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REVIEWS

t h e w o r l d’s t o u g h e s t b o o k c r i t i c s f o r mo r e t h a n 7 5 y e a rs fiction

A joyful return to Africa turns into a nightmare in Paul Theroux’s great new novel p. 680

nonfiction

chi ldr en’s & te e n

Robert Caro delivers the eagerly anticipated fourth volume in his epic Lyndon Johnson biography p. 695

The man who discovered T. rex receives an affectionate, energetic appreciation from Tracey Fern and Boris Kulikov p. 731

i n t h i s i s s u e : m o t h e r’s a n d fat h e r’s day r o u n d - u p feature

featured indie

Gregory McNamee on the debut book from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow p. 707

Photographer and author Subhi Alghussain talks about the importance of stellar book design in self-publishing p. 772

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Funny Books for April Fool’s Day B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

Th e r e a r e f u n n y b o o k s , and there are funny books. One of the funniest books I have ever read made me laugh so hard that it caused people to move away from me. The book in question was Redmond O’Hanlon’s Into the Heart of Borneo; the setting for my alarming behavior a train running between Toronto and Sarnia, in orderly Ontario; the occasion a moment in which O’Hanlon’s guide sneaks up on him after having filled him with fears of the local headhunters. If you’ve read the book, you’ll remember the moment. Only a few books, in my experience as a reader, match O’Hanlon’s in laughs per page. One is Lawrence Durrell’s book of sketches of life in the British diplomatic service, Stiff Upper Lip, which, though a little antiquated now, sent howls of laughter through the narrow streets of the Italian hill town in which I read it 35 years ago. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas runs a very close second, especially for those of us who did inhale, once upon a time. I defy anyone to read without laughing the scene in which Thompson’s attorney demands that he throw a plugged-in tape player into the bathtub with him, the better to appreciate the screams and howls of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” which, come to think of it, is a pretty funny song all its own. The oldsters had their ideas of what constituted a good yuck, and if some of them don’t quite work today, the best hold up very nicely. I think first of Jerome K. Jerome’s odd Victorian novel Three Men in a Boat, which is about—well, three men who decide to take a boating trip on the Thames on a summer day in the halcyon 1880s, with goofy misadventures ensuing. If you’re not a fan of Downton Abbey or blessed with Mitt Romney’s bank account, it’s a little hard to imagine what life with a manservant might be like, for which reason we have P.G. Wodehouse’s wonderful stories collected in books such as Right, Ho Jeeves. And no one can remain stone-faced on reading Ring Lardner’s classic exchange: “ ‘Are you lost, daddy?’ I asked tenderly. ‘Shut up,’ he explained.” When I was a sprout, Bennett Cerf ’s joke books were favorites of young readers, full of groaners such as, “Why did the boy throw the clock out the window? To see time fly.” I prefer the more modern “Why don’t cannibals eat clowns? Because they taste funny.” Granted, there’s the uncomfortable need to explain what a cannibal is, but I imagine that even the most sheltered home-schooler can take it. Besides, youngsters are good judges of humor themselves; see, for instance, this YouTube clip of British kids discussing a recent crop of nominees for a Roald Dahl Prize: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoPaX40Hvcw. Fran Lebowitz, Cyra McFadden, Mark Twain, Aristophanes, O. Henry and, yes, Roald Dahl: All are in print, and all are funny. Take a minute this April Fool’s Day, or some day soon, to read a book that makes you howl—and that makes people flee to other seats, too.

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This Issue’s Contributors

Maude Adjarian • Joseph Barbato • Josh Bell • Joan Blackwell • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart • Derek Charles Catsam • Marnie Colton • Ian Correa • Dave DeChristopher • Gregory F. DeLaurier • David Delman • Kathleen Devereaux • Steve Donoghue • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Joe Ferguson • Julie Foster • Peter Franck • Bob Garber • Sean Gibson • Dianna Graveman • Jesse Greenspan • Peter Heck • Matthew Heller • Jeff Hoffman • BJ Hollars • Holly Jennings • Andrew D. King • Robert M. Knight • Christina M. Kratzner • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Swapna Lovin • Riley MacLeod • Joe Maniscalco • Lauren McGrail • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Carole Moore • Clayton Moore • Chris Morris • Liza Nelson • John Noffsinger • Sarah Norris • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Christofer D. Pierson • Gary Presley • David Rapp • Kristen Bonardi Rapp • Karen Rigby • Lloyd Sachs • Bob Sanchez • Michael Sandlin • Hannah Sheldon-Dean • William P. Shumaker • Barry Silverstein • Rosanne Simeone • Clea Simon • Pam Sissons • Arthur Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Claire Trazenfeld • Corinna Underwood • Roz Warren • Steve Weinberg • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Marc Zucker


contents fiction Index to Starred Reviews....................................................p. 663 REVIEWS.........................................................................................p. 663 Q&A WITH Lyndsay Faye........................................................... p. 672

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

Mystery........................................................................................p. 681 Science Fiction & Fantasy....................................................p. 690

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews....................................................p. 691 REVIEWS.........................................................................................p. 691 GREGORY MCNAMEE ON RACHEL MADDOW’S DRIFT.......... p. 707

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews....................................................p. 721 REVIEWS.........................................................................................p. 721 Q&A WITH faith Stefan Petrucha...................................... p. 738 Mother’s and Father’s Day Round-up............................. p. 757 interactive e-books...............................................................p. 761

indie Index to Starred Reviews.....................................................p. 765 REVIEWS..........................................................................................p. 765 Q&A with Subhi Alghussain.................................................p. 772

Following up his acclaimed short-story collection, Ben Fountain presents a “novel of inspired absurdity.” See the starred review on p. 668. |

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hypocrisy of big-time sports”—Luchs exposes the often-shady practices of NFL agents, many of whom will do nearly anything to land a prized prospect.

Discover more lists created by the critics online: Books about Obama Books by Danielle Steele “The Three Little Pigs,” Any Which Way You Like 9 You are passionate about books and so are we. Visit the Kirkus Book Bloggers Network to find current commentary on your favorite genres. From celebrity to sci-fi, we cover it all.

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From her home in rural Texas, Jenny Lawson runs

a PR firm and writes parenting advice and satirical articles about sex. But she is best known as The Bloggess, author of a screamingly funny, surprisingly inspiring blog that chronicles her daily adventures and wacky discussions with her husband, and showcases her growing collection of unusually posed and dressed taxidermied animals. The Bloggess counts Neil Gaiman, Penn Jillette, Wil Wheaton and Matthew Broderick among her many fans—and she has more than 220,000 followers on Twitter. Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (a Mostly True Memoir), offers a glimpse at past episodes and influences that have shaped her quirky take on life.”

c h i l d r e n ’s The Hunger Games film is finally here! Check out all things on Suzanne Collins’ incredibly popular series at Kirkus as our children’s and teen editor Vicky Smith takes on the proliferation of dystopian romances as well as our review of how well this Hollywood blockbuster stands up to the book.

nonfiction For nearly two decades, sports agent Josh Luchs

pursued the biggest stars in college football, hoping to land them as clients before each year’s NFL draft. Beginning as a teenager, Luchs learned early on that many of the most soughtafter players chose their agents based on money, cars and other illegal benefits. So he fell in line, arranging payments for players and working efficiently within the murky gray areas in which many agents operate. In Illegal Procedure— which we called a “troubling, entertaining indictment of the

kids, retelling favorite classics never goes out ofForstyle. When Claudia Rueda began her version

of the story about a trio of pigs who build their houses of straw, wood and brick, and guard against a wolf, she wanted youngest readers to participate. In her book Huff & Puff the pigs surprise the wolf with their courage and hospitality. We called it “a good chance for youngsters to relish enacting the wicked role while still getting a (not particularly logical, but who cares) friendly reconciliation at the end.”

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fiction KALTENBURG

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Beyer, Marcel Translated by Bance, Alan Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (352 pp.) $26.00 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-15-101397-5

ABSOLUTION by Patrick Flanery................................................. p. 667 CANADA by Richard Ford............................................................ p. 667 BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK by Ben Fountain ........ p. 668 ISTANBUL PASSAGE by Joseph Kanon........................................ p. 670 AN UNEXPECTED GUEST by Anne Korkeakivi.......................... p. 671 THE LOWER RIVER by Paul Theroux.......................................... p. 680 DON’T EVER GET OLD by Daniel Friedman............................... p. 685

AN UNEXPECTED GUEST

Korkeakivi, Anne Little, Brown (288 pp.) $24.99 Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-316-19677-2

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Ornithologists single-mindedly pursue their vocation in post–World War II East Germany; a sui generis third novel from the German author. Hermann Funk’s destiny is ordained when the scared child notices that the bird, a swift, trapped in his living room has legs, contrary to popular belief; the future ornithologist has heeded the first rule of science: Observe. Hermann lives in Posen (today’s Poznan), where his father is a botany professor. One day in 1942 his father brings home his Viennese friend Ludwig Kaltenburg, a charismatic zoology professor based on Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz; then overnight their friendship ends, a mystery only resolved years later. In 1945 Funk hustles his family out of town to escape the oppression of Nazi faculty members. It’s their rotten luck to arrive in Dresden right before the Allies’ notorious firebombing. Eleven-year-old Hermann survives; his parents die. Their bodies are never found. Beyer tells his story obliquely; it’s a loosely chronological mosaic of memories. The omissions are disturbing. We are left to guess the extent of narrator’s Hermann pain. His difficult years with a Dresden foster family are barely glimpsed. Deliverance comes in the ‘50s when father figure Kaltenburg installs him at his Dresden Institute and Hermann meets his future wife, the fearless Klara. While the primary focus is bird research, we are not allowed to forget that the ornithologists are working in the cross-currents of history; fear is pervasive in the East German police state. Kaltenburg’s glory years end when a protégé accidentally alarms a tame raven. The bird attacks. The professor intervenes, disarming his protégé before banishing him. His favoring bird over man unsettles the Institute; then the oblivious professor is dislodged by his conniving deputy. (Obvious irony: Kaltenburg has failed at observation.) However, that striking raven scene has revealed more about Kaltenburg than all the skeletons of his World War II past, which come tumbling out at the end. This scattershot novel could have used some livelier scenes to ensure a richer presentation of its protagonist.

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“Brackmann strikes exactly the right mood in this frantic look at an ordinary woman who can’t seem to claw her way out of the mess in which she’s managed to land.” from getaway

GETAWAY

Brackmann, Lisa Soho (304 pp.) $14.00 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-61695-071-2 Brackmann (Rock Paper Tiger, 2010) returns with a thriller set in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta. Michelle, who has lost both her husband and her financial foothold, meets a handsome stranger, Daniel, while she’s on vacation in Puerto Vallarta. But when that stranger turns out not to be the man he seems to be, Michelle finds herself stuck in a terrible state of déjà vu: Her late husband, Tom, left her deep in debt and wondering how she could have been married to a man who could sustain so many lies. After two men break into Michelle’s hotel room and beat Daniel, sending him to the hospital, Michelle discovers their phones have been switched. She tracks Daniel after finding his friends at their local hangout and stumbles into a frightening situation that Daniel attributes to his friend Gary’s odd sense of humor. When Michelle attempts to leave Mexico behind and return to California and what remains of her life, she finds herself in a Mexican jail on a trumped-up charge of drug possession. Soon, Michelle finds that few in the expatriate community of Puerto Vallarta are really who or what they have pretended to be, and her world has now been diminished to a single objective: Get out of Mexico alive. Brackmann paints Michelle as a woman who has spent most of her life taking Pilates classes and decorating her upper middleclass home only to find that her husband was a complete fake. Unable to see much of a future for herself, she’s suddenly thrust into a world where brutal drug dealers rule and fear is her everyday companion. Caught between two men and unsure which one is the bad guy and which one is the good guy, or even if there is a good guy, the author offers a darkly plausible plot that might make readers think twice about making casual acquaintances on holidays. Brackmann strikes exactly the right mood in this frantic look at an ordinary woman who can’t seem to claw her way out of the mess in which she’s managed to land.

LETTER FROM A STRANGER

Bradford, Barbara Taylor St. Martin’s (448 pp.) $27.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-312-63168-0

An unexpected letter leads a beautiful documentarian to Turkey, where she reunites with her long-lost grandmother. In a departure from her usual serialized family sagas, Bradford attempts a stand-alone examination of one troubled family, with uneven results. Her willowy blonde protagonist, Justine, is at Indian Ridge, her family’s Connecticut vacation manse, when she opens an envelope, with no return address, 664

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only an Istanbul postmark, addressed to her mother Deborah (who’s in China on business). The letter urges Deborah to end her estrangement from her mother, Gabriele, before Gabriele, nearing 80, dies. Justine is shocked! Ten years before, Deborah, whose venal, narcissistic personality traits are exemplified by her non-willowy figure and brunette hair color, had told Justine and her twin brother Richard that Gabriele was killed in a plane crash. Saying nothing to Deborah, Justine and Richard decide to track down Gabriele. In Istanbul, Justine stumbles on Gabriele and her grandmother’s childhood friend Anita (the letter-writer), living in side-by-side villas. Both appear to be in the peak of health and are running a thriving interior design business. (As always, Bradford’s descriptions of furnishings, fabrics and amenities are far more rigorous than her exploration of characters’ psyches and motivations.) Readers are given to understand that Deborah is entirely at fault for the estrangement—until we learn about its provocation. Not only did Gabriele conceal her controlling interest in Deborah’s husband’s firm, but Gabriele cut off newly widowed Deborah’s income, and put Indian Ridge in trust for the grandchildren, disinheriting Deborah. Nevertheless, Gabriele insists she is the innocent victim of a greedy daughter. Halfway through the novel, the emphasis shifts abruptly from the rift to Gabriele’s suppressed World War II trauma, which she has nonetheless detailed in a journal that Justine reads. The journal, depicting actual jeopardy, is the novel’s most compelling segment, but it, too, fails to justify Gabriele’s actions. Bradford’s efforts to assign the moral high ground are doomed to fail, since she can’t seem to penetrate her characters’ hypocrisy.

THE LOST YEARS

Clark, Mary Higgins Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-1-4516-6886-5 Tempers discreetly fray and corpses mount around a parchment that just might be the only surviving letter from Jesus Christ. Even though she has a serious case of Alzheimer’s, the Bergen County police are certain that Kathleen Lyons is the person who shot her beloved husband Jonathan, a retired professor, in their home in Mahwah, N.J. After all, she was clearly in the house with him at the time; there was no sign of forced entry; her fingerprints were on the murder weapon; and she had a beaut of a motive, ever since her discovery that Jonathan hadn’t waited till she was institutionalized and beyond knowing or caring to divorce her and take up with Prof. Lillian Stewart, the colleague he’d come to love. Unbeknownst to Detectives Simon Benet and Rita Rodriguez, there are at least two other motives for killing Jonathan. He’d just sent Lily on her way with regretful firmness, and he’d hinted around that he was holding a letter from Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea stolen from the Vatican Library years ago. So the

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suspects include not only the newly spurned Lily but the four amateur archeologists who’d joined Jonathan’s last excavations and heard about the letter: biblical scholar Prof. Richard Callahan, irascible Prof. Charles Michaelson, quiet Prof. Albert West and computer-software millionaire Greg Pearson. It’s up to Jonathan’s old friends Alvirah and Willy Meehan (I’ll Walk Alone, 2011, etc.) to help out the Bergen County force before one of this nondescript crew can swoop down on Jonathan’s daughter Mariah, a financial officer who’s this season’s designated victim. Not much nourishment here for fans of The Da Vinci Code, but nothing to trouble Clark’s gargantuan fan base either, as long as they don’t mind all those felonies, all those criminals and all those coyly conspiratorial phone calls with Mr. Anonymous at the other end.

TRUE SISTERS

Dallas, Sandra St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 24, 2012 978-1-250-00502-1

THE EMERALD STORM

Dietrich, William Harper/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $25.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-06-198920-9 The 19th-century role that a 21st-century Errol Flynn would be born to play. The fifth historical novel in the Ethan Gage series leaves no swash unbuckled. Though Dietrich (The Barbary Pirates, 2010, etc.) is a college professor who previously shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, with this series he is more interested in entertaining than educating. An American and an adventurer, Gage here casts his lot at various turns with the French, the English and a band of Caribbean slaves turned revolutionaries, as he searches for a lost treasure of Aztec myth. Though he announces early on that, “I was more than ready to trade heroism for domesticity. My preference is lover, not fighter. No one tries harder to escape adventure than

A calamitous chapter in American history is illustrated by the intertwined tales of four women who survived it. The settling of the American West is full of stories, but one of its greatest tales of heroism and endurance is not well known. In the mid-1800s, Mormon leader Brigham Young instructed the followers of his new religion to leave their lives in the sinful Old World and travel to Zion, or Salt Lake, to what would one day be Utah. At his command, hundreds traveled to Iowa City, the westernmost point of the railroad, and constructed wooden handcarts, chosen for their economy, to make the 1,300-mile trek by foot. Despite the challenges—the wood was green and many, formerly city dwellers, were unfit for the journey—some groups traveled safely. Not so the Martin Company, 650 who set out in July 1856 to find ferocious heat, starvation and deadly winter storms before arriving. To illustrate this forgotten chapter, Dallas (The Bride’s House, 2011, etc.) focuses on four women: Louisa, the adoring bride of a company leader; Anne, a non-Mormon who resents her convert husband for forcing her from an easy life in London; lovelorn Nannie, who travels to support her beloved, pregnant sister and brother-in-law; and Jessie, a self-reliant farm girl who chafes at the religion’s strict rules. Together with a detailed cast of supporting characters, they bear and bury children and other loved ones, finding a kind of sisterhood and inner strength. They are further burdened (and bound) by the rampant sexism of the new faith, which encourages polygamy and views new women as “fresh fish.” Dallas’ vivid prose makes the journey’s escalating hardships feel real, as Anne “no longer kept track of time or distance, just pushed the cart in a kind of daze, her mind as much a blur as the snow that fell.” Readers enticed by the HBO program Big Love will be particularly interested in the origins of this insular community. This fact-based historical fiction, celebrating sisterhood and heroism, makes for a surefire winner. (Agent: Danielle Egan-Miller) |

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ISBN-978-1463569327

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 2011 Page count: 793 pp

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me, Ethan Gage,” there wouldn’t be much of a novel if he had stuck to such resolve. Yes, he has married the voluptuous, ravishing Astiza, his lover from previous novels, and the two are raising a 3-year old son. Yet he has come into possession of a stolen and extravagant emerald, which could ensure his wealth and secure their future, only to see the jewel snatched by a renegade French policeman who kidnaps their son in the process. So it’s love as well as lucre that drives Gage to recover the jewel, and to employ his wife in her seductive temptress role at pivotal points along the way. “Plain women are more devoted, older ones are more appreciative, but I, too, have an eye for beauty—it’s a fault of mine—and I knew I had to defend the woman I’d married,” muses Gage, after such trickery has imperiled his wife while inflaming his jealousy. Ultimately, the plot finds double-crossing leading to triple-crossing, as the emerald turns out to be merely the tip of an iceberg of lost riches, with Gage and allies who might be enemies conspiring to find it. A tale filled with rascally derring-do that could have worked better as a graphic novel. (Agent: Andrew Stuart)

THE COLONEL

Dowlatabadi, Mahmoud Translated by Patterdale, Tom Melville House (256 pp.) $17.95 paperback | May 8, 2012 978-1-61219-132-4 Iranian novelist Dowlatabadi (Missing Soluch, 1979, etc.) re-imagines the life of a fabled Persian patriot against the bloody backdrop of the Islamic Revolution. We see the revolution through the eyes of the Colonel, an officer in the Shah’s army, a figure largely based on Mohammad Taqi Khan Pesyan, who led a partially successful Persian revolution in 1921 and was lionized after his assassination. As the novel opens, the Colonel is taken in the dead of night to collect his daughter’s body from the prosecutor’s office. From there, the book jumps back and forth to show the Colonel at his height and the struggles of the officer and his son Amir as the Ayatollah returns and the Shah is forced into exile. The military man’s five children represent different factions within Iranian society, and nearly all come to tortuous or violent ends. Patterdale offers up a fine translation of Dowlatabadi’s book, gently guiding Western readers through its complex maze of political intrigue and moral failings with restrained footnotes, a rich glossary and a thoughtful afterword. At its core, the book is about the inherent corruption that power inspires and the toll it takes on the people under its long shadow. A demanding and richly composed book by a novelist who stands apart.

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THE LION IS IN

Ephron, Delia Blue Rider Press (304 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 29, 2012 978-0-399-15848-3 Three women embark on a journey of self-discovery, facilitated by a giant feline, in Ephron’s whimsical but winsome third novel. Twenty-somethings Tracee and Lana, best friends since childhood, have left Baltimore on the run from an unnamed crisis, but Tracee’s escape attire—a designer wedding dress—provides a clue to the zaniness to follow. Lana, a recovering alcoholic who dropped out of college, is fixing a flat when drab, middle-aged Rita, who’s been walking the highway for several hours, offers a hand. Rita accepts a ride in Lana’s Mustang, destination unknown. Outside the rural village of Fairville, N.C., Tracee falls asleep at the wheel and totals the car. Seeking shelter, the women happen upon a ramshackle roadhouse called The Lion. Breaking in, they are shocked to discover an actual lion caged in a corner. The Lion’s slovenly owner, Clayton, hires all three women as waitresses, although he at first consigns Rita to menial chores for insufficient hotness. Tim, a gangly but kind young man who works at the local dollar store as well as for Clayton, finds lodging for the women, who are stuck in Fairville until they can earn enough to fix the Mustang. Since the furniture industry outsourced all the jobs, everyone in Fairville is scrabbling for a living, and business is slow at the Lion. This changes when Rita and the lion, whose name is Marcel, form a special bond. Soon, she’s taking Marcel for early-morning walks and performing lion-taming stunts in the bar at night. The characters undergo transformations as The Lion draws crowds. Clayton spruces up and tries to court Rita, who’s newly confident and adventurous after decades in the stifling marriage she fled. Lana, whose confession in a town AA meeting is used against her by the local police, begins to rebuild the bridges she’s burned, and Tracee, a kleptomaniac, finds a refuge from past bad boyfriend woes. Although the life-affirming message is hardly subtle, Ephron delivers it with finesse. (Publicity out of Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Saint Louis.)

RED, WHITE AND BLOOD

Farnsworth, Christopher Putnam (400 pp.) $25.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-399-15893-3

Farnsworth’s universe of vampires and otherworldly creatures comes alive for the third time in this latest installment of the Nathaniel Cade series. Blood gushes against a political backdrop in this aptly named testament to gore. Cade, a vampire who was caught and bound to the service of the president by a voodoo practitioner in another century, has

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“Flanery has constructed a haunting labyrinth of mirrors, fact reflecting remembrance, lie reflecting evasion.” from absolution

sworn to protect the nation and its leader. Accompanied by Zach Barrows, who in another life worked on President Samuel Curtis’ election campaign, Cade has spent the previous three years working to keep the underworld at bay. Although Americans don’t realize it, in Cade’s world the things that go bump in the night are as real as trees and grass, but the government has spent decades covering up, collecting and destroying proof they exist. Every once in a while, though, something breaks through to this side and Cade is called in to put it down. A creature that moves with lightening speed and astonishing strength, Cade has the power to mend his own wounds and is an unparalleled fighter. However, he has almost met his match in the Boogeyman, a legendary figure that draws its power and thirst for blood from the proliferation of killers and sadists that populate the planet. While the president is on the campaign trail, evidence surfaces that the Bogeyman is back in action and preparing to take out the nation’s leader, and Cade and Zach are dispatched to stop him and his cohorts. Chock full of violence and disembowelment, the book follows Cade as he tracks the killer through Middle America. Farnsworth manages to slow down the pace by inserting ham-fisted political rhetoric into the story; he would have been better off sticking to the action. Instead, he chose to turn Curtis into a certain notvery-thinly-described incumbent and muddy what is essentially an action story with politics. More complicated and somewhat sillier than the previous Cade novels; fans of nonstop action can skim over the politicizing passages to get to the blood and guts, while ignoring the author’s tendency to preach politics. (Agent: Alexandra Machinist)

ABSOLUTION

Flanery, Patrick Riverhead (400 pp.) $26.95Apr. 12, 2012 978-1-59448-817-7 In Flanery’s debut literary fiction, Sam Leroux has a publisher’s assignment to write the biography of a famous South African author, Clare Wald, imperious, reticent, evasive about her writing and disinclined to discuss her catastrophic personal life. A native South African, Sam is a writer and scholar residing in the United States. Sam flies to meet the reluctant Clare, who resides in his native Cape Town, a fractious city where have-nots confront razor-wire–topped walls behind which the rich have imprisoned themselves. Told from alternating points of view, the novel shifts from unsettled present to bloody past, from today’s fractured economic and social environment to the historic struggle to end apartheid. That ugly fight for democracy consumed the lives of Clare’s sister and daughter, and Sam’s parents. Guilt, fear and regret keep Sam and Clare from confronting their mutual history of loss and love, deceit and despair. Unbeknownst to Sam, Clare has already written Absolution, a “fictionalized memoir,” which will be published only because the circumspect Clare agreed to an official biography. Ghosts hover each time Sam and Clare meet, and Clare’s cathartic expulsion |

of her truths comes in flashes. Flanery has constructed a haunting labyrinth of mirrors, fact reflecting remembrance, lie reflecting evasion. Complex in theme, complex in narrative, this is a masterful literary exploration of the specter of conscience and the formidable cost of reconciliation.

CANADA

Ford, Richard Ecco/HarperCollins (432 pp.) $26.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-06-169204-8 A great American novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author. This is Ford’s first novel since concluding the Frank Bascombe trilogy, which began with The Sportswriter (1986), peaked with the prize-winning Independence Day (1995) and concluded with The Lay of the Land (2006). That series was for Ford what the Rabbit novels were for Updike, making this ambitious return to long-form fiction seem like something of a fresh start, but also a thematic culmination. Despite its title, the novel is as essentially all-American as Independence Day. Typically for Ford, the focus is as much on the perspective (and limitations) of its protagonist as it is on the issues that the narrative addresses. The first-person narrator is Dell Parsons, a 15-year-old living in Montana with his twin sister when their parents—perhaps inexplicably, perhaps inevitably—commit an ill-conceived bank robbery. Before becoming wards of the state, the more willful sister runs away with her boyfriend, while Dell is taken across the border to Canada, where he will establish a new life for himself after crossing another border, from innocent bystander to reluctant complicity. The first half of the novel takes place in Montana and the second in Canada, but the entire narrative is Dell’s reflection, 50 years later, on the eve of his retirement as a teacher. As he ruminates on character and destiny, and ponders “how close evil is to the normal goings-on that have nothing to do with evil,” he also mediates between his innocence as an uncommonly naïve teenager and whatever wisdom he has gleaned through decades of experience. Dell’s perspective may well be singular and skewed, but it’s articulate without being particularly perceptive or reflective. And it’s the only one we have. In a particularly illuminating parenthetical aside, he confesses, “I was experiencing great confusion about what was happening, having had no experience like this in my life. I should not be faulted for not understanding what I saw.” At the start of the novel’s coda, when Dell explains that he teaches his students “books that to me seem secretly about my young life,” he begins the list with The Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby. Such comparisons seem well-earned. (BEA author appearance. Author tour to Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Oxford/Jackson, Mississippi, Portland, Maine, Portland, Ore., Raleigh/Durham, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.)

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BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK

Fountain, Ben Ecco/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $25.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-088559-5 Hailed as heroes on a stateside tour before returning to Iraq, Bravo Squad discovers just what it has been fighting for. Though the shell-shocked humor will likely conjure comparisons with Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five, the debut novel by Fountain (following his story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, 2006) focuses even more on the cross-promotional media monster that America has become than it does on the absurdities of war. The entire novel takes place over a single Thanksgiving Day, when the eight soldiers (with their memories of the two who didn’t make it) find themselves at the promotional center of an all-American extravaganza, a nationally televised Dallas Cowboys football game. Providing the novel with its moral compass is protagonist Billy Lynn, a 19-year-old virgin from small-town Texas who has been inflated into some kind of cross between John Wayne and Audie Murphy for his role in a rescue mission documented by an embedded Fox News camera. In two days, the Pentagonsponsored “Victory Tour” will end and Bravo will return to the business as usual of war. In the meantime, they are dealing with a producer trying to negotiate a film deal (“Think Rocky meets Platoon,” though Hilary Swank is rumored to be attached), gladhanding with the corporate elite of Cowboy fandom (and ownership) and suffering collateral damage during a halftime spectacle with Beyoncé. Over the course of this long, alcohol-fueled day, Billy finds himself torn, as he falls in love (and lust) with a devout Christian cheerleader and listens to his sister try to persuade him that he has done his duty and should refuse to go back. As “Americans fight the war daily in their strenuous inner lives,” Billy and his foxhole brethren discover treachery and betrayal beyond anything they’ve experienced on the battlefield. War is hell in this novel of inspired absurdity. (Author tour to Austin, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Jackson (Miss.), Nashville, New York, Oxford (Miss.), Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio and upon request)

THE PEN/O. HENRY PRIZE STORIES 2012

Furman, Laura--Ed. Anchor (496 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-307-94788-8 Latest edition of the annual short-fiction prize volume, of more consistently high quality than several other volumes of recent vintage. The good news: The era of aping Ray Carver, 25 years on, seems to be over. There’s more good 668

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news: To judge by Furman’s choices, no one has figured out how to imitate David Foster Wallace, and the cutesy po-mo stuff seems to be ebbing, too. Still and all, we’re reminded of a question asked by an earnest poet not long ago: Does the American public care about anything less than poetry? Yes, and that’s the short story, the province of a tiny number of highbrow magazines and an ever-growing number of writers’ workshops, hardly read outside of those rarified circles. There’s more good news: several of Furman’s choices could turn the tide, given wider circulation. Wendell Berry’s “Nothing Living Lives Alone,” with its encouraging, manifesto-like title, is alone worth the price of admission; originally published in The Threepenny Review, it’s long and leisurely, like a winding country lane in the southern backwoods of which Berry is our greatest bard (“The town of Hargrave, charmed by its highway and motor connections to everywhere else, thought itself somewhat worldly”). The collection’s single most impressive tour de force falls just a few paragraphs shy of being a novella, that form beloved of Jim Harrison and a few other contemporary writers, and it comes from an outside-turned-insider, Beijing-born Yiyun Li, whose “Kindness” turns on a “forty-one-year-old woman living by myself, in the same one-bedroom flat where I have always lived, in a derelict building on the outskirts of Beijing that is threatened to be demolished by government-backed real estate developers.” The whole history of late 20th-century China lies in miniature in her closely written pages. Other standouts are Dagoberto Gilb’s opener, “Uncle Rock,” in which a young boy tries to comprehend the world and its summum bonum, namely baseball, and Miroslav Penkov’s Balkans morality tale “East of the West.” Overall a strong and welcome collection, though readers on a limited anthology budget will find the annual edition of the Pushcart Prize to offer more bang for the buck.

I, IAGO

Galland, Nicole Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $14.99 paperback | $9.99 e-book May 1, 2012 978-0-06-212687-3 978-0-06-220010-5 e-book Galland (Crossed, 2008, etc.) takes on one of literature’s greatest villains and tries to make him sympathetic. For a large part of the novel—until the introduction of Othello when events from Shakespeare’s play take over—she succeeds. As the fifth son of a Venetian silk merchant, Iago has limited prospects. His precociousness and his growing reputation for blunt honesty don’t help in a society where insipid, phony etiquette is prized if not required. He spends his childhood getting into mild scrapes with his poorer, weaker friend Roderigo, whom he is always protecting, before his father enrolls him in the military. There he finds himself and excels. He meets Emilia at a Venetian masked ball and falls in love with her wit and intelligence even before he learns she is beautiful. Despite Iago’s bouts of jealousy, theirs is a marriage

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“Golden’s breakout debut fiction is a passionate, yet melancholy, story of love, loss and reconciliation.” from comeback love

of soul mates. Emilia remains his (and the novel’s) heart and conscience to the end. Meanwhile the Moor Othello has been named General by the Venetian senate. When Othello and Iago meet at a ball, they immediately connect, recognizing that they are both outsiders who don’t really want to fit into society, Iago for his mouth and Othello for his black skin. Othello makes Iago his ensign, an important promotion. After the battle at Rhodes, Othello suffers an epileptic fit and Iago covers for him. So when Othello falls for Desdemona, Iago is understandably hurt and jealous that he is left out of the loop as the romance develops with Emilia’s help. Then an alcoholic, womanizing fop from Florence shows up; Cassio lacks Iago’s military skills but because he carries secret letters between the general and Desdemona he gets the lieutenancy that should go to Iago. Resentment turns the love Iago has felt for Othello into hate. Although Iago doesn’t really mean to kill anyone, he’s not good at intrigue. Familiar Shakespearean tragedy ensues. Too bad the switch from empathetic protagonist into villain is not quite believable, because until then Iago and Emilia are magic. (Agent: Liz Darhansoff)

COMEBACK LOVE

Golden, Peter Washington Square/Pocket (240 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Apr. 3, 2012 978-1-4516-5632-9 Golden’s breakout debut fiction is a passionate, yet melancholy, story of love, loss and reconciliation. It’s 1968. Gordon Meyers is stumbling through Brooklyn College, reading about Vietnam and contemplating his father’s World War II heroism and Silver Star. He has a 2S deferment, and his mother is happy, but Gordon is unsettled, grasping onto the idea he could be a writer. With his uncle’s help, Gordon gets a gig writing freelance features for Long Island Press. His first assignment is to write a piece on a group of medical students lobbying for legalized abortion. In the process, Gordon interviews Glenna Rising, a dazzlingly beautiful and casually sexy medical student. Attraction is immediate, and soon Gordon takes up residence in Glenna’s apartment in an old white colonial house in the Bronx, an idyllic place she shares with fellow medical students Palmer, WASP through and through, quickly nicknamed Biff the Brooks Brothers Mouse by Gordon, and zaftig Robin, a nominal political radical. Golden’s novel follows Gordon and Glenna’s love from the 1960s to a final reunion three decades later. The author writes familiarly of young love’s angst and immaturity, insecurities and circumventions. The young lovers struggle to find a life together against a backdrop of social uncertainties, ambition and family drama, each burdened by shadows of their past. Glenna is consumed by medical studies and part-time work in an illicit abortion enterprise. Gordon is confused by his ambitions and shadowed by his desire to experience war. Then comes the inevitable breakup. Glenna drifts; Gordon is drafted. There is marriage and a |

son for Gordon and a marriage of safety and convenience for Glenna. Finally in the midst of a snowstorm, Gordon is inexorably drawn to see Glenna again, not to dispense with ghosts from the past but rather as part of “the long, jagged arc” of his life. Grab a handful of tissues, think The Notebook and then start speculating on actors best suited to bring Gordon and Glenna to the big screen. (Agent: Susan Golomb)

UNHOLY NIGHT

Grahame-Smith, Seth Grand Central Publishing (304 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-446-56309-3 Three notorious villains protect a carpenter, his virgin wife and their newborn son as they flee the wrath of their Roman pursuers. Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 2010, etc.) hones his writing chops in this latest take on history’s mysteries, but the results lack the unabashed exuberance of his earlier work, despite a fair bit of swashbuckling. Here he tackles the New Testament, circling in on the Biblical Magi, the Three Wise Men from the Gospel of Matthew. The ringleader here is Balthazar, a hunted fugitive known far and wide as “The Antioch Ghost” for his slippery nature. Captured by a clever Roman captain, Balthazar is brought before mad Herod the Great to suffer for his crimes. In Herod’s dungeons, Balthazar meets kindred spirits Gaspar and his partner Melchyor, two swordsmen for hire. The trio exchange clothes with the real wise men and make their escape to Bethlehem, where they’re attacked with a pitchfork by Joseph and accused of blasphemy by the Virgin Mary. After this auspicious introduction, it’s a fast-paced dash across 200 miles of biblical geography to safety in Egypt. GrahameSmith throws lots of obstacles in the path of his ragged band, including Balthazar’s tormented memories of his murdered brother, Herod’s approach to solving his messiah problem (the infamous Massacre of the Innocents) and a malevolent Magus with mystical powers and murderous ambition. And that’s before the walking dead (naturally) show up. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to place this anti-religious thief against this heavy religious backdrop— “Either I’m right and he doesn’t exist, or you’re right and he’s the kind of God who watches children die,” Balthazar scolds Mary. But while Grahame-Smith has already sold the script to Warner Brothers, the novel feels less cinematic than its inevitable movie adaptation. A twist on angels and ministers of grace that feels more like a mercenary exercise than a fully fleshed-out adventure.

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CALICO JOE

Grisham, John Doubleday (208 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-385-53607-3 Only one player in Major League Baseball history has been hit and killed by a pitch, but bean balls—balls thrown near the head—have ended careers. Grisham’s (The Litigators, 2011, etc.) novel imagines the act and its consequences. It’s 1973, another magic baseball season. The National League East has six teams contending, among them the traditionally hapless Chicago Cubs, soon jinxed once again when its first baseman is injured. Now the Cubs must add a minor leaguer to the roster. That’s Joe Castle, a kid from Calico Rock, Ark. Calico Joe immediately begins to set rookie records, leading the Cubs to the top of the standings. Watching from New York is Paul Tracey, a baseball fan as avid as only an 11-year-old boy can be. In fact, Paul’s father pitches for the New York Mets, but Warren Tracey, “accustomed to getting whatever he wanted,” is a jerk. Warren is a journeyman pitcher, solid in an occasional game, kicked around from one team to another, never an All Star. Warren also abuses his family, drinks and chases women. The novel unfolds from Paul’s adult perspective, with flashbacks. The crucial plot point comes in a flashback when Calico Joe, putting up “mind-boggling” numbers over 38 games, meets Warren in Shea Stadium and hits a home run. During his next at bat, as part of some unwritten “code,” Warren goes head-hunting and beans the young player. Calico Joe’s career is over, and he drifts home to Calico Rock, partially paralyzed, speech impeded, to work as a groundskeeper rather than earning a plaque in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Decades later, long estranged from his father, Paul learns that Warren is dying of pancreatic cancer, and he decides to force his father to confront what he did to Joe Castle. Interestingly, the novel’s most fully formed character is Warren, and while the narrative and settings are solid, the story drifts toward a somewhat unsatisfying, perhaps too easy, conclusion. A reconciliation story, Hallmark style.

THE HOUSE OF VELVET AND GLASS

Howe, Katherine Voice/Hyperion (432 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-1-4013-4091-9

Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, 2009) sets her second novel among early-20th-century Bostonians fascinated by the power of both spiritualism and the new science of psychology. Twenty-seven-year-old spinster Sibyl Allston lives a quiet life with her father Lan, a successful businessman who talks 670

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little about his youth as a sailor in the Far East. In 1915 both are still mourning the deaths of Sibyl’s mother Helen and younger sister Eulah, who drowned on the Titanic three years before. Except for her regular visits to the medium, Mrs. Dee, in hopes of making contact with her mother and sister, Sibyl is a retiring, conventional young woman. Then her younger brother Harlan is thrown out of Harvard, ends up in the hospital after a fight he will not discuss and moves back into the family home along with a young woman named Dovie, whose background remains as murky as her relationship to Harlan. Dovie introduces Sibyl to a potentially dangerous habit in Boston’s Chinatown, but at the same time Sibyl’s former beau re-enters her life. Benton is now a psychology professor at Harvard who tries to help Sibyl by exposing Mrs. Dee as a fraud. But as the country drifts toward World War I, Sibyl begins to realize she may possess an unexpected gift as a seer, one that she unknowingly inherited from her father along with a taste for opium. Is knowing the future a gift or a curse, or does it depend on the angle through which it is viewed? Ultimately Sibyl learns that even within a world ruled by fate, choices can be made. The slightly sordid melodrama and para-psychological philosophizing lean uncomfortably against a sappy romance. (Agent: Suzanne Gluck)

ISTANBUL PASSAGE

Kanon, Joseph Atria (416 pp.) $26.00 | May 29, 2012 978-1-4391-5641-4

In 1945 Istanbul, Allied veteran Leon Bauer is running spy missions under the cover of a U.S. tobacco-importing business. With the war over, U.S. operations are closing up shop in the neutral capital, but Leon has one last big job: to take possession of a Romanian defector in possession of important Russian secrets and get him flown to safety. The rub is the defector, Alexei, was involved in a heinous massacre of Jews four years earlier. Kanon (The Good German, 2001, etc.) extends his mastery of the period novel with this coiled tale of foreign intrigue. Though not much happens, plot-wise, in this dialogue-driven book, Leon hardly has a moment to relax, immersed in a world of moral and political upheaval. When he first arrived in Istanbul with his wife Anna, the city was a paradise with its scenic river view, cultural riches and feeling of mystery. Now, badly injured in an accident, Anna lives in a nursing home, awake but uncommunicative, leaving Leon to contend with a circle of friends and associates he can’t trust. After shooting rather than getting shot by his duplicitous supervisor in a tense late-night encounter along the river, he can avoid suspicion only so long before the brutal secret police, Emniyet, are onto him and the secretly stashed Alexei. There is little about the novel that is not familiar, but this is comfort fiction of the smartest, most compelling and

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THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE A Dark Tower Novel

non-pandering kind. Even as he evokes classics such as Casablanca, The Quiet American and A Perfect Spy, Kanon shows off his gift for morally gripping themes, heart-stopping suspense and compelling characters. With dialogue that can go off like gunfire and a streak of nostalgia that feels timeless, this book takes its place among espionage novels as an instant classic.

THE LEGEND OF PRADEEP MATHEW

Karunatilaka, Shehan Graywolf (416 pp.) $16.00 paperback | May 8, 2012 978-1-55597-611-8 An investigation into the life and times of a mysterious Sri Lankan cricket player from the perspective of an obsessed fan. Though Sri Lankan himself, sportswriter Wijedasa Gamini Karunasena (Wije to his friends) fits in well with the American stereotype of the journalist as a cigarette-smoking boozer. He and his friends spend their time compiling and arguing about all-star cricket teams, in much the same way Americans would argue over the relative merits of DiMaggio, Williams and Mantle. After years of abusing his liver, and after the Cricket World Cup matches in 1996, he begins to track down the enigmatic Pradeep Mathew, a “spinner” and the best Sri Lankan cricketer ever. (One sign of Pradeep’s omnipresence in the culture occurs when one of the journalist’s friends refers to Montgomery Clift as “the Pradeep Mathew of the silver screen.”) In a short period of time Pradeep made a splash and then disappeared, and his mystery involves being simultaneously forgotten and mythologized. Wije is determined to track down the cricketer’s movements and ultimate destiny, so he puts ads in the paper, fishing for “anyone who knows anything about...,” and he has limited success—a woman who claims to be his sister, a former girlfriend who has a handwritten poem from the athlete—but Pradeep and his legacy largely remain silent. Wije plays out his obsession with his friend Ari but against a family he’s neglecting, and his problems with whisky eventually land him into a 12-step recovery program. The novel works on many levels—including the sociological and the mythic—and can serve as a primer both for adepts and for those who’ve never seen a cricket match.

King, Stephen Scribner (320 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 24, 2012 978-1-4516-5890-3

The bestselling novelist scales down his literary ambition with a return to the Dark Tower series. Though King has expanded his thematic terrain and elevated his critical reputation in recent years (11/22/63, 2011 etc.), he remains a master of fantastic stories spun from a very fertile imagination that seek to do nothing more (or less) than entertain. Some readers might be surprised at this return to the narrative that King had apparently concluded with the massive The Dark Tower (2004), the seventh book in the series. Yet rather than extend and revive the plot in this installment, he mines a seam from earlier in the series, suggesting that “this book should be shelved between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla...which makes it, I suppose Dark Tower 4.5.” He also makes a point of reassuring readers new to the series that they can start here, that the novel can be understood as a stand-alone title (with just a little contextual background, which he summarizes in a couple of paragraphs). Short by King’s standards, the novel draws inspiration from tales of knighthood and Old West gunslingers, as its storywithin-a-story (within a story) details the rite-of-passage heroism of Roland Deschain, who saves a terrified boy in Mid-World from a shape-shifting marauder. “These tales nest inside each other,” explains Roland at the outset, as he prepares to recount a story through which its characters drew courage and inspiration from a story. If it weren’t for the profanity which liberally seasons the narrative, it could pass as a young adult fantasy, a foul-mouthed Harry Potter (with nods toward The Wizard of Oz and C.S. Lewis). It even ends with a redemptive moral, though King mainly concerns himself here with spinning a yard. Will more likely serve as a footnote for the many fans of the series than a point of entry to expand its readership.

AN UNEXPECTED GUEST

Korkeakivi, Anne Little, Brown (288 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-316-19677-2

This beautifully modulated first novel follows one day in the life of a British diplomat’s American wife as she organizes a dinner party crucial to her husband’s career. When the British Ambassador to France falls ill and Clare Moorhouse’s husband Edward must host a last-minute dinner for a visiting VIP, he knows he can count on Clare to pull the |

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h ly n d s ay fay e Lyndsay Faye moved from California’s Bay Area to New York City in 2005, intending to advance her stage-acting career. Instead, she turned to fiction writing. Her debut novel, Dust and Shadow (2009), drew Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson into a suspenseful pursuit of London’s most notorious and mysterious murderer, Jack the Ripper. That wasn’t a wholly unique plotting concept; Ellery Queen (in A Study in Terror, 1966), Michael Dibdin (The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, 1978) and Edward B. Hanna (The Whitechapel Murders, 1992) had all imagined an identical pairing of bloodhound and blackguard. Yet Faye found in the Ripper investigation numerous ways to illuminate both Holmes’ character and his Victorian milieu. After mimicking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Faye was better prepared to tackle her second book, The Gods of Gotham. It takes place in New York City in 1845 and introduces Timothy Wilde, a fire-scarred and love-starved ex-bartender who—thanks to the intervention of her politically connected elder brother, Valentine—joins the then-new New York Police Department. Wilde is quickly embroiled in the case of a 10-year-old girl who escaped from one of the town’s tonier brothels, covered in blood. Plumbing her story leads the young “copper star,” as Manhattan’s early patrolmen were known, to a field of concealed corpses and into the company of resourceful paperboys, and tosses him into the midst of anti-Irish violence that could destroy his city just as surely as the fires periodically besieging its skyline. I talked with Faye recently about her evolution as an author, crime solving in the mid-19th century and the street jargon that suffuses her new novel’s dialogue.

Gods of Gotham

Lyndsay Faye Penguin (432 pp.) $25.95 Mar. 15, 2012 9780399158377

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and Shadow, I was weaving fiction into fact, but what made my great hubris in thinking I could actually complete a novel possible was the fact that the events themselves were linear and inalterable… To some extent, writing Gods of Gotham was easier because no one was looking over my shoulder, telling me I’d gotten it wrong. But to start with a tabula rasa like that—it’s a terrifying void, creating your own universe. Starting with nothing and conjuring people. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Holmes and Watson are iconic—you know where they’re at from page one. Gods of Gotham was mythmaking, not retelling, so I had to learn the ropes all over again. Q: Although Holmes was brilliant, even he faced crimesolving challenges—and that was in the 1880s and later, when there was at least some scientific element to criminal investigations. Your own detective, Timothy Wilde, works in comparative blindness during the 1840s. What research did you do to make the sleuthing practices in The Gods of Gotham accurate? A: It was horrendously difficult to dredge up accounts of the day-to-day lives of the first policemen—plenty of people recorded the fact of the NYPD’s formation but not the techniques used. I studied the methods employed by the constables during the Mary Rogers case in 1841, the infamous mystery of the “Beautiful Cigar Girl.” And I found a diary at the New York Historical Society written by a copper star named William Bell, who actually wrote down what his rounds entailed. But to an enormous extent, crime solving was about common sense—there was so little science involved, they relied on an intimate knowledge of their community and its particular gallery of rogues.

Q: Dust and Shadow found Sherlock Holmes hunting Jack the Ripper. The Gods of Gotham, while also a historical crime novel, is a creation wholly of your own imagining. Was it harder to compose a book without Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s storytelling template?

Q: Religious tensions figure into your story, because Wilde fears the child murders he’s investigating are rooted in antiCatholic ire. To what degree was the animosity toward Catholics back then symptomatic of a more widespread fear of rising Irish immigration, and how much was a specific objection to Catholicism as a faith?

A: Well, I’d never have been able to write a novel in the first place if it hadn’t had a very exact template. I was a double major in English and acting, but I’ve never taken anything resembling a creative-writing course, though I was an editor for the campus literary magazine. So I’d no idea what I was doing, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is one of the greatest storytellers of all time—writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche essentially gave me an intensive crash course in the basics. And of course, the Ripper crimes actually happened; to an enormous extent the storyline is set. With Dust

A: To a certain extent, a country partially founded by people who were fleeing religious persecution from Papists was bound to think harshly of Catholicism—a reference in the New England Primer of 1690 to the “arrant Whore of Rome” is a good example. Catholics were not considered Christians; they were cultists, followers of a perverse corruption. So up to a point, Americans were culturally disposed to fear the religion and those who practiced it. In another sense, Catholicism had nothing whatsoever to do with the persecution of the Irish. It

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was about economics. In times of economic uncertainty, immigration is always denigrated in favor of “natives” keeping what little they have, which is to some extent laughable during the era I was dealing with because the “natives” had only been here for a generation or two, in many cases. They were one step away from being Dutch or English—they certainly weren’t referring to the Mohawk or the Delaware or the Mohican tribes when they called themselves Nativists. You see it with every immigrant group in its turn—it would happen to the Italians, and the Chinese, and the Poles, and the Puerto Ricans, and many others, the arguments against their being here couched in alarmingly predictable terminology. It happens to Hispanic people and Muslim Americans today, sadly.

p hoto by g a b rie l l e hn e r

Q: There are two significant relationships in Wilde’s life: one with his tougher and more licentious brother, Valentine; and the other with Mercy Underhill, a clergyman’s daughter he thinks is devastatingly attractive and entirely unattainable. What do those relationships bring to this tale? A: For me, Gods of Gotham is actually much more about Timothy and his relationships with his brother and the woman he loves than it is about crime. I don’t want to go so far as to say the crime is incidental, but an argument could be made that’s the case—what’s important to me isn’t the series of circumstances, but the way they reveal character and break Tim’s heart and change his perspective and turn him into a different person. That being said, we’re always the most affected by those we love most, and so the obvious route to creating a compelling story is to feature those relationships that are going to uplift and devastate and annoy and gladden and infuriate your hero. Valentine is necessary in a technical sense because I couldn’t come up with any other way to get a largely apolitical man like Tim onto the copper stars than through nepotism. He’s necessary in an emotional sense because he’s everything Timothy admires and loathes all wrapped into one package, and there’s something incredibly beautiful about complicated love. Mercy is necessary in a technical sense because she’s the romantic interest—the unattainable star the dark detective sets his cap for. She’s necessary in an emotional sense because Tim adores her and that’s all there is to it, without conditions or even very much introspection, and there’s something incredibly beautiful about uncomplicated love.

terms originated in that underworld argot. Do you have favorite examples of how “flash talk” has endured? A: Oh, absolutely. As slang developed and infiltrated and spread, people began to notice and to mock it to some extent. This practice included a group of people in New York and Boston who liked to abbreviate common phrases, but spelled incorrectly in imitation of heavy working-class accents. They took the phrase “oll korrect” and abbreviated it to “O.K.” We’ve been saying it ever since. Q: You certainly left open the possibility of there being a sequel to Gods of Gotham. Can I assume that we’ll see more of Timothy Wilde and his copper-starred compatriots in the future? A: The first draft of the sequel is finished, actually. It’s the winter of 1846, about six months later, and in it I merrily continue to do terrible, terrible things to Tim and Val.

9 J. Kingston Pierce is both the editor of The Rap Sheet and the senior editor of January Magazine.

Q: There’s much in your novel about “flash talk,” or the lexicon employed by thieves and other street ruffians. I found it interesting that many of today’s common slang |

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“Quality oozes from every page.” from fountain of age

dinner together in their Paris apartment. After 25 years of marriage, Clare is adept in her role as diplomatic wife: adaptable, circumspect and as pleasantly neutral as her tasteful attire. But the calm precision with which she arranges the dinner belies her growing anguish as the day proceeds. Learning that Edward may be named Ambassador to Ireland forces Clare to consider the secret about her past she has hidden from him: As a college student in Boston, she fell in love with a young Irish Catholic visiting her aunt; she allowed herself to become Niall’s mule to smuggle money back to Belfast before he deserted her and later supposedly drowned. Then Niall shows up, a flesh-and-blood ghost of her past mistakes. Those memories are dwarfed by her concern over her impetuous younger son Jamie, who’s just been suspended from boarding school on serious charges with political implications. And when a French official is assassinated hours before the party, Clare realizes that her brief street encounter with the primary suspect gives him a possible alibi. Struggling to sort out questions of loyalty, moral expediency and love while calmly carrying out the mundane responsibilities of her life, Clare finds a path to forgiveness and redemption. Yes, this is an homage to Virginia Woolf; echoes of Clarissa Dalloway resonate through Clare Moorhouse, from the pleasure taken in flowers and food to middle aged melancholia to the reunion with a past love, but Clare takes very different lessons from her day than Clarissa. With this seemingly slight day-in-the-life tale, Korkeakivi produces a knowing comedy of manners, a politically charged thriller and a genuinely moving study of the human heart.

FOUNTAIN OF AGE Stories

Kress, Nancy Small Beer Press (303 pp.) $16.00 paperback | $9.95 e-book Apr. 24, 2012 978-1-931520-45-4 978-1-931520-46-1 e-book Nine substantial stories, 2007-2009, from Kress (Crucible, 2004, etc.). Framing the collection are two awardwinning long tales, both speaking to the trials and compensations of growing old. A magnificent yarn, “The Erdmann Nexus” won the Hugo award for best novella in 2009 and describes the emergence of a dangerously god-like collective intelligence among old folks—think experience, wisdom, memories—living in a retirement home. “Fountains of Age” captured the Nebula award for best novella of 2007: A fabulously wealthy retired gangster discovers that the woman with whom he had a brief, intense affair many years ago is the source of the longevity treatments available to those that can afford them, and becomes consumed with the desire to see her again. Kress’ talent for dreaming up odd aliens reveals itself in “The Kindness of Strangers,” where they wipe out every major city on Earth—for our own good, of course; and in “Laws of Survival,” where aliens visiting a devastated Earth want their captives to train dogs to protect and serve them. Two tales concern genetic experiments on children. In “First Rites,” these 674

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experiments produce an autistic child instead of the hoped-for transcendentally aware mind. And “Safeguard” describes the tragic results of a biological warfare project. Elsewhere, “By Fools Like Me” features a nightmarish post-apocalyptic future where anything that survives from the former age is evil. Persons considering using one of the new “focus” drugs might wish to read “End Game” first. And if you’re thinking of taking up photography, ponder the strange results obtained in “Images of Anna.” Quality oozes from every page. A master class in the art of short-story writing. (Appearance at Norwescon (Seattle) April 5-8)

DIVORCE ISLAMIC STYLE

Lakhous, Amara Europa Editions (192 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Apr. 1, 2012 978-1-60945-066-3

In Lakhous’ (Clash of Civilizations over and Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, 2008) latest fiction, Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian court translator, meets Judas. This Judas is actually Captain Tassarotti from SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence service. The good captain wants Christian to go undercover and infiltrate Rome’s Viale Marconi, an ethnic Egyptian neighborhood, and particularly Little Cairo call center, supposedly linked to a bombing plot. Christian is perfectly qualified. He’s Mediterranean in appearance; his Sicilian grandparents were born in Tunisia; and he’s a language graduate of the University of Palermo who speaks fluent Arabic. Christian’s code name becomes Issa, Arabic for Jesus. Quite James Bond, but this isn’t a shaken-not-stirredadventure. Though set against the backdrop of 2005’s manic phase of the War on Terror, the book is a wry study of modern multicultural Europe, a place where wary Muslim immigrants finagle Italian bureaucracy without offending the local imans or neglecting to send euros home. Lakhous’ narrative unfolds from two points of view. Christian/Issa copes with Judas’ unreasonable expectations, watches Al Jazeera religiously, shares an apartment with 12 immigrants and haunts Little Cairo. More interestingly, Safia, now Sofia, a spirited and somewhat independent young Egyptian woman, arrives in Rome after an arranged marriage with “the architect,” an Egyptian professional relegated to working as a pizza chef. Issa’s segments are observational, scattered impressions from a reluctant participant in operational snafu. Sofia offers chatty insights into an immigrant society tripping over religiosity and hypocrisy, spiced with lively opinions about veils, female circumcision, divorce, misogynistic interpretations of the Koran and her secret attempts to earn money of her own. That Issa and Sofia will meet is a given, as is their inevitable mutual attraction. Social commentary as literature deftly translated from the Italian.

