Page 1

KIRKUS v o l .

l x x x ,

n o.

1 0

|

1 5

m a y

2 0 1 2

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 look inside for the

# Featuring Industry-First Reviews of the Biggest Bea Titles in Adult and Children’s & Teen

w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m


Of Hemingway and the Pulitzer B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

Tw o i t e m s c r o s s e d m y d e s k a t r o u g h l y the same time a few weeks back. The first was the news that the Pulitzer Prize committee had failed to select a winner in the fiction category this year, a curious—and uncommon—failure of nerve, as Ernest Hemingway might have called it, despite solid candidates for the honor. (Were the decision mine alone, I’d hand the prize forthwith to John Sayles for his sprawling, closely written historical novel A Moment in the Sun, which has not received nearly the attention that it deserves.) The Pulitzer committee has an admittedly tough brief. The prize confers a certain promise that

Chairman H E R B E RT S I M O N # President & Publisher M A RC W I N K E L M A N Chief Operating Officer M E G L A B O R D E KU E H N mkuehn@kirkus.com Editor E L A I N E S Z E WC Z Y K eszewczyk@kirkus.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkus.com Features Editor M O L LY B RO W N mbrown@kirkus.com Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@kirkus.com Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH

the winning book will last beyond the season, since, as it’s been observed, yogurt has a longer shelf

Contributing Editor G R E G O RY M c N A M E E

life than most books. Foretelling the future is a fraught business, as I learned years ago not with

Senior Indie Editor KAREN SCHECHNER kschechner@kirkus.com

books but music after hearing an off-key, out-of-tune, nervous band in a small club and announcing to my friends that these guys were going nowhere fast. These guys were a quartet called R.E.M. Consider the New York Times bestseller list from the first of June 40 years ago, headed by a tome called The Word by a fellow named Irving Wallace. Dan Brown certainly knows the book, to judge by the parallels between it and The Da Vinci Code, but does any other recent reader know that biblical potboiler? Second was The Winds of War, Herman Wouk’s breezy follow-up to the much sharper Caine Mutiny, which won the Pulitzer in 1952. Third was Taylor Caldwell’s Captains and Kings, she being a writer of potboilers and a big believer in reincarnation. In the one life we know about, meanwhile, she did time writing for the John Birch Society about the dangers of, well, you know, those people. The Pulitzer winner for the year 1972 never approached the sales of those books. Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose related the lives of pioneer westerners through the lens of a sometimes dyspeptic, terribly ailing historian who is seeking redemption and connection by studying his ancestors. The novel is long, leisurely and a touch old-fashioned, but it retains its hold; in 1999, the San Francisco Chronicle deemed it the best novel ever written about the 20th-century West. The second item, courtesy of a website called Lists of Note, is an unearthed list by the aforementioned Hemingway of 17 books that, he averred, he “would rather read again for the first time…than have an assured income of a million dollars a year.” The list, from 1935, names books that all appreciate but perhaps few read today, including The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace and Buddenbrooks. A few of those books, it’s safe to say, are nearly entirely unread, including Alexandre Dumas’ Le Reine Margot and W.B. Yeats’ Autobiographies. But then, so are any number of Pulitzer winners, such as Julia Peterkin’s Scarlet Sister Mary (1929), Upton Sinclair’s Dragon’s Teeth (1943) and James Alan McPherson’s Elbow Room (1978). A fraught business, indeed. Interestingly, none of Hemingway’s 17 choices ever won a Pulitzer, though he himself did, in 1953, for The Old Man and the Sea.

for more re vi e ws and f eatures, vi si t u s on li n e at k irkusreviews.com.

Indie Editor RYA N L E A H E Y rleahey@kirkus.com Assistant Indie Editor M AT T D O M I N O mdomino@kirkus.com Editorial Coordinator CHELSEA LANGFORD clangford@kirkus.com Copy Editor BETSY JUDKINS Director of Kirkus Editorial P E R RY C RO W E pcrowe@kirkus.com Director of Technology E R I K S M A RT T esmartt@kirkus.com Developer B R A N T O N D AV I S bdavis@kirkus.com Director of Marketing CASEY GANNON cgannon@kirkus.com Marketing Associate DUSTIN LIEN dlien@kirkus.com Advertising Sales Associate A M Y G AY H A RT agayhart@kirkus.com #

for customer service or subscription questions, please call 1-800-316-9361

#

This Issue’s Contributors

Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Joseph Barbato • Joan Blackwell • Amy Boaz • Hope Bordeaux • Lee E. Cart • Derek Charles Catsam • Marnie Colton • Lisa Costantino • Dave DeChristopher • Gregory F. DeLaurier • David Delman • Kathleen Devereaux • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Gro Flatebo • Julie Foster • Sean Gibson • Faith Giordano • Amy Goldschlager • Christine Goodman • Stephanie Hlywak • Jeff Hoffman • Michele Host • K. Lesley Knieriem • Robert M. Knight • Paul Lamey • Taylor Larsen • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Elsbeth Lindner • Joe Maniscalco • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • John Noffsinger • Cynthia-Marie O’Brien • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • William E. Pike • Gary Presley • David Rapp • Kristen Bonardi Rapp • Megan Roth • Lloyd Sachs • Bob Sanchez • Barry Silverstein • Rosanne Simeone • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Emily Thompson • Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Shelby Trygar • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White • Melissa Wuske • Homa Zaryouni • Alex Zimmerman


contents fiction Index to Starred Reviews.................................................. p. 1007 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1007 Mystery...................................................................................... p. 1019

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

Science Fiction & Fantasy..................................................p. 1024 11 Sci-Fi and Fantasy and Horror Books For May........................................................ p. 1016

nonfiction Index to Starred Reviews.................................................. p. 1027 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1027 Q&A WITH alison bechdel...................................................p. 1042

children’s & teen Index to Starred Reviews..................................................p. 1059 REVIEWS.......................................................................................p. 1059 Q&A WITH faith eric greitens........................................... p. 1076 interactive e-books.............................................................p. 1083 continuing series Round-up........................................... p. 1086

indie Index to Starred Reviews...................................................p. 1087 REVIEWS........................................................................................p. 1087 Q&A with Thomas Pryce....................................................... p. 1092

Gail Collins returns with a timely portrait of Texas delivered with the author’s unique brand of insightful humor p. 1033. |

kirkusreviews.com

|

contents

|

15 may 2012

|

1005


you can now purchase books online at

www.kirkusreviews.com

on the web w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m / l i s t s Discover more lists created by the critics online: BEA Nonfiction BEA Fiction BEA Teen BEA Children’s Summer Blockbusters 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.

2012 bookexpo america

Don’t miss all the BEA interviews and reviews online at kirkusreviews.com during the week of June 4-7. Including:

Thriller writer Lee Child spent almost two decades working in television in his native Britain before threats of industry downsizing convinced him that the time was right to recreate himself as a novelist. His first book, Killing Floor, was published in 1997 and introduced the character who has gone on to star in every one of his novels since: Jack Reacher, a former military policeman—and aspiring knight errant—who drifts from one American town to the next, getting involved in various troubles and trying to win justice for people in need. A Wanted Man, Child’s 17th Jack Reacher novel (following last year’s The Affair), is set for publication in September. Meanwhile, the author—who now makes his home primarily in New York—will appear at BEA to speak on the subject of audiobooks. Read our Q&A with Child, exclusively online.

1006

|

15 may 2012

|

on the web

|

Eric Greitens has made it his mission to take on challenges, and his life’s work is amazing and impressive—an action-adventurer/philanthropist/scholar’s dream. He taught English in China while still in college, learned to box in a nails-tough African-American gym in St. Louis, and worked as a volunteer with orphans in Bosnia and survivors of genocide in Rwanda. If all that isn’t enough, Greitens immersed himself in a Rhodes Scholarship before nearly drowning during a Navy SEAL training course. Greitens’ latest challenge was to adapt his bestselling memoir, The Heart and the Fist, for a teen audience in Warrior’s Heart. In our review, we noted that his “writing throughout is straightforward and effectively personalized, detailed yet unadorned; one would have to be mighty cynical to resist the power of Greitens’ experiences, and young Americans would benefit from contemplating his message.” Read our interview with Greitens online in advance of his BEA appearance.

w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m / b l o g s Welcome to our new bloggers: Patrick Hester and Andrew Lip-

tak, who often moonlight for SF Signal, will be tackling even more Sci Fi and Fantasy and Graphic Novels and Comics! And Ana Grilo and Thea James of The Book Smugglers, covering speculative fiction, romance and YA. Only online at kirkusreviews.com. Is your book bag packed for summer? Make sure that you hit kirkusreviews.com and check in on what our bloggers— Bookshelves of Doom, Seven Impossible Things, Popdose, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and more—are recommending to get your summer reading lists kicked off right.

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

kirkusreviews.com

|


fiction THE SINS OF THE FATHER

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Archer, Jeffrey St. Martin’s (400 pp.) $27.99 | $14.99 e-book | May 8, 2012 978-1-250-00097-2 978-1-4299-4903-3 e-book

THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS by Chris Bohjalian......................... p. 1008 THE LIFE OF AN UNKNOWN MAN by Andreï Makine........... p. 1012 ALL MEN ARE LIARS by Alberto Manguel................................ p. 1012 FALLEN ANGELS by Connie Dial.............................................. p. 1020 POWERS OF ARREST by Jon Talton.......................................... p. 1023 ALL MEN ARE LIARS

Manguel, Alberto Riverhead (224 pp.) $16.00 paperback Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59448-835-1

Archer (Only Time Will Tell, 2011, etc.) continues The Clifton Chronicles with hero Harry Clifton still in harm’s way. New readers will catch up early on. World War II: Harry is convicted in state (not military) court for military desertion. Next a hoary cliché: a genial, wise old convict protects new prisoner Harry, the fresh fish. Characters receive alternating segments. First, Harry is sent to trial and prison. Then Emma Barrington, whose relationship to Harry is murky, departs England for the U.S., leaving behind a child Harry doesn’t know has been born. Next comes Giles Barrington, Emma’s brother and Harry’s best friend. Despite period colloquial references, the prose has been Flesch-Kincaidscrubbed to business-grade level. That aside, Archer can plot a story. Harry gets out of prison, along with his old convict buddy, by volunteering for a military special operations group, only to reappear near story’s end to single-handedly capture Nazi Field Marshal Kertel’s Nineteenth Armoured Corps. Emma learns Sefton Jelks, Wall Street attorney, was paid by a wealthy client to finagle Harry into prison. Jelks later is complicit in the theft of Harry’s The Diary of a Convict, which becomes a bestseller under another convict’s name. Giles becomes a hero at Tobruk, a prisoner of war, and then escapes. Emma and Gile’s grandfather, Sir Walter, dies, and his ne’er-do-well son Hugo takes over the family business. He promptly runs the company aground but receives his comeuppance. Finally, the cast gathers in post-war England, where a paternity case is settled once and for all. An amusement suitable for airplane or beach reading.

ROBERT B. PARKER’S LULLABY

Atkins, Ace Putnam (320 pp.) $26.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-399-15803-2

And the beat goes on. Handpicked by the Parker estate to be keeper of the flame for the Spenser franchise, award-winning author Ace Atkins (The Ranger, 2011, etc.) rises flawlessly to the occasion. In addition to the signature

Print indexes: www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/print-indexes Kirkus Blog: www.kirkusreviews.com/blog Advertising Opportunities: www.kirkusreviews.com/about/advertising-opportunities Submission Guidelines: www.kirkusreviews.com/about/submission-guidlines Subscriptions: www.kirkusreviews.com/subscription Newsletters: www.kirkusreviews.com/subscription/newsletter/add

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

fiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1007


“The granddaughter of an Armenian and a Bostonian investigates the Armenian genocide.” from the sandcastle girls

dialogue, all the familiars are fully resurrected: Susan, the sexy shrink; Pearl, the wonder dog; Hawk, the wonder sidekick; good cop Quirk, and, of course, Spenser himself, that consummate knight errant for the 21st century. So there he is, Boston’s premier peeper (Sixkill, 2011, etc.), laid-back as ever but—now that the torch has been passed—clearly ready to be engaged for the 40th time. At the moment he is atypically solvent thanks to a big fat check from a white-shoe law firm, earned, he acknowledges a bit guiltily, without breaking a sweat. Enter 14-year-old Mattie Sullivan, a waif with an attitude. He’s charmed by her toughness, smarts, pink Boston Red Sox cap and the essential cuteness lurking beneath all that faux flintiness. Four years ago, she tells him, her mother was murdered. A suspect was duly arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for the crime—wrongfully, Mattie is now convinced. Will Spenser take the case? Five crumpled 20s are produced in aid of getting him started. Feeling slightly besmirched by his last case, Spenser spurns the 20s and hires on for a box of cinnamon donuts: “Sometimes a few hours of honest work was better than a bar of soap.” Once again, however, on behalf of a damsel in distress, he has miscalculated the attendant danger, also his own invulnerability. Bullets fly, body bags fill and Spenser is lucky indeed not to be tucked into one of them. Parker fans will like it that the Atkins version is virtually indistinguishable from the prototype.

THE INQUISITOR’S KEY

Bass, Jefferson Morrow/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $25.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-06-180679-7 Can the ancient bones discovered in a stone chest in Avignon, France, possibly be the remains of Jesus of Nazareth? Urgently summoned from the scene of a more mundane horrible killing in Tennessee to find out, forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton investigates with the Vatican and a religious zealot bearing down on him. The latest installment in the Body Farm series (Carved in Bone, 2006, etc.) explores the mysteries surrounding the Shroud of Turin. Brockton and Miranda Lovelady, his protégé and the object of his unstated romantic desires, determine from a forensic reconstruction of its face that the ancient skull may indeed have been the basis for the faded image on the Shroud. When lab tests on a tooth from the skull reveal the bones are 2,000 years old, all bets are on. The investigation takes Brockton and Miranda from France to Italy to Switzerland, each stop more dangerous than the last. Their French associate, Stefan, who has a thing for Miranda himself, has hidden motives. René Descartes, the French investigator who arrives on the scene after a gruesome murder (he claims to be a descendent of the philosopher), proves to be untrustworthy. And a madman calling himself Reverend Jonah kidnaps Miranda. Bass (the team of noted forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass and science writer Jon Jefferson) is a solid storyteller who inspires credibility with scientific expertise. The 1008

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

book also reveals a keen interest in art and history in scenes set in 14th century Avignon, where intrigue surrounds the painter Simone Martini’s discovery of Christ’s remains, which were hidden by Pope Benedict, and the death portrait of Jesus he commits to a piece of fabric. But as competent as this book is, it lacks the swirling dramatic intensity of The Da Vinci Code, which Brockton mentions in passing, and the suspense is less than gripping. This novel isn’t better than average as a thriller, but it provides plenty of food for thought about religious artifacts and their role in people’s lives. (Author appearances in Florida and Knoxville)

THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS

Bohjalian, Chris Doubleday (320 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-385-53479-6

The granddaughter of an Armenian and a Bostonian investigates the Armenian genocide, discovering that her grandmother took a guilty secret to her grave. Laura, the narrator of Bohjalian’s latest, is doing genealogical research, attempting to learn more about a fact that has always intrigued her: Her Boston Brahmin grandmother, Elizabeth, and her grandfather, Armen, were brought together by the Armenian genocide. Flash back to 1915. Elizabeth has journeyed to the Syrian city of Aleppo, along with her father, on a mission sponsored by an American relief group, the Friends of Armenia. They have come in an attempt to deliver food and supplies to the survivors of the Armenian massacre. The Turks are using Aleppo as a depot for the straggling remnants of thousands of Armenian women, who have been force-marched through the desert after their men were slaughtered. Elizabeth finds the starved women, naked and emaciated, huddled in a public square, awaiting transports to Der-el-Zor, the desert “relocation camp” where, in reality, their final extermination will take place. Elizabeth takes in two of these refugees, Nevart and an orphan Nevart adopted on the trail, Hatoun, who has been virtually mute since she witnessed the beheading (for sport) of her mother and sisters by Turkish guards. By chance, Elizabeth encounters Armen, an Armenian engineer who has come to Aleppo to search for his wife, Karine. Armen has eluded capture since murdering his former friend, a Turkish official who had reneged on his promise to protect Armen’s family. Despairing of Karine’s survival—and falling in love with Elizabeth—Armen joins the British Army to fight the Turks. Among archival photos viewed by Laura decades later is one of Karine, who did reach the square mere days after Armen left Aleppo. How narrowly did Karine miss reuniting with Armen, Laura wonders, acknowledging that, but for tragic vagaries of fate, the family that produced her might never have come to be. A gruesome, unforgettable exposition of the still toolittle-known facts of the Armenian genocide and its multigenerational consequences.

kirkusreviews.com

|


GUILT BY DEGREES

Clark, Marcia Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (368 pp.) $25.99 | Lg. Prt. $27.99 | CD $29.98 May 8, 2012 978-0-316-12953-4 978-0-316-20807-9 Lg. Prt. 978-1-61113-390-5 CD From former L.A. Prosecuting Attorney Clark (the O.J. Simpson case), an engaging revisit to Rachel Knight, L.A.

prosecuting attorney. Rachel Knight (Guilt by Association, 2011), star performer in L.A.’s elite Special Trials Unit, is famous for not suffering fools lightly. And for mouthiness. Those who love Rachel delight in the volatility implied here since her periodic explosions have in the past transmuted the dull and ordinary into the bright stuff of legends. Those who do not love Rachel—the always “carefully coiffed,” ever resentful Brandon Averill, for instance—mutter, sputter and often enough find icky little ways to complicate her life, even if inadvertently. So it is on the day Averill’s prosecutorial ineptitude adds a botched case to Rachel’s already jampacked list. It turns out, however, that the case has unexpected permutations, challenging to put it mildly. Seemingly routine at first, it involves the murder of an unidentified homeless man, another way of saying back burner. But when John Doe becomes Simon Bayer, younger brother of a police officer brutally slain a year earlier, Rachel has on her hands a homicide of a far different color. As always when difficulties loom—knotty professional issues, gnarly romantic entanglements—she calls on the small support cohort she thinks of as her “besties”: Det. Bailey Keller, tough, smart and gorgeous; and counselor Toni LaCollette, tough, smart, black and gorgeous. As the investigation deepens, the Bayer case assumes a mazelike pattern with frustrated Rachel always at least one twist behind—until suddenly, shockingly, she gets the insight that changes everything. The shrewd, coldblooded, elusive killer Rachel’s been pursuing up to now has developed an interesting new target: Rachel. No sophomore jinx for Clark. Her second girlfriend novel, counterpart to the buddy novel, is serious fun.

THE STORM

Cussler, Clive & Brown, Graham Putnam (416 pp.) $27.95 | May 29, 2012 978-0-399-16013-4 Cussler (Devil’s Gate, 2011, etc.), with co-author Brown, dips into the NUMA Files for another Kurt Austin action-onthe-sea escapade. Austin and his friend Joe Zavala, are National Underwater and Marine Agency Special Assignments Team troubleshooters. Dirk Pitt, head of NUMA, dispatches the pair to uncover the fate of the |

three-person crew missing from a NUMA research vessel found adrift in the Indian Ocean. Austin and Zavala link up with Paul and Gamay Trout, husband and wife NUMA techie team, in the Maldives, and the group’s examination of the vessel reveals the missing NUMA scientists were victims of “microbots”—“A hundred could fit on the head of a pin.” There in the Maldives, Austin also rescues Leilani Tanner, sister of one of the dead scientists, from a kidnapping, and she tags along. The microbot trail soon leads to Yemen and Jinn al-Khalif, a Bedouin camel trader’s son grown immensely wealthy through ruthless, bloody ambition. Jinn hired scientists to modify the microbots, the not-quite-ready invention of circuit-board-genius Elwood Marchetti, meant to consume ocean pollution. The microbots now not only eat organic matter, but also self-replicate into the trillions. Programmed to blanket the Indian Ocean, the nefarious plan is to alter the world’s climate by lowering water temperatures. That means more rain in dry places, which will create immense profits for Jinn and his financial backers, assorted Chinese, Pakistani and Egyptian evildoers. The narrative ricochets from the Maldives, to Yemen, to Egypt (the Aswan Dam is in peril because Jinn didn’t get his money from a corrupt general), and finally to Marchetti’s gargantuan movable man-made island, Aqua-Terra, for a shoot-’em-and-explode-what’s-left ending. That the microbots can consume human beings like so many oceangoing piranha makes for more than one hairs-breadth escape, but that Leilani is actually Zarrina, double agent for Jinn, nearly stymies Austin and Zavala. Classic Cussler: testosterone-driven action, over-thehorizon technical wizardry, beautiful and talented women and exotic locations.

THE LAST MAN

Deutermann, P.T. St. Martin’s (368 pp.) $26.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-312-59945-4 Deutermann’s latest (Nightwalkers, 2009, etc.) is a strong thriller that mixes archaeology, history and geopolitics. In A.D. 73, a few desperate Jews in a mountaintop holdout are about to be overrun by the Roman army that has laid siege. They prefer suicide to surrender. The last man, Judah Sicarius, is selected to make sure all his compatriots are dead, down to the last woman and child, and then he is to kill himself. Two millennia later, the American David Hall receives reluctant permission from authorities to explore parts of Masada, the mountain that in real life has become a revered historical site in Israel. But they don’t fully trust him to leave the place undisturbed, so they assign archaeologist Dr. Judith Ressner to chaperone him. (Will the reader be surprised to learn that she’s beautiful?) Hall masquerades as an enthusiastic amateur, but he has a secret agenda that leads him to break rules and violate people’s trust. Even so, he acts without malice and is a likable character. Key to the story are natural cisterns inside the

kirkusreviews.com

|

fiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1009


mountain that hold the accumulated rainwater of thousands of years. What is Hall’s true interest? And why do authorities even care what he finds as long as he doesn’t ruin any artifacts? Meanwhile, the widow Ressner provides an enjoyable subplot that threatens to turn romantic as she grapples with problems of her own. The perils in this novel come from an unexpected direction, and even once they are revealed there is one big secret left. Deutermann’s descriptions of Masada, its cisterns and the Dead Sea are well-done indeed. In particular, Deutermann skillfully maintains tension right to the end. Unlike some thrillers that keep the reader’s adrenaline going with increasing body counts and steamy sexual encounters, this one just tells a terrific story with a satisfying payoff. Damn good.

