben, Bella and now Peter are all Caucasian, here’s hoping future offerings will include more diverse representations. A sweet addition to a winning series. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

DOGS

National Geographic Kids National Geographic Kids (24 pp.) $6.99 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-1-4263-1705-7 Series: Look & Learn This up-close introduction to dogs uses vivid photos as illustrations. Every other double-page spread reveals a different canine aspect, including their size, fur, senses of smell and more. The simple text, written in panels above the photos, shares just enough information for very young readers. Direct questions encourage grown-ups to engage little ones: “Which dog is bigger?” Facts about dogs (“Guess what? Your dog can tell whether you’ve been playing with another dog just by smelling you!”) appear on alternating spreads along with photos of various breeds in outdoor settings. One small quibble: A spread that reads “Dogs can hear sounds that humans cannot” shows a young Caucasian boy blowing what looks to be a garden-variety sports whistle and not a dog whistle. Things That Go, publishing simultaneously in the Look & Learn series, uses a similar format to catalog cars, trucks, airplanes, trains and boats. Individual parts of each vehicle are labeled with arrows and captions. In both titles, the final spread encourages readers to review the vehicles presented or to point out different aspects of dogs mentioned on subsequent pages. Young dog lovers (and vehicle aficionados in the companion title) will enjoy perusing these images again and again. (Board book. 18 mos.-3) (Things That Go: 978-1-4263-1706-4)

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GROWL! GROWL!

From the hammer on the cover that readers can “swing” to the treehouse door little ones can open and close, the interactive elements steal the show. (Board book. 2-4)

Nosy Crow Illus. by Braun, Sebastien Nosy Crow/Candlewick (10 pp.) $8.99 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-0-7636-7396-3 Series: Can You Say It, Too?

EIGHT JOLLY REINDEER

In this simple, inviting and sturdy lift-the-flap title, wild animals enjoy several rounds of peekaboo with readers. “Who’s that behind the rock?” Readers can pull back the rock-shaped flap to reveal “a hungry bear! Growl! Growl!” Next they’ll encounter a “pretty parrot” among the flowers, a “wiggly snake” beside the stump and a “playful monkey” hanging in the branches. On the final spread, a “happy tiger” resting in the grass is also a flap herself, and her three cubs cavort behind her for some bonus fun. Parts of each animal appear behind the flaps—the monkey’s tail or the snake’s tongue, for example—to provide little hints for older or repeat readers. The graphically simple critters in a cheery palette are easy to recognize as well as lively and engaging. Publishing simultaneously, Roar! Roar! takes readers on a similar expedition to find animals mostly native to the African continent. The thick flaps and thicker pages make both offerings likely to stand up to the inevitable punishment they will endure from toddlers clamoring for more. With this expansion of the Can You Say it, Too? series, Braun and Nosy Crow prove they’ve hit upon a winning formula. (Board book. 6 mos.-2) (Roar! Roar!: 978-0-7636-7397-0)

BIZZY BEAR’S BIG BUILDING BOOK

Nosy Crow Illus. by Davies, Benji Nosy Crow/Candlewick (10 pp.) $14.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-0-7636-7395-6 Series: Bizzy Bear

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Readers can count down eight of Santa’s reindeer as they jump up and out of the scene. In each one of the mostly double-page spreads, one reindeer, from Dasher to Blitzen, plays a central role in a winter activity (sledding, ski jumping, ice skating—and soccer and yoga?) that launches the creature into the air. Glitter-speckled tabs, each with small portraits of a member of Santa’s herd, appear at either the top or the right side of each page, which little fingers will enjoy flipping. In what looks to be pencil-and-watercolor cartoons, Rogers uses different facial expressions, as well as collars, bows or other accessories, to distinguish the reindeer from one another. Donner (not Donder) and Blitzen are squeezed together on the penultimate spread, likely to keep the page count down. The verse mostly scans, but the rhyme scheme has become the cliché of counting books: “Eight jolly reindeer / stretching up to heaven. / Up goes Dasher / and then there are... // Seven....” Santa, his iconic sleigh and the eight reindeer in flight make a dramatic and required appearance on the book’s final double-page spread. As with many holiday gifts, the sparkly packaging may interest toddlers more than what’s inside. (Board book. 1-3)

SPARKLING PRINCESS OPPOSITES

Bizzy Bear and his gang of helpful critter friends build a treehouse together, while readers operate various tools. Larger than other titles in the Bizzy Bear series, the book also offers an interactive element on each page. Flaps become the doors of vehicles and the lids of tool boxes; a sliding panel moves a saw back and forth or allows readers to manipulate a measuring tape; a spin dial on the side of the book activates a power drill and more. The simple prose describes the actions of Bizzy Bear and company in one or two sentences. Oversize, digital images of the titular bear in lively scenes keep the project moving along to the playful conclusion, which is revealed with a sliding panel: The treehouse actually doubles as a rocket ship, with Bizzy Bear peeking out of the upper porthole. While the flaps may not last more than a dozen readings, the sliding panels are strong and sturdy. The saw is difficult to manipulate, however, as it is evidently serrated for verisimilitude, and may require some adult intervention. 128

Oliver, Ilanit Illus. by Rogers, Jacqueline Cartwheel/Scholastic (16 pp.) $6.99 | Aug. 10, 2014 978-0-545-65145-5

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Perrett, Lisa Illus. by Perrett, Lisa Sterling (14 pp.) $5.95 | Oct. 7, 2014 978-1-4549-1250-7 Series: Sparkling Stories

A shiny, fairy-tale–themed concept book for toddlers. Each page presents a pair of opposite concepts, including fast and slow, far and near, small and big, etc. A word for each concept is the only text. While princesses abound, they don’t appear on every spread, though the illustrations do make ample use of royal and fairy-tale motifs and boast, true to the series title, a lot of sparkle. Companion book Colors is done in the same style, devoting a page to each color. The concepts and colors in both titles are clearly depicted, aside from “white”—its page is, confusingly, predominantly silver and blue. While both titles feature primarily Caucasian characters, with the exception of a darker-hued princess illustrating “brown,” they do a bit better in terms of gender, displaying some active female characters,

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“While the text is direct and may strike some as dry, it models talking strategies that are effective in promoting language development….” from me and my day

including one princess racing ahead of a prince on horseback (to illustrate fast/slow) and another who has just bested her male opponent on the tennis court (happy/sad). While not groundbreaking in style or substance, these simple titles will nonetheless appeal to those toddlers (or parents) already besotted with all things stately and sparkly. (Board book. 1-3) (Sparkling Princess Colors: 978-1-4549-1249-1)

Story features a little girl (also Caucasian) who must choose a new button to replace the lost one on her coat in order to go out and play with her father. A sweet, unassuming tale for adult and child to share. (Board book. 2-4) (A Button Story: 978-1-55451-652-0)

PEEKABOO BARN

Sims, Nat Illus. by Tabor, Nathan Candlewick Entertainment (22 pp.) $7.99 | Aug. 5, 2014 978-0-7636-7557-8

FOX ON THE LOOSE!

Porter, Matthew Illus. by Porter, Matthew Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch (11 pp.) $9.99 | Oct. 14, 2014 978-1-57061-928-1 A fox is stymied in his nocturnal prowling by a bevy of noisy barnyard animals. As the fox prepares to snack on some chicks, their cheeping wakes the goose, whose honking disturbs the sheep, who stir the ox and so on. The frustrated fox finally gives up and goes back where he came from. Four lines of plodding verse accompany each single- or double-page spread: “And the bleats of the goats / wake up the pig, / Who oinks for attention / then proceeds to dig.” The true star here is Porter’s child-friendly folk-art–like style that employs bold, black lines filled in with rich earth- and jewel-toned colors. The paintings are produced on what looks to be wood panels, a perfect texture for the farm setting. Here’s hoping Porter gets paired up with a writer equal to his visual talents. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

A PEBBLE STORY

Sher, Emil Illus. by Revell, Cindy Annick Press (26 pp.) $6.95 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-55451-654-4

Based on a popular app, this board book allows little ones to open and close barn doors to greet familiar farm animals. Each beast makes its iconic sound as spelled out in black text on the left-hand page, while on the right appears a red-andwhite barn with barn-door flaps ready to be opened. Inside the barn, readers meet cartoon critters, such as a rooster, goat, cat, horse, dog, cow and more, with friendly expressions and highly dilated pupils. The flat, cartoon images of the barn, sun, fence and fields appear the same on almost every page, with the position of the clouds the only element that adds variety. The barn’s upper-window flap opens only twice, to reveal a cat and then a mouse. While the flaps have nicely rounded corners, they are not likely to survive robust play. The last double-page spread shows a starry nighttime sky and a few of the animals quietly sleeping in the barn. The front cover promises “free app with purchase,” and underneath a scratch-off overlay is a download code to obtain it; readers not familiar with the procedure can visit the app developer’s website for instructions. Many a toddler will appreciate this title’s simple and reassuringly predictable content. (Board book. 1-3)

ME AND MY DAY

A simple story about art and ingenuity unfolds through sparse text and clever illustrations. A little Caucasian boy is creating a picture of a face out of pebbles. He has red ones for the hair and black for the eyes. Green would be perfect for the teeth, but he has no green ones, so it’s time to go “pebbling”! The boy and his mother set out with a picnic basket and pebbling gear. They find road pebbles and river pebbles for skipping, round pebbles and smooth ones. They spend a long, blissful day pebbling, but they return with no green pebbles. Suddenly, inspiration strikes, and the boy takes matters into his own hands, painting some pebbles green and using them to add the finishing touch to his picture. Aside from visually carrying the story, the illustrations depict lots of love between mother and son and add a bit of fun by incorporating objects made of pebbles, such as a truck, a fish, a sun and a moon. With a very similar style and feel, companion A Button |

Slegers, Liesbet Illus. by Slegers, Liesbet Clavis (64 pp.) $11.95 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-60537-191-7

In this compilation originally published as four separate books, a toddler takes readers through a first-person account of a typical day. In four different vignettes, each with simple chapter headings (“Eating,” “Playing,” “Bathing” and “Sleeping”), a Caucasian tyke, likely male, demonstrates the activities involved in his daily routine. While the text is direct and may strike some as dry, it models talking strategies that are effective in promoting language development: “This is my cup. My cup is filled with water. Look! I am holding my cup with two hands.” The doublepage spreads highlight one object on the left-hand page and place the object in a wider scene on the right with the youngster often demonstrating its use. Slegers’ brightly colored cartoons kirkus.com

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“The simple text effectively dispels jealousy with humor, and the illustrations…increase its appeal.” from a new chick for chickies

outlined in bold black lines charm, managing to be infinitely recognizable without being boring. The companion, Me and the Seasons, follows the same tot through the four seasons of the year, also working nicely as a bound quartet. The size and shape of both offerings suggest a board book, but the internal pages are thick card stock with rounded corners. Surprisingly, a book for little ones consisting of four chapters is a developmentally appropriate winner. (Board book. 6-18 mos.) (Me and the Seasons: 978-1-60537-192-4)

BABY ANIMALS

Tiger Tales Tiger Tales (10 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-1-58925-624-8

picture of the object. These second pictures include a child or children with the object (a babe in the tub with the rubber duck, another snuggled with the teddy bear, etc.). The children represented are fairly diverse both ethnically and in age. The flaps are suitably sturdy, and a half-circle notch at the edge of each should make it relatively easy for little fingers to lift, encouraging children to interact with the books both physically and mentally. The four-color aesthetic is eye-catching to young and old alike, and the board books are constructed with a die-cut handle at the top allowing for easy transport when little bookworms are old enough to tote around a few of their favorites. Nonessential but still quite cute. (Board book. 6 mos.-18 mos.)