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ASSASSIN’S CODE

Maberry, Jonathan St. Martin’s Griffin (464 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-312-55220-6 Even protagonist Joe Ledger, hero of three previous Maberry novels (The King of Plagues, 2011, etc.), knows that the premise of his latest adventure is totally ridiculous: Ledger scoffs at the idea of vampires with nuclear bombs, and Maberry can’t quite make a convincing case for them either. At first Ledger, an agent with the super-secret Department of Military Sciences, believes he’s tracking some run-of-the-mill terrorists, who’ve planted several nuclear devices in various oil fields around the Middle East. But over the course of two intense, action-packed days, Ledger discovers a centuries-old conspiracy that involves a race known as the Upierczi, vampire-like creatures who are nearly immortal, drink blood, live in the shadows and are vulnerable to garlic. The Upierczi have been used as soldiers in a secret, ongoing pact between underground Christian and Muslim cabals to foster continued animosity between the two religions. Now the vampires are rising up against their masters, and they’re using nuclear weapons as their tools of rebellion. As Ledger and his DMS cohorts race to find and disable the bombs, various other secretive factions maneuver to protect their interests and take out their enemies. After facing down zombies, hybrid monsters and weaponized biblical plagues in previous novels, Ledger still has a tough time wrapping his head around the whole vampire thing, and the novel never really gets past the silliness of its setup. The more Maberry piles on the secret societies and far-reaching conspiracies, the harder it is to invest in the seriousness of the story and in Ledger’s angst about becoming a hollow killing machine. The sarcastic, skeptical Ledger is appealing enough, but his inner struggle (not to mention his potential romance with a deadly assassin known as Violin) is no match for Maberry’s hokey adventure-serial plotting and popcorn-movie action sequences full of meaningless bluster. The story’s fast pace helps it go down easy, but it’s almost all empty calories. (Agent: Sara Crowe)

secrets to foreign powers. If they can locate Lieutenant Tan, they stand to make a great deal of money by turning her over to an agent of the Chinese government. But it’s a dangerous game that is going to leave people dead. Tate knows a former colleague who has probably joined the Protectory and knows just how bad he is. The search for Tan goes deep into Germany and back to Britain as Tate closes in—or does he? The story is well constructed and exciting, with plenty of strong dialogue and plot twists to keep the reader guessing, and probably guessing wrong. The book, however, ends without enough resolution. Yes, the main plot is wrapped up, but major questions remain. At the end, Harry and his colleague could continue their quest for answers, but instead they say the hell with it, let’s go have a drink. In effect, they will lie low until Magson writes his next book. A solid read, but the ending doesn’t satisfy.

BAbylon ad forge or st martins

DECEPTION

Magson, Adrian Severn House (256 pp.) $28.95 | Apr. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8130-4 A British spy thriller from Magson (Tracers, 2011, etc.). Harry Tate is a former MI5 (domestic security) officer asked by MI6 (overseas security) to track down Vanessa Tan, an apparent military deserter with access to highly sensitive national secrets. He’d better hurry, because a shadowy group called the Protectory wants her too. They are deserters who specialize in betrayal by selling |

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“[A] tale of love, loyalty, loss and unexpected reconciliation, topped off by ample violence.” from thunder and rain

I AM FORBIDDEN

Markovits, Anouk Hogarth/Crown (320 pp.) $25.00 | May 8, 2012 978-0-307-98473-9 Orphaned during the Holocaust, two ultra-orthodox Jews bound by love and faith are driven apart by the same forces in a sensitive consideration of tradition and commitment. French-raised Markovits’ English-language debut opens in Manhattan in 2005 with the meeting of two women: Atara, who, like the author, fled her Hasidic family to avoid an arranged marriage; and Judith, the granddaughter of Atara’s adopted sister, burdened by a cataclysmic secret. Then the clock turns back to Transylvania in 1939, where Josef witnesses the murder of his family and is taken in by a Catholic farmer, and Mila is saved by Josef when her parents are murdered too. Rabbi Stern later rescues Josef and sends him to the U.S. while taking Mila into his own family. Stern’s daughter Atara starts to question her father’s beliefs and expectations, including limited education for women, and also researches a dark episode of Holocaust history involving Mila’s parents and a revered Hasidic rabbi whose escape from Europe may have come at a very high price. When Mila and Josef marry, Atara abandons her family and disappears. The years pass but Mila doesn’t conceive. Finally, when she does, desperate choices have been made by both husband and wife. Decades later, matters come full circle as Judith and Atara choose what matters most. Less a commercial family saga, more a sober, finely etched scrutiny of extreme belief set in a female context.

THUNDER AND RAIN

Martin, Charles Center Street/Hachette (368 pp.) $21.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-1-4555-0398-8 Out in west Texas, Tyler Steele, retired Texas Ranger, wife locked in rehab, must make sense of a life undone. Martin’s (Where the River Ends, 2008, etc.) latest is a tale of love, loyalty, loss and unexpected reconciliation, topped off by ample violence. Driving through a foggy Texas night, Ty narrowly avoids a collision with a battered station wagon carrying Samantha Dyson and her young daughter Hope. Ty offers help. They are wary and resentful, but Ty gets their clunker running and shepherds them to a truck stop. Ty’s Ranger instincts tell him mother and daughter are running from trouble, a hunch proved true when a rogue San Antonio police officer, once Sam’s lover, attempts a kidnapping. Ty subdues him, but hears, “I’ll hunt you. Find you. Rid you of whatever or whoever you love.” Sam has a sister in New Orleans, and Ty drives them there, but the sister’s gone without a trace. Sam and Hope are in danger, and so Ty, duty and honor incarnate, brings them to his Texas ranch. Told from 676

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Ty’s point of view, with Hope’s letters to God offering outside perspective, the narrative covers Ty’s early life with his heroic father, his love for his young son Brodie, the collapse of his world after his wife took up drugs, expensive habits and a lover, and the painful knowledge his marriage failed because of his emotional isolation. Martin writes glowingly about Texas, about Rangers and their ethos, about merciless evil in the world and about the fragile bond between man and woman and the blood bond between father and son. Ty helps Sam escape her pursuer, but the story veers off when Ty’s wife is released from rehab, becoming something of an odd but entertaining hybrid of James Lee Burke’s morality tales and Nicholas Sparks’ sentimental journeys. A John Wayne hero, multiple appreciations of the Colt Model 1911 and a cowboy-gets-the-girl romance in one readable package.

THE LAST HUNDRED DAYS

McGuinness, Patrick Bloomsbury (384 pp.) $17.00 paperback | May 22, 2012 978-1-60819-912-9

The final months of Ceaucescu’s dictatorship in Romania, as seen by a young British expat. He’s a 21-year-old college dropout, yet he’s hired without an interview to lecture at Bucharest University, a first taste of how things work over there. The unnamed narrator is not sorry to be leaving. It’s 1989; cancer has just claimed his father, a hardhearted man who mercilessly abused his mother, also dead. Waiting for him in a pleasant Bucharest apartment is another Brit, Leo, a faculty veteran who will be his mentor. Leo is “Bucharest’s biggest black-marketeer”; he needs a malleable front man, which explains why his young compatriot was hired. He’s an outsize character, not just a crook but a preservationist, cataloguing what’s left of the elegant inner-city neighborhoods before they disappear under the dictator’s bulldozers. Leo is man of contradictions, but not a convincing one, and a symbol of what’s wrong with the novel: its ruinous excess. McGuinness’ Romania is the standard picture of life under Ceaucescu: a sad, bleak place of fear (of the ubiquitous security goons) and deprivation (of life’s necessities). Instead of grounding Leo and his new sidekick (we never see them in the classroom), McGuinness spirits them into the heart of the dying regime’s power struggles. After a chance street encounter, the kid helps a wily old Party stalwart with his memoirs, while dating the coolest girl in town, who just happens to be the daughter of the deputy Interior Minister. There are wheels within wheels; nobody is who they seem. There’s a clandestine trip to the Yugoslavia border to help some dissidents escape, but it’s a moment without drama for the two lecturers, and it’s long after the fact that the now absent masterminds will be revealed as puppets of Party bosses. At the end, it’s not only the regime that falls apart, as the narrator dithers over whether to stay and confront his rumored nemesis. A clunky debut lacking suspense.

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THE LAST HICCUP

Meades, Christopher ECW Press (240 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Apr. 1, 2012 978-1-55022-973-8 Meades (The Three Fates of Henrik Nordmark, 2010) draws literary fiction from 1929 Russia, where young Vladimir awakens one morning with hiccups, yelps occurring precisely every 3.7 seconds. The hiccups continue relentlessly. Vlad disrupts the village school, where his passion is Ileana, redolent of “caramel and peaches outside on a spring day.” Folk remedies fail. Vlad, unable to sleep, nears collapse. His mother consults the village doctor, who calls upon a revered cousin, Sergei Namestikov, prominent Moscow physician. Sergei soon becomes father figure to the silent young boy whose gaze contains no joy or sorrow, no curiosity or anticipation. Examinations are unproductive. Treatments fail. Namestikov admits no defeat but finally consults Alexander Afiniganov, hated rival who has ever-bested him in honors and now in love, romancing Sergei’s beautiful former wife, Asenka. Afiniganov believes Vlad’s vacant stare is a window into the ageless struggle between “seraph and the devil’s sprite.” Without Namestikov’s knowledge, Afiniganov spirits Vlad away to a Mongolian monastery and into the care of the mystic Great Gog, who believes good and evil battle within Vlad. There he grows to manhood, still hiccuping, until Gog dies. Vlad is blamed, and then pursued into the wilds by Gog’s followers. Soon Vlad decides “sometimes in life, the person you are is the person you decide to be,” and vows to return home. Meades’ tale is peopled by every oddity of character, from a “dwarfling” psychoanalyst to a narcoleptic nurse to farmer Usurpet and his mute wife who has permission to bed whomever she chooses. Despite minor anachronisms, Meades reveals himself a gifted writer, deft with descriptions splashing surrealistic images like, “the muttony mixture of meat and carrots collided about in his open mouth like a small anguished creature trying to escape an ancient Romanian killing machine.” Vlad’s Pilgrim’s Progress ends after he treks from Mongolia to meets his mother, Ileana, Dr. Namestikov, an empathetic army recruiter and his inevitable fate. An allegorical tale ripe with symbolism.

THE LILAC HOUSE

Nair, Anita Minotaur (352 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Apr. 24, 2012 978-0-312-60677-0 Nair’s latest novel (Ladies Coupé, 2004, etc.), set in India, traces the intersection of the lives of two individuals undergoing devastating personal tragedies. Meera’s husband, Giri, fell in love after spying her in the yard of her family |

home, the Lilac House. After marriage, the couple lived there with their two children and Meera’s mother and grandmother. As of late, Giri has been pressuring Meera to sell the house, but she refuses and won’t tell him why the house cannot be sold. Meanwhile, Jak, a professor who has been living in the United States, is back in India to determine how his beloved oldest daughter, a university student, was injured. Smriti, bedridden and unable to communicate, must be cared for around the clock. All Jak and his wife know about Smriti’s actions prior to her being injured is that she was in an “accident.” He travels to see the place where it happened, hoping to obtain answers from her friends, the police and the doctor at the hospital where she was brought, but no one will talk to him. Jak and Meera meet at a wine launch where Meera, a successful cookbook author, and Giri appear for the last time as a couple. Before the party ends, Giri abandons her and their son, running off to another life without them. Forced to find work in order to support her family, Meera takes a position working as Jak’s assistant, but not before realizing that he is the man who gave her a ride home from the party where her husband dumped her. Frantic about money and unsure of herself, Meera struggles with her change of fortune while Jak faces a future with a child who will never again regain her functionality. Even worse, he can’t seem to resolve the mystery of how she ended up so damaged. Nair tells the story of these two wounded birds through melodramatic prose that grows more plodding with each page. Nair’s story may appeal to readers who enjoy novels set in India, but most will want to pass on this overwritten tale.

ABDICATION

Nicolson, Juliet Atria (336 pp.) $25.00 | May 22, 2012 978-1-4516-5883-5 In historian Nicolson’s (The Perfect Summer, 2005, etc.) first fiction, a Remains of the Day ambience is played out against the backdrop of George V’s death and Edward VIII’s ascension to the throne. Of course, Wallis Simpson plays a role. All this drama, plus a glimpse of Oswald Mosley and Germany’s burgeoning anti-Semitism, is seen through the eyes of May Thomas, a young woman raised on a decrepit Barbados sugar plantation. To make her way in the world, and to escape an abusive father, May sails to England with her brother, Samuel. In London’s East End, the siblings are welcomed by a cousin, Nat, now married into a family of Jewish tailors. Sam plans to volunteer for the Royal Navy, but May needs a job. She soon secures employment as a combination chauffeuse-secretary to Sir Philip Blunt, a man intrigued both by her femininity and her familiarity with bookkeeping and Rolls-Royces, skills learned on the sugar plantation. It happens Sir Philip is deeply embedded in the government’s attempt to cope with the romance of the new king and Simpson. Nicolson writes knowledgeably of weekends in the country, swank parties and the ironic-supercilious

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posture of the British upper class. The novel rings with authenticity. The author’s grandfather, Harold Nicolson, was an English author and politician during the era. With promise of a sequel lurking in the conclusion, the novel is a period drama ready to be adapted by the BBC and rerun on PBS.

THE GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS

O’Neal, Barbara Bantam (416 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-553-38678-3 Reverend Elsa Montgomery has turned away from God for the third time. Can she find her way back? Multiple RITA award-winner O’Neal (How to Bake a Perfect Life, 2010, etc.) offers this warm, comfortingly predictable romance about the healing powers of nature, love and community. After tragedy strikes her Seattle-based church community, Reverend Elsa finds herself sinking into a deep depression, grieving not only the death of a parishioner but also her own faith. Tamsin, Elsa’s sister, is worried, her own congregation insists she take a sabbatical and her oldest friend, Joaquin, drags her back home to Pueblo. Years ago, Elsa and Joaquin had nearly married, but a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago had convinced him to become a priest. Now Joaquin, better known as Father Jack, plans to help Elsa heal by convincing her to spearhead a community garden in his impoverished parish. Yet both Elsa and Joaquin have some lingering feelings for each other to work through—feelings that can no longer be ignored when the ruggedly handsome (and tellingly named) Deacon McCoy turns up as the landscaping expert. Meanwhile Tamsin has troubles of her own. Her husband has disappeared, the feds have indicted him for financial shenanigans of international proportions and her daughter just might be engaged to an Italian count. Joaquin, Elsa, Deacon, Tamsin and the community come together to clear the land, plant seeds and nurture the garden that begins to heal all of their hurts. The forces of good in this novel are well developed through the ministries of Father Jack and Elsa, as well as the many communal acts of goodness, such as the soup kitchen, the quilting circle and the garden itself. Darkness looms with gangs intent on destroying the garden and the memories of what happened in Seattle. Yet those forces of evil offer only glancing blows. A book that offers happy but not believable endings. (Agent: Meg Ruley)

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CALLING INVISIBLE WOMEN

Ray, Jeanne Crown (256 pp.) $24.00 | May 22, 2012 978-0-307-39505-4

In this slim comic treatise on the social status of middle-aged women, Clover Hobart disappears. It had been happening metaphorically for a long time—her job as stealth reporter for the newspaper had slowly morphed into a weekly gardening column, her husband barely notices her and her grown children take her for granted. No one hits on her anymore. And then one morning she wakes up invisible. Her body has mass and weight, but she is shockingly see-through. When her sleepy son Nick doesn’t notice, she rushes over to her friend Gilda, who thankfully (Clover’s not crazy!) perceives that she’s not there. Strangely, or not, no one seems to notice she’s invisible—they see her clothes, hear her voice. That her head and hands are missing… well, it only reaffirms what Clover’s been feeling for a while: she’s simply disappeared. Luckily she comes upon an ad for the next meeting of invisible women at the downtown Sheraton. In the conference room Clover is met with a circle of chairs, disembodied testimonials and a shocking revelation—these women slip out of their clothes to become completely unseen, and do some rather interesting things. She also discovers that they’ve all been on the same three medications—for menopause, bone density and depression—manufactured by a big pharmaceutical, which tacitly admits something may be going on with this particular combination of drugs. With her support group, Clover begins relishing her invisibility. She’s stopped bullies at the local high school, foiled a bank robbery and prevented her son from obtaining an awful tattoo. She just wishes her husband, a good guy in all other ways, would notice. It seems there are a lot of invisible women out there, but they can’t get help unless they are heard and seen. Ray’s novel could have easily slipped into a series of jokes, but suitably she creates substantial characters for this whimsy. Though the novel has a softer bite than the best satires (Fay Weldon’s, for one), it offers a lot of witty charm. (Author events in Nashville. Agent: Lisa Bankoff)

FAITH BASS DARLING’S LAST GARAGE SALE

Rutledge, Lynda Amy Einhorn/Putnam (304 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 26, 2012 978-0-399-15719-6 Under the looming shadow of Y2K, the very proper Faith Bass Darling hauls all of her priceless family possessions onto her front lawn for a very improper yard sale in Rutledge’s debut novel. Surprised and delighted to catch sight of the reclusive Faith, neighbors and strangers descend upon the Darlings’ lawn to

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snap up Tiffany lamps and Spode china for quarters. Alarmed less by Faith’s evident Alzheimer’s than by the shocking loss of capital, Bobbie Ann Blankenship rushes over to save what she can. Now sole proprietor of the Yesteryear Antique Shop, Bobbie plans to keep Faith’s possessions safe from unscrupulous buyers until Faith consents to a dignified estate sale, or until Faith’s daughter, Claudia, comes home. But first, Bobbie might just take that mysterious elephant clock—the one item Faith does not want to sell. Claudia hasn’t been home in 20 years, not since she hid a certain family ring, a ring passed down from her great-great-grandmother Belle, a ring replete with a three-carat diamond surrounded by seed pearls, a ring inscribed Love Eternal, a ring hidden in a desk on the Darlings’ lawn. A failed Buddhist, Claudia doesn’t want the ring for itself but for the chance it offers to invest in her dream of becoming part-owner of an upscale fitness club. Once home, Claudia must confront her mother’s illness, as well as the return of her first love, Deputy John Jasper Johnson. With the help of John Jasper, Bobbie, Father George and Dr. Peabody, Claudia begins to understand her mother, her mother’s illness and their relationship. Faith herself confronts the memories of her past as she moves from room to room, object to object. Those memories contain some dark family secrets having to do with the deaths of her husband, Claude Angus Darling, and her son, Mike. This potentially poignant story of misplaced emotional attachments and misremembered pasts falters under its wispy tone.

THE GRIEVERS

Schuster, Marc Permanent Press (176 pp.) $26.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-57962-263-3 When a prep-school classmate dies, a graduate student past his sell-by date must face his escalating anxiety over growing up. After lightly eviscerating the life of a suburban housewife in his fiction debut, Schuster (The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl, 2009) turns his attention to the wilderness years of 20-somethings in Philly. Grad student Charley is elbow-deep in wallpapering with his wife Karen when a phone call idly informs him that Billy Chin, a former classmate from Saint Leonard’s Academy, committed suicide by leaping off a local bridge. It’s quite the wake-up call for a young man mired in the quicksand of his dissertation and a dead-end job promoting a bank in a giant dollar-sign costume. In a neat metaphor, he’s regularly blown off his feet by passing semis. This means we often learn more about Charley’s unstable personality through internal monologues and cell conversations inside the suit than during the Hamlet-esque paralysis of his life. To assuage his fears, Charley calls his Marx Brothers-quoting best friend Neil Pogue and their gang of comrades from Saint Leonard’s to dream up a tribute to their fallen friend. Five bills in hand, Charley reacquaints |

himself with former teacher Phil Ennis, now the school’s greedmotivated, self-important development director. Charley’s lack of backbone lets old rival Frank Dearborn turn what was intended to be a tasteful tribute to Billy into a garish festival complete with performance art. Charley is not a nice guy but his spiraling tumble into self-awareness is a wince-worthy exercise in sympathy. “All because I refused to do anything,” Charley admits. “Because doing something meant change. Because change meant growing up. Because growing up meant leaving so much behind.” Schuster’s off-kilter portrait of a guy unsatisfied like the old Replacements song adds pivotal bite to the pre-programmed humor of his ensemble.

MÉNAGE

Shulman, Alix Kates Other Press (288 pp.) $14.95 paperback | May 15, 2012 978-1-59051-520-4 A surprisingly tart little literary satire from Shulman, whose long career includes a feminist classic (Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, 1972), biographies of Emma Goldman, children’s books and affectionate memoirs. At 36, Mack McKay has made a ton of money with a hugely successful career as a developer. He has an airplane and a growing art collection in his one-of-a-kind mansion in New Jersey. But he senses his marriage to Heather, whom he met when they were students at Yale, has gone stale. He still adores Heather but is spending more and more time in Los Angeles wining and dining a hottie named Maja. Meanwhile Heather has put her literary ambitions on hold to raise their two children in the suburbs, with the help of nannies of course. Mack senses Heather’s resentment, although not her sexual paranoia concerning Mack and Maja—an affair that is never going to happen, especially once Maja commits suicide. At her funeral, Mack meets Maja’s actual lover, dashingly handsome if aging Zoltan Barbu, whose book Mack meant to return to Maja before her untimely demise. Exiled from an unnamed Eastern European nation and championed by the likes of Susan Sontag, Zolton was once a literary cause célèbre but now is broke, suffering from writer’s block and about to be evicted from his apartment. Nevertheless he works his charm on Mack, who invites him back to the manse in New Jersey as a surprise for Heather. The agreement is that Zoltan will get a luxurious writer’s refuge and Heather will be presented with an intellectual companion. Needless to say, Mack’s plan goes awry. There is a clash of values, none of them noble though all self-justifying. Forget Shulman’s reputation as a feminist author; spoiled, self-absorbed Heather is no more sympathetic than the two men who with her form an increasingly barbed triangle of mixed signals. And the liberal publishing establishment doesn’t come off too well either. For a woman approaching 80, Shulman is delightfully wicked, verging on malevolent. (Regional appearances in New York)

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“The suspense is enriched by Theroux’s loving attention to local customs and his subversive insights.” from the lower river

DARK MAGIC

Swain, James Tor (352 pp.) $24.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-7653-2994-3 An adequate thriller set in a world that includes demons, witches, warlocks and New Yorkers. Peter Warlock is not only a professional magician but a real warlock. One day, he foresees catastrophe in Manhattan’s Times Square: People will suddenly drop dead in large numbers, but his vision cannot explain why. As with any good fictional disaster, it’s going to happen soon, so he has a tight deadline. But exactly what will happen, and who will do it? Police are skeptical of Peter’s warning, because they are ordinary humans. So he and his friends try hard to pinpoint the threat, and they manage to enlist key support from a cop. Meanwhile, a man ominously named Wolfe gives them a devil of a time. Peter’s character is well developed, with a dark side that balances his fundamental decency and loyalty to his friends. Other characters have less dimension, with Wolfe simply being a bad dude employed by the evil Order of Astrum. A second villain has a motivation to kill that just makes no sense. But accept the premise that ghosts and other spirits exist, and you’ll find a decent read. An ably told tale that will keep you entertained during a long plane ride or a few idle hours. But like some of Peter’s friends who lose their memories, you may not long recall having read this book. (Agent: Robin Rue)

THE LOWER RIVER

Theroux, Paul Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (336 pp.) $25.00 | May 22, 2012 978-0-547-74650-0 A joyful return to Africa turns into a nightmare for the elderly American protagonist of Theroux’s extraordinary novel. As a young man, Ellis Hock loved teaching in Malawi for the Peace Corps, happiest years of his life. (Theroux did a hitch there; see his early novel Jungle Lovers.) Then he had to return to suburban Boston to run the men’s-clothing store he’d inherited. Thirty-five years later, the store and his marriage having failed, he returns to Malawi for a nostalgiainduced vacation. He’s warned on arrival that people are hungry and only want money, but he heads into the bush with a bagful of it, another mzungu (white man) who knows best. Malabo, the remote riverbank village where he’s remembered as the mzungu who helped build the school and clinic, gives him a warm welcome, but Hock’s disillusion sets in fast. The school is a ruin; the visiting doctor is a quack; AIDS is rampant; requests for money are constant. The villagers keep him under surveillance at the direction of the headman Manyenga, who is all smiles and lies. One bright spot is his reunion with Gala, the woman he loved, and the presence of her 16-year-old 680

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granddaughter Zizi, who waits on Hock and is fiercely loyal to him. The snakes, too, are a blessing. They terrify the villagers, but Hock handles them fearlessly, using them as protection once he realizes he is being held captive. He makes three escape attempts. The second takes him downriver into Mozambique. There Hock runs into a community of starving but deadly children and a food drop, horribly bungled by white Westerners; these scenes are devastating. All his escapes are foiled by the formidable Manyenga. The suspense is enriched by Theroux’s loving attention to local customs and his subversive insights. As Hock weakens in body and spirit, Zizi just grows stronger. Could she be his savior? Theroux has recaptured the sweep and density of his 1981 masterpiece The Mosquito Coast. That’s some achievement.

A TEENY BIT OF TROUBLE

West, Michael Lee Minotaur (320 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-312-57123-8

Second installment in the adventures of freelance baker and reluctant sleuth Teeny Templeton. Now comfortably ensconced at her late Aunt Bluette’s Georgia peach farm, which she’s been able to save thanks to a windfall inheritance from her now-deceased ex-fiancé, Teeny is finding that her tiny hometown of Bonaventure is a hotbed not only of petty gossip but murderous machinations. When Teeny inadvertently witnesses the strangulation of her high school nemesis Barb at the hands of a lanky stranger in a Bill Clinton mask, her current fiancé (and Barb’s former lover) Coop, a lawyer, advises Teeny to lay low. In the first installment (Gone with a Handsomer Man, 2011), incredibly precocious 10-year-old Emerson, Barb’s daughter, showed up on Coop’s doorstep to claim he is her real father, not creepy pharmacist Lester, whom Barb married on the rebound from Coop. Lester, only too eager to disown Emerson, demands a DNA test. As Teeny investigates Barb’s death, aided by a trail of cryptic clues Barb planted, she encounters a cast of characters and potential villains straight out of Southern Novel central casting: at least two foulmouthed, hard-drinking old ladies, two middle-aged former cotillion debutantes who still see Teeny as trash, and diverse exemplars of Southern manhood. Teeny rebuffs every effort of laconic and lean Red, Coop’s private eye, to keep her out of trouble. Son, now a successful plastic surgeon, once almost supplanted Coop in Teeny’s heart. Then there is repellant lothario Josh, who runs Bonaventure’s mortuary, and Norris, Lester’s equally creepy brother whose medical license has been yanked for sexual assault. A number of healthy people, many of them Son’s patients, have been dying of mysterious causes after hospitalizations for minor injuries or elective surgery: Could Barb’s anagrams, decoded by Emerson, indicate that Bonaventure’s newest industry is organ trafficking? Far too many characters and a large school of red herrings impede the flow, but snarky repartee, and the continuing conceit of Teeny’s recipes for disaster, keep the comedy afloat.

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JANA BIBI’S EXCELLENT FORTUNES

Woodman, Betsy Henry Holt (320 pp.) $15.00 paperback | May 8, 2012 978-0-8050-9349-0 Memories of the Raj are never far away in an affectionately old-fashioned tale of community life set in the fictional Indian hill town of Hamara Nagar in 1960. It’s the town’s classification as a “second-rate hill station…of negligible importance” that sets events in motion in Woodman’s debut, as citizens either welcome or despair of government plans to construct a dam that will flood the area and their homes. When Indian-born Janet (Jana) Laird, the widow of an American missionary, inherits and then moves into an historical building in Hamara Nagar, she encounters both Hindu and Muslim neighbors including a kindly merchant, a newspaper editor, a philosophical tailor and various wives. The only fly in the social ointment is the villainous police commissioner Bandhu Sharma, a bully and extortionist who, alone in the community, is in favor of the dam. Recruited into the anti-dam campaign, which centers on turning the town into a tourist destination, Janet agrees to open the eponymous fortune-telling salon where, decked out in jewels and costume, with her parrot Mr. Ganguly selecting the cards, she is surprisingly successful. Here, however, the story loses focus, forgets the dam and piles up a sequence of minor crises as individual destinies are tidily resolved in readiness for episode two of the planned series. Good-humored, soft-centered, nostalgic armchair tourism. (Agent: Suzanne Gluck)

WICHITA

Ziolkowski, Thad Europa Editions (256 pp.) $15.00 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-60945-070-0 What to do about Seth? The self-destructive punk roils a Kansas household in this sparkling debut. Lewis Chopik has come home to Wichita to lick his wounds. The young graduate (Columbia, summa cum laude) should be buoyant, but he’s been dumped by his girlfriend, who’s traded up to snag a Rhodes Scholar. And he’s being badgered by his father Virgil, a Columbia professor and part of a formidable clan of academics, to pursue his studies, an unwelcome prospect. All his divorced mother Abby wants is for him to be happy. However, any hope of peace and quiet back home dissolves when his 20-year-old brother Seth appears. He’s been on a downward spiral since age 14, when a morning-glory trip convinced him death was an attractive destination. Since then he’s been tentatively diagnosed as bipolar; briefly married to a stripper in San Francisco; |

and almost killed by fellow street punks. He fits right in at Abby’s. His indulgent mom has always provided “havens for oddballs,” while busying herself with New -Age projects and a succession of “lifetime companions.” Her latest companion is unhappily sharing her with Bishop, a genial university chemistry teacher who’s cooking up “designer psychedelics” in Abby’s basement; he’s also helping her set up her latest project: storm-chasing with a New -Age twist. There’s never a dull moment in a novel which fires us up with snappy and often very funny dialogue; Seth, deranged but smart (those Chopik genes), takes down anyone in earshot with gleeful malice. The central relationship is that between the two brothers; Lewis loves Seth dearly but is powerless to slow his descent. They will be ejected from a bowling alley and a biker bar; after Seth’s frightening rant in a graveyard, Lewis realizes he must be committed. Then the whole gang takes off after a tornado— for Seth, the perfect solution. It’s light on plot, and those grim Chopik academics are close to straw men, but so what? Ziolkowski is off to a fine start.

m ys t e r y A KILLING WINTER

Arthurson, Wayne Forge (304 pp.) $24.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-7653-2418-4

A Canadian journalist with gambling issues risks his life to solve the murder of a friend. Leo Desroches is not exactly the model of a modern newspaper reporter. Sure, he’s first class at his job—the best I’ve got, says his boss at the Edmonton Journal—at least from time to time. The downside of Leo is that he too often parks his hat, and sometimes his bankroll, in casinos when he’s expected to be somewhere else, like the newsroom nailing down a final fact for a front-page story, or at home with his long-suffering wife and two unhappy kids. Leo once turned bank robber in order to generate a grubstake, after which he wrote the story about the cops’ failure to capture an elusive criminal. In the past, Leo’s habit has cost him dearly, rendering him both jobless and homeless. But now he’s back at work, flush with fresh opportunity. Enter Marvin, a young man who befriended Leo when he was on the street. Or rather, exit Marvin, since he seems to have vanished without a trace. Leo’s search for him takes him to some dark and dangerous places where the odds against survival clearly favor the house. The further adventures of an unabashed antihero (Fall from Grace, 2011, etc.). Not a safe bet for the general reader, but readers drawn to Patricia Highsmith’s famously amoral Ripley should certainly roll the dice.

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“[A] fulsome simulacrum of the Regency era, with just enough upstairs/downstairs brouhaha to entertain fans of Downton Abbey.” from the deathly portent

THE DEATHLY PORTENT

Bailey, Elizabeth Berkley Prime Crime (368 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-425-24567-5 The village blacksmith succumbs to a roof cave-in. Ottilia and her new husband Sir Francis Fanshawe are returning to their estate from a visit to her aging, deaf and snapping mentor when their carriage wheels become mired in mud and the axle breaks. While Tillie picks wildflowers and Fan cusses their plight, his man Ryde heads for the nearest village to get help. On his return, he tells them that the poor blacksmith Duggleby died the night before, squashed under a falling roof, then finished off by a fire. The locals, he adds, have blamed his death on Cassie Dale— a spawn of the devil, they maintain, who foresaw the smith’s demise through her second sight. They took after her and her maid, pounding them with stones. The women barely managed to reach the vicarage, where the newly appointed Rev. Aiden Kinnerton sheltered them. Second sight? A suspicious death? Tillie’s snooping instincts are aroused, and she cajoles Fan into getting them to Witherley so that she can begin some decorous prying. Before the lid is nailed shut on Duggleby’s coffin, Tillie has learned that someone whacked him fiercely on the head, that a pair of chambermaids are warring over marriage prospects and that another maid has gone missing. There’ll be more death and hints about secret riches; the Rev. Kinnerton will continue having nightmares about his service in Africa; and the drinkers at the pub will continue accusing Mrs. Dale of witchcraft. But Tillie and her beloved Fan will sort through all these imbroglios to the truth, then, exhausted, head for home. Like The Gilded Shroud (2011, etc.), a fulsome simulacrum of the Regency era, with just enough upstairs/downstairs brouhaha to entertain fans of Downton Abbey.

A DARK ANATOMY

Blake, Robin Minotaur (368 pp.) $24.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-250-00672-1

Georgian England is ruled by the law, but crime solving is rudimentary at best. The Lancashire estate of Garlick Hall is the scene of a gruesome murder and Titus Cragg, lawyer and coroner, is called upon to investigate and arrange a coroner’s jury. When Dolores Brockletower, the wife of the squire, is found with her throat cut in the woods near her home, Titus calls upon his friend doctor Luke Fidelis to help investigate. The local populace is all too eager to call this a supernatural act. Dolores, who is from the Indies and rides astride, is not well liked and people suspect her of witchcraft. Her husband was away and has 682

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an excellent alibi but when the corpse is stolen from the ice house, preventing a jury from being convened, it is obvious someone is willing to go to great lengths to prevent an investigation. Titus not only checks out the husband’s alibi but digs deep into Dolores’ past. Squire Brockletower was secretly looking into a divorce as his wife could have no children; Dolores went as far as steering a young friend into an affair that leads to her pregnancy so they could adopt the baby. When the architect working on improving Garlick Hall is murdered and dumped in Titus’ garden the whole case becomes much more personal. What Titus uncovers is so shocking that he has no doubt it is a motive for murder. Blake’s first, in what one hopes will be a series, presents a very tricky mystery to solve along with a nice period feel.

KALEIDOSCOPE

Bowen, Gail McClelland & Stewart (304 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 28, 2012 978-0-7710-1689-9 A pitched battle over the redevelopment of a troubled area of town reminds Joanne Kilbourn that her beloved Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, Canada, is prone to all the troubles of modern cities, including murder. Wealthy Leland Hunter, a client of Joanne’s husband Zack Shreve, is bent on transforming the North Central sector of the city by means of The Village Project. Agitator Riel Delorme, who was a student of Joanne’s before he dropped out of university and she retired, is so determined to stop him that he’s enlisted the help of two local gangs, The Warriors and The Brigade. Members of both gangs who think Riel’s Che Guevara tactics aren’t effective enough have formed a splinter group, Red Rage, that aims to take a harder (read: more violent) line in opposing The Village Project. It’s a mixture bound to have combustible results, and fire soon strikes Joanne and Zack’s garage, blown to bits on a night they fortunately happen not to be home. As conflicts rage over the development, Joanne keeps discovering new wrinkles. Her daughter Mieka, a caterer who developed UpSlideDown, a playground that was an earlier casualty of the urban war, is in love with Riel Delorme. Leland’s already complicated life—in addition to battling the gangs, he’s about to wed his pregnant lover, barrister Margot Wright—is further troubled by repeated sightings of his unhinged ex-wife Louise, whose friend Sage Mackenzie, a cop-turned-lawyer, can barely keep her out of jail on stalking charges or worse. And Zack is preoccupied with the murder defense of Cronus, an antipathetic slumlord who insists on testifying that he didn’t murder his girlfriend, police officer Arden Raeburn, after their weekly round of rough sex. As usual in Joanne’s world (Burying Ariel, 2000, etc.), the vicissitudes of the plot are less memorable than the celebrations of ongoing life: two weddings, a child birth, several parties and a great deal of civilized but enthusiastic connubial sex.

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THE DEVIL’S ODDS

Burton, Milton T. Minotaur (288 pp.) $25.99 | Feb. 28, 2012 978-0-312-64335-5

In Burton’s fourth novel (Nights of the Red Moon, 2010, etc.), a Texas Ranger lassos Mafiosos. December 1942. As the U.S. wages war in Europe and the South Pacific, suddenly there’s an unsettling sound of saber rattling much closer to home. Mobbed-up thugs from New Orleans have sussed out big opportunities in Galveston’s gambling operation and are preparing to move in. Not so fast, though: The locals like what they have and are disinclined to share. This is the mess young Virgil Tucker, Texas Ranger, gets drawn into sideways. A pretty redhead named Madeline Kimbell is scared silly because she’s been the inadvertent witness to a murder. The killers know what she’s seen and are coming after her. As a favor to a friend,

young Virgil, on whom friendship confers compulsory obligations, is about to offer her his protection, even though he has no idea what he’s supposed to protect her from. At first, he thinks he faces nothing worse than Nolan Dunning, Madeline’s disenchanted boyfriend, who’s irate because his love has recently become unrequited. But Madeline is a girl with secrets, and Nolan, it turns out, is connected. Soon enough Virgil finds himself confronting other, much more dangerously connected people. As the gangster war heats up, body bags fill, and intrepid Virgil will need all his brains, resolve and resourcefulness to stay out of one. Likable characters in a negligible story.

In the Shadow of

BABYLON BY JOHN SCHWARTZ Paperback: $15.00

ISBN: 9781461107132.

CAN A BOOK CHANGE THE WORLD? “Many readers will be convinced that a literary discovery of this magnitude really might change the course of contemporary politics, so confident and convincing is the vision of this novel.” “A wonderfully written, provocative novel!” “Lyrical . . . Mystical . . . The prose is something to behold . . . Best page turner fashion!”

KIRKUS REVIEWS

EMAIL: JOHN@JOSSINTL.COM OR CALL 317-966-2189 FOR INFORMATION ABOUT FILM OR PUBLICATION RIGHTS

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“Doherty provides another meticulously researched trip to the distant past, a clever mystery with a fine feel for the period.” from the mysterium

THE RECKONING

Casey, Jane Minotaur (368 pp.) $24.99 | $11.99 e-book | May 22, 2012 978-0-312-62200-8 978-1-4668-0085-4 e-book Romance and gore vie for the attention of a London detective constable. Barry Palmer’s skull was fractured. Ivan Tremlett’s throat was cut. Fintan Kinsella’s head was blown off. Would a single perp so vary his method? DC Maeve Kerrigan, recovering from the trauma of her last case (The Burning, 2011, etc.), hesitantly reigniting her relationship with fellow copper Rob Langton and recently moved into a new flat across from a nerdy neighbor, is working the murders with her new partner, the chauvinistic Derwent, when a confession sends it careening off in another direction. John Skinner, mastermind of most of the city’s major crimes, admits he ordered the killings, with torture added to wrest out information about the disappearance of his daughter Cheyenne. Where is she? More bodies will turn up before her corpse surfaces adorned with DNA belonging to Patricia Farinelli, reported missing 18 months ago in Stoke Newington, though there was never a proper investigation into her whereabouts. Meanwhile Skinner, a longtime nemesis of Supt. Godley, has issued threats against his family, and a stalker has snapped pictures of Maeve and taunted her with them. So many questions, so many theories. Is Patricia, like Cheyenne, a victim or a participant in her abduction? Has a rival mobster plotted Skinner’s downfall by taking his daughter? Will Godley collapse under pressure against his family? Is the stalker one more piece of the Patricia/Cheyenne puzzle or a separate player altogether? Maeve, despite the doubts of Derwent, and Rob, who focuses on a departmental leak, work it all out, including the consequences of love. At least one subplot too many dragged in toward the end, but otherwise a neatly drawn study of male-female working relationships, commitment phobia and the grimier aspects of police work.

HUSBAND AND WIVES

Cooper, Susan Rogers Severn House (208 pp.) $27.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8126-7

The sheriff of Prophesy County, Okla., tackles a murder case involving several wives, all married to the same man. Since polygamy, as you may have heard, is against the law, it’s no surprise that multiply-married members of the New Saints Tabernacle have tried to maintain a low profile. But all that changes when Mary Hudson, the oldest of engineer Jerry Hudson’s three wives, is bludgeoned 684

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to death. Sheriff Milt Kovak arrives at the gated community to find Mary’s corpse and a group of oddly dressed children standing outside in fear. The sheriff is less interested in arresting Hudson for polygamy than in determining who wanted the perfectly organized wife and mother dead. Naturally, he looks first at the husband and two other wives. Together with his own wife Jean, a psychiatrist and police consultant who’s called in to interview the wives and children, Milt discovers that all is not peaceful in the polygamous community. The Hudsons’ plural family in particular has been strained by jealousy and backbiting among the wives and their extended families. Of course, there are also the religious bigots who may have thought the family evil enough to merit murder. The Kovaks must sift through the evidence and explore the complex family relationships before they can solve the crime. This latest case for Milt (Rude Awakening, 2009, etc.) artfully combines a twisted mystery with a look at polygamy from a feminist point of view. (Agent: Vicky Bijur)

THE MYSTERIUM

Doherty, P.C. Minotaur (320 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 24, 2012 978-0-312-67819-7

The extreme wealth, dire poverty and resulting intrigue of 1304 London lead to murder. Keeper of the Secret Seal Sir Hugh Corbett, problem solver for King Edward I, is tasked with solving several murders whose roots may lie deep in the past. Walter Evesham, Chief Justice in the Court of the King’s Bench, has been accused of bribery and corruption. His attempts to atone for his sins at the Abbey of Syon are cut short when he’s murdered in his locked cell. Suddenly people connected to one of his old cases are also found dead. The deaths appear to be the work of the Mysterium, the killer Evesham had caught years ago who vanished from the locked and guarded church of St. Botulph’s. His former sanctuary is now awash in blood as Edward’s men kill or capture escaped prisoners who are making a last stand. The priest is Parson John, Evesham’s timid, ineffectual son, who claims that he barely knew his father. Also lodged at Syon are a number of people who have cause to hate Eversham. Corbett is convinced the answer to the riddle lies in Evesham’s past investigation of the Mysterium, which probably accused an innocent man of murder for hire. As Corbett pores through old documents and uses his powers to question everyone involved, the Mysterium continues to kill. Only a clever trap will capture him. Doherty (Nightshade, 2011, etc.) provides another meticulously researched trip to the distant past, a clever mystery with a fine feel for the period.

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FALLING INTO GREEN

Fischer, Cher Ashland Creek Press (340 pp.) $17.95 paperback | May 15, 2012 978-1-61822-007-3 A nature lover turns amateur detective in a story that combines mystery with relentless do-gooding. When Dr. Esmeralda Green is the unlucky witness to a body being dragged up a cliff, she can’t help recalling the suicide of her best friend, who jumped from the same cliff some 20 years earlier. Charlene Pryce and Ez were always Charlie and Emerald to one another. They were so close that Ez was shocked by her friend’s death. In an even more shocking turn, the victim this time is Abigail Pryce, who, as the daughter of Charlie’s brother Anthony, would have been Charlie’s niece. The police are calling the death a homicide, and Ez knows that she has to find out the truth. Turning to Anthony for answers, Ez is glad to hear that Abigail was hard at work investigating abuses of nature. As an eco-psychologist, Ez has an appreciation for the riches of beautiful Majorca Point, Los Angeles, and is proud that Abigail grew to love the natural world as her aunt did. Though Ez can’t imagine who would want to hurt the young Abigail, it seems as though she may be in danger from the same culprits. Her sometime beau Gabriel Hugo García wishes he could keep Ez safe—if only she weren’t too stubborn to admit she needed his help. Fischer’s debut may come off as preachy to all but the most avid friends of planet earth.

FLAT SPIN

Freed, David Permanent Press (300 pp.) $29.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-57962-272-5 Rugged, wry flight instructor turns sleuth to solve the murder of his ex-wife’s husband. Retired marketing expert Arlo Echevarria answers the door one evening to a faux Domino’s Pizza deliverer armed with a .40 pistol who shoots him dead. So Echevarria’s widow Savannah Carlisle visits her ex, Cordell Logan (who narrates in tangy first person), for help. It’s been a long time, but their chemistry is undeniable, and when she appeals to him, Cordell melts a bit. He and Echevarria had a history working as secret operatives for an obscure entity called “Alpha.” Sharing information with the investigating police raises both ethical and practical concerns; revealing the details of Alpha operations could put both Logan and Savannah in grave danger. Ironically, after Logan talks with LAPD Detective Keith Czarnek, the lead investigator in the case, he emerges from the interview as the prime suspect. As he’s on his way home from a polygraph |

test, someone in a white Honda Accord tries to kill him. It’s the first of many attempts. Solving the murder himself seems the surest way to ensure his and Savannah’s safety, as sparks continue to fly between them. This path involves a dicey dive back into the world of international espionage, as well as more conventional suspects like Echevarria’s bitter ex-wife Janice and his troubled son Micah. Pulitzer-winning reporter Freed brings his knowledge of aviation, the military and law enforcement to his fiction debut. His story is full of interesting episodes and feels authentic, even when he strains to make his hard-boiled hero sound tough.

DON’T EVER GET OLD

Friedman, Daniel Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-312-60693-0

A geezer cowboy who’s been retired from Memphis Homicide longer than he served there is thrust into the middle of a murderous hunt for Nazi plunder. What a shame that when Jim Wallace was on his deathbed, he asked his old comrade-in-arms Buck Schatz to come see him. The two had never been friends, and they don’t bond now over Jim’s revelation that he’d accepted a bar of gold in return for letting the supposedly dead Heinrich Ziegler, the SS commandant of the POW camp where both GIs languished in 1944, pass through a military crossing and out of history. As if Jim’s confession weren’t bad enough, Buck soon realizes that Jim blabbed to everyone he could reach from his hospital bed. Now Jim’s daughter Emily and her repellant husband Norris, Baptist preacher Lawrence Kind, Israeli agent Yitzchak Steinblatt and casino debt collector T. Addleford Pratt are all convinced that Buck is on the trail of Ziegler and his gold, and they’re all determined to cut themselves in for a piece of the action. Worse still, someone doesn’t trust natural causes to eliminate his competitors. Since he’s 88 years old, Buck’s clear mandate is to go back to watching daytime TV. Instead, he pokes Det. Randall Jennings with a stick and, when that fails, enlists his grandson William, aka Tequila, to spend his summer off from NYU Law School helping him track down Ziegler. The real prize here, however, isn’t Nazi treasure but Buck’s what-the-hell attitude toward observing social pieties, smoking in forbidden venues and making life easier for other folks. As he battles memory loss and a host of physical maladies, it’s great to see that he can still make whippersnapper readers laugh out loud. A sardonically appealing debut for a detective who assures his long-suffering grandson, “I care about people. I just don’t like them.”

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WHEN MAIDENS MOURN

Harris, C.S. Obsidian/Berkley (352 pp.) $24.95 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-0-451-23577-0

The search for Camelot disrupts a honeymoon in 1812. Four days into the pregnancy-driven marriage of Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, and Hero Jarvis, daughter of his sworn enemy, Miss Gabrielle Tennyson, an antiquarian who insisted that Camelot was located on the tiny bit of land known as Camlet Moat, is found floating in the moat, stabbed to death. When Bow Street calls upon Sebastian to deal with the death, Hero, a friend of Gabrielle, decides to nose around too. The first order of business: find out what has become of the vanished cousins who were with Gabrielle, young masters George, 9, and Alfred, 3. While their father is organizing a search for the boys, Sebastian focuses on possible motives for Gabrielle’s slaying. She had had a tiff with another antiquarian about King Arthur and the authenticity of a supposed relic, the Glastonbury cross. But Hero’s father, Lord Jarvis, also arouses suspicion through his parliamentary ties and his plotting against Napoleonic spies trying to destabilize the monarchy, including one whose heart may have belonged to Gabrielle. Then an estate manager is shot dead in the moat and the lovelorn French lieutenant dies. Although Sebastian sorts through the various motives and culprits, he still can’t find the two boys. Their fate can be determined only by a detailed inspection of the Tennyson lineage that finally leaves time for Sebastian and Hero to resume the more passionate aspects of their honeymoon. History buffs will have a heyday hobnobbing with the Tennysons, “discovering” Arthur’s burial site, dabbling in Druid enlightenment and siding with the Brits over Napoleon. Romantics will pine once more over Sebastian (When Shadows Dance, 2011, etc.).

DEATH COMES SILENTLY

Hart, Carolyn G. Berkley Prime Crime (288 pp.) $24.95 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-425-24570-5

Did you hear the one about the mystery-bookstore owner menaced by an ax murderer? Annie Darling, proprietor of Broward’s Rock’s detective bookshop Death on Demand, is due to volunteer at the island’s charity store, Better Tomorrow. But a book-signing by local author Emma Clyde forces her to swap times with Gretchen Burkholt, who rings up several times to gossip about a scandalous message she’s found in a jacket donated by the family of Everett Hathaway, who accidentally slipped out of a kayak and drowned on a midnight sail in frigid January. By the time Annie arrives at 686

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Better Tomorrow, Gretchen is long dead, the murder weapon, an ax, left beside her. Most everyone considers the handyman, Jeremiah, the culprit, but Henny, the volunteer coordinator, believes him innocent and helps him hide. Annie and her husband Max decide to help vindicate Jeremiah, but their investigation is stymied when the mayor relieves the police chief of his job. With persistence, the amateur sleuths discover that Gretchen may have been murdered because she could recast Everett’s death as not an accident but murder. There’s no shortage of suspects within Everett’s family and business circles, and two murders become three when the Hathaway housekeeper is shot. Henny will be waylaid and Annie accosted in a dense fog before mystery writer Clyde helps deduce whodunit, leading to Jeremiah’s freedom and the police chief ’s reinstatement. The series hallmarks are all here—the Christie-like clues, the multiple motives, the never-ending gossip, the mystery fiction allusions, the cats Agatha and Dorothy L—but where’s the verve, the wicked surprise? Barely midlevel in this venerable series (Dead by Midnight, 2001, etc.).

VIRAL

Lilliefors, James Soho Crime (336 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-1-61695-068-2 The outbreak of a mysterious disease in the Third World is the first assault in a deviously stealthy international plot. In Uganda, private-intelligence contractor and former CIA operative Charles Mallory receives a package with an apologetic note from his colleague Paul Bahdru. Unfortunately, inside the package is Bahdru’s head. Meanwhile, across the globe in the (fictional) Republic of Sundiata, Dr. Sandra Oku tries to cope with a quickly spreading and deadly outbreak in the village of Kaarta. Back in Washington, Jon Mallory, who writes for The Weekly American, worries when his brother Charlie misses a scheduled call-in. The two have not seen each other for quite a while, though Charlie’s tips from Africa have provided many valuable leads for stories. The latest one, about a potential pandemic, seemed to have Charlie particularly incensed. As Jon consults some of his brother’s former CIA cronies for answers, Charlie goes to France, where he hopes to disappear. Shards of flashback hint at questionable doings in Charlie’s past, particularly with a voluptuous woman named Anna Vostrak. In France, Charlie barely escapes being killed by an Arab named Ahmed Hassan, who goes by the name of Albert Hahn and who thinks that Charlie is called Frederick Collins. Secret identities and secret codes are at the heart of the plot that is revealed by Sandra’s search for medical answers and Jon and Charlie’s globetrotting efforts to uncover a cabal with an intricate plan for world domination. Though Lilliefors’ debut thriller follows a familiar template, it maintains suspense with vivid, direct prose and a skillfully developed plot.

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“MacDonald tugs once more, and expertly, on the nerves of a vulnerable woman and her readership.” from missing child

BLUES IN THE NIGHT

Lochte, Dick Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8108-3

Ex-con Dave “Mace” Mason gets way more than he bargained for when he agrees to shadow his old friend Paulie Lacotta’s ex-girlfriend. It’s not as if Mace owes Lacotta. If anything, it’s the other way around, since Mace’s refusal to give up the small-time crook to the feds cost him a stretch in Pelican Bay. Maybe Bayou Royal, where Mace had been working with his dad since his release, just felt too slow. So he’s back in L.A., living at the Florian on Sunset, where his window looks straight into Angela Lowell’s apartment. Art appraiser Angie doesn’t go out much—just small trips to Slick on Melrose and Cruise Line on Hollywood Boulevard. When she pulls up to Honeymoon Drug Store, things begin to get interesting. But they really heat up when she drives her yellow Mustang out to Malibu to visit Tiny Daniels, one of Paulie’s mobbed-up rivals. Barging past the guardhouse at Tiny’s gated community, Mace finds Tiny and his houseman Carlos shot dead, the security men dying and Angela naked in bed in a Demerol stupor. He knows that the plastic coin in Tiny’s lifeless mouth must be the key, but it isn’t until he outwits three pairs of strongmen—British hit man Thomas and his mentally challenged brother Timmie, government agents Corrigan and Drier and their bearded Russian counterparts Gulik and Klebek—that he learns the value of the seemingly worthless toy. Lochte (The Talk Show Murders, 2011, etc.) is just as fastpaced and funny flying solo as when he’s wingman for Al Roker or Christopher Darden, both of whom he’s collaborated with in the past.

MISSING CHILD

MacDonald, Patricia Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8120-5 MacDonald (Cast into Doubt, 2011, etc.) tugs once more, and expertly, on the nerves of a vulnerable woman and her readership. Two years ago, Caitlin Rogers’ teenaged brother James tearfully confessed that while he was out driving on a learner’s permit, he struck and killed a woman who turned out to be young mother Emily Eckhart. When Caitlin demanded that he go to the police, he took a fatal overdose of drugs. Caitlin, who went to Emily’s memorial service to tell the family what she knew, fell instead for Emily’s widower Noah, and married him without breathing a word. Now bad karma has come back on her with a vengeance. The day after the sixth birthday party of Noah’s son Geordie, he disappears somewhere between Caitlin’s car and the |

door of Hartwell Elementary, plunging his extended family into recriminations. As if Caitlin needed more trouble, James’ old girlfriend Karla, who’s turned from drugs to Jesus, pops up just in time to spill the beans Caitlin never could. Noah turns Caitlin out of his house in a cold fury; Detective Sam Mathis indicates that she’s no longer a reliable witness about Geordie’s disappearance; and when she gets a brief phone call from her stepson, everyone accuses her of fakery or complicity. It doesn’t help that the two people who are acting most suspiciously, apart from Caitlin herself, are Geordie’s uncle, sportswriter Dan Bergen, and Travis Pelletier, Geordie’s 10-year-old cousin. The setup and the plot twists may be synthetic, but readers drawn in by the title will be rewarded by their immersion in Caitlin’s anxiety and the revelation of even darker secrets in the family cupboard.

THE FALLEN

Mackenzie, Jassy Soho Crime (304 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-1-61695-065-1 A hardboiled South African private eye blocks out her messy personal life long enough to find her friend’s killer. Detective Jade de Jong has taken up scuba diving to conquer her fear of open water and also, characteristically, to challenge herself. She finds a kindred soul in her instructor Amanda Bolton, who also works as an air-traffic controller. As her relationship with David Patel, a Johannesburg police superintendent, gets more serious, Jade contemplates settling down into domestic bliss. So she’s tempted when a thug from her checkered past named Robbie rears his sleazy head, Sauer in hand, and offers her a financial killing that would set her up for life if she’ll carry out a contract hit, something she might once have considered. (Her dad was a police superintendent and David’s mentor, her mom a criminal.) Everything changes for Jade with the news that David may be reconciling with his pregnant wife Naisha. Fortunately, Jade has Amanda as a confidante—until Amanda is found murdered, and Jade must table her troubles to find the killer. Other criminal cross-currents, introduced early on, swirl around the central mystery, including the murder of an academic named Themba Msayama, who sent Amanda a postcard, and the nefarious plan of a pair of shady masterminds called Bradley and Chetty, revealed in increments. David’s collaboration with Jade is his opportunity to get back into her good graces, if only she’ll let him. Jade’s third caper (Stolen Lives, 2011, etc.) has an appealing edge and a strong yet vulnerable heroine, full of human flaws, though the plot once again runs a bit amok.

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DANDY GILVER AND AN UNSUITABLE DAY FOR A MURDER

McPherson, Catriona Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-250-00737-7

An upper-class sleuth finds herself entangled in a family feud. Dandy Gilver is asked to come to Dunfermline, Scotland, to find a missing young woman. Mirren, the youngest Aitken, has gone missing, and the family fears that she’s run off with Dougie, scion of their bitter rivals the Hepburns. Each family owns a department store, and several generations ago the former friends had a falling-out when an Aitken pinched a Hepburn girl. Today the stores are wildly different, reflecting the personalities of each family: the Aitkens stodgy and old-fashioned, the Hepburns a paean to 1920s fashion. Dandy arrives on the day of Aitken’s 50th year anniversary. While she’s attending the celebrations at the store, she finds Mirren shot dead. Her mother Abigail confesses to the crime but is soon discounted as a suspect. The police suspect Dandy herself of involvement when she discovers Dougie’s body on top of the Aitken store elevator. Both families and the police call the deaths suicides and blame each other. Their certainty threatens to put Dandy out of a job. But her instincts tell her that there’s much more to the mystery, and she and her partner Alec continue to dig up family secrets, revealing some horrifying information worthy of murder. McPherson (Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains, 2011, etc.) continues her impressively precise imitation of Golden Age models—right down to the appended family tree, which is quite necessary to help sort everything out.

MISS JULIA TO THE RESCUE

Ross, Ann B. Viking (320 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-670-02338-7 The trouble with men is they constantly need women to rescue them. Miss Julia, so glutted with southern manners that she’s befriended the mistress and child of her first husband, the late Wesley Springer, receives a call from that woman’s new husband, Mr. Pickens, asking help of Miss Julia’s current husband. Mr. Pickens, a private eye, doesn’t say why or where he is exactly, but since Miss Julia’s better half is off touring the Holy Land, it falls to her to find the caller. Leaving the architect, the carpenters, the painters and the plumbers to get on with redecorating her home, she insists that the bodacious Etta Mae, a repository of medical know-how, accompany her on a trip to the wilds of West Virginia where, she believes, Mr. Pickens has 688

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been searching for a missing person. Currently, however, the searcher’s sequestered in a hospital room with gun wounds on his backside, any contact with him forbidden by the local sheriff. Undaunted, Miss Julia and Etta Mae, after an agonizing visit to an assembly of snake-handlers, climb through windows, don disguises, manhandle Mr. Pickens into their car and drive him home to recover. That pesky sheriff, enamored of Etta Mae, follows just as Miss Julia embarks on a rescue of Adam, a worker at her house who’s gotten entangled with a slew of tattooed, bodypierced zealots out at Agnes Whitman’s place. Plot loopholes abound, along with religious claptrap that allows the decorous heroine (Miss Julia Rocks the Cradle, 2011, etc.) to proselytize for her more temperate Presbyterian lifestyle.