SAVING RUTH

Fishman, Zoe Morrow/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $14.99 paperback | $9.99 e-book May 1, 2012 978-0-06-205984-0 978-0-06-205985-7 e-book Home after the first year at college— can you keep your secrets hidden? In Fishman’s (Balancing Acts, 2010) latest, Ruth Wasserman returns home to Alabama to resume lifeguarding and coaching at the local pool with her brother David. Ruth’s friends and family marvel at her freshly skinny body and even ask her to help a neighborhood girl lose weight. A soccer phenom, David has always been the golden child in the Wasserman family. But Ruth and David have secrets. At the pool one day, tragedy strikes: A little girl slips under the water. She is in David’s blind spot, but Ruth leaps into the water, saving the child. What might have been a happy ending quickly unravels into accusations of racism, a threatened lawsuit and an increasingly inscrutable David. Meanwhile, Ruth begins a romance with Chris, one of David’s friends. Swim meets are lost and won. The racism and antisemitism Ruth didn’t notice before becomes clear. The board members strategize to avoid the lawsuit. But Ruth is becoming increasingly suspicious of David. Rumors swirl about his alleged use of drugs, and perhaps he has even dropped out of college. The golden child might not be so golden after all. While the sibling code of silence urges Ruth to keep David’s secrets, she wants to know the truth from his own mouth. David has his own suspicions about Ruth’s dramatic weight loss and her new, strange relationship with food. Even Chris notices that she brushes her tummy as if she were trying to brush it off her body. Trouble looms on the horizon, and soon all the beans will be spilled. Conflicts and secrets abound, yet the tension doesn’t quite build, so the eruption of the final crisis seems abrupt and the resolution far too easy. (Agent: Mollie Glick)

1010

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

THE YARD

Grecian, Alex Putnam (432 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-399-14954-2 It’s 1889, the year after Jack the Ripper terrorized the East End, but London is still awash with murders—96 bodies have been retrieved from the Thames in one month, most with their throats slit—and the detectives of Scotland Yard demonstrate their usual mixture of savvy and incompetence. The first victim the Yard has to contend with is Christian Little, whose mutilated body is found inside a trunk at Euston Square Station, a murder not just horrifying, but also embarrassing because Little is a detective inspector at Scotland Yard. Put in charge of the case is Walter Day, recently brought in from Devon and hence innocent of the previous year’s failures. In fact, the Yard’s new Murder Squad, an elite group of detectives of which Little had been a member, had been assembled in response to the failure of the Metropolitan Police to catch “Saucy Jack.” Assisting Day is Dr. Bernard Kingsley, a surgeon at University College Hospital and incipient forensic pathologist. Heading the Murder Squad is Col. Sir Edward Bradford, a gruff no-nonsense administrator with good instincts about the competence of police officers. Grecian creates a large and eccentric cast of characters, including a detective inspector who can’t stop making jokes (usually bad puns), a mentally disturbed dancing man, a brutal tailor (whose telltale shears are used in untoward ways), the seductive wife of a doctor, and two coldblooded prostitutes, now perpetrators of crime rather than victims. But the murderer keeps making fools of the Murder Squad by bumping off more detectives. Although the whodunit aspect of the novel is a bit weak, Grecian successfully re-creates the dark atmosphere of late Victorian London. (Agents: Seth Fishman and Ken Levin)

MIDWINTER BLOOD

Kallentoft, Mons Translated by Smith, Neil Emily Bestler/Atria (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-4247-6 Kallentoft’s first English-language translation pits Detective Inspector Malin Fors against a killer who committed an unspeakably ritualistic murder. In the middle of what feels like Linköping’s coldest winter in years, Malin Fors is called to a horrific crime scene. Someone has bashed Bengt Andersson to death, stabbed him several times for good measure, stripped him naked and hung him from a high branch of an oak tree. Since his blood is already frozen and there’s no hurry to examine the forensic evidence, Malin orders the body left in place

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Cruel parenting, violence and rootlessness fail to sap a young woman’s spirit of survival in a striking debut.” from mountains of the moon

for the time being. Bad mistake: Bengt crashes into the tent pitched beneath him, breaking a police officer’s arm in the process. It’s the first of many missteps Malin will make in trying to figure out who might have killed the eccentric loner and why. Rickard Skoglöf and his girlfriend, Valkyria Karlsson, who advocate sacrificing animals each midwinter and hanging them from trees, sniff that they wouldn’t sanction anything so depraved. And the family of Maria Murvall, whose rape years ago sent her deep into psychosis, simply closes ranks against the authorities they insist are harassing them. Malin seems to be doing little better on the home front. Tove, the 13-year-old daughter she’s raising alone, has found a boyfriend and discovered sex, to the disapproval of Malin’s father and the consternation of Malin, who became a teen bride when she found herself pregnant with Tove. No wonder then, that on meeting the speechless, unresponsive Maria, Malin thinks: “You’re a lot like me.” A complex, heartfelt, rather grueling procedural, middling for the current bumper crop of Scandinavian imports, and first of a series of four seasonal cases for Malin. (Agent: Joakin Hansson)

MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON

Kay, I.J. Viking (336 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 9, 2012 978-0-670-02367-7

Cruel parenting, violence and rootlessness fail to sap a young woman’s spirit of survival in a striking debut. Imagination can blossom in the grimmest environment is one lesson of Kay’s appealing, often painful first novel, which captures the creative language and irrepressible spirit of Lulu King, an English child whose horribly abusive, neglectful home life deprives her of education, money, freedom and family. In spite of all this, Lulu has a full fantasy life in which she’s a Masai Mara warrior living in a treehouse above the African grasslands. Lulu’s perilous childhood is intercut with the story of Louise/Catherine/Beverley/Kim, the woman with many names who, after 10 years in prison, is trying to rebuild her life.

How much would you spend for dinner with Thomas Jefferson? Jack Arrowsmith spent p $1,400 at Fleurie in Charlottesville. Praise from Kirkus Reviews: P “Boody’s writing is so good ... (he) gives Jefferson a wholly authentic voice ... This Jefferson is delightfully quirky, flawed yet sympathetic and fascinating ... An engrossing, haunting story about making up for lost time.” — Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2012

For information about film or publication rights, contact the author at thomasjeffersonrachelandme.com

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

fiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1011


The cataclysmic events that bridge these two existences emerge slowly as Kay dodges back and forth in time and style, sometimes phonetic, sometimes poetic, challenging the reader to keep up. Lulu grows up on the run, scavenging, meeting kind or thoughtless folk, working a range of jobs in various towns, living in substandard housing, sometimes suicidal. But a sudden windfall frees her to achieve her dream of visiting Africa, where she will find more threats but also friends and a kind of release. A wild, sometimes disorienting but impressively crafted novel.

ICE FIRE

Lyons, David Atria (304 pp.) $24.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4516-2929-3 Introducing Jock Boucher, black Cajun federal district judge, who may be young and recently appointed but isn’t afraid of ruffling feathers in his hometown of New Orleans. Rejecting pointed advice from on high, he investigates corruption charges leveled against the indisposed senior judge whose cases he has taken on. Twenty years ago, says scientist Bob Palmetto, powerful Rexcon Energy bribed that judge to allow the company to steal Palmetto’s designs for tapping a new source of energy, methane hydrate, from the ocean floor. Held in contempt, Palmetto became a fugitive. Finally apprehended, the haggard genius pleads his case to Boucher, who determines that his lawyer was, indeed, killed to keep him from spilling the beans to the FBI. When another lawyer connected to the case turns up dead outside Boucher’s house, the Cajun goes renegade, pretending to sell secrets from Palmetto’s cloud files to Rexcon. With help from Fitch, a New Orleans cop, and Dawn, a Rexcon employee whose attraction to Jock is greater than her loyalty to the company, Boucher survives threats on his life and thwarts ruthless company CEO John Perry. Much like Donna Leon’s mystery novels featuring beloved Venetian detective Guido Brunetti, this book derives its appeal from the protagonist’s unflappability, casual charm and devotion to his city. The case takes him up to Boston, where Palmetto is briefly held; New York, where Jock’s aloof girlfriend Malika declares her independence; and the Carolina Trough, site of some tense submarine diving. Though music is surprisingly absent here, Boucher will always make time for Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s or beignets and chicory coffee in Jackson Square. Lousy title notwithstanding, this is an auspicious beginning for a mystery series featuring one of the most agreeably easygoing heroes on this side of the Atlantic.

1012

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

THE LIFE OF AN UNKNOWN MAN

Makine, Andreï Translated by Strachan, Geoffrey Graywolf (192 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-55597-614-9 Makine presents a story within a story and thus winds up focusing on the lives of two “unknown men.” Ivan Shutov has been living in Paris for 20 years but has had only desultory success as a writer. Three years after he wrote a novel about Afghanistan, tensions flared up again in the region, so he was flattered to be invited as a guest on a television show, but his performance there left much to be desired. Meanwhile, his personal life is in shambles, for his girlfriend Léa, half the age of the 50-year-old Shutov, is calling it quits. (As a parting, sarcastic shot she points out that his name in Russian means “clown,” a move Shutov determines is not helpful for his self-esteem.) He had tried to capture some romance in the relationship by comparing their love to that found in Chekhov, but a nice irony is that the Chekhov story that he keeps alluding to is entitled “A Little Joke.” Shutov decides to return to St. Petersburg, in part to find his former lover, Yana, in the hope of rekindling the old flame. Instead, he gets much more than he expected by meeting Georgy Volsky in the boardinghouse where he’s staying. Volsky is an old man who lived through the siege of Leningrad and is now primarily known for being mute, but he opens up to Shutov, spinning out a tale of war, trauma, love and terrible beauty. He survived the siege both because of his devotion to his art (he’s a singer) and to his love, Mila, though in the Stalinist era they were both arrested on trumped charges of crimes against the Soviet state. Volsky’s quiet dignity ultimately helps Shutov see some of the superficiality of his own life. A lyrical little novel about hope triumphing over adversity.

ALL MEN ARE LIARS

Manguel, Alberto Riverhead (224 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-5944-8835-1 A beguiling exercise in metafiction, one that tells an engrossing story from various perspectives while undermining the possibility of truth in storytelling. Toward the beginning of this literary subversion, the bare bones of the plot would seem beyond dispute. A journalist attempts to write a coherent profile of Alejandro Bevilacqua, an Argentinian living in Madrid, who suffered a fatal fall from a balcony upon the celebration of the publication of his esteemed, controversial novel, In Praise of Lying. By the novel’s end, everything is up for grabs, from the quality and authorship of the novel to the cause of death. (Accident? Suicide? Murder?) The Argentine-born Manguel (A Dictionary of Imaginary Places, 1980, etc.) not only shares some biographical background with

kirkusreviews.com

|


“A well-rendered neoclassic tale of the Old West.” from hard country

the fictional novelist, but a character with his name offers the first and longest testimony. And perhaps the least interesting, though he establishes the thematic foundation: “When Bevilacqua claimed not to be a writer, there was some truth in that. He lacked the inventive spark necessary for fiction, that disregard for what is and that excitement about what could be.” As for his relationship with the deceased, the fictional Manguel equivocates, “I hardly knew him, or if I did, then it was only very vaguely. To be honest, I didn’t want to know him any better. Or rather: I did know him well—I admit that now— but only in a distracted sort of way—reluctantly, as it were.” Subsequent testimony—from Bevilacqua’s lover (and literary champion), a fellow prisoner, a romantic rival—challenge Manguel’s account, though how they see things says as much about each of them as it does about the deceased. It’s up to the journalist, and the reader, to see how the pieces fit. Admits the struggling scribe, “An honest journalist (if there is such a thing) knows that he cannot tell the whole truth: the most he can aspire to is a semblance of truth, told in such a way as to seem real.” This novel succeeds both as a story and an illumination of storytelling.

difficult challenge in keeping up our sympathy for Cromwell. She succeeds, mostly by portraying Cromwell as acutely aware that one misstep could land “him, Cromwell” on the scaffold as well. That misstep will happen, but not in this book. The inventiveness of Mantel’s language is the chief draw here; the plot, as such, will engage only the most determined of Tudor enthusiasts.

HARD COUNTRY

McGarrity, Michael Dutton (624 pp.) $28.95 | May 10, 2012 978-0-525-95246-6

Satisfying oater of the old-fashioned— or at least McMurtryesque—school. Nobody ever said that taming the Wild West would be easy. But must it involve rattlesnakes dropping down from

BRING UP THE BODIES

Mantel, Hilary Henry Holt (432 pp.) $28.00 | May 22, 2012 978-0-8050-9003-1

Second in Mantel’s trilogy charting the Machiavellian trajectory of Thomas Cromwell. The Booker award-winning first volume, Wolf Hall (2009), ended before the titular residence, that of Jane Seymour’s family, figured significantly in the life of King Henry VIII. Seeing through Cromwell’s eyes, a point of view she has thoroughly assimilated, Mantel approaches the major events slantwise, as Cromwell, charged with the practical details of managing Henry’s political and religious agendas, might have. We rejoin the characters as the king’s thousand-day marriage to Anne Boleyn is well along. Princess Elizabeth is a toddler, the exiled Queen Katherine is dying, and Henry’s disinherited daughter Princess Mary is under house arrest. As Master Secretary, Cromwell, while managing his own growing fortune, is always on call to put out fires at the court of the mercurial Henry (who, even for a king, is the ultimate Bad Boss). The English people, not to mention much of Europe, have never accepted Henry’s second marriage as valid, and Anne’s upstart relatives are annoying some of Britain’s more entrenched nobility with their arrogance and preening. Anne has failed to produce a son, and despite Cromwell’s efforts to warn her (the two were once allies of a sort), she refuses to alter her flamboyant behavior, even as Henry is increasingly beguiled by Jane Seymour’s contrasting (some would say calculated) modesty. Cromwell, a key player in the annulment of Henry’s first marriage, must now find a pretext for the dismantling of a second. Once he begins interrogating, with threats of torture, Anne’s male retainers to gather evidence of her adulteries, Mantel has a |

kirkusreviews.com

|

fiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1013


the ceiling to share the evening meal? It must if you’re hardbitten John Kerney, who just can’t catch a break, even if he can read. His life out on the dusty plains of West Texas is punctuated by his wife’s death in childbirth, his brother’s murder and too damn many bullets. Enter a helpful stranger who, though he violates the code of taciturnity—“In the brush country of southwest Texas, a man’s past was considered his own business, unless he was otherwise inclined to talk about it”—becomes a protector of sorts for Kerney and the son he has had to leave behind. So, too, is another rawhide-tough buckaroo, Cal Doran, who takes no guff himself. Alas, John is not with the narrative for long before other obligations come due, but his son more than takes his place in a narrative that soon becomes very busy, crowded with real-world characters from late-19th-century New Mexico, among them Pat Garrett (the lawman who gunned down Billy the Kid) and Oliver Lee (the rancher “on the east side of the Tularosa” who may or may not have gunned down a neighbor in a feud that still reverberates). There’s plenty of period detail in this western by mystery novelist McGarrity (Tularosa, 1996, etc.). There’s appropriate language to boot; as a wizened old rancher reflects, for instance, “A waddie looking for work on foot wasn’t typical, and the saddle sure didn’t show much pride.” Yet there’s no anachronism one way or another, not too much Walter Brennan-ish gibberish or too many false concessions to modernity. A well-rendered neoclassic tale of the Old West, worthy of a place alongside Lonesome Dove and Sea of Grass.

A GIFT FOR MY SISTER

Pearlman, Ann Emily Bestler/Atria (288 pp.) $24.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4391-5949-1

Half sisters Sky and Tara have, at best, a fragile bond. Will it be enough to save them? Pearlman (The Christmas Cookie Club, 2010, etc.) offers another warm tale of sisters rescuing each other. As children, Sky and Tara had a wary relationship. Sky’s father died when she was seven, and Tara’s father abandoned her. Each jealous of the other—“at least you knew your father” counters “at least your father is alive somewhere”—neither realizes that having each other is enough. That is, not until tragedy strikes. All grown up, Tara has it all. In an interracial relationship with Aaron, her band mate, she has a beloved child, Levy. Their rap band, Special Intent and Li’l Key, is on the road and poised for stardom. She may even have the opportunity to strike out on her own as a solo act. That is, if she is willing to abandon Aaron and accept the rather creepy attentions of King, the music mogul. Sky has it all, too. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Troy, she has a promising job as an attorney. After many miscarriages and stillborn births, Sky and Troy finally have their beloved Rachel. Suddenly, Troy falls ill, and no antibiotics can eradicate the MRSA from his body. Utterly bereft, Sky can barely acknowledge her own daughter, much less her 1014

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

sister. Among the women who swoop in to help her recover are familiar faces from The Christmas Cookie Club: Marnie, Sissy and Allie. The Plan? Send Sky home with Tara’s traveling band. This, of course, gives the sisters time to work out their relationship. And after screaming arguments, the near death of another loved one and finally released prejudices, the two begrudgingly learn to trust, love and respect each other. The conflicts here are big—abandonment, grief, race, the unfairness of fate. The healing powers of sisterhood are comforting but, in the end, the resolution is too easy.

NICEVILLE

Stroud, Carsten Knopf (400 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-307-70095-7 A tedious effort to create a gothically tinged bestseller. Stroud’s title is, of course, ironic, for a weird game’s afoot in Niceville, Ga. Ten-year-old Rainey Teague has disappeared on his way home from school, and though a search party is dispatched, it is some time before he’s found crying and locked inside a crypt in a local Confederate cemetery. The crypt belongs to Ethan Ruelle, who died in a duel on Christmas Eve in 1921. Even more bizarre is that shortly before his disappearance, a security camera picked up an image of Rainey looking into a mirror in the window of a curiosity shop—one second he’s there, and the next he’s vanished. Stroud next lurches us in a new direction by introducing Coker, Danziger and Zane, a trio of truly unsavory characters. While Danziger and Zane are trying to elude capture by the cops and news helicopter that are giving chase, Coker calmly shoots the cops and the helicopter pilot—four shots, four hits. It’s clear he’s no ordinary killer—his expertise emerges because he’s in law enforcement himself. Meanwhile, Detective Nick Kavanaugh is trying to solve the mysterious disappearance—and even more mysterious reappearance—of the now-catatonic Rainey. Nick’s wife, Kate, a lawyer, is concerned about her husband’s preoccupation with the case and consults her father, a professor at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., who has an immediate suspicion about the magical potency of the mirror that had so fascinated Rainey. Stroud follows the bestseller party line in which when one doesn’t quite know what to do, one throws in a new character, preferably one with a selfconsciously clever name (like police officer Mavis Crossfire). Stroud manages to make his mysterious and violent doings both banal and vapid. (Agent: Barney Karpfinger)

kirkusreviews.com

|


THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE

Trigiani, Adriana Harper/HarperCollins (448 pp.) $26.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-06-125709-4

Despite its girth, Trigiani’s latest saga of Italian life lies flat on the page. A portrait of early 20th-century Italian immigration, the story starts with two children in the Italian Alps. In one mountain village, serious, hardworking Enza lives with her large family; in another, rascal Ciro and his brother Eduardo are orphans at the convent. When 16-year-old Ciro travels to Enza’s village to dig the grave of her little sister, the two meet for the first time, and Enza falls in love. But soon after, Ciro is sent to America (he caught the priest kissing a girl) to apprentice as a shoemaker. Trigiani’s novels often bask in Italian culture, and this latest is no exception, taking place during the great wave of Italian immigration. New York’s Little Italy is a joyous place, and handsome, outgoing Ciro fits right in. A few years later, Enza and her father go to America (just to make enough money to dig their family out of poverty), and Ciro and Enza briefly meet again. Enza, a talented seamstress, first works in a factory, and then finds her way to becoming a costumer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Life at the Met is a dream for Enza as she works for the great Caruso. Meanwhile, World War I has begun and Ciro leaves behind his comfortable life at the shop (and all the beauties) on Mulberry Street to enlist. In the trenches, he dreams about Enza (though why he never bothered with her before is unclear) while she is getting ready to marry another. Love wins out as Ciro and Enza marry then move to Minnesota to start a business and a family. Much more happens, but Trigiani’s wide rush of plot hardly makes up for a dull heroine and a novel filled with workaday prose. A long list of life events, without the emotional depth to draw readers in. (Author tour to New York, New Jersey and Tristate Area, Richmond, Roanoke, Washington, D.C. and Youngstown, Ohio)

later a machine-gun artist; and Buddha, a military buddy saddled with a spendthrift wife. Operating from a derelict building, identified only by a spray-painted “Red 71,” and located in a gritty, near-abandoned Chicago neighborhood, Cross and his well-armed gang draw the attention of Unit 3, a deep-cover government group with their own War Room somewhere in the mean streets of the Windy City. Unit 3 has its own assorted outliers, but the two most likely to hang around for sequel adventures are Tiger, a female warrior, and Tracker, a Native American who lives up to his name. Cross is written as the proverbial noir tough guy—“His facial expression resembled an Easter Island statue on Botox”—but Vachss incorporates horror by making the villain in this adventure an entity, a black shadow-blob, that finds really, really bad folks and removes their skulls and spines. The shadow-blob, about which Cross soon waxes philosophically, is an equal opportunity avenger. Drug dealers, serial killers, environmental poachers, gangbangers and Hong Kong gangsters are in peril. There’s ample action, gore galore and creative characterization. The amorphous, not-quite-yet-scary antagonist in this initial outing shows promise for the next Cross caper,

BLACKJACK

Vachss, Andrew Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (240 pp.) $13.95 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-307-94957-8 The feds think the man named Cross is a sociopath, but Cross believes in Truth, Justice and the American Way— or enough so that he can be useful. Vachss (That’s How I Roll, 2012, etc.) peoples his new action-adventure series with a plethora of eye-catching characters. Cross, in the business of turning bad guys into dead bad guys, has his cohorts, “a gestalt of outcasts.” There’s Ace, his buddy since “hardball juvie”; Princess, a shaved-head giant who dresses gay to provoke fights; Rhino, mistakenly institutionalized, then imprisoned, |

kirkusreviews.com

|

fiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1015


F I C T I O N

11 Sci-Fi and Fantasy and Horror Books For May B Y JO H N

D eNA RDO

With countless new science fiction, fantasy and horror books being released each month,

quality horror fiction. This year’s volume includes unsettling tales from Stephen King, Margo Lanagan, Peter Straub and 15 more writers of modern horror.

3. The Black Opera

traversing bookstore aisles looking for something to read can be a daunting task. Fortunately you have lists like this one to steer you toward that path of good reading. Here’s a look at 11 enticing sf, fantasy and horror books being released this month.

Mary Gentle

Holy music has magical power in the 19thcentury kingdom of the Two Sicilies. While the church may sanction the use of that power to heal the sick, others believe that the musical magic can also be used for more nefarious purposes. When the King stumbles onto a plot by the Prince’s Men to produce a “black opera” to empower the Devil himself, he enlists the aid of Conrad Scalese, a struggling librettist in trouble with the Holy Office of the Inquisition, to counter the apocalyptic threat.

1. The Drowned Cities

Paolo Bacigalupi

Bacigalupi is a multiple award-winning and critically acclaimed author. Billed as a companion to his highly acclaimed novel Ship Breaker, his new novel The Drowned Cities, takes place in a dark future where two friends—Mahlia and Mouse, refugees from the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities—discover a wounded, bioengineered half-man who’s being hunted by soldiers. Mahlia and Mouse are confronted with tests of loyalty and survival when one is captured and one must decide between recue and personal freedom. (Ed note: Read Bacigalupi’s exclusive posts for Kirkus on YA Dystopias.)

4. Year’s Best SF 17

Edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

Now in its 17th year, this anthology by the master editing team of Hartwell and Cramer brings you some of the best that short science fiction had to offer in 2011. I’ve always maintained that anthologies are a great way to sample authors. Now, thanks to this volume with entries from Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Nancy Kress, Bruce Sterling and 19 others...you can.

2. The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4

Edited by Ellen Datlow If you can only read one horror anthology series, make it this one. As an editor, Datlow is the undisputed queen of collecting 1016

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

5. The Killing Moon

N.K. Jemisin

The much-lauded author of The Inheritance Trilogy returns with a brand new series filled with magic and wonder. The Killing Moon takes place in the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, where the only law is that peace shall prevail. To ensure that happens, the Gatherers watch from the rooftops and harvest the magic of its sleeping citizens to enforce the will of the dream goddess. But a conspiracy forces one Gatherer to question the order of things and protect the woman he was sent to kill.