A NEW CHICK FOR CHICKIES

A simple lift-the-flap teaches little ones the names of animals and their offspring. As in companion title First Words (2014), there’s no narrative to speak of, just an easy guessing game. Each page has a big, bold image with “Who is my mommy?” written above it. Readers are encouraged to name the critters before lifting the sturdy, notched flap revealing the answer. Under the flap with a kitten on it, readers find a mother cat licking her kitten; the answer is phrased, “My mommy is a cat. I am a kitten.” Other animals pictured are two foals (a horse and a zebra), a lion cub, an elephant calf, a puppy, a lamb, a panda cub, a giraffe calf and a duckling. Publishing simultaneously in the baby-animal vein are two My First Touch and Feel titles, Kittens and Puppies. Children can pat the kittens’ “fluffy fur,” feel its “soft tongue” (readers with actual cats in the house will find this and the kitten on the next page wearing a “smooth bow” inexplicable), and touch its “fuzzy ball of yarn.” The puppies’ tactile items are more in keeping with actual doggy properties. Appealing fare for young animal lovers. (Board book. 6 mos.-18 mos.) (Kittens: 978-1-58925-563-0; Puppies: 978-1-58925-564-7)

FIRST WORDS

Tiger Tales Tiger Tales (10 pp.) $7.99 | Sep. 1, 2014 978-1-58925-623-1 Series: My First Lift and Learn

Trasler, Janee Illus. by Trasler, Janee HarperFestival (24 pp.) $8.99 | Sep. 23, 2014 978-0-06-227471-7

Trasler’s bubbly Chickies are back (Bedtime for Chickies, 2014; Pottytime for Chickies, 2014, etc.), and their ranks are quickly growing. At first, the Chickies are not pleased by the attention their brand-new little brother is garnering from their caretakers, Pig, Cow and Sheep. They admonish the little guy: “Stop that dancing! Stop that jig. / Get your feathers off our pig.” Pig takes their protest in stride, responding, “Don’t be worried. This is fine. / Now we have a conga line.” In the same vein, the Chickies warn their sibling not to play ball with Cow, who answers that they shouldn’t worry because now they “have a beach ball team.” They don’t want him singing with Sheep either, but he placates them with the idea that they now have a five-piece band. The Chickies agree that this is all for the best indeed, until—“craaack”—they get another brother and then a few more in quick succession. The simple text effectively dispels jealousy with humor, and the illustrations—with the simply rendered yet expressive Chickies and their goofy guardians—increase its appeal. As with previous Chickie titles, the catchy rhythms, repetition and familiar topic will make this one a toddler favorite. Especially suited for those tots expecting a new little sibling (or two, or four!) of their own. (Board book. 1-4)

A simple lift-the-flap offering provides various vocabulary words for little ones. There’s no narrative to speak of, just a good ol’ fashioned guessing game. Each page has a big, bold image with “What do you see?” written in broad black type above. Babies are encouraged to name the object (ball, cat, chair, duck, apple, teddy bear, car, flower, blocks, cup) before lifting the nearly full-page flap revealing the answer and another 130

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DON’T

Trochatos, Litsa Illus. by Johnson, Virginia Groundwood (24 pp.) $9.95 | Oct. 14, 2014 978-1-55498-355-1 You have to be careful around animals, you know, or things can get crazy—fast. Pithy, peculiar rules, such as “Don’t start a food fight with an octopus,” appear on the right-hand pages, with the reasons behind the odd admonitions appearing once the page is turned: “It has six more arms that you do.” The illustrations here depict a young boy and a red octopus seated across a food-laden table with pieces of fruit lifted in the air, poised to throw, followed by a scene of delightful culinary chaos in which the octopus definitely has the edge. Little ones are also warned not to let a cheetah drive the car (it likes to go too fast), invite a bear to spend a winter’s night (it will refuse to leave till spring) and more. The whimsical watercolor illustrations add humor and charm. Particularly fetching are the ones of a little girl using her weight to try to yank the covers off the bear who has burrowed into her bed and the final scene of a seesaw with a hippo weighing down one end and a little boy so high in the air on the opposite side that he is visible only from the chest down. Great for one-on-one sharing or for inciting a room full of giggles at storytime, though developmentally, it reaches beyond the traditional board-book audience. (Board book. 2-6)

NOSES ARE NOT FOR PICKING

Verdick, Elizabeth Illus. by Heinlen, Marieka Free Spirit (24 pp.) $7.95 | Oct. 1, 2014 978-1-57542-471-2 Series: Best Behavior

The latest addition to the Best Behaviors series encourages little ones to “Pick a tissue, not your nose.” The opening spreads inform readers that noses are for breathing and sniffing but not for picking. The rhyming text, with a couple of clever lines, describes using a tissue, throwing the tissue away and washing hands to “Tell those germs goodbye.” Heinlen’s art, which is a step above other titles of this instructive, didactic ilk, uses a diverse cast of cartoon kids and grown-ups to model appropriate behaviors, rendering them with a bold black line and warm colors. The last two pages offer extensive tips for parents and caregivers on ways to gently discourage nose-picking through modeling, respect, redirection and persistence. A positive approach to a difficult subject. (Board book. 2-4)

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Sh e l f Spa c e Q&A with Sarah Bagby, Owner of Watermark Books & Café By Karen Schechner Sarah Bagby owns Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kansas. Founded in 1977, the bookstore brings people together over books and eats via their dozen-plus book clubs—from Vampires Anonymous to the Classic Book Club—and their monthly Literary Feast, a discussion held over dinner and dessert, led by Bagby and Jedd Beaudoin, host of the local public radio station. Bagby was a nonfiction judge of the inaugural 2014 Kirkus Prize.

What is Watermark Books and Café known for?

Like most thriving independent bookstores, we’re known for our passion for books and reading, our partnerships and passion for our community. That’s how we survive. Also, our tomato bisque soup.

Which was your favorite all-time event and why?

This is a hard one, but I would have to say it was an event we hosted years ago when Ian Frazier visited our original store to promote Great Plains. He read a chapter about a small town called Nicodemus that was settled by African-American “exodusters.” He went to an anniversary celebration of the town— now sparsely populated—and lyrically reflected on the beauty of a life where a Midwestern Harvard graduate living on the corner of Canal and Broadway could dance with the celebrants of an all-black town in western Kansas. Frazier was overwhelmed by the 200-plus people who gathered in a great bookstore in Wichita to hear him read from his book.

Can you give us two or three highlights of the bookstore’s history?

Recently hosting Stephen King and seeing hundreds of people wait in the freezing weather for hours to hear an author! In 1977, the industry at large thought there was no way a bookstore would ever make it in Wichita. Now, close to 40 years later, when our competition was at a peak of four box stores—three within three miles of us—we are still in operation.

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What is your favorite section of the store?

This is tough. It depends on my mood. When I want to rejuvenate, I tend to go to the art section, where I always discover an expensive book I have to own. Most recently, I found the new book from Chronicle on Blue Note Records (Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression by Richard Havers).

What are some of the bookstore’s top current handsells?

The 50th anniversary edition of Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara; Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs; Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast; Family Life by Akhil Sharma; Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Very excited about two books from Hachette being released in 2015: The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton and The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander.

What is your ideal busman’s holiday?

Whenever I visit anywhere, I go to bookstores and linger. I browse and touch and meander, always discover something new or find a classic I have on my list. And I always buy things. My daughter lives in Southern California, and I have a few favorite stores in the LA area that we visit. When I buy books in different cities, I always remember those books in relation to where I was when I discovered or finally procured them. Like most bookstore people, for me, being in a bookstore is one of the great pleasures of life. Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.

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indie LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Alexander, Shannon Lee Entangled Publishing, LLC (352 pp.) $16.99 | $7.59 e-book | Oct. 7, 2014 978-1-62266-467-2

DAMAGE DAY, FLA by Dylan Edward Asher.................................. 135 THE DOG THIEF by Jill Kearney.......................................................142 FORTUNE HUNTERS by Riley Masters........................................... 146 Jimi & Isaac 5a: The Brain Injury by Phil Rink....................148

THE DOG THIEF

Kearney, Jill Amazon Digital Services (103 pp.) $2.99 e-book May 10, 2013

In this debut novel about love and coming-of-age, Alexander explores the heartbreaking themes of first love, illness, attachment and loss. Teenage Charlie has life down to a science. A math and science whiz, his life is certain and exact, until he encounters a year that turns things upside down. A new cast of characters enters Charlie’s life, beginning with the new English teacher in town, Ms. Finch, who is tall, young, beautiful and eccentric. With her, Charlie and his classmates have to learn to bend their notions of literature’s irrelevance and begin to explore the right sides of their brains. Along with this new challenge comes Charlotte, a mysterious friend of Charlie’s sister, Becca, who appears at his home one afternoon and steals his heart. Charlie’s attraction for Charlotte grows, but so does his realization that Charlotte needs something more than a swooning teenage boy in her life—she needs a friend, and a loyal one. The author spins this tale in colorful language that grips the reader from the start. Each character is vividly described with images and sounds that hang in the mind: “perfect donut” mouths, calf-hugging skinny jeans, smirks, blinks and clever dialogue. Within the first few chapters, readers will be captivated by this eclectic group of young souls who are desperately trying to understand life, love, literature and their own futures. Readers will appreciate Alexander’s poetic style, her mastery of tension, and the use of concrete imagery to depict the angst, passion and confusion these characters feel about the unknowns of leaving for college in a year. In one scene, Greta and James, friends of Charlie, discuss the fact that the crew may be split up after graduation. Charlie lovingly responds, “A year is a long time...twelve months, fifty-two weeks, three hundred sixty-five days, eight thousand seven hundred sixty hours.” The characters’ quirky affinities—Charlie’s for math, Charlotte’s for drawing, Ms. Finch’s for literature—paint a world of passion and personality. A heartwarming YA story of love and entering the unknown territories of adulthood.

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dispatches from indieland Kirkus started its self-pubbed section in 2005 (it was then called Kirkus Discoveries and is now Kirkus Indie). Since then, Indie reviewers have critiqued thousands of memoirs, novels, mysteries, thrillers, etc., and have good insight and advice to share from the front lines of self-publishing. In this issue, several veteran reviewers note a few changes they’ve seen—better editing, more literary work and increased diversity. Steve Donoghue, who also writes for the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, appreciates “the endless, unpredictable variety of the books” at Indie. After evaluating more than 500 self-pubbed books, he’s noticed the effects of the “proliferation of editorial services,” which have raised the quality of self-publishing. “The era when sloppy mistakes of any kind were par for the self-publishing course is firmly over,” Donoghue says. “The books are more professional and more ambitious—indistinguishable in quality and presentation, in many cases, from books published by traditional houses.” Stephanie Cerra has reviewed more than 300 books and has observed a shift from paperbacks to e-books. “A good trend in my view, because e-books are easy to mark up, comment on, and search in for passages that I’m likely to use in my review,” she says. “Also, I’m seeing literary fiction and nonfiction more often now, as opposed to mainly genre (fantasy, mystery, horror) fiction. And the genre fiction itself is more complicated and ambitious.” After having reviewed about 70 Indie titles, including fantasy, memoir and self-help, Hannah SheldonDean thinks self-pubbed works have “gotten bolder and more self-assured over time.” She says, “I see a lot more high-concept fiction and nonfiction these days….As indie publishing has grown more mainstream and accessible, it seems that an increasingly diverse group of authors has been able to get their ideas out there.” —K.S. Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.

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CODE OF DISJOINTED LETTERS

Alkan, Oktay Manuscript

A man’s obsession with secret writings leads him to strange encounters and offbeat ideas in this darkly mysterious fantasia. In this debut novel, Oktay is a doctor living in Istanbul who likes to think about such cosmic conundrums as time travel, astrology and UFOs. His deepest passion is his search for an occult code that will reveal hidden messages in the Quran, which takes up so much of his time that he loses his job and strains his marriage to his long-suffering wife. After writing a dense treatise on the code, revealing messages that are anything but clear, he’s invited on to a bizarre reality show with five other contestants who possess esoteric knowledge, including a physicist, a clergyman, a fortuneteller, a spiritual medium and a young boy with prophetic gifts. They compete in increasingly enigmatic challenges, from running a maze to creating unspecified products and taking part in group projects. Mainly, however, they sit around talking about financial markets, noncoding DNA, entropy, the arrow of time, the Mayan apocalypse and so on, in expansive but murky terms. Some contestants are eliminated, and then the narrative adds a devil who terrorizes and beats Oktay and an angel who protects him; each offers his own discourse on the relative worthiness of the human race. The ideas in this slender novel are seldom posed with clarity or depth, nor are they apparently meant to be. Instead, its religious/philosophical/scientific reflections seem meant to suggest vast, obscure patterns of existence—pictures that emerge only in the aggregate, at a far remove from the seemingly meaningless pixels of individual experience. From them, the novel conjures a mood of Kafkaesque bafflement that’s explained but not dispelled by a late reveal that readers will likely see coming. Fortunately, Alkan’s deft magical realism and talent for evocative description and sharply-etched characters make for an engaging story. Overall, its emotional resonance doesn’t bog down in the sometimesmuzzy intellectualism. A compelling fable about the pitfalls of ruminating too much and living too little.