BLACKSTONE AND THE GREAT WAR

Spencer, Sally Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8123-6

Trench warfare takes a back seat to class warfare as Scotland Yard Inspector Blackstone (Blackstone and the Wolf of Wall Street, 2010, etc.) tracks a murderer. In Afghanistan, many years earlier, Sam Blackstone and General Sir Michael Fortesque had been comrades in arms. Despite cast-iron class barriers, they had admired and respected each other and contributed to each other’s survival. A quarter of a century later, Sam responds at once to the General’s call for help. Lt. Charles Fortesque, his only grandson, has just met death on the Western Front, he tells Sam, then adds, unsettlingly, that he wants Sam to find the killer. He’s convinced of murder most foul and adamant that no one is better equipped than Sam to furnish desperately needed answers. Reluctantly, Sam signs on and ships over to France, where he discovers how remarkably little has happened in the way of social progress. The army’s officers unabashedly view themselves as demigods and enlisted men as scarcely human, both conditions obviously immutable. How dare Sam suggest that an officer, any officer, could be crass enough to betray his class in so homicidal a manner, demands an outraged company commander. To which an unflappable Sam replies that “officers are as likely to commit murder as anybody else, and they’ll swing from a rope as well as the next man.” Another solid effort from Spencer. It’s great fun to watch the thorny Inspector sass the fatuousness out of snobbery.

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“White’s fans will eat this one up.” from chasing midnight

CHASING MIDNIGHT

White, Randy Wayne Putnam (336 pp.) $25.95 | Mar. 6, 2012 978-0-399-15831-5

Bad guys want to corner the caviar market in Doc Ford’s 19th. Can Doc foil them? It’s a tall order, since the no-goods involved are rich, powerful and exceptionally amoral. On the other hand, Doc’s not your run-ofthe-mill marine biologist either. He has skill sets mostly found among the Special Forces population, especially those licensed to kill. It’s a place not unfamiliar to Doc. During certain unexplained absences from his customary Florida haunts—Sanibel Island, Dinkin’s Bay—he’s gone there at the behest of a grateful government. Meanwhile, to the billion-dollar caviar trade, the beluga sturgeon is the sine qua non, and on Vanderbilt Island, not far from Sanibel, interested parties are convening to discuss various means of exploitation. Doc, who views the sturgeon protectively and the “often corrupt caviar industry” with marked suspicion, has wangled an invitation. As has Tomlinson, his erratic, beyond-brilliant friend and companion through 18 previous adventures (Night Vision, 2011, etc.). That turns out to be a fateful decision. Suddenly, an explosion rips through Vanderbilt, taking out its communications capability and placing it under the control of a weird but well-armed extremist group named the Third Planet Peace Force. Unless its demands are met, Third Planet Peace Force will kill a hostage an hour, beginning at midnight. Can Doc and Tomlinson rise to the challenge, thwart the terrorists and save the beluga? White’s fans will eat this one up.

EYES OF JUSTICE

Wiehl, Lis & Henry, April Thomas Nelson (336 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-1-59554-708-8 The surviving members of the Triple Threat (Hand of Fate, 2010, etc.) investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. Allison Pierce and Nicole Hedges get suspicious when their friend, reporter Cassidy Shaw, doesn’t show up for a night out. It’s in their nature to assume the worst—Allison’s a federal prosecutor and Nicole’s a special agent with the FBI—so they decide to investigate even though they know they might be overreacting. Cassidy had texted them to let them know she was hot on a lead, but she’s not the type to bail completely, especially from a night with the other members of the Triple Threat, as they’ve called themselves ever since they met again at their 10-year high- school reunion and realized that their overlapping jobs might make them the biggest threat most criminals would ever see. When Allison and Nicole find Cassidy murdered in her |

apartment, the number of criminals they’ve triple-teamed provides a daunting number of suspects to sort through. But the two are convinced they should track the killer despite warnings from their bosses about meddling in a criminal investigation. With the help of idiosyncratic private investigator Ophelia, they’re determined to meddle their way to an answer to a crime from which they may never recover. Fans may be dismayed at the demise of a key player, but the fast-paced writing and appealing characters go a long way to making amends.

DEATH WILL EXTEND YOUR VACATION Zelvin, Elizabeth Five Star (270 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 20, 2012 978-1-4328-2577-5

When two recovering alcoholics and their codependent friend take shares in a Hamptons clean-and-sober house, murder adds excitement to their vacation. Bruce Kohler is doing temp work while he tries to piece his life back together. His friend Jimmy, a computer geek, would rather be home in his air-conditioned apartment. But Jimmy’s counselor wife Barbara has them up at the crack of dawn to explore the nearby beach. When Barbara goes for a run on the beach, she discovers the body of their housemate Clea, apparently drowned. Newly arrived, the trio know nothing about their housemates except that they’re all in a 12-step program. Even so, their sleuthing instincts won’t let them ignore a potential murder, especially one with an unpleasantly personal dimension. Although Clea’s job as an investigative reporter had made her any number of enemies, Bruce’s forgotten encounter with her when he was 15 puts him high up on the suspect list. Several of their housemates, who’ve been visitors to Dedhampton before, have helped develop a close relationship with a neighboring house owned by wealthy Oscar. Torn between making money and protecting the Hamptons, he becomes the next victim of a determined killer. So as Bruce cultivates a carefully romantic relationship with a housemate and the trio bask in the beauties of the Hamptons, they work to uncover a killer before summer ends. Psychotherapist Zelvin (Death Will Help You Leave Him, 2009, etc.) is best read for her well-developed characters rather than for the mystery, which is merely adequate.

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science fiction and fantasy

The author presents an apocalyptic America in which storms have devastated cities and driven the country into civil war. A man named Sunny Jim travels up the Susquehanna River with a host of others on a ramshackle ship, in a seemingly hopeless quest to find his wife and son, and encounters horrors along the way. Slattery displays an affection for quoting song lyrics and includes plenty of underdeveloped characters with self-consciously wacky names (Reverend Bauxite, Grendel Jones and Judge Spleen Smiley, among others). Overall, the novel is rather humorless; death hangs over nearly every scene, with graphic descriptions of corpses scattered throughout. The end-of-times setting and ruminations on the power of family relationships are intriguing, but the novel is plagued by an unsatisfying, scattershot execution. An intriguing but ultimately unfocused novel.

BEYOND THE FRONTIER: INVINCIBLE

Campbell, Jack Ace/Berkley (400 pp.) $26.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-937007-45-4 Series: The Lost Fleet

Continuing the deep-space adventures of Admiral John “Black Jack” Geary and company (Beyond the Frontier: Dreadnaught, 2011, etc.). Having defeated—or at least fought to a standstill—the alien “enigmas” in the previous book, Geary has taken his battered fleet through hyperspace only to run headlong into a second hostile alien race. While attempting to unravel the politics behind the Alliance’s orders that has brought him here, Geary must contend with a race that numbers in the tens of billions; worse, they have super-battleships vastly larger than anything he can bring to bear—and they have technology that can divert kinetic energy weapons. Another big problem for Geary and his captains is that their ships were built only for a limited operational lifetime, and that limit is rapidly being reached, with equipment failure an ever-present danger. Still waiting in the wings: a third star-faring alien race. Even if Geary can find some way to cope, the fleet is still a long way from home, with both the enigmas and the remnants of the Syndics between them and their destination. And when—if—they do get home, Geary isn’t sure he can trust anyone in the Alliance. Campbell describes the battles— and there are plenty of them—clearly and precisely, but conveys no visceral sense of what it feels like to be in one. The tension racks up with never a hint that Geary feels it or that the good guys might actually lose. And along with some memorably intriguing aliens, the human characters are plentiful rather than highly developed. We’re offered little hint of how any of this advanced technology might actually work. Maybe you have to read all the previous books. Absorbing rather than gripping, although neither series addicts nor newcomers will be disappointed.

LOST EVERYTHING

Slattery, Brian Francis Tor (304 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-7653-2912-7 Slattery (Liberation, 2008, etc.), coeditor of The New Haven Review literary journal, produces a grim tale that takes place in a disaster-stricken, war-torn United States. 690

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nonfiction ONCE UPON A SECRET My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: THE PASSAGE OF POWER by Robert A. Caro............................p. 695

Alford, Mimi Random House (202 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 8, 2012 978-1-4000-6910-1

PRIVATE EMPIRE by Steve Coll....................................................p. 697 THE PRESIDENTS CLUB by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.......................................................................... p. 701 AMERICA THE PHILOSOPHICAL by Carlin Romano................. p. 714 THE LAST FULL MEASURE by Michael Stephenson......................p. 717 ORPHEUS by Ann Wroe................................................................. p. 719 CHASING VENUS by Andrea Wulf............................................... p. 720 THE MORAL MOLECULE by Paul J. Zak...................................... p. 720

PRIVATE EMPIRE ExxonMobil and American Power

Coll, Steve Penguin Press (688 pp.) $36.00 May 1, 2012 978-1-59420-335-0

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Kiss-and-tell memoir about the author’s affair with President John F. Kennedy, beginning when she was a White House intern in 1962. Alford describes life as a debutante and the import her parents placed on The Social Register. In 1961, as a high-school senior at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn., she attempted to set up an interview with one of the school’s alumna, Jacqueline Kennedy, then the First Lady. Her request was declined, but she was nevertheless invited to visit the White House. There she was introduced to JFK, whose charisma struck her at once. The following year she was offered a summer internship in the White House press office. On her fourth day, Alford writes, she received a phone call from one of JFK’s closest aides, Dave Powers, asking her to come for a swim in the White House pool. As she swam in a borrowed suit, the president appeared and asked to join her. That evening, the president offered the starstruck 19-year-old a personal tour of his residence and, in Mrs. Kennedy’s bedroom, deflowered her. Alford is adamant that their sex was consensual, yet other aspects of their affair, which lasted from June 1962 to November 1963, bordered on brutish. The author describes two instances in which the president urged her to service other men sexually and another involving his insistence that she take amyl nitrite. Alford also discusses how she joined him on trips around the country, where they met for trysts in hotel rooms. The rest of the book is light on personal revelations and salacious details, but its subject alone should be enough to guarantee bestseller status. The first half, which unpacks her affair, is far more compelling than the second, which tracks the author’s life after JFK’s assassination. Voyeuristic and occasionally fascinating.

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“Life, love and music from one of the most influential American recording artists of the last 40 years.” from my cross to bear

MY CROSS TO BEAR

Allman, Gregg Morrow/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Lg. Prt. $27.99 CD $24.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-211203-3 978-0-06-211204-0 e-book 978-0-06-211523-2 Lg. Prt. 978-0-06-211619-2 CD Assisted by rock journalist Light (The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Story of the Beastie Boys, 2006, etc.), Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer Allman confronts the ghosts of his past and emerges with new insight into the familial and artistic bonds that bound—and continue to bind— the Allman Brothers Band. Addicted to drugs and alcohol for much of his adult life and married multiple times, the author certainly has a hayloft full of celebrity scandal to sift through. While ABB’s principal songwriter and lead vocalist covers all of his lowlights, he’s much more interested in exploring the fantastic blend of blues, rock and jazz that so famously bonded he and late brother Duane to four other maverick musicians starting in the late 1960s. This is a story about musical brotherhood. With gentlemanly charm and compassion, the author vividly recounts how a guitar first transformed the lives of two restless boys living in Florida with their widowed mom. Allman’s portrayal of his complicated relationship with Duane is rich and moving. Although dead by the age of 24 following a tragic motorcycle crash, Duane (considered one of the greatest guitar players of all-time) nonetheless looms large in these pages. The author’s ability to share his enduring guilt in the aftermath of Duane’s tragic passing is nothing less than profound. After successfully receiving a new liver in 2010, Allman appears to have at least one more silver dollar left in his pocket. As his many-faceted memoir so effectively demonstrates, the road does, indeed, go on forever for the Allman Brothers Band. Life, love and music from one of the most influential American recording artists of the last 40 years. (Two 16-page color photo inserts)

A WEDDING IN HAITI

Alvarez, Julia Algonquin (304 pp.) $19.95 | Apr. 24, 2012 978-1-61620-130-2

A memoir by acclaimed novelist and poet Alvarez (Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA, 2007, etc.) about her pre- and post-earthquake travels around the island of Hispaniola and the Haitian boy who inspired them. The author met Piti, a young migrant worker from Haiti, in 2001, on a chance visit to a coffee farm that bordered the one she and her husband owned in the Cordillera Central 692

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mountains of the Dominican Republic. Alvarez took an immediate liking to this “grinning boy with worried eyes” and began a friendship with him. She became close enough with him that she made a pledge that she would go to Haiti on the far-off, future day when he would marry—without ever thinking that she would be called upon to make good on her promise. In 2009, she received a surprise call from Piti telling her that she was invited to his wedding. Alvarez almost declined, but her attachment to the young boy won out and she and her husband returned to the Dominican Republic. As she traveled across the border, she experienced an epiphany: Haiti, though so close to her native Dominican Republic, was like the beautiful, tragic “sister” she had never fully understood. Eventually Piti called on Alvarez again, this time to help him care for his extended family in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Taken together, the author’s trips to Hispaniola represent an interrupted, but no less powerful, voyage that forced her to confront her darkest imaginings. A warm, funny and compassionate memoir.

HIDING FROM REALITY My Story of Love, Loss, and Finding the Courage Within

Armstrong, Taylor Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (274 pp.) $25.00 | Feb. 7, 2012 978-1-4516-7771-3 A star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills details her abusive six-year marriage to a man who killed himself in August 2011. Armstrong’s earliest memory is of witnessing her father attack her mother. Shortly thereafter he abandoned the family. Born Shana Hughes, the Oklahoma native changed her name to Shana Taylor, for her stepfather, then to Taylor Ford, in homage to her favorite fashion designer, Tom Ford. Lifelong insecurities led her to get a permanent lip implant and breast augmentation and to cultivate unhealthy relationships with men. In 2004, she moved from Florida to Beverly Hills, where she ran her fledgling textile company out of her condo. “There were red flags all over the place” when she met Russell, an investor with a history of domestic abuse and bankruptcy, but she doggedly pursued him. Despite his verbal and physical attacks, they married. Russell shut down her business, and Armstrong, now financially dependent on him, lived in a state of anxiety about setting him off. When Armstrong got pregnant, Russell claimed he only wanted to keep the baby if it was a girl because he already had two sons. Luckily, it was a girl. Armstrong is candid about her low self-esteem but takes no real accountability for herself, opting instead to reveal the laundry list of Russell’s endless demands and paranoia. Appearing on Housewives added stress to their already fractured marriage, and Armstrong’s decision to tell her cast mates about Russell’s dark side, including his allegedly popping her jaw out of its socket, resulted in her secrets being revealed by them on

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MR. HORNADAY’S WAR How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife that Changed the World

air. Armstrong separated from Russell after an alleged vicious attack requiring surgery. Months after he left, she discovered his body in a friend’s house. Despite her story’s dramatic events, Armstrong’s writing is tepid, and she demonstrates very little growth over the course of the narrative.

DESERT ROSE The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King Bagley, Edythe Scott Univ. of Alabama (360 pp.) $34.95 | Apr. 27, 2012 978-0-8173-1765-2

A glowing portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow by her sister. The daughters of a lumber hauler in Alabama’s Black Belt region who was constantly harassed by white employers for his enterprising ways, Coretta and Edythe Scott were both educated at the Lincoln School, a white-run missionary boarding school, and later Antioch College, in Ohio. Embracing the tradition of Christian service instilled by those establishments, Coretta attempted to student-teach in the Yellow Springs, Ohio, public-school system in 1950, despite protests by white parents. However, Antioch did not support her, delivering a bitter lesson in the deeply entrenched discrimination that pervaded even the North. A gifted soprano, she attended New England Conservatory in Boston on scholarship, where she met the Georgia-born King Jr., then a doctoral divinity student at Boston University. Impressed by her long, straight hair and evident intelligence, King sensed she would make the perfect wife. At the time, Coretta began her career as a successful singer, and from King’s first pastorship at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, to his last at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Coretta performed intermittently on stage. In 1965, she used a Freedom Concert tour to spread the message for civil-rights change. She was also committed to the antiwar group Women Strike for Peace, which attracted surveillance by the FBI. The author speculates about Coretta’s influence on King’s ultimate resistance to the Vietnam War, writing that the couple “shared vigorous and robust conversation about the issues they faced.” Steely, cerebral and unemotional, Bagley’s portrait reveals a remarkable character forged by harsh reality and unimaginable trial. In an intimate glimpse, Coretta steps out from her husband’s shadow.

Bechtel, Stefan Beacon (288 pp.) $27.95 | May 15, 2012 978-0-8070-0635-1 978-0-8070-0636-8 e-book

A biography of a man whose life was intertwined with the conservation movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Starting with William Temple Hornaday’s (1854–1937) discovery that the American buffalo were being hunted to extinction, Men’s Health founding editor Bechtel (Roar of the Heavens, 2007, etc.) tells the story of Hornaday’s life and how he became the man who would bring the buffalo back to the prairies. Raised on a farm in Indiana, Hornaday was exposed to taxidermy early in his life and pursued a career in that field through his teen and college years. After landing a job in a museum, he decided, at age 19, to mount his first expedition to obtain exotic animals. Trips to Florida, South America, India and Borneo made Hornaday a minor celebrity adventurer and helped him land a job at the Smithsonian and eventually as the director of the Bronx Zoo. Bechtel focuses mainly on Hornaday’s conservation work, using his childhood, taxidermy work and expeditions to show how he became interested in the movement. Many of the passages about conservation are repetitive, and Bechtel’s tone varies as he clearly struggles with his admiration for Hornaday’s efforts to preserve wildlife and his misgivings about the hunting of animals for display. While there is a short section on his work to save seals and a larger section on birds, the focus frequently returns to Hornaday’s work with the buffalo. Bechtel’s passion for his subject makes the book an interesting and enjoyable though occasionally preachy read. The book will appeal to readers curious about the beginning of wildlife conservation in America, but it won’t provide much new information to serious Hornaday fans who have already read his own accounts of these exploits.

ME THE PEOPLE One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America

Bleyer, Kevin Random House (336 pp.) $26.00 | CD $35.00 | May 29, 2012 978-1-4000-6935-4 978-0-679-60412-9 e-book 978-0-449-00913-0 CD An often funny, politically provocative illumination of the Constitution, a document that all politicians and most Americans revere without really understanding its contents or origins.

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Even as revised by the Emmy-winning Bleyer, there is no provision in the Constitution mandating that anyone who has ever been associated with The Daily Show be given a book deal. If there were, this would still be one of the better ones to emerge from that publishing tribe. Bleyer makes readers think as well as laugh, and he targets those with the attention span for booklength arguments rather than TV bits. As he writes of the Constitution, “For two centuries, we have been expected to abide by it, live by it, swear by it—some of us, officially—yet we have no idea what it says.” Bleyer demonstrates that the Constitution is a document that generated heated controversy during its drafting, in its attempts to strike compromises on such crucial issues as the relative powers of federal and state governments, the checks and balances that the three branches would exert on each other and the danger that a chief executive might come to resemble the king that the colonies had fought for against their freedom. “From page one, the Constitution is, by its own admission, a compromise,” writes Bleyer of the document accorded an almost biblical level of secular authority. “I’m not suggesting there’s something inherently wrong in compromise. I’m saying it. I’m screaming it to the rooftops. We’re America, dang it.” Yet even its framers considered the Constitution sufficiently flawed that they immediately amended it with the Bill of Rights, which Bleyer terms “a signing bonus. A bribe. The constitutional equivalent of a set of steak knives to sweeten the deal on a new bank account.” Among the radical suggestions in Bleyer’s revision is to make every citizen a member of Congress, since, as it stands, “Con-gress is the opposite of pro-gress.” Funny stuff with both a point and a perspective. (46 b/w illustrations)

EVERY NATION FOR ITSELF Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World

Bremmer, Ian Portfolio (240 pp.) $26.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-59184-468-6

“[T]he world needs leadership,” writes Bremmer (The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?, 2010, etc.). “We’re not going to get it.” Not for a while, anyway. Welcome to the G-Zero (in contrast to, say, the G-20), a period of “tumultuous transition” in which “many countries are now strong enough to prevent the international community from taking action, but none has the political and economic muscle to remake the status quo.” The author describes in cogent detail the various reasons why no one—not the United States, not China, not the European Union or institutions like the World Bank—is presently in a position to provide or impose global leadership. As a result we have entered an unstable time when nation-states will pursue their own interests relatively unrestrained by other nations or alliances. Economic strength, not military strength, will determine the 694

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new international balance of power. Some nations—e.g., “pivot states” like Brazil—will thrive by building “profitable relationships with multiple countries without becoming overly reliant on any one of them.” States in the shadow of a powerful neighbor, like Mexico, or friendless rogue states will likely wither. The ongoing effects of China’s economic expansion and America’s response to it will be key factors in determining the world order that will emerge from the G-Zero. Bremmer believes the United States can still regain a position of global dominance, but only if we get our public debt under control. His argument is weakened when he drifts into areas in which there have never been genuinely effective efforts at international cooperation (e.g., climate change, distribution of food and water), but even these topics demonstrate the extent of the developing international anarchy. A clear-eyed, if not very provocative, vision of disorderly times ahead.

DOES THIS BABY MAKE ME LOOK STRAIGHT? Confessions of a Gay Dad

Bucatinsky, Dan Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-6073-9 Actor, writer and producer Bucatinsky muses on being a gay parent of two adopted children. Bucatinsky, a co-creator of the Showtime TV series Web Therapy, and his husband, the director and screenwriter Don Roos, adopted a girl, Eliza, in 2005, and a boy, Jonah, in 2007—both from the same mother. The author chronicles the adoption process and the highs and lows of his experiences raising two young children. In the early sections, which focus on the adoptions, the author touches on similar territory as Dan Savage’s 1999 book The Kid (which Bucatinsky mentions approvingly), but where Savage’s book was moving and witty, Bucatinsky’s is mostly shallow and trite. Among his banal observations: that both gay and straight parents argue about how best to raise kids; that married couples have sex less often after kids come along; and that What to Expect When You’re Expecting doesn’t anticipate every parenting question. Bucatinsky obviously thinks that bodily functions are a rich source of comedy, but readers will tire after the fourth or fifth story about urine and/or feces. He also devotes multiple pages to his opinions regarding female genitalia and details a failed attempt to shave his own testicles. Throughout, the author employs a style that suggests an overeager blogger desperate for approval. An amateurish memoir.

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“Despite pages of platitudes, Burroughs provides plenty of worthy material on the absurdity of the human condition and the unpredictability of contemporary life.” from this is how

THIS IS HOW Proven to Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike.

THE COLOR OF WAR How One Battle Broke Japan and Another Changed America

Burroughs, Augusten St. Martin’s (240 pp.) $24.99 | $11.99 e-book | May 8, 2012 978-0-312-56355-4 978-1-250-01156-5 e-book 978-1-4272-2163-6 CD Acclaimed memoirist Burroughs (You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas, 2009, etc.) charts new territory, offering his readers advice on life. With a cinematic novel and a series of bestselling memoirs under his belt, the author now presents life advice that’s as unconventionally scattered as one would expect. His tongue-in-cheek guidance, predictably couched in personal anecdotes, opens with a chapter on rejecting the “superupbeat umbrella” of positive affirmations, and proceeds to deliver the straight, though clichéd, dope on bad love (“Abusive people never change”), the search for romantic connections (“get out of your own way”), weight loss (“real beauty comes from the inside”) and guilt-free self-pity (“sometimes you just feel like shit”). Most sections straddle the line between supportive empowerment and tough love and are written with the author’s characteristic dark humor, which consistently entertains and, as the pages turn, earnestly educates. Burroughs offers smart counsel on keeping communication honest (with yourself and others), the right to personal freedoms and the best mindset for a job interview; he also gives personal perspectives on his suicide attempt and how he conquered alcoholism. Some chapters focus constructively on self-esteem and positive affirmations, while others meander, as in a heartfelt piece on love that veers off to describe the benefits of residing on the southern tip of Manhattan. Both introspective and uneven, the outspoken author wraps everything up with an ethereal final chapter draped in the kind of mawkish Zen goodness that will work wonders for those in need of a morale booster. Despite pages of platitudes, Burroughs provides plenty of worthy material on the absurdity of the human condition and the unpredictability of contemporary life. (First printing of 350,000)

Campbell, James Crown (512 pp.) $30.00 | May 15, 2012 978-0-307-46121-6 978-0-307-46123-0 e-book

In July 1944, hundreds of seaman, mostly black, died in an explosion while loading ammunition aboard ships at Port Chicago, in northern California, while mostly white American troops battled on Saipan across the Pacific. Using diaries, memoirs, transcripts and interviews, Campbell (The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea—The Forgotten War of the South Pacific, 2007, etc.) jumps back and forth between both stories. Saipan does not lack competent histories, but Campbell’s description of the explosion revives a little-known landmark in race relations. He reminds readers that, after Pearl Harbor, black Americans yearned to fight and demanded equality in the rigidly segregated military. Franklin Roosevelt had no objection but refused to oppose his entire cabinet, and readers will squirm as otherwise admirable figures (Marshall, Stimson, Knox, Eisenhower) deliver unctuous homilies on black inferiority. As always, only Eleanor got it right. Yielding slightly, the Navy expanded black job categories from one (messman) to include shore-based labor. At Port Chicago they worked under white officers, most of whom knew little about handling explosives, and the Navy refused to heed warnings from the stevedore’s union. After the disaster, hundreds refused to resume work. Many reconsidered after threats from superiors; the Navy charged the remainder with mutiny, a far more serious offense than refusal to obey orders. The trial generated sympathetic headlines, but the court convicted all defendants, sentencing them to long prison terms. Both senior admirals and the Defense Department considered this overkill, and the Navy released everyone within six months. It also abolished its Jim Crow policy, two years before President Truman did the same for other services. A fine account of a little-known milestone in the battle for civil rights.

THE PASSAGE OF POWER The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Caro, Robert A. Knopf (704 pp.) $35.00 | CD $39.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-679-40507-8 978-1-455-89048-4 CD

The fourth volume of one of the most anticipated English-language biographies of the past 30 years. This installment covers Johnson’s vice presidency under John F. Kennedy, his ascension to the presidency after the |

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Kennedy assassination and his initial nine months as president. As in the earlier volumes, Caro (Master of the Senate, 2002, etc.) combines a compelling narrative and insightful authorial judgments into a lengthy volume that will thrill those who care about American politics, the foundations of power, or both. Even Johnson acolytes, sometimes critical about portions of the earlier volumes, are less likely to complain about their hero’s portrayal here. While documenting the progression of his subject’s character flaws, Caro admires Johnson’s adroit adaptability. Though he chafed as vice president after giving up the leadership of the U.S. Senate, Johnson seems to have developed a grudging admiration for JFK. However, Johnson and Robert Kennedy could not put aside the animosity that had taken root on Capitol Hill. When Robert became not only his brother’s confidant but also his attorney general, Johnson resented the appointment. Caro documents the feuds between them and vividly relates how the warfare between the two men continued after JFK’s assassination. On a more upbeat track, the author explains how Johnson’s lifelong commitment to helping the dispossessed led to passage of unprecedented civil-rights legislation. The evidence seems strong that JFK could not have engineered passage of much of the civil-rights legislation because he lacked Johnson’s influence over members of Congress. The fifth volume is in the works, and it is expected to cover Johnson’s election to the White House and his full term, with the conduct of the Vietnam War ceaselessly dogging him. The author writes that the next book “will be very different in tone.” Before beginning the Johnson biography, Caro published a life of Robert Moses, The Power Broker (1974), a book many scholars consider a watershed in contemporary biography. The Johnson project deserves equal praise.

SELECTING A PRESIDENT

Clift, Eleanor & Spieler, Matthew Dunne/St. Martin’s (208 pp.) $19.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-250-00449-9 978-1-4668-0223-0 e-book Series: Fundamentals of American Government, 1

The first in the publisher’s Fundamentals of American Government series explains the machinery of our presiden-

tial electoral system. Political pundit Clift (Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Politics, 2008, etc.) and policy analyst Spieler surely possess the firepower to compose a sophisticated, in-depth presentation about how Americans select their chief executive. They confine themselves here, however, to the basics. While not wholly without utility outside the classroom, their primer aims at high-school students or, say, immigrants contemplating citizenship. (If you can define the 30+ words in the glossary— e.g., “dark horse,” “grassroots,” “stump speech,” “presidentelect”—you probably don’t need this book.) Delivering all necessary rudimentary information, the authors briskly cover 696

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the elements of a presidential contest from the early caucuses and primaries through the conventions, general election campaign, Election Day and inauguration. Whatever the topic, the authors regularly draw on historical examples to add a bit of merciful color to their simple presentation. Both major parties receive equal time: For every invocation of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, John McCain or Herbert Hoover, there’s one of FDR, William Jennings Bryan, Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. In addition to the glossary of elementary political terms, the appendix contains the presidential oath of office, the electoral vote tally for all past presidential candidates, some suggestions for further reading and the complete text of four consequential pieces of campaign rhetoric, including Senator Obama’s 2004 nominating speech on behalf of John Kerry that spotlighted the newcomer from Illinois, and Hubert Humphrey’s anti-segregation 1948 convention address. For beginners, the ABCs of the curious, occasionally baffling way we go about the important business of choosing a president.

THE LEGACY OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

Cohen, Samuel & Konstantinou, Lee--Eds. Univ. of Iowa (244 pp.) $19.95 paperback | May 31, 2012 978-1-60938-082-3 A potpourri of a literary collection— from exegeses to eulogies—all in memory and honor of Wallace (1962–2008). Cohen (English/Univ. of Missouri; After the End of History: American Fiction in the 1990s, 2009) and Konstantinou (English/Princeton Univ.; Pop Apocalypse: A Possible Satire, 2009) collect scholarly essays about Wallace’s work, interviews with Wallace and others, tributes delivered at Wallace’s memorial service by friends and fellow writers and an essay from a literary curator about the Wallace collection at the University of Texas. Their decision to alternate scholarly pieces with personal ones was risky and causes a serious problem for the scholars. When an earnest essay dense with critical jargon (“an attempt at a Hegelian sublation of metafiction into metafiction critical of its own impulses”) appears after a moving piece by Rick Moody, the scholarly piece suffers. Over and over again, scholars weigh in and are followed by Don DeLillo, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen (whose tribute will bring tears to the eyes of nearly all readers) and others. Ending the volume with an essay about cataloging Wallace’s papers seems an odd choice in such a collection. The editors have fleet literary athletes ready to run the anchor lap, and instead choose someone who writes about categorizing types of track shoes. This is not to disparage that essay—it’s of real interest—but why at the end? The eyes of general readers will glaze reading the litcrit, blaze (and redden) reading the writers’ eulogies.

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“Leaks, reserves, PACs, hydrofracking, bloated corporate profits and more: all pertinent concerns nicely handled by Coll in this engaging, hard-hitting work.” from private empire

PRIVATE EMPIRE ExxonMobil and American Power

SPOILED ROTTEN How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic

Coll, Steve Penguin Press (688 pp.) $36.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-59420-335-0

A thorough, sobering study of the pernicious consolidation of Big Oil. With admirable restraint, New Yorker contributor and two-time Pulitzer winner Coll (The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, 2008, etc.) demonstrates how the merger of Exxon and Mobil has allowed the company to wield more power and wealth than even the American government, in the manner of John D. Rockefeller. Exxon had functioned as an independent corporate state since its antitrust breakoff from Standard Oil in 1911, and was ranked by profit performance in the top five corporations from the 1950s through the end of the Cold War. With the catastrophic spill of the Valdez in Alaska in 1989, the network of secrecy and internal security within Exxon was exposed but hardly tempered. The iron chief who emerged from the crisis, Lee Raymond, reappraised risk and security within the organization and took a hard line against efforts to extract from it punitive damages. Moving the headquarters to Texas in 1993, the company retrenched in its nose-thumbing determination to encourage and supply America’s thirst for oil, casting around at more far-flung spots in the world that could provide the crude—such as where Mobil held attractive assets, in places like West Africa, Venezuela, Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi. The Exxon-Mobil merger in 1999 created a global behemoth and also provoked small wars at drilling spots where the poor and disenfranchised deeply resented the foreign workers on native soil and disrupted the extraction by violence and insurgency. Raymond and his cohorts’ cynical spin on the denial of global warming and the role of the burning of fossil fuels makes for jaw-dropping reading, as does the company’s cunning manipulations of the war in Iraq to garner an oil deal. The Obama administration’s emphasis on renewable energy sources and environmental concerns has barely challenged the formidable political power of Big Oil. Leaks, reserves, PACs, hydrofracking, bloated corporate profits and more: all pertinent concerns nicely handled by Coll in this engaging, hard-hitting work.

Cost, Jay Broadside Books/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $26.99 | May 15, 2012 978-0-06-204115-9 Weekly Standard blogger Cost examines what he sees as the dangerous domination of the Democratic Party by special interests. The author looks at how Democratic presidents have handled various groups in the party coalition, including African-Americans, unions, feminists and environmentalists. He argues that Democratic presidents have long catered to such groups with expensive programs, to the detriment of “the public interest”—a practice that has made the party “a threat to the American republic itself.” His historical overview is wideranging, extensively researched and often engagingly written, but readers who don’t share Cost’s conservative outlook will not be won over. Often, he seems to conflate “the public interest” with right-leaning policies. He lauds President Clinton for pursuing goals that liberal groups disliked, such as welfare reform and the North American Free Trade Agreement, while deriding Clinton’s attempt to allow gays to serve openly in the military as a mere sop to a Democratic constituency. The author also roundly criticizes Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, who shepherded especially large government programs. But Cost saves his harshest words for President Obama, who he claims has “focused relentlessly upon the interests of the party clients over the public good.” In particular, the author characterizes the president’s health-care reform policies as a massive handout to left-leaning special interests. It is interesting to note that some members of these same groups regularly criticize Obama for not being liberal enough, a fact Cost does not explore. He also doesn’t address how Republican Party policies have been influenced by its own coalition groups, which would make for an informative comparison. An impassioned argument that will only appeal to a conservative audience.

OUR DIVIDED POLITICAL HEART The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent Dionne Jr., E.J. Bloomsbury (336 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-60819-201-4

The days of political camaraderie are over, writes Washington Post columnist Dionne (Foundations of Democracy and Culture/Georgetown |

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Univ.; Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right, 2008, etc.), who nonetheless offers some possible correctives to the current poisonous political climate. The clash between Republicans and Democrats, writes the author, has devolved into the struggle of individualism versus community, local versus national and the Right versus the Middle. Philosophical boundaries are tilted, and moderates are now often painted as left wing. Rampant historical revisionism divides us. Dionne decries interpretations of the Founding Fathers’ intentions by the courts as well as politicians; originalists have little basis to claim definite knowledge of the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. Knowing that the Constitution was a work in progress that would grow and adapt to the times, they continued to argue, balance and compromise. Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt used republican nationalism to better the American community. The communitarian reforms of the New Deal established the idealistic American Century. Now the resurgence of radical individualism threatens to dissolve those reforms. Populist methods are the favored tool to promote individualistic objectives and attack the elites, especially Wall Street. However, it is not so much that the wealthy have too much; it’s that they have failed in their stewardship of our economy. The men who founded our country were elites and elitist. The difference is that those founders knew that they also had a social obligation to provide for the common good. Dionne condemns the current partisanship as destructive and demands the return to moderation, balance and compromise. The author’s extensive knowledge of Washington allows him to ably illustrate our remarkable political history, and he renews our hope that cooler heads can prevail with a renewed balance of individual rights and the needs of the community. (Author appearances in Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C.)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE PROMISE OF ROCK ’N’ ROLL

Dolan, Marc Norton (592 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 4, 2012 978-0-393-08135-0

The Boss’ canon receives trainspotting treatment via his concert appearances and recordings. Dolan eschews original research in this uncomfortable hybrid of biography and criticism. The rocker’s life has been scrutinized in previous bios by Dave Marsh, Marc Eliot and Robert Santelli, and their work provides the structural backbone of this book. The contours of the tale will be familiar to Springsteen enthusiasts: Jersey Shore bar-band roots, early-’70s cult arrival, popular breakthrough with 1975’s Born to Run, launch to superstardom with 1984’s Born in the U.S.A., etc. Dolan analyzes the musician’s progress primarily via close, grueling readings of Springsteen’s set lists over the course of 40-plus years on stage, amply documented on bootlegs, with additional attention to the oft-protracted genesis of his albums in studio 698

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sessions and home recordings. It makes for arduous reading, and Dolan’s conclusions are often suspect. While Springsteen is undoubtedly among the hardest-working live performers in rock history, and his gigs ably combine arena-rock showmanship and a carefully cultivated intimacy and sincerity, his shows and the lengthy raps that stud them only reveal so much about his internal impulses. The author goes to laborious lengths to calibrate minute differences in Springsteen’s shows over the course of individual tours. He also makes a great deal of the slow development of Springsteen’s political and social consciousness, but most of his divinations are based on contorted explications of his concerts and their attendant spiels. Dolan exhibits a frustrating inability to plumb Springsteen’s interior emotional makeup; as in previous tomes, his short-lived marriage to Julianne Phillips and his unexpected metamorphosis into midlife family man with Patti Scialfa remain mystifying. In these pages Springsteen remains, for all his apparent openness, both personally and artistically remote, and Dolan’s interpretive methodology sheds limited light.

THE TRUCK FOOD COOKBOOK 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America’s Best Restaurants on Wheels

Edge, John T. Workman (304 pp.) $18.95 paperback | May 8, 2012 978-0-7611-5616-1

New York Times food columnist Edge (Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South, 2007, etc.) explores “outsider food, immigrant food, [and] the food of the underclass” in an intelligently organized cookbook featuring a smorgasbord of American street foods. In cities such as Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Houston and New York, the author gathered recipes that range from the familiar with an ethnic twist (sumac on tater tots) to regional fare (Portland poutine) to fast food (burgers and tacos) to healthier concoctions (Ethiopian lentils and tuna onigiri). Many employ simple ingredients, as well as flavorful sauces and marinades. Whether served in hearty or bite-sized portions, they are often characterized by their portable, comforting nature. Readers who may have initially equated “truck food” with greasy spoons will be pleasantly surprised to discover that quick methods such as deep-frying are limited, as are the more excessive creations, including a grilled cheese cheeseburger. Adventurous palates will also find fusions such as Kimchi quesadillas and crepes with chicken, veggies and coconut. Edge contextualizes his topic with well-considered introductions to each section— ”Fries and Pies,” “Waffles and Their Kin,” “Brunch on Wheels,” “Unexpected Pleasures,” “Sandwich Up!, “Rolling in Sweets,” etc.—and to the recipes. He also provides background on topics of interest to food-trivia enthusiasts, from the popularity of sriracha to tidbits given by the cooks he encountered. The book

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“Disturbing social history in the form of a fast-paced thriller.” from l.a. ’56

L.A. ’56 A Devil in the City of Angels

is especially noteworthy for its vibrant portrayal of cities as hotbeds for innovation. Despite their fleeting nature, these creations endure in a winning combination of graphic design, cross-cultural flair and writing on one of the staples of the urban food landscape.

GIANT IN THE SHADOWS The Life of Robert T. Lincoln Emerson, Jason Southern Illinois Univ. (638 pp.) $39.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-8093-3055-3

Historian Emerson (Lincoln the Inventor, 2009, etc.) produces a new biography of President Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln (1843–1926). Abraham Lincoln is a seemingly inexhaustible subject for authors and scholars, with some 15,000 books written about him since 1865. This fascination may help explain this new biography of his son, who became a successful attorney, presidential cabinet member, minister to Great Britain and businessman. Emerson has written or edited three previous books on the Lincolns, and he does a thorough job on a relatively minor figure; Lincolniana completists will certainly welcome it. The more mundane facts here—such as the younger Lincoln’s grades at Harvard as the nation headed toward the Civil War—may not engage casual readers, nor will an overlong section detailing Lincoln’s opinions on various biographies of his father. But other subjects are more compelling, such as his complicated relationship with his troubled mother and his committing her to a sanitarium. Also intriguing are the odd coincidences that peppered Lincoln’s life. For example: He was once rescued from being crushed by a train by bystander Edwin Booth, brother of the man who would soon murder his father at Ford’s Theatre; in 1881, while serving as Secretary of War, he was present when President James Garfield was gunned down in Washington, D.C.; in 1901, he arrived at the Pan-American Exposition shortly after President William McKinley was shot there. It bears noting, however, that Robert Lincoln was a rather low-key Victorian gentleman who once said, “My father was a great man, but I am not.” Some readers may wonder whether he would have deemed himself worthy of a comprehensive biography, if he were not the son of arguably the greatest president in American history. A fine addition to shelves of historians and Lincoln aficionados, though it may lack wider appeal.

Engel, Joel Dunne/St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-0-312-59194-6 978-1-250-01245-6 e-book

True-crime story of rape and racism in postwar Los Angeles. The narrative has all the elements of a classic film noir and then some: a handsome detective who falls for a beautiful crime victim who narrowly escapes the clutches of a monstrous rapist; the innocent man, railroaded into jail for a capital crime he didn’t commit by the prejudiced police of a corrupt city; a surprise ending with a stakeout and shootout that brings about justice in the end. But this being a story based on real life, the epilogue is not so tidy, least of all for the railroaded suspect, an African-American ex-cop who’d been forced out of the department for dating a white woman. In the summer of 1956, Los Angeles was in the thrall of a serial rapist who trolled lovers’ lanes in tonier districts with a toy sheriff ’s badge and a flashlight. He would interrupt young lovers, flash his badge and threaten to arrest the couple for vice crimes. Then he would deposit the young man a few blocks away and return for his prey. On his trail was the talented detective Danny Galindo, a Mexican-American war hero and friend of Dragnet’s Jack Webb, who would feed him the occasional story line. (“Give it to Galindo,” a catchphrase on the show, was Webb’s way of tipping his hat to his LAPD pal.) Galindo worked on some of the city’s most notorious crimes, from the Black Dahlia to the Manson Family murders, but he was particularly proud of this case in which he freed an innocent man and found true love. Engel (Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, 1994, etc.) gets in the head of the rapist, which may be taking liberties with the facts, but it makes for a riveting, novelistic read. Disturbing social history in the form of a fast-paced thriller.

SPARKY AND ME My Friendship with Sparky Anderson and the Lessons He Shared About Baseball and Life Ewald, Daniel Dunne/St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $25.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-250-00026-2 978-1-4299-4144-0 e-book

Charming, heartfelt memoir about legendary baseball manager George “Sparky” Anderson (1934– 2010) by his longtime manager, co-author (They Call Me Sparky, 1998, etc.) and dear friend. Shortly before Anderson’s death, the author sat at his kitchen table and reminisced with him, as they had done so |

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often over the course of a 32-year friendship. Out of these conversations Ewald develops a portrait of an extraordinary person. There was no doubt about Anderson’s managing abilities; three World Series championships and a plaque in the Hall of Fame attest to that. He was also one of the last of baseball’s great characters. With a shock of white hair, craggy features, gravelly voice and a Casey Stengel–like gift for mangling the English language (“a language filled with words he created as he went along”), Anderson charmed the media and everyone else who came into contact with him. Ultimately, though, he saw himself as “a blue-collar worker who happened to wear a baseball uniform to work. No better. No worse.” No fan would ever be denied a handshake, and no working person—be it a waitress, a bus driver or a U.S. president (one or two of whom he knew)— would ever be disrespected in his presence. From Anderson, Ewald learned the simple lesson that each person has dignity and deserves both respect and compassion. In lesser hands, such a lesson could come off as trite or just another treatise on the life lessons sports can teach. But Ewald’s subtle remembrances fully flesh out Anderson’s personality. He was a person as much at home at the local supermarket (where he knew everyone’s name) as he was in a major league clubhouse. A week or so after the author’s visit Anderson was gone, but his simple but not simplistic lessons remained. A friend’s moving tribute, to be enjoyed by baseball fans and nonfans alike. (8-page color photo insert)

LOADED WORDS

Garber, Marjorie Fordham University Press (304 pp.) $26.00 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-823-24205-4 A vigorous, revealing collection about the pleasures and revelations of close reading, whether it involves words, books, biographies or ideas. Renowned scholar Garber (English/ Harvard Univ.; The Use and Abuse of Literature, 2011, etc.) is a deep thinker who never has to look far for inspiration—life and literature are full of untapped mysteries, and the more you slow down, the more you see. She finds large-scale drama in the small, abstract or arcane, reveling in how ordinary words keep secrets, how exclusive words (like genius) become clichés, how a rare edition of Hamlet can conceal hidden agendas and how historic figures become advertising “brands.” An essay on the word mad forges a credible connection between Mad magazine, the TV show Mad Men, Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and that original mad man, Hamlet. Shakespeare recurs throughout the book; as she demonstrated in her massive guidebook Shakespeare After All (2004), he’s the lens through which Garber often sees the world. The same goes for the great critic F.O. Matthiessen, recalled here in a superb tribute focusing on how his background in Elizabethan studies prepared him to understand 19th-century American literature. The use of the phrase “honey trap” in newspaper accounts of Julian Assange’s rape trial 700

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leads to Winnie the Pooh and the possible anti-German bias of “hunny.” Tackling Coleridge’s “unfinished” poem “Kubla Khan,” Garber raises questions as to what it means for a work of art to be cut short. In a final essay, the author offers a stirring defense of the humanities as the division of the university that deliberately doesn’t solve problems; it wrestles with interpretations, not final answers. The same goes for this intellectually generous and rewarding book. Like its many subjects, it repays the close attention it commands.

ASSIGNMENT TO HELL The War Against Nazi Germany with Correspondents Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, A.J. Liebling, Homer Bigart, and Hal Boyle Gay, Timothy M. NAL Caliber/Berkley (512 pp.) $26.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-451-23688-3

A sprightly synthesis of literature and history follows five newspapermen who cut their journalistic teeth during World War II. Gay (Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson, 2010, etc.) ambitiously reconstructs the events of WWII through the eyes of the reporters who were on the ground (or in the air) trying to get the scoop first. The New Yorker’s A.J. Liebling fled Paris in advance of the invading Nazis; the AP’s Hal Boyle covered Operation Torch in North Africa; Stars and Stripes cub reporter Andy Rooney accompanied bombing missions to Germany; the New York Herald Tribune’s Homer Bigart witnessed the horrors of the Sicily invasion; and UP correspondent Walter Cronkite got a front seat at the Normandy landings on D-Day. Gay chose these five correspondents over, say, Ernie Pyle, who was already hugely famous, or Martha Gellhorn, because the five were “a journalistic band of brothers” (although one feminine point of view would have added a fresh perspective). Cronkite, Bigart and Rooney had all been trained in the Air Force and formed the core of the ill-fated Writing 69th, while Gay simply admires the work of Liebling, who was one of the oldest reporters. The author considers their newspaper beginnings in forging their styles: Cronkite the “meatball journalist” from Kansas City; how Bigart’s harsh Calvinistic Pennsylvania upbringing and speech impediment helped fashion his taut, wry sentences; Rooney, conscripted from Colgate University, brash and clueless at the Stars and Stripes, went on to make his mark “saluting the unsung grunts behind the scenes.” Boyle, also from Kansas City, worked his way up at AP and established a column while in Morocco, “Leaves from a Correspondent’s Notebook.” A unique, engaging history lesson.

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“In a well-researched, disinterested analysis, the authors show that collisions of ego, personality and politics can often result in creation, not destruction.” from the presidents club

THE PRESIDENTS CLUB Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity

Gibbs, Nancy and Duffy, Michael Simon & Schuster (656 pp.) $29.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-4391-2770-4 Two Time magazine editors chart the zigzag arc of relationships among the men who have occupied the White House since the mid 20th century. With their knowledge of the territory of presidential politics and personality, Gibbs and Duffy (co-authors: The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House, 2007) assemble a compelling account of their tangled relationships. When Truman called on Hoover to help with post–World War II recovery in Germany, the latter was in political purgatory, reviled by his own party. Throughout this massive work, the authors present numerous instances of presidents warming to their predecessors in surprising ways. Sometimes mutual admiration was already in place (Truman and Eisenhower—though it later disintegrated); sometimes, antipathy (Clinton and Bush II). But almost always the sitting presidents found in their predecessors some solace, willing ears and sound advice. Jimmy Carter emerges as a loose cannon, combining vast international experience (and a deep humanity) with a maverick spirit and a yearning for the limelight that caused some of his successors to cringe and curse. (Oddly, the authors do not say much about Carter’s relationships with Bush II or Obama.) JFK turned to Ike at crucial times (Bay of Pigs); Clinton and Nixon developed a close relationship, though Nixon once threatened to write a negative op-ed if Clinton did not consult him about Nixon’s upcoming trip to Russia. It was Reagan, write Gibbs and Duffy, who first called Nixon back from exile. Gerald Ford emerges as a genial soul, telling scandal-ridden Clinton that he’d better confess his lies. Perhaps the closest of all relationships was between Clinton and Bush I, a friendship literally birthed by a tsunami. In a well-researched, disinterested analysis, the authors show that collisions of ego, personality and politics can often result in creation, not destruction. (16-page b/w insert)

THE RECEPTIONIST An Education at the New Yorker

Groth, Janet Algonquin (240 pp.) $21.95 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-1-61620-131-9

A nostalgic, wistful look at life inside one of America’s most storied magazines, and the personal and professional limbo of the woman who answered the phone. Well before she became a teacher and biographer, Groth (English Emeritus/SUNY-Plattsburgh; Edmund Wilson: A Critic |

for Our Time, 1989, etc.) spent 21 years (1957–1978) behind the front desk at the New Yorker, taking messages, calming suspicious wives, babysitting and refusing John Berryman’s marriage proposals. The starry-eyed daughter of an alcoholic Iowa grocer, she arrived in Manhattan both educated and adorable, hoping for the byline that would buy her freedom. Instead, she had a series of disastrous romances and mostly became friends with the famous. Her steady lunch date was Joseph Mitchell, soon to become crippled by writer’s block; her thoughts on why he failed to deliver a great novel are intelligent and fascinating. Another friend was Muriel Spark, whom she recalls as both elegant and generous, if a questionable mother. Legendary editor William Shawn leaves her cold; she describes him as humorless and “sadomasochistic” toward writers. Despite her tendency toward clichés (“fame and fortune”; “it’s not who you are but who you know”), this bookish girl from flyover country who became a Mad Men–era hottie, and who found she had to leave this cozy nest in order to save herself, is very much an interesting character in her own right. For readers who can’t get enough New Yorker lore, an amiable view from the inside.

FATEFUL LIGHTNING A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction Guelzo, Allen C. Oxford Univ. (592 pp.) $19.95 paperback | May 4, 2012 978-0-19-984328-2

Lincoln Prize winner Guelzo (Civil War Era Studies/Gettysburg Coll.; Lincoln, 2011, etc.) offers a broad, readable history

of the Civil War. As late as the 1830s, writes the author, the United States behaved more like a compact of states than a single country. Strong communal bonds kept North and South united. But economic issues divided the sections, and slavery would become the catalyst for disunion. Despite efforts to find workable compromises in the decade before the conflict, there ensued four years of “dislocation, shock, and carnage.” Based on recent historical research, Guelzo’s account goes beyond the details of generals and battles to explore the war’s ramifications on wide-ranging aspects of American society, including religion, gender and technology. While analyzing agendas and strategies and deciphering Lincoln’s thinking regarding the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction, the author re-creates dramatic moments on and off the battlefields, from the looting of goods during the Richmond bread riot to a mob’s angry assault on a Union arsenal in the Boston draft riot. Guelzo discusses the important role of railroads, the telegraph and other new technologies; the lives of ordinary volunteer soldiers, who often drank to near insensibility before charges; the war’s “real killer,” disease, caused by poor hygiene and food and ignorance of bacteriology; the reasons for the war offered by intellectuals (“blatherers,” Walt Whitman called them) on both sides;

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and why American religion became one of the conflict’s major cultural casualties. The author also considers the war from the vantage of African Americans as well as Native Americans and other minorities, and he concludes with an astute assessment of the confusion and dislocation of the postwar years and the coming of the Gilded Age. An authoritative view of the great American trauma. (26 b/w halftones; 8 b/w illustrations)

THE GUTTENBERG BIBLE A Memoir Guttenberg, Steve St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $25.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-312-38345-9 978-1-250-01152-7 e-book

The veteran character actor looks back on his first 10 years in Hollywood as a time of magical dreams and sobering realities. Guttenberg has made more than 50 films since first striking out for Hollywood as a brash teen in the late 1970s. Here he ably captures that 18-year-old’s sense of awe and excitement as he began his career. First, he managed to sneak onto the Paramount lot where he promptly set up a private office and began engineering his own auditions. From there, he was soon enjoying a shvitz with Michael Landon and trading lines on set with Richard Widmark. Guttenberg has a fine ear for dialogue, and depictions of his regular calls back home to his salt-of-theearth mom and dad are amusing and heartwarming. The fun and excitement slows a bit as his career begins to sputter. He eventually realized that no matter how much success he achieved, he would always be a hired hand, never quite sure where the next job would be. Meanwhile, multiple liaisons with assorted starlets and stalkers throughout the years get scant attention. Guttenberg isn’t interested in naming names. Explaining just how tough it’s been keeping his mug on the silver screen for all these years seems to be enough for him. The career gymnastics he has displayed adroitly leapfrogging from films like Cocoon to Three Men and a Baby are wholly entertaining on their own. Aspiring actors will surely gain keen insight into the challenges that may await them (if they’re lucky), while movie fans will be pleasantly assured that their faith in the dream factory’s ability to inspire is still warranted. An insider’s charming look at what it’s really like to be a Hollywood star. (8-page color photo insert)

JIMI HENDRIX A Brother’s Story

Hendrix, Leon with Mitchell, Adam Dunne/St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-312-66881-5 978-1-250-01237-1 e-book

The guitar legend’s kid brother delivers a candid memoir of the Jimi Hendrix only he knew. Though he died in 1970 at the age of 27, leaving behind only three officially released studio albums, Hendrix remains perhaps the most influential rock guitarist ever. With the assistance of Mitchell, Hendrix’s younger brother Leon recounts their upbringing in and around Seattle in the 1950s and early ’60s, shedding light on the origins of his brother’s genius and some of his famous song lyrics. The factuality of his account may be disputed—he includes several stories that have been contradicted by others, notably that of a 1959 meeting with Little Richard in his aunt’s kitchen—but it paints a vivid portrait of growing up in that time and place, with parents struggling with a volatile relationship fueled by alcohol and gambling and trying to keep their family together. Jimi, known to the family as “Buster” after sci-fi serial star Buster Crabbe, looked to and beyond the stars from an early age, conjuring the otherworldly landscapes he would later bring to life in his music. The author was drawn more to the mean streets. As Jimi left home on the road to stardom, Leon fell into the life of a hustler, leading him to drug addiction and jail. After his brother found success, the author briefly benefited from Jimi’s excess of women, drugs and money, despite the attempts of manager Mike Jeffery (the villain here as in other Hendrix bios) to keep them apart. In the aftermath of his death, the extended family eventually splintered over control of his legacy, with father Al’s adopted daughter, Janie, winning the final court battle and leaving Leon out in the cold. The author’s recounting of this fight shows a bitterness belied by his insistence that he is “at peace”—though he seems to have gotten his life together, helped in part by learning to play the guitar given to him by his older brother. Though it reads like the author’s effort to write himself back into the official history of his famous sibling, this memoir provides some insight into the background of a musical icon. (8-page b/w photo insert)

UP A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure Herr, Patricia Ellis Broadway (256 pp.) $14.00 paperback | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-307-95207-3

A mother and her young daughter bond through hiking. When Herr and her husband bought a weekend home in the mountains, the 702

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author learned of the Four Thousand Footer Club, a group of “peakbaggers” who have climbed all 48 mountains in the New Hampshire Whites, whose summits rise above 4,000 feet. She proposed to her 5-year-old daughter Alex, a precocious and energetic nature lover, that they attempt the club together, and she immediately agreed. The author clearly states her parenting philosophy—”children should be met where they’re at, intellectually and otherwise”—and she presents her daughter as a fully formed person with her own capabilities and goals that drive her enterprise, rather than as a cute little body along for the ride and some comic relief. Like most nature-adventure memoirs, this one leverages ready-made life metaphors, which Herr captures effectively and sincerely, if a bit predictably. Herr divides the chapters into life lessons learned from experiences on the trail: “Know What You’re Getting Into,” “Ignore the Naysayers,” “Mistakes Have Serious Consequences,” etc. The latter chapter, about how Herr’s husband lost his legs to frostbite from being trapped for three days in subzero temperatures (see Alison Osius’ Second Ascent for the full story), lends additional weight to the story. After 15 months of peakbagging, Alex reached her final summit; by this time she was a minor celebrity in the local hiking community. Herr’s prose sufficiently captures the joy of being on the trail, though perhaps not forcefully enough to make converts out of city slickers. More than anything, the narrative serves as an apt landscape for a mother to reflect on her choices and on her struggle with how to explain life’s unfairness (sexism, cruelty of nature, distrust of strangers) to her daughter while continuing to nurture the innocent joys of fleeting childhood. Warmly ruminative and honestly observant. Witty, unforced humor rescues passages that might be boring in another writer’s hands.