6. Nebula Awards Showcase 2012

Edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel

This annual anthology usually brings you the Nebula Award nominees, as chosen by the Science Fiction Writers of |

kirkusreviews.com

|


America, straight to you in one package. But this year’s volume also includes winners of other awards like the Andre Norton, Dwarf Star, Rhysling and Solstice Awards. Additionally, there are excerpts from award-nominated books. Lots of great stuff in one book.

Who says lists have to stop at 11? Discussions about good books shouldn’t be limited and neither should your reading choices. Here are a few more titles worth checking out:

A Tree of Bones Gemma Files

7. Enchanted

Further: Beyond the Threshold

Alethea Kontis

Enchanted is a story that twists common fairy tale tropes in unexpected ways. It’s the story of Sunday, one of seven sisters, who seeks comfort in writing...except that the things she writes about start to become a terrible reality. Sunday befriends a talking frog, who is really a prince. When Sunday’s kiss transforms him back to human form, the prince vows to make Sunday fall in love with him, despite the fact that this particular prince is a man Sunday’s family despises.

8. Railsea

China Miéville

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, Miéville is a safe bet. Here, he reimagines Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. The point-of-view character (Sham Yes ap Soorap) works on board a moletrain that travels the railsea hunting giant moles that burst forth from the ground. The train’s captain is bent on hunting the ivory-colored mole that took her arm years before. It’s a good life, but Sham can’t help feeling there should be something more to it...a feeling that might be proven correct when Sham finds evidence on a wrecked train of something that should be impossible.

9. 2312

Kim Stanley Robinson Few authors are synonymous with world-building. Robinson is one of them. Here he takes us 200 years into the future where technology has allowed humanity to inhabit the worlds and moons beyond Earth. But humanity will be forced to confront its past and future when an unexpected death leads Swan Er Hong (literarily a designer of worlds) into a plot to destroy worlds.

Chris Roberson

Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Hammerless Bell Volume 11 HC Phil and Kaja Foglio & Phil Foglio

Princeps L.E. Modesitt

Roadside Picnic Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky

10. Lord Valentine’s Castle

Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley

Robert Silverberg

Robert Sheckley

It’s a fact of publishing that books go out of print...which makes this reprint of Silverberg’s classic most welcome. Lord Valentine’s Castle, the first book in the inventive Majipoor Cycle (with the sequels being reprinted in the coming months), begins the saga, where Valentine joins a motley band of jugglers on the planet Majipoor looking for the secret of his lost past. His quest takes him to the city of Shapeshifters, the temple of the Lady of Sleep, the Isle of the King of Dreams and beyond to, ultimately, face his destiny.

The Croning Laird Barron

The Dragon Griaule Lucius Shepard

The Future is Japanese: Stories From and About the Land of the Rising Sun Edited by Haikasoru (VIZ Media LLC)

The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

11. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

Walter Mosley

The King’s Blood (The Dagger and the Coin)

Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Daniel Abraham

Master anthologists, the VanderMeers have assembled what has to be the most eclectic blend of fiction ever assembled. What is “weird” fiction? Imagine a story that could be entertaining in its own right, but then add an element of something peculiar and bizarre that takes it in wickedly surreal directions. Now multiply that by 110…because that’s how many strange trips you’ll be taking with this massive collection of stories.

The Mammoth Book of SF Wars edited by Ian Watson & Ian Whates

The Minority Council Kate Griffin

The Other Log of Phileas Fogg Philip Jose Farmer

V Wars edited Jonathan Maberry

9

War and Space: Recent Combat Edited by Rich Horton and Sean Wallace

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

fiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1017


“Vann’s richly complex novel does what the best literature does: It makes demands on its readers.” from dirt

SEA CHANGE

that is if fans aren’t put off by the last quarter of this book, taken up by an epilogue settling earlier scores left dangling. Quick read, but somewhat disjointed. A novel premise, and the sort of thing that could develop a passionate following.

DIRT

Vann, David Harper/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-06-212103-5 After his widely acclaimed first novel, Vann touches on some of the same themes here: enlightenment through labor, the inevitability of violence, the contentious relationship between mother and son. Vann takes us to the early ’80s in California’s Central Valley. Galen, in his 20s, lives on a crumbling family estate. Grandma, rich but with Alzheimer’s, has been dispatched to an old-folks home, leaving just Galen and his mother, Suzie-Q, to drink high tea under the fig tree. Emaciated from his attempts at earthly transcendence, Galen divides his time between reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, listening to the strains of Kitaro, and masturbating to porn. He dreams of college but is falsely told there isn’t the money. His aunt and teenage cousin Jennifer visit for venom-filled dinners after which Jennifer tortures Galen with comically sadistic sex games. Galen lives in a curious limbo: In the hodgepodge of his esoteric understanding, life is an illusion, but the temptations of desire and anger seem real enough. After a disastrous family trip to the cabin (Aunt Helen tricks Grandma into giving her a few hundred grand, Suzie-Q spies on Galen and Jennifer having sex), Galen and his mother return home, and Vann’s novel journeys to its fetid center. Galen’s mother decides to call the police on Galen for “raping” his underage cousin, and so Galen locks her in the shed. For the ensuing hundred pages Galen does battle—with his mother, their past, the very notion of reality and who owns it. It is difficult for Suzie-Q to plead mercy when Galen insists she is simply an attachment preventing his enlightenment. His labor is his meditation: shoveling dirt around the edges of the shed, nailing boards to prevent her escape. Meanwhile, his mother, illusion or not, is dying. There is something of Beckett here in their cruel conversations that never get to the heart of the matter, that always seem to affirm Galen’s slim hold on reality. At turns savage and comic, Vann’s richly complex novel does what the best literature does: It makes demands on its readers. (Author appearances in the San Francisco Bay area)

1018

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

White, Karen NAL Accent/Berkley (416 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-451-23676-0 A new bride who moves to St. Simons, a Georgia barrier island, finds that she has deeper ties to her home than she ever suspected. Ava, the only daughter of a funeral director, shocks her family, especially her mother, Gloria, with her whirlwind marriage to Matthew Frazier, whom she met at a medical conference (she’s a midwife, he’s a pediatric psychologist) only months before. Gloria can’t bring herself to speak to her daughter, much to the chagrin of Ava’s 90-plus grandmother Mimi. The marriage is especially baffling to Gloria because Ava, with her lifelong water phobia and persistent nightmares of drowning, will be living in the seaside house which has been in the Frazier family for centuries. Once she’s carried over the threshold, the mysteries of the old, though immaculately renovated, house, and the island it’s on, crowd in on Ava. Among them: Why didn’t Matthew ever mention his first wife, Adrienne, an artist? What did John, Adrienne’s brother, mean when he says his family thinks Matthew killed Adrienne, when her death (by drowning after her car went over a bridge) was clearly an accident? Why does Matthew keep hiding Adrienne’s papers and memorabilia from Ava? As Tish, a family friend, encourages Ava to do historical research about the Fraziers, Ava begins to suspect that her visceral attraction to Matthew may only be explainable as a carry-over from a former life. But whose? Occasional interspersed chapters, set in the early 1800s, provide a clue, as Matthew’s ancestor Geoffrey and his wife Pamela (a midwife herself) deal with sterility, resentful siblings and infidelity. Further perplexing puzzles: How did Ava sustain fractures before the age of two? Why did her family, who once lived on St. Simons, move inland? Who originally owned a music box blown in by a tornado and an ancient wedding band inscribed “Forever?” Although the narrative can be painfully slow, White skillfully juggles the deceptions that nurture the novel’s enigmas, until the surprising truth emerges.

kirkusreviews.com

|


m ys t e r y VULTURES AT TWILIGHT

Atkins, Charles Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8141-0

Generally scarifying Atkins (Mother’s Milk, 2009, etc.) dials down the violence, though not the body count, in a demicozy that asks who’s declared war on the antique dealers of Grenville, Conn. Mere days after Mildred Potts (of Aunt Millie’s Attic) wrestles what proves to be the severed finger of the late Philip Conroy (Grenville Antiques) away from her Shih Tzu, Taffy, the police are called to Mildred’s murder scene as well. In the meantime, Ada Strauss’ friend Evie has died, presumably of natural causes, and Ada’s been pressed into service as executrix. That chore brings Ada into contact with a wide range of antique jobbers and sellers, from Philip’s partner, Tolliver Jacobs, to Rudy Caputo (McElroy’s auction) to Mildred, very shortly before she gets murdered. So Ada and Lillian Campbell, her best buddy in Pilgrim’s Progress nursing home, are right in the thick of things when decaying bodies that could be those of Carl McElroy and Rudy Caputo are discovered. Ordinarily there’d be no mystery about why someone would kill local antique dealers, especially since most of them seem little better than pond scum. But, as sometime narrator Lillian sagely asks Police Chief Hank Morgan, “Why would someone kill [Mildred], rob her, but then throw out, or give away all the jewelry” that turns up dangling from yew hedges and the like? The answer to this excellent question must lie deep in the past—perhaps in the death ten years ago of Philip’s troubled sister Wendy. The killer is surprisingly lightweight for someone of Atkins’ formidable ability to evoke evil. And Lillian isn’t a patch on Jessica Fletcher, still less Miss Marple. First of a series.

recently vacated when Bryony Carter was hospitalized for setting fire to herself. Bryony, a patient of Cambridge psychiatrist Evi Oliver, had been depressed, struggling with coursework and tormented by violent dreams of a sexual nature. Dr. Oliver, the only person at Cambridge apprised of Laura’s real identity, thought that Bryony might have been goaded to self-immolation by websites encouraging suicide. Another student, Jessica, complains of bad dreams, sleeplessness, whispering voices and images of the things she’s most scared of: clowns. Will she attempt suicide too? Dr. Oliver herself isn’t sure what’s real and what’s delusion, and matters escalate when weird toys appear in her home, then disappear, as do emails and foggy messages on her mirror. Like the hounded others, Laura begins to feel that someone is watching her, creeping into her room at night and terrifying her. While Dr. Oliver and Laura try to puzzle out what’s happening, more die, perhaps urged on by someone using suicide as a murder method. Suspicion falls on a falconer and a man involved in the sadistic hazing of Laura. Will the women be driven to suicide by their deepest fears? Love triumphs, but barely. Menacing and then some. But when the goose bumps recede, there are several major plot holes.

DEAD SCARED

Bolton, S.J. Minotaur (400 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-312-60053-2 Cambridge University under siege. A rash of suicides—three this year, four last year, three the year before that— so exceeds the statistical norm that Scotland Yard has placed undercover agents at Cambridge University to find out what’s going on. DI Mark Joesbury, he of the turquoise eyes who sends DC Lacey Flint’s pulse racing (Now You See Me, 2011, etc.), has Lacey billeted as Laura Farrow in the St. John’s college room |

kirkusreviews.com

|

mystery

|

15 may 2012

|

1019


FALLEN ANGELS

Dial, Connie Permanent Press (296 pp.) $28.00 | Apr. 1, 2012 978-1-57962-274-9 She’s a wife, a mom, an LAPD captain and compelling no matter what she does. Meet Capt. Josie Corsino, a good cop. She’s been that for two decades plus, is proud of her achievement, remains passionate about the work, regards it as a high calling and hates bent cops. Unfortunately, she’s about to confront a mess of them. The complex, frequently embittering case that flushes them out begins in the Hollywood hills and centers on the murder of Hillary Dennis, a teenage movie star with connections going every which way: to a powerful, eminently dislikable city councilman, to his wayward son, to organized crime and, yes, to the upper reaches of the LAPD. As murder follows murder, Josie battles a variety of dubious agendas while trying desperately to protect embattled colleagues—often as not from their own self-destructive behavior. Meanwhile, trouble looms on her domestic front. After 20 years of marriage her husband is suddenly restive. Her beloved, quixotic son—who may, incidentally, have been closer to Hillary Dennis than was wise—also has issues with her. “You really don’t give an inch, do you?” David says, “You look and talk like other mothers, but you’ve got the heart of a gunnery sergeant.” He’s right, and he’s wrong, which is, of course, part of what makes Josie remarkable. A veteran cop herself, Dial (The Broken Blue Line, 2010, etc.) does authenticity to the max, and readers will like that. But it’s tough, vulnerable, never-say-die Josie that they’ll love.

PLAYING DEAD

Heaberlin, Julia Bantam (352 pp.) $15.00 paperback | May 29, 2012 978-0-345-52701-1 Every family has a deep dark secret. Maybe more than one. When the letter arrives in Ponder, Texas, Tommie McCloud thinks it’s the work of a scam artist. After 42 readings of it, she’s not so sure. Could this Chicagoan claiming to be her mother, telling her that she was really the Adriana who had been kidnapped just after her first birthday, that her father was crime boss Anthony Marchetti, be telling the truth? Tommie can’t ask the man who raised her, a retired federal marshal who just passed away. The woman she’s always believed to be her mother has Alzheimer’s, and her brother Tuck perished in a car accident when he was 18. But her sister Sadie remembers overhearing a conversation between their parents that might lend credence to the letter. When Jack Smith, supposedly a reporter, pops up on the family’s doorstep to write about Tommie’s work healing traumatized kids with horseback-riding 1020

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

therapy, she’s suspicious. What reporter wears an ankle holster under his jeans? With assists from Hudson, a former boyfriend with lifetime access to FBI files (don’t ask), Tommie discovers ties to a girl’s unsolved murder, the slaughter years back of an FBI agent and his family, and Smith’s true agenda: confronting Marchetti, recently incarcerated in Texas. Still, Tommie’s confused about the contents of two bank vaults maintained by her mother. Deciphering their meaning will reveal more than one family secret, but not before Tommie is tailed, assaulted, shot at and finally saved by the intervention of Marchetti. First-timer Heaberlin combines equal parts gruesome (a mummified child’s finger) and poignant (Tommie’s niece’s brain tumor) with perhaps a smidgen too many secrets for a single plot. (Agent: Pam Ahearn)

STRANGE MUSIC

Macdonald, Malcolm Severn House (256 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8129-8 An exploration of the day-to-day world of a disparate group of people rebuilding their lives in postwar England. 1949 finds famous sculptor Felix Breit and his wife, Angela, a sound recording expert, both concentration camp survivors, living in a semi-communal group at the Dower House estate with architects Adam and Sally, Willard and Marianne, and Tony and his French, non-architect wife, Nicole. Also in residence are Felix’s former lover Faith, a publishing executive; writer Eric and his Swedish-born wife, Isabella; economist Terence and his wife, Hilary; and BBC cameraman Arthur and his wife, May—along with an ever-growing group of children known as The Tribe. The group, whose politics range from conservative to Communist, get along despite their endless provocative discussions about Britain’s, and indeed the world’s, future. Many in the group are still struggling to overcome their wartime experiences. Although Felix and Angela have the bitterest memories to deal with, the arrival of Marianne’s father, a Nazi-loving aristocrat, changes her life. Ambitious Faith finds a husband whose job at the BBC is a cover for his activities as a spy. And the addition of a young artist with a string of lovers adds spice to the community. By 1952, when the story ends, rationing will have ceased, a huge effort will have begun to rebuild England after the wartime bombings, and the future of commercial television will have presented opportunities for several Dower House denizens. Although nothing much seems to happen in the second installment of the Felix Breit saga (The Dower House, 2011), the times are exciting and the characters well-enough drawn to whet the appetite for more.

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Munger’s third Dead Detective case is a police procedural with a twist.” from angel of darkness

ANGEL OF DARKNESS

Munger, Katy Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8131-1

The lost soul of an unsuccessful police officer roams a Delaware town seeking redemption. Before he was killed in a drug bust gone wrong, Kevin Fahey was no great shakes as a police detective, husband or father. Now that he’s dead, Kevin hangs around the Holloway Institute, whose troubled residents try to overcome their mental problems with a wide range of outcomes. Incarcerated in the unit for the criminally insane is Otis Redman Parker, who managed to finagle an insanity plea after brutally murdering several women. The body of a young woman is found near the Institute with all the marks of Parker’s former kills, many of them unknown to the public. Besides feeling pessimistic over Parker’s efforts to overturn his guilty plea, Kevin must also watch his son Michael spend time at the Institute in an effort to handle his problems, many caused by Kevin’s death. The police team investigating the murder is sure Parker is somehow involved, since it was one of the few cases that Kevin did not screw up, but they expect proving his guilt will be difficult. The teenage girl who was killed was Michael’s friend and the former girlfriend of his best friend Adam, a bright boy who leads a hellish life with an abusive father. Hoping to help solve the case, unseen Kevin tags along with the investigators and listens in on conversations in the Institute. Since he has no corporeal body, he cannot act himself, but he aims to influence others in a desperate attempt to nail the killer. Munger’s third Dead Detective case (Angel Interrupted, 2010, etc.) is a police procedural with a twist. Kevin’s latest attempt at redemption is filled with anger and anguish right up to the exciting climax.

KEEPING BAD COMPANY

Peacock, Caro Creme de la Crime (240 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-78029-020-1

The sudden return of Liberty Lane’s brother Tom from India embroils them both in a delicate and dangerous case. Tom, an employee of the East India Company, is horrified to discover that his sister earns a living as a private investigator, but he needs her skills when a friend is killed. Tom is home to give evidence at an official enquiry into the murder of wealthy merchant Alexander McPherson’s assistant, who was reportedly carrying a fortune in jewels. Tom’s mentor, Mr. Griffiths, despises McPherson, who has made a fortune exporting opium to China in exchange for tea, and has written a |

pamphlet exposing the evil trade. When Griffiths is found dead, a supposed suicide, Tom is devastated, and Liberty immediately suspects that all is not what it seems. Although Griffiths’ pamphlet has been stolen from the publishers, the original manuscript still exists, and Liberty learns a great deal from reading it. She becomes convinced that Griffiths’ death is linked to an experience he had in India, where he was posted to a small but wealthy princedom along with a merchant and a soldier. The merchant was McPherson, but the soldier’s identity is something Liberty must discover if she is to solve a case that becomes more complicated with each passing day. Liberty’s fifth case (When the Devil Drives, 2011, etc.) nicely balances the exotic history of the East India Company, whose private army rules India for British gain, with a mystery that offers a wide range of possible evildoers.

COUNTERFEIT ROAD

Russell, Kirk Severn House (256 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8145-8

The coldest of cold cases meets the hottest of hot-button crimes for San Francisco’s Inspector Ben Raveneau (A Killing in China Basin, 2011). Twenty-two years ago the San Francisco Police Department took $6,100 in $100 bills from the body of Alan Krueger, a counterfeiting expert who’d left the U.S. Secret Service and gone independent. After running a check on the currency, the FBI pronounced it genuine. Now Nate Brooks, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of San Francisco, announces that the agency has changed its mind and decided the bills were the first of a new generation of superior fakes, limited by their serial numbers to a worrisome recent shipment of armaments. The Bureau’s about-face couldn’t be more timely for Ben Raveneau, of the Cold Case Unit, since he’s just received a videotape of Krueger’s murder that would have required him to reopen the case anyway. Before he’s made any real progress, however, there’s a development as unexpected as it seems unrelated: Three people are brutally murdered at David Khan’s cabinet factory minutes after a routine delivery of plywood. John Drury, the truck driver who delivered the shipment, is truculent and uncooperative, but does that make him a killer? And what’s the relation between the ancient Krueger case, the new eruption of violence and the president’s upcoming visit to San Francisco? Dodging questions about why he’s working a cold case when there’s so much at stake in the volatile present, Raveneau connects the dots methodically and convincingly, though with little sense of urgency.

kirkusreviews.com

|

mystery

|

15 may 2012

|

1021


CAST ON, KILL OFF

Sefton, Maggie Berkley Prime Crime (304 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-425-24759-4 A Fort Connor bride’s path to the hymeneal altar is impeded by several crises that befall her friends, her fellow knitters and her seamstress, including the latter’s murder. Kelly Flynn might have known it was a bad sign when Zoe Yeager finished sewing the perfect bridal gown for her friend Megan Smith and all the bridesmaids’ equally fetching dresses a full three weeks before the wedding. Item: Megan’s sister Janet, her matron of honor, can’t fit into her dress because she’s suddenly pregnant. Item: The triangular wedding shawl Kelly’s knitting to match all the other bridesmaids’ shawls (pattern included, along with three recipes) keeps shrinking on one side. Item: Zoe is shot to death shortly after finally leaving her abusive husband, Oscar. The Fort Connor police naturally fasten on Oscar as their prime suspect, but Kelly, whose accounting business never seems to engage her full attention (Unraveled, 2011, etc.), wonders about Leann O’Hara, the rival seamstress who burst into Zoe’s class the night she died to accuse her of stealing a prizewinning bridal-gown pattern from Leann. And there are other problems to worry about too. Will Zoe’s sister, Vera Wilcott, be able to rescue both Megan’s wedding and Zoe’s business? Will Kelly’s sometime boyfriend, architect Steve Townsend, ever make the move from friends-again to lovers-once-more? And who’ll win Kelly’s climactic showdown with a blond hussy that seems to have been sneaked in by some rewrite man who hopes the movie will feature a knockdown bar fight? Not to worry: Megan’s wedding goes off without a hitch; Kelly gets her man, or vice versa; and somewhere along the line the cops arrest Zoe’s killer. Whew.

DEADLY POLITICS

Sefton, Maggie Midnight Ink/Llewellyn (288 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Aug. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3128-5 A financial consultant, back in Washington years after the suicide of her congressman husband, battles a hydraheaded extragovernmental agency whose existence she’s only dimly aware of. Molly Malone thought she was returning to D.C. to work for commercial developer Jeff Parker. When that job falls through, her niece Karen Grayson, turning on a dime, finds her a position in the office of Sen. John Russell, the Colorado Independent. No sooner has Molly begun to settle into the great Georgetown flat her new boss, Chief of Staff Peter Brewster, has arranged for her than Karen is killed, apparently by an unusually brutal mugger, but really, we 1022

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

know from hugger-mugger asides, by the minions of the Epsilon Group, a think tank for international finance whose selfappointed responsibilities go way beyond issuing white papers. Surrounded by scorched-earth zealots on both sides of the aisle and creepy staffers like Karen’s old boss Jed Molinoff, whose wife and children didn’t keep him from sleeping with Karen, Molly wonders whom she can trust—especially once her old school friend Danny DiMateo offers protection and romance and Karen’s friend and colleague Celeste Allard agrees to spy on Jed. The climactic revelations fall so far short of the thickly menacing atmosphere that plenty of clouds remain at the fadeout, presumably as material for a sequel or a whole series. Quite a change of pace for Sefton, last seen arranging wool for the sleuthing knitters of Fort Connor (Cast On, Kill Off, 2012, etc.). If this departure doesn’t exactly reveal a new master of Beltway intrigue, its more jaundiced worldview seems to fit both the author and her heroine significantly better.