“...a wonderfully amusing ride with pitch-perfect dialogue and twists that come up too quickly to predict.” from damage day, fla

DAMAGE DAY, FLA

DEACON’S WINTER

Asher, Dylan Edward Dog Ear (172 pp.) $12.00 paper | $6.99 e-book Oct. 16, 2014 978-1-4575-3249-8 Asher (Olivia Jane Doe, 2013) proves he has what it takes to make an entertaining book about noble lowlifes and con games. Kip hadn’t seen his brother Jack in 10 years before showing up at his bar in Naples, Florida, hoping to land a job. A decade before, Jack left Ohio and his family behind in a flurry of kiss-offs and bad blood; he became somewhat of a legend for opening up his own bar, so much so that restless younger brother Kip reaches out to him for a job. When Kip meets Jack and his bodyguard, Carter, known as the “Cowboy,” it’s clear that Jack is into some shady dealings. The Riot Bar is off the beaten path but frequented by the worst element in town, all of whom seem to know Jack. Kip wants that for himself, and Jack reluctantly agrees to take him under his wing. Complications crop up immediately, as it seems Jack has some debts and personal drama, chiefly with a fresh-in-town 18-year-old firecracker of a woman nicknamed Davie. She’s involved with Jack, who doesn’t take well to fidelity. Things quickly go south. Kip develops a bit of a crush on cunning and inscrutable Davie, and he agrees to her scheme to win over his brother via a plan that includes shaking down a connected nightclub owner. The pace picks up on a wonderfully amusing ride with pitch-perfect dialogue and twists that come up too quickly to predict. Asher’s chief talent is his ear for dialogue. Conversations are snappy and have the smart-alecky feel of solid crime noir. Personalities emerge through dialogue as well as action, and Asher’s narrative wastes little time dwelling on anyone’s inner monologue save Kip’s. The narrative is stylized and sarcastic—perhaps a drawback for some readers, but it fits the tone of the book perfectly. For instance, after a character has been beaten to a bloody mess, he holds a gun to the people who administered the blows: “He pointed the gun, but did so with staggering laziness. But the gun was pointed. However lackluster it was didn’t seem to matter. A gun tends to do that.” Asher has a great voice for crime fiction; hopefully he’ll use it frequently.

Burgraff, Roger AbbottPress (356 pp.) $21.99 paper | $3.99 e-book May 15, 2014 978-1-4582-1491-1 Burgraff ’s debut thriller follows a Chicago minister as he investigates a violent conspiracy. A man named Deacon Adelius wakes up in a hospital bed with a bullet in his shoulder and a police detective in the hallway. It turns out that a woman who’d sought asylum in Deacon’s church the night before has been murdered. Deacon is, in fact, a deacon—a lay Catholic minister—who’s unsure whether he wants to fully commit his life to serving God. The dead woman left her pocket-sized Bible in Deacon’s chambers, and it contains a coded message that may explain why she was killed. This all might have been a bit too much for an average deacon to handle, but not Deacon—he’s an Iraq War veteran and a former military police officer. More significantly, he’s an initiate of the Gabrians—a secret brotherhood that’s dedicated to purging the Roman Catholic Church of predatory priests. It’s soon revealed that the details of his life and the facts of the murder case are more intertwined than they initially appear; after all, in Chicago, the church, the law and the streets have long been known to overlap, and Deacon doesn’t shy away from drawing blood with his trusty aluminum baseball bat. He launches his own investigation into the murder because he knows he can’t trust the cops, but when his blood gets going, can he even trust himself? Burgraff writes in crisp, moody prose that makes this noir a satisfying escape (“My headlights illuminated streets that looked lonelier and dirtier than ever”). Although he doesn’t reinvent the genre, he does offer a uniquely Catholic revenge fantasy that should appeal to readers’ darker angels. Deacon’s investigation forces him to confront notions of forgiveness, punishment, justice and sin, and the book seems to say that even the most devout must rely on their own senses of righteousness. Some characters could have been explored more deeply, and some scenes might have benefited from greater attention to detail. Overall, however, Burgraff ’s chilly depiction of Chicago and his sometimes-disturbing protagonist make this a memorable read with potential for future installments. A dark, theologically minded addition to the noir genre.

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Growing Up Jewish in Alexandria The Story of a Sephardic Family’s Exodus from Egypt

The Balloon Is Doomed

Eyton, Christopher Illus. by Mundt, A.M. Syniad House (34 pp.) $10.95 paper | Sep. 11, 2014 978-0-9938273-0-3

Carasso, Lucienne CreateSpace (260 pp.) $17.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Oct. 14, 2014 978-1-5004-4635-2

Carasso, in her memoir, describes her extended Jewish family’s life in Alexandria, Egypt, and how they were compelled to leave. In 1956, when Carasso was 10 years old, her world shattered when Nasser’s government interned her father. “Don’t worry,” her father said. “We are Egyptians.” Not to the new regime. Carasso’s father was released, but his business was taken away, and there was eventually a family diaspora. Delayed by Carasso’s grandmother’s refusal to leave Alexandria, her family didn’t emigrate until 1961. Her father never saw the same success in business again, but Carasso went on to earn a Ph.D. in French literature at Yale University. Her goal, she writes, is to tell her family’s story in the context of the Jews’ long history of exile and resettlement. She also aims to give readers a better understanding of Egyptian politics and history from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th. Carasso affectingly describes her comfortable, carefree, family-centered childhood in cosmopolitan, multilingual Alexandria, full of fencing lessons, movies, books, beach trips and family dinner at Nonna’s, and how wrenching it was to lose all that. She paints vivid portraits of her parents, grandparents, cousins, servants and friends. Her hardworking shipping-agent father, for example, beguiles his young daughter by discussing the fine points of cargo vessels: “[H]e would draw pictures of ships for me, detailing winches as well as describing how the newly introduced McGregor hatchcovers worked.” All of this comes to life, although Carasso’s perspective is necessarily limited by her youth and fading memories. Readers see more of Alexandria’s sweet shops and movie theaters than its more sophisticated offerings, and Carasso often must guess or make assumptions to fill the gaps in her story. At times, Carasso is overly casual—“Egypt basically went to sleep for several centuries after the Turkish conquest”—but she does provide footnotes, a bibliography and family tree. Well-drawn portraits of a childhood from a lost world, the sorrows of exile and the resilience of a people.

In this debut children’s picture book, the loss of a favorite balloon convinces a little boy that his job is to prepare other kids for similar disappointments. In Eyton’s offbeat tale, 4-year-old Athelstan receives his favorite birthday present: a balloon emblazoned with his name and the number 4. “It was big and purple with sparkles, and it had a giant elastic instead of a string, so that he could bounce it against his hand over and over again.” Athelstan goes to bed, but when he wakes up the next morning, he learns that his balloon is no more, as it developed a leak overnight. His parents try to explain why his balloon is gone, but Athelstan doesn’t understand. Finally, Dad ends the conversation by saying, “Balloons are all doomed. It’s just part of life.” For the next three years, the sight of balloons makes Athelstan sad, and he feels compelled to prepare other kids for the inevitable, because, he says, “there were a thousand ways a balloon could die”: They could float away up in the sky, for example, or big kids could steal them and let the helium out. And so, Eyton writes, with witty melancholy, “The balloonless years of Athelstan went by.” But the author also has an overarching message to convey in this appealing little slice-of-life tale, and he offers it with an appropriately light touch: A little boy acknowledges Athelstan’s earnest, well-meant warning about a balloon’s ephemeral nature by expressing his simple appreciation for the pleasure that a balloon brings him in the here and now. Mundt’s watercolorand-ink illustrations, with their goofy characters and attention to understated detail, complement the story’s quirky approach. With gentle wit, this engaging picture book takes an original look at the value of appreciating what is rather than what might be.

THE MARRIAGE OF TRUE MINDS Experience the World of 18th Century England during the Reign of George III

Field, L.L. Outskirts Press Inc. (332 pp.) $16.95 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 9, 2014 978-1-4787-2873-3

Field’s debut historical novel takes a look at upper-class life in 18th-century England. Viewers of the hit television show Downton Abbey and fans of modern-day British royalty are certainly familiar with the pressure on aristocrats to produce an heir. Geoffrey and his wife, Anne, Lord and Lady Stoneleigh, adore their five 136

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daughters yet worry over the future of their estate, due to their failure to produce a male child as an heir to the family fortune. The story of Geoffrey and Anne’s marriage and daily life introduces readers to their social circle of wealthy men and women, all living on prosperous estates in the English countryside. As Geoffrey and Anne struggle over questions of the future, Geoffrey’s widowed mother delves into her dead husband’s past to find answers regarding the existence of his former lover. The dowager must also decide how she feels about the present-day attentions of her old friend and neighbor, Lord Wortham. Meanwhile, Wortham’s son, Lord Lynnhurst, attempts to win back the affections of his childhood love, Miss Compton, despite her lower social status. These personal conflicts whirl amid a plethora of fancy dinners and extravagant balls, and Field does a marvelous job of sketching out her characters and settings. She beautifully captures the intimacy and mutual respect of Geoffrey and Anne’s relationship and realistically presents the complicated dowager’s many facets and motivations. There are vivid descriptions of sumptuous feasts (“silver trays laden with venison, sirloin of beef...and bowls of steaming buttered potatoes”), and the author revels in bringing ladies’ fashion to life, detailing frocks of “iridescent silk” or a “taffeta brocaded gown interwoven with lace.” In addition, she touches on broader politics and societal trends—such as the controversial Enclosure Acts, which wrested land rights from poor farmers—and the vicious gossip and whims of London society. The work even crosses genres: Field’s detailed research offers a fine contribution to historical fiction, and her passionate love scenes will satisfy those seeking a titillating romance. A feast for readers looking to taste the luxurious lifestyle of the English upper crust.

POETIC LICENSE ‘A Divine Right to Write’ / Poems and Epigrams

Fontinel-Gibran, R.J. AuthorHouse (142 pp.) $23.99 | $14.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Apr. 14, 2014 978-1-4969-0281-8

In a literary landscape littered with ponderous rhymes and too-confessional verse, it is a joy to come across a strong collection of light poetry, works that flit across the world’s brighter surfaces while only occasionally sneaking beneath to peek at darker depths. Fontinel-Gibran’s slick, slim new collection is a mostly gratifying sequence of what one might call diversionary poetry that delights even as it defies the genre’s subtle pull toward more doleful themes. The sense that this is a happier verse experiment is confirmed early, in adjacent works entitled “The Blue Law” and “Officially Desserted.” The first is a celebration and origin story of the ice cream sundae. The second is simply an unbroken, page-long list of sweets, from Bananas Foster to

Burnt Sugar Marzipan to Coconut Glamour Cake—mouthwatering. Other poems take up or touch upon the joys of gustation, among them “Fringe Benefits,” “The Danes’ Delight” and “Make the Coffee!” Yet Fontinel-Gibran by no means confines herself to culinary themes. “Don’t You Remember; How to Play Flag Football?” sings the joys of gym class: “Even girls play football in gymnasium class; dreaming of wearing one day perhaps an amber football mum on Homecoming night.” “Geoffrey Gopher Would!” playfully laments the rodent tearing up the front yard: “There were just, no way to convey to him, to stop digging up those fucking mounds.” In most of these pieces, Fontinel-Gibran writes in line-less prose poetry, a daring choice, the only drawback being that it sometimes lets the author slip into purple language, as in “The Lonely Number”: “It’s true, by way of separating out from all other organisms, physical objects and realities, the enlightened being grows into a specified, philosophical, regular ‘unit’ on an everyday basis, that ultimately reveals itself through being at peace and in harmony with all other aspects of existence.” This abstraction threatens to fall away into drivel. But there’s more fun than philosophizing in this volume, and it’s well worth the read. Fontinel-Gibran has earned her poetic license.