TASTEFUL NUDES ...and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation Hill, Dave St. Martin’s (240 pp.) $24.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-250-00203-7 978-1-250-01403-0 e-book

Comedian and musician Hill delivers a moderately amusing memoir in this collection of comic essays. The narrative lacks any sort of outsize hook. The author’s tenure on the lower rungs of show business is without scandal, his suburban upbringing seems to have been largely free from trauma and his work and romantic histories are fairly mundane. This leaves Hill’s voice as the sole point of interest, and the author’s wryness is engaging in small doses, but over the long haul the relentless self-deprecation and undercutting of dramatic expectations are wearying. Hill writes about his adolescent hockey career, his time in various rock bands, frustrations with family and girlfriends and other picayune subjects with an unvarying, low-watt comedic rhythm. The pieces are well-observed and |

deftly rendered, but they never build to anything greater than a good anecdote or a handful of clever lines; they lack strangeness and surprise, the bracingly fresh perspective of an essay by David Sedaris or Jonathan Ames. Hill is a thoroughly conventional “dude,” and, while a fairly witty one, his stories and presentation lack a distinctive flavor. The most memorable pieces deal with his struggle with depression, which he describes with admirable clarity, and an account of his stint working at a homeless shelter, which is enlivened by vividly outrageous characters and an insider’s look at the practical aspects of administrating at an institution that will be unfamiliar to most. Largely pleasant and forgettable, an agreeable-enough diversion lacking in lasting impact.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SWORD The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire Holland, Tom Doubleday (512 pp.) $29.95 | May 15, 2012 978-0-385-53135-1

Elegant study of the roiling era of internecine religious rivalry and epic strife that saw the nation of Islam rise and conquer. British historian Holland (The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West, 2009, etc.) first tells the tortuously involved tale of the rise and fall Persia, or what he calls Iranshahr, an empire imbued by the spirit of the prophet Zoroaster, who believed that a terminal confrontation between good and evil was imminent; it was also heavily influenced by the Jews, natives of Judah in diaspora to Mesopotamia, who were at work transcribing the written record of their rabbis and looking forward to a Messiah who would offer redemption from suffering. Meanwhile, Rome, whose own Virgil had broadcast its glorious mission statement, “a dominion without limit,” in the Aeneid, was besieged by barbarian tribes and on its knees by the first centuries CE, threatened by an implacable rebellious heresy, Christianity. Yet another current began to swell, similarly foretold in the Old Testament scriptures, such as in the account of Abraham’s begetting a son by the Egyptian maid Hagar, who would become Ishmael, heir to a great people, and Daniel’s terrifying apocalyptic vision of four beasts ruling in succession over mankind. So what was this new nation rising from the feral wanderings of “the wolves of Arabia,” seemingly portended in the bubonic plague decimating the Fertile Crescent in the sixth century? Holland portrays the age as ripe for the revolutionary visions of the Prophet, who certainly drew most self-consciously from tenets of previous People of the Book. Holland confronts questions in the Quranic text head-on, providing a substantive, fluent exegesis on the original documents. Smoothly composed history and fine scholarship.

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“A Pulitzer Prize–winning automotive reporter’s cultural history of 15 cars that helped shape American life.” from engines of change

SWEET TOOTH The Bittersweet History of Candy

Hopkins, Kate St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-312-66810-5 978-1-250-01119-0 e-book

The history of confections from a candy enthusiast. The vision of sugary candies brings an immediate watering of the mouth and a sense of delight. Facing a midlife crisis, Hopkins (99 Drams of Whiskey: The Accidental Hedonist’s Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink, 2009) wondered how her happy-go-lucky, sugar-filled childhood had turned into the stress-filled life of the average American adult. By “indulging in the ultimate childhood fantasy” of taste testing while studying the history of candy, she hoped to overcome her midlife crisis and recapture some of the magic of her childhood. Her travels took her across the United States and Europe, with stops in Venice, Genoa, Edinburgh and London as she followed a trail of sweetness from honey-coated fruits to the modern Necco wafer. She discovered that modern “candy” had its origins in the apothecary and pharmaceutical shops where sugar was added to medicine to make it more palatable. Originally affordable only to the wealthy, sugar became common and inexpensive as explorers claimed land in the New World and planted sugar cane. With distress, Hopkins learned that the foundation of her sweet tooth rested on the backs of African slaves who tended the sugar plantations of Jamaica and Barbados. The Spanish introduced cocoa as a bitter, lukewarm, frothy drink, often with a “scum-like bubbling” on top. Bar chocolate made a late entrance into the sweetened-treat category after the invention of the water engine, which allowed a finer grind of cocoa beans. Hopkins also looks at the origins of large-scale conglomerates such as Cadbury and Necco, leaving readers to ponder the demise of small-scale confectioners for the sake of big business and profit. A pleasing chronology of candy through the ages.

THE 7 LAWS OF MAGICAL THINKING How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

Hutson, Matthew Hudson Street/Penguin (304 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 12, 2012 978-1-59463-087-3 A breezy, middling work of pop psych, working an obvious thesis to obvious ends. Poor dumb humans. We cling to sentimental objects such as wedding rings, think we can beat the odds at Vegas and believe in justice and the karmic rule that what goes around comes around. 704

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Well, writes former Psychology Today news editor Hutson, that’s the way we’re wired, so just “chillax.” There’s nothing new in the observation that human thought is shot through with irrationality, that we tend to invest objects with magical properties, or that we harbor unreasonable beliefs. But what does it tell us about ourselves that companies can make a pretty penny selling packets of soil from Jerusalem? That we’re a superstitious people, as superstitious as our forebears, who bought and sold holy relics for ages. And that we believe that actions have distant consequences? That’s not quite so silly, given what we know of chaos theory, difficult science that evades analysis here. There is danger, of course, in thinking too symbolically, as Hutson notes; we have only to consider the figure of Don Quixote, who is himself a walking symbol. But how many of us live the life of Walter Mitty? There’s some utility in the author’s underlying program of skepticism, considering the flim-flam artists who work the fringes of the paranormal and New Age worlds, but it’s not quite satisfactory to adduce the “law of truly large numbers” to explain the simple fact that there’s a sucker born every minute. Given that no one can really escape from thinking magically, this book really should be called simply The 7 Laws of Thinking. No competition against meatier books on the mind from the likes of Sacks, Damasio, Hofstadter, Ariely and others. (Agent: Mel Flashman)

ENGINES OF CHANGE A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars Ingrassia, Paul Simon & Schuster (416 pp.) $30.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4516-4063-2 978-1-4516-4065-6 e-book

A Pulitzer Prize–winning automotive reporter’s cultural history of 15 cars that helped shape American life. Car nut and Reuters deputy editor in chief Ingrassia (Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster, 2010) makes it clear that he’s not writing about the best cars in American history, but the ones that have had the most impact on American culture (which also doesn’t always mean American-made cars). Beginning with the most obvious choice, Henry Ford’s Model T, Ingrassia proceeds to make his case for the cultural relevancy of Cadillac tail fins, the Honda Accord, BMWs, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Chrysler Minivan and more. Some of his more entertaining and informative stories are about automotive failures—e.g., hipster car-industry kingpin John DeLorean and his once-promising career at Pontiac, a tenure that ended with ugly, impractical cars and a botched cocaine deal. Ingrassia plays up the colossal technical flop that was the dangerous, rear-engine Chevy Corvair as the secondmost influential car of all time, considering its unintended role as the car that sparked huge legal reforms in the automobile industry and launched Ralph Nader’s career. Perhaps the book’s most interesting section examines the improbable

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“A confident clarion call sure to arouse controversy in this election year.” from rebuild the dream

metamorphosis in public perception of the Volkswagen Beetle, which went from Hitler’s favorite ride to a 1960s hippie-chic countercultural statement on wheels. The same kind of socially conscious symbolic value resurfaced decades later in the form of the hybrid Toyota Prius, the ride of choice for left-leaning, eco-friendly affluence. Ingrassia succeeds in fashioning wellresearched, swift-paced narratives around each of these 15 select automobiles. Using colorful detail, he effectively recasts these significant driving machines in their respective cultural contexts and brings to life the eras they influenced. An intelligent and accessible mix of car-worship and cultural studies. (Two 8-page color inserts)

WHITE HOUSE BURNING The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You Johnson, Simon & Kwak, James Pantheon (368 pp.) $26.95 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-307-90696-0 978-0-307-90712-7 e-book

A detailed, lucid, sure-to-be controversial account of whether the massive national debt of the U.S. government actually matters. Johnson (Entrepreneurship and Management/MIT) and Kwak (Univ. of Connecticut School of Law), who collaborated on 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown (2010), explain how the national debt began to grow, why it is willfully misrepresented by politicians and misunderstood by much of the citizenry and whether it is ever likely to cripple the richest nation in the world. Their especially valuable insight is that the national debt is a major problem only if it is perceived as a problem. Because politicians have advertised the debt as a problem, perception has overtaken reality. For the typical American voter, the conundrum becomes one of individual responsibility versus collective responsibility. Government measures to reduce the national debt by reducing assistance to individuals means those individuals will have to assume more responsibility for their health care, retirement accounts, formal education, transportation and workplace safety. On the other hand, government measures meant to protect vulnerable members of society will have to be financed through the assumption of greater debt, unless political leaders are willing to increase taxes on businesses as well as wealthy individuals. This is complicated stuff, but the clarity of explanations from Johnson and Kwak ease the pain. The authors are especially strong in their demonstration of the fallacy of likening government debt to the debt of an individual family. Many families are morally opposed to debt in their household and may assume that government debt is a moral issue. Johnson and Kwak explain why morality should have little place in any sane debate about the amount of national debt. A book to be enjoyed by ideologues and non-ideologues of all stripes because it is not a tract for Republicans, Democrats or any other partisan organization. |

REBUILD THE DREAM

Jones, Van Nation Books/Perseus (256 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-1-56858-714-1 Staunch advocacy for the Rebuild the Dream movement by its co-founder, who argues that to rebuild America’s economy requires not simply a strong leader but a mass social movement. Jones (The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, 2008), an environmental activist and former special advisor to the Obama administration on clean-energy jobs, begins by examining the movements that preceded and helped to elect Obama and those that emerged to challenge him. As he scrutinizes the Tea Party, the author asks what can be learned from its success and what the Occupy movement needs to do to achieve its goals. Jones sifts through both the accomplishments and the mistakes of the Obama administration. In the second section, the author presents a neat framework that he calls the Heart Space/Head Space Grid for interpreting events and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of movements. Political success stories, he writes, must contain four elements: villain, threat, hero and vision. He demonstrates the presence or absence of these four factors in the Obama campaign, the Obama administration, the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement. To understand the mechanics behind these movements, he turns to swarm theory, the idea that decentralized, self-organized groups harness a sort of collective intelligence that renders them more resilient than vertical hierarchies. Jones describes how the Rebuild the Dream movement seeks consensus and bottom-up direction through community organizing, “crowd-sourcing,” online petitions, digital projects and conferences. In the final section, the author introduces the Contract for the American Dream, a 10-point consensus-based program for reviving the economy based on local production, thrift, conservation and ecological restoration. Magazine-style sidebars accentuate the text, and simple diagrams illustrate the essential points of Jones’ arguments. A confident clarion call sure to arouse controversy in this election year.

THE UNLIKELY SECRET AGENT

Kasrils, Ronnie Monthly Review Press (192 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-58367-277-8 A husband tells the story of his wife’s detention and their daring escape into exile from apartheid-era South Africa. On Aug. 19, 1963, police from South Africa’s notorious Security Branch entered a bookstore in Durban and arrested Eleanor, the daughter of the owners. This

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book, which won the prestigious Alan Paton Award, tells the harrowing story of Eleanor’s arrest, detainment and escape into exile. At the time Eleanor was dating Kasrils (Armed and Dangerous: My Undercover Struggle Against Apartheid, 1993), the book’s author who was the Durban Security Police’s target at the time of the raid on the bookstore. They hoped she’d give them precious information leading to the arrest of Kasrils and his colleagues. Little did they know that Eleanor had been quietly operating in a series of sabotage campaigns against the government. The book covers a brief period of time, reconstructing Eleanor’s arrest, detainment in a Durban jail and the menacing questioning she endured, her placement in a mental institution after she engaged in a hunger strike and her subsequent escape and flight into exile to Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) and then Tanzania. As readers will learn in the book’s appendix—a touching memorial to Eleanor, who died of a stroke in November 2009—the couple soon moved on to London where they became prominent members of the African National Congress in exile. They returned to South Africa in 1990, and Kasrils served in a number of cabinet positions in post-apartheid governments. The book serves as something of a valentine to the author’s beloved wife and a useful reminder of just how draconian the apartheid state and its security apparatus could be. A thriller-like look at one of the harshest periods in South African history.

THE RIOT WITHIN My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption

King, Rodney & Spagnola, Lawrence J. HarperOne (272 pp.) $25.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-219443-5 With the assistance of Spagnola, policebrutality victim and racial lightning rod King reflects on his 1991 beating by Los Angeles police officers and the riots and courtroom drama that followed. In his debut nonfiction book, King—a name which by his own admission has become “synonymous with drinking, DUIs, domestic violence, reckless driving, civil rights violations, police brutality [and] hate crimes”—provides a simply told tale of his experiences with racism and alcoholism and the night that would forever mar his life. While the title implies a psychological journey, most of King’s revelations offer little more than surface-level reporting. The majority of the factual information can be read in any newspaper or on Wikipedia; the author is at his best when he shares the personal details of his story. In a particularly revealing moment, King describes disguising himself in a Bob Marley wig in an attempt to observe the riots spurred by the acquittal of the police officers. Watching from a few blocks away, he describes feeling “that terrible presence of hatred that I felt the night of the beating, that palpable wall of loathing that was absolutely suffocating.” Unfortunately, these insights are rare, and King’s play-by-play recounting of the courtroom drama is not nearly as 706

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interesting as his own thoughts on racial violence. Early on he writes, “I have been asked countless times if I’ve forgiven those officers for beating me. The short answer is yes.” However, the long answer is far more complicated, and King’s dry, spare reportage continually overwhelms personal reflection. Rarely plumbs new depths of insight on America’s struggles with racial violence.

THE NEW FEMINIST AGENDA Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

Kunin, Madeleine Chelsea Green (288 pp.) $26.95 | paper $17.95 | May 13, 2012 978-1-60358-425-8 978-1-60358-291-9 paperback

The former governor of Vermont takes the women’s movement to task for failing to push for crucial changes in family-oriented policies. On the front line of the women’s movement in the 1970s and ’80s, Kunin (Professor at Large/Univ. of Vermont; Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead, 2008, etc.) expresses her still-simmering anger at the lack of progress made in basic gender equity—e.g., U.S. Congress is still only made up of 17 percent women, and women only earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. Mostly, however, Kunin is deeply concerned about the lack of meaningful progress enacted for struggling parents and young children in the areas of maternity leave, affordable child care and early education, flexibility in the workplace and elder care. While the early feminists were locked on hot-button issues like abortion and violence, they disdained to push so-called middle-class issues like maternity leave. The result has been a disastrous “Social Darwinism” approach to the family agenda over the last few decades, and America now has the world’s highest teenage pregnancy rates. Kunin looks at comparative policies in the Nordic countries, which all have advanced work/family policies and strong gender equality but extremely high taxes; in France, which offers universal early daycare but has a big gender-equality gap; and in England, which has implemented a “right to request flexibility” feature for workers that might be a good match for the U.S. Some states, like California and Oklahoma, have recently passed promising family-friendly policies, though the author stresses that businesses must be converted to the far-reaching benefits. Kunin sounds the need to incorporate fathers in the push for these policies, in nurturing women leaders and mentors and in joining forces with labor unions, retirement groups and businesses. A vital, useful, nuts-and-bolts manual for change.

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no n f i c t i on

Rachel Maddow Dissects the New Militarism in Drift B Y G REG O RY MC NA M EE

Half a century ago, writing in a book called Military Organization and Society, a scholar named Stanislav Andreski surveyed the ongoing Cold War and observed that the two contending superpowers were becoming more and more alike. Soviet kids may have been listening to the Beatles, but at the same time, the folks inside the Pentagon were starting to behave more like the Politburo than Patrick Henry. Can a society that’s armed to the teeth, thoroughly militarized, worshipful of all things martial and constantly looking for a fight be anything but totalitarian? So Andreski wondered. And so run the outlines of the argument that liberal TV commentator Rachel Maddow picks up in Drift: The Unmooring of American Power. The answer is sobering—and, unless you’re an arms merchant, disturbing. It may surprise some readers that Maddow has stepped from the daily business of covering national politics—mostly on the legislative side and then mostly to document the lunacies of the party currently controlling Congress—to write in depth and at length on the role of the military in modern American society. But so she has, and what she turns up is newsworthy, not only on its own merits but also because so few Americans have any direct knowledge of what our men and women in uniform actually do. Chalk that up to one of the key turning points in her narrative: the military’s uneasy decision, as the Vietnam War was grinding to a halt, to convert to an all-volunteer force. That was a time, Maddow notes, when the Army brought in sophisticated pitchmen to sell the institution as a fun, with-it place to hang: “The Army was now selling all the wonderful ways Uncle Sam and the military could improve

your life. And he wouldn’t even make you cut your hair that short.” Those halcyon days of the mid to late 1970s, when John Travolta was selling a stint in khaki as the cool thing to do, were a pretty safe time to be in the service, since another consequence of Vietnam was a reluctance to send soldiers off to get shot. Enter Ronald Reagan, in many ways the villain of Maddow’s book—or at least the titular head of a gang of villains who snarled and spat at the idea of the “Vietnam syndrome.” Reagan’s bluster began in the 1976 campaign with the smearing assertion that Gerald Ford was caving in to the commies by giving up the Panama Canal, an arrangement that was completed under the luckless Jimmy Carter, who took the heat for it. When Reagan stepped into office, his aides—men with names like Dick Cheney, to whom Maddow dedicates her book with no small irony, and Donald Rumsfeld—stepped up the sword rattling. By 1983, thanks to them, we were very nearly in a shooting war with the Soviet Union, while American warriors were stomping the ground in places like Grenada, Lebanon and, yes, Nicaragua. But the Vietnam syndrome persisted, Maddow writes, if in odd ways. When Colin Powell was high up in the Pentagon chain of command during the first Gulf War, he articulated a policy that drove doctrinaire Reaganites to distraction: Take half a million troops along, an overwhelming force, and make sure you knew why you were there. It wasn’t long, though, before that fizzled, and in the hands of another president who had no problem with the idea of military adventurism in the name of the greater good. Maddow writes, “By the time Bill Clinton left office in 2001, an Operation Other Than War, as Pentagon forces called them, could go on indefinitely, sort of on autopilot—without real political costs or consequences, or much civilian notice. We’d gotten used to it.” Indeed we have, with a war in Iraq that dragged on for eight years, another |

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in Afghanistan that has lasted more than a decade, and now talk of still another war in Iran, perhaps even Syria. Americans are now, as New York Times writer David Carr puts it, at peace with being at war. And not only have we normalized war, made it part of our daily existence, writes Maddow, but we’ve also “pushed decision making about the use of the military further and further away from the political debate.” And so we have a Sovietized, increasingly controlled society where dissent is suppressed and reminders of that endless war—flag-draped coffins notable among them—discouraged. Andreski wouldn’t exactly be proud, but he certainly wouldn’t be surprised. A stalwart critic of things as they are, Maddow does us all a service by reminding us of the true costs of American war making. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power

Rachel Maddow Crown (288 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-307-46098-1 |

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“The book flows easily from one quest to the next, always delivering unbiased information supported by well-researched facts.” from citizen lane

NEVER SAY NEVER Finding a Life that Fits

Lake, Ricki Atria (320 pp.) $25.00 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-1-4516-2717-6

Actress, talk-show host and documentary film producer Lake is returning to television. Is there a better way to crank up the excitement level for a new talk show than with a tell-all memoir for your fans? The author begins with a discussion of her abuse as a 7-yearold by the handyman in the family’s basement while her mother sat upstairs. Her parents’ lack of response to her trauma laid the groundwork for her emotional problems, manifested in Lake’s overeating habits. “To this day,” she writes, “I believe that it was my parents’ silence in the wake of the abuse—even more than the abuse itself—that wounded me so badly.” After seeing a Broadway production of Annie with her grandmother, Lake was determined to pursue her dream of becoming an actor. During her freshman year at college, Lake landed a starring role as Tracy Turnblad, a “fat girl who can really dance,” in John Waters’ Hairspray. From then on, the author’s life became a series of professional and personal successes followed by calamities and weight gain. At one time Lake weighed 260 pounds, but she landed a gig as the host of a provocative talk show, which aired for 11 years. She married and had two children, but her marriage ended in a nasty divorce. The births of her children changed Lake’s life, and she became a passionate advocate for the birthing rights movement, resulting in her documentary, The Business of Being Born. Following numerous failed relationships, author found a man who gives her “truly unconditional love.” For readers who revel in the vicissitudes of the lives of media personalities, Lake’s narrative will be a treat. A sometimes-humorous, self-reflective chronicle of a triumphant journey through a troublesome childhood, chaotic young adulthood and fulfilled middle age.

CITIZEN LANE Defending Our Rights in the Courts, the Capitol, and the Streets

Lane, Mark Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review (400 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-61374-001-9 Readers may not recognize the author’s name, but he has been fighting for the rights of underdogs for nearly 60 years. His autobiography describes his entry into the world of political activism with the modesty often found in those who overachieve. During his days at Brooklyn Law School in the 1940s, Lane (Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK, 2011, 708

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etc.) began his fight for the rights of the voiceless. He became the student leader of the National Lawyers Guild, a society formed in answer to the American Bar Association’s conservative, occasionally racist policies. After admission to the bar, Lane’s life as an activist took off as one pro bono case after another introduced him to all the main players of the period. He dined with W.E.B. Du Bois, invited blacklisted Pete Seeger to play at a fundraiser, fought the House Un-American Activities Committee and led the effort to clean up the draconian policies of the Wassaic State School for Mental Defectives. Lane ran for and was elected to the New York State Assembly in order to open the door for minorities, and the reputation he built introduced him to many of the movers and shakers of the late 20th century: Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Dick Gregory, William F. Buckley, Jane Fonda, Bertrand Russell, among others. He worked with anyone struggling for a voice, from the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to the Black Panthers. He rode as a Freedom Rider, worked for JFK and then wrote Rush to Judgment (1966) to exonerate Lee Harvey Oswald. As one would expect of a person of this caliber, Lane’s story focuses on the needs of those he served rather than the extraordinary part he played in so many lives. The book flows easily from one quest to the next, always delivering unbiased information supported by wellresearched facts. (15 b/w photos)

LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED (A Mostly True Memoir)

Lawson, Jenny Amy Einhorn/Putnam (336 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-399-15901-5

A mostly funny, irreverent memoir on the foibles of growing up weird. In blogger Lawson’s debut book, “The Bloggess” (thebloggess.com) relies entirely on her life stories to drive an unconventional narrative. While marketed as nonfiction, it’s a genre distinction the author employs loosely (a point made clear in the book’s subtitle). On the opening page she defends the subtitle, explaining, “The reason this memoir is only mostly true instead of totally true is that I relish not getting sued.” Yet Lawson also relishes exaggerative storytelling, spinning yarns of her childhood and early adulthood that seem so unbelievable they could hardly be made up. Nearly every line is an opportunity for a punch line—“Call me Ishmael. I won’t answer to it, because it’s not my name, but it’s much more agreeable that most of the things I’ve been called”; “And that’s how I ended up shoulder-deep in a cow’s vagina”; “there’s nothing more romantic than a proposal that ends with you needing a tetanus shot”—and while the jokes eventually wear thin, by that point readers will be invested in Lawson herself, not just her ability to tell a joke. The author’s use of disclaimers, editorial notes and strike-thrus leaves the book feeling oddly unfinished, though it’s a calculated risk that

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serves well as an inside joke shared between writer and reader at the expense of the literary elite. While Lawson fails to strike the perfect balance between pathos and punch line, she creates a comic character that readers will engage with in shocked dismay as they gratefully turn the pages.

AMERITOPIA The Unmaking of America Levin, Mark R. Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $26.99 | Jan. 17, 2012 978-1-4391-7324-4

Right-wing commentator Levin (Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, 2009, etc.) charges that America is in danger of losing itself to soul-crushing collectivism. Many non-conservative readers may instinctively think that efforts to “level the playing field” will make America great again. Not so, writes the author, who’s leery of “radical egalitarianism” and fears it’s just another stab at utopianism, a system, no matter how well intentioned, that concentrates power in a central authority. “Like all other failed forms of utopianism in the past, Levin argues that the new utopianism will ultimately lead to tyranny and the enslavement of its citizens. Utopianism,” writes Levin, “is tyranny born of intellectual bankruptcy and dishonesty. The proof is seen every day in the words and actions of politicians, judges, bureaucrats, and the media.” The author frequently cites the works of Plato, Hobbes More and other noted thinkers in an effort to bolster his argument. In fact, Levin rarely goes a paragraph without importing huge tracts of texts from other writers. Ultimately, the book never rises above partisanship and is not likely to win any converts. It seems a stretch to claim that there is any movement currently afoot in the United States today that is even remotely comparable to the societal changes implemented in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Simply invoking the words of Ronald Reagan might appease some, but it is hardly sufficient for constructing a convincing argument. A polemic for like-minded readers.

THE JUICE Vinous Veritas

McInerney, Jay Knopf (272 pp.) $26.95 | May 8, 2012 978-0-307-95728-3 Another collection of the acclaimed writer’s wine journalism, dominated by short pieces for the Wall Street Journal, some of which seem to have been decanting for too long. |

Though McInerney has achieved more renown as a novelist (How It Ended, 2009, etc.), many readers and fellow writers might be more envious of his side job, as a wine columnist for House & Garden (where many of the older, longer and more substantial of these pieces appeared) and then for the Wall Street Journal. As someone who admits that he “had a reputation as a party animal; no one had ever accused me of being a connoisseur,” he brings plenty of knowledge and experience with wine to the beat, though he’s still more interested in the sort of expensive pleasures in which most folks can’t afford to indulge than in a consumer-guide approach. “Is any of this relevant to the average wine lover, as opposed to the wealthy collector?” he writes at one point. “I think it is, in several ways. Just as developments in Formula One race cars eventually inform the engineering of the cars the rest of us drive every day, just as haute couture trickles down into the wardrobes of those who have never attended a fashion show”—and so on. “Yes, there’s some wine porn here,” he confesses, though much of the most interesting writing concerns the people who make wine, those who love it and the places where it flourishes rather than the actual experience of drinking it. The book also chronicles the maturation of the writer’s appreciation, from the “flash and flesh” of “big ripe fruit bombs” to more subtle and sophisticated rewards. Much of the material here sounds like it was more fun to research than to write or read. (First printing of 40,000. Author tour to San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles)

MY POETS

McLane, Maureen N. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (240 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-374-21749-5 An acclaimed poet considers the predecessors who shaped her art and life in this idiosyncratic mix of literary survey and intellectual biography. Using her skills as a poet and critic, McLane (English/New York Univ.; World Enough: Poems, 2010, etc.) examines the major poets of her life and the inspiration and technique she drew from each. There’s Elizabeth Bishop, “a sea to breathe in once the gills you needed grew and breathing grew less strange.” From William Carlos Williams she learned to draw from her own pure and crazy American experience. She dissects Marianne Moore’s poem “Marriage” at length, weighing it against her own failed marriage and subsequent same-sex relationship. She identifies with H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), the closeted lesbian, and finds that her poem “Oread” “bespeaks our desire to commune, to hear and be heard, to make the chaos of inner feeling not only sentient but sharable.” McLane responds to Louise Glück’s powerful willfulness and finds that Fanny Howe’s poems reveal “a refusal to turn away even as they seek asylum…to participate in the sick fictions of success or easy safety.” Percy Bysshe Shelley is the muse of the author’s sexual radicalism; she loves his youth, excess and intelligence. “To immerse yourself in him is to move through an

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“A highly readable, well-researched narrative chronicling America’s boring culinary past and the one man who altered its course forever.” from the man who changed the way we eat

THE LAST NATURAL Bryce Harper’s Big Gamble in Sin City and the Greatest Amateur Season Ever

extraordinary medium of thinking songs, sung thoughts,” she writes. McLane’s book is a gutsy poetic act on its own, as she writes measured, metrical prose that alters between rhythmic and affected, dropping commas or shifting perspective at will, as if in mimicry of her subjects. A perceptive reflection on the reading and writing life by a poet who has embraced her own personal anxiety of influence.

THE MAN WHO CHANGED THE WAY WE EAT Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance

McNamee, Thomas Free Press (352 pp.) $27.00 | May 8, 2012 978-1-4391-9150-7

Taking on the subject of another giant in the food world, McNamee (Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, 2008, etc.) traces the life of the fascinating and troubled man who transformed America’s bleak culinary landscape into the lush food environment of today. In a media world jammed with TV shows featuring celebrity chefs, thousands of cookbooks, food blogs, specialty stores devoted to kitchen tools and ubiquitous online restaurant reviews, it is hard to perceive what passed for cuisine in 1950s America. Home cooking was belittled as drudgery, and the country lacked great cooking schools like those in Europe. Food criticism as a profession didn’t exist, and the new TV culture hailed frozen foods as the next great leap forward for homemakers. Craig Claiborne (1920–2000) grew up steeped in the succulent flavors of the Mississippi Delta, and he attended a leading hotel school in Switzerland, where he absorbed the techniques of classical French cooking and formal service. He became the food editor for the New York Times in 1957, beginning a reasoned critique of New York’s restaurant scene and the lackluster culture of American food. “Henceforward, and with steadily increasing force,” writes McNamee, “he would become America’s leading authority on food. A good review from Craig Claiborne would have a restaurant’s telephones ringing day and night; a bad one would silence them.” For the next 30 years, Claiborne was the emperor of food, writing hundreds of food columns and publishing more than 20 books. He explored exotic locations and their cuisines and introduced a rainbow of new ingredients and flavors to America’s kitchens. He also launched the careers of numerous culinary personalities, including Marcella Hazan and Diana Kennedy, and he elevated home cooking into a joyful experience. McNamee deftly explores the glittering public life and far-reaching contributions Claiborne made to America’s food culture, as well as his troubled personal life. A highly readable, well-researched narrative chronicling America’s boring culinary past and the one man who altered its course forever.

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Miech, Rob Dunne/St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-250-00145-0 978-1-250-01241-8 e-book

From the best seat in the house, a sportswriter chronicles the final amateur season of perhaps the most hyped baseball prospect of all time. Ever since LeBron James took the basketball world by storm in 2003, other sports have sought their own phenoms, individuals possessed of the talent and charisma to shatter statistical records while drawing in casual fans. Enter Bryce Harper, a baseball-mashing savant who, in order to circumvent MLB draft rules that prohibit a player being drafted until the age of 18 or one year after graduating from high school, earned his GED after his sophomore year and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada in order to hone his skills with a wooden bat and make himself eligible for the draft a year early. Recognizing the uniqueness of the situation, CSN coach Tim Chambers granted Miech full access to the team’s dugout and locker room. From that unique vantage point, the author chronicles Harper’s struggle to adjust to the college game, where his immaturity and fiery competitiveness got him ejected from two games, but where his incredible hitting prowess enabled him to crush 31 home runs, obliterating the previous team record of 12. Miech pays particular attention to Harper’s efforts to balance his desire to fit in with his older teammates with his steadfast dedication to his Mormon beliefs. Though CSN’s season ended short of a championship ring, Harper would win the Golden Spikes award, given annually to the nation’s top amateur, and be selected first overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2010 draft. The author’s diligence in profiling the major players in Harper’s world and on his team leads to some entertaining moments. Regardless of Harper’s future success—or lack thereof—however, such excessive attention feels premature, and the narrative occasionally strains to make the hyperfocused Harper as compelling off the field as he is on it. Becomes more interesting in retrospect if performance equals potential. (8-page b/w photo insert)

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THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT A History

AND THEN LIFE HAPPENS A Memoir Obama, Auma Translated by Benjamin, Ross St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-250-01005-6 978-1-250-01059-9 e-book

Neier, Aryeh Princeton Univ. (392 pp.) $35.00 | May 1, 2012 978-0-691-13515-1

From a noted activist, an authoritative history of the global human rights movement from the late 18th century to the present day, with emphasis on its develop-

ment since the 1970s. Neier (Taking Liberties: Four Decades in the Struggle for Rights, 2003, etc.), president of the Open Society Foundations and a founder and former executive director of Human Rights Watch, has the credentials to tell the story of the movement’s philosophical roots, its nature and strength and its goals, challenges, successes and failures. Of particular interest is his account of the policies and actions of the United States during the Cold War era and his analysis of the impact of terrorism on human rights in the past decade. In his view, the movement, which comprises thousands of organizations in many nations, has been and will continue to be a force in world affairs. The two largest and most influential organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, each receive individual chapters; others receive shorter profiles. Neier traces the development of international law, and he also question: What are rights, under what circumstances may they be temporarily abridged and what abridgements are permissible? He discusses the latter two in the context of the post-9/11 response to terrorism. Among the post-9/11 challenges has been terrorists’ immunity to embarrassment, one of the movement’s chief weapons, and the high priority placed by the United States on national security. This has led not only to such abuses of rights as prolonged detention without charges, coercive interrogation and torture, but also to justification by other nations of similar practices. In the final chapter, “Going Forward,” Neier is cautiously optimistic about the ability of the international human rights movement to develop a comprehensive approach to terrorism and to meet such future challenges as China’s support of repressive regimes, the problems posed by increasing migration of ethnic minorities to Western Europe and the protection of civilian populations in areas of armed conflict. A fact-filled, well-documented, pull-no-punches account by an insider.

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A burnished look at a difficult, ruptured childhood in Kenya by the president’s half sister, older by one year. Unlike David Maraniss’ comprehensive biography of the president (Barack Obama: The Story, 2012), which does not sugarcoat the problematic father the president and Auma shared, this delicate, emotional work sidesteps the patriarch in order to portray a young woman deeply resentful of the sexist treatment of women in her Luo culture and determined to forge her own identity. Auma is the daughter of Barack Obama Sr.’s first wife, Kezia, who was essentially abandoned pregnant with Auma at the family compound while her husband pursued a scholarship program at the University of Hawaii. Much happened while her father went on to graduate studies in economics at Harvard, namely his marriage to Stanley Ann Dunham and the birth of Barack Obama Jr., divorce and remarriage to another young white American woman, Ruth Baker, who then followed Barack back to Nairobi and became the third wife and awkward stepmother to Auma and her older brother, Abongo. Deprived of her biological mother, Auma found in the rigors and routine of her schools a reprieve from a bleak home life that comprised an “oppressive emptiness” resulting from her father’s eventual divorce from Ruth. Her father’s demise, caused by the loss of a government finance job and debilitating car accidents (Auma blames them on political intrigue, Maraniss on his drinking), strained her relationship with him to such an extent that she did not seek his permission to travel as an exchange student in Germany. Auma became a proficient student of German, and her meeting with her brother Barack in Chicago in 1984 marks the brightest moment in this eager-to-please work. The meeting paved the way for his subsequent trips to Kenya and warmly unfolding relationship with his African family. Another treatment of the extended Obama family that enlightens and deepens the public’s understanding of the president. (8-page color photo insert)

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“A humorous, sage memoir from the Pulitzer winner and acclaimed novelist.” from lots of candles, plenty of cake

HITLESS WONDER A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll

UNCORKED My Journey Through the Crazy World of Wine

Oestreich, Joe Lyons Press (288 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-7627-7924-6

From obscurity to music’s majors and back again with the Ohio band Watershed. Oestreich (Creative Writing/Coastal Carolina Univ.) looks back on the long, checkered career of his power-pop group, which he founded in Columbus, Ohio, in his early teens after attending a Cheap Trick concert with pal Colin Gawel. The narrative seesaws between the band’s salad days—local gigs, indie releases and, finally, a major-label contract with Epic Records—and city-bycity details of a grind-it-out 2007-08 U.S. tour. Watershed never hit it big: Despite a devoted local following and growing airplay, the band was dropped by Epic after a live EP and an expensively produced album. The book follows the band’s fortunes as they regrouped to cut independent releases on shoestring budgets and drive their van from town to far-flung town. The narrative climaxes with a kind of Pyrrhic victory: a rapturously received hometown show in a less-than-half-filled hall. Oestreich has an eye for telling nuance, and his knowing recounting of life in an ascendant band in “the Pros” is juicy stuff. He’s equally adept at depicting day-to-day humiliations in music’s minors, like a payto-play gig with a bunch of no-name Baltimore acts. He’s candid about the toll the rock life takes on relationships; his long-suffering mate Kate emerges as the most sympathetic figure in the book. But the author fails to supply a compelling answer to the question almost certainly on every reader’s mind: Why would a bunch of men pushing 40, with families, day jobs and mortgages, continue to haul their gear in and out of run-down rock clubs, often playing for a loss, long after success has eluded them? Oestreich compares Watershed to “an old battleship that doesn’t easily change course,” and offers a few homilies about friendship, brotherhood and sheer love of the game. But neither he nor his sketchily delineated musical comrades-in-arms offer the reader a true understanding of why they continue to ceaselessly travel the rock ’n’ roll road. To quote another rock memoirist, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter: “Rock ‘n’ roll’s a loser’s game / It mesmerizes and I can’t explain.”

Pasanella, Marco Clarkson Potter (224 pp.) $24.00 | May 22, 2012 978-0-307-71984-3 978-0-307-98560-6 e-book

An absorbing look at establishing and managing a wine shop through many difficulties, including the financial downturn. Pasanella (Living in Style without Losing Your Mind, 2000) chronicles his adventures owning and operating a wine shop in a historic New York City waterfront building. His goal was to create a store that was “informed, but relaxed,” and his memoir showcases the same characteristics. Full of informative tidbits about wine, it never comes across as pretentious; the book is completely accessible to those new to the vast world of wine, yet entertains equally well for the seasoned expert. Pasanella also reveals the inner workings of a wine shop, complete with eccentric wine reps and the politics of distribution. He focuses on every aspect of running his store, from run-ins with the State Liquor Authority to more mundane yet equally interesting elements of any small business, such as dealing with a difficult employee. Eventually Pasanella was able to rise above the everyday aspects of his business and embark on an entirely new venture: selling his own, store-brand wine. This adds another layer to the engaging, lucid narrative. The author wanders off on the occasional tangent, but most of the asides are worthwhile, and Pasanella quickly pulls the story back to the main thread, his wine-selling adventures. The recipes interspersed throughout the book, while appetizing, mostly serve to interrupt an otherwise delightful reading experience. Though he removes much of the romance from the idea of opening a wine store, Pasanella’s clear-eyed memoir is a joy to read from beginning to end.

LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE

Quindlen, Anna Random House (200 pp.) $26.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4000-6934-7 978-0-679-60400-6 e-book A humorous, sage memoir from the Pulitzer winner and acclaimed novelist. Like having an older, wiser sister or favorite aunt over for a cup of tea, Quindlen’s (Every Last One, 2010, etc.) latest book is full of the counsel and ruminations many of us wish we could learn young. The death of her mother from cancer when she was 19 had a profound effect on the author, instilling in her the certainty that “life was short, and therefore it made [her] both driven and joyful” and happy to have “the privilege of aging.” In her sincere and amusing

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style, the author reflects on feminism, raising her children, marriage and menopause. She muses on the perception of youth and her own changing body image—one of the “greatest gifts [for women] of growing older is trusting your own sense of yourself.” Having women friends, writes Quindlen, is important for women of all ages, for they are “what we have in addition to, or in lieu of, therapists. And when we reach a certain age, they may be who is left.” More threads on which the author meditates in this purposeful book: childbirth, gender issues, the joy of solitude, the difference between being alone and being lonely, retirement and religion. For her, “one of the greatest glories of growing older is the willingness to ask why, and getting no good answer, deciding to follow my own inclinations and desires. Asking why is the way to wisdom.” A graceful look at growing older from a wise and accomplished writer—sure to appeal to her many fans, women over 50 and readers of Nora Ephron and similar authors. (Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles)

MIKE WALLACE A Life

Rader, Peter Dunne/St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 24, 2012 978-0-312-54339-6 978-1-4668-0225-4 e-book

A probing biography unveils the insecure depressive lurking inside 60 Minutes journalist Mike Wallace. Rookie biographer Rader manages to tease out the fallible humanity in an otherwise attack-dog TV reporter who’s always kept his real persona hidden from everyone—including himself. Since his subject’s career spans some 70 years, Rader’s book also serves as a fascinating history of the development of entertainment media in America—namely, TV tabloid-style journalism, which Wallace played an important role in shaping over the years. Although Wallace went from cigarette pitch man to TV talk shows to dubious status as the most feared hit-man reporter on one of the longest running and most revered shows on TV, 60 Minutes, he could never quite come to terms with his identity when he wasn’t busy conducting boisterous and revealing interviews with everyone from Malcolm X to Lyndon Johnson to Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rader’s revelations about Wallace go to some pretty impressive psychological depths: He is portrayed as a man who could dish out withering examinations of others, but knew he might not be capable of withstanding attacks on his own credibility. Although Wallace had his way with presidents, world leaders, celebrities and everyone in between, he finally reached his mental breaking point during the 1980s slander suit that pitted Gen. William Westmoreland against Wallace and 60 Minutes; an ugly trial led Wallace to a botched suicide attempt. Rader’s portrait is of the classic American workaholic, one whose burning ambition and freakishly tireless work ethic were fueled by massive insecurities and existential crises. |

Bold, well-crafted biography of a long-elusive and controversial public figure. (8-page b/w photo insert)

RATHER OUTSPOKEN My Life in the News

Rather, Dan with Diehl, Digby Grand Central Publishing (320 pp.) $27.99 | Lg. Prt. $31.99 | CD $34.98 May 1, 2012 978-1-4555-0241-7 978-1-4555-1346-8 Lg. Prt. 978-1-61113-424-7 CD A renowned journalist settles scores in this investigation of how the news media has become dangerously intertwined with politics and corporate interests. With the assistance of Diehl, Rather (The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation, 2002 etc.) comes out swinging as he delves into the circumstances behind his firing from CBS News, where he had worked as a reporter since 1962, covering everything from Vietnam to Watergate to the conditions at Abu Ghraib. Unfortunately for Rather, his determination to air a potentially damning story about then-president George W. Bush’s spotty military record irked the higher-ups at CBS’s parent company, Viacom, leaving the feisty anchor unemployed at 75. Never one to shirk controversy, he sued CBS for breach of contract; although the suit was dismissed before it could come to trial, he has no regrets and no qualms about naming names. Indeed, this memoir reads as a muckraker’s delight, with Rather lambasting CBS management as “spineless” and “risk-averse.” He painstakingly details the cloak-and-dagger operations that Bush proponents resorted to in an attempt to hide the truth and discredit Rather’s source materials. Invoking Edward R. Murrow, Rather rails against those who would distort the news for their own gain and intentionally mislead the public. In between, he provides fair-minded portraits of the presidents he has interviewed, traces his passion for the news to his upbringing in a news-savvy family and expresses concern for the future of independent media in an industry that is increasingly kowtowing to the almighty bottom line. While Rather occasionally lapses into platitudes—a chapter on 9/11 offers little beyond well-worn observations about courage and patriotism—he always gives credit where credit is due, and his sincerity is never in doubt. An engaging grab-bag: part folksy homage to roots, part exposé of institutional wrongdoing and part manifesto for a truly free press. (Two 8-page photo inserts)

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“A tour de force—encyclopedic, entertaining and enlightening.” from america the philosophical

MOVING THE MOUNTAIN Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America

Rauf, Feisal Abdul Free Press (240 pp.) $24.00 | May 8, 2012 978-1-4516-5600-8 978-1-4516-5602-2 e-book

A leading American imam urgently calls for reconciliation and understanding between Islam and other faiths. Rauf has served as imam of the al-Farah Mosque in New York City since 1983. He is deeply involved in multifaith work with the Cordoba Initiative and very much in demand as a teacher on the finer points of Islam since 9/11 (What Is Right with Islam, 2005, etc.). He believes that all Muslims (and especially women) must reclaim Islam from the extremists around the world—Islamists and “radical jihadists”—who have coopted the Prophet’s message and corrupted its benevolent intent. Events such as the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” argument in the mid-1990s that Islam “was the new enemy of the West” and, most significantly, the 9/11 terrorist attacks all helped demonize Muslims in the eyes of the rest of the country, obscuring what Rauf believes is shared by people of all faiths. He offers a knowledgeable comparative study of the “People of the Book,” focusing partly on the similarities between the three Abrahamic faiths: The first two commandments shared by all three exhort the believer to bear witness to the oneness of God and to treat others as you treat yourself, establishing the Golden Rule of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Rauf delves into the “bogeyman” of Shariah law, comparing it to the U.S. Constitution, which indeed has evolved as the world has changed and should not be viewed as static and literal. Unfortunately, writes the author, Islam has been deemed an anti-women religion, by culture and practice, when in fact the Prophet himself instituted revolutionary changes in the status of women, and his first wife, Khadijah, was a protofeminist. President Obama’s assertion in his 2011 State of the Union address that “American Muslims are part of our American family” gave Rauf new cause for hope that the hysteria around Islam has at last “bottomed out” and rapprochement can now occur. A spirited, accessible defense for all believers.

AMERICA THE PHILOSOPHICAL

Romano, Carlin Knopf (672 pp.) $35.00 | May 22, 2012 978-0-679-43470-2

Chronicle of Higher Education critic-atlarge Romano (Philosophy and Humanities/ Ursinus Coll.) debuts with a comprehensive and certain-to-be controversial diagnosis of the condition of philosophical thinking in America today. The author sees philosophers everywhere today (whether they call themselves such or no), not just lounging in the groves of academe, and this will surely annoy some fellow academics. He realizes that philosophy has traditionally been the ballpark for white men to play in, so he makes a thorough effort to add to the team some prominent women, African Americans, Native Americans, gays and others. But he begins with the famous white men (William James, George Santayana, John Dewey et al.) and looks at key figures later on—John Rawls and Richard Rorty among them. Romano then begins his explorations of byways rather than highways, seeing the philosophical bent of thinkers who didn’t necessarily define themselves as philosophers—e.g., psychologists B. F. Skinner, Abraham Maslow and Howard Gardner. Then it’s on to literary critics Kenneth Burke, Harold Bloom and Edward Said. Political theorists are next, and the author also gives a serious look at Robert Fulghum and Hugh Hefner. He examines journalists as well, including I.F. Stone, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Moyers. Near the end, Romano makes a strong case for Isocrates, a rival of Plato whose thought, writes the author, was more pragmatic—as we are. Romano’s grip on his subject is fierce, and his tone, though critical throughout (he does not just summarize; he assesses), is occasionally light (he alludes to Buster Keaton, Bigfoot and the TV show Justified). In the final chapter, he praises the philosophical talents of President Obama, a discussion sure to displease Republicans. A tour de force—encyclopedic, entertaining and enlightening. (Author tour to Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco)

DINNER A Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table Rosenstrach, Jenny Ecco/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-06-208090-5

A guide to getting dinner on the table for couples, new parents and families. Rosenstrach (co-author: Time for Dinner: Strategies, Inspiration, and Recipes for Family Meals Every Night of the Week, 2010) reflects on a life of cooking, dispensing anecdotes and recipes in a formula similar to other recent memoir-cookbook hybrids, such as Kathleen Flinn’s The Kitchen Counter Cooking 714

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School (2011). While both authors offer advice, encouragement and recipes for reluctant cooks, Rosenstrach’s personal recollections cover a wider swath of her life, from newlywed to exhausted new parent to working mother. In 1998, the author began a diary of every dinner she had, at home or elsewhere, and she draws on this resource to show how she managed to balance work with family time. Rosenstrach presents the recipes in a mix of the traditional cookbook format and a more casual blogger-like style (with measurements like “3 to 4 good glugs of olive oil”), but they all rely on fresh, simple, easy-toprepare food. The author pairs the recipes with advice, such as how to adapt to the picky palates of kids. Although it would be easy to envy someone with an ability to come home from a long day at work and manage to cook a dinner of scallops with lentil rice, Rosenstrach dispels any hard feelings with a charming, amiable writing style and funny asides. A humorous and encouraging book for readers who believe in the importance of family dinnertime.

AMERICAN CANOPY Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation Rutkow, Eric Scribner (416 pp.) $27.50 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-1-4391-9354-9 978-1-4391-9360-0 e-book

An appreciation of how much American history was shaped and defined by trees. From the earliest “plantations,” as colonial settlements were known in the 17th century, to our understanding of today’s climate change, forests have been a driving force in both national development and consciousness, writes Rutkow in this impressive survey. Although the book suffers from a lack of material on the Native American experience with the forests, Rutkow is in command of a prodigious amount of material, which he carefully keeps in forward motion. The author unhurriedly wends his way from the “marketable commodities” of timber-trade–based colonization, through the political symbolism of the Liberty Trees and the Charter Oaks, to the rise of the ornamental-tree business and Benjamin Franklin’s efforts to catalog American trees. As he chronicles the importance of hard cider on the frontier (“the first great American drink”), the rise of the transcendentalists and the citrus industry, rail and telegraph, the denuding of the Lake States and the excitement generated by Arbor Day and Earth Day, Rutkow knits numerous vest-pocket biographies into the picture. These include both high- and low-profile actors, from Johnny Appleseed to Henry David Thoreau, Gifford Pinchot to Gaylord Nelson, William Levitt to Teddy Roosevelt, who helped fashion “an overarching philosophy that all natural resources ought to be managed with an eye to sustainability and efficient use.” A meaty history of the American forest and a convincing testament to its continued political, cultural and environmental importance. |

14 MINUTES A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life Salazar, Alberto and Brant, John Rodale (272 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 978-1-60961-314-3

Assisted by Brant (Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley and America’s Greatest Marathon, 2007), former long-distance running prodigy Salazar incorporates lessons learned from bitter experience in this account of his life. The author, associated for years with Phil Knight’s Nike sports sponsorship, has come full circle and is now a trainer of long-distance runners at the Nike campus in Eugene, Ore. He reflects on an action-packed life that brought him fame for his successive marathon victories in New York City and Boston in the early 1980s, and made him a contender for the Olympics in 1984 and 1988. However, his successes came at a cost. In 2007 Salazar collapsed on the Nike campus and was counted dead for 14 minutes. “Searing marathons and other races” probably contributed to this episode. Salazar writes that his “excesses caught up with” him in 1988. He had been severely dehydrated in 1979, and then lost 10 pounds to dehydration in the 1982 Boston marathon; he also suffered bone fractures, exerciseinduced asthma and possible damage to his endocrine system. In 1994, while preparing for the Comrades double marathon in South Africa, Salazar starved himself to excess. The author describes how he failed to heed the sensible advice of his first trainer that he “shouldn’t even think about the marathon until [he] was out of college.” Ultimately, Salazar came back from death with a renewed respect for the marathon and a desire to save his trainees from the “the self-immolating mistakes” of his younger days. He doesn’t relate any mystical experience about his near-death event, but he does claim a deeper religious awareness after the experience. A dramatic account of the risks and rewards of top-level long-distance running. (Excerpt in Runner’s World. 8 pages of b/w photographs)

APRON ANXIETY My Messy Affairs in and Out of the Kitchen

Shelasky, Alyssa Three Rivers/Crown (256 pp.) $14.00 paperback | May 22, 2012 978-0-307-95214-1 A cooking rookie’s memoir of love and food. When New York magazine Grub Street food editor Shelasky fell in love with a celebrity chef, she was unable to boil water for tea without melting the plastic pot. While “Chef ” (as he’s called throughout) worked late nights at his two new restaurants in Washington,

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“A highly readable battle cry from the moderate center— and timely, given the tenor of politics today.” from life among the cannibals

D.C., the author battled loneliness in their apartment. Unable to connect with Chef ’s cooking partners or feel comfortable at any social food-related gathering, Shelasky finally had an epiphany that hit her like “a ton of bricks made of ParmigianoReggiano”—she was going to learn how to cook. What ensued was a whirlwind of pots, pans, late-night trips to gourmet food stores and “clenching the spoon like a convict” as the author progressed from that first multi-stepped meal to hosting dinner parties for 12. She learned that “béarnaise isn’t the name of a little old lady and that the act of trussing relates to roast chicken, not eighties hair,” and she blogged about her cooking adventures at apronanxiety.com. Shelasky bares all, in the kitchen and the bedroom, as her romance with food replaced her love affair with Chef. Even though her relationship with Chef ended, the author writes, “sometimes I wonder if I’m still in the kitchen as a way of keeping my connection to Chef alive… after all, everyone cooks for matters of the heart. We’re all in the kitchen because it fulfills a longing inside, whether it’s for inner grace, pure survival, a renewed sense of self, or just the thrill of it.” Also included are 30 of the author’s favorite recipes. Amusing, compassionate story of love among the pots and pans.

THE OTHER SIDE OF NORMAL How Biology Is Providing the Clues to Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior

Smoller, Jordan Morrow/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | Lg. Prt. $27.99 May 8, 2012 978-0-06-149219-8 978-0-06-210133-4 e-book 978-0-06-206497-4 Lg. Prt.

Smoller (Psychiatry and Epidemiology/Harvard Univ.; coauthor: Psychiatric Genetics, 2008) suggests that “[l]ike the purloined letter of Poe’s tale, many of the most fundamental features of the normal mind have been hidden in plain sight.” The author uses the 2010 announcement by the American Psychiatric Association of provisional plans to revise the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as an opportunity to revisit the hot-button issue of what constitutes mental disease. In his opinion, one of the shortcomings of the DSM is its creation of “categories from constellations of symptoms” without understanding how they connect to the “functional organization of the mind and brain.” While Smoller recognizes that it is sometimes necessary to treat an illness such as delirium without understanding its basic cause, he believes that the process of diagnosis and treatment can be dramatically improved by recognizing syndromes as “perturbations of normal systems and mechanisms.” He identifies spectrums of normal behavior, citing research showing that temperamental 716

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qualities in adults—for example, being easygoing or prone to anxiety—can be traced to early childhood. Although it is not possible yet to clarify the nurture/nature debate, a correlation has been found between variations of specific genes associated with temperament and neurotransmitters. Brain scans have also identified differences in the brains of highly reactive individuals as compared to low-reactive infants. Smoller notes that while ADHD and similar disorders are often problematic today, such behavior might have conferred a reproductive advantage in previous eras of human evolution. An informative overview of research in neuroscience that provides a scientific foundation for understanding mental disorders. (11 illustrations)

LIFE AMONG THE CANNIBALS A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It Specter, Arlen & Robbins, Charles Dunne/St. Martin’s (368 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 1, 2012 978-1-250-00368-3 978-1-4299-5290-3 e-book

Senator Specter, swept out of office in 2010, takes a hard look at what happened—and at the collapse, as he sees it, of civil politics. The cannibals in question are mainstream Republicans— and, to a lesser extent, leftist Democrats who work against moderates on their side of the aisle. By Specter’s (Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate, 2008, etc.) account, “Eating or defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism.” The Tea Party uprising was a feeding frenzy of ideological purification, as “compromise” became a curse word and anyone who did not toe the party line became an enemy. In that climate, it became impossible, Specter writes, to cross the aisle, both for him as a moderate Republican-turned-Democrat and for his friend Joe Lieberman, who narrowly won a seat as an independent after losing the Democratic primary in Connecticut. Specter writes of the agonizing process that forced him to leave the Republican Party and become, for a short time, a Democrat on Capitol Hill. Interestingly, he also confesses to having crossed the party line years ago to become a Republican in the first place, having once been a Democrat early in his political career. The author sees much to lament in the loss of collegiality and the hardening of ideological lines in the modern Congress, especially because Congress has its work cut out for it in curbing the excesses of an activist Supreme Court that is busily awarding personhood to corporations and otherwise corrupting the political process. Specter closes on a note of hopefulness that centers on the victory of Lisa Murkowski over Tea Party intransigence in Alaska, though he also warns that “political extremism…poses a new, or amplified, threat to the United States”—and he doesn’t just mean al-Qaeda.

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“A first-rate addition to the military history canon.” from the last full measure

OUTLAW MARRIAGES The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples

A highly readable battle cry from the moderate center— and timely, given the tenor of politics today.

THE LAST FULL MEASURE How Soldiers Die in Battle

Streitmatter, Rodger Beacon (224 pp.) $26.95 | May 15, 2012 978-0-8070-0334-3 978-0-8070-0335-0 e-book

Stephenson, Michael Crown (480 pp.) $28.00 | May 22, 2012 978-0-307-39584-9 978-0-307-95277-6 e-book A military history about the central fact of all wars: death in battle. Stephenson (Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was Fought, 2007) begins with the prehistoric era, when warfare consisted of clashes between hunting tribes. Not surprisingly, early tactics were closely allied to the techniques of hunting: ambush of lone enemies or small bands, with little of what we think of as military strategy. That approach to warfare has survived into modern times, especially in conflicts where the resources of the forces involved are disproportionate, as in colonial or insurgent wars. What we would recognize as battles between organized armies arose with civilization, and from the beginning a distinction was made between weapons that strike from a distance and those requiring contact with the enemy: arrows versus swords, for example. Stephenson traces the tension between the modes of warfare dictated by these weapons, and their effect on combatants, working from both archaeological evidence and written sources. The result is a far-reaching overview of the visceral experience of soldiers in battle. The description of wounds is graphic; patriotic propaganda to the contrary, death in warfare is rarely sweet or decorous. Some widely held beliefs about what kills men in war may need revision; artillery, rather than machine guns, was the main killer in World War I, for example, and booby traps and mines have dominated American casualty lists since Vietnam. Stephenson includes close looks at the soldier’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and offers the viewpoints of German, Russian and even a few Japanese soldiers in the World War II sections. An interesting appendix covers the development of military medicine. Throughout the book, the author is evenhanded, clear and consistently illuminating; even those well-read in military history are likely to learn something new. A first-rate addition to the military history canon.