TARGET: TINOS

Siger, Jeffrey Poisoned Pen (270 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59058-976-2 978-1-59058-978-6 paperback 978-1-59058-077-9 Lg. Prt. What worries Chief Inspector Kaldis more, his inability to solve an incendiary murder or his impending nuptials? In the middle of the night, a van has been set on fire with two bodies inside. Nearby is a charred Greek flag, and a message chained to the steering wheel declares, “Revenge or Death,” ominously close to the Greek national motto, “Freedom or Death.” It’s a strange sight, especially on the quietly beautiful Greek island of Tinos as viewed from a helicopter by Andreas Kaldis, head of Greece’s Special Crimes Division. The victims, whose identities are first established by their jewelry and subsequently confirmed via DNA, are a pair of tsigani—gypsies, who in Greece prefer to be called Rom. Modern technology has made the Rom, who have a well-earned reputation for criminality, more traceable. But that’s the extent of the investigators’ luck. Theories of the crime abound. Andreas, with his sidekicks Yianni, Kouros and Tassos, considers whether there’s been a skirmish between criminal families or a hate crime. An outspoken Greek hotelier named Eleni even speculates that it’s an attack on the church. But the team gains little traction in the investigation. Regular, baffling distractions come via Andreas’ pending wedding to his longtime ladylove Lila, who requires his involvement in selecting her wedding dress...and other embarrassments. The case languishes, but Andreas’ stoic persistence and more murders keep it alive. A late-summer festival on Tinos provides a backdrop for cracking the complex case. The fourth case for a sleuth who doesn’t suffer fools gladly (Prey on Patmos, 2011, etc.) pairs a crisp style with a complex portrait of contemporary Greece to bolster another solid whodunit.

kirkusreviews.com

|


NO HOLDS BARRED

Stacey, Lyndon Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | May 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8064-2

Two ex-cops—one human, one canine —investigate a dog-fighting ring in rural Wiltshire. From the minute he sets foot in Great Ditton, Daniel Whelan (No Going Back, 2010) knows that someone wants him gone. First the young punk at the gas station follows him in a Ford pickup just to warn him to turn around and go home. When he gets to the Forester’s Cottage, his temporary digs, he finds the place ransacked and covered in creosote. Once he’s cleaned and aired the place, two masked thugs arrive, asking, “Why don’t you be a good boy and go back where you come from? We don’t want troublemakers round here.” Worse yet, they almost capture his German shepherd, Taz, the companion who washed out of police service along with Daniel. Still, Daniel promised his boss, Fred Bowden, that he’d help Jenny Summers, owner of Maidstone Farm and more recently of Summer Haulage, find out who beat her husband, Gavin, and left him for dead in the drive. So Daniel toughs out the bullying of Taylor Boyd, in charge of the firm while Gavin remains unconscious, and his pals Dek Edwards and Macca MacAlister, so that he can keep driving for Jenny while he and Taz nose about for clues. When he sees two alleged boxer-Labrador crosses who look suspiciously like pit bulls in the Boyd family salvage yard, Daniel realizes that it wasn’t just a bar fight that sent Gavin Summers to the hospital and wonders if he’ll be the next. Dog lovers will cheer this fast-paced tale that shows the worst and the best of man and beast.

POWERS OF ARREST

Talton, Jon Poisoned Pen (270 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-59058-999-1 978-1-59058-556-6 paperback A brave cop finds the kind of courage he didn’t know he had. No one who’s ever served with Will Borders doubts that he’s a stand-up guy. The son of a hero policeman killed in the line of duty, Will has the right stuff in his DNA, glittering commendations on his personnel jacket, and unswerving momentum in his climb from street cop to detective in the much respected Cincinnati Homicide division. He’s an authentic highflier until suddenly he becomes one of those forced to consider “the senseless, incomprehensible ways our bodies could go wrong.” A tumor on his spinal cord requires complex surgery from which it takes months to recover. Now Will needs a cane to walk—the stand-up guy can’t stand very long without |

recourse to pain pills—and he isn’t a homicide detective any longer, for his bosses have shifted him to work that is more commensurate with his so-called handicap. Still, he’s glad to be alive. Digging deep, he finds in himself another kind of courage sufficient to fend off lurking depression while he awaits a chance to prove that a cop with a cane can catch a murderer with the spryest of them. And then a vicious serial killer makes a crucial mistake. He singles Will out for special attention. Talton (Deadline Man, 2010, etc.) crafts a solid mystery while telling the engrossing, sometimes poignant story of a cop with a cane who refuses to be pigeonholed. (Author tour to Scottsdale, Tuscon, Seattle and Cincinnati)

SILENT COURT

Trow, M.J. Creme de la Crime (224 pp.) $28.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-78029-019-5 Christopher Marlowe’s role in history is rewritten. In a country rife with the prospect of war, Kit Marlowe is pressed into service for Queen Elizabeth as an amateur spy. His mission: to reach the Netherlands to offer his assistance to William the Silent, who has been even more silent since he was attacked and remains in a virtual coma. To achieve his goal, Kit joins a traveling band of Egyptian players whom Constable Joseph Fludd is chasing out of the country in connection with a possible murder charge. Though different by birth from his new companions, Kit blends in well with his new crowd, telling stories and charming the women of the group. When the Egyptians end up at the house of Dr. John Dee, the queen’s magus, Kit is concerned that his old friendship with the doctor will be discovered. But that is apparently the least of his concerns. Tragedy strikes, and everyone, including Kit, is suspected of foul play. Now the scholar-turned-spy must also take on the role of investigator while insuring that his cover as a harmless traveler remains intact. History buffs amused by the conceit of Marlowe’s many professional hats can have the additional fun of pouncing on minor historical anachronisms. For those who aren’t ardent fans of the era, however, the latest from Trow (Lestrade and the Ripper, 1999, etc.) might as well be ancient history.

kirkusreviews.com

|

mystery

|

15 may 2012

|

1023


“Amiable and charming.” from eventide

EVENTIDE

science fiction and fantasy LIVE AND LET DROOD

Green, Simon R. ROC/Penguin (368 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-451-46452-1

Another in Green’s Secret Histories series about Eddie Drood, aka Shaman Bond (For Heaven’s Eyes Only, 2011, etc.), set in the same universe as his Nightside yarns and occasionally intersecting with them. The Drood family protects humanity against such outside threats as the Hungry Gods and the Apocalypse Door. Droods in good standing with the family are gifted with various superpowers and an impenetrable suit of golden armor that manifests on demand. Some time ago Eddie left Drood Hall and became a field agent operating in London. This time, arriving at Drood Hall with his girlfriend/sidekick Molly Metcalf, a powerful witch, Eddie is aghast to find the heavily defended ancestral pile an utter ruin; even his armor no longer works. After surveying the wreckage, and pocketing the Merlin Glass, a handy space/time wormhole, Eddie realizes that this isn’t his Hall at all, but a duplicate. The real Hall has been sent—somewhere—by means of the dimensional engine Alpha Red Alpha, to which only a family traitor could have had access. Hundreds of pages slouch by while Eddie and Molly indulge in numbing banter and Eddie enlarges on his powerful and noble and complicated and entirely too numerous family. Finally, he decides without any evidence that the culprit must be Crow Lee, the Most Evil Man in the World. In order to track down Crow Lee, however, our heroes must find their way to the Department of the Uncanny, where the Regent of Shadows is sure to know Lee’s whereabouts. What action there is consists mostly of bodies of various shapes and sizes exploding into gobbets of flesh and sprays of blood, and for even the most avid readers this sort of thing quickly palls. Let your path lead you to the Nightside series, which has everything—real wit, personalities, plot, invention— that this book does not.

1024

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

Hickman, Tracy & Hickman, Laura Shadow Mountain (320 pp.) $23.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-160908-897-2 Series: Tales of the Dragon’s Bard, 1 In the first of a projected trilogy, a cozy village in an epic fantasy world manages to stand nearly every heroic trope on its head. When the bard Edvard is captured by the Dragonking, he bargains for his life by promising to collect the overlooked tales of common folk. And so he spends a year among the good people—and dwarves, faeries, centaurs and gnomes—of Eventide, meddling in the villagers’ lives and dreams, endeavoring to re-cast their everyday dramas into suitably high-flown form. But the bombastic Edvard is merely the catalyst for a series of comically subversive tales: a dwarf with a romantic streak, a gossip fairy who longs for humanity, a dashing but reluctant highwayman, a priest-of-all-trades, a haunted retreat for weary ghosts, and one spectacular, cataclysmic pie fight. All are linked by the quest of the apprentice accountant Jarod Klum to win the heart of Caprice Morgan, one of the three beautiful sisters tending the town’s (unfortunately broken) wishing well. Conceived as an online subscription serial, the narrative shows its origins in the episodic, meandering plot and frequent in-jokes for fans of sword and sorcery. The humor ranges from the farcical to the gently satirical, but it is never mean-spirited; the lampooning is always kindly, and characters’ petty foibles and not-so-dark secrets are always brought to unexpected but satisfying conclusions. Amiable and charming; but the earnest moral that the most valiant deeds and valuable treasures can be found in mundane domesticity is unlikely to resonate with readers looking for more adventurous fare.

THE LONG EARTH

Pratchett, Terry & Baxter, Stephen Harper/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-06-206775-3 Pratchett, author of the esteemed Discworld yarns (Snuff, 2011, etc.), and collaborator Baxter (Stone Spring, 2011, etc.) venture into alternate worlds. Eccentric, reclusive genius Willis Linsay of Madison, Wis., publishes on the web instructions for building a strange device consisting of a handful of common components, some wires, a three-way control and a potato. A flick of the switch (“west” or “east”) sends the builder into an alternate Earth—one of a possibly infinite sequence— where there are no humans at all, though there are other creatures descended from hominid stock. Some people are natural “steppers,” able to step into the Long Earth without any device. Another minority are phobics, unable to step at all. Steppers can take with

kirkusreviews.com

|


REDSHIRTS

them only what they can carry, while iron in any form doesn’t cross. Thanks to the strange circumstances of his birth, Joshua Valienté is a natural. The transEarth Institute, a wing of the huge Black Corporation, offers him a job exploring and reporting on the new worlds. His partner in the enterprise will be a zeppelin inhabited by Lobsang, a distributed artificial intelligence whose human component was once a humble Tibetan. Meanwhile, back on Datum, the original Earth, officer Monica Jansson grows increasingly concerned about the anti-stepping rants of powerful demagogue Brian Cowley. Thousands of steps from home, Joshua runs into another independent-minded stepper, Sally, who turns out to be Willis’ daughter. They visit a community, Happy Landings, founded thousands of years ago by natural steppers and trolls, gentle hominids who communicate via music. But both trolls and their viciously homicidal cousins, elves, are step-fleeing toward Datum from something very scary indeed. This often intriguing development of a science fiction trope takes a scattershot approach and could have used more of Pratchett’s trademark satire and Puckish humor. Still, the authors have plenty of fresh insights to offer, and fans of either will want to tag along and see where it all leads.

|

kirkusreviews.com

Scalzi, John Tor (304 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-7653-1699-8 Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation, 2011, etc.) takes a stab at metafiction—and misses. In 2456, when Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the xenobiology laboratory of the Universal Union starship Intrepid, he looks forward to participating in Away Missions. Peculiarly, however, experienced crew members invariably vanish just before the officers arrive with the mission assignments. Capt. Abernathy, science officer Q’eeng and astrogator Kerensky always go along, whether their skills are required or not, along with a handful of anonymous juniors. Worse, each mission always entails a usually unnecessary confrontation with improbable and hostile entities (ice sharks, killer robots with harpoons, Borgovian land worms) during which one or

|

science fiction & fantasy

|

15 may 2012

|

1025


more of the hapless juniors get killed in dramatically horrible fashion. Abernathy and Q’eeng always emerge unperturbed and unscathed, while Kerensky consistently gets mangled but miraculously survives. If all this sounds like they’re trapped in a bad episode of Star Trek, you’re not wrong: They are. Somehow, and Scalzi declines to discuss the details, the actions taking place are being dictated by the half-baked scripts of a Star Trek clone series back in 2012. This, and its entirely predictable resolution, occupies 200 pages or so. The remainder comprises three codas set in 2012 that attempt to ground the aftermath in some sort of reality. Fittingly, the starship characters, those who aren’t ciphers, sound and behave like teenagers. The plot you know about. Intriguing developments, fresh ideas, dashes of originality? Forget it. It’s all vaguely amusing in a sophomoric sort of way, which is fine if you’re an easily diverted sophomore with a couple of hours to kill. Check the date. If it isn’t April 1st, you’ve been had. (Agent: Ethan Ellenberg)

JUDGMENT AT PROTEUS Zahn, Timothy Tor (384 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-7653-2213-5

The fifth installment of Zahn’s science fiction thriller series concerning the Quadrail, an interstellar train system, brings the series to a close. Quadrail investigator Frank Compton has discovered (The Domino Pattern, 2010) that the Shonkla-raa, the conquering aliens defeated into extinction more than 1,000 years ago, were actually a genetic variant of a living species, the Filiaelians—and that variant has now been revived. Frank and his partner/love interest, Bayta, have traced the new Shonkla-raa to Proteus Station, a medical and diplomatic center. Once there, Frank is accused of murder (which happens at least once every book), forcing him to combat the legal system in addition to spearheading the secret war against the Shonklaraa and protecting a sullen, pregnant human girl of especial interest to their foes. It’s been fascinating to observe the evolution of the Modhri, the sentient, body-snatching coral who was Frank’s chief antagonist but becomes one of his most valuable allies after experiencing slavery from the other side for a change. However, the conceit of a train thriller wears a bit thin when stretched across five volumes, particularly when so many plot elements repeat. Zahn’s constant references to Casablanca and Hitchcock films suggest we should draw appropriate comparisons to his own work, but, alas, convoluted storylines, tense, cocky dialogue with the bad guys (who seem to work far too hard to avoid killing Frank while piling up the body count everywhere else), and quests for MacGuffins do not necessarily a classic thriller series make. Don’t put away the popcorn, though: There are still some enjoyable twists and turns and a reasonably satisfying ending. Finishes with enough loose ends to allow for sequels, but that shouldn’t be encouraged. 1026

|

15 may 2012

|

fiction

|

kirkusreviews.com

|


nonfiction SOMETHING LIKE THE GODS A Cultural History of the Athlete from Achilles to LeBron

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: A YEAR UP by Gerald Chertavian.............................................. p. 1032

Amidon, Stephen Rodale (256 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-60961-123-1 978-1-60961-124-8 e-book

AS TEXAS GOES... by Gail Collins .............................................p. 1033 CRAZY BRAVE by Joy Harjo........................................................p. 1037 DAYS OF DESTRUCTION, DAYS OF REVOLT by Chris Hedges; illus. by Joe Sacco.............................................. p. 1038 FULL BODY BURDEN by Kristen Iversen................................... p. 1039 A SHIP WITHOUT A SAIL by Gary Marmorstein...................... p. 1045 DIARIES by George Orwell.......................................................... p. 1047 MONKEY MIND by Daniel Smith.................................................p. 1053 THE GREAT DIVIDE by Peter Watson.......................................... p. 1056 DAYS OF DESTRUCTION, DAYS OF REVOLT

Hedges, Chris Illus. by Sacco, Joe Nation Books/ Perseus (304 pp.) $28.00 Jun. 18, 2012 978-1-56858-643-4

|

A brief but enlightening history of the athlete as a cultural icon. From the shamanistic athletic rituals of Paleolithic hunters to the exploits of today’s millionaire sports superstars, athletes have fascinated and transfixed us for centuries. This is true, writes Amidon (co-author: The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the Human Heart, 2011, etc.), for both a universal and a particular reason. At their best, “athlete[s] ha[ve] always been able to transport us out of our daily lives,” to stop time for an instant and allow us to suspend disbelief. At the same time, the athlete has always held the ability “to represent the ethos of his era.” In rich yet concise prose, Amidon explores this universalist nature of the athlete, including the godlike efforts of the Greek warriors of the ancient Olympics; the tragic heroics of the Roman gladiator; and the romantic image of the jousting knight errant to the civilized amateur ideal of the Victorian era. In his discussion of the modern era, the book’s most accomplished section, Amidon emphasizes how class, race and gender worked to initially limit who could become an athlete—working-class competitors, for instance, were explicitly barred from the first modern Olympics—and how those excluded overcame such barriers. Women athletes now hold sway in the public imagination more than they ever have. The black American athlete has moved from being an occasional patriotic icon (Joe Louis) to a political rebel (Muhammad Ali) to a cultural avatar (Michael Jordan). Though he occasionally lapses into questionable comparisons—the early-era baseball player, reflecting the industrialization of work, as a working-class Joe who worked overtime (like everybody else) if a game went into extra innings—Amidon’s broad historical sweep fascinates with its facts and challenges with its commentary. A cultural history of sports that says as much about all of us as it does about athletes.

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1027


“A sharp, fully fleshed, somewhat biased portrait of ‘one of the most fascinating and compelling figures to have appeared on Israel’s stage.’ ” from moshe dayan

THE LAST RHINOS My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures

Anthony, Lawrence & Spence, Graham Dunne/St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-250-00451-2 978-1-250-01509-9 e-book The story of a leading conservationist’s efforts to save a dangerously threatened animal, and of his role as a mediator in a failed attempt to end armed conflict in Uganda. Anthony (who died in early 2012) and Spence (The Elephant Whisperer: My Life in the African Wild, 2009, etc.) describe the illegal trade in rhino horns—used for traditional medicine in Asian countries—as so lucrative that it rivals drug trafficking. These magnificent animals, threatened with extinction, were being left to bleed to death, mainly because “on the streets of China or Vietnam, ounce for ounce the horn is more valuable than gold.” As the founder of the international conservation group Earth Organization, Anthony felt called upon to act. When a journalist informed him that fewer than 15 of the rare subspecies of Northern White Rhino were still living, he decided to mount an international effort to save them. To protect the animals from poachers, it would be necessary to remove them from their home in the Garamba National Park, located in a war-ravaged part of Congo. The area was also home to the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army, a terrorist group that had been fighting a 20-year war. After several reconnaissance visits, and despite securing agreements of support from the various governments and international agencies involved in the area, Anthony came to the realization that unless he could guarantee the safety of park rangers, he would not receive on-the-ground support for a rescue attempt. This led him to make contact with the LRA in an attempt to broker a safe-conduct agreement for the rescue effort. They agreed, and to his surprise, he was asked for help in brokering a peace treaty. A riveting account by a compassionate, dedicated man. (8-page color photo insert)

MOSHE DAYAN Israel’s Controversial Hero

Bar-On, Mordechai Yale Univ. (224 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-300-14941-8

Succinct biography of the “lone wolf ” defense minister during Israel’s decisive first campaigns. Bar-On (A Never-Ending Conflict: A Guide to Israeli Military History, 2004, etc.) states from the first sentence of this crisp, selective new biography that “the story of Moshe Dayan is the story of the State of Israel,” 1028

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

and thereby, this contains all of its inspiring, problematic and confounding mythology. Dayan (1915–1981), like Israel, was full of contradictions, which were part of his mystique and magnetism. The child of educated Ukrainian immigrants to Palestine committed to eking out a living on one of the earliest kibbutzim in Palestine, Dayan connected first and foremost with the land. His early experience in the farming cooperative involved the moshav, which his “trailblazer” parents forged, draining swamps and enduring Arab reprisals—an experience that would inform his later work as Israel’s minister of agriculture and his “lifelong ambivalence toward treatment of the Palestinians.” Dayan’s fearlessness, which verged on recklessness, characterized his youth, as he learned the basic rules of military field conduct in the fledgling Haganah and lost an eye during an invasion of Syria in 1941, after which he was convinced his military career was over. Occasionally recruited to quell the infighting from the Irgun, he found many of his old colleagues now commanders, and he hitched his star to David Ben-Gurion, who appointed him first as commander of Jerusalem, then head of the Israeli Defense Force, and later defense minister during the SixDay War. Architect of the doomed reprisals policy along the borders, sidelined and vilified for his role in the Yom Kippur debacle, and unable to accept Palestinian autonomy, Dayan wrestled ceaselessly between hubris and humanity. A sharp, fully fleshed, somewhat biased portrait of “one of the most fascinating and compelling figures to have appeared on Israel’s stage.”

MATHLETICS A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About the World of Sports Barrow, John D. Norton (336 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-0-393-06341-7

Entertaining deconstruction of the mathematics of sports. To enjoy this book, readers need only a basic knowledge of high school math, even when Barrow (Mathematical Sciences/Cambridge Univ.; The Book of Universes: Exploring the Limits of the Cosmos, 2011, etc.) discusses more complicated subjects such as probabilities. He shows how the relationship between time and distance determines the best strategy for kicking the ball in rugby or soccer. Turning to track and field, Barrow speculates that in order to top his world-record 100-meter time, sprinter Usain Bolt could reduce his reaction time, but an even better bet would be to race on a high-altitude track in Mexico City while getting an assist from a high tailwind. The author explains why runners, given a choice, don’t select either the inside position on a circular track, even though it is the shortest distance, or the outside, with its gentler curve, because they want to gauge the speed of the runners on either side. Barrow also investigates Cold War politics to discover why female world records in Olympic track and field competitions have remained static in recent years. The answer

kirkusreviews.com

|


can be found in the practices of the East German Stasi, who systematically dosed their athletes with anabolic steroids. While random testing is now routine for Olympic athletes, there is no random testing of U.S. baseball players, despite evidence of steroid use. The author explains that existing tests are not considered to be sufficiently precise. Using hypothetical examples, Barrow introduces the fundamentals of statistics and the application of Bayes’ theorem to conditional probabilities, and he includes discussions of skydiving, rowing, triathlons and water polo, among other athletic endeavors. An illuminating mix for sports fans and math buffs looking to hone their skills. (40 illustrations)

HITLER’S SPY CHIEF The Wilhelm Canaris Betrayal: The Most Dangerous Intelligence Man in the World Bassett, Richard Pegasus (352 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 15, 2012 978-1-60598-370-7

A London journalist makes a convincing case for the quietly subversive pro-British diplomacy of the head of the Abwehr. Bassett portrays Admiral Wilhelm Canaris as a German gentleman of the old school who grew to admire the might and prowess of the British navy. Although he was an eager Nazi apparatchik at the beginning, he began to realize the horrors of Hitler’s regime and distance himself from them. Canaris started his career with the Imperial German Navy, and he cut his teeth during the Anglo-German naval race of World War I. He showed a flair for intelligence work, with impeccable English and Spanish, and developed connections within the anti-communist segment consolidating in Germany after the war. He found himself in goodly stead with the rising National Socialists led by Hitler, who was obsessed with the British secret service. Canaris’ old navy colleague and protégé Reinhard Heydrich took over the German Security Service and became a close ally and dangerous rival. Canaris’ philosophy in leading the Abwehr seemed to be to “run with the party” while cultivating a degree of “independent thought and action.” This ultimately led to his arrest and hanging for treason in April 1945. Bassett carefully considers Canaris’ rather uneven record, from his pressure on Hitler to support Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and ability to provide Franco with the key intelligence required to withstand Hitler’s wooing of Spain to the Axis side, to his subtle foiling of what he considered repugnant Gestapo activity in Poland and Russia. Bassett’s thorough work spotlights this relatively unknown character in the Nazi hierarchy. A welcome addition to the war record and a solid elucidation of the Nazi spy system.

|

LOCALLY GROWN Portraits of Artisanal Farms from America’s Heartland

Blessing, Anna H. Agate Midway (180 pp.) $20.00 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-57284-129-1

An introduction to the growing local food movement in Chicago restaurants and the farmers who supply them. Former Lucky Chicago correspondent Blessing (Rather Washington DC, 2012, etc.) profiles 20 of the most interesting farms in the Midwest. These farmers have created relationships with some of Chicago’s premier restaurateurs to supply a variety of produce from their small specialty farms or, in some cases, their urban farm gardens. Blessing’s profiles explain why the farmers choose to farm, how their farming techniques benefit the environment, and how they grow and sustain their businesses by partnering with area chefs. At Uncommon Ground restaurant, they have an urban farm on the roof that allows them to grow the purple calabash tomato, which is typically too delicate for farmers to transport. Blessing shares the excitement of the Travis family about their ability to grow rare Iroquois white corn at the request of one of Chicago’s top chefs who works for Rick Bayless. Throughout the book, the profiled farmers and chefs provide resources for readers interested in farming or purchasing locally grown food. In many cases, the chefs share favorite recipes from their kitchens using produce bought from their sister farm—e.g., Morteau sausage by Paul Kahan and Brian Huston of The Publican restaurant, or grilled shrimp and wheat berry salad by Carlos Ysaguirre from Acre and Anteprima. An inspirational glimpse into one vibrant area of the local food movement.