SAM(UEL)

Gareau, Colleen Self (212 pp.) $9.99 paper | $2.99 e-book 978-0-9938456-3-5 A novel about gender identity, abusive relationships and how to find one’s own way in the world. Gareau’s (My Mother’s Summer Vacations, 2014) latest book centers on Lizzie Valor, a 17-year-old girl in northern Ontario who’s recently become pregnant by her abusive boyfriend, Rue. Lizzie births her baby, Sarah Jane, alone in a bathroom, and when her own father tells her that she must marry Rue to avoid shaming the family with an illegitimate child, she decides to run away and escape to Toronto, the closest big city. Lizzie and Sarah Jane take a 12-hour bus ride there, and once they arrive, they find shelter at hostels, restaurants and, when their money finally runs out, train stations as Lizzie struggles to find a job. At one of these stations, Lizzie encounters a transgender sex worker named Samantha—Sam for short—who notices that Lizzie has a baby. Sam eventually invites the two of them to stay with her until they can get back on their feet. She welcomes Lizzie into her home, with the agreement that Lizzie will cook for her and her other roommate, ZoZo. Eventually, Lizzie learns to be comfortable in her new abode; at the same time, she notices that’s she becoming more and more drawn to Sam, first as a friend and then romantically, despite her uncertainty about Sam’s transgender identity and sex-worker job. The book traces Lizzie and Sam’s budding relationship and explores both of the characters’ feelings about gender and attraction. It also details their respective attempts to tackle their own demons so |

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“It’s a study in surviving disaster as much as it is a mystery novel.” from found, near water

that they may live independent, successful and flourishing lives. Gareau’s intriguing novel explores some timely, substantial themes, including how the world views and treats transgender people and also how transgender people view and treat themselves. Along the way, it engagingly addresses a range of other issues, including addiction and homelessness. The author also does a particularly good job of illuminating the effects that abuse can have on relationships, both familial and romantic. A compelling story about self-acceptance, new beginnings and unconditional love.

THIS’LL BE THE DAY THAT I DIE

Griffin, John Michael Outskirts Press Inc. (334 pp.) $27.95 | $16.95 paper | $6.99 e-book Mar. 27, 2014 978-1-4787-2423-0 In Griffin’s debut novel, four diverse Long Islanders learn that they’re all fated to die on Christmas Day due to a troubling medical “breakthrough.” Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a cutting-edge research lab, announces an amazing discovery that’s connected to the Human Genome Project. A gene labeled p63A can apparently predict with unerring accuracy the dates of death for a monitored group of human subjects. Eerily, even if ill health isn’t a factor, death inevitably strikes the subjects on the predicted calendar date—due to accident, suicide or even murder. The media uproar that follows comes mostly from the religious community, which accuses the scientists of trying to dethrone God. Doctors, meanwhile, are intrigued and scrutinize the phenomena further. Four Long Islanders in the study group, who seemingly have no other direct connections, all come up in test results as destined to die in exactly one year, on Dec. 25, 2013. The condemned include Dan Brannigan, a superrich stock trader with shady deals in his past, who helped fund Cold Spring Harbor; Janet, a suburban wife and worried mother of a man fighting in Afghanistan; Sharona, a 27-year-old African-American woman struggling with an unreliable ex-con boyfriend; and Father Ted, a serious-minded clergyman, wounded in mind and body because of his service in Operation Desert Storm. As scientists monitor each patient, looking for signs of a sinister pattern, the novel counts down the months and weeks to the quartet’s seemingly unavoidable fate. The story’s premise may initially recall the Final Destination horror-film series, but it quickly turns 180 degrees from the juvenile-gore route. Its overall tone is not unlike those of such popular romance tales as Danielle Steel’s Amazing Grace (2007) or Maeve Binchy’s Nights of Rain and Stars (2004); as in those books, an ensemble cast brought together by happenstance undergoes a trauma, and readers eavesdrop on how each character copes in the aftermath. The resolution, which channels metaphysics, the paranormal and biochemistry, is not only satisfying, but also has a graceful sense of science apprehending the Almighty (or the nearest equivalent) 138

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without ever getting overly mawkish or preachy. Griffin, in an afterword, states that he pondered his material for more than 20 years before writing the novel, but it rarely feels forced or overpolished. A mortality-haunted medical sci-fi tale that offers a life-affirming diagnosis.

FOUND, NEAR WATER

Hayton, Katherine Self (214 pp.) $14.99 paper | $2.99 e-book | Jul. 2, 2014 978-0-473-27993-6 In this novel, a victim-support counselor in New Zealand finds that the case of a missing girl takes a bizarre turn when a self-proclaimed psychic gets involved. Christine Emmett, who was once a psychiatrist until she “realized how futile the entire field was,” is close to burning out in her volunteer work as a victim-support counselor for the North Christchurch region working (uneasily) with police. She also runs a support group for mothers with sick, missing or dead children; her own young daughter died, though readers don’t learn exactly how until the end. She’s increasingly distant from her husband, Gary, who drinks heavily. Christine drags herself to her next patient, Rena Sutherland, who woke from a coma to find her young daughter missing. Amid the media glare, a woman, claiming to be a psychic, provides police with valuable information. Meanwhile, one support-group member is falling apart because her daughter’s killer has been released. Could he have taken Rena’s child? As old crimes and tragedies surface, Christine must confront her own past. In her debut novel, Hayton wisely stays away from exploiting her subject for shock value. Rather than describing the disgusting details of crimes against children, she focuses on her characters and how they cope. Her characters are well-drawn, with believable and often heartbreaking histories, warts and all. The portrayals are multilayered. Christine’s cynicism, for example, is clearly a thin mask for her depression, self-hatred and grief but is also bracingly unsentimental, with a side of gallows humor. Hayton draws subtle, interesting and fruitful parallels between the Christchurch earthquake of 2011 and emotional recovery as her broken characters work to navigate the twisted streets of their broken city. It’s a study in surviving disaster as much as it is a mystery novel. One episode perhaps parallels too closely a scene in Tom Perotta’s Little Children, but it’s a minor fault. Taut and engrossing, with a tough humanity.


THE ROOF WALKERS

Pride The Story of the First Openly Gay Navy SEAL

Henderson, Keith DC Books (266 pp.) $34.95 | $21.95 paper | Apr. 30, 2013 978-1-897190-97-5 Henderson’s (The Beekeepers, 1990, etc.) spy novel explores the North American activities of Irish nationalists during the Victorian era. Eoin O’Donoghue is a man of two minds. On the one hand, he’s an Irish Catholic, the son of a Fenian agitator, and the assistant of an ad hoc senator of the ersatz Irish Republic in exile. On the other hand, as a loyal son of Canada West and servant of the British Crown, Eoin has volunteered to spy upon the clandestine revolutionary organization to which he is pledged. His work takes him from his native Montreal to the multiple New Yorks of the 1860s: the crime-ridden tenements of Five Points, the nouveau riche mansions of Brooklyn and the broad Manhattan avenues teaming with the inglorious veterans of the recent Civil War. In letters back to his handler in Canada, Eoin describes the colorful characters who are plotting to turn America into an Irish battlefield: C.E. Linehan, the charming and radical newspaperman; William Roberts, the grand and egotistical draper-cumsenator; and Deidre Hopper, the deadly beauty whose passion may prove enough to lure the young spy from his mission. Eoin must decide if New World political loyalties trump those of the Old World and if any political loyalties trump those of the heart. In an epistolary novel that lovingly mimics works of the period, Henderson reminds readers that the 1860s had two things in great supply: political violence and verbiage. The political movements of the period—American and Canadian, Irish and English—may be largely unknown to the modern reader, and Henderson doesn’t waste much time trying to explain them. Bits of ideology dress the story just like the details of flophouses and oyster bars or the linguistic flourishes and contemporary cultural memes that flow from Eoin’s pen. The book works most impressively as the painstaking reconstruction of a time that feels alien to our own: a time when seemingly every man on the street had a perspective, a pistol and a pun at the ready, when history was not so set in stone that a motivated man might not affect it. A dense, manneristic potboiler for the historically inclined.

Jones, Brett Dog Ear (160 pp.) $12.95 paper | $9.99 e-book | Sep. 5, 2014 978-1-4575-3107-1

An authentic memoir of an openly gay, 10-year member of the U.S. armed forces. With writerly panache and a refreshingly direct tone, the 40-year-old Jones relates the story of his life. He grew up as a middle child plagued by ADHD under the watchful eye of an Air Force officer father and a mother who became a born-again Christian and an antisugar health-food fanatic. He chronicles the family’s many relocations due to his father’s military service—first to Korea, where he explored subterranean tunnels with his brother Marc; and then to Arizona; Cairo; and finally Austin, Texas, where his parents enrolled him in a strictly regimented “boy’s ranch.” The school, however, only ended up distancing him from his parents further, as he inched closer to acknowledging and consummating his homosexual feelings. Desperate to “prove to the world that this ‘faggot’ would accomplish what tens of thousands of straight men had failed to do,” Jones enlisted in the Navy, and his bold journey to become a SEAL began in boot camp during an icy northern Illinois winter. Along the way, he furtively socialized in a clandestine gay club in Mississippi and made two attempts at surmounting a particularly grueling Hell Week during SEAL training in Southern California. He depicts his military service in spirited chapters that offer readers a vicarious view of troop platoon life. He engagingly crafts his most vivid memories into nostalgic anecdotes; some are harrowing, such as a near-death experience he had as a child, and some are unjust and humiliating, such as his military discharge in 2003 for reported homosexual behavior. Jones is a talented writer who quickly gets his story across without unnecessary exposition. He brings a sharp personal perspective to the final chapter: a letter to his young son about how to live life fearlessly and without regret. Readers interested in the experience of being gay in the military, and its former “don’t ask, don’t tell” conundrum, will find Jones’ memoir a rewarding experience. An unflinchingly honest autobiography written with brevity, charm, passion and immense patriotism.

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Interviews & Profiles

Kevin Morris

After an agent told the writer his stories were “white man’s problems,” he ran with it By Joe O’Connell

Kevin Morris owes it all to rejection. Despite his myriad connections as a high-powered Los Angeles entertainment attorney, Morris met a brick wall when he sent out five of his short stories to literary agents. One responded bluntly with, “No offense, but these are just white man’s problems.” In other words, the problems of having your dreams met but fearing you’re an imposter, that those dreams are an illusion, that you are utterly alone but hanging on via a thin thread of antidepressants and extramarital affairs. “I ran with that,” Morris says. “I decided to get off my high horse and go ahead and get the accomplishment done.” 140

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The result is White Man’s Problems, a story collection that Morris first opted to self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace. “I decided I wanted to just get the book finished,” he says. The stories reverberated. Morris bought a review from Kirkus Indie, whose reviewer writes in a starred review that White Man’s Problems is “a clear-eyed, finely wrought and mordantly funny take on a modern predicament by a new writer with loads of talent.” Morris’ law partner Kevin Yorn hosted a Los Angeles book-release party attended by actresses Minnie Driver and Courteney Cox. That was followed by a New York City event hosted by Morris client and South Park co-creator Matt Stone; the guest list included Morgan Entrekin, president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic. Entrekin took a copy home and ended up signing Morris to a two-book deal for his Black Cat imprint that includes a future novel. Don’t mistake Morris or his book as an undeserved insider success story. Consider that New York Times culture writer David Carr dubbed the collection “remarkable.” Morris sees it as the culmination of a life’s dream deferred for a guy from a blue-collar family in Media, Pennsylvania. “In my decision-making years it seemed the responsible thing to do was to pursue a commercial career considering where I was coming from,” he says. “I saw a real job, real work and real money in being a lawyer.” As an attorney, he has gravitated toward representing artists. Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey and director Mike Judge are clients, but Morris is most infamous for his work on behalf of Stone and Trey Parker, whom he met at Sundance long before South Park existed. Morris negotiated a deal that gives the pair an unprecedented chunk of the show’s future revenue, most significantly that derived online.