A selective glimpse at prominent same-sex nuptials. Streitmatter (Communication/American Univ.; From Perverts to Fab Five: The Media’s Changing Depiction of Gay Men and Lesbians, 2008, etc.) considers the cases of 15 couples from a time when such unions were scandalous. In the households of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, both parties were famous. Typically, though, just one member of the outlaw marriage was celebrated. The less well-known, long-suffering partner was muse to his or her famous spouse. That was the case with Walt Whitman and his beloved streetcar conductor, Jane Addams and her financial supporter, J.C. Leyendecker and his Arrow Collar model, Greta Garbo and her social advisor and Tennessee Williams and his loyal caretaker. These notable subjects were not ordinary folk; they were social reformers, poets, playwrights and painters. The author begins each story with thumbnail bios, followed by a short section titled “Creating an Outlaw Marriage” and then some information on how they worked together. The tales continue with the ebb and flow of romance, faithfulness and loyalty, infidelity and betrayal. Finally, each story draws on newspaper obituaries that generally omitted mention of the spouse who figured so largely in the life of the deceased. While his topic undeniably interesting, journalist Streitmatter adheres to his journeyman’s formula too much; however, his book might be a nice gift for just the right couple, for he clearly loves his story. In the epilogue, the author proudly announces that he and his partner are now husband and husband. Joint biographies, rendered in mostly artless prose, of successful and influential gay and lesbian couples who married before it was allowed.

THE 20% DOCTRINE How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business

Tate, Ryan Harper Business (224 pp.) $25.99 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-0-06-200323-2

Gawker.com technology gossip blogger Tate debuts with an account of how companies are innovating by freeing workers to dream up their own side projects. |

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In six case studies, the author shows how Google’s “20 percent time” policy—which encourages Google engineers to take 20 percent of their time to work on ideas that interest them personally, an approach that has led to the creation of both Gmail to Google News—has inspired other corporations to find ways to empower employees to pursue their passions. The policy is now “harvesting innovation from the margins” at many tech and other companies. Side projects have common tenets: They provide creative freedom, connect with people’s passions, generate crude early versions, leverage existing products, generate improvements rapidly to create in-house buzz, continually “sell” the project in the hope of becoming a full-blown company initiative and embrace the help of people outside the organization. Tate’s case studies detail the evolution of side projects and lessons learned at selected companies, including Google, where an engineer’s effort to create Gmail proceeded in incremental advances, allowing him to show colleagues he was incorporating their ideas, getting feedback on flaws and generating discussion on how to grow the product; Ludicorp, a Web startup with limited resources, which reinvented itself with a side project that produced the leading photo website Flickr; and Yahoo, whose Hack Days (“like 20 percent time on crack”) allow participants to create initial designs and collect feedback. Other chapters describe innovations by zealous individuals in non-tech settings, including the creation of the Bronx Academy of Letters, an unusual high school based on high expectations in an impoverished South Bronx neighborhood; the Huffington Post’s “Off the Bus” project, which galvanized thousands of volunteer citizen journalists to offer a different kind of coverage of a presidential election; and top chef Thomas Keller’s side project in nostalgia that led to the launch of a successful new restaurant, Ad Hoc. Useful and inspiring advice for tinkerers.

HOMESICK AND HAPPY How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow

Thompson, Michael Ballantine (256 pp.) $16.00 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-0-345-52492-8 Child psychologist and school consultant Thompson (It’s a Boy!: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18, 2008, etc.) discusses the role summer camps can play in providing a safe environment for a child’s growth toward independence. The author suggests that the tendency of parents to micromanage their children’s lives is counterproductive. “The impulse to protect all of your child’s feelings is completely natural,” he writes. “The problem is that the ideal is unachievable, even undesirable.” He emphasizes that “the goal of childhood is to grow up” and “almost all adolescents want full independence from adults.” In his opinion—based on his own childhood experiences at camp and his work as a consultant and former board member of the American Camp Association—summer 718

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camps offer a supervised, safe experience for children to deal with separation issues and homesickness, and parents to deal with their own separation anxieties. “[C]amp is a psychological experience” where a child can meet new people, face new challenges and learn the rules of a new community while discovering things about themselves that could never have been learned staying at home with mom and dad. As part of his research, the author visited 19 camps and interviewed campers, counselors and their parents. Thompson describes the wide variety of experiences they offer—sports, nature, pursuit of the arts—and gives examples of camps devoted to special-needs children. He emphasizes the stability, happiness and trust provided by these structured environments. A useful guide for parents.

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITINGS

Twain, Mark Rasmussen, R. Kent--Ed. Penguin (496 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-14-310667-8 Mark Twain’s life and times, in his own words, through memoir and essay. Piggybacking the 2010 publication of the first volume of the complete Autobiography of Mark Twain, this Penguin collection—edited by Twain scholar Rasmussen (Bloom’s How to Write about Mark Twain, 2007, etc.)—offers an interesting alternate route to the great man’s life: the condensed memoirs published in his lifetime, along with numerous personal essays. Together they reveal a raconteur who saw life as an endless comedy and a frequent tragedy. Twain’s autobiography, dictated a few years before his death, shows his effortless genius for talk, whether he’s recounting a near-fatal dueling episode, how he aided a traveling mesmerist in conning an audience or how even America’s Greatest Humorist could bomb before an audience at a literary dinner. Death is also much on his mind. The book is dominated by the memory of his late daughter Susy, who died at 24 from spinal meningitis, and left behind a charming memoir of “Papa,” written when she was 14. Susy—“a frank biographer, and an honest one; she uses no sandpaper on me”—becomes the gateway through which Twain recalls the past and the prism through which he views mortality. In other autobiographical pieces, he recalls how he mastered the Mississippi after a slow and humiliating steamboat apprenticeship: “The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book—a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice.” He also addresses his disappointed ambitions, the art of turkey hunting, his (largely discredited) doubts on Shakespeare’s authorship, how his views on slavery changed and how life is a matter of fortunate circumstance. A compact, generous entry into the comic sensibility of a thoughtful, adventurous life.

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CREATING INNOVATORS The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World

Wagner, Tony Scribner (288 pp.) $27.00 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-1-4516-1149-6

Furthering the awareness campaign on the benefits of “collaborative, handson, interdisciplinary” schooling. In the face of the current global recession, Harvard fellow and former Gates Foundation senior advisor Wagner (The Global Achievement Gap, 2008) believes one of the solutions is redirecting classroom emphasis toward more “college-ready” curriculums. The author, a father of three, advocates for more progressive skill building to better prepare students for life beyond the classroom. Wagner’s thesis derives its strength from expertly structured content. He focuses less on the problem (America’s lack of innovators) and more on a remedy supported by testimonials from an impressive array of young minds gainfully employed in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or civic-minded entrepreneurships. Parents, academics and business leaders voice experiences as well. The story of Kirk Phelps, a high-school and college dropout who became part of the first iPhone team at Apple, is bolstered by his parents’ narration of their motivational child-rearing style. Wagner’s prognostications translate to solid advice on how early educational coaching and motivational mentorship can facilitate success in today’s competitive marketplace. The outcome, he writes, is a generation of young adults who feel passionate, empowered and motivated to excel beyond their own expectations. Though his tone remains mostly optimistic, Wagner admits that cultivating innovative, intellectual leaders isn’t a universal panacea, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. The author also includes a multimedia experience: Quick Response (“QR”) codes, which, when captured by smart-phone technology, open links to web-based videos and material procured by collaborator Robert A. Compton. A seminal analysis promising hope for the future through small wonders in the classroom.

THE LITTLE RED GUARD A Family Memoir

Wenguang Huang Riverhead (272 pp.) $25.95 | Apr. 26, 2012 978-1-59448-829-0

Writer and translator Wenguang Huang’s candid memoir about growing up in the turbulent aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In 1973, Mao’s ruthless political campaign sought to bring an end to all “decadent” traditional practices. |

But the author would remember the year for a different reason—it was a time when his 71-year-old grandmother “became obsessed with death.” Afraid that she would be cremated and rendered unable to reunite with her dead husband in the afterlife, she made her son, Wenguang Huang’s father, promise that he would give her a traditional burial. Her son agreed and built a coffin, knowing that if he was discovered, the Communist Party would punish him and his family for disobedience. He made the author the official “coffin keeper.” For the next nine years, he dutifully slept near what the family would refer to as Grandma’s “longevity wood.” In the end, the coffin really did become a kind of longevity talisman because the grandmother would live to be 87. Throughout the 16 years leading up to her death, the family often became embroiled in bitter battles over how they would inter the grandmother, who demanded a traditional Chinese burial next to her husband, whose grave was far from the family home. The one family member who suffered the most was the author’s father, who passed away a year before his mother. A “filial son,” he had made his mother’s obsession his own, to the point where it “sucked him dry until there was nothing left but his own corpse.” A trenchantly observed story that depicts the clash of traditional and modern Chinese culture with a powerful combination of sensitivity and mordant irony.

ORPHEUS The Song of Life

Wroe, Ann Overlook (272 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59020-778-9

Economist briefings and obituaries editor Wroe (Being Shelley: The Poet’s Search for Himself, 2007, etc.) delivers a transformative adventure of myth. The story of the semi-god Orpheus, the young man with a lyre, has been told and retold across the ages. His music enchanted the trees, calmed the seas and gave birth to light, life and love. According to poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Orpheus taught his followers to “become what you are.” Wroe’s melodic style breathes new life into his adventures with Jason and the Argonauts, his eternal love of Eurydice and interminable mourning for her and descent into Hades. Orpheus appears in some guise in a wide variety of cultures across centuries—e.g., as a Thracian king, Sir Orfeo in Breton and Irish stories or his invocation on a fifth-century BCE sacrificial token from Olbia on the Black Sea. Even with all that, however, he was not a true god, but only halfway divine; as Horace wrote, “the gods’ interpreter.” As Wroe writes, “godhead gradually slipped away from him, leaving only a sense of election and the power, through his music, to change landscapes, seasons, hearts.” In her tuneful prose, the author recounts the influence of Orpheus on a veritable pantheon of writers and musicians, including Ovid, Virgil, Milton, Shelley, Keats, Cocteau and a host of others. Wroe brings mythology and Orpheus so vividly to life that readers may be convinced that he actually did exist

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“Like a nonfiction National Treasure with myriads of Nicholas Cages darting around—in a good way. Enlightening Enlightenment fare.” from chasing venus

THE MORAL MOLECULE The Source of Love and Prosperity

and, indeed, still does. The author ends as she began, with Rilke at work, contemplating the magic of Orpheus: “Beyond the windows, over the hills, fresh clouds were streaming and shapeshifting as fast as the toiling, teeming world. But Orpheus’s song rang higher and holier, eternally.” A book to make readers laugh, sing and weep.

CHASING VENUS The Race to Measure the Heavens

Wulf, Andrea Knopf (288 pp.) $25.95 | May 5, 2012 978-0-307-70017-9

In the late 18th century, European astronomers scurried about the globe measuring the transit of Venus, hoping, at last, to learn the size of our universe. Until this busy narrative, Wulf had turned her eyes more earthward with three previous outings about gardens (The Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, 2011, etc.). Here she glides easily into the heavens, where she clearly explains how Venus’ transit across the sun, which occurs every 105 years (and each time does so twice, at eight-year intervals—one will occur in June 2012), gave Enlightenment astronomers a chance to figure out such things as the distance between the earth and the sun. Their 1769 calculation—transit-derived—was quite close. The author follows the two international attempts, in 1761 and 1769, to accomplish the measurements from various global viewing points, describing in grim detail the vast difficulties of travel and communication, the geopolitical complications (wars didn’t help) and the various personalities of potentates and scientists that characterized the endeavor. The 1761 transit occurred before everyone were sufficiently ready, and the measurements were disappointing; 1769 was better—though poor Guillaume Le Gentil of France, who’d spent nine years devoted to the projects, saw only clouds at his observatory in Pondicherry, India. Worse, Jean-Baptiste Chappe d’Auteroche died of typhus only days after his successful recordings. The author notes the imprecision of the instruments, the difficulties of determining precisely when the dark spot of Venus began and ended its journey across the sun’s yellow wafer and the arduous treks Enlightenment men (yes, all men) undertook to Lapland, Tahiti, Hudson Bay and Baja. More than 100 pages of back matter reveal the sturdy research undergirding the lively narrative. Like a nonfiction National Treasure with myriads of Nicholas Cages darting around—in a good way. Enlightening Enlightenment fare.

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Zak, Paul J. Dutton (256 pp.) $26.95 | May 10, 2012 978-0-525-95281-7

Zak (Economic Psychology and Management/Claremont Graduate Univ.; Moral Markets: the Critical Role of Values in the Economy, 2008, etc.) explores a surprising link among neuroscience, morality and economic success. The author explains how an encounter with anthropologist Helen Fisher in 2000 transformed the direction of his work. He was dissatisfied with the notion that calculating rational selfinterest was the basis for individual decision-making. Fisher suggested that he examine the role of brain chemistry in economic as well as intimate relationships—e.g., the way in which oxytocin (the “cuddle hormone”) facilitates mother/child bonding at the time of birth and provides the basis for trust later in life. Although he was at first ridiculed by colleagues, Zak began a series of experiments based on the “Trust Game.” The game has many variations, but basically all subjects are given $10 for participation and then divided into two groups. Group A gets the opportunity to give part of their money to someone in group B, with the understanding that the amount would be tripled. How much the original donor gives is based on his expectation of the extent to which it will be reciprocated. Zak added the twist of testing donors and recipients for oxytocin levels and found a high correlation. He believes his research to have demonstrated that oxytocin is “the key to moral behavior.” Because it triggers the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, it creates a “motivational pathway” for empathy, intimate bonding and trusting social relationships that give people emotional satisfaction. This influences their economic decisions, a process the author calls a “physiological version of the Golden Rule.” Explaining his use of cutting-edge research to undercut Gordon Gekko’s infamous mantra (“Greed is good”), Zak is engaging, entertaining and profound.

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children’s & teen CROSSING THE LINE

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Alegría, Malín Point/Scholastic (192 pp.) $5.99 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-0-545-40240-8 Series: Border Town, 1

OCEAN SUNLIGHT by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm ........... p. 723 KEPLER’S DREAM by Juliet Bell................................................... p. 723 JIMMY THE GREATEST! by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by Rafael Yockteng.................................................................. p. 725 ZOO GIRL by Rebecca Elliott.......................................................... p. 730 BARNUM’S BONES by Tracey Fern ; illus. by Boris Kulikov........p. 731 ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS by Russell Freedman............................. p. 732 THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM by Christopher Healy........................ p. 734 TRACING STARS by Erin E. Moulton........................................... p. 746 MINETTE’S FEAST by Susanna Reich; illus. by Amy Bates.......... p. 750 JUSTIN CASE by Rachel Vail; illus. by Matthew Cordell............ p. 754 BACKSEAT A-B-SEE by Maria van Lieshout............................... p. 754 WAITING by Carol Lynch Williams.............................................. p. 756 SURFER CHICK by Kristy Dempsey; illus. by Henry Cole............ p. 758 MEET ME AT THE MOON by Gianna Marino.............................. p. 759

In the first title in the Border Town series, Alegría introduces Fabiola “Fabi” Garza, a Mexican-American teen in the fictitious Texas border town of Dos Rios. Although her best friend, Georgia Rae, moved away over the summer, Fabi is looking forward to a new school year, since she can finally show her younger sister Alexis the ropes at Dos Rios High. Working as a server in her family’s Mexican restaurant, Fabi is joined by a colorful cast of friends and familia. Against her sister’s advice, Alexis takes up with the popular crowd at school, including football hotshot Dex Andrews. The book quickly takes a darker turn when restaurant employee Chuy is mugged and beaten while covering Fabi’s shift. While her parents and others suspect her cousin Santiago, Fabi believes he is innocent, regardless of his past troubles. Meanwhile, Alexis begins lying to her family to spend more time with Dex and resenting Fabi’s sisterly advice. Overhearing someone bragging at a party about mugging undocumented immigrants, Fabi believes she knows who robbed Chuy. After Santiago ends up in jail, Fabi realizes she has to reveal what she knows. The author sprinkles Spanish words naturally in the text, tackles timely issues without preaching and provides enough light moments to balance the tone. A welcome entry into the teen market, especially for Bluford Series fans. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-18)

THE OLDEST HOUSE IN THE USA / LA CÁS ANTIGUA DE LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS

Aragon, Kat Illus. by Madrid, Mary Jo Lectura (24 pp.) $8.95 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-60448-016-0 Some unpolished writing does nothing to mar the wonder in this very simple introduction to an (arguably) 800-year-old house and its residents—living or otherwise. Floating over the solid-looking, pink adobe dwelling at the center of Madrid’s thickly brushed southwestern scenes, angels |

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Teresa and little Annie tell its stories. They exchange matter-offact comments about the house—built as part of a pueblo in the 13th century—and the succession of Pueblo, Tlaxcalan and Spanish people (including a governor and “a couple of women healers”) who kept it refurbished and occupied as the town of Santa Fe was founded and grew up around it. “And then,” concludes Teresa, “there’s the old ghost.” “I know who you mean,” says Annie. “He seems nice.” Printed in different colors, the English and Spanish versions of the conversation run side by side on each left-hand page. A final line is line rather abruptly delivered by the author following Angel Teresa’s claim that the ghost may even once have been caught on film. A quick and charming glimpse of our history, with a whiff of the supernatural for extra gusto. (picture glossary) (Bilingual picture book. 6-8)

RACING THE MOON

Armstrong, Alan Illus. by Jessell, Tim Random House (224 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $19.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-375-85889-5 978-0-375-89309-4 e-book 978-0-375-95889-2 PLB Obsessed with rocket-building and outer space, two siblings living in Silver Springs, Md., in 1947 find the perfect ally

right next door. Twelve-year-old Alex hangs out with her reckless 17-yearold brother Chuck, who’s always getting them in trouble. Fascinated with radios, radar and rockets, Chuck “can make anything,” but was kicked out of tech school because he “mixes things up when he reads.” Alex’s mother urges her to “act more ladylike,” dress more carefully and pay more attention to schoolwork, but tomboy Alex wants to be another Amelia Earhart. Meeting her new neighbor, Captain Ebbs, Alex finds a mentor who develops space food for the army, sails her own boat and is a descendant of Captain John Smith. Beneath their impulsive behavior, Ebbs recognizes that Alex and Chuck share her passion for aviation and space. She arranges for Alex to meet pioneer rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, organizes a sailing trip to a Chesapeake Bay island near a rocket launch and provides needed direction for the risk-taking duo. Inspired by the real Joan Cotton Ebbs, this chronicle of sibling aeronautical aspiration and misadventure provides a peek at the post–World War II U.S. space program. Realistic pencil-sketch illustrations capture key events. High-flying adventure grounded in reality. (suggestions for further reading) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

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CRINKLEROOT’S GUIDE TO GIVING BACK TO NATURE

Arnosky, Jim Illus. by Arnosky, Jim Putnam (48 pp.) $17.99 | May 15, 2012 978-0-399-25520-5 Series: Crinkleroot

Forest-dweller Crinkleroot reappears to lead 21st-century readers outdoors, urging them to appreciate and give back to nature. Arnosky’s bearded guide, inspired by 19th-century naturalist John Burroughs, was last seen in print in Crinkleroot’s Visit to Crinkle Cove (1999), but he has continued to educate schoolchildren through the PBS series Backyard Safari for many years. In this new title, the author focuses on things children can do on their own for their environment: provide food and appropriate habitat for wild creatures; pick up after themselves; keep stream waters clean; put animals back where they found them; don’t walk on dune grass. He gives detailed instructions for planting trees and for releasing fish unharmed. Dressed in a frontiersman’s costume and feathered hat and surrounded by forest creatures, Crinkleroot makes an appealing guide. (He discards his jacket for a life vest in his kayak.) His love for the natural world is evident, and he expects that readers will share it. Pen-and-ink illustrations, colored with ink acrylic washes, are full of accurate detail. Early on readers are offered a winterbird-identification puzzle that capitalizes on this. Throughout, he shows and identifies creatures a sharp-eyed young naturalist might see outdoors (especially, but not solely, those who live in the eastern half of the country). Renewed public interest in a “green” world makes this a timely and welcome return for Crinkleroot. (Informational picture book. 5-10)

SHIFT

Bailey, Em Egmont USA (320 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | May 22, 2012 978-1-60684-358-1 978-1-60684-359-8 e-book The intriguing plot points and themes on offer here could easily power several novels; frustratingly, none is fully developed. Olive Corbett, the mentally fragile, unreliable narrator, dresses bizarrely and mutters to herself. A social outcast at her Australian high school, she takes refuge in the music of an indie band, Luxe, to drown out feelings of guilt for her father’s departure and her brother’s nightmares. The arrival of new student Miranda Vaile, rumored to have killed her parents, is a welcome distraction. Lackluster Miranda is inexplicably taken up by Olive’s former best friend and A-list queen bee, Katie, whom Miranda dominates, then eclipses. Meanwhile,

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“Every detail is relevant in this tightly plotted debut peopled with an unforgettable cast of characters.” from kepler’s dream

despite her issues, Olive’s pursued by hunky Lachlan Ford, who ignores behavior that would give most boys pause. Following a plot twist that won’t surprise alert readers, the school setting all but disappears as Miranda pursues an obsessive friendship with Olive. The untidy plot leaves a plethora of loose ends. Did Olive take refuge in mental illness to escape her popular-girl persona and make a fresh start? Why does Miranda choose Olive? Is Miranda a parasitical shapeshifter? (The prospect of celebrity shapeshifters who use their status to stoke jealousy and draw power from sycophantic, wannabe victims presents rich possibilities that remain largely unexplored.) If the pacing is too leisurely for suspense, sheer inventiveness should keep readers turning pages in this debut for teens that serves up half a delicious meal. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

OCEAN SUNLIGHT How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas

Bang, Molly & Chisholm, Penny Illus. by Bang, Molly Scholastic (48 pp.) $18.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-545-27322-0 An awe-inspiring lesson in photosynthesis goes under the sea. As in this pair’s previous Living Sunlight (2009), the sun addresses readers to explain the role of solar energy to support the chain of life—this time in the ocean. A summary of the process of photosynthesis occupies the first few spreads. Warm yellow sunlight suffuses these pages and small insets accompany the textual explanation of how plants make sugar from water and carbon dioxide. Then the focus moves to the sea, first near the surface, where phytoplankton grow and multiply, and then to the depths, where nutrient-rich marine “snow” sifts down to feed creatures who live away from sunlight. The transformation of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into phytoplankton (“the great invisible pasture of the sea”), on which feed zooplankton and progressively larger animals, is set against background paintings of rich marine blues and greens. The churning and recycling of these nutrients is shown again to be a gift of the sun: “My sunlight powers winds that build great storms and mix the water layers of the seas.” Bang’s art is richly kinetic, with its whorls and stipples indicating plant and animal life in profusion, from the swirling microscopic creatures to graceful large fish and whales. Readers will want to visit more than once to capture both the science and the abundant sense of celebration here. (Informational picture book. 5-11)

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OF POSEIDON

Banks, Anna Feiwel & Friends (336 pp.) $17.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-250-00332-4 Another twist on the mermaid theme comes with a hefty dose of romance and a heavier dollop of comedy in this debut. However, the word “mermaid” just isn’t allowed; call them “Syrena,” instead. Heroine Emma begins the book by failing to save her best friend from a shark attack. After the realistically bloody death, the book doesn’t wait long to plunge into comedy, complete with sitcom-style dialogue, that falls awkwardly flat at first. Banks works out some of the kinks in the humor as the book proceeds, and readers should get a kick out of it. Emma literally crashes into Syrena royal Galen, with whom she will become romantically entangled, and then not, in standard ohno-will-they-ever-get-together style. Both appealing characters, they find themselves irresistibly attracted to each other, although they often argue. Emma overcomes her shock when she learns that Galen is a sea creature but must then learn that she, too, has paranormal powers in the sea. The author juxtaposes her brisk comedy against more serious, but still mild suspense that tends to fade into the background. The narrative shifts between Emma’s first-person and Galen’s third-person perspectives, a mixture that doesn’t quite jell. Best read for the comedy, then. A sequel appears probable. Entertaining for readers riding the wave of mermaid fantasies. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

KEPLER’S DREAM

Bell, Juliet Putnam (256 pp.) $16.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-399-25645-5

With her mother off on a lunar mission—a last-ditch treatment for leukemia—Ella is left circling like astronaut Michael Collins awaiting the hoped-for reunion. She and her mom have always admired Collins’ bravery, and it turns out the analogy has personal resonance. When no one else is able to take Ella, she is sent to stay with GM (Grandmother/General Major), a woman Ella has never met. Or has she? The family history is as difficult to navigate as GM’s peacock-ridden, jam-packed hacienda. At “Broken Family Camp,” Ella discovers that her grandfather was an astronomer who had been inspired by Kepler’s work and met Collins. Grandfather’s accidental death many years earlier is still keenly felt by GM, so when their valuable copy of Kepler’s Dream is stolen, Ella resolves to find the thief. Every detail is relevant in this tightly plotted debut peopled with an unforgettable cast of characters. More family drama

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BETTER THAN A LEMONADE STAND! Small Business Ideas for Kids

than mystery, the story is told in Ella’s voice—compassionate, clever, preadolescent-snarky—allowing Bell to treat weighty issues with a light touch. Ella learns how blame can tear a family apart and how forgiveness and the things of which dreams are made can heal. The credibly realistic resolution leaves Ella firmly grounded with deepened family ties, a new friend and some hard-won horseback-riding skills. Utterly satisfying. (Fiction. 10-14)

THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY

Bemis, John Claude Random House (272 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-375-86752-1 978-0-375-89804-4 e-book 978-0-375-96752-8 PLB A compassionate bear defies everything to save a boy from certain death in this original story blending creation myth with post-apocalyptic and animal-fantasy traditions. The Forest, where Casseomae hunts, forages and has given birth to several litters of stillborn cubs, is littered with relics of the humans, or Skinless Ones. Ages before, Skinless cut down the trees and nearly drove hunting animals, or voras, into extinction until the Ogeema (wolves) eradicated them. When a human starship crashes in the Forest, Casseomea discovers a human boy in the wreckage. Instinct compels her to save this cub who is “not so different from the ones she lost.” Determined the new Skinless One will “upset the order of the Forest,” the Ogeema pursue Casseomae, who flees with the boy. She is joined by Dumpster, a sassy, street-smart rat, and Pang, an outcast dog. Together they travel along overgrown highways, past abandoned power lines, gas stations and garbage dumps to ruined cities, seeking a safe haven. In contrast to the somewhat bleak social commentary, Casseomae’s unwavering hope for the silent boy in her care never waivers. Appropriately, animal characters are fully developed and complex while the boy remains a pivotal unknown. Compelling animal fantasy grounded in ecological warnings. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Bernstein, Daryl Beyond Words/Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (224 pp.) $16.99 | paper $9.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-58270-360-2 978-1-58270-330-5 paperback An entrepreneur from an early age, Bernstein offers clear and practical advice for young people wanting to raise some extra cash or begin their own entrepreneurial careers. Bernstein wrote this guide in 1992 when he was 15. Now updated with information on Internet-based jobs and using social media, the volume is attractive in its spacious design and cartoon illustrations, a format that makes it eminently accessible to young readers. Open anywhere and begin browsing to find ideas for jobs: babysitting broker, curb-address painter, face painter, house checker, newspaper mover, snow shoveler and jewelry maker. Fifty-five short chapters, each on a different business idea, suggest a world of options for kids, many of whom are too young to apply for jobs at restaurants, car washes and the like. Here they will learn how to create their own jobs according to their own interests and enthusiasms, and besides making money, they will learn to take responsibility for their finances. Each section includes such advice as what to charge, what types of supplies are needed, how to advertise and other helpful hints. The writing is clear and matter-of-fact, and the backmatter includes further guidance on online fundraising, child-labor laws and social-media resources. A handy reference for libraries and parents to have on hand when children start needing extra money in their pockets. (Nonfiction. 9 & up)

LUCKY AND SQUASH

Birdsall, Jeanne Illus. by Dyer, Jane Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $17.89 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-083150-9 978-0-06-083151-6 PLB Two dogs living next door to each other become friends through the fence separating their backyards, successfully serving as matchmakers for their lonely owners, Miss Violet and Mr. Bernard. Lucky is a Lhasa Apso, the braver of the two dogs, and Squash is a brainy Boston terrier. Together they repeatedly escape confinement in an effort to introduce their owners in hopes that a marriage will ensue and the canine pals can become brothers. In each successive escapade, they travel “for a day and a night,” leaving a trail of clues for their owners to find them. The dogs travel to the beach, to New York City and finally to

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a deliciously scary forest complete with vultures and a gigantic bear. The devoted owners always find their canine companions, and by the third escape attempt, the dogs have succeeded in bringing the human pair together. Charming watercolor illustrations have all the clever details that are Dyer’s signature touch, from tiny name tags on the dogs’ collars to Miss Violet’s lavender eyeglass frames. This gentle, entertaining story has elements of a traditional fairy tale in language and structure with a romantic wedding scene as the conclusion. Good for dog lovers and romantics alike. (Picture book. 3-6)

CHASING EVIL

Blade, Adam Scholastic (176 pp.) $15.99 | $15.99 e-book | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-545-36158-3 978-0-545-47397-2 e-book Series: The Chronicles of Avantia, 2 The second in the Chronicles of Avantia, this tale continues the thrilling saga of Tanner and Gwen as they, along with their powerful beasts Firepos and Gulkien, try to save the Kingdom of Avantia from ruin. Tanner and Gwen have recovered one piece of the Mask of Death from the evil Derthsin, the first step in their plan to thwart the fiend in his desire to collect all four pieces. If Derthsin can assemble the mask, he will wield dark power over all of Avantia, including its beasts. They are shocked to discover that Gwen’s twin brother Geffen has betrayed them, providing Derthsin with the first piece of the mask and the location of the second. Now, they must beat Derthsin to the second piece and rescue the treacherous but naive Geffen, who has become Derthsin’s prisoner. Along the way, they join up with a third chosen rider, an obnoxious and difficult young man called Castor, and his catlike beast Nera. As fast-paced as its predecessor, this volume is more compelling because the characters and their relationships begin to get a bit more complicated. Firepos, Tanner’s beast, again narrates part of the story in first person, creating a sense of immediacy as well as providing a glimpse into the perspective of the beasts, revealing them as full participants in the quest rather than mere transportation. Readers will be clamoring for the next volumes in this gripping, easy-to-read, high-interest series, which is a terrific introduction to the genre. (Fantasy. 8-12)



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HAPPY LIKE SOCCER

Boelts, Maribeth Illus. by Castillo, Lauren Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7636-4616-5

Soccer is a bittersweet mix of sorrow and joy for Sierra. Sierra struggles with conflicting emotions about her new soccer team. Traveling out of the city, Sierra now plays on soccer fields unlike the one near the apartment where she lives with her aunt, which is exciting. However, being on this new team has some drawbacks. With most games on Saturdays—which is her aunt’s busiest day at the restaurant—Sierra is sad to be the only player without family members to cheer for her during games. Yet, with a little ingenuity, Sierra discovers a solution to her dilemma. Boelts focuses on the relationship between Sierra and her aunt, deftly portraying Sierra’s maturity and fortitude as she attempts to resolve the situation. Sierra, while dedicated to her sport, recognizes the importance and inspiring effect of her aunt’s support and encouragement. Castillo’s watercolor-andink illustrations of the city’s landscapes feature towering buildings in an austere setting. In contrast, drawings of Sierra’s home and her aunt’s workplace depict warm, cozy scenes. Scenes with the dark-skinned, crinkly-haired auntie and niece emphasize the close, nurturing relationship. Action-filled paintings of the soccer games capture the fast-paced excitement of the game. Boelts’ quiet tale celebrates the perseverance of a young girl as she attempts to achieve her goals. (Picture book. 5-9)

JIMMY THE GREATEST!

Buitrago, Jairo Translated by Amado, Elisa Illus. by Yockteng, Rafael Groundwood (52 pp.) $18.95 | $18.95 e-book | May 15, 2012 978-1-55498-178-6 978-1-55498-206-6 e-book

In a thought-provoking twist on the usual immigrant story, a village lad elects to stay put. Though Jimmy’s town is just a scattering of shacks on a broad beach, there is a tiny gym, owned by Don Apolinar. He gives Jimmy a box full of books and clippings about Muhammad Ali that sparks a yen in the boy to become a boxer. Yockteng depicts the tall, dark-skinned lad running across a sun-drenched landscape at the head of a gaggle of laughing children. He shadow boxes and demonstrates his strength by letting a goat butt him in the chest, carrying huge loads of fish and other feats. But when Don Apolinar departs for the big city, where there are “real jobs,” Jimmy decides to stay, taking over the gym and adding a library to it. “Maybe one day he’ll get a match,” the narrative concludes, but then it gives Jimmy the last words: “Listen to me. / This is my town. / … / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” Idealized as it may be,

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the idyllic setting and smiling, bright-eyed faces on view in the illustrations make his choice easy to understand. Eye-opening inspiration in this unassuming import from Colombia. (Picture book. 6-8)

GEORGE BELLOWS Painter with a Punch!

Burleigh, Robert Abrams (48 pp.) $18.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0166-5

That American painter George Bellows (1882-1925) packed a punch is shown to dramatic effect in this admiring introduction to his life and work. A career in art won out over sports, though Bellows’ athletic prowess informed a number of his paintings, including several boxing scenes, among his most celebrated works. Bellows differed from many artists before him, preferring not to paint the pretty but instead executing on canvas gritty scenes that reflected early-20th-century New York City at its most real. The book’s excellent reproductions of Bellows’ work will excite young readers and budding artists. They will appreciate the vigorous brushstrokes as much as the child-appealing contents and titles of some of the works. Most stimulating to would-be artists is the author’s emphasis on the idea that drove Bellows: Art is everywhere—in the streets and in citizens’ bustling, everyday lives and activities. Not surprisingly, beauty is easily found in these paintings, even those depicting a construction site and tenements. Some softer work is displayed, too, including tender paintings of Bellows’ wife and younger daughter. Burleigh’s robust voice suits his subject perfectly. He conveys immediacy and excitement by writing in the present tense and makes Bellows interesting and familiar without presuming prior knowledge. Archival photographs complement the reproductions of Bellows’ works in illustrating the brief book. A fine portrait of an artist not on everyone’s radar but whose work can be readily understood and appreciated by youngsters. (list of museums exhibiting Bellows’ work, source notes, bibliography, illustration credits, index) (Biography. 8-12)

BRIDGE OF TIME

Buzbee, Lewis Feiwel & Friends (304 pp.) $17.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-312-38257-5

on an entire conversation with one… simple LOOK.” Right before the eighth-grade field trip, they learn their respective parents plan to divorce. During the field trip to Fort Point, the distressed teens fall asleep in an old lighthouse and awaken in a San Francisco that’s “totally familiar and totally alien.” Even though they’re 148 years from home, neither Lee nor Joan wants to return to 2012 until a bit more time travel reassures them they can cope with the unpredictable future. With its subtext of friendship stretching through time, Buzbee’s complex timetravel sequence stresses the importance of having just the right companions. As in Steinbeck’s Ghost (2008), his use of history and period detail imparts a strong sense of place and introduces readers to another famous American writer’s youthful years in frontier San Francisco. An adventurous, fast-paced field trip to the past with a memorable travel guide. (Fantasy. 10-14)

ALFIE IS NOT AFRAID

Carlin, Patricia Illus. by Carlin, Patricia Disney Hyperion (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 29, 2012 978-1-4231-4537-0

A clichéd story accompanied by lessthan-engaging illustrations. With his nameless owner narrating, a black-and-white dog named Alfie prepares for the quintessential backyard campout. The young boy is full of pride for his brave pup, rattling off all of dangers of which Alfie is not afraid—grizzly bears, poisonous spiders and boa constrictors, to name a few. As the list of terrors lengthens, the little dog reassesses this camping idea and is eventually found quaking with fear in the sleeping bag. As night falls, the drop of a nearby acorn morphs into deadly asteroids and alien invasions. What can possibly happen next? As the boy’s imagination plucks out a multitude of canned fears, it is mildly humorous to see the myriad ways the panicked dog is imagined. But there is little visual attraction to either the fearful dog or his blustering owner. The illustrations are flat and unsubtle, with pages alternating between multiple black outlined scenes that represent the dog’s imagination and the camping expedition. Even the typeface choices seem simply stuck onto the page. There are enough camping stories available to demand a stronger story before adding this to the shelf. Consider Tom Birdseye and Ethan Long’s Oh, Yeah! (2003) for backyard-camping fun instead. (Picture book. 4-8)

Best friends living in contemporary San Francisco find themselves “unstuck,” landing in 1864 with the future Mark Twain as their flamboyant companion in this original time-travel tale. Laid-back Lee Jones and uptight Joan Lee are perfectly mismatched mirror images, able to “carry 726

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“A Pixar film with an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short is transformed into a picture book with decidedly mixed results.” from la luna

LA LUNA

Casarosa, Enrico Illus. by Casarosa, Enrico Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $14.99 | May 15, 2012 978-1-4231-3766-5 A Pixar film with an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short is transformed into a picture book with decidedly mixed results. The textures and colors, blues, greens and golds, are simply beautiful, as the three characters, a boy, his hugely mustachioed father and his hugely bearded grandfather take their little boat, La Luna, out. The boy is going to work with the men for the very first time. The great moon rises from the sea, and the boy climbs a ladder to the moon, finding its surface covered in glittering stars. This family’s job is to clean up the moon, but his father says one way and his grandfather another. A huge star crashes into the moon, and while his father and grandfather argue about how to deal with it, the boy taps it. The star breaks into a plethora of tiny stars, and the three sweep them all up, “each in his own way.” The film, which won’t be seen until June, when it precedes Pixar’s Brave, is visible in 30-second clips online and is almost entirely wordless. (The book’s text writer gets a tiny credit line, “Words by Kiki Thorpe.”) Its tender story about generations and carrying on the work, alas, does not quite come across with words on paper. Rich and lovely to look at, but probably much more evocative as a memory of the animated short rather than a thing in itself. (Picture book. 5-9)

DEAD TIME

Cassidy, Anne Walker (256 pp.) $16.99 | May 23, 2012 978-0-8027-2351-2 Series: The Murder Notebooks, A bumpy series opener takes readers to modern London. After a disastrous year at boarding school, 17-year-old Rose Smith has transferred to a dodgy local high school in London. The disappearance of her mother and mother’s boyfriend five years earlier has landed her with her posh grandmother, who forbids her to see the boyfriend’s son, Joshua. Just as Rose and Joshua reconnect, Rose’s classmates start turning up dead, and she can’t resist the temptation to investigate on her own, even when it puts her in danger. Meanwhile, Joshua draws Rose closer in his own pursuit of the truth about their parents’ disappearance, leading Rose to struggle with conflicting feelings that will resonate with readers of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Rose’s thorny personality—several characters tell her that she’s hard to like—is only partially mitigated by stiff, third-person glimpses into her personality. In clipped sentences, this formulaic mystery supplies the usual |

panoply of suspects and red herrings. The plot is awkwardly elliptical; crucial historical details are withheld from readers until nearly halfway through the tale, and repeated allusions to a devastating betrayal at boarding school are never explained. As the first installment in the Murder Notebooks series, the tale leaves most questions still unanswered. For murder-mystery fans, there is enough suspense to keep the pages turning, but this story is not likely to convert teens to the genre. (Mystery. 12 & up)

FIGHTING FOR DONTAE

Castan, Mike Holiday House (144 pp.) $16.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-8234-2348-4

Middle school proves particularly difficult for Javier when he is assigned to spend time helping students in the special-education program. Javier is about to enter middle school in a small California town with little to offer. He lives with his mother, who struggles with finances and drugs, and sometimes his father, when he is between jail stints. Javier and his friends are expected to be in a gang and constantly work to prove their toughness. Javier also knows enough to hide that he likes to read and how much he wants to avoid trouble. When he is given a service assignment working with specialeducation students, Javier is dismayed because it means more taunts and teasing. He does not expect his work reading with severely disabled Dontae to change him and provide a level of connection that has been missing in his life. This story, simple in both language and characterization, demonstrates the inevitability of a future on the margins for minority males without some help staying on track. His father is able to articulate it even as he is powerless to change. “I mean, it’s easy to say you want to do something, but can you see the path? Shoot, man. I wanted to do a lot of things, but I had no idea how to even start. And then sometimes you do see the path, but it gets blurry again.” Reluctant teen readers will identify with Javier’s efforts to negotiate a world with few positive options. (Fiction 11-13)

PLANT A LITTLE SEED

Christensen, Bonnie Illus. by Christensen, Bonnie Neal Porter/Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $17.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-59643-550-6 In reverent lines punctuated with occasional and near rhyme, a girl narrates the cycle of working a communitygarden plot over three productive seasons. She and her friend (a boy) plan, plant, tend and harvest fruits, veggies and flowers. Their moms help with autumn’s

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lush bounty: “We gather in our garden’s gifts / to pickle, bake, or freeze, or dry, / then cook a glorious autumn / feast—soups and salads, / cakes and pies.” At the culminating meal, the two families give thanks “for seeds and soil, rain and sun / and all the springtimes yet to come,” and the last double-page spread shows the friends sowing seeds anew. Christensen’s pictures— rich, brushy reds, greens and golds contoured with thick, inky black line—convey visual affirmations of friendship, cooperation and patience through changing seasons. Basic biological facts about plants, arranged on seed packets scattered across a final page, are reinforced visually throughout. A yellow dog and a rabbit (followed by the inevitable bunny babies) make frequent appearances, and even a raccoon in the corn seems less a pest than part of an idyllic, ecological whole. Text and pictures align nicely in this fresh celebration of gardening as food for both body and soul. (Picture book. 3-7)

HANGING OFF JEFFERSON’S NOSE Growing Up on Mount Rushmore Coury, Tina Nichols Illus. by Comport, Sally Wern Dial (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-8037-3731-0

You’re a dutiful son; your father, renowned sculptor Gutzon Borglum, designed the presidential monuments on Mount Rushmore. You finish the job when your father dies, but history will ignore you. This book’s aim is to rectify history’s misstep. It takes readers from Lincoln Borglum’s shy childhood to the beginning of the project in 1927, when he was a teen, and on through its completion 14 years later. Lincoln was deeply involved, working at many grueling tasks alongside hundreds of crewmen. Readers learn that Gutzon designed a Hall of Records, never constructed, to be built behind the sculptures. They also discover that Jefferson’s head was once carved on a different site on the mountain but had to be demolished and reconstructed elsewhere. Lincoln did swing under a president’s nose, although, despite the title, the author doesn’t confirm it was Jefferson’s. Mount Rushmore commemorates four presidents; this serviceably written book memorializes the younger Borglum. Lincoln is sympathetic, and readers will be glad he enjoyed future success, described in an afterword. The acrylic-and-pastel paintings are rendered in earth and muted tones and give a sense of the monument’s scale. The final endpapers depict the four presidents; younger children would benefit from their being identified. A mostly outdated, seemingly child-unfriendly bibliography is unhelpful. Much has been written for children about Mount Rushmore. While this isn’t a must-have, it offers a new approach to this landmark. (Picture book/biography 7-10)

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YES, YES, YAUL!

Czekaj, Jef Illus. by Czekaj, Jef Disney Hyperion (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-4231-4682-7

Hip and Hop (Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop!, 2010) return to put some positive vibes into the life of a Mr. Negativo. Czekaj’s rap duo has taken the show on the road for the summer. They have wowed the crowds all across Oldskool County with their blend of jazzy and languorous rapping. Hip, being a turtle, rhymes to his own relaxed beat, while Hop, a rabbit, puts a little zip into her phrasings, and readers are encouraged to follow suit. The raps have the kind of engaging splash that ought to get those same readers into the mix, maybe throwing down a few of their own lines to go with “We’re leaping frogs / and chilling on logs,” and “We’re holding our breath, / while still looking def.” But one of the book’s characters, Yaul the porcupine, isn’t impressed. Actually, Yaul isn’t impressed by anything: not rainbows or butterflies, not stylish mittens, fuzzy kittens, carrots or parrots. It takes an itchy sweater to turn Yaul’s head around—to learn that he can chill enough to get excited about the world around him (maybe not sewer grates, admittedly)—which is appropriately out of left field to go along with the rest of the story. Czekaj’s tale radiates good cheer, in both its snappy dialogue and its vitalizing artwork, and effectively counsels that involvement is one of the keys to living. (Picture book. 3-7)

ISLAMIC MANNERS ACTIVITY BOOK

D’Oyen, Fatima Illus. by Zulkifli, Azhar Kube Publishing (64 pp.) $5.95 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-0-86037-463-3 Coloring pages, connect-the-dot pictures, mazes and educational exercises fill this book that deals with many different topics, including common courtesy, animals and modes of transportation. Typical coloring-book black line drawings showing children and families in different regions, some wearing traditional clothing and some wearing contemporary outfits, testifying to the omnipresence of Islam. All females are shown wearing hijab, except for the school bullies shown waiting to catch Amira in one maze and the mother and girls in a family whose members “don’t know much about Islamic manners.” The most useful parts of the book are the language lessons: one with the word “welcome” in 10 languages and other pages with Arabic words and expressions with English transliterations and Arabic calligraphy. (These words connect to a cloze activity in which a child has to insert the correct word in different sentences, a clearly didactic exercise.) There are also related cards with English

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definitions, transliterations and Arabic lettering. These cards, including words such as jazakalla, “We thank others by saying this (may Allah reward you),” can be cut out and used for matching games. While not useful for libraries, Muslim parents seeking educational materials on Islam and the Arabic language may want to purchase this for their children. There is even a “Certificate of Achievement.” Candy-coated, old-fashioned educational coloring book for a very specific audience. (Activity book. 4-8)

THE BELL BANDIT

Davies, Jacqueline Houghton Mifflin (192 pp.) $15.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-547-56737-2 Series: The Lemonade War, 3 When siblings Jessie and Evan (The Lemonade War, 2007, and The Lemonade Crime, 2011) accompany their mother on the timehonored midwinter holiday visit to their grandmother’s home in the mountains, the changes are alarming. Fire damage to the house and Grandma’s inability to recognize Evan are as disquieting as the disappearance of the iron bell, hung long ago by their grandmother on Lowell Hill and traditionally rung at the New Year. Davies keeps a tight focus on the children: Points of view switch between Evan, with his empathetic and emotional approach to understanding his world, and Jessie, for whom routine is essential and change a puzzle to be worked out. When Grandma ventures out into the snow just before twilight, it is Evan who realizes the danger and manages to find a way to rescue her. Jessie, determined to solve the mystery of the missing bell, enlists the help of Grandma’s young neighbor Maxwell, with his unusual habitual gestures and his surprising ability to solve jigsaw puzzles. She is unprepared, however, for the terror of seeing the neighbor boys preparing a mechanical torture device to tear a live frog to pieces. Each of the siblings brings a personal resilience and heroism to the resolution. A fine emotional stretch within reach of the intended audience. (Fiction. 8-11)

THE GREAT CAT CONSPIRACY

Davies, Katie Illus. by Shaw, Hannah Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (224 pp.) $12.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4424-4513-0 In their latest adventure, enterprising 9-year-olds Anna and Suzanne tackle dictatorship (parental veto on removing the walls separating their homes), animal disappearances (cats and the vicar’s prized koi), clutter (Dad’s) and hoarding (the Cat Lady’s). |

Everyone’s relieved when the fierce New Cat, known for hunting small animals and hiding their remains, goes missing. Everyone, that is, except Anna’s little brother Tom; the New Cat rescued him from Miss Matheson’s Chihuahua (its bite is worse than its bark). Abetted by elderly neighbors Mr. Tucker and former policewoman Mrs. Rotherham, the children investigate suspects: Anna’s parents (compensating the vicar, whose prize koi eaten by the New Cat cost them 220 pounds), the vicar and Miss Matheson. Then there’s the Cat Lady, whose cat-filled home is shrouded in mystery and piles of junk. As usual, the text is enhanced by dictionary definitions—AWOL, abduct, interrogate, stakeout—lists, diagrams and, especially, Shaw’s inspired, ironic illustrations. Davies is adept at portraying the gulf between adults’ stated beliefs and their behavior, and mixed motives guide everyone’s actions. The subtle pathos that underlies the lighthearted humor throughout this series is prominent here; the astringent, sobering ending leaves readers with questions to ponder. (Fiction. 8-12)

THE PUNK ETHIC

Decker, Timothy Namelos (186 pp.) $18.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-60898-120-5

A month in the life of a blunt, cynical punk-rock guitarist. Readers meet Martin through a combination of contemplative black-andwhite illustrations, episodic first-person narration, italicized internal monologues and excerpted school papers. Through Martin’s eyes, they also meet best friend Jeff, whose relationship with Martin seems based on mutual antagonism, and photographer and fellow musician Holly, who lets Martin use her computer to do homework. There’s no real hook to the plot, but there is motion: After Martin’s English teacher responds to his paper on landmines with a Theodore Roosevelt quotation (“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have”), Martin assembles, promotes and finally emcees a benefit concert. Meanwhile, romantic tension and misunderstandings build between Martin and Holly. Each narrative segment is dated, and every day from April 2 to April 30 is covered, contributing to the episodic, haphazard feel. Incidents and dialogue sometimes move the story forward and sometimes don’t (a concert-going girl’s insistence that Martin wear a Band-Aid on his ring finger, for instance, is never explained to Martin or to readers). A revelation at the end is heavier than the rest of the story but not completely out of place. Funny and unusually freeform, but then, maybe rigid narrative structure is for losers. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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PROJECT JACKALOPE

A friendly mouse and a smiling blue bird of comparable size appear near her on every page, adding a soupçon of whimsy. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Sublime for young and old, and full of heart. (Picture book. 3-6)

Ecton, Emily Chronicle (268 pp.) $15.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4521-0155-2

Be afraid of the horned bunny. Homicidal rabbits are an important part of Western culture. Think of the killer bunny from Monty Python or the vampire rabbit in Bunnicula. Jack is not, technically speaking, a rabbit. The antlers growing out of his head suggest he’s a jackalope. Professor Twitchett is too sensible to believe in mythical creatures, so he just calls Jack “one of my experiments.” And his experiment is ruining Jeremy’s life. The professor has disappeared, and now Jeremy—who hasn’t even finished junior high—is on the run from the men in black, with an “animal hybrid” in his backpack. It might sound like a screwball comedy, and there are several funny bits of slapstick (flying pans, a vomiting giraffe). But, surprisingly, Jack is offstage for most of the novel, which seems like a waste of a perfectly good jackalope. Still, the conspiracy elements make this book a very satisfying thriller (although alert readers will have figured out the villains’ identities long before the end of the book). Jack does sing a hilarious chorus of “Happy Trails.” And when he finally gives in to his violent tendencies, he establishes himself as a worthy member of the comic tradition. Jack may not make it into the pantheon of great killer rabbits, but many readers will still be eager for a sequel. (Caper comedy. 8-12)

ZOO GIRL

Elliott, Rebecca Illus. by Elliott, Rebecca Lion/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $14.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7459-6323-5 A lonely orphan girl finds her true friends within the walls of the zoo. She has no family and no name (at least in the story). While the other children play on the swing set and slide outside the orphanage, she sits huddled on the grass far away from them. But the mere sight of the animals at the zoo brings a big smile to her face. One day she’s left behind there after a visit; she watches the big bus driving away. It might be a scary situation for some, but the little girl plays happily with the polar bear, the penguins and the elephant, among others. Eventually she’s found, sleeping snugly with a mama tiger and her cub. “Don’t take me!” She cries. But the pair of zoo workers who find her have a surprise. They want to adopt her, the happiest ending one can imagine. “A family.” Elliot’s lovely story is arrestingly told, in beautiful, a textured mixed-media illustrations that are evocatively minimalist and ingeniously composed, with hardly any text (there are fewer than 20 words all together). Readers are invited to imagine the untold details. 730

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KIDS OF KABUL Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War

Ellis, Deborah Groundwood (144 pp.) $15.95 | $15.95 e-book | May 15, 2012 978-1-55498-181-6 978-1-55498-203-5 e-book The author of the Breadwinner trilogy turns from fictional Afghani children to real ones. The 10- to 17-year-olds interviewed for this collection mostly don’t remember the Taliban’s fall more than a decade ago, but they can’t help but be shaped by the damage the Taliban did to their country. In a country that’s been at war for more than 30 years, childhood is very different—or is it? After an over-earnest opening, with teens who have overcome great hardship and want only to succeed in school, this collection diversifies. Parwais has never been to school and wants only to keep his warm, dry job as a museum cleaner. Palwasha, who studies computer science at university, plays for the Afghan Women’s National Football Team and aims “to become the best referee in Afghanistan.” Fareeba doesn’t speak for herself; the mental-hospital inmate has a cognitive disability and no access to the medical or educational opportunities that might help her find language. Angela, meanwhile, attends American University in Kabul and hopes to attend Brown. One girl is imprisoned for fleeing a forced child marriage, while another’s mother is a member of Parliament; one boy’s damaged by a landmine, and another’s proud to be a Scout. The most cutting words are those of 14-yearold Shabona: “Do you have war in Canada? Maybe it is your turn, then.” Clear introductions to each young person provide historical, legal and social context. This nuanced portrayal of adolescence in a struggling nation refrains, refreshingly, from wallowing in tragedy tourism and overwrought handwringing. Necessary. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

THE LOST CODE

Emerson, Kevin Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (448 pp.) $17.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-06-206279-6 Series: The Atlanteans, 1 Coming-of-age story meets conspiracy thriller at a summer camp in a post– climate-catastrophe world. During his first full day at Camp Eden Owen drowns. In the 10 minutes he’s underwater before

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“[Feinstein] folds plenty of dramatic sports action as well as behind-the-scenes banter and personal and family conflict into a plot that moves smoothly to a suspenseful climax.” from rush for the gold

lifeguard (and Owen’s crush) Lilly rescues him, he survives by sprouting gills. Camp Eden exists in a distant future wrecked so severely by global warming that it must be contained in climatecontrolled BioDome. Owen’s disastrous introduction to the camp is normal for him—he isn’t a privileged full-time dome resident, but a kid who won a lottery to attend camp, socially awkward and physically weak. Lilly warns him not to reveal his gills to the staff and invites him into the counselor-in-training clique for secret swims with their shared mutations. Investigating the camp—why would letting the camp director know about the gills be dangerous?—leads to his discovery that the dome is close to failing, as well as hints at a larger scheme that will doom or save the world. The conspiracy hinges on Owen. Minor social conflicts fail to ramp up enough tension until the long-awaited main plot begins in earnest—more than halfway through—bringing high stakes. The plot suffers from the pacing, but it ends with a big finish. Between Owen, likable in his thoughtfully awkward way while evolving into a hero, and the lovingly crafted setting, Camp Eden offers summer escapism. (Science fiction. 11-17)

RUSH FOR THE GOLD Mystery at the Olympics

Feinstein, John Knopf (320 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 May 22, 2012 978-0-375-86963-1 978-0-375-98455-6 e-book 978-0-375-96963-8 PLB Feinstein’s latest tale of chicanery in big-time sports sends teen journalist Stevie Thomas to London to cover the Olympics, where his usual partner Susan Carol is swimming for gold. A win at the Worlds has turned Susan Carol into a national celebrity and brought a whirl of lucrative marketing deals her way. It has also put her at odds with her father, who has fallen thoroughly under the influence of pushy agent J.P. Scott. Stevie covers the progress of his beautiful, brilliant, talented girlfriend for a Washington paper as she makes her way through the Olympics Trials and then the early heats in London. He begins to smell a rat when he spots an associate of J.P.’s meeting with a hotlooking Russian swimmer who is competing against her. A slimy marketer’s careless comment later, Stevie knows the fix is in. As is his wont, Feinstein salts the cast with real athletes and other figures from Michael Phelps to Bob Costas. He folds plenty of dramatic sports action as well as behind-the-scenes banter and personal and family conflict into a plot that moves smoothly to a suspenseful climax. Though the evidence fingering a bribed Olympics judge is rather conveniently obtained, both the crime and the marketing pressures behind it are thoroughly believable. A fast-paced caper, with plenty to offer fans of both the Games and the less savory “games.” (Mystery. 10-14)

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BARNUM’S BONES How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World

Fern, Tracey Illus. by Kulikov, Boris Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (40 pp.) $17.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-374-30516-1

Presenting Barnum Brown, who, from the time he was named for circus impresario P.T., was destined to do unusual, important things. Obsessed from childhood with fossils—and blessed with an uncanny knack for finding them—Brown began hunting dinosaurs in the American West in the late 19th century. He was hired by New York’s Museum of Natural History to find specimens, since that institution had no dinosaur collection at the time. Discover them Brown did, though he didn’t unearth any new species—until, after several years of painstaking labor, he discovered the bones, including an intact skull, of the new creature he’d longed to find, later dubbed Tyrannosaurus rex. His “favorite child” took the world by storm, and the dapper Brown, in a career spanning more than six decades, went on to discover more dinosaur fossils than anyone. Fern fills her text with all the salient facts but uses a breezy, humorous, awestruck voice that strikes just the right tone in telling the story of this fascinating, quirky scientist. Kulikov’s wittily energetic, earth-toned watercolors enliven the text and add to the fun and interest. Children who gawp at dinosaur exhibits will realize a new appreciation for those who devote their lives to finding and resurrecting extraordinary animals from eons past. And who doesn’t love T. rex? (author’s note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 7-11)

TYLER MAKES PANCAKES!