ELECTRIFIED SHEEP Glass-Eating Scientists, Nuking the Moon, and Other Bizarre Experiments

Boese, Alex Dunne/St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-250-00753-7 978-1-250-01510-5 e-book

The author of Elephants on Acid (2007) and Hippo Eats Dwarf (2006) returns with another collection of unusual science experiments throughout history. Science writer Boese loves the bizarre. Here he compiles another science/history book detailing genuine science experiments ranging from the ill-advised (researchers hiding under beds to eavesdrop on a girls’ dorm) to the downright grotesque (doctors drinking the vomit of a patient with yellow fever). Each section opens with a fictionalized retelling of a key scene in the ensuing story, but these depictions are somewhat

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1029


“A refreshing look at a well-worked topic.” from maximum brainpower

amateurish and often clichéd—in one, an Italian scientist exclaims, “Mamma mia!” The factual accounts, however, are well written and engrossing, even when the experiment Boese recounts isn’t especially unreasonable. For instance, the author tells the story of a group of researchers in the late 1960s and early ’70s who feigned mental illnesses to gain admittance into mental hospitals. Nearly all were given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Once inside, all the “pseudopatients” dropped their act and waited for doctors to uncover the truth. After an average of 19 days, the fake patients’ schizophrenia was said to be “in remission” and the pseudopatient was discharged. After the results of this experiment were published, the use of schizophrenia as a catchall category of mental illness began to decline. While most of the stories have a broad appeal, a few push the boundaries of good taste. Boese claims he does not want to “offer a pastel version of science,” but a few sections, including one regarding the sexual habits of chimps, are quite graphic and may not appeal to some readers. Despite a few missteps, a fun read for science and history buffs alike.

MAXIMUM BRAINPOWER Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom

Breznitz, Shlomo & Hemingway, Collins Ballantine (288 pp.) $27.00 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-345-52614-4 978-0-345-52616-8 e-book An internationally recognized authority on the relationship between stress and mental functioning explores how the same mechanisms that lay the basis for human creativity and expertise can also set us up for cognitive stagnation. Cognitive psychologist Breznitz (Memory Fields, 1992, etc.) suggests that “our [unique] ability to find solutions buried in our experience is a hallmark of human creativity,” yet to be matched by any computer. It is the basis of an expert’s rapid intuitive grasp of a situation. But it has a downside as well. With the assistance of Hemingway (co-author: The Fifth Wave: A Strategic Vision for Mobile Internet Innovation, Investment & Return, 2012, etc.), Breznitz explains how our major cognitive strength is also a potential weakness, leading us to overlook danger signals or new possibilities and trapping the brain in the “tomb of experience.” Breznitz cites research that demonstrates the proclivity of the brain to take shortcuts—e.g., automatically accepting a solution to a problem based on past experience. In a rapidly changing world, to adapt by unlearning old ways can be critical to survival. Mental rigidity, writes the author, can create a vulnerability for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life. However, this need not be the case. “[T]axing mental challenges” are necessary at every stage of our lives. By embracing them, we create cognitive reserves that can slow down mental deterioration even as our brains age. Despite the known problems caused by chronic stress—anxiety, depression, immune 1030

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

disorders, etc.—and despite the fact that any change can be stressful, it is necessary if we are to avoid mental stagnation. Among Breznitz’s recommended activities, reading ranks high. A refreshing look at a well-worked topic.

FREE RADICALS The Secret Anarchy of Science Brooks, Michael Overlook (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 7, 2012 978-1-59020-854-0

New Statesman columnist Brooks (13 Things That Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time, 2008, etc.) delves into the rough-andtumble world of scientific research. The stereotypical scientific researcher is a staid investigator, grinding away at his experiments while assiduously following the rules of the scientific method. As Brooks demonstrates, however, many of the leading lights of science were merely flawed human beings and not above bending or breaking rules in their quests for knowledge. His book lays bare the messy stories behind some of the greatest discoveries in scientific history. At least one Nobel Prize winner, he writes, is upfront about taking illegal drugs for inspiration. Some researchers, including the inventor of the cardiac catheter, recklessly used themselves as test subjects. Several legends of science, including Albert Einstein, even ignored or fudged research data that didn’t fit with their theories; others callously betrayed research partners to claim sole credit for major discoveries. While Brooks condemns many of the more egregious injustices and unethical behaviors, he also asserts that outside-the-box thinking is not necessarily a bad thing and is indeed a necessity to push the boundaries of knowledge. “If we want more scientific progress,” he writes, “we need to release more rebels, more outlaws, more anarchists.” To that end, he makes a solid case for overhauling some longtime traditions, such as the see-no-evil discouragement of activism among scientists and the politics-laden peer-review system for scientific journals. Though Brooks dwells a bit much on the drug angle—much of the epilogue, for example, concerns his unsuccessful attempt to confirm if a famous DNA researcher used LSD—the overall narrative is enjoyable and insightful. A page-turning, unvarnished look at the all-too-human side of science.

kirkusreviews.com

|


CLIMATE MATTERS Ethics in a Warming World

Broome, John Norton (280 pp.) $23.95 | Jul. 23, 2012 978-0-393-06336-3

As mounting evidence shows that global warming is real and escalating, Broome (Moral Philosophy/Oxford Univ.; Weighing Lives, 2004, etc.) addresses the moral issues of this worldwide problem. The author believes individuals and countries have an ethical obligation to reduce, eliminate or offset the carbon footprints they create on a daily basis. “[I]n the domain of climate change,” he writes, “private morality and government morality are regulated by different principles,” with government focus being on making the world better. However, an individual focus is “determined by the duty of justice not to harm, rather than by the aim of improving the world.” By providing readers with an overview of the science and economic questions behind global warming, Broome lays a solid foundation for the remaining arguments in the book. He demonstrates that any emissions are harmful and best avoided. But as that is almost impossible to achieve, the next step is to offset any emissions, thereby ostensibly adding nothing to the problem. Moving past the individual, Broome addresses the need for governments to place a value on everything directly and indirectly affected by global warming. The author takes into consideration the uncertainty of climate change, the potential future damage from actions taken today, and a growing worldwide population. He points out the possible harm from issues such as rising sea levels, droughts and crop damage and analyzes how to place a value on the potential millions of lives lost as global warming increases. Broome’s overall message appeals to the moral goodness of humanity. Global warming is real and must be stopped before the lives of those living today and of future generations are made permanently worse. A moral and just viewpoint on an ever-expanding global issue.

THE WILDNESS WITHIN Remembering David Brower

Brower, Kenneth Heyday (320 pp.) $20.00 paperback | $9.99 e-book May 17, 2012 978-1-59714-186-4 978-1-59714-191-8 e-book A tribute to David Brower (1912– 2000), father of the modern environmental movement, on what would have been his 100th birthday. Nature writer Kenneth Brower (A Song for Satawal, 2009, etc.) interviewed 20 environmental leaders about his father’s influence on their lives and conservation. The result is an engaging compilation that serves as a balanced testimony to Brower’s |

leadership and an eloquent and candid insider reflection on the movement and how it has changed (more institutionalized, less about fundamental grassroots change). The book also works well as an analysis of effective advocacy and business/nonprofit leadership. After dropping out of Berkeley and establishing himself as an elite mountain climber, Brower became the first executive director of the Sierra Club in 1952. He proceeded to transform it from a “hiking fraternity” to an influential conservation advocacy organization. In 1969, the board of directors he built fired him in a controversy that would repeat itself at Friends of the Earth in 1986. These episodes of conflict are never fully deconstructed in the book, but rather referenced in discussions of David Brower’s inimitable leadership style. He was a “visionary with the ability to articulate that vision” and a charismatic, bold, decisive speaker who inspired young people. He was uncompromising in his purpose and would act on urgent matters with little consideration for funding, but was personally shy and a bad manager. The interview content can feel rambling, and the litany of names is difficult to navigate for readers unfamiliar with his story. But the informal style captures the energy and immediacy of the contributors’ passion for the cause and respect for one another. By addressing the work of others in the field, and not just their impressions of Brower, the author avoids sappy reverence and does justice to his father’s cause by tracing the movement as a whole. A worthy tribute and a good lesson on the conservation movement.

BURYING THE TYPEWRITER A Memoir Bugan, Carmen Graywolf (192 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-55597-617-0

A memoir of repression in Romania from a child’s perspective, focusing on familial sacrifice rather than political ideals. Though Bugan (Crossing the Carpathians, 2005) has become an accomplished poet since moving with her family to America in 1989, she generally abstains from literary flourish here as she recounts the consequences of her father’s rebellion and imprisonment. He may be the hero of his own story, but the author is “just at the edge, a ghost” within the official account. What she remembers is that “he left us to God’s will and the secret police,” the family reviled within a society of informers, her life in peril whenever she left the house, under constant surveillance when at home. “I never wanted to be part of your vision,” she told her father after his release, when he claimed that the family needed to pay a price for the greater good. Bugan’s mother, whom the state ordered to divorce her husband, “always fought with him about…his selfishness to think that it’s all right to sacrifice his family for a pointless political ideal.” Is it “pointless” and “selfish” to show resistance in the face of dehumanizing totalitarianism? Should only those without families rebel? Is such rebellion inevitably futile? These

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1031


“Among recent publications on unemployment and education, this is a standout.” from a year up

are key questions that the memoir doesn’t really address from the author’s more mature perspective and certainly couldn’t answer from a child’s perspective. In her afterword, Bugan writes of her belated access to files about her family’s life and her father’s imprisonment, information that puts their suffering in fresh light. “I will never know the whole story,” she writes. “Had I had this knowledge before I wrote this book, perhaps the voice of the child would have been strangled.” Balancing what the child experienced then, which was frequently devastating, with what the author knows now might have resulted in even richer revelation.

POT, INC. Inside Medical Marijuana, America’s Most Outlaw Industry

Campbell, Greg Sterling (262 pp.) $22.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-4027-7925-1

A journalist turned “ganjapreneur” examines America’s schizophrenic attitude toward marijuana. A few years ago, after the Obama administration indicated that it wasn’t interested in busting medical marijuana growers around the country, pot enthusiasts in Colorado rejoiced. That joy was short-lived, however, as the authorities later suggested that the era of worry-free toking was greatly exaggerated—even for state-sanctioned dispensaries in that state. Campbell (Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World’s Most Precious Stones, 2002, etc.) recounts the ensuing panic and the long history of oppressive U.S. drug policy toward marijuana. Amid the careful research rich in salient statistics and telling case studies, the author presents moving personal histories of people whose only crime was trying to relieve their own chronic pain or help out a sick friend. The author juxtaposes these stories with those of his often-hilarious adventures in at-home marijuana cultivation. His angst is palpable as he spends sleepless nights worrying that the noxious odors exuding from his basement “farmhouse” will finally tip off the neighbors and that the next knock on the door will be a helmeted SWAT team with an arrest warrant. Because of these personal experiences, Campbell is able to provide invaluable insight into what medical marijuana growers in the United States endure each day. The hypocrisy throughout is evident, but, writes the author, Drug Enforcement Agency honchos remain true believers, convinced, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that marijuana is truly the devil’s weed. Campbell’s tireless digging, both physically and figuratively, provides a treasure-trove of information that can only encourage intelligent debate over the future of marijuana prohibition. Rigorous analysis buoyed by a deep sense of humanity.

1032

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

A YEAR UP How a Pioneering Program Teaches Young Adults Real Skills for Real Jobs— with Real Success

Chertavian, Gerald Viking (352 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 23, 2012 978-0-670-02377-6

A must-read account of the origins and growth of Year Up, a groundbreaking employment program. Year Up founder and CEO Chertavian debuts with this memoir about his nationwide program, which is aimed at “closing the ever-widening Opportunity Divide in this country.” As evidence of his success, he proudly cites growth rates over the 10 years from the program’s start-up, but he also provides references from the 400 or so major corporations that have opened their doors to program participants as interns, and then employees. Year Up, writes Chertavian, offers a unique mixture of education, social support and mentoring opportunities—not to mention health coverage. The program works closely with corporations, especially in the finance and technology fields, to develop curricula that meet the companies’ emerging needs, and participants also learn the social skills they will need in their new lives. Entry-level jobs for program graduates average twice the minimum wage, or about $30,000 a year. Chertavian builds financial support from the corporations who underwrite the internship program, and he encourages networks within communities to refer promising candidates. He is also beginning to partner with community colleges to “connect young adults with living wage employment.” In addition to highlighting his many successes, Chertavian recounts the difficulties students face in rising above difficult, and often brutal, circumstances to keep moving forward. The individuals profiled here are sure to inspire. Among recent publications on unemployment and education, this is a standout.

THE HOUR BETWEEN DOG AND WOLF Risk Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust

Coates, John Penguin Press (368 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-1-59420-338-1

An in-depth look at how financial risk-taking is linked to human biology, especially to the testosterone levels of young male traders, and the implications of this phenomenon for financial markets and the wider economy. Coates, who has a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Cambridge and spent years as a trader at Goldman

kirkusreviews.com

|


Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank, brings an educated, experienced eye to this examination of the biological side of the financial markets. In his view, the waves of irrational exuberance and pessimism that exaggerate bull and bear markets may be driven by physiological changes. The author has monitored the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems of traders in London to learn how physiological systems affect moods and behavior in competitive and risk-taking situations. When young male traders make money, their testosterone levels rise, and this chemical hit turbocharges their confidence and their level of risk-taking. Coates warns that overconfidence and overreaching lead to a bubble followed by a crash, and the stress response to a crash is a rise in another hormone, cortisol, leading to anxiety, fear and pessimism. The author also takes readers inside the brain, citing scientific research that explains how the brain and body work together, how gut feelings affect thinking, and how we might become physiologically more resilient to stress. Finally, the author suggests steps that banks and fund managers might take to manage the biology of risk takers—and thus keep them from turning from dog to aggressive, dangerous wolf. Among these are changing the year-end bonus system and reining in hot traders with mandatory cooling-off periods. Not surprisingly, another is to broaden trader demographics—i.e., hire more women and more older men. Generally, Coates uses concrete examples to make understandable both the financial and neurological complexities that are central to his argument. Well-presented and intriguing.

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BLACK The Strange Story of Integration in America

Colby, Tanner Viking (320 pp.) $27.95 | Jul. 9, 2012 978-0-670-02371-4

Colby (The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts, 2008) turns his attention to one of the most vexing and violent topics in American social history. With depressing persuasiveness, the author argues that we haven’t achieved racial integration, because, well, we don’t really want to. He looks at several social institutions—schools, real estate, advertising, churches—and finds just one faint glimmer of hope in a Catholic parish in Louisiana, a place where the separate black and white congregations, after decades of debate and nastiness, eventually merged. There is a personal dimension to most of the narrative. Colby visited the Alabama public school he attended as a child, and he looks closely at the case of Kansas City and its struggles to integrate some neighborhoods. A former copywriter, he examines Madison Avenue’s glacial acceptance of blacks into the world of advertising, a process that’s been both slow and icy. He also explores the irony of profoundly segregated Christian churches. School integration, |

he writes, came at enormous economic and psychological cost—and even in schools where both whites and blacks attend in large numbers, they tend to stay separate. Rapacious and amoral real-estate agents and complicit civic officials engaged for years in the gross practices of “red-lining” and “block-busting.” Madison Avenue was clueless about how to sell to black markets and hired black personnel only under enormous pressure—and didn’t know what to do with their new employees, many of whom left, some to establish all-black agencies. Intransigence and even violence have characterized attempts to blend church congregations; beneath it all flows a deep, turbulent river of white entitlement. Occasionally thick with statistics and explication, but the author’s personal voice is compelling and his thesis is most disturbing. Recommended reading for anyone who still thinks we live in a post-racial America.

AS TEXAS GOES... How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda

Collins, Gail Liveright/Norton (256 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 4, 2012 978-0-87140-407-7

New York Times political columnist Collins (When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, 2009, etc.) zeroes in on what makes Texas so important and why the rest of the country needs to know and care about what’s happening there. Texans, writes the author, think they live in a wide-open empty space where carrying a concealed weapon is acceptable because people have to take care of themselves, and the government has no business telling them what to do. In her inimitable style, the unabashed liberal examines the shenanigans of Texans from four angles: first, a hilarious look at some of Texas’ past heroes and present politicos and at how the empty-space ethos has shaped the state’s policies; second, a close-up examination of several areas where she says the state has gone wildly, sadly wrong (its deregulation of financial markets, attempts at reforming schools and funding, or defunding, education, and major missteps on sex education, energy, the environment, pollution and global climate change); third, a scathing report on the twotiered, low-tax, low-service economy of the state; and finally, Collins’ take on where Texas, soon to be a Hispanic-majority state, is heading. The author loads her report with funny but dismaying anecdotes and dozens of revealing interviews. She does not neglect the hard facts. An appendix includes “Texas on the Brink,” a report compiled by the Legislative Study Group of the Texas House of Representatives. It gives an especially grim picture of the failings of our second-largest state. Among the states, it is first in executions and in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions but 45th in SAT scores and 49th in the percentage of low-income people covered by Medicaid. In Collins’ view, the

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1033


“A pleasing combination of intriguing local color and cultural and historical depth.” from patriot of persia

PATRIOT OF PERSIA Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup

rest of us feel the influence of Texas in our lives every day, and “if Texas goes south, it’s taking us along.” A timely portrait of Texas delivered with Collins’ unique brand of insightful humor. (Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Austin, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco)

IBN SAUD The Desert Warrior Who Created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Darlow, Michael & Bray, Barbara Skyhorse Publishing (608 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-61608-579-7

An entertainingly exhaustive, though imperfect, biography of an inscrutable monarch. Few countries were changed as completely and irrevocably over the course of the 20th century as Saudi Arabia, and no leader shaped his country as thoroughly as did Ibn Saud (1876– 1973). Husband to at least 20 women and father of “at least 45 sons and probably an even larger number of daughters”—a few of his sons have succeeded him as king—Ibn Saud began life as a Bedouin raider living in a tent and ended it as an all-powerful potentate worth billions of dollars, a transformation that resembles nothing so much as the history of his own homeland. Darlow and Bray (who died in 2010) collaborate on a comprehensive history of the only man in modern times to lend his name to a country, a rebranding that marked “the beginning of a shift from being a host of separate, often competing, tribes and regions into one coherent, centrally administered state.” The authors adroitly narrate the military and political maneuvers that consumed much of Ibn Saud’s attention, but the welter of detail they provide will overwhelm some readers. As Darlow and Bray chronicle the sprouting of skyscrapers and expressways in the shifting sands of one of the most traditionalist societies on earth—where even “the existence of barber shops and the practice of clapping” are controversial topics, and where women are famously treated as the property of their guardians— some of the more arcane minutia of the king’s life merely clouds the picture. Ultimately, readers may feel the book is both too long and too narrowly focused. Amusing anecdotes and exotic backdrops keep readers engaged, but they do little to aid in understanding the complex society in which Ibn Saud lived.

de Bellaigue, Christopher Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $27.99 | May 15, 2012 978-0-06-184470-6

Economist Tehran correspondent De Bellaigue (Rebel Land: Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town, 2010, etc.) uses plenty of local insight to provide general readers with an intriguing combination of biography, history and strategic study. Muhammad Mossadegh’s influence still lives in the imagination of Iranians. His family estate is a place of pilgrimage, even while the Ayatollahs denounce him as a British agent. The author dissolves the black and white of this posturing into more ambiguous grays, portraying Mossadegh as a constitutionalist attempting to combine the movements of democrats and the Islamic faithful who, known for nationalizing the country’s oil, also introduced wide-ranging reforms of property ownership, education and women’s rights, many of which were later repealed. Months before the 1953 coup, Mossadegh failed to recognize the agreement offered to him. De Bellaigue portrays the young Shah as a fearful, vacillating leader who frequently undercut his own supporters, thereby providing opportunities to opponents like Mossadegh. The author also examines the profound rift between America and Britain, with the latter, particularly under Churchill, stubbornly reluctant to make concessions on oil even as its position was undermined by American profit-sharing agreements with other producers. Ultimately, Cold War politics brought the two countries together. De Bellaigue’s history brings together elements of miscomprehension, accident, chance, surprise, mistaken loyalties and revengedriven shifts in political alliances. In exploring the story of Mossadegh and his family, the author also shows how Iran, because of its oil, became a pawn in the Anglo-Russian rivalry. A pleasing combination of intriguing local color and cultural and historical depth.

THE 100 GREATEST AMERICANS OF THE 20TH CENTURY A Social Justice Hall of Fame

Dreier, Peter Nation Books/Perseus (480 pp.) $19.99 paperback | Jun. 26, 2012 978-1-56858-681-6

Crisp, snappy bios of important progressive Americans in recent history. This educational resource originated as an article for the Nation by journalist and scholar Dreier (Politics, Urban and Environmental Policy/Occidental Coll.; co-editor: Up Against 1034

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

kirkusreviews.com

|


the Sprawl: Public Policy and the Making of Southern California, 2004, etc.). The chosen 100 were and are the radicals of their day who challenged injustice wherever they saw it: the monopoly and corruption of big business, exploitation of workers, U.S. militarism, legal inequity for women, blacks and minorities, degradation of the environment, voter restrictions on AfricanAmericans, the gross discrepancy between haves and have-nots, etc. Among the men and women who achieved progressive milestones: Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis ruled to protect free speech and check corporate abuses; Florence Kelley spearheaded labor laws in Illinois for women and children, paving the way for national reform; John Dewey helped overhaul an antiquated education system; Alice Hamilton galvanized the new laboratory science of toxicology by observing the result of lead poisoning in working-class families; Lewis Hine exposed the plight of working children in his documentary photography; Margaret Sanger endured prosecution and jail for the right to disseminate birth-control information; David Brower of the Sierra Club raised public awareness about saving the wilderness; and Harvey Milk urged gays to come out of the closet and lost his life for it. Many of the subjects are well known—e.g., Pete Seeger, Betty Friedan, Billy Jean King, Muhammad Ali and Bill Moyers—but some are not: Vito Marcantonio, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Bayard Rustin, among others. A provocative collection that includes a timeline and a roster of up-and-coming contenders for a new century already showing signs of progress.