“There’s a lot that’s enlivening to me about representing artists—protecting them, collaborating with them,” he says. “That’s very rewarding to me.” The writing bug began with him penning newspaper opinion pieces, but he went all in by renting a place in which to write a couple of days a week. “I had to acknowledge I was a writer at heart,” he says. He wrote stories, expanded one into a novel, then went back to the stories with the notion of collecting nine of them in a nod to J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. A painting by friend Karen Green of Morris’ bulldog, Henry, graces the cover of both the self-published and Black Cat book versions. In “Mulligan’s Travel’s,” perhaps the book’s finest story, a rattled former football player–turned-businessman is emotionally estranged from his family. He runs over his own dog as he tries to exit his driveway. “He’s accomplished, but he can’t get out of his own house,” Morris says. “He can’t get his computers to work. That dog he adores more than anything. But he figures it out. He still ends up going nowhere, but he maybe gets a sense of what’s important and what’s not.” His characters range from youth to old age and recall the Johns—Cheever and Updike—who also wrote about the mixed-up lives of American men. “They either settle or fall apart,” Morris says of his characters. “On some level they all know they’re messing up. There are problems they can’t control within themselves and around them. There’s this sense of mortality.” Morris chose to deal with his influences by hitting them head on. The book’s opening story, “Summer Farmer,” shares a title with a Cheever story. Morris also was taken with how Cheever used a lengthy poetic sentence near the end of another tale. Morris’ “Summer Farmer” connects the viewpoints of its two characters—a wealthy man and an elevator operator—with just such a poetic longer interlude. “It’s getting the matter of influences off the table,” he says. “A lot of that has to do with me not doing this until later in life. There’s that anxiety I lived with by not doing it. That goes back to Harold Bloom’s book The Anxiety of Influence.” Updike’s work taught Morris to write about unlikable characters in a way that is still compelling. The collection’s closing story, also titled “White Man’s Problems,” is about a divorced, self-important dad attending his son’s class field trip to the Civil War battle

site in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and offending everyone he runs into. After the dad utters a racist remark, Morris writes, “When he says it, he worried he had gone a bit too far over the boundaries of political correctness. But it was a calculated risk, he thought, the kind white Americans make every day when entering into a new relationship.” Morris doesn’t believe in neat endings, which he sees as at odds with his work as a lawyer. “There are all kinds of different writing in the practice of law,” he says. “Lots of them are about getting rid of ambiguity. I think fiction and life are ambiguous and multifaceted and don’t lend themselves to easy resolution.” Despite his film connections, Morris has made no effort to sell movie rights to the book, preferring instead to keep his writerly life separate from his day job. “Fiction writing takes a lot of hard work in the coal mine,” he says. “I’ve acknowledged that. A big part of me wishes I’d started doing this in my 20s, but maybe I had to wait. What I wrote about certainly would have been way different.” Joe M. O’Connell, author of Evacuation Plan: A Novel from the Hospice, is based in Austin, Texas. White Man’s Problems received a starred review in the Apr. 15, 2014, issue of Kirkus Reviews.

White Man’s Problems Morris, Kevin Grove Press/Black Cat (240 pp.) $15.00 | Dec. 16, 2014 978-0-80-212388-6 |

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“Kearney’s prose is elegant and unfussy, with threads of humor and lyricism.” from the dog thief

THE DOG THIEF

INVITATIONS FROM AFAR

Kearney, Jill Amazon Digital Services (103 pp.) $2.99 e-book | May 10, 2013 Decrepit humans rescue desperate canines, cats and the occasional rat in this collection of shaggy but piercing short stories. Kearney’s impoverished, misfit, outcast characters live mainly on the fictional Sebequet Peninsula, which features a Native American reservation, ramshackle trailer parks and plywood cabins surrounded by trash and rusting metal. In this zone of squalor and despair, people’s connections with animals are, for many, their only links to life. In the story “Sparrows,” a disabled man and his meth-head sister precariously prop each other up but find a stabilizing influence when they take in a maimed pit bull. In “Beverley and Jim,” a raucous old woman, stricken with multiple sclerosis and alcoholism, lives in a caved-in trailer with a herd of cats. An exasperated neighbor helps her out only to realize her importance in his life too late. In the engrossing title story, members of the Sebequet community—including a pot-dealing commune, an animal-control officer and a busybody city transplant who runs a local resort— work out their mutual responsibilities by helping a household full of abused dogs. The Sebequet-based stories are remarkable for their understated, yet vivid, realism and their pitch-perfect rendering of the hard-bitten poverty and frayed social fabric of rural America. Other stories move beyond this territory: In “Driving While Remembering,” a woman returns to her childhood home in Des Moines, Iowa, and realizes how much she has missed; “Circles” ponders a Wyoming wilderness landscape—gorgeously painted by Kearney—and a woman’s regret at rejecting a stray dog; “The Christmas Rats” elegizes the lingering impact of two short-lived, offbeat pets in a girl’s life. Kearney’s prose is elegant and unfussy, with threads of humor and lyricism. She has an excellent eye for settings and ear for dialogue, and she treats her characters, and their relationships with their pets, with a cleareyed, unsentimental sensitivity and psychological depth. Through their struggles, she shows readers a search for meaning through the humblest acts of caretaking and companionship. A superb collection of stories about the most elemental of bonds.

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King, Linda A.W. AuthorHouse (616 pp.) $31.99 | $24.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Jun. 6, 2012 978-1-4772-0387-3 A sci-fi novel, King’s debut, about a secret space mission. After a monthslong mission, the solar ship Copernicus is on its way home—at least until the crew is informed that their ship is in danger of being destroyed by a bomb headed into their flight path. With a little over 24 hours to figure out a solution, the situation is dire, complicated by the fact that the mission is a secret. Or it is to most people. Rumors circulate amid the public about the nature of the expedition as well as potential problems with the crew: Maybe the four returning astronauts are contaminated or their youngest member, 20-year-old Jana Novacek, is in some way a master villain. As Jack, captain of the Copernicus, is informed, “Several papers and TV commentators continue saying the most vicious things about her.” Deciding to transmit directly to the people of Earth, the crew explains the nature of their mission and their subsequent findings. It is decided that Jana will read the detailed journal she has kept, one that follows her story from her selection for the mission, through her training and to the surprising discoveries the team has made. Alternating between Jana’s narrative and the calamities incurred in trying to save the Copernicus, the story is one of complicated machinations and a young woman’s thirst for exploration. Details of Jana’s training can prove sluggish, as with her excitement over a computer expert: “Since so much freedom in a formal learning situation still was a novelty to me, I continuously exerted the effort to behave respectfully toward such a brilliant and generous man.” However, readers will be intrigued by the many questions percolating around the endangered solar ship. What is the true motivation behind a secret journey deep into space? Why is a foreign government “financing in excess of 80 percent of the mission”? Does someone want to murder four seemingly innocent astronauts? While the answers may not be quite as dark as some readers expect, the book maintains steady tension through to its emotional conclusion. Kept alight by a dangerous race against time and a fair share of surprises, this lengthy book makes for an exciting voyage into space.


RUNNING FOR THE HOUSE

Kleinhendler, Howard CreateSpace (318 pp.) $12.95 paper | $7.95 e-book | Sep. 9, 2014 978-1-5002-8258-5 An aspiring congressman is unwittingly a pawn in a complicated game of political espionage. Kleinhendler’s debut thriller is the story of Michael Gordon, a businessman who decides to enter politics in midlife and run for Congress. Unbeknownst to Gordon, however, the people encouraging him to run and managing his campaign are members of a secret cabal known only as “the committee.” A sort of blackops unit loosely connected with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the committee contains some of the world’s top spies. Their goal is to create a deadly biological weapon to combat the Russian control of South American drug markets, and their hope is to install Gordon as a puppet in Congress to help further their agenda. Gordon goes blithely along with the plan, never really suspecting just how much he is being manipulated and what he has really gotten himself into. The seemingly unerring committee rarely stumbles. They are able to pull the strings of virtually every other character in the book, even infecting one person with cancer. Kleinhendler certainly skimps on the character development in favor of thrills and complicated schemes. This is especially true when it comes to his female characters—nearly all are impossibly beautiful, sexy, smart and good with a gun. The convoluted plot—full of spies and femmes fatales—gets ever knottier as it nears its climax, and it’s hard to remember who is out to kill whom. Yet, this novel seems to bask in all of its thrills, sex and violence, and it’s appealing for not pretending to be anything other than what it is. It could be tailor-made for a Hollywood summer blockbuster, one where the guns rule the action while the stars coolly say lines like, “That was quite a mess in Rio.” In a time when the scope of the National Security Agency remains a hot-button issue, and drug cartels continue to wreak havoc around the world, this novel taps into a kind of escapist cultural zeitgeist. An entertaining, if shallow, thriller.

ANOMALY

Kuper, Tonya Entangled Teen (400 pp.) $9.99 paper | $5.69 e-book Nov. 25, 2014 978-1-62266-405-4 This teen sci-fi debut features a nerdy heroine who can add and subtract objects from reality. For Josie Harper’s 17th birthday, her boyfriend dumps her. Worse, she hasn’t seen her father in a month, and her summer internship at a physics lab has fallen through. She misses her deceased brother, Nick, and nothing seems right, until the darkly handsome Reid

Wentworth arrives at Oceanside High on his motorcycle. He gets Josie away from her overprotective mother to explain that he—and she, now that she’s of age—have the power to Push reality; they can create inanimate objects at will, contingent on being able to visualize them. They can also Retract objects that have been Pushed, making Reid and Josie Anomalies. The catch is that both gifts draw from a finite reservoir of energy, and depleting it brings mental and physical degeneration. Reid then informs Josie that the Schrodinger Consortium wants to kill them (and others like them, called Oculi), but as a member of the Resistance, he can protect and train her. Josie is reluctant to trust Reid and his partner, Santos, but the more she contemplates her father’s absence and her mother’s work as a neurological researcher, she realizes her life isn’t quite what she thinks it is. Debut author Kuper’s sleek prose—saturated with pop-culture references—invites both nerds and the uninitiated into the world of the Oculi. “Thank Thor,” Josie says, as well as adorably dorky things like “even though he could be an underwear model, I would’ve rather made out with a Romulan.” Nods to quantum theory abound, too, with normal, non-Pushers called “Plancks,” after the physicist. The chemistry between Reid and Josie is solid, despite an underwhelming secret connection. Problematic, however, is Reid’s assertion that “We can’t Push anything with a soul,” meaning anything living or dead; Josie eventually Pushes trees and yet later cannot Push a viral serum. Aside from these slippery details, the narrative redeems itself through great twists and the positive message that reality is ours to shape. Sweet teen reading for fans of X-Men, Star Trek and all things geeky.

IMMIGRANT SOLDIER The Story of a Ritchie Boy Lang-Slattery, K. PacificBookworks

In this debut historical novel, a young German Jew flees his homeland before World War II and is later drafted into the U.S. Army, serving closely under the legendary Gen. George S. Patton. Lang-Slattery effectively mines family history to create a solid work of historical fiction from her uncle’s real-life derringdo. Herman Lang is a teenager when he witnesses Kristallnacht firsthand; he watches Nazi storm troopers drag his neighbors into the street and detain the men. Endangered by his Jewish heritage, Lang’s mother forces him to hide until she arranges for safe passage to England and then America. He travels to California, where a lucky hitchhiking ride lands him a job as a busboy at a nightclub in a posh Los Angeles hotel. But when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Lang is drafted. Frustrated and bored in a stateside post, he writes directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asking that his fluent German be put to use in the coming invasion. Throughout, the author peppers the novel with Lang’s lively correspondence. Mysteriously, Lang receives classified orders and travels to Camp Ritchie, a secluded Maryland base where the mostly immigrant soldiers are trained to collect |

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“Leaton steers clear of a definite resolution, leaving readers to question whether the protagonist is insane or mystical.” from vivienne’s blog

intelligence by studying German, map reading, field observation and interrogation techniques. The last finally gets him to the European theater, where he interrogates German prisoners for Patton’s Third Army. On his way back from the front one day, he meets the general himself and eventually becomes one of his loyal go-to men. Readers may get little sense of the story heading anywhere specific, and the novel lacks an effective climax. However, Lang-Slattery still has great source material here. In the sunny glamour of the book’s California passages, she effectively evokes the young immigrant’s overflowing hope as he rides down a boulevard “lined with palm trees and Spanishstyle stucco buildings painted white, tan, light green, and pale pink, their tile roofs glowing red and their arched entranceways offering a peek beyond to lush gardens and hidden patios.” Overall, her uncle’s fictionalized adventures never fail to interest, whether he’s slipping behind the lines for Patton or simply attempting to romance the local girls. An often engaging tale of one man’s involvement in the world’s most horrific war.