Florence, Tyler Illus. by Frazier, Craig Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-204752-6

Do pancakes come from a box? Food Network star Florence has penned a children’s ode to the know-where-your-food-comes-from movement. A story told completely in dialogue, it begins with little Tyler waking from a dream in which he is the captain of a pancake spaceship. With full-on determination, he sets out on his mission to make pancakes, accompanied by his equally inquisitive dog, Tofu. Tyler’s first stop is Mr. Jones’ market for groceries. For each ingredient, the kind and patient grocer transports young Tyler out of the market and back to the farm, where chickens provide the eggs, cows provide the buttermilk and the wheat grows in flat places like Kansas. Florence brings home the message that the best

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“In this slim volume, Freedman makes a narrative challenge look effortless.” from abraham lincoln and frederick douglass

food has the best (or least processed) ingredients. Without the word “organic” appearing once, the cooking-from-scratch message is loud and clear. Capturing the spirit of curiosity is Frazier’s department. The renowned graphic designer has created Tyler as a stick figure with a big round head and a pink nose. Even with a limited palette of mostly blues and ochers, wonder, humor and clarity shine from the pages. The childlike perspective featuring enormous stacks of pancakes and tiny, distant adult faces invites readers into Tyler’s real and imagined worlds. A strong choice for foodies and all curious children. (recipe, informational page) (Picture book. 4-8)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS The Story Behind an American Friendship Freedman, Russell Clarion (128 pp.) $18.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-547-38562-4

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met only three times, but their friendship changed a nation. Lincoln was white and president of the United States; Douglass was black and a former slave. Yet they were kindred spirits: Both had risen from poverty to prominence, both were self-educated men and both had a book in common, Caleb Bingham’s The Columbian Orator. In fact, 12-year-old Douglass was secretly reading the book of speeches and dialogues in Baltimore at the same time Lincoln was reading it in Illinois, and the appendix here presents an excerpt, “Dialogue between a Master and Slave.” When they first met, in 1863, the nation was at war. Lincoln struggled to keep the nation together, while Douglass welcomed war as a first step toward ending slavery; Douglass was ever the voice of moral conscience, nudging Lincoln to do the right thing on behalf of the enslaved. In this slim volume, Freedman makes a narrative challenge look effortless. He tells the stories of two prominent Americans, traces the debate over slavery from the Missouri Compromise to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision and explains how these events created a momentum that pushed the nation toward war. He does all of this in a lucid and fascinating narrative that never sacrifices depth and intellectual rigor. A marvel of history writing that makes complicated history clear and interesting. (selected bibliography, notes, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

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THE GIANT SEED

Geisert, Arthur Illus. by Geisert, Arthur Enchanted Lion Books (32 pp.) $14.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59270-115-5 A welcome addition to Geisert’s gratifying series of wordless oddments features a volcano, a giant seed pod and, for sure, a bunch of pigs. A gathering of pigs live on an island. Don’t ask why, just get into the mood, as you did with Geisert’s recent production, Ice (2011), a story of another bunch of pigs living on an island, with different problems, but solved no less phantasmagorically. The pigs reside in a compound of very natty sties built at the foot of a towering volcanic peak. One day, the sea winds blow a supercolossal dandelion seed to the island. Unlike fastidious gardeners, who would have beat the seed to a pulp and tossed it in the waves, the pigs rally their forces in a terrific earthmoving project and plant the seed. Which is a good thing, for as the weed blossoms grandly, as dandelion seeds will, the volcano also gets active, raining blobs of molten lava down on the pigs’ homesteads. All of Geisert’s etchings are things of antique beauty—feasts for the eyes, the dandelion leaves alone are print-quality items—but the hail of lava has an otherworldly sinister loveliness. With the volcano spelling their doom, the pigs hitch rides on the gargantuan dandelion fluff to a neighboring island. This is a story of magic, etched with an everydayness that encourages readers to invite wonder, even bewilderment, into their lives. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE SCARIEST THING OF ALL

Gliori, Debi Illus. by Gliori, Debi Walker (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-8027-2391-8 Pip has many phobias, but when he faces one he overcomes all in this acceptable tale about surmounting one’s fears. A very little rabbit, Pip has a long list of fears. Even the most ordinary of things—rainfall, bubbles, tree stumps—debilitate the fretful bunny. Trying to escape his terrors, he falls asleep in the garden and awakes at suppertime, only to hear a frightful “Raar.” The dreadful noise follows him into the forest, until he’s thoroughly spooked. But when Pip realizes his stomach is making the “Rarrr” and that he is the scariest of things, he’s empowered. Former fears are dismissed as the rabbit hops home for dinner, and in a twist of events, the creepy creatures of Pip’s world (which are real and not imagined), now tremble at the thought of him. While the author works hard to hit all the right points, the text’s humor is labored, and Pip’s complete change of heart feels contrived. The watercolor-and-pen illustrations are cleanly done in a pastel palette. Much like the text, it is methodically applied, but not masterfully executed.

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Adequate, but this book is but one on a crowded overcoming-fears shelf. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE KINGFISHER SPACE ENCYCLOPEDIA

Goldsmith, Mike Kingfisher (160 pp.) $18.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-7534-6805-0

gleeful pride, and Dart’s exuberant personality is quickly conveyed through his bold actions and confident demeanor. (“Hey, cool outfit! Let’s race!”) Anyone who has been forced to wear an unwanted clothing gift or who has felt embarrassed by being different will relate to Zorro’s dilemma. At the dog park or the playground, social standing is a fluid world sensitive to change and the influence of a top dog. Mark this one “to read.” (Picture book. 3-7)

BON APPÉTIT The Delicious Life of Julia Child

A routine sweep through matters astronomical, more suitable (despite the title) for casual browsing than research

or quick reference. In a conventional single-topic-per-spread format, Goldsmith skims the history of astronomy and space exploration, tours the solar system and the universe beyond, then closes with glances at dark matter and other undiscovered territory. The illustrations, most of which are digital images rather than photos, have a staid look in keeping with a text that shares roughly equal space on each page and runs to drably phrased observations. “The outer layer of the Sun is full of activity, with constantly changing sunspots and other features.” Confusing oversimplifications (“The stars change throughout the year”) and some murky photos further mar the presentation. Moreover, frequent references to space films and novels, comments like “The usual fate of travelers who approach a black hole too closely is to be crushed” and views of futuristic spacecraft blur the lines between fact and fiction. Handsome, at first glance, and up to date enough to include a spread on Global Positioning Systems—but one of the dimmer stars in the topical firmament. (print, Web and film resources) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

ZORRO GETS AN OUTFIT

Goodrich, Carter Illus. by Goodrich, Carter Simon & Schuster (48 pp.) $15.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4424-3535-3

Zorro the pug and his canine pal, Mr. Bud, return for a second adventure (Say Hello to Zorro, 2011), this time focusing on Zorro and an unwanted gift of a hooded cape similar to that worn by the masked outlaw. When Zorro’s owner puts the cape on her dog, the precocious pug hangs his head in embarrassment at being forced to wear an “outfit.” On the way to the dog park, he is teased by the dogs on the corner and by Slim the alley cat, making him feel even worse. The situation improves dramatically with the arrival of Dart, a dashing dog in a striped coat and bandana, who makes wearing an outfit seem cool. The clever story is told with a minimum of text, just a line or two per page, along with dialogue incorporated into the amusing watercolor illustrations. Zorro displays a full range of emotions, from deepest shame to |

Hartland, Jessie Illus. by Hartland, Jessie Schwartz & Wade/Random (48 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $20.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-375-86944-0 978-0-375-96944-7 PLB

A homey biography introduces children to Julia Child. Julia Child’s imposing but unglamorous figure and rumbly voiced television presence charmed cooks and eaters alike, even as her cookbooks changed kitchen dynamics in many American households. Hartland uses a naive cartoon storytelling style—several scenes on a page, accompanied by an energetic handwritten, partly cursive text—to recount her journey to success as a renowned cook. Lively tableaux deliver an affectionate tribute to this strong-minded woman. Scenes from Julia’s tomboy childhood include mention of Julia’s large feet and the three foods her mother would make on cook’s night off: biscuits, codfish balls and Welsh rabbit. The book moves onto her brief career with the OSS, her marriage to Paul Child (and their mutual interest in food) and their move to Paris. From Julia’s education at Le Cordon Bleu and her subsequent success in producing cookbooks, it’s clear that Julia succeeded through her attention to detail and her luck in matching passion for food with her ability to cook it expertly. The 37 steps in Julia’s preparation of a galantine for her sister “Dort the Wort” are amusingly detailed, and though readers are not told whether Dorothy was impressed, the anecdote is telling. While these stories may be familiar to adult readers, they are here perfectly pitched to introduce the determined woman who became synonymous with French cooking in America. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-11)

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“Elephants have a storied history in children’s literature, from beloved Babar all the way up to Mo Willems’ current kid-favorite Gerald. Here, a new elephant family enters the pantheon.” from the gift box

THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM

Healy, Christopher Walden Pond Press/Harper Collins (432 pp.) $17.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-211743-4 Instead of finding Happily Ever After with their princesses, four Princes Charming (Prince Duncan insists they pluralize the noun, not adjective) must team up on a farcical quest to save their kingdoms. The bards have the story details wrong, and each Prince Charming that rescues a princess actually has a name. Bold, party-crashing Cinderella wants adventure more than sheltered Prince Frederic does. Prince Gustav’s pride is still badly damaged from having needed Rapunzel’s teary-eyed rescue. Through Sleeping Beauty, Prince Liam learns kissing someone out of enchanted sleep doesn’t guarantee compatibility, much to the citizens of both kingdoms’ ire. Although she loves wacky Prince Duncan, Snow White needs some solitude. The princesin-turmoil unite to face ridiculous, dangerous obstacles and another figure underserved by bards’ storytelling: Zaubera, the witch from Rapunzel’s story. Angered at remaining nameless, she plots to become infamous enough through ever-escalating evil that bards will be forced to name her in their stories. The fairy-tale world is tongue-in-cheek but fleshed out, creating its own humor rather than relying on pop-culture references. In this debut, Healy juggles with pitch-perfect accuracy, rendering the princes as goobers with good hearts and individual strengths, keeping them distinct and believable. Inventive and hilarious, with laugh-out-loud moments on every page. (Fantasy. 8 & up)

HORSE CAMP

Helget, Nicole & LeBoutillier, Nate Egmont USA (304 pp.) $15.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-60684-351-2 Twelve-year-old twins Penny and Percy and adopted brother Pauly are spending the summer on their Uncle Stretch’s farm while their parents try to straighten out their messed-up lives. Their parents imaginatively refer to this summer vacation as “Horse Camp,” but the horses are mean and the farm is much dirtier than any camp. Sanctimonious Penny, who relates her story through letters and a diary, hasn’t fallen far from her father’s tree—he’s a money-focused missionary Bible thumper with a heart that’s definitely not made of gold. Percy is less judgmental but viciously bullies preschooler Pauly and whines unpleasantly about any work he’s forced to do; he relates his side in alternating first person chapters. Both of them are trying to come to grips with their mother’s impending 734

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incarceration for illegally distributing medications to poor people in an attempt to alleviate their misery. Although both preteens are annoyingly obnoxious, the good will that surrounds them—in the form of earthy Stretch, his loving if sometimes unsophisticated girlfriend Sheryl and her cheerful, forgiving daughter June Bug—gradually alters their attitudes and results in a believable dual coming-of-age tale. While Penny and Percy are easy to dislike, it’s nonetheless oddly amusing to watch their evolution into more decent people, especially since readers have the fun of viewing the change from the pair’s richly biased viewpoints. (Fiction. 10-15)

THE GIFT BOX

Henry, Rohan Illus. by Henry, Rohan Abrams (32 pp.) $12.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0167-2 Elephants have a storied history in children’s literature, from beloved Babar all the way up to Mo Willems’ current kid-favorite Gerald. Here, a new elephant family enters the pantheon. Reminiscent of the books about both precursors, with an uncluttered design characterized by pale illustrations outlined in black on a clean, white background, this features Ollie, an elephant child, and his best friend Benjamin, a young dog. Ollie has been (over?)praised by his doting mother, who calls him a “beautiful gift.” When Ollie tries to get Benjamin to guess what he is, expecting Benjamin to say just what Mama Elephant did, Ollie’s disappointed with Benjamin’s heartfelt and kind answer: “That’s easy...You’re my best friend.” Ollie tries and tries to get Benjamin to give the “right” answer, disregarding each of Benjamin’s well-meaning attempts, resulting in sadness and frustration on both friends’ parts. This rings true for many young children, who are apt to see the world in only one way at first. It takes time—and, often, trial and error—to develop empathy. The open-ended finish is ingenious and satisfies without being too neat; young listeners may respond to the cue to come up with Ollie’s dearly-wished-for response, or they may come up with creative ones of their own. (Picture book. 2-6)

FORGET-ME-NOTS Poems to Learn by Heart

Hoberman, Mary Ann--Ed. Illus. by Emberley, Michael Little, Brown (144 pp.) $19.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-316-12947-3

Over 120 poems, with accompanying illustrations, selected to help young readers discover the pleasures of committing verse to memory. A good anthology, like a Whitman’s Sampler, should sate an immediate desire for sweet connection with its subject while

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“Cannel’s ink-and-watercolor illustration is endearingly old-fashioned: simple, whimsical and sophisticated at the same time….” from the elephant from baghdad

whetting the appetite for fuller indulgence later on. This collection, so full of promise given the combined talents of these longtime collaborators, falls short of that mark. Touted as a sampling of poems both “ ‘easy to remember’ and ‘worth remembering,’ “ it should present works that sit easily in the ear and/or prove memorable for their overall effect. While Hoberman does exhume a few gems from the vast corpus of British and American verse, and Emberley’s vivid characters make the space surrounding the selected works visually appealing to younger readers, the marriage of word and image here is not always a happy one. For example, next to Dickinson’s celebrated “I’m nobody! Who are you?” an overalls-clad, mouth-less boy looks quizzically at the close-lipped frog in his hands. Dickinson’s “frog,” who famously tells its “name the livelong day / To an admiring bog,” is anything but silent. Moreover, the grouping of poems throughout—sometimes by form, others by content—seems arbitrary, ultimately making the collection’s most memorable aspects Hoberman’s introduction and concluding “suggestions for learning poetry by heart.” An oversized, ambitious collection of verse that, in the end, proves sadly forgettable. (Poetry. 8-14)

THE MONKEY AND THE DOVE AND FOUR OTHER TRUE STORIES OF ANIMAL FRIENDSHIPS

Holland, Jennifer Workman (48 pp.) $7.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7611-7011-2 Series: Unlikely Friendships for Kids The author of an adult book about uncommon animal attachments invites emergent readers to share the warm (Unlikely Friendships, 2011). This is the first of four spinoffs, all rewritten and enhanced with fetching color photographs of the subject. It pairs a very young rhesus monkey with a dove, one cat with a zoo bear and another that became a “seeing-eye cat” for a blind dog (!), an old performing elephant with a stray dog and a lion in the Kenyan wild with a baby oryx. Refreshingly, the author, a science writer, refrains from offering facile analyses of the relationships’ causes or homiletic commentary. Instead, she explains how each companionship began, what is surprising about it and also how some ended, from natural causes or otherwise. There is a regrettable number of exclamation points, but they are in keeping with the overall enthusiastic tone. The sense of wonder that infuses each simply worded chapter is contagious, and some of the photos are soooo cuuuuute. (animal and word lists) (Nonfiction. 7-9)

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THE ELEPHANT FROM BAGHDAD

Holmes, Mary Tavener & Harris, John Illus. by Cannell, Jon Marshall Cavendish (40 pp.) $17.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7614-6111-1 Holmes, Harris and Cannel (A Giraffe Goes to Paris, 2010) again team up to tell a tale about a large exotic animal who historically ventured into European/Western territory. This time they reach back into the first millennium to look at a cross-cultural bridge constructed in the 9th century, when Charlemagne was emperor of most of Europe. The first-person narrative in the voice of the chronicling monk of St. Gall, Notker the Stammerer, tells how the emperor was interested in Harun al-Rashid, the famed caliph of Baghdad. Charlemagne dispatches some of his men to travel to Baghdad to meet with Harun. Charlemagne’s emissaries to Harun’s beautiful city are treated with interest and respect, introduced to “artists, musicians, scholars, mathematicians, architects, and poets” and sent home with extraordinary gifts. These include a wondrous mechanical clock, multiple treasures and an albino elephant named Abu and his Jewish caretaker, Isaac. They journey westward, following the same route across the Alps taken by Hannibal 500 years earlier. Cannel’s ink-and-watercolor illustration is endearingly old-fashioned: simple, whimsical and sophisticated at the same time, reminiscent of Virginia Kahl and Laurent de Brunhoff in its expressive cartoon lines and lively scenes. An authors’ note provides more information on the historical Notker the Stammerer and the famous clock, as well as providing sources for their story. Captivating and charming both as animal story and as a glimpse of historical East/West relations. (Picture book. 4-10)

CHICO THE BRAVE

Horowitz, David Illus. by Horowitz, David Nancy Paulsen Books (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-399-25636-3 Chico is a chicken—in both senses— until adventure earns him the title “The Brave.” Hatched in the Andes, Chico is literally terrified of his own shadow: “HELP! I’m being followed,” he cheeps as he scurries away. Attempting to comfort his son, Chico’s father invents a story about The Golden Chicken, saying, “Whenever there’s trouble, he, um, swoops down from those there mountains like lightning and saves the day.” Emboldened, Chico sets off to find his new hero, a bindle clutched under his wing. As he ventures forth, he passes a rooster hanging up “Wanted” posters of some nefarious-looking llamas, foreshadowing his eventual encounter with a herd of those same tough camelids—llamas

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who tease him when he asks about his hero. They send him on what might be termed a wild Golden Chicken chase to the top of a very tall, very scary mountain. Chico perseveres, only to end up being blown down from the mountaintop by a gust of wind. The llamas, now up to no good and persecuting Chico’s flock, see him descending and wonder if there really is a Golden Chicken superhero after all. They take off, and Chico emerges as the hero of his village. A humorous, original tale about one plucky clucker, distinguished by vibrantly colored, cartoonish illustrations that match the text’s hilarity on every page. (Picture book. 4-8)

I, TOO, AM AMERICA

Hughes, Langston Illus. by Collier, Bryan Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-4424-2008-3

A brilliant visual association between Hughes’ poem and the history of the Pullman porters illuminates a chapter of American history but gets bogged down in backmatter explaining its metaphors. The pagination sets a logical, steady pace for a loose visual narrative, opening with a train speeding past foregrounded cotton fields. The next spread is dominated by a portrait of a Pullman porter, with an American flag that the backmatter describes as a “light veil” over his face, and a glimpse of workers in the kitchen car. From there, the porters work with dignity “and grow strong” from scene to scene, until a wordless spread depicts a porter standing on the deck of the caboose and letting papers drift from his hands as though he were sending out a message of hard work, dignity and pride. Subsequent spreads, with recurring visual references to the American flag, feature scenes of people outside, in cities and on trains. Backmatter works hard (with far too much hand-holding) to explain what all of these flag references are supposed to convey. In all, it’s a beautiful visual interpretation of Hughes’s poem that fails to trust readers enough to let them come to their own understanding of the interplay of art and text. Enjoy the poem and the illustrations; skip the instructions. (Picture book. 8 & up)

BEA AT THE BALLET

Isadora, Rachel Illus. by Isadora, Rachel Nancy Paulsen Books (32 pp.) $12.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-399-25409-3

girls wear, the steps they practice and the studio where they dance. Readers can see the five basic positions, how feet point and flex and what fun leaping and landing “like a cat” can be. The narrative steps along smartly with just one or two sentences per page and speech bubbles for conversation. The children are outlined in black against white space, and their diversity shows through hair styles and facial features. A colorful array of leotards and dance shoes adds just the right touch of pizzazz. In one double-page spread, the boys and girls sit in a circle and clap hands as they listen to music, an activity that the nursery-school crowd will certainly recognize. Veteran author and illustrator Isadora has produced many wonderful stories of the ballet for young readers, including the Lili at Ballet series, and this one is as lovely and accomplished. Endowing the dancers with chubby legs and an occasional stumble just raises the irresistibility factor. Enjoy and dance along. (Picture book. 2-6)

BAT AND RAT

Jennings, Patrick Illus. by Cordell, Matthew Abrams (40 pp.) $16.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0160-3 A sweet friendship story hums with jazz and is heaped with ice cream. Bat and Rat have a lot going on. Denizens of the uptown Hotel Midnight, Bat lives on the 33rd floor and Rat in the basement. Bat composes and plays piano in their jazz duo, while Rat writes the lyrics and sings. She’s stymied with the words for their new tune, so the pair meets for ice cream. Cordell’s amusing watercolors depict a William Steig– esque menagerie at the ice cream parlor. A frog’s long tongue licks a cone held at arm’s length, and a weasel-like worker labors mightily on Bat’s towering, seven-scoop treat. Jennings’ oftencharming dialogue reveals the two friends’ characteristics: “Rat, can you hold my cone so I can fly up and lick my top scoop?” Alas, a skateboarding hare and zooming bus topple and flatten six of Bat’s scoops. Amid the flare of emotion over the spill (Bat chastises Rat, then apologizes), Rat finds the creative key to the song’s lyrics: She has many favorite things, but her “favorite favorite is Bat.” Concluding spreads depicting enthusiastic fans of many species at the hotel’s rooftop Twelve O’Clock Room and retrospective scenes of the friends’ good times are paired with the little song’s affirming lyrics. Cordell’s starry cityscapes combine with Jennings’ gentle text for an agreeable read-aloud—with a cherry on top. (Picture book. 4-8)

It’s a delightful day at ballet class for preschooler Bea and her dance mates. Isadora decorates Bea’s ponytails with pink ribbons and then introduces readers to the special clothing that boys and 736

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SIMON AND THE EASTER MIRACLE

romance is the manifestation of the larger problem. While Gray is a fully formed character, Dylan remains one-dimensional. While the story is not fatally flawed, readers will be left wondering if it is truly love or a complicated game. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Joslin, Mary Illus. by Luraschi, Anna Lion/Trafalgar (32 pp.) $14.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0745960586

THE IMMORTAL RULES

This unusual interpretation of the Easter story focuses not on Jesus, but on Simon of Cyrene, whose story is included in the Synoptic gospels. In simple language and with just a few sentences on each page, the narrative spotlight shines on Simon the farmer as he takes his produce to market on Good Friday. Armed guards in the street order Simon to carry a cross for an unnamed prisoner, who thanks Simon for his assistance. Simon hurries back to the market, with the crucifixion scene shown in the distance against a background of gray clouds. Simon’s produce is ruined except for a dozen eggs, which he finds on Sunday morning, broken open and empty. Twelve doves of peace circle over Simon’s head, and he recognizes that a miracle must have taken place, though what that is left open to interpretation. The short, touching story, with just an allusion to the cruelty of the crucifixion, can serve as an introduction to the Easter story for younger children. Uncomplicated illustrations in glowing jewel tones are large enough to be seen in a group storytime setting. This quiet, gentle story fills a need for Easter-themed stories that go beyond bunnies and Easter baskets. (Picture book/religion. 3-6)

FIRST COMES LOVE

Kacvinsky, Katie Houghton Mifflin (224 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-547-59979-3 An improbable romance develops between polar opposites during a long, hot Arizona summer. After his twin sister dies, Gray draws into himself, building up walls of cynicism and anger that no one can seem to breach. Enter Dylan. Eccentric and full of life, she sees Gray as a challenge. At first Gray resents her intrusion into his life, but when she fails to show up for several days, he finds himself missing her. What starts out as friendship deepens into something neither would have anticipated. Unfortunately the summer ends too quickly, leaving both questioning whether their love can last. Even though the narrative unfolds from alternating viewpoints, this is, at its heart, Gray’s story. Dylan, while interesting, lacks depth. While she seems to genuinely care for Gray, her plan to draw him out seems methodical rather than affectionate. Even though she is the one to profess love first, it is Gray who wants to hold them together, voicing his fear of losing her. Her answer? “Gray, I’m not yours to lose.” The uneven |

Kagawa, Julie Harlequin Teen (496 pp.) $18.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-373-21051-0 Series: Blood of Eden, 1

Meet 17-year-old Allie Sekemoto, a reluctant vampire struggling to hold on to her humanity and stave off the demon that lies in wait, thinly veiled beneath the surface of her undead skin. Over a half century after a plague has decimated the human race, vampires reign, and humans are little more than “blood bags” to serve their masters. Rabids, vicious hybrid creatures born of the plague, prowl the land beyond the walled vampire cities, eager for human prey. When Allie is savagely attacked by a rabid while scavenging for food, a mysterious vampire offers her the choice of a human death or “life” as a vampire. Ultimately forced to flee both the only city she’s ever known and her maker, Allie’s determination to remain more human than monster is put to the test, particularly when she joins a band of humans on a desperate journey to safety on the island of Eden. Particularly when she falls in love. Kagawa has done the seemingly impossible and written a vampire book, the first in a planned series, that feels fresh in an otherwise crowded genre. She mixes paranormal and dystopian tropes to good effect, creating a world that will appeal across audiences. Allie’s a smart, strong and compelling heroine, and readers will gladly join her for this adrenaline-rich ride. (Paranormal/dystopian romance. 14 & up)

CIVIL WAR DRUMMER BOY

Kay, Verla Illus. by Day, Larry Putnam (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-399-23992-2

The author’s note at the beginning sets the time and circumstance: April 21, 1861, when the first shots of the War Between the States were fired. This fictionalized account of a young drummer boy is told in brief four-line stanzas. “With his hopes high, / Lincoln leads. / Can’t prevent it— / South secedes. / … / Army calling, / ‘We need YOU!’ / Johnny joining, / Drumsticks, new.” The watercolor-andgouache illustrations provide visual context and depict historical details cited in the author’s note. For instance, a soldier floating above the landscape in a gas-filled observation balloon would

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h s t e fa n p e t ru c h a Having a family, a home and a life outside of an institution is a coveted luxury that many an orphans craved in turn-of-the-20th-century New York City. So after 14-year-old orphan Carver Young is fortunate enough to be adopted at his advanced age, he steps right into dreamy, conventional domesticity. Right? Wrong. When a crotchety man named Hawking, who happens to reside in a mental institution, adopts him, Carver is immediately swept into a secret world of crime detection, mesmerizing gadgetry and undercover operatives scrambling to solve a string of murders eerily similar to those of Jack the Ripper. Moreover, amid the hubbub of his new life, Carver discovers that his bloodlines have been harboring a horrible secret. Stefan Petrucha talks about his starting point for Ripper, his theories about Jack the Ripper and why John Huston still creeps him out.

Ripper

Stefan Petrucha Penguin (432 pp.) $17.99 Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-399-25524-3

Q: What came first, wanting to write a period crime novel or to further examine the case of Jack the Ripper? A: In a way, neither. Like everyone on the planet, I’m a big admirer of J.K. Rowling. Like most people on the planet, I’m also a fan of the Dave Barry/ Ridley Pearson Peter and the Starcatchers series. My initial desire was to write a grand, epic adventure along those lines. But, convinced history is every bit as fascinating as magic, I wanted to write something more grounded in the weirdness of reality than the reality of weirdness. I have a background in horror [the Wicked Dead series, Blood Prophecy, etc.], I’d written about Jack the Ripper previously [in Shadow of Frankenstein], and I’ve always been fascinated by quasi-steampunk things like the Alfred Beach pneumatic subway system. So, while it may seem odd, the combination felt completely natural. Q: Having researched the grisly Whitechapel murders, what are your theories of who Jack might have actually been?

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Q: Carver is understandably terrified of the possible threat of heredity. What are your thoughts on the great nature-vs.nurture debate? A: I think the truth is in between. Heredity provides a complex set of proclivities, leanings, raw abilities, etc. The environment determines to what use they’re put. Batman’s a pretty violent guy, for instance, but because he channels it at the bad guys, he’s a hero. So, things can always go either way. At 14, Carver has no idea what direction he’ll go in—and that would terrify anyone. Q: Hawking says seeing what one is made of is never a pleasant process for anyone. What figure, factual or fictional, do you think should really be afraid of this process and why? A: Well, as per Hawking, everyone. We like to think our “self ” is a solid thing, so it’s extremely uncomfortable and frightening to look at the “pieces”— for the first time anyway. Beyond that, there are doubtless horrid people completely comfortable with being horrid, so the answer would have to be someone who believed they were one thing, but was actually the opposite. A doctor convinced he wanted to help others but was actually a sadist, for example, or someone who thought themselves caring but actually only helped others for the sake of getting attention. Any dictator responsible for mass slayings come to mind—but there’s also the fear on my part that even if they saw what they were made of, they wouldn’t mind a bit. Q: Father of the year: Darth Vader or Noah Cross (John Huston in Chinatown)? A: Ha! The original Darth Vader from the first two movies was a fun villain—if someone annoyed him, he killed them. For me he reaches his peak as a “dark father” figure. But, as his soul is “saved” and later films depict his formative years as Anakin, I find him less and less interesting. I was hoping for a moment in his development where he just embraced his evil, but he always seemed ambivalent about it. The incestuous Noah Cross, on the other hand, gives me the creeps just thinking about him—especially that shot toward the end where he wraps his long bony fingers around his granddaughter’s shoulder. Brr. Now that’s Jack the Ripper. –By Gordon West

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p h oto © s a ra h k in n e y

A: I’m very fond of the way Saucy Jack plays out in the book, and there are no fewer than six official Ripper suspects who visited New York City, but clearly Ripper is speculation for the sake of adventure. As for reality, for a long time I considered Dr. Francis Tumblety a good bet. He was in Whitechapel at the time, deeply misogynist and carried around a collection of women’s uteruses in a suitcase. I mean, sheesh, what else do you need? Arrested in London, he fled to New York where he was kept under surveillance for a while. Another interesting suspect is James Kelly, who violently murdered his wife and was committed to an asylum. He escaped shortly before the Ripper slayings began, then left shortly after they stopped. Forty years later, he showed up at the asylum to check himself back in. He wrote a journal about his travels to

London, NYC and elsewhere, and about being “on the warpath.” He certainly had the personality for it. As for Jack’s motives, scores of treatises on the psychology of serial killers have been written, too complicated to go into here. Suffice it to say, I think he was crazy.


signal the drummer boy to relay his orders to the troops with his drum. While the text’s catchy rhythm and rhyme would seemingly lend itself to a young audience, it does not pull punches with the subject. “Soldiers shooting. / Rifles aimed. / Bullets buzzing, / Bodies maimed. / ... / Cannons blasting, / Smoke-filled sky. / Fierce-fought battle, / Soldiers die.” The clipped verse relies on readers’ having some familiarity with the Civil War. Plus, the boy’s voice becomes clouded by the poetry, further hampering the book’s ability to connect with readers. While the verse form seems to aim the book at preschoolers and early-elementary children, its subject and need for prior knowledge demand older readers, who will likely reject the format. Other drummer-boy accounts exist; this one is a cannon-shot shy of making its mark. (Picture book. 8-11)

CHAINED

Kelly, Lynne Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (256 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-374-31237-4 Can a friendship born in mutual bondage save a boy and an elephant calf in modern India? When 10-year-old Hastin’s sister Chanda contracts a fever, their mother must take a job in the city with an abusive employer to pay the doctors. In hopes of freeing her from her obligations, Hastin looks for a job for himself. He lucks into a position as an elephant keeper at a faltering circus owned by the seemingly friendly businessman Timir, who hopes to bring the enterprise back to life. The job, in a jungle far from home, turns out to be more indentured servitude than employment. After a time, it is only Hastin’s love and pity for his charge, 2-year-old Nandita, that keeps him from running away on his own. With the guidance of kindly, old Burmese cook Ne Min, Hastin plots to save Nandita from Timir and his cruel elephant trainer, Sharad. Kelly’s fine debut brings the jungles of India to life. She skillfully traces the development of Hastin’s relationships with Nandita and Ne Min while carefully building the boy’s character as he comes of age. Readers may become frustrated that Hastin passes up several opportunities to escape with his elephant friend, but the touching finale will all but make up for that. The cruelty toward both humans and animals is honestly conveyed. A heartfelt if at times emotionally trying addition to the literature promoting better treatment of our fellow animals. (afterword) (Fiction. 9-12)

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STORM

Kemmerer, Brigid Kensington (432 pp.) $9.95 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-0-7582-7281-2 Series: The Elemental Series, 1 A refreshingly human paranormal romance. Becca has never paid much attention to the Merrick brothers, until she sees the youngest, Chris, getting beat up by some bullies. Having lost their parents, Michael, the eldest, acts as his brothers’ guardian while running his landscaping business. The twins, Gabriel and Nick, are at school with Becca and Chris. That they all have paranormal abilities relating to the classical elements is slowly revealed, but this revelation is nicely paralleled by Becca’s own growth, as she gradually gains some control of her own life after being sexually attacked by a group of guys when she was drunk. Becca’s best friend Quinn is far more comfortable with her sexuality than Becca. All the relationships unfold with a natural pacing and just enough surprises. The romantic triangle among Becca, Chris and new arrival Hunter dwells on human details and stays just this side of too much information. The big reveal is a bit absurd when examined, but no one should look at any of this closely. Oddly, a prequel follows the end of the story, providing some of the Merricks’ back story. Read fast and keep that heart rate up. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

MONSTERS ON THE MARCH

Kent, Derek Taylor Illus. by Fischer, Scott M. Harper/HarperCollins (256 pp.) $15.99 | PLB $16.89 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-06-16095-6 978-0-06-196096-3 PLB Series: Scary School, 2

A new semester of “learning, horror, and mayhem” at a school where all the faculty and half of the students are monsters, the narrator is a ghost and the Locker of Infinite Oblivion is just one of the dark fates awaiting incautious passersby. With the same danger of sudden death but a lower body count than its predecessor, Scary School (2011), this patchy sequel opens with the rescue of a class that has been trapped on an endless slide all summer. (This was chronicled in an added chapter of Scary School buried on the author’s website.) It climaxes with a spirited defense of the school against an army of karate monsters and along the way introduces characters like budding author Steven Kingsley and aptly named Tanya Tarantula to join continuing ones. Among the latter shines weirdly ordinary Charles Nukid, whose struggles to escape the amorous advances of the Monster King’s daughter, Princess Zogette (“I have always had a thing for younger men. I am a quarter cougar, after all”), precipitate

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the climactic battle. Fischer’s black-and-white views of sober children and leering but unfrightening creatures reinforce the underlying premise that it’s all in fun. Even readers with a hearty appetite for monsters may find the onslaught becoming tedious after the first dozen or so episodes, though. A joke that is on its way to wearing thin. (website) (Fantasy. 8-11)

be stopped! When they discover that Ty is abysmal at rapping, they devise a talent show to embarrass him in front of the whole school, but do they have the heart to go through with the plan? Kowitt’s second Wimpy Kid–esque tale of middle-school fringers pretty much repeats the first. Line drawings with plenty of goofiness and grossness will add to the appeal. An easy read with a good heart; fans of the first will respond well again. (Fiction. 9-12)

DUCK SOCK HOP

FROM WHAT I REMEMBER

Kohuth, Jane Illus. by Porter, Jane Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-8037-3712-9

Kramer, Stacy & Thomas, Valerie Hyperion (480 pp.) $16.99 | May 15, 2012 978-1-4231-5508-9

Put on your jazziest socks and get ready to bop, ‘cause it’s duck hop time! In syncopated rhymes, this “quackerjack” of a silly story will have toes tappin’ and little hands clappin’. “Ducks pull socks from a big sock box:” socks with stripes, spots, squares, dots, stars, moons, cars and spoons. “Warm up, wiggle, stretch your beak. / Duck Sock Hop comes once a week.” The music starts, and “[t]hree ducks boogie, one duck rocks. / Two ducks stop and trade their socks.” With each spread, the dancing ducks get livelier and more animated, until the music stops and they all need new socks. The bright colors of the illustrations paint different patterns on each duck, entirely separate from their wild and crazy socks. Set against white backgrounds, they pop and rock with the rhythm of the rhymes. Ready made for wonderful fun at story time (sock theme, anyone?) or as one rollicking lap read, but be prepared, as kids will flock to hear it again. And after just one or two reads, they will be chanting along with the adults. A webbed-foot folly that makes a tale most jolly. (Picture book. 3-5)

REVENGE OF THE LOSER

Kowitt, H.N. Illus. by Kowitt, H.N. Scholastic (240 pp.) $9.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-545-39926-5 Series: The Loser List, 2

THE HAND-ME-DOWN DOLL

What’s a former “loser” to do when the absolute perfect dude moves to town (from California, of course) and draws the attention of everyone? In the series opener, Danny Shine, comics lover and best artist at Gerald Ford Middle School, and his best friend, brainiac Jasper, managed to get their names off the Loser List (a secret list in the girl’s second-floor bathroom, managed by school bully and diva Chantal). They’re not the most popular guys in school, but they have a seat at lunch and some respect for their individual talents. Then along comes Ty, with his cool looks and his admirable fundraising for good causes and his positive attitudes and helpful nature... Danny and Jasper decide he must 740

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What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, unless it forces you to show up late to high-school graduation in a squad car wearing a red Mexican wedding dress. Just how did Kylie Flores, class valedictorian from the wrong side of the tracks, and Max Langston, the king of Freiburg Academy’s richest and hottest, wind up in bed together in Ensenada, Mexico, on graduation morning? This breezy romp takes readers along for the ride as the teens piece together the details of their wild night. Kylie’s best friend Will, her brother Jake and Max’s girlfriend Lily also lend their voices to the story. Jake, who suffers from Asperger’s, adds a particularly distinctive perspective. And while the number of teens coming out may push the believability factor, the depiction of their relationships with both friends and love interests feels real and positive. It’s no surprise that both Kramer and Thomas share common roots in the film industry. Their love of the medium comes through not only in Kylie and Will’s passion for quoting movies but also in the fastpaced action sequences that seem made for the big screen. Though some subplots feel superfluous, the twists and turns make for an enjoyable ride that readers will likely remember. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Kroll, Steven Illus. by Andreasen, Dan Marshall Cavendish (32 pp.) $17.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7614-6124-1

A beautiful doll is given to a spoiled little girl who doesn’t appreciate the gift. The doll sits on the shelf, unnamed and unloved. She eventually begins a long, lonely journey as she is passed from place to place, each time hoping to find someone who will love her. She decorates a vegetable farm stand, becomes a prize in a carnival game and is finally sold by a street urchin for a nickel. The little girl who buys her names her Kaylee and loves her dearly; she is home at last. Kroll revisits a tale

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“Who wouldn’t want a French-speaking, beret-wearing robot for a brother?” from brother from a box

he originally wrote in 1983 with illustrations by Evaline Ness. In this new version, he tweaks it a bit, but leaves the text basically intact, carefully maintaining the essential sweetness of this ever-wistful and patient doll. Andreasen zooms in on the events in vibrant, large-scale close-ups rendered in oil paint on shellacked Bristol board. Each character’s expressions and body language carefully match behavior, and each location is textured and detailed, evoking an earlier time without specific markers. Remarkably, although the doll’s face never actually changes, a slight change in perspective or light or tilt of the head clearly indicates her feelings of hopefulness, sadness or contentment at each turn of events. A gentle, satisfying reminder of the universal need for love and home. (Picture book. 4-8)

BROTHER FROM A BOX

Kuhlman, Evan Illus. by Bruno, Iacopo Atheneum (288 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4424-2658-0

Who wouldn’t want a French-speaking, beret-wearing robot for a brother? When a peculiar package arrives from France, 12-year-old Matt unpacks a robot. He is not all that surprised to learn that his father and uncle, both genius computer scientists, have created two robot children and plan to have them live as members of their respective families for a year before revealing their existence to the world. Matt adapts quickly, dubbing his new brother Norman and helping him to get used to life in America and the routines of school and family life. It’s not all smooth sailing, though—Matt’s mom is disturbed to discover how much Norman looks like a child she lost years before, Norman suffers from a computer virus and suddenly a couple of strange men seem to be paying too much attention to Norman and Matt. Written in Matt’s clever, casual and funny voice, this is a page-turner filled with fun, intrigue and suspense that sneaks in some important and timely questions. What does it mean to be human? How far should science really go in the name of preserving, protecting or even recreating life? How does profound grief affect our decisions and relationships? Equally entertaining and thought-provoking, this one will appeal to science-fiction and suspense fans as well as those readers who tend toward more character and relationship-focused selections. (Science fiction. 9-12)

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ISLAND OF THIEVES

Lacey, Josh Houghton Mifflin (240 pp.) $15.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-547-76327-9 What kid doesn’t dream of swashbuckling adventures in faraway places, freed from the strictures of parents, school, siblings and caregivers? Tom Trelawney gets to experience a real adventure in this rollicking tale, but it may just be more than

he bargained for. It all starts when Tom nearly ruins his parents’ vacation by accidentally burning down the shed in his backyard. He didn’t mean to cause problems; he was just bored. When no one will take care of him as a result, his father is desperate enough to call on Uncle Harvey to “babysit” for a week. Harvey welcomes Tom into his New York City apartment, but as soon as Tom’s parents leave, he starts packing for Peru, intending to leave Tom on his own. When he tells Tom it’s because he has an opportunity to hunt for pirate treasure, Tom blackmails his uncle into taking him along as an assistant. He’s looking forward to a treasure hunt, but he is totally unprepared when met at the airport by Peru’s most dangerous and notorious gangster. Uncle Harvey hasn’t been exactly honest with Tom (or, apparently, with anyone else) and now must face the consequences. And this is just the beginning. Tom’s voice carries a little bit of his British father’s inflection, and it moves the story along capably, taking readers from adventure to adventure with aplomb. An enjoyable escapade, delivered with wit, wisdom and just a bit of history thrown in for good measure. (Adventure. 9-12)

DEAD RECKONING

Lackey, Mercedes & Edghill, Rosemary Bloomsbury (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59990-684-3 A post–Civil War tale follows an unlikely trio of teens that unites to fight zombies. Jett is searching for her brother, whom she hopes has survived the war. She travels the South, dressing as a man and repelling danger with her gunslinging prowess. Gibbons is the daughter of a gullible inventor; she investigates lurid claims her father would otherwise believe, putting her own scientific methods to work. White Fox is a white man adopted by the “Red Earth People” whose purpose other than protecting the two girls is not altogether clear. The three meet after a legion of zombies has destroyed a nearby town and determine to prevent further carnage. Lackey and Edghill elect Jett as the main character, but Gibbons and White Fox get nearly as much playtime. Most of the book is comprised of the trio discussing theories of the genesis of the zombies and strategies to quell future uprisings. Experienced paranormal

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“The story meanders just as much as the chase, but comics-style panels and fun, intricate details demand a closer look at this caper.” from stop thief !

fans will likely miss a romantic subplot, an oversight that might have jelled the characters together better and engaged readers. The best aspects of the book are its distinctive characterizations and the incongruity of zombies in a historic milieu, but the world is more interesting than the story. A novel take on historical fiction that nevertheless disappoints. (Paranormal historical fiction. 10 & up)

STOP THIEF!

Lane, Adam J.B. Illus. by Lane, Adam J.B. Neal Porter/Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-59643-693-0 Randall McCoy is a self-proclaimed big boy now, with all the boundary testing that goes with it. Randall shuns the usual bedtime routine. He doesn’t need to be tucked in or kissed good night. He doesn’t even need his stuffed animal, Mr. Pigglesworth. (And vegetables? He certainly doesn’t need to ever eat those again.) But when Randall tries to fall asleep he realizes how much he misses his stuffed friend. Just when he is about to grab him off the shelf, Randall sees a thief stealing Mr. Pigglesworth! He does what any big boy would do: He yells, “STOP THIEF!” But the thief doesn’t listen, so Randall chases him into the night— through the zoo, the chocolate factory and even the museum. A thick, dotted line shows the characters’ madcap dash across several pages. Lane’s burglar is classic bad-guy fare, complete with striped shirt and shifty eyes. And Randall demonstrates a youngster’s true lung power with his head thrown back and mouth open wide during each yelling refrain. The story meanders just as much as the chase, but comics-style panels and fun, intricate details demand a closer look at this caper. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE BALL OF CLAY THAT ROLLED AWAY

Lenhard, Elizabeth Illus. by Wolff, Jason Marshall Cavendish (24 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7614-6142-5 An irksome version of the traditional cumulative tale adds little to the collection of Jewish literature. At Camp Knish, a ball of clay escapes the arts-and-crafts cabin, vowing never to be cut. It rolls through the camp as a growing group of look-a-like campers with names like Mira Farfelbottom and Mose Plotznik, along with Rabbi Shmaltzbaum give chase. Not wanting to be formed into a menorah, dreidel, kiddush cup or even a yad (pointer for reading Torah), the bedeviled ball of clay manages to get to the bank of Camp Knish Lake. Once there, he is “more like a pancake of clay… 742

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dented, dinged, and dirtied; stained, pebbled, and pounded” but still able to brag about his escape. One last roll has him sinking to the bottom, never to be seen again by the likes of Tali Nudgeblatt and her fellow campers. Colored-pencil drawings of typical camp scenarios with wooden cabins, soccer games, Israeli circle dancing and vegetable gardening along a green-hued meadow landscape provide a stereotypical background for the tale. The ball of clay itself is a tumbling, gray, lumpy mass with a snarky expression. The vexing choice to use faux-Yiddish names exacerbates its tiresome effect. This poorly executed adaptation is utterly lacking in ingenuity. Leave this one behind when packing kids for their summer-camp experience. (Picture book. 3-5)

FLY BLANKY FLY

Lewis, Anne Margaret Illus. by Chavarri, Elisa Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-06-199996-3 A bubbly boy, his adventurous imagination and one brightly hued blanky make for an exuberant bedtime tale. In his yellow footie sleeper, Sam gallivants across sea and sky, transported by his quilted blanky. It’s a rocket and a kangaroo, then whale and train, changing at Sam’s command. With an opening stanza that is reminiscent of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” in its anticipatory excitement, the text continues with rhyming stanzas that propel it forward, each beginning with a simile and ending with a directive (“ZOOM BLANKY ZOOM!”). Chavarri further emphasizes the blanky’s role in these fantasies, using the quilt’s patterns on each object it becomes. Young readers will be able to identify the colorful fabric on such things as the wings of a butterfly, the shell of a turtle and the sails of boat. While the blanket transforms radically, Sam is extremely consistent, from the way he’s drawn to his expression. The child’s cheerful face stands out, as it’s done in a digital, Flash-animated style. This contrasts with the blandness of his figure, giving him a disembodied effect. Despite this, the artist’s illustrations, done in a brilliant, primary palette, are pleasing. Endpages show the blanky characters at their most appealing; as pencil drawings they recall classic Little Golden Books illustrations. A cozy last spread finds a sleeping Sam cuddling his beloved blanky: cheerful adventure with a most agreeable end. (Picture book. 3-5)

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PETE THE CAT AND HIS FOUR GROOVY BUTTONS

Litwin, Eric Illus. by Dean, James Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-211058-9 In his third outing Pete the Cat follows the pattern of his previous appearances: Despite repeated wardrobe malfunctions, he maintains his upbeat attitude and bouncy charm. This time around the focus is on the buttons on Pete’s favorite shirt, instead of his shoes, and there’s even a bit of math involved. Still, for readers who have met Pete previously there’s not much here that’s new. Pete moves from his cozy chair to a skateboard to the street outside to a surfboard on top of an oldstyle Volkswagen Beetle. In each spot, for no apparent reason, one button pops off. The repeated refrain asks “Did Pete cry?” and answers “Goodness, no! Buttons come and buttons go.” As a song it’s likely perky, but read aloud, the text can seem tedious and overlong. Still, the brightly colored, childlike paintings and playful typography should keep kids’ attention, and some will also enjoy identifying the large numerals as they count backwards from four to zero. A final twist finds Pete admiring his bellybutton, which will always be with him unlike the “stuff ” that “will come and…go,” offering the option of a mildly anticonsumerist message for parents who choose to emphasize it. Fans will definitely want to visit the publisher’s website to check out the extras, while newcomers will either do the same or let Pete go, depending on their taste. (Picture book. 3-7)

LITTLE LOST TIGER

London, Jonathan Illus. by Spirin, Ilya Marshall Cavendish (32 pp.) $17.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7614-6130-2 In lyrical free verse, nature-writer London gives readers a tiny peek into the lives of a Siberian tiger cub and his mother. “A river in its icy bed / mumbles in its sleep. / The wooded hills and ridges / sparkle with snow. / Shaggy and frost-tipped, / the tigress and her cub / slip like shadows into a forest / of bonewhite birches.” As Spirin’s artwork gets darker and takes on the blue-gray of night, the Striped One hides little Amba under a fallen tree so she can hunt the sika deer in the clearing. But as she is crouched to pounce, the forest erupts into flames, and all the animals flee. All night the mother searches for and calls her cub, but his cry can only be heard with the calming of the wind and fire. Spirin’s watercolor, pastel and gouache artwork neatly complements the images painted in London’s text. Only twice does he anthropomorphize the expressions on the tigers’ faces. |

The forest fire, though obviously a threat to the forest dwellers, is not vividly portrayed, so readers are unlikely to be to frightened. An author’s note provides more information about endangered Siberian tigers, including the threats to their survival. A beautifully written episode with a strong conservation message. (Picture book. 4-8)

GILT

Longshore, Katherine Viking (416 pp.) $17.99 | May 15, 2012 978-0-670-01399-9 The short life and times of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, as seen through the eyes of her friend. Cat Howard styles herself Queen of Misrule in the Duchess of Norfolk’s maidens’ chamber (a misnomer if ever there was one). When Cat is selected to be one of Anne of Cleves’ ladies-in-waiting, she soon catches the king’s eye, and the rest, as they say, is history. Cat rescues mousy friend Kitty to attend her in her chambers, giving Kitty and readers an intimate view of that history. Hewing closely to what little is known about Howard’s circumstances, Longshore allows Kitty to thread the maze of alliances that was the court of Henry VIII. She concentrates on domestic details while brushing with broad strokes the politics of the men’s world. Kitty’s narration is formal, but her language is modern, a balance between authenticity and readability that is mostly successful. Her sense of her own powerlessness, and by extension all women’s, even the queen’s, comes through clearly. The mounting terror as lusty, luxury-loving Cat’s fortunes fall is palpable, as is the sense that the queen is no innocent. The author’s adherence to historical detail is admirable, clashing with both title and cover, which imply far more froth than readers will find between the covers. A substantive, sobering historical read, with just a few heaving bodices. (Historical fiction. 13 & up)

BEWARE THE NINJA WEENIES And Other Warped and Creepy Tales

Lubar, David Starscape/Tom Doherty (192 pp.) $15.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-7653-3213-4

The Weenie-Meister’s sixth collection offers 32 more macabre minitales. He puts the Gorgon back into “Gorgonzola,” pauses for a rousing night of vampire “Catfishing in America” and redefines “Smart Food” through an encounter with talking broccoli, among other ventures. Throughout, Lubar continues to produce short-shorts expertly spun around

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figures of speech, tweaked story titles and disquieting twists of fate. Pandering particularly to readers with a taste for icky treats, he trots in a protean alien who sets itself up as a sideshow selfmutilator, a bully tricked into blasting out his own cheeks and a smile-obsessed child who melts his teeth away by overusing whitening strips—among other hapless victims of bad behavior, predatory monsters or plain bad luck. The tales’ extreme brevity—the longest tops out at a whopping 10 pages—makes them especially well suited to reading aloud. To be devoured with relish—though maybe not broccoli. (end notes) (Short short stories. 10-12)

more. / They love to watch them dinosoar!”—until sudden winds and spins prompt a hasty “dinojump.” Outfitting his dino-aviators (all easily recognizable types, identified on the endpapers) in goggles and scarves, Fine uses broad and busy brushwork in full-bleed double-page spreads. He gives his cast a comically massive look and captures an entirely appropriate feeling of frenzied, slapstick action in keeping with the rhymed text’s overcaffeinated tempo. Once down safely, all “kiss the ground, give dinothanks, / And promise, ‘No more dinopranks!’” As if. Dinosaur fans, or anyone who enjoys horseplay on a humongous scale, will happily welcome back these gargantuan goofs. (Picture book. 6-8)

LETTERS FOREVER / CARTAS PARA SIEMPRE

37 THINGS I LOVE (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

Luna, Tom Illus. by Alvarez, Laura Lectura (24 pp.) $8.95 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-60448-024-5

Magoon, Kekla Henry Holt (224 pp.) $16.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-8050-9465-7

Letters exchanged between a San Antonio child and her distant grandfather create a link that bridges miles and years in this slight but loving family story. So strong are memories of outings together and music on a requinto (guitar) played “with an almost angelic touch” that 11-year-old Camila tries to bicycle all the way to her grandpa in Mexico. When that fails, she writes: “I have the picture of you… on my dresser and I look at it every day. Will you please write back?” Eight years later (but with just a few quick samples of a continuing correspondence), she flies down at last for a joyful reunion, returning after a long stay with the requinto as a memento. Rough-hewn, heavily brushed paintings tracking Camila’s progress to adulthood and Grandpa’s to gray-haired old age accompany narrative passages of English over Spanish. These sometimes dart across several years without transition, and the book concludes with an open-ended scene that will leave readers unsure whether Grandpa is still alive or not. Still, the intergenerational intimacy comes through clearly and should leave readers thinking about faraway relatives of their own. (picture glossary). (Bilingual picture book. 7-9)

DINOSOARING

Lund, Deb Illus. by Fine, Howard Harcourt (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-15-206016-9

Ellis experiences emotional turbulence as she copes with her father’s extended coma and the pain of changing friendships. There is tension between Ellis and her mother. Her beloved father has been in an accidentinduced coma for two years. Ellis resists any discussion of removing life support and, despite her mother’s disapproval, visits and shares her deepest thoughts with her unresponsive father. Coinciding with her father’s accident was the change in Ellis’ relationships with her best friends. Ellis, Cara and Abby had been close in middle school, but somehow, Cara drifted away. Now, at this critical time, when Ellis’ mom wants her to see yet another psychiatrist in hopes she will accept the inevitable, Ellis finds she needs Cara, especially since Abby is becoming wilder and more self-centered. In the meantime, Cara has accepted that she is gay, adding another complication for Ellis as she seeks to renew their friendship. As Ellis confronts her pain, she is able to see herself, her mother and her friends as they really are. Magoon, winner of the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for New Talent (The Rock and the River, 2010), has crafted a fresh look at the complexities that can arise in the friendships of teens. Ellis’ first-person expression of her pain and confusion is especially well done. Strong secondary characters provide additional insight. Another powerful outing from a rising star. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Dinos take to the air in the latest joyride from the creators of Dinosailors (2003) and All Aboard the Dinotrain (2006). It takes multiple tries and a mighty dino-push to get their Brobdignagian cargo plane off the ground, but once airborne it’s all fun and games. “They dangle from their wide trapeze / And dinodance on wings with ease. / The crowd below screams out for 744

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“An eminently child-friendly exploration of an ever-intriguing subject…” from how many jelly beans

THE PECULIARS

McQuerry, Maureen Doyle Amulet/Abrams (368 pp.) $16.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0178-8 Lonely Lena Mattacascar heads to the border to find a father she barely remembers and an answer to her unusual appearance. Armed with a letter and money from her absent father, 18-year-old Lena leaves her dour mother and grandmother and takes the train toward Scree—wilderness, penal colony and rumored reservation for Peculiars, humanoid creatures with tell-tale abnormalities. Cursed with elongated fingers and feet, Lena both fears that she may be a Peculiar and hopes that she may find acceptance in Scree. Obstacles plague Lena’s journey, and she is soon stranded in the faded seaside town of Knob Knoster. While seeking a guide and more money for her expedition, she finds herself working at Mr. Beasley’s steampunk-esque Zephyr House alongside the endearingly earnest librarian Jimson Quiggley, on a secret mission from the charismatic blackmailer Marshal Saltre. Set in a vaguely Victorian world, Gothic elements permeate the story: a mysterious house, an abundance of secrets, odd servants and competing romantic figures, though Lena’s shame over her abnormalities alienates her from both Saltre and Quigley. The sporadic action scenes feel artificial, but the ambiguity surrounding the existence of Peculiars and the origin of their physical deformities—magic? genetics?—is thought-provoking. A slow but richly atmospheric read. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

HOW MANY JELLY BEANS? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers! Menotti, Andrea Illus. by Labat, Yancey Chronicle (28 pp.) $18.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4521-0206-1

Jellybean-fueled sibling rivalry leads readers on a visual exploration of large numbers. Emma’s request for 10 is reasonable, as is Aiden’s for 20, but, auction-style, the numbers soon mount from 100 to 500, at which point Emma calls Aiden’s bluff. “That’s too many. You can’t eat five hundred jelly beans.” Well, he could eat 1,000 in a year, but that’s just two or three per day. How about 5,000 in a year? That would be a stack that’s as high as a 10-story building. As the two ponder this existential conundrum, the numbers keep going up, from 10,000 to 100,000 to 1,000,000. Labat’s black-and-white digital illustrations make the bright colors of the ever-increasing jellybeans stand out and pop off the pages. The speech bubbles, clean lines and efficiently drawn characters speak to his start in comics. The page depicting how Aiden would divvy 100,000 jellybeans among the different flavors |

works especially well, picturing single-color circles clearly labeled with the differing amounts (there’s only one lemon jellybean). This helps readers learn to estimate, though Bruce Goldstone’s Great Estimations and Greater Estimations (2006, 2008) offer more specific examples. An eminently child-friendly exploration of an everintriguing subject; pair it with David M. Schwartz and Steven Kellogg’s How Much Is a Million. (Math picture book. 4-8)

THE JUNGLE RUN

Mitton, Tony Illus. by Parker-Rees, Guy Orchard (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-545-39256-3

Free-spirited artwork with colors of psychedelic intensity smooths the rather fitful nature of this race through the jungle. The animals are getting ready for the jungle run. There’s a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros, an elephant and other major players in the bestiary, so when “Cub turns up to take her place, / … the others say, ‘You’re too small to race.’ “ But the rhyming text is too light-hearted to throw much of a wet blanket on the proceedings, and the cub proves to be an adept at the various obstacles on the course, quickly pulling into the lead as the python and gazelle get tangled in the vine net. At the rope swing, Cub makes like a pendulum while Elephant misses altogether and falls in the creek. The others use his sizeable noggin as a stepping stone, which seems a little unsporting. At the waterslide, Cub is suddenly found riding Elephant’s back. Wasn’t Cub well in the lead, calling an inauspicious “You can’t catch me!” over her shoulder, as if tempting the Gingerbread Man’s fate? Cub does win the race through no fault of her own, and the whole event becomes a distant afterthought to Parker-Rees’ illustrations, with their cool jungle landscapes and radioactive colors. A joyful camaraderie closes the book, a welcome counterpoint to its earlier exclusivity, if another touch of randomness. Fun for one or two reads, but, unlike Cub, it probably won’t have much staying power. (Picture book. 3-5)

WHERE’S THE DINOSAUR?