THE LAST GREAT APE A Journey Through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent Drori, Ofir & McDannald, David Pegasus (320 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 15, 2012 978-1-60598-327-1

Israeli-born activist and writer Drori describes his love affair with Africa and his efforts to enforce wildlife laws there. In 2003, the author created the Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA), which works to prosecute violators of Cameroon’s wildlife laws protecting apes, elephants and other endangered species. Inspired by Jane Goodall’s prediction that the great apes will soon be extinct, Drori observed that the main factor driving gorillas toward extinction was not subsistence hunting or habitat loss, but rather the widespread illegal commercial trading in live apes and bush meat. By winning the support of wildlife officials, police and the courts, LAGA has helped arrest and prosecute major criminals. Many readers will be disappointed by the relatively short shrift given to LAGA’s important work, which involves mapping the flow of ivory and endangered species along African trade routes and staging dangerous stings on poachers and dealers. Drori devotes most of the book to his personal quest for adventure and meaning in Africa, where he traveled widely after serving in the Israeli military. Sometimes |

reckless, always pushing himself, he faced many dangerous moments but also came to appreciate the people and natural riches of the continent. An encounter with a captive chimp convinced him of the need to act against “an old system” of corruption, beginning with the fight to save animals. There is no denying the author’s passion for Africa’s wildlife, his hatred of corruption, and his conviction that anyone can help foster change through individual action, but most of the narrative is unfocused and meandering. (16 pages of color photographs)

HOW TO BUILD AN ANDROID The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection Dufty, David F. Henry Holt (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-8050-9551-7

The story of the roboticists who created a fully functioning android replica of renowned writer Philip K. Dick. Dufty was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Memphis when he was introduced to a group of doctorate students and researchers working on an unusual project in artificial intelligence and robotics: creating an android to look, sound and act exactly like Dick. Now a senior research officer at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the author follows the story of the android’s creation, from how it began as separate software and robotic projects, to its untimely finish when it was lost in transit by an airline, never to be seen again. Physically, the android had cameras and microphones for its eyes and ears, inside a molded skeleton covered with tiny gears (to emulate speech and facial expressions). Its skin was made of Frubber—a lightweight, pliant plastic—sculpted into the living image of the author. Inside the android’s head was a powerful computer system that could process audio and visual input and then formulate spoken responses based on Dick’s writing and interviews he gave throughout his life. Much of the book centers on the development of the android itself, a highly technical story that Dufty manages to make intriguing and accessible to less tech-savvy readers, but he often gets sidetracked by other ideas or stories. Some digressions are relevant and interesting—e.g., the section on the Turing test, which examines a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior and addresses the question of whether the Philip K. Dick replica could actually think for itself. Other anecdotes, however—e.g., a tedious description of the difficulties the robotics team had renting a truck to move the android and its accouterments—slow the narrative momentum. A fascinating story unevenly told.

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1035


“An opportunity to get to know a man whose work has affected thousands.” from who gets what

WHO GETS WHAT Fair Compensation After Tragedy and Financial Upheaval Feinberg, Kenneth R. PublicAffairs (256 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-1-58648-977-9

An insider’s account of how compensation decisions are made after major disasters. One of the country’s leading lawyers, Feinberg (What Is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11, 2005, etc.) has become the man called upon by government and private interests to decide settlements. He also bears the brunt of criticism when things don’t go smoothly or seem to be unfair. Now he offers his side of the story. His involvement began with the 1984 settlement of the Agent Orange case. Now known as what he calls “the poster child of ‘judicial activism,’ ” the settlement compensated Vietnam veterans for alleged damages through a unique process that aroused the opposition of trial lawyers and politicians alike. It also set a pattern for Feinberg’s career, during which he has worked on a variety of public and private cases, including the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund set up after the Virginia Tech shootings of 2006, and the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. Each of these cases has made Feinberg a figure of controversy. He took the heat from some 9/11 victims who didn’t understand how, under the law enacted, each claimant could receive a different amount because of their different potential lifetime earnings. Recently, politicians have made him a target in the BP case. Feinberg also examines the delicate process of balancing concerns about equal treatment under the law with the need to deal fairly with the special circumstances created by disasters. He stresses the importance of public involvement through hearings and meetings and the necessity of transparency. An opportunity to get to know a man whose work has affected thousands.

THE GENERAL Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved

Fenby, Jonathan Skyhorse Publishing (736 pp.) $32.95 | Jul. 7, 2012 978-1-61608-600-8

A keen biography conveying the French general’s driving sense of destiny. Considered by the French to be the greatest French figure since Napoleon (“a monument carved out of some ancient rock, above and beyond ordinary beings”), Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) certainly fashioned the idea of modern republican France, in 1036

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

spite of his own conflicted, fickle citoyens. Fenby (France On the Brink: A Great Civilization Faces a New Century, 2011, etc.) provides a welcome entry point for American readers. De Gaulle first appeared on the world stage during the fraught days of June 1940. The relatively unknown, newly appointed French general and deputy defense minister forged with Churchill an extraordinary last-ditch effort at saving the country from the Nazi onslaught through a Franco-British union. The author renders these first days of the war in a diary format, conveying the incredible suspense and uncertainty of the outcome. A devoted husband and father, economical and disciplined, with a face that Fenby curiously compares to an elephant’s, de Gaulle was a decorated World War I hero whose large stature portended his symbolic role as France’s savior. Supercilious but never elitist and a staunch defender of France’s national interests, de Gaulle had to wait another 12 years after his 1946 resignation for his next galvanizing moment amid the Algerian war crisis that was tearing the country apart. Fenby does an excellent job portraying the general as a truly larger-thanlife, uncompromising and incomparable character who acted as his country’s conscience and rudder. With a nod to previous (French) studies by Jean Lacouture, Eric Roussel, Alain Peyrefitte, as well as the general’s own extensive memoirs, this work is astute and psychologically probing.

LA PETITE

Halberstadt, Michèle Translated by Coverdale, Linda Other Press (128 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-59051-531-0 Touching glimpse of a young life nearly lost and then redeemed. In this brief but powerful memoir, film producer and novelist Halberstadt (The Pianist in the Dark, 2011) examines the day, at the age of 12, when she attempted suicide. The book opens with that fateful morning, as the young Parisian girl takes all the pills she can find in the cupboard, then goes to school, waiting to die. The bulk of the narrative explores the incidents leading up to her decision, while the ending relates events in the hours and days after she awoke in the hospital, her plan having only barely gone awry. Halberstadt’s story is a gripping work of psychological introspection, following the traumas and travails of a girl too ordinary to be noticed, yet too brilliant to fully accept that anonymity. As she saw herself, the author was the plain-looking, boring daughter of a good but distant father and thoroughly strict mother. She paled in comparison to her older, beautiful, charming, talented sister, who lorded that superiority over her. Only one person, her grandfather, cared about and understood her. When he died, all she wanted to do was join him. Distant and uncaring, her family tolerated her at best, verbally abused her at worst, until she felt the best thing she could do for everyone involved was to go away. After her suicide attempt failed,

kirkusreviews.com

|


however, Halberstadt experienced a sudden rebirth, deciding to live and flourish. The author tells her story passionately, often in short, chopped sentences that underscore the import and weight of her preteen thoughts. She is matter-offact rather than melodramatic, giving the readers a sense of the resignation and alienation she felt as a girl. A haunting story with a triumphant conclusion.

COMING TO MY SENSES A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride

Harad, Alyssa Viking (272 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 2, 2012 978-0-670-02361-5

A charming memoir about how a woman’s “torrid affair” with perfume changed her life. Harad was a “serious, Birkenstock-wearing feminist” in her mid 30s when she fell helplessly in love with perfume. Her passion manifested after a personal rebellion against the “busyness” she had created for herself in lieu of an academic career she didn’t want. Online perfume blogs became her gateway to an exciting and seductively alien world. Embarrassed by the apparent frivolity of her interests, Harad hid a growing collection of perfume samples in her closet. But the more deeply she became involved with her “secret lovers,” the more she began to open up to life. It began with her nose: She refined her sense of smell to the point where she developed a “private internal vocabulary of smell,” which derived from her own storehouse of half-forgotten memories. As she learned to put perfume scents into words and understand the complex ways in which perfumes unfold upon the skin, her desire to experience other scents grew. She sought out other scent-lovers, a journey that led her first to a fragrance laboratory in Austin, Texas, and then to exclusive perfume showrooms in New York. But most surprisingly of all, Harad found herself reclaiming a femininity that she had disowned and wanting to be a bride. All her reasons—“some political and idealistic, others personal and idiosyncratic”—for not wanting to marry her partner of 10 years fell by the wayside. Like a good perfume, this book is slow to unfold, but the author’s account of her experiences is well worth the wait. A quiet delight.

CRAZY BRAVE A Memoir Harjo, Joy Norton (208 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 9, 2012 978-0-393-07346-1

A lyrical, soul-stirring memoir about how an acclaimed Native American poet and musician came to embrace “the spirit of poetry.” For Harjo, life did not begin at birth. She came into the world as an already-living spirit with the goal to release “the voices, songs, and stories” she carried with her from the “ancestor realm.” On Earth, she was the daughter of a half-Cherokee mother and a Creek father who made their home in Tulsa, Okla. Her father’s alcoholism and volcanic temper eventually drove Harjo’s mother and her children out of the family home. At first, the man who became the author’s stepfather “sang songs and smiled with his eyes,” but he soon revealed himself to be abusive and controlling. Harjo’s primary way of escaping “the darkness that plagued the house and our family” was through drawing and music, two interests that allowed her to leave Oklahoma and pursue her high school education at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Interaction with her classmates enlightened her to the fact that modern Native American culture and history had been shaped by “colonization and dehumanization.” An education and raised consciousness, however, did not spare Harjo from the hardships of teen pregnancy, poverty and a failed first marriage, but hard work and luck gained her admittance to the University of New Mexico, where she met a man whose “poetry opened one of the doors in my heart that had been closed since childhood.” But his hard-drinking ways wrecked their marriage and nearly destroyed Harjo. Faced with the choice of submitting to despair or becoming “crazy brave,” she found the courage to reclaim a lost spirituality as well as the “intricate and metaphorical language of my ancestors.” A unique, incandescent memoir. (12 photographs)

OSCEOLA AND THE GREAT SEMINOLE WAR A Struggle for Justice and Freedom Hatch, Thom St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $27.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-312-35591-3 978-1-4668-0454-8 e-book

Plains Indians expert Hatch (Encyclopedia of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, 2007, etc.) applies his expertise to the man who led the Florida war “that would frustrate and embarrass the best officers in the United States Army—including five generals.” |

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1037


“An unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about corporate greed.” from days of destruction, days of revolt

Osceola was the leader in the Great Seminole War, the longest, deadliest and most expensive war ever fought against Native Americans. Born Billy Powell, he was a Creek Indian whose family fled Alabama and joined the Seminole nation. Native Americans could not have had a more virulent enemy than Andrew Jackson, who hated Indians and wanted to annihilate them. An uncontrollable hothead, Jackson blatantly disobeyed a presidential order by attacking a Spanish fort in what would be termed “total war,” destroying property and terrorizing noncombatants. The Seminoles welcomed slaves who had escaped from Georgia and Alabama, intermarried, and fought side by side with them. Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 gave the Americans the right to relocate the Indians to land west of the Mississippi and to demand that escaped slaves be restored to their owners. The harsh treaties Indians signed under both false information and threat drove them finally to resist under Osceola’s leadership. Masters of guerrilla warfare, the Seminoles easily tracked the tramping American armies, disrupted supply lines, and foiled their best battle plans. Despite the demands for fairness by Indian agents and liberal press alike, multiple generals came to Florida intent on removing the Seminoles. The author thoroughly chronicles what a formidable force they would face. Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Crazy Horse are well known to every schoolchild. Hatch deftly brings Osceola to the pantheon of legendary Native American leaders.

ETHICAL CHIC The Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love

Brands popular both for their social currency and image of social responsibility go under journalist Hawthorne’s (The Overloaded Liberal: Shopping, Investing, Parenting, and Other Daily Dilemmas in an Age of Political Activism, 2010, etc.) microscope in this exploration of how closely the ethical words match up to corporate actions. In today’s consumer world, advertising, publicity and marketing are mostly geared toward drawing customers to the brand, rather than pushing the product. Akin to social media, where people connect via shared interests, today’s best-known brands seek to create communities based on shared product appreciation. One of the common elements companies seek to build these communities around is an ethical approach to business. Caretaking of the environment, fair treatment of workers and a focus on “doing the right thing” are as important as the profit margins. Hawthorne turns an optimistic-but-skeptical eye on a half-dozen companies to dig past the marketing hyperbole and explore actual practices. The companies—Apple, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, American Apparel, Timberland and Tom’s of Maine—all purport to carry that best-case combination of |

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

DAYS OF DESTRUCTION, DAYS OF REVOLT

Hedges, Chris Illus. by Sacco, Joe Nation Books/Perseus (304 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-1-56858-643-4 An unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about

Hawthorne, Fran Beacon (224 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-8070-0094-6 978-0-8070-0095-3 e-book

1038

ethical practices and “cool products.” In reality, however, they all make significant concessions in pursuit of growing profits. Hawthorne wisely avoids taking a staunch green-or-not approach, instead taking into account the various complexities and realities of doing business in a world that doesn’t always provide the infrastructure necessary to make a purely ethical business decision. The author ably explains the standards by which the industries police themselves and the different layers of whitewash and how they’re applied to some egregiously unethical policies. She also acknowledges that a company’s ethical practices, while increasingly important to younger consumers, are still far from being make-or-break factors for these entrenched status brands. American Apparel still runs ads designed to titillate; Tom’s of Maine is now owned by Colgate. Hawthorne’s research provides clear, rational insights into our ethical choices, empowering us to be savvy shoppers.

corporate greed. In the proud populist tradition of Howard Zinn (whose A People’s History of the United States provides a foundation for this book), a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a renowned cartoonist combine their talents for an illumination of the American underbelly, as the exploitation of a perpetual (and growing) underclass makes the “sacrifice zones” of global capitalism seem like Dante’s circles of hell. Truthdig columnist Hedges (Death of the Liberal Class, 2010) was a foreign correspondent for the New York Times and other newspapers, though he plainly feels that advocacy can come closer to the truth than what passes for journalistic objectivity. Sacco (Journalism, 2012, etc.) shared the American Book Award for Palestine (2002) and has subsequently earned considerable acclaim for his graphic narratives of war zones. Though the team has plenty of experience with international warfare, the war they document here is in America, where “[c]orporate capitalism will, quite literally, kill us, as it has killed Native Americans, African Americans trapped in our internal colonies in the inner cities, those left behind in the devastated coalfields, and those who live as serfs in our nation’s produce fields.” Through immersion reportage and graphic narrative, the duo illuminate the human and environmental devastation in those communities, with the warning that no one is immune. “The ruthless hunt for profit creates a world where everything and everyone is expendable…it has enriched a tiny global elite that has no loyalty to the nation-state,” writes Hedges. “These corporations, if we use the language of patriotism, are traitors.”

kirkusreviews.com

|


MERCURY An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury

While finding some surprising pockets of hope within communities that are otherwise steeped in despair, the pair reserve their concluding glimmer of optimism for the Occupy movement. Otherwise, they find no hope in politics as usual, depicting Democrats and Republicans as equally complicit in policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many. A call for a new American revolution, passionately proclaimed.

FULL BODY BURDEN Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

Iversen, Kristen Crown (432 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-307-95563-0

A harrowing account of Colorado’s Rocky Flats plutonium plant by a woman who grew up nearby. In 1951, in a cow pasture outside Denver, the U.S. government broke ground for a secret Cold War nuclear weapons facility that would manufacture plutonium triggers for atomic bombs. Owned by the Atomic Energy Commission, the plant produced more than 70,000 fissionable triggers and considerable radioactive and toxic waste. Iversen (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis; Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth, 1999) grew up in a new suburban development three miles from the plant, totally unaware—like her family’s neighbors—of what went on there. In a gripping narrative that intersperses stories of the Rocky Flats plant and her family life, the author describes how an astonishing habit of silence flourished in the community, which would not permit suspicions about the cluster of gray concrete buildings to shatter its idyllic 1950s suburban innocence. The same silence reigned at home, where Iversen and her siblings were expected to overlook their father’s alcoholism and their mother’s pill popping. In 1969, after a second plutonium fire, the AEC admitted that Rocky Flats worked with plutonium, but claimed this posed no threat to the public, a position the government maintained for years. This exquisitely researched book details official efforts to hide the plant’s toxic dangers; health researchers’ efforts to expose a rising incidence of cancer deaths; massive protests involving Daniel Ellsberg and others aimed at closing the plant; the 1989 joint FBI-EPA investigation of environmental crimes at Rocky Flats; and local residents’ later tumultuous class-action court battle. In 1990, Iversen took a secretarial job at the plant and began gathering information for this extraordinary book. “Nearly every family we grew up with has been affected by cancer in some way,” she writes. In 2007, after a cleanup, most of Rocky Flats was set aside for use as a wildlife refuge. Superbly crafted tale of Cold War America’s dark underside. (Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick)

|

Jones, Lesley-Ann Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-4516-6395-2

The celebrity bio of a one-of-a-kind rock ’n’ roll impresario, equal parts fawning and dreary. Rock journalist Jones (Naomi: The Rise and Rise of the Girl from Nowhere, 1993) spares no backstage details in her wide-eyed portrait of outrageous Queen frontman Freddie Mercury (1946–1991). Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to a family with both African and Indian roots, he fled his strict Zoroastrian upbringing for swinging London, where he was an art student whose dreams of rock glory would be realized when he met a talented band in need of an over-the-top lead singer. Fully intent on being a legend, Mercury was campy and outrageous from the beginning and soon rich enough to indulge a lifestyle that was as excessive as his vocal style. Due in part to his religious upbringing, he was sexually confused into early adulthood; his longtime female lover, Mary Austin, seems to have figured out his gay orientation well before he did. Although Mercury never officially came out during his lifetime, songwriter Tim Rice fascinatingly suggests that Queen’s signature hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” can be read as Mercury’s own coming-out song: “He’s killed the old Freddy he was trying to be: the former image.” Jones dutifully follows the shaping of Mercury’s persona and the backstage goings-on of the “most debauched party-givers in rock.” Although Mercury often comes across as shallow and irresponsible—he didn’t let the growing threat of AIDS slow down his promiscuity until he was diagnosed in 1987—he was apparently generous and kind. Jones and her many interviewees recall him in numbingly glowing terms. While devoted fans will likely swallow this hagiography whole, anyone looking for more than just a little silhouetto of a man is likely to be disappointed.

EAT & RUN My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Jurek, Scott with Friedman, Steve Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-547-56965-9 Advice- and vegan recipe-filled memoir from an ultramarathoner. As a child, Jurek frequently asked his father why he had to do chores instead of playing with friends. He invariably replied, “sometimes you just do things!” This phrase, repeated throughout the book, became Jurek’s mantra through his many ultramarathons, where being merely physically fit isn’t enough and psychological resiliency

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1039


is a necessary component of success: “will wasn’t just a matter of strength but a matter of focus...to run [an ultramarathon]... my mind was what mattered.” The author begins with a frank account of lessons he learned from a difficult childhood with a strict father and a mother with multiple sclerosis. The middle of the book, mostly a description of Jurek’s vegan diet and ultramarathons raced and won, shows the author at his least reflective. At a difficult moment in a race, his friend and frequent pacer Dusty Olson motivated Jurek by asking if he wanted to “get chicked” (to be outrun by a woman). The author brags that the term, Olson’s coinage, is now a part of the ultrarunner vocabulary. Jurek briefly mentions his wedding and subsequent divorce but says nothing about his marriage, giving the impression that at the height of his career, training and winning were the only things that mattered. The divorce, combined with the death of his mother, contributed to a win drought; during these sections of the book, the author displays genuine introspection. Readers who push through the middle of the book will be pleased to find that Jurek has come to recognize that “a plate filled with guacamole and dinosaur kale will not deliver anyone from sorrow” and that achieving goals is often less important than striving toward them. Uneven, but patient readers will be rewarded with lessons about persistence and the joy of running.

BUSHVILLE WINS! The Wild Saga of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the Screwballs, Sluggers, and Beer Swiggers Who Canned the New York Yankees and Changed Baseball Klima, John Dunne/St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-250-00607-3 978-1-250-01514-3 e-book

A veteran baseball writer chronicles the unlikely triumph of big-league baseball’s first small-market team. The baseball bookshelf bulges with accounts lamenting the 1957 exodus of the Giants from New York and the Dodgers from Brooklyn. Still getting no respect is the 1953 move of Lou Perini’s Boston Braves to Milwaukee, a city eager to shed its “Bush League” image and finally become Major League. Klima (Willie’s Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend, 2009, etc.) remedies this oversight with his tale of the franchise relocation, the hotly contested 1957 pennant-winning season, and the World Series triumph over the powerful Yankees. He devotes colorful attention to eventual Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, spitballer Lew Burdette and his surly mound-mate Bob Buhl, catcher Del Crandall and shortstop Johnny Logan, a solid nucleus vastly improved by the addition of the transcendent Hank Aaron. When no-nonsense manager Fred Haney replaced the lackadaisical “Jolly Cholly” Grimes in 1956, the 1040

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

Braves finally had the necessary winning ingredients. Hardnosed, crude and profane, the team character strikes modern fans as more boorish than endearing. But Milwaukee loved them, and it’s this working-class city that emerges as the narrative’s MVP. From the parade welcoming the team to town, to the tailgate parties accompanying the games, to the mobilization of the entire business community, especially the Miller Beer Company, in support, Milwaukee adopted the Braves with a touching small-town boosterism that embarrassed big-city opponents and jaded reporters unaccustomed to Wisconsin Nice. During the autumn of 1957, Milwaukee stunned the baseball world and humbled mighty New York, a victory for Bushvilles everywhere. A rollicking read that captures the spirit of the team, the city and a unique moment in baseball history. (8-page b/w photo insert)

SLOUCHING TOWARD ADULTHOOD Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest

Koslow, Sally Viking (260 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-0-670-02362-2

A witty, provocative study that examines why so many millenials can’t seem to launch into adulthood and now find themselves “wandering—if not literally, then psychically.” Former Lifetime and McCall’s editor-in-chief Koslow (The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, 2009, etc.) is the parent of young adult children for whom “postponing financial independence, jobs, marriage [and] a hovel of [their] own” has become the norm. This postponement has in turn given rise to a new developmental phase that Koslow calls “adultescence.” This period (ages 22 to 35), writes the author, is characterized by an “exploration [of self and the world] that seems to go on forever, not unlike the Rolling Stones.” A bad economy and severely limited career prospects for young people with no real work experience are only part of the reason for the rise of this new phenomenon. Many adultescents are also taking to heart what their boomer parents have told them since childhood: that they can be and do anything they want because they are special. Consequently, they are creating lives that appear to be breaking all the rules that have characterized the successful, well-ordered lives of their parents. Not only are they not settling for whatever jobs they can find and seeking careers to which they can dedicate their lives; they are also redefining relationships, such as marriage, that once signaled a definitive entry into adulthood. Koslow argues that these hyper-mobile 20- and 30-somethings move across borders and, when necessary, into their parents’ homes with equal ease largely because well-intentioned boomers, who secretly “lust for their [children’s] attention,” have implicitly agreed to the arrangement. However, as Koslow

kirkusreviews.com

|


TOO MUCH MAGIC Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation

ultimately concludes, neither is able to evolve their roles. Instead, boomers and their offspring remain tied to each other, caught in a never-never land of loving codependency. Observant and bracingly candid.