CURING MEDICARE One Doctor’s View of How Our Health Care System is Failing the Elderly and How to Fix It

Lazris, Andy CreateSpace (288 pp.) $15.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 13, 2014 978-1-4995-4980-5978

A gerontologist’s take on what is needed to reform Medicare. Lazris (The Blue Gene War, 2004, etc.) finds fault with Medicare’s payment rules and believes the system may undermine the health and well-being of elderly patients. The author notes that Medicare reforms in the Affordable Care Act failed to provide safer, affordable alternatives to frequent hospitalizations for treating the elderly. Lazris, a primary care geriatric physician and medical director at facilities for the frail elderly, advocates a minimalist approach to medical interventions for many chronic health problems of advanced age, including dementia. He argues that Medicare’s outdated payment rules and assumptions about life expectancy are financing “an interminable search for eternal life” instead of ensuring that Medicare pays for long-term “palliative” care, ideally at home. “[W]ith age comes a decline that no amount of dollars will curtail,” Lazris writes, although the elderly and their families often think otherwise. One of his female patients petulantly “fired” him, labeling the good doctor a “nincompoop” for taking her off a statin drug that he believed was doing her more harm than good. Lazris devotes the final part of his book to proposing Medicare policy changes to reduce “excessive use” of expensive medical tests and medications for treating the inevitable losses of aging. The author concedes that changing Medicare will be difficult. Some obstacles to reform may be too entrenched, but Lazris presents a convincing case for introducing 144

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modest financial “disincentives” into the Medicare payment system, which might include $50 copays for appointments with certain types of medical specialists, $100 copays for procedures such as MRIs and $200 copays for every trip to a hospital emergency room—all paid for out of pocket. With an insider’s view, the author does an excellent job of diagnosing pervasive problems in the Medicare system. A fascinating look at how Medicare must change.

Vivienne’s Blog

Leaton, Stephen K. CreateSpace (384 pp.) $29.99 paper | $9.99 e-book Sep. 9, 2014 978-1-4960-1240-1 Leaton’s debut psychological thriller takes place in the fractured mind of Vivienne Coroth, who, believing herself a descendant of Faeries, may be plotting revenge against her ex-lover and his new wife. Thanks to a court order, Vivienne can’t get anywhere near her ex, Callum, or his wife, Mary. So Vivienne starts writing a blog for Callum, hiding a password for website access in the pages of a letter she sends him. As far as Vivienne knows, Callum won’t find the password, but he’ll wish he had: Vivienne is regularly watching Mary and the couple’s twin toddler sons at the mall. She snatches one of the boys, Samuel, and spends days telling him about her Faerie family, beginning in the late 18th century—a history she knows because her ancestors’ memories have been passed on to her. But Vivienne has plans for Samuel, involving a powerful spell that she’ll soon cast. Leaton’s novel has great fun toying with perspective; the entire narrative is the blog, as Vivienne posts letters to and from Callum, as well as correspondence from Callum’s lawyers, who strongly suggest she stop writing her ex. Vivienne firmly believes that she’s a Faerie (she looks human but makes it clear she isn’t one), but Leaton avoids confirming the possibility as fact. This results in numerous bizarre, often humorous sequences in which Vivienne, for instance, converses with Samuel who, at a mere 18 months, speaks in adult-sized sentences: “The stuff about the uncles was hardly a lullaby, was it? Oh, sanitise it for me if you must. Just give me the facts about your eponymous ancestress.” There are likewise hilarious reminders of his age (he still plays with blocks), which tend to offset the seriousness of a child having been kidnapped. Vivienne recounts to Samuel a great deal of her background (mostly Faerie but some of her human family, too) and a few of her dreams; these sufficiently mold the woman’s mindset, but they’re also a bit excessive, coming across as a series of only moderately relevant short stories, each with its own title and separate chapter. Leaton steers clear of a definite resolution, leaving readers to question whether the protagonist is insane or mystical. The story leans in one direction near the end before a crackerjack finish. The narrator may be unreliable, but the stories she tells, as well as her own, are infinitely appealing.


THE LAKE OF FAR Stories

That Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times

Lilly, Paul R. Opus at Politics and Prose Bookstore $16.00 paper | Mar. 15, 2014 978-1-62429-022-0 In this strong collection of short stories tinged with uneasiness, regret or loss, characters grapple with making sense of things. Nine of the 13 short stories were previously published in literary magazines; this is the first collection from essayist, writer and professor emeritus Lilly (Words in Search of Victims: The Achievement of Jerzy Kosinski, 1988). In the title story, Vic—an acquisitions librarian—has impulsively moved his wife and 11-year-old daughter from the Northeast to New Mexico, to a shoddy, vaguely threatening apartment complex with sketchy neighbors and a pack of unsupervised kids. Driving back alone one night, Vic hears a radio revivalist ranting about “the bad place, the Lake of Far, burning somewhere you can’t see.” The voice “unwind[s] its skein of signs, warnings, accounts not settled.” This mood of impending reckoning and the need to interpret signs characterizes many of the stories. In “Want Ad,” Ari is a rug salesman well-versed in the art of reading rugs’ patterns; “the temptation is to think rug-reading can rub off into other areas,” such as his own body. For example, he looks in the mirror and sees “inauspiciousness is written all over the face.” The haunting “Mother’s Milk” follows a troubled boy polishing his mother’s shoes, studying “different patterns”; in his father’s snowmobile shop, he arranges the track rollers in “special patterns on the cement floor.” In “The Pope’s Dream,” workmen repairing Michelangelo’s damaged Pietà “begin to read signs from the configuration of bone-fingers.” As for what these signs and patterns reveal, Lilly’s characters find few satisfying answers. One narrator, on regular visits to a wounded vet friend, says, “Each time I return to Ward E I try to force a change, break a pattern,” but in the end, he watches a crazy man in a jester’s hat shutting down traffic: “For some reason I want him to stop and talk. But I settle for just watching him escape.” Despite the air of regret, these stories resist cynicism and embrace several telling, humane moments. Thoughtful, well-observed, haunting—a great debut collection.

Lime, Liz Words In The Works LLC (38 pp.) $9.99 paper | Sep. 10, 2014 978-0-9910364-7-9

A book of nursery rhymes for a new generation, with topical references to the world we live in. Nursery rhymes evolved in the Western world of the 18th century, when childhood was increasingly seen as a distinct phase of life deserving of unique considerations: clothing, food, literature and entertainment. The world has continued to change since then, and Lime’s book of poetry for children, her first, attempts to keep pace. Her poems, mostly written in limerick-style verse, are outwardly simple and easily understood by young readers and listeners. There are the girl who loves shoes, the friends who encounter a bear, the boy who eats too much. But, in the back of the book, each poem also has an accompanying explanation, ostensibly directed at parents and caregivers, outlining a larger cultural significance. Sometimes, the connection between the poem and its teachable moment is strong and clear, as in the titular poem about the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and in “The King’s Dream,” about the promise of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In other instances, however, the connection is a stretch. Is the poem about girls’ love for shoes—which at least on the surface seems to propound a troubling stereotype—really about dictatorial governments, with Imelda Marcos as the fall guy? But even where some connections seem tenuous, the high-quality illustrations help connect the dots. In some cases, the author includes detailed explanations about the collaborative decisionmaking that informed the illustrations, demonstrating some serious thought behind the seemingly simple blending of word and image. In the end, this book is bright and engaging, easy to read and a pleasure to hold and look at—with the caveat that caregivers will either want to vet it ahead of time or be certain to enjoy it alongside the young readers in their care. Both entertaining and thoughtful, this book is a good choice for families looking to foster a sense of social conscience.

THE CALORIS RIM PROJECT

Mac Donald, Glenn P. FriesenPress (352 pp.) $27.99 | $17.99 paper | $5.99 e-book Oct. 24, 2014 978-1-4602-4684-9 A subtle spiritual allegory cloaked in the guise of a sci-fi thriller. In the year 2250, Maj. Frank Rawdon is a special agent for the United States Space Command Intelligence Service on a top-secret mission to investigate allegations that Germany is committing Solar Exodus Treaty violations. These laws |

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“The well-described parcours scenes nicely capture the sport’s dynamic flow—a perfect fit for Eloise’s live-in-the-moment ethos.” from dark prayer

essentially require all governments and corporations to make public any research into the advancement of space travel. Rawdon, a virtually unstoppable combat expert, has a penchant for finding trouble, and after he’s arrested for murder on Venus, he escapes in the hold of a spaceship full of hundreds of massive, extended stasis carriers. They contain Turgor soldiers—giant, bioengineered human killing machines that have been classified as weapons by the United States military. Rawdon wonders where these soldiers are being sent, and why, so he stows away inside the ship until it reaches Mercury, a planet that supposedly hasn’t been visited by anyone in seven years. Once there, he discovers a technological conspiracy of the highest order, but that’s just the beginning of the mind-blowing revelations: He also finds out about humankind’s military partnership with a tree-trunk–like alien race known as the Arbortruncae, who are involved in an intensifying conflict. The more Rawdon, a nonbeliever who doesn’t put stock in any afterlife (“There’s just one big dirt nap when we’re all done, and that’s it”), learns about the universe and its sentient beings, the more he questions his own beliefs. He soon realizes that he has no idea whether humankind’s actions are heroic or the vilest kind of evil. This is an impressive debut novel that effectively fuses the hard-core sci-fi and military-thriller genres. Although most of the human characters are relatively two-dimensional, the author savvily incorporates an abundance of intriguing ideas into the storyline to make up for it; for example, a key element of the tale involves a means of almost-instantaneous space travel—one that essentially breaks space. The complex back story of the aliens’ conflict, meanwhile, involves one race’s “search for a gateway to God” and mythology that strangely parallels biblical myths involving Nephilim and spiritual transcendence. The resulting themes, both science- and faith-based, make the novel a powerful and undeniably thought-provoking read. At the same time, it provides edge-of-your-seat, action-packed thrills throughout. An original, surprising novel for mainstream sci-fi fans.

FORTUNE HUNTERS

Masters, Riley Lost Haven Press (328 pp.) $12.95 paper | $2.99 e-book Mar. 22, 2014 978-0-615-95658-9 Boston’s rising-star financial detectives McBain and O’Daniel uncover a scheme of fraud and murder in Masters’ debut mystery. Masters’ story takes place in Boston’s downtown, near the financial district and in the wealthy suburb of Brookline soon after the financial meltdown and Madoff ’s Ponzi scheme. Boozy McBain, a Wall Street trader–turneddetective, and his partner, Boston O’Daniel, a fiery redhead and the police captain’s daughter, reveal a talent for financial fraud investigation and for reaching large settlements with money managers who’ve scammed their clients. While celebrating his latest victory at his favorite watering hole, McBain meets 146

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Christina Baker, a 30-something raven-haired beauty with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue. His interests are purely social, but Baker has just lost her inheritance and her parents in an apparent double suicide; she wants her money back and justice. With mixed motives and strong reservations, McBain agrees to investigate the case on his own time. When O’Daniel discovers her partner’s off-the-books activities, she’s intrigued by the case and joins the paper chase. Although McBain and O’Daniel can’t find proof of criminal activity, their client presses, certain that her parents’ financial adviser, Roche is somehow involved. As the investigation turns up new leads, ties are made between her parents’ physician, Lehmann, and Roche. Pulling on the loose threads, the detectives begin to unravel an elaborate scheme of fraud, murder and personal betrayal in which greed, passion and family secrets hide behind proper appearances. Masters’ wellwritten story weaves together exquisite plot twists, believable characters and realistic dialogue, resulting in a story that flies by in vividly descriptive writing: In McBain’s favorite bar, “The room hummed softly to the engine of glass, ice, and conversation,” and in an exchange between Baker and McBain: “You do like your martinis....Why do you drink so many?” “They’re what some of us have instead of children.” A novel this good isn’t beginner’s luck; indeed, Masters’ consummate writing skills, his work on Wall Street and his experience living in Boston drive a most authentic storyline. A riveting novel ripped from the headlines of the Wall Street Journal.