Moseley, Keith Illus. by Moseley, Keith Sterling (26 pp.) $14.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4027-8894-9

Mr. Magoo has nothing on young George’s grandfather, who manages to miss nearly 100 dinosaurs concealed (or not) in the pictures illustrating this visit to a remote volcanic island. In broadly brushed watercolors, Moseley depicts the two explorers (and George’s basset, Meg) taking a quick trip in a hot-air balloon and wandering through woodsy settings.

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“This improbable plot and spunky protagonist are appealing bait for a heartfelt, memorable story.” from tracing stars

Throughout, they are surrounded by dinosaurs of various recognizable but unidentified sorts that either stand in plain view or are slightly concealed within the lines of rocks, tree trunks and other natural features. An Apatosaurus, for instance, is hidden in the curving lines of a mountain range; less trickily, a flock of pterosaurs escorts them on their approach to the island. Many of the creatures are also embossed or outlined in a slightly raised plastic overlay that can be felt or spotted by tilting the page to catch shiny reflections. Though George and Meg have no trouble spotting dinosaur sign, Grandpa misses it all and makes a disappointed comment as the three visitors sail homeward. Young dino-hunters, on the other hand, never had it so good. (Picture book. 5-7)

TRACING STARS

Moulton, Erin E. Philomel (224 pp.) $16.99 | May 10, 2012 978-0-399-25696-7

Most kids can pucker up a fish face, but Indie Lee Chickory can make specific ones like wounded mackerel, flat haddock and trout pout, earning her the label of fish freak of Plumtown. When her Coke-loving pet golden lobster (yes, they exist, one in 30 million) escapes into the ocean, recovering Lobster Monty Cola becomes the crux (and crustacean) of the story. With the help of oddball loser Owen, whose father shipped him out for the summer to his aunt, who builds sets for the town musical, she aims to get Monty back. The two hoist the front and back ends of a splintered rowboat up into a tree-house platform to rebuild it so they can scout for Monty’s return. Their efforts are complicated by the love/hate interaction between Indie and her older sister Bebe (who’s in the play), an overzealous police officer, shooting stars and the constellation Pisces, Owen’s Book of Logic and Reason: Observation Log IV, peer pressure and a cast of community characters in this tourist fishing town. The seaside setting is awash with details—theatre terms, fish names, Indie’s Carhartt pants—that define the community and Indie’s family in it and also salt the action. This improbable plot and spunky protagonist are appealing bait for a heartfelt, memorable story. (Fiction. 8-13)

ONE TWO THAT’S MY SHOE

Murray, Alison Illus. by Murray, Alison Disney Hyperion (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4231-4329-1 In a companion to Apple Pie ABC (2011), Murray reworks another familiar rhyme into a drama pitched perfectly for preschoolers. 746

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Endpapers hint at the plot and provide an opportunity to identify numbers, colors and story elements. More foreshadowing occurs in the cozy scene of the returning heroine and her beagle opposite the title page; she is reading, appropriately, To Catch a Thief. Immediately the pace quickens as the dog snatches the child’s shoe and cavorts through the house, garden and gate. The brief, rhymed text (“One… / Two / That’s my shoe!”) is carefully placed to allow viewers time to count the teddy bears, flowers, etc., along the way. Each numeral appears with a matching set of objects in a block anchored to a page corner; the number is spelled out nearby. Warm cream backgrounds showcase the pale turquoise rectangles of the flooring, the brilliant red chair, tulips and shoes and the green patches of grass and tree canopy. The illustrator’s background in textiles is evident in the retro styling and meticulous design. A wash line scene, in which the two figures are silhouetted behind transparent, patterned sheets drying on a line, offers an entertaining visual trick. In a satisfying conclusion, hens chase the dog, setting the stage for a homophonic “Shoo!” and a narrative twist. Count on repeated readings of this fun and frisky tale. (Picture book. 18 mos.-5)

SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN

Nappi, Frank Skyhorse Publishing (280 pp.) $12.95 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-61608-663-3 Series: A Mickey Tussler Novel, 2

Ridiculously mannered prose strikes out this ambitious tale of a 1949 minorleague baseball team with an autistic star hurler and a courageous black catcher. “This was home. The ballpark. The one place in the world that mattered. The one place in the world that did not morph in the tumult of the universe.” Evidently styling himself the next Damon Runyon, Nappi follows up The Legend of Mickey Tussler (2008; made into the 2011 TV film A Mile in His Shoes) with more diamond action between the Brewers and archrival Rangers. This is highlighted by the return of Mickey, the “Baby Bazooka,” and the arrival of slugging catcher Lester Sledge from the Negro Leagues. Mining the thesaurus for alternatives to the N-word, the author subjects Sledge to a hail of “ulcerous screams” and “festering odium” from “yard ape” to “jigaboo.” Not even repeated attacks from local members of the KKK prevent him from emerging “like a powerful pupa” to shine on the field. Meanwhile, as Mickey mows opposing batters down, his mother and Brewers manager Arthur “Murph” Murphy consummate their relationship (“…her entire lifetime had been communicated to him through her soft, wet lips”). As in the opener, Rangers’ chicanery again leads to a climactic Brewers defeat, but a call to the Show for Murph, Mickey and Lester tacks on an upbeat ending. Few young readers will get that far, or care much. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

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GREET THE DAWN The Lakota Way

Nelson, S.D. Illus. by Nelson, S.D. South Dakota State Historical Society Press (48 pp.) $18.95 | Jun. 4, 2012 978-0-9845041-6-9

Past and present meet in a hymn to the Lakota Circle of Life. Contemporary Lakota kids board a school bus at daybreak while “Father Sun gives warmth to Mother Earth. / Meadowlark sings her song as swallows fly above.” The day, with its crickets and dragonflies, whispering winds and rainbows, unfolds and circles toward evening and the rising of Sister Moon. Lines of text arc across scenic renderings of earth and sky in double-page spreads filled with figures based on ledger-books drawings and geometric patterns adapted from bead- and quillwork. Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, skillfully melds modern and traditional images of people in lush acrylics painted on textured paper. Interspersing the story are songs in the Lakota language, placed alongside English translations. These lovely bits of verse (“At dawn / may I roam / against the winds / may I roam”) accompanied by colorful depictions of the ancestors singing and drumming in a circle enhance the connection between generations. The author spells out the philosophy of the Circle of Life in an introduction that is both a celebration of the Lakota Way for those attuned to it and an explanation for those outside of this tradition. A serene, joyous appreciation of our place in the natural world. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

THE FLAME OF OLYMPUS

O’Hearn, Kate Aladdin (400 pp.) $16.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-4424-4409-6 Series: Pegasus, 1

A young girl, a flying horse and threats from evil creatures both ancient and modern: This British import has all the necessary ingredients for success. In the midst of a New York City thunderstorm an injured flying horse lands on the roof of Emily’s building. Emily, still mourning her recently deceased mother, is immediately drawn to the creature, and she pulls in a classmate, angry Joel, for help. Pegasus has fled the Nirads, nearly invincible creatures that have attacked Olympus and extinguished the Vestal Flame that keeps it safe. Also on the run is minor Olympian thief Paelen. The action moves back and forth from Emily and Joel, whose story soon becomes high octane as Nirads attack and Olympian goddess Diana appears, and Paelen, who has been imprisoned by evil government agency CRU. Despite a moderately paced beginning, this is ultimately a fast yet emotionally satisfying chase novel: CRU wants Emily, Pegasus and Diana must find the girl who can rekindle the flame and the Nirads just want destruction. |

Characters are perhaps too good to be true (Emily and Joel’s bravery, Emily’s father’s willingness to believe and help), but the violence—especially from the CRU agent— and various emotional arcs makes the tale feel convincingly real. First in an energetic series aimed at Percy Jackson fans and sure to hit the mark. (Fantasy. 10-13)

BOYS ONLY How to Survive Anything

Oliver, Martin Illus. by Ecob, Simon Scholastic (64 pp.) $7.99 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-0-545-43096-8

A slender, graphically formatted survival guide in the vein of Conn Iggulden’s The Dangerous Book for Boys (2007) and Dominqiue Enright’s The Boy’s Book (2007).A gracious plenty of short how-tos for any young man—how to survive a zombie attack, a snake bite or a raging Tyrannosaurus rex, among others—in an easily digestible comic-book format. Some of the vignettes offer pretty common-sense information that assumes little of its reader: The final piece of imparted wisdom for surviving a whiteout, for example, is, “[i]f conditions worsen, head for shelter again and wait it out.” Others actually provide some interesting ideas, like how to create a floatation device out of a pair of pants in the event of a plane crash. Liberally peppered with factual information, some practical advice and a dash of humor, the non-linear composition will easily entice casual browsers with its short episodes. What is most puzzling however, is the classification of this book: Though obviously nonfiction, there is no source material to back up provided facts nor any additional bibliography of books or Web resources for interested young aficionados to follow up. With something so obviously geared toward hesitant readers, it would seem self-evident to provide supplementary reading to keep budding interests piqued. Take this for what it is: a cute, quick offering, with likely appeal to even the most reluctant young boys. (Graphic nonfiction. 8-12)

MAN OVERBOARD!

Parkinson, Curtis Tundra (160 pp.) $9.95 paperback | $9.95 e-book May 8, 2012 978-1-77049-298-1 978-1-77049-299-8 e-book In a story set during World War II and based on a true event, four teens find themselves caught up in a dangerous adventure involving Nazi spies. Sixteen-year-old Scott and his friend Adam have taken

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summer jobs aboard the Rapids Prince, a tourist boat that navigates the rapids on the St. Lawrence River. Setting events in motion, Scott overhears a suspicious conversation, and a man disappears overboard. Adam is kidnapped and taken into hiding, where he befriends Colette, the girl who brings him his meals. She warns Adam that she has overheard his captors speak of explosives, and it becomes increasingly clear that they work for Hitler. Meanwhile, Scott and his girlfriend, Lindsay, do some spy work of their own trying to rescue Adam. The action is propelled forward in chapters that alternate point of view. As the plot unfolds, the teens learn that the lines between good and bad, cowardice and courage are blurry. The action waxes and sometimes flags, but the novel breathes life into important events while exploring the complexities of human nature, especially in times of extreme duress. A mostly solid old-style adventure. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

REVIVED

Patrick, Cat Little, Brown (352 pp.) $17.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-316-09462-7 A well-done exploration of a teen’s growing understanding of death, even though she herself has died five times. Daisy lives with two agents from the ultra-secret Revive project. Revive is a drug that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy was first revived after she died with 20 other children in a bus accident. Severely allergic to bees, she’s stung and dies again, forcing the “family” to relocate to Omaha with a different last name. Daisy wants to stay in Omaha after she meets Audrey, a girl who quickly becomes a real friend, and Audrey’s brother Matt, to whom Daisy finds herself irresistibly attracted. But Daisy learns that Audrey has terminal cancer, and she knows that Revive can’t help her friend. Although the story turns suspenseful when Daisy discovers a previously unknown Revive case, the overriding thrust is its examination of human emotions. Once Audrey dies, Daisy must confront the reality of death, no matter her own experience. Patrick writes an easily readable story that moves well and populates it with attractive characters. The added dimension of Audrey’s real, irreversible death contrasting with Daisy’s experience gives the story more gravity than the usual suspense fare. Good entertainment with some unexpected depth. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

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MY NO, NO, NO DAY!

Patterson, Rebecca Illus. by Patterson, Rebecca Viking (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 1, 2012 978-0-670-01405-7

Bella has a daylong (leading to a longday) case of the grumps, and she shares them with each and all. Patterson’s Bella is having one of those days, the kind that feels prehistoric, so it is best to act like a little cave girl, all bellowing, unmannered disgruntlement. But then, what is a little 21st-century girl to do when she wakes up in the morning to her baby brother licking her jewelry? (She left it on the floor; much of the charm of this book is that it is too weird to be made up.) Bella knows what to do: roll her eyes heavenward, fling her hands in the air and start hollering (her mouth resembling the cave she crawled out of that morning). The day just gets worse, with Bella getting more twisted by the moment, until bedtime, when her mother promises the next day will be better—which it is. Some days are rotten, and there is no telling why: It is a good lesson to learn that such days typically pass in the night, with some mysterious recalibration of our place in the world. Patterson’s tale is visually festive even as Bella does her best to wring darkness from every moment. Its elemental nature will bring the point home to the youngest readers, though it does not replace the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (Picture book. 2-5)

CHLOE, INSTEAD

Player, Micah Illus. by Player, Micah Chronicle (32 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-8118-7865-4

Adjusting to a new sibling is familiar territory in children’s literature; the recognizable plot here is livened up with lively retro-style illustrations. Told from the point of view of an older sister who’d wished for a mini-version of herself, this features irrepressible newcomer Chloe, who bangs on the piano while her big sister is trying to play it, eats the crayons her big sister loves to draw with, shreds picture books and generally wreaks havoc. Unlike other classic takes on the subject such as Kevin Henkes’ Julius, the Baby of the World (1991), the older sister’s change of heart isn’t catalyzed by an outsider’s criticism of the new baby. Rather, she comes to it herself, discovering that Chloe can in fact participate in her own way: by dancing (and burning off that excess toddler energy, familiar to all parents) while big sis plays piano. The illustrations, digitally rendered and finished with ink and watercolor, have a painterly look, with textures, visible brush strokes and vivid colors. The girls are portrayed in stylized

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“Another human-undead romance produces some good entertainment in this second of a trilogy involving ‘revenants’ in Paris.” from until i die

fashion, with outsize expressive eyes (deep brown on one, bright green on the other) and ‘60s-style hairdos (a smart bob on big sis, a high ponytail on Chloe). While the story isn’t new, this fresh-looking take on it will be appreciated in families welcoming a new addition to the household. (Picture book. 3-6)

UNTIL I DIE

Plum, Amy HarperTeen (368 pp.) $17.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-06-200404-8 Another human-undead romance produces some good entertainment in this second of a trilogy involving “revenants” in Paris. These undead creatures have become mostly immortal by sacrificing their own lives to save others. Human Kate and revenant Vincent fell in love in the first book; here they fight the numa, similar but evil undead who plot to kill revenants. Alas, it actually looks like it’s fairly easy to kill revenants, despite their “immortality,” a bit of a flaw in the book’s premise. Kate lives with her French grandparents but spends much time training for combat with the revenants, who have accepted her. She knows that she will age and die as Vincent stays young, and the two seek different ways to overcome that difficulty. Worse, it seems that a spy has infiltrated the revenant community. Plum handles the intrigue and builds tension, ending with a major cliffhanger that should compel readers to the final book in the trilogy. The suspense takes precedence over the romance as Kate follows clues, first to find more information on revenants and then to uncover the spy in their midst. Several of the characters stand out as interesting individuals, enhancing the entertainment value in the story, along with a few good action scenes. Good thrills and intrigue. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

MY TEACHER

Ransome, James Illus. by Ransome, James Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 26, 2012 978-0-8037-3259-9 A young girl sporting dreadlocks addresses readers directly, telling them all about her teacher in an attempt to explain why the elderly woman continues to teach in her school rather than retiring or teaching “across town, where the sun always shines.” The standard elements are all here: She encourages their talents, teaches a love of reading, addresses their concerns, shows off their progress, seizes the teachable moment and, most especially, helps them make their dreams come true. Readers will find the typical classroom activities here (journal writing and reports, among others) but also some that may be new to them: dancing to jazz records, collecting food |

for needy neighborhood families and hearing stories about prior students. Readers will certainly appreciate the exceptional qualities of this teacher, but they may not respond to the manner in which her praises are sung. Ransome leaves no room for doubt that this is an underprivileged school in a predominantly minority neighborhood. His watercolors depict a kindly teacher with a loving face and her diverse bunch of studious students, whose expressive faces practically show the growth and learning that are taking place. Although children may benefit from seeing a rather different classroom than that usually portrayed, this is one of those picture books seemingly aimed more at adults than kids. The dedication says it all: “To all the dedicated teachers who come in early, leave late, and give a little something extra for the students.” Still, as a Teacher Appreciation Day gift, it’s a mighty nice alternative to an apple. (Picture book. 5-8)

THE RUMOR

Ravishankar, Anushka Illus. by Kini, Kanyika Tundra (32 pp.) $17.95 | May 8, 2012 978-1-77049-280-6 A multicultural—and universal—lesson on the dangers of gossip. In the tiny village of Baddbaddpur, India, lived a grumpy man named Pandurang. He scowled and grumbled so much that no one ever wanted to be near him. But one day he had a coughing fit and, to his surprise, coughed up a feather. He told his wife, but urged her not to tell anyone else. However, she could not resist and told her neighbor about the strange occurrence. But in her version, he not only coughed up a feather, but the entire bird! The story is then passed from one person to the next, becoming more and more exaggerated with each telling. In the end, poor Pandurang has an entire forest growing from his mouth. Every time the rumor is told, Ravishankar uses humorous verse to add to the incredulity: “A tree grew inside Pandu’s mouth— / It grew and grew and grew and grew! / And on that tree, there came to nest / A flock of birds, full sixty-two!” The warm, jewel-toned illustrations play with perspective, growing Pandu’s face larger and larger as the rumor gets bigger, until trees sprout from his molars and animals of all kinds spring from his wide, open mouth. A playful take on a familiar cautionary tale is enlivened by Subcontinental flair. (Picture book. 4-7)

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“The atmospheric narrative is festive, fresh and festooned with quotations from Julia and Paul’s letters, as well as from Child’s memoir, My Life in France….” from minette’s feast

MINETTE’S FEAST The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat

invading force from the mainland. Even attentive readers will have trouble keeping track of who is where as the characters scramble about amid a blizzard of choppy chapters and shifting points of view. Closing with revelations about hidden siblings and parentage that are not only predictable but telegraphed, this anemic tale is free of both suspense and surprise. An irascible talking wizard’s staff is the only memorable element in this otherwise trite outing. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Reich, Susanna Illus. by Bates, Amy Abrams (40 pp.) $16.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0177-1

Reich lures children into the scrumptious Parisian world of the legendary chef Julia Child with the story of her mouseloving cat, Minette. It’s a funny thought: The now-famous American gourmet painstakingly prepares duck pâtés and cheese soufflés with the freshest French ingredients when all her cat really wants to eat is raw mouse: “How delightful the crunch of fresh-caught mouse, devoured on the living room rug!” Even if readers have never heard of Julia Child or the delightful interlude she and her husband Paul shared in Paris in the late 1940s, the joy of an enthusiastic food-lover in the kitchen is palpable: “She floured and flipped, pitted and plucked, rinsed and roasted, sizzled and skimmed.” Bates’ inventively composed kitchen- and marketscapes in warm watercolors and pencil capture this joy as well, as readers see the very-tall, very-cheerful cook in action. The atmospheric narrative is festive, fresh and festooned with quotations from Julia and Paul’s letters, as well as from Child’s memoir, My Life in France (2006). As revealed in the afterword, Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was an actual adopted tortoiseshell cat, the first of many cats for the loving couple. A fine recipe for pleasure: Julia Child, the culinary arts, Paris and a lucky cat. Magnifique! (afterword, notes, sources, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s note) (Picture book/ biography. 4-8)

ROCK OF IVANORE

Reyes, Laurisa White Tanglewood Press (356 pp.) $16.95 | May 15, 2012 978-1-933718-60-6 Series: The Celestine Chronicles, 1 Another paint-by-numbers quest fantasy that (surprise!) kicks off a series. Neglecting to spare any significant roles for females in her unmanageably large cast, Reyes sends an old wizard’s young apprentice and five other boys on a ritual quest that all 14-year-old boys on the Isle of Imaness must take. Accompanying them are a “halfbreed” man-cat and a tricksy shapechanger who fall in along the way. Their search for the titular “Rock,” who turns out to be the exiled husband of long-dead Princess Ivanore, takes them to the Isle’s only major town. Along with an army of newly freed cat-people slaves leaping to defend their former captors (a case of Stockholm Syndrome if ever there was one) and one-eyed giants who are inexplicably impervious to attacks from fire-breathing dragons they repel an 750

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BLOOD RUNNER

Riordan, James Frances Lincoln (176 pp.) $8.99 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-84507-934-5 A general indictment of apartheid is thinly wrapped in a tale about a young Zulu marathoner who runs for his country in the Olympics. When police fire into a crowd watching a peaceful demonstration, they orphan young Samuel and his two older brothers, radicalizing the latter. In later years one brother loses his mind on Robben Island, and the other is killed in a gun battle. Samuel, though, grows up to leverage his love of running barefoot over his dusty tribal “homeland” into a spot on South Africa’s Olympics team after apartheid collapses and Mandela is freed. Riordan loosely bases his disconnected main plot on the experiences of Josiah Thugwane, the first black gold medalist from South Africa. He begins his book with the graphically depicted opening massacre, closely followed by a disturbingly gruesome hospital scene. To these he adds angry rhetoric (“Where was British justice now?”) and ugly words when Samuel goes to get a passbook and later boards a “Whites Only” train car by mistake. For readers who still aren’t with the program, he provides infodumps about South Africa’s racial history and the African National Congress and a triumphant set piece when Samuel casts a vote in his first national election. Samuel runs (and wins) the climactic race with a letter from Mandela tucked in his shoe. This potentially inspiring tale staggers along under the weight of a worthy agenda. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

FENWAY FEVER

Ritter, John H. Philomel (240 pp.) $16.99 | May 24, 2012 978-0-399-24665-4 Beneath “all the festivity and hooplicity” for the 100th anniversary of Boston’s Fenway Park looms a calamity no one seems to notice, but a 12-year-old fan and an oddball starting pitcher step up to the plate. The Curse of the Bambino, the 86-year curse that kept the Red Sox from winning the World Series until 2004 and again in 2007, is back. Early in the 2012

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season, the Sox have gone from four games in front of the Yankees to one game back, in just 10 days. “We’re not that bad of a team, Stat Man. Something else is going on,” says pitcher Billee Orbitt to Stats Pagano, a young hot-dog vendor and statistics guru. There’s always enchantment at Fenway Park, but there’s more than magic afoot, or afloat, in Ritter’s life-affirming and tear-jerking new baseball novel. Ritter is a master at capturing the nuances of the game and infusing its magic into his tales. Here, Billee figures out that “It’s not the ball park that’s out of whack. It’s not even the team. It’s the balance of nature. It’s the chi,” and Billee and Stats set out to restore the proper lines of energy through the sacred grounds of Fenway Park and make the Red Sox winners again. A surefire winner, full of energy and wonder. (Fantasy. 9-14)

THE FRENCH FRY KING

Rogé Illus. by Rogé Tundra (32 pp.) $17.95 | May 8, 2012 978-1-77049-350-6

A spotted dachshund with an inquiring mind and big ambitions starts his own French-fry stand, and his fries become popular with customized versions around the world. Though Roger finds fame and fortune with his fantastic fries, he ultimately realizes his life is rather empty and worries that he is esteemed for his fries alone. The whimsical illustrations take on a darker, gray cast as Roger descends into a depressed phase, but then he meets a charming white dog, Charlotte the Corn Cob Queen, who has her own successful food business. The two canine entrepreneurs fall in love and invent a new product to sell, Royal Shepherd’s Pie. Both the story and the illustrations are appealingly fantastical, with talltale exaggerations and witty interactions with satisfied customers. The illustrations have a chic, urban flair with a muted palette and some hints at the author/illustrator’s FrenchCanadian background, such as a few signs in both English and French. A poster of the dogs with their recipe for shepherd’s pie is included on the inside of the book jacket. Roger’s story conveys the subtle and salutary message that material achievement and fame does not necessarily include love and companionship, and a shared venture may be sweeter than solitary success. (Picture book. 4-7)

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ORDINARY MAGIC

Rubino-Bradway, Caitlen Bloomsbury (288 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-59990-725-3

Harry Potter in reverse. In a magical world, a young girl is judged to be merely ordinary, changing the course of her life forever. When 12-year-old Abby Hale passes through the archway of the “Barrier of Fortitude” on the day of her Judging, nothing happens. Even when she repeats the effort over and over again: nada. Mr. Graidy, the ancient head of the Guild painfully concludes: “She has nothing. She is nothing. She’s an ord.” In the magical universe where Abby resides, “ords” are outcasts. Many are rejected by their families, friends and schools; some are either sold to or kidnapped by exploitative treasure hunters. But Abby is spared the worst since her gifted older sister is in service to the Department of Education and the sympathetic King Stephen. In her debut for children, Rubino-Bradway tells Abby’s tale in a first-person narration characterized by upbeat energy and action, treating readers to a jaunt filled with caring schoolmates, teachers, siblings and parents, as well as heartless enemies. While the author has crafted an allegory that successfully lampoons mindless prejudice and coupled it with a pitch to make do with one’s own limitations, the story eventually deteriorates into a jumble of repetitive escapades with characters who adjust to their circumstances but don’t evolve. Promising, but not quite there yet. (Fantasy. 8-12)

GO, GO, GRAPES! A Fruit Chant

Sayre, April Pulley Photos by Sayre, April Pulley Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | May 22, 2012 978-1-4424-3390-8 978-1-4424-3391-5 e-book

Sayre follows up her salute to vegetables (Rah, Rah, Radishes!, 2011) with this rousing chant in favor of fruit. “Rah, rah, raspberries! / Go, go, grapes! / Savor the flavors. / Find fruity shapes!” With these staccato rhythms and cheerleading words, Sayre sets the stage for one long chant that will have kids clamoring for a fruit snack. Going well beyond (but including) the standard apple, orange, banana, grapes and berries, she entices readers with such exotics as tamarillo, kiwano, guava, rambutan, currant, durian and the wonderfully named dragon fruit. In piles, baskets and boxes brimming with fruit, Sayre shows off the colors and textures, yet she does not shy away from depicting even those specimens that are not completely perfect. Several fruits are cut to show off their insides, such as the seeds of the kiwi and pomegranate and the intriguing cross sections of a lychee and mangosteen (readers may find themselves wondering which parts of these are edible). Taken

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primarily at farmer’s markets, mom-and-pop stores and fruit stands and often including hand-lettered signs proclaiming their farm of origin, her photographs send a subtle message to support local farmers and businesses. “Shapes. Textures. Colors. Smells. Fruit is art you can eat!” she marvels in an afterword. Ah, would that readers could pluck Sayre’s art right off the page and savor its juiciness. Plan a fruit-buying scavenger hunt after reading this one—even picky eaters are sure to be tempted. (Nonfiction picture book. 3-7)

POSTCARDS FROM PISMO

Scotto, Michael Illus. by Williams , Dion Midlandia Press (180 pp.) $10.99 paperback | May 15, 2012 978-0-9837243-6-0

A class assignment blossoms into friendship as a fourth-grade (later fifth-) Californian showers a young soldier stationed in Afghanistan with letters, e-mail messages and postcards. Scotto supplies only chatty Felix’s side of the continuing correspondence, though the general drift of the replies from his new buddy Lt. Marcus Greene is easy enough to catch. In nearly daily missives, Felix queries his pen pal about what soldiers do while detailing his own interests, teachers, town, hard-working Filipino American parents (and their reactions when his restless big brother enlists) and his newfound delight in taking snapshots. Several of these, along with handmade picture postcards, are reproduced in Williams’ evocative drawings. He also charts emotional ups and downs, notably after Felix brings a sudden end to years of harassment by punching a bully in the nose and in the wake of news that Greene has been hospitalized with a serious wound. In the end Greene remains a shadowy standin for any soldier, while Felix comes across clearly as an everylad modeling a high level of respect for what his adopted pal is doing, as well as the anxiety common to any family who has a member in today’s armed forces. An uncomplicated but fervent and timely show of support. (Fiction. 10-12)

WHEN YOU WERE MINE

Serle, Rebecca Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $16.99May 1, 2012 978-1-4424-3313-7 Romeo and Juliet is recast as a love triangle set at a tony Southern California private school. Rosaline the narrator points out in the prologue that “before Juliet ever came into the picture,” there was Rosaline, whom 752

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Romeo had initially gone to the ill-fated party to see. “Romeo didn’t belong with Juliet; he belonged with me.” Here Romeo is Rob Monteg, the boy next door, and now, at the beginning of senior year, Rose Caplet hopes her oldest, best friend may be on his way to becoming her boyfriend. It seems, well, fated—but then her cousin Juliet, daughter of her estranged uncle and aunt, moves back to town and captivates Rob. Serle gives Rose two staunch, beautiful, rich, label-conscious friends, with whom she sits at the top of the high-school food chain. She also gives Rose an antagonist, class outcast Len, who, predictably, becomes more and more attractive as the year progresses and Rob and Juliet play tongue-hockey in public. Readers who try to draw correspondences with the play will find themselves frustrated; is Len Mercutio? Tybalt? They will also find the tawdry truth behind the Caplet-Monteg feud unconvincing. There might have been an interesting story about friendship under here, but it was buried by the high-concept superstructure. Take an archetypal story out of Renaissance Verona and couch it in relentlessly ordinary present-tense prose, and all that’s left is banal chick lit. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE SECRET TREE

Standiford, Natalie Scholastic (256 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-545-33479-2

Middle-school dynamics, pesky sibling relations, a rumored haunted house, some truly heart-wrenching situations and a mystery all combine to make this coming-of-age novel an engrossing read. When 10-year-old Minty discovers a hollow tree in the woods that seems to be literally buzzing with secrets, actually finding a secret written on a scrap of paper stashed inside, it sets the stage for a slightly creepy, good oldfashioned mystery. Whose secret is this? What does it mean? Who is running around in the woods, taking pictures of neighbors? Solving these riddles only leads to more questions, and while Minty tries to figure out what’s going on, she’s also struggling with the fact that her best friend, Paz, seems to be growing up faster than she is. Minty acquires some secrets of her own, not least that she has befriended an apparently parentless kid, Raymond, who seems to live in an abandoned spec house and has some sort of relationship with the feared inhabitant of an old rundown place known as “the Witch House.” Minty is a satisfying everygirl—just mischievous enough to seem real—and her interactions with Paz, their older teenage sisters and Paz’s little sister Lennie and the “mean boys” from school recall universal coming-of-age experiences. The neat ending gratifies, with many of the issues having been resolved by the resourceful preteens themselves. (Mystery. 9-12)

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“Once painted, the wood’s grain assumes the look of clouds, sand, water, grass, mist, creating a bewitching forest that feels at times magical and others spooky.” from red knit cap girl

RED KNIT CAP GIRL

Stoop, Naoko Illus. by Stoop, Naoko Little, Brown (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 15, 2012 978-0-316-12946-6

Red Knit Cap Girl wants to talk to the moon, even throwing a party for her, but only when the lights go out and quiet falls does it appear. The big-booted, mushroom-headed girl’s bulbous silhouette, mute, mouth-less face and dotted eyes feel familiar, even though her proportions look downright strange. A crimson hat and smart jacket pop against shadowed woodlands, friendly and bright. Animal buddies (Rabbit, Bear, Squirrel and Hedgehog) help with her moon-chat mission, their kind beady eyes shining and stubby bodies playful. When Red Knit Cap Girl approaches a mystic night owl who might know how to draw the moon into a conversation, readers will bristle with interest. The owl, his eyes like embers, says enigmatically, “You will find a way.” A plywood canvas creates a fantastically pliant, otherworldly atmosphere that undulates with shifting perspectives, horizons, dimensions—even surfaces. Once painted, the wood’s grain assumes the look of clouds, sand, water, grass, mist, creating a bewitching forest that feels at times magical and others spooky. Nocturnal hues (dusky yellows and reds, darkening greens and ultimately a blackening blue) transport readers to nightfall and the moon’s imminent arrival. Young readers might pleasantly puzzle over the moon’s need for dark and silence, for peace, in order to show herself and whisper with Red Knit Cap Girl. A gentle Zen-like parable, with visual and narrative intrigue. (Picture book. 3-6)

SILLY DOGGY!

Stower, Adam Illus. by Stower, Adam Orchard (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 1, 2012 978-0-545-37323-4 Lily’s new pet is a real handful. One morning, little Lily spots “something wonderful” in her garden. It’s big and brown and hairy, and she’s always wanted one. Rushing outside, she interrupts a bear rooting through the garbage, and uses her scarf to improvise a leash. “Doggy!” she declares, and takes him for a walk. Busy Mom doesn’t really look when Lily explains her discovery, suggesting that Doggy might be lost. To help Doggy’s owner find him, Lily makes a big poster and tacks it to a tree, secretly hoping that nobody sees it. Meantime, she learns a lot about Doggy: He hates dog food but loves to raid the refrigerator. He likes to play in the park but hates to walk there. He won’t fetch or sit or stay, but he loves being scratched. He doesn’t like to get a bath but looks very pretty when he’s clean. Of course somebody does see the poster, and comes to Lily’s door. Zookeeper Theodore |

Wilde is immensely relieved to take “Doggy” back home to the zoo. But wouldn’t you know it that the next morning, Lily spots another something wonderful in her garden: “Kitty!” Young readers should relate to Lily’s curiosity and sense of adventure, well captured in Stower’s pictures, which make the bear look mild-mannered and bemused. Still, it is but one of many oddpet books out there. Funny enough, but it won’t have much staying power. (Picture book. 3-6)

PILGRIMS DON’T WEAR PINK

Strohm, Stephanie Kate Graphia (208 pp.) $8.99 paperback | May 8, 2012 978-0-547-56459-3 Readers willing to put aside literary qualms will find themselves set for a summer afternoon with this undemanding romance. History-obsessed fashion maven Libby is thrilled at the prospect of spending her summer at the Camden Harbor 18th-century living-history museum in Maine. But her insane roommate never leaves character, and electronics are forbidden, so when a museum employee is needed to chaperone a cub reporter investigating ghost sightings on one of the museum’s ships, she jumps at the opportunity. Garrett may be a Star Trek–loving nerd, but she’ll be able to use her cell phone when she’s off duty. Libby enjoys her job as counselor for Girls of Long Ago Camp, and she loves the attention she’s getting from hot demo sailor Cam. References aplenty to Jane Austen and ScoobyDoo will clue readers in to the resolutions of both the romance and the mystery, but it’s a breezy ride despite the total lack of suspense. Strohm has a good sense of slapstick and an ear for oneliners. In describing her Fourth-of-July costume, Libby remarks that “[i]t looked like America had thrown up on me.” While Libby’s air-headedness never quite jibes with her professed love of history, she is nevertheless likable, if pretty one-dimensional. Good fun for readers willing to surrender to it. (Chick lit. 12 & up)

LADIES IN WAITING

Sullivan, Laura L. Harcourt (336 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-547-58129-3

Three girls named Elizabeth suffer pangs of frustrated love in the court of Charles II in 1662 in this story that places equal emphasis on romance and history. Wealthy Eliza dreams of becoming a witty playwright and plans never to marry, as she believes her adoring father will never force her

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“Justin’s self-deprecating voice cannot hide his core sweetness and kindness, for he remains a great brother, a generous friend and a hero, too.” from justin case

into a match she doesn’t want. Impoverished Beth, her noble family ruined by her profligate father, now struggles against her insane, dominating mother. Zabby, who cares only for science, arrives from Barbados and unfortunately falls in love with King Charles himself. All three Elizabeths become ladies in waiting to the new Queen Catherine. Eliza must escape somehow when she learns that her father intends to force her into marriage after all, Beth falls desperately in love with a boy whose father helped ruin her family and Zabby can only approach Charles as a friend in scientific endeavors, not as a lover. Even while writing some rather preposterous (though probably popular) romance, Sullivan works hard to keep the history realistic. She sprinkles her characters’ dialogue with idioms from the era to an extent that may confuse modern readers a bit, but she certainly paints a colorful and largely accurate portrait of Restoration London. The unusual ending, especially, anchors the book more to history than to romance. A mixture that may well intrigue readers. (Historical romance. 12 & up)

JUSTIN CASE Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom

Vail, Rachel Illus. by Cordell, Matthew Feiwel & Friends (192 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-250-00081-1 Series: Justin Case, 2

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van Lieshout, Maria Illus. by van Lieshout, Maria Chronicle (40 pp.) $14.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4521-0664-9

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be another idea for an alphabet book—buckle up for this one! From the backseat of a car, a road trip becomes an “I Spy” game of road signs. “Vroom! Vroom! What do you see?” A = Airport; B = Bike Route; D = Detour; J = Junction; L = Library; Q = Quack (ducks crossing); U = US 101; V = Van Accessible; X = X-ING. The only stretch is the letter Z; the symbol is a person lying on a bed, indicating hotel/motel with a series of Zs for sleeping. The digital illustrations are the perfect medium to convey this clever concept. There is no text other than the words on the signs, which are real, using familiar block figures. The graphic page design is dramatic with the vivid sign colors (blue, red, green, yellow) contrasting sharply with the black background. The taxi-yellow car with a round child’s head in the backseat is viewed only on the first and last pages, while the crosswise, wide white dashes denote car lanes and roads, unifying the design throughout and suggesting motion on a trip. The license plate on the car on the cover says, “ABC*FUN,” and it is! (Alphabet book. 3-6)

THE WHISPERING HOUSE

Justin tries to convince himself that, in spite of his well-earned nickname, he is not a worried kid anymore and that summer vacation means that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. He forgoes Science Camp for the kind of camp where he will encounter “runny-aroundy kids” and challenges of a different kind, which he looks forward to facing with grim determination. Some old fears do persist, like the evil Boiler in the basement, Jell-O and the rug-shampooer. Scary thoughts have a way of sneaking up on him and it turns out that camp provides an endless number of new things to worry about. Changing clothes, jumping in cold water, getting hit with a ball of any size, Swim Test, counselors, Color War and those horrible flip-flops all fill him with terror. Written again in the form of a journal, this sequel reintroduces the thoroughly delightful Justin Case in all his worried glory and very active imagination. Vail employs language and syntax that perfectly capture the thought processes of this precocious almost–fourth grader. Cordell’s black line, scribble sketches depict some of the goofier actions and Justin’s wildest imaginings. Justin’s self-deprecating voice cannot hide his core sweetness and kindness, for he remains a great brother, a generous friend and a hero, too. Hilarious, laugh-out-loud fun for middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 7-10)

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BACKSEAT A-B-SEE

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Wade, Rebecca Katherine Tegen/ HarperCollins (272 pp.) $16.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-06-077497-4

Contemporary English kids and a restless Victorian ghost inhabit a mystery with an inventive reveal in this sequel to The Theft & the Miracle (2007). Hannah’s family temporarily moves house and her father immediately departs for a speaking tour, leaving Hannah—whose mother is present but slightly irrelevant—vulnerable to domestic oddities. Wallpaper peels, electricity flickers and the house seems to be crumbling on purpose. Hannah and friend Sam try to find connections between a discolored, pin-stuck doll in the attic and the doll’s owner, a girl named Maisie who lived in the house and died in 1877 at age 11. Damp weather makes Hannah dream of lurid green leaves and a fire she can hear but not see. As Hannah takes her school exams, the calendar advances towards Maisie’s death-date. Was Maisie murdered? Does she want her murderer identified? Wade takes readers through two suspects (first Maisie’s ugly maiden aunt, then Maisie’s comely mother, textually challenging assumptions about appearance) to an answer both relieving and tragic. Despite a narrative voice that’s sometimes stiff or too descriptive, Hannah and Sam seem younger than their 14

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years. A clue-offering secondary plot is implausibly convenient. However, there’s plenty of spookiness, and the truth about Maisie’s death and Hannah’s dreams is surprisingly interesting. While this isn’t the strongest restless-ghost story in characterization or voice, the tidbit it reveals about Victorian history is memorable. (Ghost story. 8-12)

UNBREAK MY HEART

Walker, Melissa Bloomsbury (240 pp.) $16.99 | May 22, 2012 978-1-59990-528-0

Clementine Williams, 16, heartbroken and guilt-ridden, could use some personal space to figure things out, but confined with her family on a 42-foot sailboat for a summer-long trip down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on the Great Loop route, privacy is in short supply. Estranged from her lifelong best friend Amanda and confused by her forbidden, now-severed relationship with Ethan, Clem withdraws from family activities, curling up in her tiny cabin with iPod and journal. Her worried, loving parents and little sister, Olive, fail to draw Clem out of her self-imposed isolation, though the peaceful, scenic river life soothes her. But it’s James, 17, the tall, red-headed artist on a parallel trip with his dad, who gives her the new perspective she needs to begin healing. Interspersed with this account, the events leading to Clem’s present misery unfold in flashbacks. Fully realized and authentic, she behaves and responds like a genuine teen. (Ethan is the exception among a cast of believable characters: why, after pursuing Clem steadily, did he abruptly withdraw?) Walker’s compassion and emotional insight, lauded in her well-received Small Town Sinners (2011), are strengths, as is the setting. From vessels named with groan-inducing puns like Sea Ya to the challenges of shipboard sanitation, she brings the insulated boating world to life with knowledgeable affection. A quietly absorbing journey. (Fiction. 12 & up)

WHO AM I?

Walker, Richard Kingfisher (96 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-7534-67114 A broad overview of what makes us tick and, more superficially, what makes us human. Loosely related to an exhibit of the same name at the London Science Museum, the survey organizes single-topic spreads into four general areas: the brain and nervous system; heredity and evolution; emotions and social communication; and reproduction and development. The busy design features dazzling washes of color that provide few places |

for eyes to rest, mid-sized blocks of commentary and relatively technical explanatory captions. These mingle with elaborate montages of photographed children, medical and microphotography and photorealistic digital images of human anatomy rendered with a plastic sheen. Other animals, even other primates, get barely a nod as discussions of language, emotion, multiple kinds of intelligence, gender identity, individual personality, sex and attractiveness, aging and all the rest stay closely focused on human traits and features. Readers will come away with a few mistaken ideas—no, all bacteria are not bad—but also a clearer picture of how our bodies and brains function. A close look at the human animal—informative despite a severe lack of overall context. (review questions, personality test, multimedia resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

I AM A SEAL TEAM SIX WARRIOR Memoirs of an American Soldier

Wasdin, Howard E. & Templin, Stephen St. Martin’s Griffin (192 pp.) $8.99 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-250-01643-0 Abridged but not toned down, this young-readers version of an ex-SEAL sniper’s account (SEAL Team Six, 2011) of his training and combat experiences in Operation Desert Storm and the first Battle of Mogadishu makes colorful, often compelling reading. “My experiences weren’t always enjoyable,” Wasdin writes, “but they were always adrenaline-filled!” Not to mention testosterone-fueled. He goes on to ascribe much of his innate toughness to being regularly beaten by his stepfather as a child and punctuates his passage through the notoriously hellacious SEAL training with frequent references to other trainees who fail or drop out. He tears into the Clinton administration (whose “support for our troops had sagged like a sack of turds”), indecisive commanders and corrupt Italian “allies” for making such a hash of the entire Somalian mission. In later chapters he retraces his long, difficult physical and emotional recovery from serious wounds received during the “Black Hawk Down” operation, his increasing focus on faith and family after divorce and remarriage and his second career as a chiropractor. Fans of all things martial will echo his “HOOYAH!”—but the troubled aftermath comes in for some attention too. (acronym/ordinance glossary, adult level reading list) (Memoir. 12-14)

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“Williams, as always, keeps her prose, this time arranged on the page as prose poems, sensitive, intelligent and completely absorbing.” from waiting

FRYDERYK CHOPIN

Weill, Catherine Translated by Stanley-Baker, Penelope Illus. by Voake, Charlotte First Discovery Music (28 pp.) $19.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1851033089 Series: First Discovery Music Charming illustrations and a thoughtful choice of performance examples enhance this deceptively simple introduction to the life and work of Frederic Chopin that emphasizes the singing voice of his piano music. Like others in the First Discovery series, this entry features Voake’s delicate ink-and-watercolor sketches, period illustrations and an accompanying CD narrated by Michael Cantwell. The audio includes excerpts from a broad range of the Polish-born composer’s piano music, from short pieces to sonatas and a concerto, all taken from good recorded performances. In the first section, each double-page spread covers a particular point in the musician’s life and includes a sidebar with further information and suggestions for the musically inclined. A second section briefly describes his compositions. The text is limited, no more than a paragraph per spread, but made more difficult by sentences broken across the pages. First published in France in 1999, this new edition is a joint publication of Moonlight Publishing and the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in London. The CD would serve on its own as an audiobook, but Voake’s softly colored drawings and the reproduced paintings, though small, enrich the experience. Claude Debussy, by Pierre Babin, publishes simultaneously and shares this title’s strengths. Attractive to look at, to hold and to hear, this is a good selection for music-making children. (Informational picture book/audiobook. 6-10)

RUBY’S SLEEPOVER

White, Kathryn Illus. by Latimer, Miriam Barefoot (32 pp.) $16.99 | paper $7.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-84686-593-0 978-1846867583 paperback Ready with her backpack of essential items and trusty vivid imagination, Ruby returns for another adventure (Ruby’s School Walk, 2010)—of the backyard-at-night variety—with thrilling and eventually cozy results. Ruby’s rhyming narrative is full of infectious enthusiasm: “I’m sleeping with Mai in my tent tonight, / When the moon is full and the stars are bright.” Mai brings a teddy and a book, but Ruby brings her blue egg, colorful beans and two magical rings. Soon camping excitement turns to worry as rumbles and shadows and overactive imaginations produce fears of a fearsome giant, a fire-snorting dragon and pirates from “magical ships that sail from the moon.” Luckily Ruby creatively uses her trove 756

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to vanquish the scary threats, and both girls tuck in for a dreamy sleep. While White’s rhythmic text keeps the fantastical action flowing, Latimer uses acrylic paints and watercolor pencils to deftly portray every detail in the girls’ real and make-believe moments. The pinkish-red tent draws the eye on most pages, but readers will pore over the smaller additions that pop in the otherwise darkish palette: a prowling mosquito, a cat prancing on the fence, Ruby’s crocodile slippers, the howling foxes, a perched owl. The final page shows all the creatures and characters cuddled up together along the curves of a crescent moon. As the weather turns and young readers yearn to be outside, share this well-designed tale for a most satisfying ending to a good night. (Picture book. 3-6)

WAITING

Williams, Carol Lynch Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4424-4353-2 A girl copes with the death of her beloved brother Zach, and the devastation it has wrought on her family. London clearly has sunk into despair. She goes to school but doesn’t interact with her friends. At home, her mother refuses to speak with her at all, eventually becoming openly hostile to her. Her father does his best to hold the family together on his own, but he has his own limits. London does find herself strongly attracted to Jesse, a new boy in school, but he’s in a relationship with London’s former best friend. Another new student, Lili, manages to penetrate London’s mental fog with her inexhaustible energy, apparently on a mission to make London her friend. London finds herself caught between the old and the new as she delves ever more deeply into the chaos that her brother’s death has caused. Williams, as always, keeps her prose, this time arranged on the page as prose poems, sensitive, intelligent and completely absorbing. She slowly peels back the veils on London’s, her father’s and her mother’s psychology, eventually revealing the strong and the weak and, ultimately, how Zach died. The family she depicts are former missionaries, giving the book strong spiritual undertones that should appeal to religious as well as general audiences. Exceptional. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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VICTORIO’S WAR

Wilson, John Orca (176 pp.) $12.95 paperback | May 1, 2012 978-1-55469-882-0 Series: Desert Legends Trilogy, 3 A sad tale threaded with deaths, regrets and the importance of memory and story concludes this three volume narrative of a young Canadian wanderer in the Old West. A year after parting from Bill “Billy the Kid” Bonney and taking up a new job scouting for a troop of Buffalo Soldiers, Jim Doolen finds himself caught between friends in the military and friends riding with the Apaches they are chasing. Jim gets all too close to ambushes and atrocities on both sides before being captured. He is saved by his mystic old mentor Too-ah-yay-say from being killed out of hand by his enemy Ghost Moon and held captive until a final massacre by Mexican soldiers. As in previous episodes, Wilson hangs his plot on actual events and characters—most notable among the latter the great Chiricahua leader Victorio (Biduya) and his strong warrior-prophet sister, Lozen. Jim’s bitter reflections on the hard fates that have befallen nearly all of the good and worthy people he has met in his travels give his account a weary, valedictory tone, though plans to convey one of the massacre’s few surviving children back to the reservation give him a final task and a glimmer of hope that he’s serving the future in a small way. Despite fair measures of bloodshed and gunfire, all the long thoughts and dusty desert trails will make the pacing seem slow to readers who haven’t already thrilled to Jim’s earlier adventures. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

HORSEPLAY!

Wilson, Karma Illus. by McMullan, Jim Little, Brown (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-316-93842-6 It’s not called horseplay for nothing. Farmer is the unhappy owner of a “worthless bunch” of horses that sleep all day. What gives with these narcoleptic nags, he wonders, so he hides out that night to spy on them, discovering the horses spend the night monkeying around—call it horseplay, with the emphasis on play. Wilson’s rhymed text is just as merry as her subjects: “Those horses didn’t sleep one bit. / They frolicked on the loose. / They joined in games like Hideand-Seek, / Leapfrog, and Duck, Duck, Goose.” But her Farmer is a killjoy, ready to throw his wet blanket on the herd for some reason; surely he doesn’t want them to work for their oats. Night after night the horses thwart his party-pooping, until finally he stops the horseplay by staying up all night, which makes him one of those worthless types that sleep all day. The mood here is of subversive festivity, with a rolling, melodious pleasure to the |

words and a gratifying, easy quality to McMullan’s artwork, with its 1950s feel and eye-comforting colors. The horses even learn that a good night’s sleep doesn’t cut into their horseplay. A solid and gleeful dose of ridiculousness. (Picture book. 3-6)

mother’s and father’s day round -up I LOVE MY DADDY

Andreae, Giles Illus. by Dodd, Emma Disney Hyperion (32 pp.) $12.99 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-1-4231-4328-4 Andreae and Dodd team up again (I Love My Mommy, 2011) to create a sweet look at all the fun a round-faced toddler and daddy experience together. A pleasingly rhythmic text paired with oversized illustrations in black-outlined saturated brights ensures instant appeal for the youngest readers. Child and dad make pancakes, “play horsies,” sing songs, dance, go on the swings, watch television, share pizza and cuddle at bedtime. Stars in muted colors pepper the backgrounds on most of the pages, becoming vibrant on the final page as a bedcover pattern. The smiling narrator declares, “My daddy’s such a lovely man, / In fact, I am his BIGGEST fan!” The delight is in the details: Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy looking for the slightly gray bunny on most pages, while parents will nod at the occasional mess of batter splattered on the kitchen counter and cookie crumbs scattered over the sofa. While odes on the wonderfulness of dads are plentiful, this stands out for its spot-on execution and colorful charm. (Picture book. 1-4)

STAY CLOSE TO MAMA

Buzzeo, Toni Illus. by Wohnoutka, Mike Disney Hyperion (32 pp.) $15.99 | Mar. 13, 2012 978-1-4231-3482-4

A young giraffe repeatedly lands in dangerous situations when his curiosity

gets the best of him. Concerned mama giraffe knows many threats exist on the African savanna, but her little Twiga (“giraffe” in Swahili) “is so curious.” The “tall, tall mama…leans close and whispers a warning, / No, little Twiga. Stay close, stay safe.” Twiga’s keen senses

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prove irresistible. He hears music in a thorny tree, sees sparkly water and smells the delicious fruit of the sausage tree. Each time he approaches the attractive object, a predator or serious discomfort—hyena, stinging ants, crocodile, cheetah—looms near. The clueless Twiga always manages to move onto the next pursuit just in time. Mama giraffe is often shown in the background looking worried. But Twiga, other than in the moment the ants crawl onto his nose, never learns the important lesson that being careful will surely save his life. Somehow all is forgiven after Twiga grabs the sweet fruit and returns to his mama… at least until the next time. Overall there are many elements that seem off: the contradictory message, the sometimes-precious tone of the text and the disconnect between the textual description of the setting and what is shown in Wohnoutka’s illustrations. The text describes “tall brown grass” and a “dusty plain,” but the full-bleed spreads show mostly lush green landscapes dotted with flowers. Pass on this muddled effort. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-5)

BECAUSE YOUR MOMMY LOVES YOU

Clements, Andrew Illus. by Alley, R.W. Clarion (32 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-547-25522-4

Clements and Alley reunite to produce a strong companion title to Because Your Daddy Loves You (2005). Mommy and her son are off to camp at White Mountain National Forest, but first they need supplies. When the boy gets lost in the store, he calls out to his mother. His “mommy could say, / It’s all right, I’m coming to find you! / But she doesn’t. // She calls your name, / and you follow the sound of her voice. // When you find her, you get a big hug— / after you promise not to wander off again.” And so the challenging situations continue as they climb the steep mountain with heavy backpacks, cross a somewhat scary log bridge, put up their tent and roast marshmallows instead of burn them. Along the way mom could step in and take over or make things easier for her son, “But she doesn’t.” With great patience, gentle encouragement and firm direction, she guides her son through these various life lessons to foster self-confidence and independence. The ink, watercolor and acrylic illustrations deftly capture the boy’s apprehensions and resultant pride at his accomplishments. This is no helicopter mom, and things turn out just fine. Sure to connect with children in many ways—the adventure of camping, learning how to do things all by oneself and conquering initial anxieties. (Picture book. 4-6)

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SURFER CHICK

Dempsey, Kristy Illus. by Cole, Henry Abrams (32 pp.) $16.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4197-0188-7

A most expressive chicken makes a splash in this winning title about learning to surf. Dempsey (Mini Racer, 2011) keeps her groovy, rhyming text tight to create a raplike beat that colorfully describes a young chick’s adventures tackling the waves. “Two birds of a feather— / a chick and her dad— / lived by the shore / in a radical pad. // A legend in surfing, / Chick’s dad ruled the Roost. / Her dream was to learn / every move he produced.” Cole chooses a vibrant palette of neon and saturated bright hues that pop against the cerulean blue water found on several spreads. Dad comes off as laid back and oh so cool but offers calm encouragement when Chick has trouble paddling. Children will feel her frustration at learning a new skill and relate to her feeling “[a]lone on the sand, / [she] simply felt chicken. / She rested on shore / till her courage could thicken.” Inspired by her dad’s “righteous” moves, she heads for the waves and “[chooses] to be brave.” The acrylic-paint–and–colored-pencil illustrations humorously capture Chick’s every emotion as she battles the water and her fears. But her perseverance pays off, and a “gnarly new legend / has been introduced. // She’s fearless and plucky. / She’s stoked and she’s quick. / She’s totally awesome— / a real Surfer Chick!” A guaranteed “Cowabunga!” (Picture book. 3-6)

THE BUMP

Kelly, Mij Illus. by Allan, Nicholas Tiger Tales (32 pp.) $12.95 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-1-58925-107-6 Kelly and Allan marry their talents to produce a rather awkward title about growing maternal affection prior to a child’s arrival. Most young children savor stories about when they were little, but this British import focuses on “your mommy before you met her.” She seems surprised at being pregnant; initially she is a “bit scared, / very excited and not quite prepared.” But, the refrain declares, “the bump—like her love—grew and grew.” The mostly pastel illustrations, which appear to be executed in watercolor and ink, portray the future mother as an exuberant, pink-cheeked woman with squiggly yellow-and-orange hair. Readers will chuckle at her attempt to play hide and seek—her bump is quite visible sticking out from behind a tree—her need to buy a “humongous tent to wear” and her cravings for “green ice cream and onion rings.” But the rhyming text is often forced and occasionally strains for scansion: “She hugged it and lugged it all across town. / She never once stopped and put that bump down.” The artwork has appeal for preschoolers, but the concepts seem better suited for older children.