Kunstler, James Howard Atlantic Monthly (256 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-8021-2030-4

LOUISE Amended

Krug, Louise Black Balloon Publishing (200 pp.) $14.00 paperback | Apr. 1, 2012 978-1-936787012

Memoir of a life turned upside down by illness. Krug begins her slender memoir with the story of her involvement in a bit of journalistic subterfuge, following Britney Spears around while trying not to get caught at it. “I was a pretty girl with an unknown face—not unusual for the Four Seasons resort in Santa Barbara,” she writes. “I would not stand out.” But life had other plans for her. Thanks to the “medical fluke” of a burst blood vessel in the pons region of the brain, she found herself in the emergency room. Things went from bad to worse: Soon she was seeing double, her face a rictus of pain, her body refusing to cooperate in doing the slightest task, walker and wheelchair and eye patch her constant props. The dramatic apex of the book comes early on, as she suffers while doctors come and go, talking as if she were not there about a patient who may or may not recover. Krug is honest to a fault about these out-of-body moments, and she writes with an easygoing twang about what’s happening to her: “Things in the brain move around like prizes in a Jell-O salad.” If that image doesn’t mean anything in places without such culinary treats, then she frequently offers parallel takes on the same event, for the trick of the book is its employment of different points of view. Krug’s mother, friends and a much-put-upon boyfriend all figure in the telling of the tale. The shift from one to the other and back to first-person is not always smooth or successful, but the point is made: A terrible affliction may befall just one person, but a surrounding company of players is implicated in the proceedings. The best parts of the book are Krug’s occasional notes on how the rest of us can be accommodating—and not patronizing. There are fine moments here, but also considerable padding, so that, like so many other books, this is really a magazine article—interesting and readable, but an article all the same.

|

With the era of cheap energy and easy credit now over, novelist and social critic Kunstler (The Witch of Hebron, 2010, etc.) delivers a cold slap to the fantasists who believe technology will save us. Seven years after his much-discussed jeremiad The Long Emergency, the author returns to recount the evidence supporting his predictions about our radically altered future. The still-unfolding financial crisis kicked off in 2008, exploding populations, climate change (anthropocentric or not), peak oil, and the inadequacy of alternative methods to power societies are all cited as signs we’ve entered the zone where our customs and habits must change so as to avoid a complete breakdown. The dangerously stressed systems that underpin the society we’ve known since World War II—“agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, transport, finance, the oil-gas-coal industry, the electric grid”—are too large, too complex and too expensive to sustain any longer. Followers of Kunstler’s writings and attendees of his many lecture appearances will recognize the take-no-prisoners style, the harsh invective directed at familiar targets—cars, planes, skyscrapers, Wall Street, suburbia—and the pleas on behalf of walkable cities, trains and farms built to human scale. The added feature here is the scorn he directs at those who refuse to recognize the severity and dimensions of the crisis he describes. He trashes the “delusional groupthink” of Google executives who confuse energy with technology; he abuses industry leaders who promote so-called “clean” coal, shale oil and gas to extend our fossil fuel addiction; he chides self-described “greens” for wildly overestimating the readiness of alternatives or renewables to fill the breach; he lambastes both political parties for their irrelevance; and he berates futurists like Ray Kurzweil for their “techno-grandiosity,” for magical thinking, and for their steadfast refusal to accept that something that can’t go on forever won’t. A sharp demand to disenthrall ourselves, to instead face the future with “practical skill and something like common sense.”

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1041


k i r ku s q & a w i t h a l i s on b e c h d e l Q: Much of the book is devoted to your therapeutic journey and your reading of psychoanalytic texts. What drew you to psychoanalysis rather than more modern techniques, such as cognitive therapy?

A l i s o n B e c h d e l f i r s t gained a fan following with her serial comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. That strip made an indelible mark on pop culture when it introduced what’s now known as the Bechdel Test for films—to pass the test, the movie must include two women holding a conversation that isn’t about a man. Her critically acclaimed graphic memoir, Fun Home (2006), explored her complex relationship with her father, a funeral director, English teacher, house restorer and closeted homosexual. She’s now published a companion volume, Are You My Mother?, which not only covers her equally complicated relationship with her actor, writer and sharp critic of a mother, but Bechdel’s own therapeutic journey to become comfortable within her skin.

Are You My Mother?

Alison Bechdel Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (304 pp.) $22.00 May 1, 2012 9780618982509

A: I had a very fortunate early experience with therapy with a therapist who was a perfect match for me. I didn’t know how good she was until I moved away and tried to find a new one. Eventually I found someone who worked in a similar way with object relations therapy. It was just a coincidence that my current therapist was also becoming an analyst when I started seeing her. So our work together got more analytic over the years. I only know a little bit about cognitive behavioral therapy. It seems to focus more on symptom relief in the present than mucking about in the past. And I guess I just like mucking about in the past.

Q: Although you never mention it in your memoir, the title Are You My Mother? inevitably references the classic P.D. Eastman picture book of the same name. How would you connect the two works?

Q: When reading this book, I was reminded of Robertson Davies’ novel The Manticore, in which a man tells the story of his life and his complex relationship with his father to a Jungian analyst. Were you influenced by other memoirs or novels in which psychoanalysis plays a major role, and if so, which works?

A: My editor and I were brainstorming title ideas, and I said “Are You My Mother?” as a total joke, it just sprang into my head. But she loved it. That was very far along in the process, when I was almost done with the writing. Honestly, I don’t know where it bubbled up from. That was not a particularly influential book on me as a child, but obviously something about it got lodged in my psyche. Q: Did you always intend to create the two memoirs? When did you decide on the gendered color scheme, blue for Fun Home, red for Are You My Mother?

1042

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

kirkusreviews.com

Copyright © 2012 by Alison Bechdel

|

p hoto © e l en a s e ib e rt

A: No, I had no plan to write a memoir about my mother when I was writing the memoir about my father. In fact, for the first several years of work on Are You My Mother?, I wasn’t even thinking of it as being about my mother. I had a vague sense that I wanted to write about relationships, about the problem of self and other. I was also very consciously trying to differentiate the book from Fun Home. People kept asking me if I was doing a “sequel” to Fun Home, and I would insist that I wasn’t, but in the end I guess it is a sequel, or rather the second half of a diptych. I didn’t think of the color scheme as gendered. There aren’t really a lot of color options if you’re only using one color for a comic book. It’s pretty much something on the blue/green end of the spectrum, or something on the red end. Green made sense for my dad because he loved flowers and plants so much. I chose the brownish red of AYMM mainly to differentiate it from Fun Home but I also liked the association with blood, with that physical connection to my mother.


Pages excerpted from Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. Copyright © 2012 by Alison Bechdel. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

A: I read H.D.’s memoir about her work with Freud as I was doing research for my book, and also Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s memoir A Dialogue on Love, about the psychotherapy she did after her cancer diagnosis. I was impressed by how open Kosofsky Sedgwick was. H.D. was a little more opaque, but still an interesting account of an analysis. And a fascinating portrait of Freud through the eyes of this lesbian, or bisexual, woman. Q: Several dreams recounted in the memoir seem to explore the tension between wilderness and shelter. Why do you think that is?

Copyright © 2012 by Alison Bechdel

AQ: I see a pattern in the dreams of a tension between civilized, social life and some kind of natural or primal element…a brook, a spider web, Stonehenge. And I think that’s sort of analogous to Winnicott’s ideas about the “false self ” and the “true self.” The wild or “natural” images in my dreams are glimpses of my true self. Q: While your depictions of yourself as a baby, a child and a young woman really are cute and attractive, depictions of yourself in later years seem to be rendered with a harsher eye, more than the effects of age might warrant. Do you not trust the judgment of your therapist, who proclaims you “adorable”? A: Well, I had an interesting graphic challenge with this book. I had to make myself clearly legible as myself at many different points in my life. My current, 50-ish self has to look different from my 40-year-old self and my 30-year-old self. My current self always has glasses on and definitely more wrinkles, which perhaps I exaggerated a bit. I think I might also have made myself a little more haggard as a kind of overcompensation. I feel like I’ve been engaged in a lifelong battle against prevailing standards of feminine beauty, probably in part because I think my mother’s beauty, and her insecurity about it, was something that took a big toll on her. I’ve always tried in my drawings of women to not fall back on certain kinds of gendered shorthand—the exaggerated lipstick/eyelash thing, like Minnie Mouse. In the early days of Dykes to Watch Out For I got accused of making my characters deliberately ugly, but I was just trying to draw women as real people. My mother is actually much more attractive than I’ve managed to draw her, which I feel kind of bad about, but at the same time I didn’t want to reduce her to a pretty face.

A: It’s pretty much what she says in the book! “Well, it coheres.” She had seen pretty much everything at the point where she made that comment. And she has not, so far, elaborated. I don’t expect her to. I guess at an earlier point in my process I hoped that the book would elicit a more personal response from her, but by now I understand that it’s not gonna happen. Q: Do you have a next project in mind? And, the inevitable question: Would you consider continuing Dykes to Watch Out For? A: I want to keep writing about my family, if I can talk them into it. I really love working autobiographically, I feel very motivated and excited by trying to find order in the messiness of real life. The fictional world of DTWOF, for some reason, has just ceased to grip me in the passionate way it used to. I haven’t really fully explored why, and it feels kind of sad. Like, I miss those characters. But not enough to go back to those biweekly deadlines! –By Amy Goldschlager

Q: Are You My Mother? is a meta-memoir. Throughout the book, your mother is offering her critique of your work. Now that you’re done, what’s her final verdict? |

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1043


WHERE THE HEART BEATS John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists Larson, Kay Penguin Press (480 pp.) $29.95 | Jul. 9, 2012 978-1-59420-340-4

An unconventional biography of avant-garde composer John Cage (1912– 1992) and the profound influence Zen Buddhism had on his music. Cage is most famous for 4’33”, a 1952 work whose audacity—essentially four minutes and 33 seconds of silence in which the only sounds are those of the performance environment— inspired a raft of experimental artists. The piece has also been mocked for its anybody-can-do-that simplicity. However, as longtime art critic Larson makes clear, it sprung from years of deep spiritual practice and hard thinking about the structure of music. Beginning his career on the West Coast, Cage studied with pioneering modernist composers Arnold Schoenberg and Henry Cowell but broke free to find ways to integrate music with the noise of everyday life. At the same time, he grew enchanted with varieties of religious mysticism, studying under D.T. Suzuki, who helped promote Zen Buddhism in the West. In time, Cage’s work acquired an openness that ultimately produced 4’33”. Larson structures the book as a kind of call and response between Cage and his associates, alternating paragraphs of conventional biography with extended, often gnomic, quotations from Cage. The strategy is most effective when it shows the effect his uncanny calm had on others: Composers like Morton Feldman and Yoko Ono and painters like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns were all influenced by Cage’s thinking. However, Larson’s approach does leave Cage’s life as more of a mystery than a biography perhaps ought to. After the triumph of 4’33”, she dwells little on the details of her subject’s life, only briefly noting that Cage struggled with his homosexuality and kept his decades-long relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham a secret. Some wooly mysticism fogs up these pages but overall, a well-researched and thoughtfully framed study of an often misunderstood artist.

MY FIRST COUP D’ETAT And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa Mahama, John Dramani Bloomsbury (336 pp.) $24.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-60819-859-7

From the vice president of Ghana, a series of sensitive, honest autobiographical essays on the “lost decades” in his homeland. Mahama employs the moving devices of fiction to convey these coming-of-age remembrances of how 1044

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

Ghana moved from dictatorship to thriving democracy during the last few decades. The author was 7 years old, attending an elite boarding school in Accra, when the 1966 coup d’etat of Ghana’s first president after liberation from British colonialism, Kwame Nkrumah, occurred, and no one came to pick Mahama up from school. He had been living with his father since he was three, separated from his mother, who stayed in northern Ghana; his various siblings, 19 in all, by multiple marriages, were scattered throughout the country. The coup altered their lives irreversibly. In “Sankofa,” meaning to “go back and get it,” Mahama writes of the desire among the African diaspora to return to their homelands and reclaim their African names (once changed to Christian names), languages and heritages. A gifted student, Mahama stayed in school in Accra, his small world representing in microcosm what occurred on the larger African continent. The newly arrived “bush” boy at the school extorted snacks from the boys until young Mahama bravely resolved to defy him, while the others crumbled in fear. “Why hadn’t I seen before that our strength, our key to victory, was in our numbers, our unity?” he writes. In other essays, the author examines his study of history, love of socialist ideology, endurance of another coup in 1981 and exile to Nigeria, and his travel to the Soviet Union. A wonderfully intimate look at the convulsive changes, and deep scarring, in post-colonial Africa.

THE OBAMIANS The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power

Mann, James Viking (432 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-0-670-02376-9

An early rough-draft history of the Obama administration’s stance on foreign policy. This book effectively represents a companion volume to Mann’s well-regarded Rise of the Vulcans (2004), which explored the ascendancy of neoconservatives in President George W. Bush’s administration. Taking a similar approach here, Mann (The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War, 2010, etc.) proves to be a deft, discerning reporter; he also seems committed to writing what amount to temporally useful but perhaps not enduring insta-histories of the foreign-policy– making apparatus of recent presidents. The author initially presents Obama’s foreign-policy approach as redefining America’s relationship with the world from that of his predecessor, in large part by returning to a multilateral approach to global matters. However, Mann makes abundantly clear that Obama’s actual behavior in foreign affairs has relied as much on continuity as disjunction from the Bush administration, and that in many ways, his real divergence is from the foreign policy of Democratic presidents before him, most notably the Clinton administration. Many readers may wonder if it is too early to tell. If

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Marmorstein, who has published often about the popular arts, has done an enormous service for fans of stage and movie musicals of the early decades of the 20th century.” from a ship without sail

Obama fails to win a second term, it becomes much more difficult to argue that he fundamentally transformed American relations with the rest of the world. It is far too early to gauge the full impact of Obama’s foreign policy while it plays out, much less attempt to place that policy within a grander framework of even contemporary history. Future historians will surely rely heavily on Mann’s work, but the book may have come a bit early. A readable text that covers important ground but lacks the larger perspective the material warrants.

A SHIP WITHOUT A SAIL The Life of Lorenz Hart

Marmorstein, Gary Simon & Schuster (576 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-4165-9425-3

The author of The Label: The Story of Columbia Records (2007) returns with a deeply sympathetic biography of Lorenz Hart (1895–1943), the talented, troubled lyricist of film and Broadway fame. Marmorstein, who has published often about the popular arts, has done an enormous service for fans of stage and movie musicals of the early decades of the 20th century. Here, the author details Hart’s short life, explores his most productive professional partnership with composer Richard Rodgers, chronicles his descent into the alcoholism that killed him, speculates about his sexuality (his colleagues knew he was gay; the public did not), and provides numerous examples of Hart’s witty, sometimes risqué lyrics (risqué, of course, by 1940s standards). Hart, whose adult height perhaps touched 5 feet and who seemed always to have a cigar, wrote some 800 songs with Rodgers, many of which are Broadway classics, among them “Manhattan,” “My Funny Valentine” and “Where or When.” But Hart was a psychological mess. Perhaps due to his height (a constant joke about him in the press, and even from Rodgers’ mouth) or his sexuality (frequently he would disappear in the evenings) or the enormous pressure to write on quick deadlines, Hart became so increasingly unreliable that Rodgers approached Oscar Hammerstein II to write the lyrics for the show that would become Oklahoma! Hart subsequently wrote only a handful of songs. Marmorstein often summarizes the shows of Rodgers and Hart (routinely referring to them as “the boys”), sometimes too thoroughly, and there are so many interesting characters on his stage—like Cole Porter and George Abbott—that occasionally he loses track of Hart, who, sadly, left few intimate documents, excepting, of course, those wondrous words. “Ev’rything I’ve got belongs to you,” goes one Hart lyric that now, thanks to the author’s thorough, affectionate research, holds another, profoundly poignant meaning. (16-page insert of 29 b/w photos)

|

AMERICA, YOU SEXY BITCH A Love Letter to Freedom McCain, Meghan & Black, Michael Ian Da Capo/Perseus (288 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-306-82100-4

A middle-age liberal comedian and a younger Republican media personality embark on an RV expedition together to see if they can find common ground (they do) and say something significant about America (they don’t). “My own view heading into this trip is that America is at a particularly crappy time in its history,” writes Black (You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, 2012, etc.). His counterpart is McCain (Dirty Sexy Politics, 2010), flamboyant daughter of the Republican presidential candidate, who has occasionally aroused the suspicion of her party but who loves the same things as all good Republicans (guns, whiskey, red meat, country music, God, etc.). “I really love America,” she writes. “I don’t mean this to come off like a cliché; you know, American girl loves America, but it’s true.” Though family, friends and others had trouble understanding why two people who knew each other only through Twitter committed themselves to this project, something similar has been done often and better—from the “Point/Counterpoint” segment that long ran on 60 Minutes to the ultimate in strange political bedfellows, James Carville and Mary Matalin. Here, “the entire project, from idea to execution, happened in a little more than a month,” writes McCain. “Michael and I sold the book before we actually met in person.” The result is often tedious and shallow, as their travels reveal little beyond the obvious about New Orleans, Austin, Memphis, Salt Lake City and other cities. “Stereotypes have a funny way of falling apart when you actually talk to people,” writes Black, though the book reinforces a lot of stereotypes and is rarely funny. (Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles)

HELL IN THE PACIFIC A Marine Rifleman’s Journey from Guadalcanal to Peleliu McEnery, Jim with Sloan, Bill Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-5913-9

A personal account from the K/3/5 Marine company, made famous in the HBO series The Pacific. McEnery tells his story in the first person, but military buffs will suspect that popular historian Sloan (Undefeated: American’s Heroic Fight for Bataan and Corregidor, 2012, etc.) transcribed and polished interviews with his 92-year-old subject. Few will object to the result. A poor Brooklyn youth during the Depression,

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1045


McEnery joined the Marines in 1940. A squad leader two years later, he and his division sailed to the Pacific and Guadalcanal in August 1942 to begin the land campaign against the Japanese. Mostly under the age of 20, with only a rare World War I veteran, and outnumbered, they fought brilliantly. After a year of rest and training, McEnery fought again on New Britain and a few months later in the vicious conquest of Peleliu. Delivering the obligatory nod to political correctness, the author bears no grudge against today’s Japanese but maintains that the soldiers he faced behaved with despicable cruelty. In line with contemporary popular historians, he blames sadistic training and incompetent leadership for the suicidal banzai charges on Guadalcanal. When this failed, commanders adopted an equally fruitless tactic: building fortifications, staying put and fighting to the death. McEnery pays only passing attention to the big picture, emphasizing his personal combat experience, narrow escapes, miseries and amusements between battles, the fate of friends, and the officers he admired and disliked. A thoroughly satisfying account of war in the South Pacific packed with fireworks, tragedy and horseplay. (8 pages of b/w photos)

SNOW-STORM IN AUGUST Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835

Morley, Jefferson Talese/Doubleday (352 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-385-53337-9

A sprightly social history of the convergence of pro- and anti-slavery agitators in the city of Washington during the explosive summer of 1835. The forces that would soon tear the country apart in civil war were already at work in Washington as President Andrew Jackson was away on vacation. Salon Washington correspondent Morley (Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA, 2008, etc.) ably weaves the many strands together: An enterprising restaurateur of mixed race found that his success aroused the ire of resentful white patrons; an impressionable young slave hoping to educate and free himself ran afoul of his white mistress; a Yankee abolitionist newly arrived in town disseminated incendiary emancipationist literature; and the famous author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” serving as Jackson’s district attorney, pursued his job of punishing vice and enforcing slavery. By July 1835, news of a slave rebellion in Mississippi had already created unease among white Washingtonians. When the young slave Arthur Bowen broke into the bedroom of his mistress, Anna Thornton, in the middle of the night on August 5, inebriated and carrying an axe, the city exploded in rumor and fear. Bowen had apparently been influenced by the antislavery literature of New Yorker Reuben Crandall, whom Key subsequently arrested and charged with “attempting to excite an insurrection.” A mob formed, threatening to lynch 1046

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

Bowen, and destroying much property, including mixed-race entrepreneur Beverly Snow’s popular Epicurean Eating House. Despite Thornton’s attempts to protect her beloved slave, Bowen was convicted and sentenced to hang. Morley alternates the characters and scenes of action for a suspenseful tale, culminating in the court of law where Key upheld the country’s oppression of African-Americans and thereby helped shape the rancorous debate over slavery. His brother-in-law Roger Taney (whom Key supported to power) would become chief justice of the Supreme Court and author of the Dred Scott decision. Elegant and nimble history of a series of events likely unknown to many readers.

WINNER TAKE ALL China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World

Moyo, Dambisa Basic (240 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-465-02828-3

Moyo (How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly—and the Stark Choices Ahead, 2012, etc.) warns about the dangers of international conflicts over land and resources. Though she is concerned that “the world…remains largely ill-prepared for the challenges of resource scarcity and the evolving dynamics around China’s central role,” the author sharply disagrees with those who assert that China is making an imperial-style grab for raw materials. She asserts that China’s policy is different and compares statements of leaders and partners from different countries as proof. China is obtaining access to resources to maintain the growth of its own economy, writes the author, who shows how the country’s leaders are prepared to offer money, roads, railways, schools and hospitals in exchange. Moyo contrasts what the Chinese call a “win for all involved” approach with the colonialist approach. She writes that if Western countries “are to have any semblance of standing in the emerging world,” they must cease depending on their traditional policy tools. The author compares current global consumption of foodstuffs, fuel sources and major industrial raw materials with China’s consumption of the same materials and contends that China’s buying power is comparable, on the level of the global economy, to the effect of Wal-Mart’s purchasing policies within the U.S. (“one buyer faces many sellers”). Moyo fears that China may be operating in an international “legal vacuum,” and she discusses the relation between resource supply and demand and financial markets. Written to clarify important global questions, this book deserves a wide audience.

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Editor Davison supplies necessary contextual information and footnotes generously, but stays in the shadows and allows us to truly enjoy Orwell’s impressive chronicles.” from diaries

RADICAL REINVENTION An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church Oakes, Kaya Counterpoint (256 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-59376-431-9

Oakes (Writing/Univ. of California; Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, 2009) chronicles her uneasy entry back into the Catholic Church, with plenty of F-bombs thrown in for good effect. Proud of her bad-girl persona (perhaps more past than present) and of her liberal political activism, the author tries to convince both her readers and herself why she wanted to be a Catholic again. The result is readable and engaging but not necessarily convincing. Oakes grew up in a moderately Catholic family before rebelling. However, she could not rid herself of a belief in God, and eventually she was moved to try out church again. Unfulfilled with Protestant options, she went back to what she knew. At the beginning of her spiritual journey, she was uncomfortable with her choice: “I don’t want people to know I’m Catholic again because it still seems so oppositional to the rest of my life.” Indeed, Oakes’ main draw to Catholicism seems to be the challenge and the opportunity to be an agitator from within. She expresses feeling a lack of community until her searching led her to sympathetic priests, feminist nuns and activist laywomen. She found her place in Catholicism in such backdrops as a “pray-and-bitch” circle of women and a predominantly gay congregation. The author concludes with the story of her visit to Italy, where she found some moments of genuine religious feeling at places such as the tomb of St. Francis. Oakes’ writing flows well, but it sometimes feels almost lazy (e.g., describing Juan Diego, who encountered the Virgin of Guadalupe, as “the indigenous guy”) or overly caustic for the sake of her own self-image as a rebel. The author’s low self-esteem and the weight of her past drag her down throughout the book and are not alleviated by her spiritual quest, which seems, in the end, more a quest for community. A somewhat intriguing but mostly uneasy faith journey.