DARK PRAYER

Mostert, Natasha Portable Magic Ltd (296 pp.) $28.65 | $13.99 paper | $3.82 e-book Oct. 16, 2014 978-1-909965-20-1 Tasked with investigating a young woman who has forgotten her identity, a man uncovers connections to a secret society. “Tycoon’s son in brawl,” reads the caption accompanying a photo of Jack Simonetti’s latest escapade. Young, handsome, idle and dependent on his father Leon’s wealth, Jack has no recourse when ordered from New York to London to help out Leon’s old friend Daniel Barone, whose ward, Jenilee, disappeared and lost her memory. Found after more than two years (and now calling herself Eloise Blake), she wants nothing to do with her well-appointed old life; instead, she prefers the dangerous game of living by her wits and practicing “free running,” or parcours. Also a parcoursist, Jack is enjoined by Barone to win Eloise’s trust and convince her to return home. Eloise is suspicious: She’s tormented by hallucinations, half-memories and obsessively remembered numbers, but after Jack saves her life, she accepts his aid. As the two investigate, they uncover links to a secret scientific/mystical society, the Order of Mnemosyne, whose members included Daniel, Leon and Eloise’s mother. The Order ran hubristic experiments


that seem connected to Eloise’s current memory problems— but someone wants these memories to remain forgotten, putting her in danger. South African novelist Mostert (Season of the Witch, 2013, etc.) brings together fascinating strands of biology, psychology and mysticism, with astute observations on memory, the past, identity and love. The well-described parcours scenes nicely capture the sport’s dynamic flow—a perfect fit for Eloise’s live-in-the-moment ethos: “Never slow down. If a movement doesn’t work out, don’t agonise over the recovery; just move your body forward. Movement is life. That was what parkour was all about.” Jack’s development from self-centered rich kid to self-sacrificing lover is believably handled, paralleling his growing respect for Eloise’s right and ability to make her own decisions. Mostert skillfully ups the ante with suspenseful episodes of danger leading to a climactic rooftop scene. A brainy, fast-moving thriller about memory and identity.

THE FLORENTINE DECEPTION Nachenberg, Carey Manuscript

In Nachenberg’s thriller debut, a computer-security expert finds evidence that a 137-carat diamond is stashed somewhere, but dangerous people may be looking for the same thing. Alex Fife is living comfortably after he and his college pals sold their cybersecurity startup company to ViruTrax. Cleaning up a computer from an estate sale, Alex learns that its now-dead owner, Richard Lister, an archaeologist, may have been peddling the Florentine Diamond, stolen nearly a century ago. Alex sees a potential for adventure and checks out Richard’s house, which is on the market, where Alex is convinced Richard has hidden the diamond. But he soon realizes that someone else may want the precious stone (he hears someone creeping around the house late at night). A prospective buyer, unaware that Richard’s dead, sends angry emails to Richard’s account, vaguely threatening the deceased’s brother, Ronald. But what Richard was trying to sell may be about much more than the diamond. The author’s novel boasts equal servings of excitement, suspense and humor. Alex makes an offer on the house just so his engineer friend Steven can pose as an inspector and have good reason to scour the place; Steven hams up his performance for a realtor, superfluously (but hilariously) donning a fake mustache. The latter half of the novel is more exhilarating, as more than one formidable foe is revealed, and Alex, along with a few friends, is indisputably in peril. The protagonist initially is selfish—his apparent interest in finding the diamond is to combat boredom—but his ultimate determination to help Ronald will garner him plenty of sympathy with readers. He’s also a believable hero, not immune to making mistakes or being stumped by seemingly simple tasks. Getting access to Richard’s body at the UCLA Medical School—it may hold the key to getting inside a secured panic room—turns out to be an arduous undertaking; it’s also the book’s highlight, as it features Alex’s grandfather, Papa, who

charmingly plays the part of a sickly old man by humming softly to himself. Computer terminology is clear enough without overelaboration, and Alex’s final chance to stop the baddies appropriately returns to where it all started—in front of a computer. Tackles multiple genres—thriller, action, comedy— and champions each one with panache.

BUTCHER A HOG

O’Sullivan, Brian Sylvie O’ (434 pp.) $14.39 paper | $2.99 e-book | Jun. 1, 2013 978-0-615-73217-6 O’Sullivan’s “fictionalized memoir” chronicles a horror-filled life. Meet Liam McCarthy, memoirist O’Sullivan’s alter ego, in this, his first writing effort. Young Liam, Irish born and raised, slips into this country on a tourist visa. For the next 400 pages (and about 20 years), we follow Liam through daily hell, much of it of his own making. Not only has he a taste for booze, but he quickly develops a taste for cocaine and Xanax. With little education and having to live below governmental radar, he gets only pickup jobs— plastering, roofing and the like—and many last only a week, if that, though in the Irish underground economy, the lads do (mostly) look out for one another. Housing is another horror: cheap digs with five or six crammed together. What should go toward groceries goes toward beer or drugs. Liam is desperate for a woman but so ashamed of his appearance that he makes do with a notorious inflatable girlfriend. His self-esteem is close to nil and steadily dropping. But slowly, there are hopeful developments. He finds rehab and AA, gets married and is sober for 8 years, a remarkable achievement. Readers root for him. Then the marriage sours, and Liam relapses. But he hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. (Rock bottom is described in the opening chapter; then we flash back to the beginning, in 1985). Liam does find solid redemption or else there would be no story. Of course, he doesn’t become whole and happy overnight, but he has found what blighted his life and the means to begin again. The subject is relentlessly bleak but not so the execution of it. There is even saving humor (but only just). Liam is likable, and the idiomatic Irish voice is strong and direct, with a lilt to it. And the ending is wonderfully handled. Readers willing to be dragged through hell will take Liam to heart.

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Jimi & Isaac 5a: The Brain Injury

Rink, Phil Amazon Digital Services (80 pp.) $2.99 e-book | Nov. 25, 2014

Rink (Jimi & Isaac 4a: Solar Powered, 2011, etc.) paints a visceral, moving portrait of a young boy whose life is thrown into chaos when his father unexpectedly falls from the roof and receives a potentially life-threatening head injury. Isaac is a smart kid. He and his father are installing new solar panels on the roof of their house, solar panels made, in fact, with a new chemical mixture that Isaac himself invented. Just as they finish, however, Isaac’s father slips backward and falls off the roof. In short order, he is in the hospital, in critical condition, and Isaac is left to navigate a confusing world of worried mothers, concerned friends and well-intentioned uncles trying to prepare him for the worst. Uncle Bob doesn’t manage to put a dent in Isaac’s initial denial, however, nor does the well-meaning concern of Isaac’s best friend, Jimi. As events progress, it becomes clear that there’s a very real possibility Isaac’s dad may not fully recover. Isaac, boy genius or not, finds himself struggling with the prospect of what life may be like if his father doesn’t recover. Every part of Isaac’s journey is meticulously and thoughtfully drawn. The emotional reality of what is happening to him and his family is conveyed realistically and

This Issue’s Contributors # Adult Elfrieda Abbe • Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Joseph Barbato • Rebekah Bergman • Becky Bicks Amy Boaz • Jeffrey Burke • Lee E. Cart • Dave DeChristopher • Kathleen Devereaux • Bobbi Dumas Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Anjali Enjeti • Michele Filgate • Jordan Foster • Julie Foster • Peter Franck Mia Franz • Peter Heck • April Holder • Jessica Jernigan • Robert M. Knight • Christina M. Kratzner Paul Lamey • Chelsea Langford • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Eric Liebetrau Elsbeth Lindner • Joe Maniscalco • Virginia C. McGuire • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee Carole Moore • Clayton Moore • Jennifer Morell • Sarah Morgan • Elise Moser • Laurie Muchnick Liza Nelson • John Noffsinger • Sarah Norris • Cynthia-Marie O’Brien • Mike Oppenheim • Derek Parsons • Jim Piechota • Signe Pike • Gary Presley • Benjamin Rybeck • Lloyd Sachs • Leslie Safford Chaitali Sen • Gene Seymour • Rosanne Simeone • Linda Simon • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Rachel Sugar • Matthew Tiffany • Steve Weinberg • Rodney Welch Carol White • Chris White • Joan Wilentz • Kerry Winfrey • Marion Winik Children’s & Teen Alison Anholt-White • Kim Becnel • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Patty Carleton • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Elise DeGuiseppi • Andi Diehn • Brooke Faulkner • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Laurel Gardner • Judith Gire • Ruth I. Gordon • Faye Grearson • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Jennifer Hubert • Shelley Huntington • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • Joy Kim • K. Lesley Knieriem Megan Dowd Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Nina Lindsay • Lori Low • Joan Malewitz Hillias J. Martin • Jeanne McDermott • Shelly McNerney • Kathie Meizner • Mary Margaret Mercado Lisa Moore • Kathleen Odean • Deb Paulson • Rachel G. Payne • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Amy Robinson • Lesli Rodgers • Erika Rohrbach • Katie Scherrer • Dean Schneider • Hillary Foote Schwartz • Stephanie Seales • John W. Shannon • Karyn N. Silverman • Robin Smith • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • Gordon West • Kimberly Whitmer • Monica Wyatt Indie Paul Allen • Kent Armstrong • Alexandra Bicks • Claire Bushey • Charles Cassady • Stephanie Cerra Michael Deagler • Lynne Heffley • Justin Hickey • Susan J.E. Illis • Collin Marchiando • Florence Olsen • Joshua T. Pederson • Jim Piechota • Jon C. Pope • Megan Roth • Jessica Skwire Routhier Jerome Shea • Barry Silverstein • Jack Spring • Emily Thompson • Powder Thompson • Heather Varnadore • Nick A. Zaino

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with tremendous care. This is accomplished not only with clear, excellent prose, but also with insightful characterization. Rink in particular captures the essence of a young boy in the throes of denial over his father’s condition. The interactions between Isaac and Jimi are just the right balance of sincere and awkward, as when Isaac says he can’t wait for his dad to get better: “ ‘He’s going to get better?’ Jimi said. ‘That’s great!’ I just looked at him. ‘Of course he’s going to get better,’ I said. I thought for a minute. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘What did you hear?’ Jimi turned away from me, grabbed a shirt off the floor, and hung it up. ‘Nothing, I guess,’ he said to the closet.” All told, it is a simple and powerful story, authentically told. Highly recommended for both its quality of writing and its superb handling of difficult subject matter.

DEFEATING DEPRESSION Real Help for You and Those Who Love You

Stone, Howard W. CreateSpace (257 pp.) $14.99 paper | Sep. 12, 2014 978-1-5007-3975-1

A psychologist offers practical, downto-earth self-help advice for victims of depression and their families. Stone (How to Think Theologically, 2013, etc.), a practicing marriage and family therapist, writes in this eminently readable book that self-help “is exactly what’s needed to manage and defeat depression.” While he doesn’t advocate avoiding professional help, Stone offers numerous strategies and techniques enabling those with depression to take immediate, substantive action to solve their own problems. The authoritative, comprehensive guide begins with an overview of depression in a section that aims to remove the stigma of depression and help sufferers embrace a future of hope. The bulk of the book details the “four faces” of depression: physiological, cognitive, behavioral and interpersonal, or as Stone puts it more simply, “body, thoughts, actions, and relationships.” The author devotes several chapters to each of the four areas and includes specific examples of people who overcame depression. In the chapters concerning the cognitive area, he discusses errors in thinking that accentuate depression as well as ways to change negative thinking, control obsessive thoughts, create hopeful conversation, reassign blame, deal with guilt and confront the inner critic. In a particularly interesting exercise, Stone recommends creating a depression flowchart. “The depression flowchart,” he writes, “simply reverses the order of the flowchart for assembling a piece of furniture: you learn how you get depressed and therefore what not to do. Now you can design an alternative way of responding to life’s frustrations and uncertainties.” A final part of the book provides specific resources to help with depression, including suicide prevention strategies and ways to seek out and evaluate professional help. At the end of every chapter, Stone appends two very helpful sections, “Take Action” and “For the Family,” each containing


specific steps an individual and family can take to most effectively apply the chapter’s content to their own situations. Also helpful are appendices that include a “self-rating depression scale” and suggested readings and references. Well-organized and replete with examples and exercises; a highly usable aid for those with depression and for concerned families and friends who want to offer meaningful guidance.