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“The full-bleed double-page spreads evoke the vastness of the plains and the night sky….” from meet me at the moon

While it may touch a parent’s heart and be a welcome gift for an expectant mother, look for other titles that better celebrate a baby’s entry into the world. (Picture book. 4-7)

MEET ME AT THE MOON

Marino, Gianna Illus. by Marino, Gianna Viking (40 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-670-01313-5 On the African plains a little elephant struggles with the prospect of missing his mother as she prepares to “climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain.” Mama elephant must go because their land is experiencing drought. Typically Mama and Little One sing their calling song—depicted visually as a colorful stream of fine dots—to meet, but this trip will be long and the baby does not want his mother to go. Little One questions: “What if I can’t hear you, Mama?” “How will I know you still love me?” “How will you find me again?” Each time Mama responds with gentle reassurances related to the wind, sun and stars. When Mama leaves, a trio of giraffes and a zebra couple come closer to comfort Little One. Time passes, and the small elephant despairs. But she remembers what her mother said and sings her calling song “deep into the night.” Their touching reunion shows Mama encircling her baby with her trunk, a shape that is repeated in the great white moon behind them. Marino impresses with her lyrical language, conveying it in a perfect tone to allay young readers’ feelings of separation anxiety. The textured mixed-media art paired with the flowing text elevates this title above most missing-mama fare. The full-bleed double-page spreads evoke the vastness of the plains and the night sky, while the finely detailed striping of the zebras and the intricate branches of the trees produce a striking contrast with the huge circles of the sun or moon that dominate most scenes. Radiating warmth and comfort, this distinguished title strikes home. (Picture book. 2-5)

WHEN DADS DON’T GROW UP

Parker, Marjorie Blain Illus. by Alley, R.W. Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 15, 2012 978-0-8037-3717-4

Here is an unabashed celebration of dads who enthusiastically embrace their inner children. The results are endearing, sometimes embarrassing but most often hilarious. Parker invites readers to witness the following silly behavior: “When dads don’t grow up / they understand that shopping carts are for racing… / that clothes don’t have to match… / and that pancakes weren’t meant to be round.” Alley uses pen and ink, |

watercolors and colored pencil to show an abundance of humorous details in a series of vignettes that greatly extend the text. A stern grocery-store manager glares at dad and daughter sitting in the wreckage of their shopping-cart race; a professorial dad lectures in a mad combination of stripes, argyle and plaid. Preschoolers will see themselves and, one hopes, their fathers in the madcap situations that populate this title. Whether finding fun in popping bubble wrap, throwing stones in water, playing sports indoors or “getting their hair wet (if they still have any),” the four ethnically and occupationally diverse dads—a florist, a doctor, a businessman and a construction worker—obviously relish these experiences as much as their children do. An ideal choice for sharing with preschoolers and anyone else who has a soft spot for lovable but goofy dads. (Picture book. 3-5)

GUS MAKES A GIFT

Remkiewicz, Frank Illus. by Remkiewicz, Frank Cartwheel/Scholastic (24 pp.) $3.99 paperback | Apr. 1, 2012 978-0-545-24469-5 Should Fly Guy, Elephant and Piggie, Biscuit and Puppy Mudge make room in the growing field of very beginning readers for Gus? Maybe… In this third book about Gus (Gus Gets Scared and Gus Makes a Friend, both 2011), newly emergent readers can practice recognizing sight words, playing with inflection and mastering repeated vocabulary all while discovering how this pleasant rhino prepares for a special day. Though the simple sentence structure contains only single-syllable words, the colorful cartoon art cues young readers and cleverly augments the text. Remkiewicz, well known for illustrating the Froggy series, proves from the first page that this is no typical day-at-school title. While the text reads “Gus goes to school,” the framed page shows daddy rhino and Gus passing a florist’s shop with a huge sign that proclaims “Mom’s Day.” Tension arises during craft time when Gus and a spunky blue elephant compete for creating the most impressive bead necklace: “ ‘See my beads!’ says Tess. / ‘See MY beads!’ says Gus. / ‘NOW see my beads!’ says Tess. / ‘Now see MY beads!’ says Gus.” The page turn reveals an “Oops!” as all but one of Gus’s beads spill to the floor. No need to worry—Mom loves it. This may not have the laugh-out-loud humor or silly sweetness found in many titles of this kind, but Gus has great appeal, and the story provides just the right level of challenges for those just beginning to read. (Early reader. 4-6)

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“Young insomniacs will recognize themselves in the antics of the oversized dad and enjoy poring over the naively drawn details found on every page.” from my dad is big and strong, but...

WHERE’S MY MOMMY?

Roth, Carol Illus. by Julian, Sean NorthSouth (32 pp.) $16.95Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-7358-4032-4

Animal sounds, a barnyard setting and a search for a missing mommy are the elements that coalesce into this pleasing if not terribly distinguished tale. Little Kitty wakes up from a nap and discovers that her mother is gone. After a fruitless search in the barn, she encounters a little calf and asks for help. The calf cheerfully instructs, “Listen to me carefully. / I’ll tell you what to do. / Whenever I want my mommy, / I just call MOO, MOO, MOO.” (While the baby animals all speak in rhyme, the rest of the narrative is conveyed in ordinary prose.) Of course Little Kitty summons the mommy cow instead of her own. The pattern continues with piglet, duckling and a colt. In despair, she curls up and begins to cry, “Meow, meow, meow.” As her cries get progressively louder, Julian provides a full bleed spread in warm hues featuring kitty’s mommy looking out from a wagon. “Quick as a wink, she came running.” The conclusion is more than a bit pat: “Little Kitty never forgot how to call her mommy again.” This sweet story will most likely appeal to toddlers and young preschoolers. With ample opportunities to join in on the animal calls, this is an easy choice for storytime or sharing one-on-one, but it is hardly the only farm/animal-noise book on the shelf. Decent but not extraordinary. (Picture book. 2-4)

MY DAD IS BIG AND STRONG, BUT... A Bedtime Story

Saudo, Coralie Illus. by Di Giacomo, Kris Enchanted Lion Books (32 pp.) $16.95 | May 8, 2012 978-1-59270-122-3

This French import by Saudo impresses with its comic take on the now-popular rolereversal of a child trying to get his parent to bed. The wry narrative tone of a smallish but still substantial boy always displayed in profile conveys the exasperation most parents experience. Dad, depicted in a proper hat and tie, declares, “I don’t want to go to bed!” And so begins the convincing, debating, distracting and demanding—from both sides. As the tension escalates with stubborn refusals and increasingly silly behavior (dad in a handstand or swinging from the chandelier), the boy turns to “the story trick [that] works every time.” Daddy wants another and another, “[b]ut enough is enough!” After a few more negotiations (tucking the fedora-clad Daddy in, firmly telling him he must sleep in his own bed) the recalcitrant oldster finally says, “ ‘Good night,’…in a small, faraway voice.” Dad may be “big / and strong, / but he’s afraid of the 760

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dark.” DiGiacomo’s mixed-media illustrations in a bedtime palette of browns and grays lend an irresistible whimsy to this humorous if less-than-original tale. Young insomniacs will recognize themselves in the antics of the oversized dad and enjoy poring over the naively drawn details found on every page. With far more genuineness than Seriously, Just Go to Sleep, this is sure to be a hit with preschoolers. (Picture book. 3-6)

ALL ABOUT GRANDMAS

Schotter, Roni Illus. by Nadeau, Janice Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Mar. 1, 2012 978-0-8037-3714-3

A bouncy rhyme delivers a warm, lighthearted look at all kinds of grandmothers. Nadeau chooses cozy backgrounds in pale greens and peachy pinks to highlight the humorous antics, superior talents and loving gestures of these adoring ladies. Known as Savta or Abuela or Baba or Daa-dee-maa, these grandmas from all cultures gab on park benches, balance in yoga poses, ride bikes, knit, bake and go birding. Schotter also includes a flashback to what these wonderful women did when they were younger, whether it be dancing to rock and roll or marching for equal rights. There is also a touch of the stereotypical: “There are nagging grandmas and bragging grandmas, / some noisy, some purry. / But no matter the grandma, / they all seem to worry!” Yet “when I need to know, / who she loves so, / I look in her eyes…” The ultimate message is that grandmas most enjoy spending time with their beloved grandchildren—and that “just like we do, they need to know, / who it is that loves them so.” This book has obvious uses as a discussion starter about family members and the roles they play. A glossary of Grandma in different languages at the beginning of the book is particularly helpful but would be more so if pronunciations were included. Pickiness aside, this is a clever, buoyant look at many children’s favorite relative. (Picture book. 3-5)

DADDIES DO IT DIFFERENT

Sitomer, Alan Lawrence Illus. by Carter, Abby Disney Hyperion (40 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 17, 2012 978-1-4231-3315-5

Readers are in for a predictable, stereotypical comparison of how this particular mother and father differ in how they interact with their winsome daughter. The text follows a strict pattern, stating what Mommy typically does and following with how “daddies do it different,” even though there is only one daddy/mommy pair depicted. Mommy is usually pleasant and proper and gets things done: “When

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Mommy feeds me breakfast…. I sit nicely at the table, munch a piece of toast….” Daddy indulges in somewhat foolish behavior: “We make a fort with waffles, get syrup on the dog, and eat cereal straight out of the box!” (Mommies sharing this with their children will wonder who gets to wash the dog.) Carter ably paints the contrasting scenes in what appears to be watercolor. Most of these dichotomies make logical sense. Mommy teaches her daughter to make sauces while Daddy gives a lesson on how to juggle eggs and so on. But some are less successful: “When Mommy gets her nails done, I sometimes get mine painted, too. When Daddy watches Sunday sports, I sometimes see him cry.” But on the last spreads mom and dad each tuck their daughter in, give her a kiss and tell her how much she is loved in “the exact same way.” Unfortunately, this does not salvage the tale. Better choices abound, such as Marjorie Blain Parker and R.W. Alley’s When Dads Don’t Grow Up (2012) and Stephen Cook’s Day Out with Daddy (2006). (Picture book. 3-6)

interactive e-books IS IT NIGHT OR DAY? A Novel of Immigration and Survival, 1938-1942 Chapman, Fern Schumer Illus. by Heber, Andrew Literactivity Feb. 15, 2012 1.0; Feb. 15, 2012

Roughly hewn pedagogical elements are shoveled atop this abbreviated version of a 2010 novel based on the experiences of the author’s mother, a Jewish child sent from Nazi Germany to a hostile reception in this country. Edith has seen her family go from respectable burghers to “filth, Jews polluting the village.” The 12-year-old is sent to relatives in Chicago; there, her aunt treats her as a servant, schoolmates ignore her or taunt her and the government requires her to register as an “enemy alien.” Blocks of first-person text are recast from the print edition and are accompanied by awkwardly constructed collage-and-watercolor illustrations. Behind buttons fitted around the narrative are several inset featurettes on topics from “Nazi Bullying” to Hank Greenberg. Also available with a tap are multiple video clips of interviews with the author and her mother; these are marked by regrettably poor sound quality. There are as well as pro-and-con considerations for debate questions (misnamed “Case Studies”) like what to do about classroom bullying or “What programs should a public school offer immigrants who do not speak English?” Sprays of stars in the art key short comments and, on occasion, a fading figure representing a departing companion |

or friend. Audio narration doesn’t always match the text but can be switched on or off at any time, and three strip indexes allow rapid access to any screen or added feature. So plentiful are the added features, however, that oftentimes the central narrative feels pushed to the side. Ultimately, this rich source of unusual background material on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in general is marred by low production values. (iPad historical-fiction app. 11-13)

JULIETTE AND THE SHINY RED BALLOON

Chapman, Paul & Chapman, Yoko Illus. by Onorato, Andrew Long Weekend LLC $2.99 | Feb. 1, 2012 1.0.1; Feb. 5, 2012

A simple adventure with a touch of fantasy to share with a very young child. Juliette loves the shiny red balloon she gets from her dad. “With her red balloon,” Juliette can float up in the air to do mundane things, like “see who is at the door,” to more exciting things: She can “touch the giraffe’s horns” or “slide on a rainbow,” for instance. The cartoon illustrations are uninspired and have a clipart, generic look. Readers can choose between Japanese or English narration, and there are some sound effects and an optional music track. The simple interactive features work well and are simple enough for very little ones to accomplish. “Simple” is the operative word, though: Readers can send her swishing down the rainbow, accompanied by a chiming sound effect, or set the birds chirping, but little else. The page-by-page navigation is sufficient, since there are so few pages. The goodnight ending makes it suitable for use as a bedtime story. Though everything works right, it remains an undistinguished effort. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

BILL THE FISH

Curzon, Brett Illus. by Curzon, Brett Interact Media $2.99 | Feb. 3, 2012 1.0; Feb. 3, 2012 An interactive and funky text transmits the message that it’s OK to just be yourself. Eager to prove he’s not just another fish in the sea, Bill the Fish likes to say that he is “happy being me” and begins by highlighting his quirky habits, like eating breakfast for dinner and enjoying painting with his snail friend, Fred. Bill’s habits and characteristics are then contrasted with a motley crew of his fellow sea creatures, which range from a prawn with a beard to a stylish jellyfish called Kelly. The text features an easy-to-follow narrator whose clipped British accent adds to the silliness of

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the short and simple rhyming text. Unfortunately for those who chose to follow along with the printed text or read to themselves, the type used presents a confusing and inconsistent mix of upperand lower-case letters. Interactive elements include zany sound effects (some of which make sense, while others don’t), animated characters that are activated by tapping and a few characters that can be “dressed — up” by dragging and dropping elements like hats and beards. Bright, colorful painted illustrations pair well with the text, but renditions of the characters vary in quality, providing a sense of inconsistency that can be distracting. Despite its good intentions, readers may find Bill’s message of individuality and acceptance lost in the catalogue of characteristics. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

THE EDIBLE SUIT

Lear, Edward Illus. by Higham, Jon Tizio BV $3.99 | Feb. 23, 2012 1.0; Feb. 23, 2012

Rapid tapping calls up cascades of pigs, pork chops and more from this lightly edited version of Lear’s hilarious

“The New Vestments.” A bold fashion statement goes badly awry when a gent dressed in meat, candy and other edibles tries to take a stroll. Out hurtle “all sorts of beasticles, birdlings and boys” to send him reeling home stark naked. Higham depicts the onslaught in discreet but humorous watercolor cartoons, enhanced here by touchactivated animal calls and animations. In many scenes, veritable showers of items sail into view, usually with loud pops or other noises, as fast as little fingers can hit the screen. Based on a print version from 1986 with a few of the original verse’s lines rearranged and minor word changes (“jujubes” become “jelly beans,” a “girdle” switches to a “belt”), the rhyme can be read silently or by optional narrators in a Dutch translation or in British or North American accents. Other options include manual or auto advance, a slider to control the sprightly background music’s volume and, for added value, a separate letter-matching word game and savable coloring “sheets.” Smooth pans of the double-screen illustrations and interactive features that are as high in child appeal as the sidesplitting plot add up to an unusually successful crossover to the digital domain. (iPad storybook app. 6-9)

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SLICE OF BREAD GOES TO THE BEACH

Melenhorst, Glenn Illus. by Melenhorst, Glenn Jelly Biscuits $3.99 | Dec. 18, 2011 1.2; Jan. 27, 2012

A piece of sandwich bread combs the shore for treasures. Slice of Bread, aka SOB (an abbreviation inscribed on his mailbox), loves to hunt for treasure on the beach, but he rarely finds anything of value. One Saturday he hops in his vehicle— a toaster—and dashes to the seashore to dig for valuables. Initially he doesn’t find much so he heads for the dunes, where he unearths gold bars, a massive diamond, pearls, a Van Gogh painting and a host of other worthless “junk.” Throughout the day he’s plagued by dangers: A huge wave engulfs him (thus making him soggy); a sunbathing stint turns him into toast; and a hungry seagull chases him around the beach. He survives it all, however, and meets Multigrain, who becomes his new treasureseeking buddy. The premise of this story is outrageously puerile, which somehow gives it a measure of charm. Kids can help SOB scrape his burnt crumbs with a knife, rub butter on his sunburn and clean sand off his face. There are also a few hidden interactive elements that are relatively easy to find. A filmstrip index pops up when the SOB icon is tapped, making navigation simple. The Aussie narrator can be switched on or off, and pages can be set to turn automatically or manually. Moderately entertaining, though it might get stale after a few reads. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

GUESS WHO?

Parker, Courtney Illus. by Lee, Kyoung Kook NCsoft $2.99 | Feb. 2, 2012 1.0; Feb. 2, 2012 Strange and funky, with an addictive soundtrack and distinctive illustrations, this app has style to spare even if it won’t be to every reader’s taste. A baby is described throughout as having features that resemble those of other family members, like Mommy and Sister. But the app’s clever board-book–like design features bicut circles that only show part of other family members’ facial features from the next set of pages. Flipping the virtual page reveals the relative and unlocks sound effects and a few minor bits of animation while also providing a window back to the previous page. The text is simple with clues like, “Baby can’t go out to play. See his sad face. Who does baby look like? Guess who.” In this case, it’s angry-looking Grandpa, who cheers up when readers touch a sound icon located on his mouth. The app has a character-design sense that is a little freaky and a lot zany, especially in some of the added features. For example, in one

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This simple bedtime story succeeds with the help of lovely art, soothing narration and well-chosen interactive effects.” from the sun goes to bed

of three music videos for songs based on the story, the circular mouth-and-nose-only cutaways of the baby are used to create a band of sphere-headed infants wearing tiny, Speedo-like diapers. But the songs themselves are ridiculously catchy, especially “Guess Who?”, which turns the entire text of the storybook into a nearly five-minute musical number complete with animated family members and the story’s photo-snapping canine. A matching game is too short to be much fun, but the narration options are rich; there’s a female or male narrator choice in addition to a tool for readers to record their own. The bouncy songs and the extreme art style may well appeal to young readers, who certainly haven’t seen much like it anywhere else. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

THE SUN GOES TO BED

Touchoo Touchoo $2.99 | Dec. 22, 2011 1.0; Dec. 22, 2011

This simple bedtime story succeeds with the help of lovely art, soothing narration and well-chosen interactive effects. The sun works very hard during the day, so when night approaches, it’s tired and ready for bed. As it sets, it looks back on the work it’s done, “[b]eaming rays to help everything grow. / Spreading health through a soft, warm glow.” The poetry is simple but generally effective (aside from a few awkward moments), with the illustrations in soothing purples, oranges and greens providing a big assist. The satisfying interactive effects include turning lights on in dark windows, sending an army of ants scurrying along twisting paths and tucking flower petals in on themselves. At the end of the story, the sun slips under the covers next to a sleeping child. The app provides a handy slide-navigation bar at the bottom of each page and an autoplay option. The female narrator has a soothing British accent, and words are highlighted as she speaks. Unfortunately, an option to record the book with the user’s voice resulted in the app repeatedly crashing, an effect that one hopes will be fixed in a future update. A comfortable bedtime story that will help send little ones (and maybe grownups) off to sleep. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

JONAH

Towers, Laura--Adapt. Illus. by Dumm, Brian Caleb ZunZun Books LLC $3.99 | Dec. 20, 2011 1.0; Dec. 20, 2011

in a rapid succession of events: God creates a maritime storm; the crew throws Jonah overboard; a whale swallows him; Jonah repents; the whale vomits him up; and Jonah finally delivers God’s message to the wicked Ninevites. The illustrations are pleasant but blandly uninspiring, and the only “interactive” feature is the ability to move a thought bubble around on one page, which—weirdly enough—leaves behind the severed arms of the would-be rioters Jonah is imagining. Scant animation is so slight it’s hard to detect without a lingering stare. The only thing worse than the technological and aesthetic deficiencies is the story’s shallow, reductive moralizing. The story begins with a declaration that Jonah is one of God’s favorites (a designation the Biblical text never makes) and in essence conveys that God has favorites and you won’t be one of them unless you follow the rules. Interestingly enough, the developers left out the part of the story where Jonah wants to die because he’s angry that God had mercy on the Ninevites. A minnow of a story at a whale of a price. (iPad storybook app. 2-4)

POOR, POOR JACK

Tremblay, Patrick Illus. by Tremblay, Amanda Rattledash Media $0.99 | Jan. 11, 2012 1.2; Jan. 19, 2012 A resolution isn’t all that’s missing from this distinctly handcrafted episode. Narrated in a dryly amused tone by the author and supplied with loud, comical sound effects, the tale features a jack-o’-lantern. Disappointed when he’s not sold by Halloween, he tries out alternate careers as a jalapeño pepper, a grape picker, a “fireman” (no firefighters here, evidently) and a soldier. Failing at all these, he’s at last adopted by a young girl— but then he overhears her mother planning a pumpkin pie and is last seen bouncing away down the road. Looking like a paper cutout and placed atop a succession of blurry Photoshopped backdrops, Jack turns various colors as he goes and can be made to bounce a little, swell slightly, roll and utter occasional words with a touch. Readers uninvolved in his plight (which will be most of them) can also move 10 cupcakes around at random on one screen, call up snatches of mariachi music on another, set a fly in motion and like irrelevancies. Droll as far as it goes, but unfinished of plot and endowed with special effects that are, at best, nondescript. (iPad storybook app. 5-7)

This Bible story could’ve been spectacular on the iPad, but this version is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Jonah doesn’t want to preach to the residents of Nineveh so he hops on a boat to escape. From there, the brief story unfolds |

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DESPICABLE ME: STORYBOOK

Trilogy Studios Trilogy Studios $3.99 | Feb. 2, 2012 1.1; Feb. 2, 2012

A drastically abbreviated version of the 2010 film, with occasional interactive elements and a pair of mildly entertaining side features. The app preserves the story arc, in which bad guy Gru uses a stolen Shrink Ray to cop the Moon, loses both to rival evil inventor Vector, adopts three little orphan girls to get them back and ends up a besotted foster dad. It strips out most of the action, dialogue and physical comedy, however. The “Storybook” feature is made up of slow-to-load individual scenes that pan, zoom or show small animations as a reader delivers the terse narrative (voiced narration cannot be turned off). Though the text can be whisked into or out of sight with a tap, and some of the animations are activated by a finger swipe or in one case a shake of the tablet, viewers are otherwise relegated to the role of passive observers. A return to the main menu leads either to a trio of animated invention “blueprints” with lines that can be filled in by rubbing or a portrait gallery with audio selections of cast members’ hyperbolically delivered exclamations and bon mots. More a memento than a spinoff that will stand on its own—and readers who have seen the movie will be disappointed at how much has been left out. (iPad movie tie-in app. 6-8)

This Issue’s Contributors # Kim Becnel • Marcie Bovetz • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Charles Cassady • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Lisa Dennis • Carol Edwards • Laurie Flynn • Diane B. Foote • Omar Gallaga • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Melinda Greenblatt • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Julie Hubble • Shelley Huntington • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Robin Fogle Kurz • Megan Lambert • Peter Lewis • Lori Low • Wendy Lukehart • Lauren Maggio • Joan Malewitz • Jeanne McDermott • Kathie Meizner • Daniel Meyer • R. Moore • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Shana Raphaeli • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Lesli Rodgers • Erika Rohrbach • Ronnie Rom • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Dean Schneider • Karyn N. Silverman • Karin Snelson • Rita Soltan • Shelley Sutherland • Jennifer Sweeney • Deborah D. Taylor • Jessica Thomas • Corinna Underwood • Bette Wendell-Branco • Monica D. Wyatt • Melissa Yurechko

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indie Self-publishing has opened an incredible number of doors—not just for authors but for readers, too. With well over 1 million books self-published a year, those doors won’t be closing anytime soon. Of course the sheer quantity of self-published books is astounding—after all, everyone has a story to tell, and sharing that story with thousands, or even millions, of people has never been easier or less expensive—but what may be more surprising is the quality of self-published books ready to be discovered. At Indie, we’ve offered professional, unbiased reviews of self-published books since 2005, so we’re intimately aware of how great these books can be. Some have even earned Kirkus Stars. So read on and visit kirkusreviews.com/indie for an exciting look at books made possible by self-publishing. 9 These titles earned the Kirkus Star: INTO THE CHILD by Shannon Colleary........................................p. 766

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A NEW BEGINNING

Arthur, Addison C. Balance Integration Group (350 pp.) $29.95 paperback | $9.99 e-book Dec. 31, 2010 978-0979335716 Arthur presents an extensive compendium of advice and information that can be utilized by readers seeking to change their lives for the better. While Arthur’s work seeks to be a book about crisis management, promising to help “a person in a crisis situation to become stable, healthy and joyful,” it is so exhaustingly thorough in defining and addressing the myriad of crises one might encounter—from miscarriage to torture—as well as the many possible ways one’s life might be improved—from finding the right job to getting a good night’s sleep—that it’s unlikely to be of much value to a reader truly in crisis. A rape victim, for instance, would be better served by a book about rape than one that also includes extensive, if accurate, information about selfmutilation and mental illness. This book could, however, prove quite valuable to its other intended audience, “those that are in their comfort zones and have decided it is time to make some positive changes in their lives.” The material, on a vast range of topics, from time management to meditation, financial health to food safety, as well as snoring, addiction, humor, brain development and countless others, is well organized and lucid, if frequently un-sourced. Advice like “[w]henever you seek something better in your life, you may have to let something else go in order to get it” doesn’t need to be referenced. But the claim that “orange improves social behavior” surely should be, but is not. Nor is the reader provided with any biographical information about the author, such as what his credentials are or how he came to write this book. While there is little that is new in these pages, and it’s too broad and encyclopedic to serve a reader in the midst of coping with a real crisis, there’s enough useful information and sound advice here to make it a good choice for the reader who wants to work toward a life that is more “stable, healthy and joyful.” Though much sifting may be required, Arthur’s book is a valuable resource for those looking to better themselves.

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“Sometimes sweet, sometimes sassy, screenwriter and blogger Colleary tells all with witty sarcasm and edgy, laugh-out-loud humor.” from into the child

CAELESTIC LIGHT Brewer, Shannon

In Brewer’s debut novel, a young woman takes a journey into her mysterious past. On the outside, Alora is a typical about-to-be high school senior, with a healthy interest in fashion, friends and boys. But on the inside, there’s a lot more going on, some of which is so bizarre that she doesn’t even know how to explain it to her best friend Tanya. One the one hand, she’s struggling with her feelings for her handsome childhood friend, Hayden. He only has eyes for Alora and would like nothing more than for their relationship to develop further. But not wanting to enter into something that may ruin their friendship, Alora struggles to temper her passion for Hayden while attempting, as best she can, to keep their relationship platonic. But before long, her conflicting feelings for Hayden become the least of her worries. She’s already troubled by recurring nightmares in which she is a baby, with a woman she thinks may be her mother, fleeing an unknown enemy, but soon realizes that these dreams are eerily connected to her waking life. While maintaining her sanity, she must figure out the meaning of the strange, powerful lights in the woods behind her home—lights that only she is able to see. She must also contend with the greeneyed hunk Riahn, who wants to protect her from the increasing number of strangers who insist on showing up in her life—most of whom seem to know more about Alora than she does. Soon she finds herself in the magical realms of Caelestic, and her questions will be answered—but they won’t be the answers she was expecting. Brewer has created a compelling combination of reality and fantasy where the characters, both human and otherworldly, are bestowed with unique gifts and flaws that make them either endearing or demonic. Alora is a likable adolescent heroine whose thoughtfulness and sense of humor are expressed clearly in both action and dialogue. The story’s pace is often intense and the suspense will keep the pages turning until the convoluted climax that nevertheless will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment of Alora’s adventures. With its swiftly moving plot and richly developed characters, Brewer’s debut is well worth the read.

INTO THE CHILD “40 Weeks in the Gestational Wilderness”

Colleary, Shannon Smashwords $1.99 e-book | Oct. 25, 2011 Debut author Colleary chronicles 40 weeks of pregnancy in this irreverent account. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sassy, screenwriter and blogger Colleary tells all with witty sarcasm and edgy, laugh-out-loud humor. She begins with conception 766

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and the results of a home pregnancy test before careening through laments of sleepless nights, mood swings, weight gain and nausea with snappy but snide remarks most pregnant women think but few express. Colleary’s book is a fun, literary romp for any woman who has experienced “The First Trimester Through Hell” and lived to read the tale. The former homecoming queen and INXS backup dancer, now the pregnant mommy of one, alternates between admitted snobbery (“I saw stay-athome moms as the kind of women who sat in the fifth pew of fill-in-the-blank church, smiling with bland acquiescence, who thought Danielle Steele novels were literature”) and a self-deprecating appraisal of her blossoming physique (“Some days even my earlobes feel fat”). Each chapter notes the gestation time in weeks and days, recounted in diary style, and draws readers into one delicious admission after another. Colleary professes a jealousy for the skinny, over-achieving Gwyneth Paltrow and a tendency toward fantasies involving George Clooney. She regales with funny tales of an overbearing lactation nurse screeching about the importance of Colostrum and a would-be caregiver whose secret life, the author fears, will eventually be revealed on a daytime talk show. Colleary’s humor and warmth flow seamlessly from conception to birth in this well-written, snappy read. A hysterical account of pregnancy that will resonate with readers who’ve been through it before.

DELAY, DENY, HOPE THEY DIE

Dement Jr., William F. and Mulcahy Dement, Barbara William Francis Dement (276 pp.) $13.00 paperback | Jun. 18, 2011 978-0615487564 A New York cop’s account of his 9/11-related health problems and struggle to have them recognized by the city’s bureaucracy. After the tragedy on 9/11 at the World Trade Center, NYPD lieutenant Bill Dement spent four months amid the toxic dust and debris at Ground Zero and the Fresh Kills Landfill. Like other first responders, he has since developed a host of health problems: reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS), acid reflux, sleep apnea, heavy metals poisoning and permanent cognitive damage. When Dement asked a doctor in 2008 if he could still be a cop, the doctor told him, “You can’t be a clerk in WalMart.” Co-authored with his wife, Dement’s first-hand account as a first-responder unveils a harrowing, lingering tragedy. The contaminated air around Ground Zero “felt like death. It was death.” Dement’s deteriorating health forced him into retirement and has left him a virtual invalid. In lucid detail, the book then describes his Kafka-esque journey through New York City bureaucracy and the medical establishment in search of a diagnosis, treatment and an adequate disability settlement for his injuries. “We have faced organized obstruction in our struggles for health care and compensation,” Dement says. He was diagnosed with “WTC cough” as early as January 2002, but a pulmonary specialist in 2005 said |


“Readers will recognize the forehead-slapping indignation of the common man that Glass channels to great effect.” from busted! the big con

he did not have RADS. “Perhaps it’s in your mind,” the specialist said. A panel of city doctors repeatedly denied his request for a tax-free disability pension, ruling he was not eligible because his sleep apnea was not related to 9/11. At one hearing, Dement presents a letter from a doctor diagnosing him with lead and aluminum poisoning. “Do you have anything more?” a member of the panel asks. Dement’s conversational, pull-no-punches prose style and vivid imagery add to the power of his bleak narrative. “[I]t seemed like someone had glued my pleural lining together,” he says of his breathing problems. Congress finally passed a bill in 2010 to help ailing first responders, although that’s little solace for Dement. His focused, understandable anger should be our own. It is as he laments: “I and thousands of first responders have been handed a death sentence.” A powerful expression of anguish from a 9/11 first responder.

BUSTED! THE BIG CON How the Media, Politicians, and Wall Street’s Game of Charades Are Destroying Our Country Glass, Jay Donington Press (281 pp.) $2.99 e-book | Oct. 18, 2011

A wide-ranging critique of American exceptionalism. Veteran nonfiction author Glass (The Power of Faith, 2010, etc.) makes his first foray into politics as the latest commentator to chart the course of America’s decline over the last several decades. He argues that America is no longer, by any metric, the strongest or most exceptional country in the world. Glass suggests that this will have drastic effects on the country’s future, manifested by a decline in the standard of living. The author singles out familiar targets upon which to lay the blame: the media, politicians and Wall Street. He goes on to trace his thesis across a range of cultural and political issues, from the war on drugs to the scholarship system for college athletes. The author’s focus is omnivorous and he does an admirable job of drawing on disparate sources and subjects to argue his case. Paradoxically, the book’s strength is also its most glaring weakness; Glass is not, nor does he claim to be, an expert in any of the subjects he details. This lack of authority combined with his liberal use of slang, oddball logic and subjective ranting weakens many of his best arguments, while the dearth of references calls into question the accuracy of his facts. But even as Glass struggles to make an especially convincing argument, his very lack of credentials turns this into a fascinating profile of the anger and frustration felt by the average American. Readers will recognize the forehead-slapping indignation of the common man that Glass channels to great effect. This title, in the end, becomes less about policy prescriptions and more about the confusion and frustration felt by those who observe the world through a 24-hour news cycle. This potent manifesto may not spark a revolution, but it will get readers thinking. |

PRAISE AND WORSHIP WITH FLAGS Waging Spiritual Warfare in the Church and Home

Harris, Delores Hillsman WestBow/Thomas Nelson (108 pp.) $9.56 paperback | $4.99 e-book Nov. 2, 2011 978-1449727666 A primer on the spiritual side of flags. Harris writes in a simple, straightforward style about her experience bringing song, dance and flags into communal and individual worship. She discusses the presence of flags in the Bible as a means of gathering people together, indicating allegiance and heralding events, with textual support from biblical quotes and linguistic examinations into the roots of words like “standard” and “banner.” Her use of flags is firmly situated in a severe view of prayer as spiritual warfare against evil, which can sometimes seem incongruous with her opinions of flags as tools and representations of love and healing. However, this belief is well supported and stirring, if potentially challenging to some who may see prayer and worship in a gentler light. Harris explains how to construct a flag—even suggesting colors and what they could represent—and provides a helpful chapter with explanations and diagrams of certain flag movements to help beginning flag-wavers get started. Besides these basics, Harris also brings in her own experiences with the Holy Spirit, which often seem to involve God taking things—be they steering wheels or flags—out of her hands. Physically losing control takes on spiritual meanings in light of the full-body worship style she describes. With that in mind, Harris provides a context for the use of flags in worship, which may be an unfamiliar practice to many readers. Chapters connect well to each other, though some rearranging would make the overall flow of the book more fluid. Nevertheless, Harris writes earnestly and unpretentiously from a place of deep faith and motivation. A list of references and a section for notes make the book a helpful jumping-off point for those looking to bring more movement and flair into their religion. A sincere, practical guide for adding flags to faith.

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“In between battles with bad guys who are about as nameless and faceless as orcs in a Tolkien novel, libidos rage, love triangles form and friendships are tested.” from eirelan

PLENTY MILLION SECRETS Jamin, G.A. G.A. Jamin (426 pp.) $7.99 e-book | Jan. 19, 2012

In Jamin’s thriller, a lost boy foresakes his past and embarks upon death-defying adventures around the world. Jamin’s debut opens with a scenario familiar to the thriller genre: The young daughter of a wealthy businessman is kidnapped by a small, ruthless group led by a lean fighter wearing sunglasses and a ponytail. The kidnappers demand a ransom from the girl’s father but neglect to mention they’ve also accidentally abducted Carla’s friend Michael Dinero, a wiry, brilliant teen who manages to escape his captors before they deliver Carla to her parents. The girl is safe but traumatized, but there’s a problem: Michael left his backpack behind and his kidnappers know exactly where to find him and his parents, biotech millionaire Bob and tough, strident Gail. The Dineros hire ex–Secret Service agent Kevin “Boss” Daley to assemble an extremely well-paid team of experts to lower the profile of their opulent home and provide round-the-clock security. Boss and his team deal with threats both real and imagined, and the book seems poised to move toward a standard showdown with the villain. However, a quarter of the way in, everything shifts slightly toward the surreal; young Michael, in fear for his life and no longer willing to put his parents in danger, eludes his security team and disappears into the wilderness. Armed only with survival skills and calling himself Yorick, he spends months roughing it until the day he strikes up a conversation with eccentric millionaire Mr. Earle, who heads a shady international mercenary outfit called BlackBox Corporation. Earle’s bodyguard, Darwin, is an enigmatic figure who will become Queequeg to Yorick’s Ishmael. Impressed by Yorick’s computer skills, BlackBox hires him, sending him off on a series of far-flung international adventures that comprise the rest of the book. The text could use a thorough scrub to catch the kind of errors a computer’s spell-check would miss (“lightening” for “lightning” being one example). Despite those flaws, the important things—character development, dialogue, plotting and exuberant narrative flow—are all here in abundance. A bizarre yet entertaining coming-of-age story.

CHASING SEMOLINA Love and the Perfect Pasta Dish

Manno, Piero Amazon Digital Services (316 pp.) $14.95 paperback | $4.95 e-book Dec. 15, 2011 978-0-615-41319-8 Manno’s debut is a memoir which chronicles his love of food and family and his restless search for purpose. What would Mama say? The surprising answer to this question—posed by Italian chef and restaurateur Manno as often as 768

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garden-ripe tomatoes and olive oil grace the pages of this memoir with recipes—comes at the end of a long journey that begins in poverty in Calabria, Italy. There, as a young boy, Manno runs barefoot tending his small herd of goats before the chance for a better life takes his family to Milan. After several dissatisfying jobs, including a lengthy stint as a delivery boy at a butcher shop, teenage Manno seizes on the idea of becoming a chef. A surprise visit from his American cousin Al alters Manno’s life forever when Al offers to sponsor Manno in California. At 20, Manno becomes an immigrant in the San Joaquin Valley and begins life anew again. The author’s primary loves are his mother and food, the latter unquestioned. Food, and the high he gets from “working the line,” informs his thoughts and writing, and leads to metaphors such as: “the dreadful feeling of not fully sucking the marrow out of life persisted.” Like other foreigners before him, Manno shares keen observations about American food habits and culture, both good and bad. He provides a mirror through which readers can see their own culture reflected back, whether discussing abundance and the sense of infinite possibility, or waste and the unsettling feeling of impermanence and lack of tradition. Throughout this heartfelt memoir, readers will be anxious to discover what’s next as the author takes on new challenges and straddles the divide of two cultures. A compelling glimpse into modern American food and immigrant cultures.

EIRELAN

O’Shiel, Liam CreateSpace (793 pp.) $17.50 paperback | $1.99 e-book Nov. 10, 2011 978-1463569327 A futuristic tale in which the people of Ireland wage war as if it were the Middle Ages. Almost 2,000 years from now, humankind has long since abandoned the machines that nearly destroyed the Earth and has reverted to stateless, clanbased forms of government. In the Province of the Twenty Clans in southeastern Ireland, citizens generally lead simple lives filled with music, poetry, good food and strong ale. But they are under constant threat from raiders to the north, where unusually cold weather has shut down agricultural production and caused a famine. This enjoyable debut novel from O’Shiel—filled with battles involving swords, bows, catapults and wooden ships—could almost be mistaken for historical fiction set in the Middle Ages or earlier, if not for the enlightened attitudes about gender roles. O’Shiel introduces a host of well-developed major and minor characters, including Conor Laigain, a reluctant soldier who takes over command of the Province’s field army. Meanwhile, his fiancée Mairin Fotharta, a captain in the nearly all-female navy, sails four warships down to Santander, Spain, to fight alongside Cornish, Welsh and Breton allies. In between battles with bad guys who are about as nameless and faceless as orcs in a Tolkien novel, libidos rage, love triangles form and friendships are tested. A map would have been helpful for following the action, and |


at times certain characters make decisions with unrealistic impulsiveness. The book would also benefit from additional proofreading for spelling and grammar mistakes. Yet despite these flaws, O’Shiel writes with charm and conviction that makes the work stand out from other similarly grandiose works of fantasy. While the central conceit of the novel (a future where Irish clans speak the Celtic language, abandon Christianity and successfully fight with swords instead of modern weapons) is far-fetched, O’Shiel delivers a rich, engaging epic.

FINAL APPROACH Northwest Airlines Flight 650, Tragedy and Triumph

Prouse, Lyle CreateSpace (294 pp.) $17.95 paperback | $5.99 e-book Nov. 29, 2011 978-1460951996 More than two decades after his prosecution and imprisonment for operating an aircraft while intoxicated, a Northwest Airlines captain breaks from the media frenzy surrounding his firing and public humiliation to offer his own version of events. Prouse, whose childhood in Wichita and other cities in the Midwest and South was marred by the “cotton-mouthed fear” of facing neighborhood bullies and the troubles of alcoholic parents, provides a memoir that skips alternately between his becoming a pilot in the Marines and the lapse of judgment that undid everything he had earned. After graduating high school, Prouse joined the Marines and was selected to receive flight training at a military institution in Pensacola. A stint at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro followed in 1963, as did employment during the Vietnam War flying combat missions, before Prouse departed the military to pursue work as a commercial pilot in 1968. His noteworthy career came to a halt in 1990, when he was arrested upon landing a flight in Minneapolis after a night of hard drinking with his colleagues. He was charged and sent to prison. Prouse stares steadfastly into his own history as an alcoholic, detailing even the most traumatic events with a remarkable self-awareness; he explains without excuse how his alcoholism strained his relationship with his wife and almost severed his relationship with his daughter, Dawn. Prouse, who obtained a presidential pardon for his mistake and eventually regained captain status with Northwest Airlines, constructs prose strengthened by sharp anecdotes. However, the flow of Prouse’s story line can become stagnant under the weight of several tedious or obtuse passages. Although the divergences between the book’s dual narratives can distract or appear incongruous, Prouse’s recollection of his incarceration ultimately succeeds in indicting the prison system for corruption, sadism, incompetence and unsafe operations. An endearing retrospective, beginning and ending as one man’s examination of a tragic segment of his life, which comments meaningfully on addiction and the unpredictable nature of bureaucratic systems. |

THE HEIRS OF PROPHECY Rothman, Michael manuscript (443 pp.) Jun. 1, 2012

A mysterious earthquake catapults the modern-day Riverton family into the fantasy realm of Trimoria, where their latent magical abilities put them in peril from the reigning dark sorcerer. First-time author Rothman launches the first in a proposed series with the saga of the Riverton family, a seemingly average American household who—along with their faithful cat—are on one of dad’s “edu-taining” vacation trips. While exploring caves in Arizona, a strange earthquake thrusts them into another world. It’s the magic-ridden land of Trimoria, a medieval, feudal town full of dangerous swamps, mysterious forests and ancient rituals. It’s overseen by Azazel, a dangerous warlock who maintains deadly vigilance against any force that might oppose him. The Rivertons find refuge with Trimoria’s sherifflike “First Protector,” a giant of a good guy named Throll, and determine that their presence in this place has granted each of the Rivertons (even the cat) extraordinary powers. One teen son has super-strength, the other can wield energy blasts; dad appears to be an advanced wizard, while mom can heal almost any wound. It seems the family is part of a long-repeated prophecy of newcomers who will overturn Azazel’s despotic reign. Prophecies come rather thick and fast in the plot—lucky encounters and diaries tend to give away much of the game early and prosaically. We learn little of Azazel, the nemesis who had looked to be the most intriguing character; he did a deal with an enticing dark-elf queen centuries ago to gain immortality and power. He almost regrets it. The Rivertons prove to be angst-free, super-competent types who adapt to enchanted life easily, without missing Earth much. A virtuous, outcast ogre rounds out the team. Rothman’s language and description are precise and well-tuned to an adolescent readership, even if much of the mid-portion only lays the groundwork for the prophesized next chapters in the series. A fair, heroic fantasy for the school-age demographic.

THE INTERMEDIARY Silver, Dave Apr. 9, 2012

A thriller whose protagonist is as mysterious as the murder he investigates. Silver’s anti-hero is a “persuasion specialist” by profession, a master of many fields including martial arts, espionage and explosives. Perhaps he has never stopped to fully consider the ethics of his profession or perhaps he has simply performed his duties by the rules he was trained to follow. But things change dramatically for him the day his wife and son are murdered. Suddenly, he can no longer trust anyone—not his fellow agents or the firm for kirkusreviews.com

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“Stamp uses his keen ability for creating characters that are believable and engaging, despised or admired, to create a colorful cast of good guys and bad boys.” from the chelsea project

which he has worked for more than a decade. Totally alone, the novel’s unnamed narrator is determined to avenge the killing of his loved ones. As he tracks down the murderers, his journey takes him from America to the Bahamas to Europe and, finally, the U.A.E. on the trail of arms dealers, jewel thieves and Arabian princes. The clock is ticking as his every step brings him closer to his target while the list of his enemies grows longer. This high-powered novel is told from first-person point of view, making it easier for readers to engage with a character who would otherwise remain a complete puzzle. As the narrator fills in the gaps between his oft-changing identities, a solid character begins to appear. Despite the disconnect readers may experience due to his chameleonic attributes, the narrator comes across as likable. His frequent tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the pursuit of his enemies are interspersed with philosophical insights which allow the reader to invest in more than just the book’s fast-paced plotline; in ruing the loss of the husband and father he might have been and evoking a deep and heart-rending loneliness, the narrator transforms into a character most readers will relate to, regardless of how much of an enigma he otherwise remains. An action-packed thriller helmed by a mysterious and complicated anti-hero.

ADEQUATE WISDOM Essays on the Nature of Existence Smolin, Ronald P. BainBridgeBooks (366 pp.) $27.95 | Feb. 12, 2012 978-1891696305

An encyclopedia-dictionary hybrid that teaches readers about the world and their own existence. Smolin takes the reader on a vast journey as he goes through the annals of knowledge. He starts with a logical breakdown of the meta-aspects of existence— form, process and idea, or “tools,” as he puts it—for understanding the varying aspects of existence. Smolin then moves through lists and examples of these forms and processes. Using this as his extended introduction, he then turns his attention toward many large-scale questions, such as free will, mysticism and the origin of the universe. He systematically goes through the tangible world—from quarks to galaxies—before turning to humans and their biological and psychological makeup. But Smolin doesn’t stop there. After discussing the soul and religion, he turns to a potpourri of topics that includes everything from war to orgasms. For all the immensity of topics covered, the writing is fairly easygoing. And he doesn’t present fluff either, making it quite accessible for a book dealing so heavily in scientific concepts. With each topic given a separate chapter and most chapters stretching no more than a page or two, Smolin’s approach is to provide the reader with basic facts and ideas. It would be very easy, due to the nature of many of the topics, for the author to give skewed, opinionated views, but more often 770

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than not he succeeds in steering clear of giving his personal opinion, presenting instead a wide collection of possibilities. Although the book might struggle to find its appropriate targeted audience, the reader should find it helpful for not only presenting and outlining thoughts on various topics, but seeing where they fit into the larger structure of knowledge.

THE CHELSEA PROJECT Stamp, Jack manuscript (278 pp.) Feb. 29, 2012

With his family, future and life threatened, an ex-Marine with a finely tuned moral compass takes on gangsters, corrupt politicians and the FBI. Making his way through an airport parking lot, Bill Conors presses his vehicle remote to locate his car. An explosion rocks the building, destroys his vehicle and sets the stage for an action-filled series of events. An ex-Marine and successful engineer with a beautiful family, Conors has poured his heart and soul into the reclamation project of the contaminated Boston waterfront neighborhood known as “the Chelsea Project.” His biggest investment and vision for the future, the project has promise as a prime waterfront location for commercial development and subsequent financial success. When a mysterious toxic spill and a spectacular set of explosions threaten the project, Conors’ world is turned upside down. Stamp uses his keen ability for creating characters that are believable and engaging, despised or admired, to create a colorful cast of good guys and bad boys. The local mob boss steps up for a piece of the action; when he visits Conors to demand a cut, the visit turns deadly. Conors goes on the run as the gangster’s family becomes hell-bent on revenge—they believe Conors to be part of the Russian mafia, so a mob war ignites that shakes the crime world. With a sophisticated degree of tension, Stamp takes Conors on the run as he tries to stay ahead of the mob and the FBI, leaving his wife and family to believe he has been kidnapped or killed, all in order to protect them. He cunningly crisscrosses the country to avoid capture, culminating in a surprising and complex confrontation. Stamp skillfully weaves all the components of a fast-paced, hold-your-breath work of crime fiction into a novel that has it all: mobsters, government agents, crooked politicians and a good-guy-vigilante. A crafty, clever page-turner to the very end.

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BEAR-SUIT MOZART

Starbuck, Josh Smashwords (164 pp.) $3.34 e-book | Feb. 22, 2012 In this snappy sci-fi debut, artificial intelligence is real and its fate lies in the comically clumsy hands of two investigative journalists. Eight years have passed since the passage of Sherlock’s Laws, which banned the development of artificial intelligence following public outcry at the debut of a self-aware robot. Journalist Robert Merek, frustrated by his investigation into a major technology corporation’s unethical research, receives a tip from an insider: The company’s top R&D researcher, who also happens to have been the brains behind the original Sherlock robot, has gone missing. Allison, the CEO’s assistant, fears foul play. Robert and his goofy freelancing partner, Leonard, jump at the chance for a career-making scoop. Alongside Allison, they leap into a scattershot day of investigating the company’s murky dealings. Starbuck writes with an intentionally prominent authorial presence, starting the book off with a self-conscious note about intention and structuring the narrative as a collage of sections with titles such as “The Inciting Incident,” “Intermission” and “The Falling Action.” Characters and concepts remain only lightly developed and sometimes implausible. The book springs from one familiar trope to the next—the discovery of the wrecked apartment, the break-in at the robotics lab, etc.—but the book riffs playfully on these sci-fi clichés more than it falls prey to them, creating a delightfully skewed reality that reads like a long, consistently entertaining inside joke. Upon entering his enemy’s drab headquarters, Leonard—the quintessential bumbling sidekick, who bases his every move on scenes from his favorite spy movies—thinks: “They weren’t even located in the mouth of an active volcano, for Christ’s sake! Some villains these guys were.” The author’s light touch also makes the sudden gravity of the book’s final act all the more effective; seeing the heroes stuck in a patch of moral ambiguity is a stark contrast to their previously cartoonish adventures. The plot is thin, but fun characters and sharp writing make Starbuck’s novel a worthy read.

MULTI-TRILLION DOLLAR U.S. HEALTHCARE TO 2020 GOLD RUSH

Valentine, Edmund L. MMC International Publishing (152 pp.) $149.95 paperback | Feb. 2, 2012 978-0984047802 Valentine presents an in-depth and forward-looking assessment of the U.S. health-care market with an eye toward business opportunities. While some may view U.S. health care as a drag on the economy, the author sees the next eight years as nothing short |

of a gold rush for opportunistic individuals and businesses. Valentine should know; with more than 27 years experience in the global health-care industry, he is CEO of an advisory firm. The author offers thorough analysis, covering such topics as new enabling technologies, legislative drivers, market and industry life cycles, and industry innovations. Valentine provides a wealth of data that would take considerable time to access individually. He includes such statistics as the relative market share of the top five U.S. health insurance companies; medical facilities and services regulated by Certificates of Need broken up by state; and the top 20 U.S. medical groups, multihospital systems and largest senior living providers. There’s also a focus on the pharmaceutical industry: He categorizes the U.S. prescription market by channels of distribution, drug classes and manufacturers. Add to all of this Valentine’s expert evaluation, which illuminates both historical trends and future potential for growth. He enhances the text with an abundance of diagrams, charts and graphs that make the book all the more accessible, such as the diagram of “the interconnected U.S. [health-care] enterprise,” a remarkably lucid depiction of an extremely complex structure. Valentine peppers the text with subheads that define each chunk of information and also serve to signal forthcoming changes. Readers would do well to pay attention to a few statements in particular: “The fundamental shift in how care is viewed and reimbursed will result in provider consolidations and innovations to extract costs and improve patient care and provider profitability.” Those who pore over Valentine’s well-researched book will be better positioned to take maximum advantage of—and potentially profit from—the changing U.S. health-care market.

TROPIC OF DARKNESS

Wulff, Otto Stanley Lulu (384 pp.) $25.78 paperback | Sep. 11, 2009 978-0557077953 Rookie DEA agent Frank O’Brien must save a kidnapped boy and the world from a South American drug lord bent on gaining the formula to a compound that causes instant drug addiction in Wulff’s debut. Former journalist Wulff utilizes many of the stylistic conventions of a best seller in this largely plotdriven thriller with minimal character development but a good deal of well-researched detail about firearms and brain chemistry. The story, in which O’Brien infiltrates a drug cartel, weeds out turncoat agents and finds love along the way, is a page turner despite plot twists that hinge on coincidence and the author’s fondness for sentences beginning with gerunds. But unlike protagonists found in more conventional thrillers, Wulff ’s hero, while not quite three dimensional, is neither superman nor antihero. Rather, O’Brien is something refreshingly in-between: not exactly a bungler, but a serial victim of circumstance. As such, some of the plot actually does arise from his character, rather than the other way around. Most fascinating is Wulff ’s initial kirkusreviews.com

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h s u b h i a l g h u s s a i n Photographer Subhi Alghussain, author of Petra: A Panoramic Journey, knows the importance of great book design. According to its starred review, Alghussain’s “gorgeous collection of panoramic photographs … sets the standard of design in independent publishing.” And he’s not done yet: “After this I will return to Jordan and try to capture the 60 percent of Petra that I haven’t photographed,” he tells us. We caught up with Alghussain in Saudi Arabia—he’s wrapping up the production layouts for the collector’s edition of his new book—to discuss his passion for photography, the desert city’s allure and the importance of design in self-publishing.

PETRA: A Panoramic Journey

Alghussain, Subhi May 25, 2012

Q: Why was Petra your first book project? A: I had this dream of photographing all the historical sites in our [Middle East] countries because the biblical land is so famous, but I have never seen a book that includes all of them. I couldn’t do it all at this time because of political unrest in places like Syria. One day I will be able to go [to all these sites]. I thought that I should start with Jordon because I admire its King and Queen. I have only photographed 30 percent of Petra. The place is amazing. Q: The Fuji GX617 is a bulky camera that offers a maximum four shots per 120 roll, and it has an awkward optional ground-glass viewer. Why did you choose this as your primary camera?

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SVP,Marketing Finance SVP, J ames ull M ike HH ejny SVP, Marketing SVP, Online M ike H ejny Paul H offman SVP,# Online Paul H2012 offman Copyright by Kirkus Media LLC. #KIRKUS REVIEWS (ISSN 0042 Copyright 2011 by Kirkus 6598) is published semiMedia LLC. KIRKUS monthly by Kirkus Media REVIEWS (ISSN 0042 LLC, 6411 Burleson Road, 6598) is published semiAustin, TX 78744. monthly by Kirkus Subscription pricesMedia are: LLC,Digital 6411 Burleson & PrintRoad, Austin, TX 78744. Subscription (U.S.) Subscription prices are - 13 Months ($199.00) $169 for professionals Digital & Print ($199 International) and $129 Subscription (International) ($169 International) for - 13 Months ($229.00) individual consumers (home Digital Only Subscription address required). Single - 13 Months ($169.00) copy:Single $25.00. All$25.00. other rates copy: onrates request. All other on request. POSTMASTER: POSTMASTER: Send Send address address changes changes to to Kirkus Kirkus Reviews, Reviews, PO PO Box Box 3601, 3601, Northbrook, Northbrook, IL IL 60065-3601. 60065-3601. Periodicals Periodicals Postage Postage Paid Paid at at Austin, Austin, TX TX 78710 78710 and and at at additional additional mailing mailing offices. offices.

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Q: Why do you think the design and print quality of your book is as important as the photographic images? A: It’s a part of my nature. I’ve looked at many books on Petra and other places and some have stunning images. There are many photographers who are much better than me, but they failed to make the effort to work out the details of design. They relied on publishers to do the setup of the book. … Throughout my book I continued to tell Kevin [Opp]—my great book and graphic designer—consistency, consistency, consistency. In this book you will always see a big image on the left and a small one or text on the right. This makes the reader feel comfortable when reading it, unlike many other coffee table books or guides where you see images everywhere—in the middle, on the top and with different sizes. In my book there are basically three sizes [of images]. Kevin understood what I wanted in laying out the design, but he added his extra touch in selecting the font, text layout and the brilliant positioning of the paragraph titles. We added more pages to the book in order to maintain the correct proportion of history and description. I do not want to burden the reader with too much detailed information, [only] brief information about the subject and the experience of visiting such a place from the photographer’s and the visitors’ points of view. I want people to read my book without having to look up something in the internet. A publisher would probably be more inclined to cut the number of pages to save money. –By Ken Aiken

p hoto c o urt e sy of t h e au t ho r

A: I have the 6x7, the 6x6 and the 6x4.5—I have all of them. It’s love. The moment that I touched this camera and looked through the viewfinder I could see a complete image. On other cameras I feel that the image is chopped off, but [on the panoramic camera] you see almost 180 degrees. I don’t think I can find enjoyment working in a format other than the 6x17. When you take a photo the subject feels closer to you, it gives you more detail. The Fuji 6x17 camera doesn’t have tilt/shift, like Schneider lenses, which is a feature that is nice to have. Someday I’d like to buy an Ebony 6x17 camera that can do everything a large format does and offer more lens options. The only other problem that I have is risking X-ray exposure when shipping the film to the U.K. The 1:3 ratio of your panoramic negatives forces you to produce a book that is not standard size. Although collector’s editions can be oversized, it appears that you are forced into a 9.5 x 12-inch book format, which is almost a four-times enlargement for double-spread images. Does this pose any potential problems in production or for marketing? I plan to publish the collector’s edition in A3 size [11.69 x 16.54 inches / 297 x 420mm] and I’m looking into having gold edging on the paper. We also

President SVP, Finance M A RC W I NH Kull ELMA N J ames

added a forward by photographer Mark Denton. I will add additional pages for photo captions to allow the 9.5-inch format to retain the same proportions as in the A3. Finding a printer that will produce quality is the most difficult thing for me, as this is my first book. However, I’m having the text translated into nine different languages. I want the book translated by native speakers; quality is the most important thing for me.


treatment of a foil known only as “the assassin.” The author caresses this woman with a poetic voice absent elsewhere, penning lines that are metaphorically prophetic on a number of levels and foreshadow future events. On the whole, Wulff writes an enjoyable action thriller that holds its own against works by bestselling authors like Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. What’s more, an added bonus lurks at the edges: hints of a more serious, literate voice. A literary thriller that will leave readers breathless for more.

A SECRET HOPE

Yancy, Renee Amazon Digital Services $2.99 e-book | Jan. 24, 2012 A young woman ventures outside of her home and challenges the beliefs of her people in Yancy’s debut historical novel set in fifth-century Ireland. Since Ciara of Tir Maic was a young girl, she has been groomed to become a druidess—a healer, a scholar and a prophet. However, Ciara balks at the future laid out before her because she does not wholly believe in the gods worshipped by her people; instead, she puts her faith in the existence of some larger universal force. She keeps her true feelings quiet out of fear of being condemned. Eventually, she is sent by her father to live with his cousin, Devin, to learn all that she will need to know to assume her duties. When a young orphan boy is slated for sacrifice to the gods, Ciara finds the strength to stand up for her beliefs—much to the shock and dismay of her people. But her journey home to face the consequences of this revelation is interrupted when Ciara is taken hostage by a man who, unbeknownst to her, was promised her hand in marriage. With well-researched and true Irish history woven throughout the story line, Yancy’s first installment of her Sword and Spirit series introduces the reader to a vivid world. Unfortunately, a seemingly endless cast of characters makes it easy for the reader to become overwhelmed, as do the numerous obstacles Ciara faces on her journey. The story jumps haphazardly between settings and characters without warning, at a rate that will leave the reader’s head spinning. Nevertheless, a dramatic and honest picture of life in fifth-century Ireland is painted here, and Ciara is a remarkably strong female heroine. Though overwhelming at times, a worthy tale for readers drawn to strong female protagonists.

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April 01, 2012: Volume LXXX, No 7