A BETTER WORLD

Tarazona, Belangela G. Self (324 pp.) $11.83 paper | Nov. 5, 2014 978-8-7997-3794-9 A collection of three disquieting novellas featuring young women seeking better lives, from prolific Venezuelan-Danish author Tarazona (Daggryets Barn, 2014). In the first novella, 29-year-old Saja, a well-educated, formerly well-off Sri Lankan, finally accepts that her political prisoner husband is dead. She seeks asylum in Denmark, but her life at the refugee camp there is troublesome. Forced to deal with racism, jealousy and would-be rapists, Saja finally receives word her application has been approved by the Danish Immigration Service. Building a new life for herself, she becomes involved with Peter, an immigration employee who is fired due to their relationship—a minor hurdle as they work toward a future together. In the second story, young Yonna’s entire Wayuu family is massacred by a rival clan. After her captor rapists tire of her, she finds a degree of safety weaving for a tradeswoman in Maracaibo. She is rescued by Dorothea “Thea” Weiss, a German expatriate. They form a close bond, and newly confident Yonna meets Daniel, a Danish engineer working in Venezuela. The two embark on a romantic adventure, uncertain what the future will bring. In the third story, Taraji, the least sympathetic of the young women affected by violence, was adopted from South Africa by a Danish couple, Jacob and Liva. When teenage Taraji begins asking questions about her birth parents, she misinterprets Liva’s reticence as insecurity rather than protective instinct; Liva doesn’t wish Taraji to know that her conception resulted from a violent rape. Despite her loving parents and stable boyfriend, Taraji embarks on self-destructive behavior. While the stories have an optimistic tone, the voyages in all three are painful ones. Saja and Yonna both exhibit great strength of character and highly developed principles; Taraji shows willfulness and selfishness. Saja’s story is perhaps the most affecting as the reader witnesses the disbelief of Danish authorities that she could be an educated, intelligent young woman; they see only a destitute woman who must be lying about her past. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the stories is that all three are set in the recent past—1990s through the present—a time that, we’d like to think, should be more enlightened. Provocative, disturbing group of novellas that humanize international problems of violence and the plight of refugees.

THE SANTERO

Vincenti, F. R. CreateSpace (224 pp.) $8.95 paper | $2.99 e-book | Sep. 9, 2014 978-1-4961-2043-4 In Vincenti’s debut mystery, a detective in small-town New Mexico investigates the possible murder of his wealthy friend’s promiscuous wife. Wallace Krieg, a rookie detective on the Santero police force, is dyslexic and sometimes has to use a ruler when he reads to keep letters from rearranging themselves on the page. However, his ability to think in images gives him an intuitive knack for his work. When Lana Silvers, the wife of his friend Adam, turns up dead in her bedroom, Krieg is assigned the case. However, the police aren’t sure that it’s actually a murder investigation, as there’s no clear cause of death. If it is murder, Adam would certainly be a suspect, as he married a gold digger—a fact that became apparent within months of their wedding. Lana’s mother, meanwhile, is staying at the couple’s house, which is strange, as she don’t seem to have known her daughter very well. The forensic investigation to establish the cause of death takes up much of the book, and Vincenti conveys the scientific jargon in assured, knowledgeable prose. This plotline unfolds in tandem with the characters’ back stories, including how Adam helped the teenage Krieg escape his abusive family and the reasons that Krieg’s girlfriend, Sammie Turco, objects to his dangerous career. This refreshing police procedural, with its setting of “endless blacktop flanked by sand, prickly pear and agave,” flouts readers’ usual tawdry expectations when the body of a K i r k us M e di a LL C # President M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N Chief Financial Officer J ames H ull SVP, Marketing M ike H ejny SVP, Online Paul H offman # Copyright 2015 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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“The author contextualizes these moments in concrete, lived experience, often evoking multiple senses in a brief flash of 17 syllables...” from bashō in america

young, beautiful woman is discovered. There are no throwaway characters; even Adam’s lawyer gets a line of characterization: “Hampton Marshall never does anything before ten in the morning except have his coffee and Danish.” In particular, Vincenti writes realistic dialogue, as when Krieg makes an observation about a con artist: “What a charmer. People like her scare me. You’re not even aware you’re being victimized. Sometime later you just don’t feel good anymore.” The author also adds tension with the introduction of rogue mobster Manny Colys, who carries a grudge against Krieg and is determined to realize Turco’s worst fears. An engrossing mystery, realistic but never grisly, set against the haunting reaches of New Mexico.

THE IMMIGRANT One from My Four Legged Stool

Woollacott III, Alfred Manuscript Jul. 4, 2014

Woollacott’s debut novel, the first in a planned trilogy, takes a long view of family history, from the predominant clan culture in Scotland during English civil war to early Colonial life in Massachusetts to the outbreak of the American Revolution. Having clashed with British troops at Concord, young Minuteman Reuben Law suffers the loss of his captain. Distraught over the loss and socially shunned for his Scottish heritage, Law reflects on the history of his great grandfather John Law, a Scot who was sent to the Colonies as one of Cromwell’s prisoners during the English civil war. Captured by the Covenanters and brought to the point of starvation, John was indentured to work in an ironworks near Concord, though he decided to continue his indenture as a public sheepherder for the community. Living on meager rations, he built a shelter and began planting on the land allotted to him, taking advice from a helpful native and fantasizing about the “New Scotland” he was creating for himself. As a victim of extreme anti-Scottish prejudice by the Puritan locals, John preferred to remain a recluse on the outskirts of town. Nevertheless, he fell for a young Puritan girl who brought her prize ewe for him to care for; eventually, the two (humans) married. As Woollacott deftly shows, the couple experienced some of the tremendous trials of Colonial life: infant mortality, ambivalent natives (King Philip’s War wrought havoc on natives and settlers alike), the threat of public disfavor, and the confusing and ever changing rules regarding landownership. Woollacott takes readers to war three times and on two continents, but his most impressive achievement is the gravity and majesty with which he depicts the everyday domestic realities faced by the Laws, from the romantic tension of sleeping on either side of a bundling board to the joy of a roaring fireside. A gripping tale about the endurance and fortitude of an unlikely colonist.

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BASHŌ IN AMERICA

Zulauf, Sander iUniverse (52 pp.) $9.95 paper | $3.99 e-book Sep. 26, 2014 978-1-4917-4239-6 Perceptive and meditative haiku, primarily about the natural world and its effects on the poet’s imagination and perspective. Early in this quietly exceptional collection, Zulauf (Where Time Goes, 2008, etc.) puts forth a sweeping but compact artistic vision for the haiku: “lightning bugs at dusk / fly too slowly to escape / running children’s hands.” Like fireflies, good haiku are luminescent and relatively easy to grasp, but they can also be electrifying to a receptive imagination, and Zulauf ’s best poems accomplish all of these things. Set on New York state’s Lake George, these haiku capture, then release, moments charged with immanence and instinctual insight. The author contextualizes these moments in concrete, lived experience, often evoking multiple senses in a brief flash of 17 syllables, as in “pine island perfume / clings to the cicada’s song / like hot summer sun,” in which the almost oppressive sweetness of pine needles and the insects’ droning song mingle heavily under a blanket of stifling heat and blinding glare. The effect, which appropriately takes place in an imaginative space outside the poem itself, is almost overwhelming. This poem also shows the author’s willingness to adapt a haiku to the moment rather than the other way around. In the American tradition, haiku are typically limited to the natural world, as this poem is, but they aren’t metaphorical. Zulauf ’s expansive uses of the form are even more apparent in his metaphysical musings (“one clock’s ten fifteen, / another eight fifty four— / which do I believe?”) and his nods to how experiences, even those of nature, are technologically mediated (“when i found bashō’s / lake biwa on the internet / bashō found lake george”). In his paradoxical freedom within a prescribed form, Zulauf most closely resembles his idol, Bashō, one of haiku’s progenitors. And although Zulauf ’s haiku are a little too self-contained at times—they rarely have the revelatory aftershocks so common in the works of Peggy Willis Lyles or Ruth Yarrow, for instance—their finished quality suggests, at least, a task completed, a well-earned rest and perhaps even a “yellow zinnia / temporary home to / sleeping bumblebee.” Overall, these poems are evocative conduits of the waves breaking peacefully along the shore of Lake George, which are echoes of Lake Biwa’s soothing murmur of “...peace...peace...” that inspired Bashō himself. Poems that are simultaneously traditional and cutting-edge.


Appreciations:

The Lord of the Rings Turns 60 B Y G RE G OR Y M C NAMEE

Photo courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s great work of modern mythology, was forged by three wars. The first began 100 years ago, a hell of mud and fire. The second was its successor, a time of contending totalitarian visions. The third has in some respects never ended, pitting East against West, religion against religion. As truly as it did George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Cold War most fully shaped Tolkien’s vision. But Tolkien also opposed two larger worlds that were not coextensive with the empires on either side of the meaningfully named Iron Curtain: the green agrarian world of the English countryside—the Shire—against the dark, satanic mills that lay always just over the horizon. It is clear which Tolkien preferred; his villains are the trolls and goblins who clear-cut forests and reduce mountains to deep holes in the ground, his heroes, the steady country people who stand firm against the dark overseers of mines and vast cities. Tolkien, a veteran of the western front, began LOTR in the interstices between the world wars, having enjoyed unexpected success with a juvenile novel called The Hobbit, published in 1937. As publishers will, his asked for a sequel. It took him nearly two decades to produce it. Tolkien, a scholar of Germanic and Celtic languages and medieval literature, had been assembling great mounds of work notes for an epic cycle, and he brought that considerable research to bear on what emerged—an amalgam of Icelandic sagas and Persian monster tales, wedding the Welsh Mabinogion to the Wagnerian Ring Cycle and the Kalevala and Beowulf, with dashes of Old Norse, Catholicism and William Morris– style fairy tales thrown in for leavening. LOTR is famously a book of books, drawing on a vast library for background and inspiration; Tolkien even borrowed from his philological work for the Oxford English Dictionary to add details to the story, a compliment repaid when his coined word mithril entered the dictionary in 1976. But LOTR is also a book of friendship, and more particularly, the friendship—the fellowship—that evolves from service in war. The primary virtues are constancy and loyalty; it is always the dark armies that break and run, always the little men of the Shire who forget that they are afraid long enough to do the impossible, which is the very definition of heroism, and a particularly English view of it at that. Tolkien stole time for the book whenever he could over the next two decades, and the result was massive: a manuscript of nearly 10,000 pages in several variations. Tolkien never intended it as a trilogy, but The Lord of the Rings was published in three parts all the same, broken down in order to keep the size and price manageable; the three parts were released in 1954 and 1955 in Britain and in the latter year in the United States. Taken together, it has gone on to be the second best-selling novel in English—not bad for a medieval allegory brought into our own time, and it’s one that, in book and film forms alike, continues to inspire. Gregory McNamee is a contributing editor at Kirkus Reviews. |

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January 1, 2015: Volume LXXXIII, No 1  

Featuring 336 industry-first reviews of fiction, nonfiction and children's & teen; also in this issue: Kevin Morris published his own storie...

January 1, 2015: Volume LXXXIII, No 1  

Featuring 336 industry-first reviews of fiction, nonfiction and children's & teen; also in this issue: Kevin Morris published his own storie...