DIARIES

Orwell, George Davison, Peter--Ed. Liveright/Norton (608 pp.) $39.95 | Aug. 20, 2012 978-0-871-40410-7 A co-editor of George Orwell’s Complete Works offers a lushly annotated edition of Orwell’s diaries from 1931 to 1949. Born Eric Arthur Blair, Orwell, as these diaries reveal, lived a varied and even dichotomized life. A reader who visited the majority of these pages could never guess that they recorded the activities of the |

author of Animal Farm, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and 1984, a book he completed while suffering from the tuberculosis that would kill him. (Among the most poignant pages here are Orwell’s lists of his hospital routines just weeks before he died.) Many of the author’s entries deal with his activities on his farm. We learn how many eggs his hens laid each day, his battles with hungry rabbits and deer, his killing of the occasional snake, his observations of the weather, and his maintenance of the property. One moment of great excitement was his near-death in a whirlpool in the Gulf of Corryvreckran. Earlier sections of the diary deal with his abject poverty in the 1930s. He traveled around picking hops (a process he describes in some detail); he was down and out in Paris and London; he traveled to the Mediterranean. In all these places, he noted human customs and flora and fauna. In 1939, Orwell kept daily track of events that were leading toward world war but interwove odd moments about earwigs, a dead cat and the properties of goat manure. In the diary he kept during World War II, he found himself becoming accustomed to continual bombing in London. He joined the Home Guard but noted that their rickety weapons would hardly retard the expected German invasion. Editor Davison (English/De Montfort Univ.) supplies necessary contextual information and footnotes generously, but stays in the shadows and allows us to truly enjoy Orwell’s impressive chronicles. (30 illustrations)

PRAIRIE FEVER British Aristocrats in the American West 1830-1890

Pagnamenta, Peter Norton (320 pp.) $27.95 | May 28, 2012 978-0-393-07239-6

London-based historian Pagnamenta (co-author: Sword and Blossom: A British Officer’s Enduring Love for a Japanese Woman, 2006) turns up an overlooked chapter in American history: the role of well-heeled Brits in Manifest Destiny. Beginning in the 1830s, and thence throughout the 19th century, the landed gentry and nobility of Britain were well represented on the American frontier. There was something about the place—the tall mountains, the indomitable Indians, all that wild game—that lured those men (and a few women) from across the pond. As Pagnamenta writes, not for nothing was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show so popular among the smart set in London, with Cody feted by Lord Randolph Churchill and other nobles. “When reports of all this reached the United States,” he writes, “Buffalo Bill was criticized for his ‘flunkyism,’ and betraying his rough-diamond republican past, by so much hobnobbing with royalty, dukes, and earls.” On American ground, well-born Britons followed Lord Byron and James Fenimore Cooper alike into the wild country. In many cases, these footloose explorers were younger sons in a time when, through primogeniture, the firstborn got the full inheritance, so their younger siblings really had nothing to lose. One such fellow was William Stewart, who,

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1047


“naturally contrary, headed west for America,” on the run from an unwanted wife and baby in Edinburgh. Others came for more exalted reasons, still others on a lark, still others by accident. Pagnamenta writes that one aristocrat happened upon some of his father’s former Yorkshire-estate tenants, trudging their way along the Oregon Trail. “They were surprised to see him,” he notes drily. So prevalent were these Britons in time, and so much land did they acquire, that in the later 19th century a movement arose to rid the U.S. of these “land vultures,” with legislation proposed and passed to restrict land ownership to native-born Americans. The arguments, as Pagnamenta lays them out, are surprisingly similar to those mounted against Japanese investors in the 1980s and to immigrants legal and otherwise today, lending his story a timely quality. Lively and full of both historical details and enjoyable anecdotes—a welcome addition to the history of the American frontier. (8 pages of illustrations)

INTEROP The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems Palfrey, John & Gasser, Urs Basic (256 pp.) $27.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-465-02197-0

Harvard Law School professor Palfrey and Gasser, the executive director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, team up again (Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, 2008, etc.) for this look at interoperability in the era of information. The authors examine the connections among technologies, data, human users and institutions (including laws and regulations), aiming to “define the optimal level of interconnectedness and to lay out a path for achieving it.” Palfrey and Gasser touch on a variety of topics, including the growth of Facebook and Twitter, the lack of interchangeability of cell-phone chargers, the difficulties of using radio-frequency identification in retail stores, and the slow adoption of high-definition television, and they devote a chapter to the problems surrounding the implementation of electronic healthcare records. The book covers so much ground, in fact, with problems and solutions varying widely for different technologies and circumstances, that the authors’ attempt at an overarching “interop” theory becomes overly vague. Their tentative prescriptions, usually involving combinations of private innovation and government regulation (“a mix of tools used in a range of ways”), are often uninspiring and lacking concrete detail. Further, the authors’ academic and repetitive prose style makes the narrative feel like a staid journal article padded out to book length. Technologists steeped in the subject matter will find the book scattered and elementary, while lay readers will think it dry and abstract. An unfocused tech overview.

1048

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

THE RUDE GUIDE TO MITT Pareene, Alex Salon Media Group (66 pp.) $2.99 e-book | Apr. 23, 2012

A quick-and-dirty evaluation of the Republican nominee. Readers expecting a “fair and balanced” look at Romney—whether or not they subscribe to the FoxNews version of the term—will likely know better than to think this book is unbiased. Any notions otherwise are dispelled in the introduction, which Salon writer Pareene leads off with the story of the Romney car trip during which they crated the family dog on the roof. Fortunately, this upfront indictment serves as a sort of throat clearing for the author, who then turns to an outline of Romney’s childhood and adolescence, noting his staunch neutrality throughout the 1960s and his wholehearted embracing of Mormonism as a young man. Romney’s style of governing followed his ascension to the upper echelons of investment through the slash-and-burn acquisition tactics of Bain Capital. His early efforts in achieving higher office were derailed in an ill-advised contest against Sen. Ted Kennedy, who trounced him, and Romney was forced back into management, where he put his money-raising abilities to good use in heading the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympics. Pareene veers back and forth—much as Romney has—in detailing the candidate’s successes and failures. Ultimately, this is a book for both liberals and conservatives. Democrats will share it with their friends as a damning inducement to vote Democrat, while Republican voters will point to it as another example of the liberal media bias. Clearly, Pareene also hopes that moderate voters will turn away from Romney. Ample ammunition for both the left and the right wing as Romney gears up for his battle with Obama.

AUTOPSY OF WAR A Personal History

Parrish, John A. Dunne/St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-312-65496-2 978-1-4299-4104-4 e-book

A distinguished physician reflects on a tormented life haunted by memories of his one-year war. Given his tumultuous upbringing, perhaps Parrish (Between You and Me: A Sensible and Authoritative Guide to the Care and Treatment of Your Skin, 1978, etc.) would have ended up on the psychiatrist’s couch in any event. However, this anxious, bright and dutiful son went on to Duke and to Yale for medical school. By then, married with two children and facing the draft, he volunteered for the Navy and served a 1967-68 tour in Vietnam. There, treating the horribly maimed and looking into the face of dying grunts, he acquired the “invisible wounds

kirkusreviews.com

|


of war” that have haunted him ever since. Parrish’s recollection of that harrowing year and the collision of his Christian morality and boyish notions of soldiering with the war’s too-real trauma constitute this memoir’s most memorable passages. The rest is a dual tale of remarkable professional success and private pain and instability. After obsessively rewriting his own war story, silently visiting a homeless veterans’ shelter, living alone and celibate, or together with mismatched partners, Parrish finally sought help to treat his clinical depression. Only after exhausting a menu of spiritual remedies, finally getting with the right woman, submitting to an uncommonly adept therapist, reconnecting with his wartime hooch-mates, revisiting Vietnam, and today directing the Home Base Program (for veterans suffering from brain injuries and PTSD) has he found a measure of peace. After recounting his bumpy road to recovery, Parrish wonders if this unvarnished revelation of personal suffering amounts to little more than a continuation of the self-centeredness that drove him professionally and trashed his family. Some readers will answer yes, while others will credit him with an honest attempt to explain the full dimensions of an affliction we still know far too little about. A useful introduction to the causes and consequences of PTSD. (1 map; 15 b/w photos)

ON PAR The Everyday Golfer’s Survival Guide

Pennington, Bill Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (320 pp.) $26.00 | May 15, 2012 978-0-547-54844-9

New York Times golf columnist Pennington (The Heisman: Great American Stories of the Men Who Won, 2005) provides a comprehensive guide on how to get the most out of a pastime that frustrates and bewitches its devotees. The game—or sport, a distinction explored here by the author—of golf inspires a range of emotions in those who play. It can also seem confounding to the uninitiated, with its plethora of rules, arcane etiquette and emphasis on its long history and traditions. Pennington provides the perfect entry point for beginners taking up the game, offering practical advice on all of golf ’s many facets, from the basics of equipment, rules and lingo to the things you didn’t even know you needed to know. The author includes advice from teachers, professionals (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstam and others) caddies and everyday golfers on a myriad of topics related to the game, including psychology, technique and how to not become overwhelmed by the massive amount of other advice golfers encounter in person, print and broadcast. Golf writing may be unique among sportswriting for the way it often manages to convey the deadly seriousness those passionate about it feel toward the game, while simultaneously joking at their expense. Pennington’s tone shares this trait and will be familiar to those who have read any of the many golf books out there. None of those books, |

however, offer nearly as much real-world advice to golfers on how to improve their experience. A must for beginning golfers or players looking to get more enjoyment out of their time on the course. (20 line drawings)

EVOLUTIONARIES Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science’s Greatest Idea

Phipps, Carter Perennial/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $15.99 paperback | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-191613-7

Debut author Phipps offers a challenging reexamination of the connection between the “evolutionary dynamics of the universe and the very being of the divine.” As the executive editor of the magazine EnlightenNext, the author has kept abreast of leading trends in modern science, theology and philosophy, and he denies that there is an inherent contradiction between science and religion. Phipps has coined the word “evolutionaries” to describe a group of scientists, futurists, sociologists, psychologists, philosophers and theologians who share an “evolutionary vision and a care for our collective future.” He cites writings of the Jesuit anthropologist priest Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) as exemplary of those who seek inspiration from the past but are not bound by a fixed system of beliefs. Phipps is also sharply critical of environmentalists who deny the unique position of man as the highest expression of creation. He suggests that the chaos bred by rapidly changing environments creates the potential for evolution, whether of species or in the realm of culture, and he compares the “rough and tumble world of globalization in the twenty-first century [to] the dynamics at play in Earth’s prebiotic soup billions of years ago.” Both are chaotic environments that foster evolutionary transformation by bringing natural selection into play. At the same time, Phipps believes that evolution is not a random process; rather, it embodies directionality and purpose. “Might we in some way represent the feedback loop for the universe itself,” he asks, “fulfilling the next stage in our development…[and] creating the next novel stage of cosmogenesis?” Phipps interviews a number of physicists, futurologists working in artificial intelligence, and cognitive psychologists seeking an explanation for consciousness. Thoughtful and provocative.

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1049


“A raucous, biting look at life.” from i hate everyone...starting with me

THE LAST LOST WORLD Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene

Pyne, Lydia V. & Pyne, Stephen J. Viking (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 2, 2012 978-0-670-02363-9

Lasting from about 3 million to 10,000 years ago, the Pleistocene is both a geological epoch and an idea, write science historians Stephen Pyne (Voyager: Exploration, Space, and the Third Great Age of Discovery, 2011, etc.) and his daughter Lydia, who proceed to deliver a perceptive account of both. The geological story opens as the unusually wet, warm and homogenized Earth of the Miocene and Pliocene epochs segued into a cooler, drier and more fragmented Pleistocene. Rising mountains and new land bridges (Panama, the Bering Strait) forced a realignment of planetary climate. Ice ages waxed and waned. Many hominid species wandered Africa; several wandered north, but by 50,000 years ago, all except ours had vanished. The idea of the Pleistocene began in the 17th century with the first natural philosophers (“scientist” was a 19th-century invention). Rocks and fossils had been known for millennia, but these men looked with a critical eye. By the 1700s it was obvious that the Earth was old. During the 1800s, this age lengthened and subdivisions proliferated as scientists deciphered sedimentary rock strata, precisely classified fossils, and uncovered the effects of glaciation. After 1900, they argued over African climate change and proliferating hominid species, reveling in a flood of new information from fossil discoveries, plate tectonics, deep ocean cores and vastly improved chemical and radiometric dating. The idea is still evolving. Readers with a good introduction to the subject under their belt—e.g., Ian Tattersall’s Masters of the Planet (2012)— will be best prepared to absorb this rich but often dense flood of geologic, geographic, anthropologic and philosophical analyses of recent evolution.

THE BRIDE AND THE DOWRY Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War

Raz, Avi Yale Univ. (448 pp.) $35.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-300-17194-5

A scouring academic investigation of the fallout from the Six-Day War. Raz delivers a compelling study of Israeli intransigence and deception after the huge territory gains it made in June 1967 by seizing the West Bank and Arab Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Peace with Israel’s aggressive 1050

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

Arab neighbors was the ostensible goal (“We have no aims of conquest,” declared Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to the nation), yet as Raz demonstrates, the emotional argument surrounding the gain of biblical lands largely immobilized and blinkered the Israeli leadership to the outcry from the rest of the world. Two peace options were put forth within days of the invasion: one by West Bank notables who wanted to be free of Jordanian control and declare a Palestinian state with Arab Jerusalem as capital; and the other tendered by King Hussein of Jordan, a close ally of the United States, who was eager for peace. Yet Raz shows how Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Dayan and Foreign Minister Abba Eban embarked on a “calculated double game” to appease the U.S. (from whom Israel desperately needed more fighter planes) and gain time, thus allowing the territories to empty of thousands of fleeing Palestinians and Israel to quietly “annex” Gaza and Arab Jerusalem. Indeed, using Eshkol’s metaphor, Israel wanted the “dowry” (the occupied territories) without the “bride” (the Arab population). Raz shows an Israeli government riven by indecision and plurality of opinion, Palestinians in shock and despair, King Hussein hanging on to the survival of his reign and grasping at some kind of honorable settlement, and the Palestinian guerrilla resistance gathering force in the wings. A scrupulously researched work likely to open deep old wounds.

I HATE EVERYONE... STARTING WITH ME

Rivers, Joan Berkley (256 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-425-24830-0

A humorous tirade on nearly everything and everyone. Rivers (Men Are Stupid…And They Like Big Boobs, 2008, etc.) is back with an entertaining rant on how she hates nearly everything and everyone, especially herself. Nothing is sacred to Rivers as she delivers one-liners on the whole shebang of human existence. From birthing a child, having sex, getting married, growing old and dying, to living in cities, eating in restaurants and travelling to foreign lands, the author gives readers her unusual perspective on each scenario. On manners: “I hate people who blow their nose at the dinner table and then look in their hankie. What do they think they’re going to find?” On dating younger men: “I’ll never be a cougar. I don’t like younger men. I don’t ever want to wake up in the morning and wonder, Is this my date or did I give birth last night?” On cities: “I hate San Francisco because I not only left my heart there but my hairdresser.” Show business, nature, even the slogans each state uses to promote itself…none are immune to Rivers’ often-caustic jesting. Relentless in her pursuit, the author is sure to offend everyone at some point in this book, regardless of the comedic intent. The only thing missing is the sound of a drum roll and cymbals to feel as though one is sitting in a nightclub watching a live comedy marathon. The book is best read in small, random batches, with a large martini in hand. A raucous, biting look at life.

kirkusreviews.com

|


YES, CHEF A Memoir

Samuelsson, Marcus Random House (416 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-385-34260-5

A compelling memoir from an acclaimed chef. Born in Ethiopia, the author was placed in an orphanage after his mother died from tuberculosis, and the Samuelsson family adopted him and his sister. After becoming a famous chef, the author sought out his roots in multiple visits to his birth country. During one of those visits, he reconnected with his father, and he has kept in touch with his birth family since then. In rich detail, the author tracks his rise as a chef, from the cooking classes at his vocational high school and his first internship, to his appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef, which coincided with his cooking of the White House State Dinner after President Obama’s inauguration. The author chronicles the long and grueling hours in the kitchen and looks at the stiff hierarchy that exists not only among the kitchen staff, but also among head chefs. It took Samuelsson several years of working at Aquavit (where he “became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star rating from the New York Times”) to be accepted as an equal chef by veterans, like Bobby Flay, already in the inner circle. In 2010, Samuelsson won Top Chef Masters, and he currently owns and runs Red Rooster Harlem in New York City. In addition to plenty of behind-the-scenes details, the author ably captures the feeling of being a young, single (he is now married), ambitious person in New York City. Samuelsson strikes a skillful balance between the personal and the professional—recommended for those interested in pursuing a career as a chef or those curious about the secrets behind high-end dining.

THE BLUE CASCADE A Memoir of Life After War

Scotti, Mike Grand Central Publishing (320 pp.) $26.99 | May 15, 2012 978-1-4555-0348-3

Unflinchingly honest account of an ex-Marine’s struggle to re-acclimate to civilian life after returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. When documentary film producer Scotti returned home in 2003 from a two-year tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, he knew that “something was wrong.” The former lieutenant was whole in body but not in mind. Rather than own up to the fact that he was suffering from PTSD, Scotti charged ahead with his postwar plans to work Wall Street, “[w]here men waged financial warfare upon one another.” But the |

more time passed, the more the ambitious ex-Marine found himself engaged in a private battle against alcohol-fueled rages and the “blue cascade” of depression. Haunted by scenes of battlefield savagery he could not forget, Scotti contemplated suicide. A film project that involved footage he had shot while in Iraq became his path to personal salvation. Narrating the often brutal scenes allowed Scotti to come to terms with the human “weakness” that his training as a Marine had taught him to disavow. As he began to heal, he turned his thoughts to earning the MBA that he believed was the key to finding the stability and peace he craved. But he quickly discovered that the world of high finance was more about scheming and selfish politicking than working toward a common goal. Rather than accept the golden handcuffs of Wall Street, Scotti instead embraced his true work: helping veterans find the courage to express the unspeakable pains of war they carried like lead weights in their hearts. An unapologetic gut-wrencher of a book.

GROUPON’S BIGGEST DEAL EVER The Inside Story of How One Insane Gamble, Tons of Unbelievable Hype, and Millions of Wild Deals Made Billions for One Ballsy Joker Sennett, Frank St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-250-00084-2 978-1-250-01494-8 e-book

A fast-and-furious account of how Groupon and its young founder bucked acquisition trends by rejecting a $6 billion buyout offer from web titan Google. Time Out Chicago Editor-in-Chief Sennett’s focused analysis centers on Groupon founder Andrew Mason, a former Northwestern University music major with a penchant for computer coding and a passion for public policy. In 2006, Mason met Eric Lefkofsky and pitched his idea for a collective-action campaign website called The Point, Groupon’s precursor. As Groupon emerged from Point users who exchanged services, the pair’s disparate personalities flared; Mason was a diligent perfectionist eager to make Groupon the “new ecosystem for local commerce,” while “alpha dog” Lefkofsky craved fast results. Desperate marketing strategies and a crudely constructed online presence drew incremental profits in its initial Chicago and Boston markets. Despite the spawning of knockoff sites, Groupon expanded to more than 150 markets by 2010, garnering Google’s attention. Sennett appropriately profiles Mason as a performative, goofy guy who, along with high school buddies, hatched short-lived businesses repairing computers in their teens. Culled from interviews, research, emails “random eavesdropping on sales support calls,” the author conveys Groupon’s rapid expansion.

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1051


“Loquacious, raving and madly provocative.” from ghost milk

GHOST MILK Recent Adventures Among the Future Ruins of London on the Eve of the Olympics

He also acknowledges the collective power of online communities that fueled Groupon’s stateside and international sales, making Mason the Web’s newest “budding mogul.” A justifiably dramatic look at the machinations of a resoundingly successful startup and its “Andy Kaufman of CEOs.”

Sinclair, Iain Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (416 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-86547-866-4

SWIMMING STUDIES

Shapton, Leanne Blue Rider Press (288 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-399-15817-9

A disjointed debut memoir about how competitive swimming shaped the personal and artistic sensibilities of a respected illustrator. Through a series of vignettes, paintings and photographs that often have no sequential relationship to each other, Shapton (The Native Trees of Canada, 2010, etc.) depicts her intense relationship to all aspects of swimming: pools, water, races and even bathing suits. The author trained competitively throughout her adolescence, yet however much she loved racing, “the idea of fastest, of number one, of the Olympics, didn’t motivate me.” In 1988 and again in 1992, she qualified for the Olympic trials but never went further. Soon afterward, Shapton gave up competition, but she never quite ended her relationship to swimming. Almost 20 years later, she writes, “I dream about swimming at least three nights a week.” Her recollections are equally saturated with stories that somehow involve the act of swimming. When she speaks of her family, it is less in terms of who they are as individuals and more in context of how they were involved in her life as a competitive swimmer. When she describes her adult life—which she often reveals in disconnected fragments—it is in ways that sometimes seem totally random. If she remembers the day before her wedding, for example, it is because she couldn’t find a bathing suit to wear in her hotel pool. Her watery obsession also defines her view of her chosen profession, art. At one point, Shapton recalls a documentary about Olympian Michael Phelps and draws the parallel that art, like great athleticism, is as “serene in aspect” as it is “incomprehensible.” While the author may attempt to mirror this ideal, the result is less than satisfying and more than a little irritating.

1052

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

The nimble London-based author offers a loose-limbed set of disgruntled observations on the massively disruptive development that became the 2012 Olympic Village. A resident of Hackney, in the area of London that has been destined for transformation by the Summer Olympics, Sinclair (Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report, 2009, etc.) has watched the development over the past few years with consternation and alarm. The heart of the area is Stratford, once a shambling, marshy mess of loading docks called Chobham Farm, where the author, then a fledgling poet and college graduate, worked as a day laborer in 1971. His first essays form a poignant reflection on this now-lost world of scrappy young transients eking out a hand-tomouth existence unloading sea containers and loading lorries. Subsequently, the area was seized by what Sinclair believes was a nefarious “intimate liaison” between government and development, in a manner he compares both to the German model and to the Chinese system (in one chapter, a Chinese poet now living in London reflects on the similar “destruction of history” he witnessed in Beijing in preparation for the 2008 games). In “Ghost Milk,” the author examines the disturbance of long-settled industrial waste on the multi-acre site, which provoked an ecological disaster. Sinclair is a veteran trekker among the urban wasteland. Inspired by Peter Ackroyd’s 2007 film Thames: Sacred River, as well as by the work of J.G. Ballard, he took off by foot for a river walk to Oxford; more ambitiously, he traveled to the former Olympic sites in Berlin and Athens and to the Ballard holdings at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. American readers will be alternately delighted and disoriented by Sinclair’s spastic, giddy literary circumambulations. Loquacious, raving and madly provocative.

kirkusreviews.com

|


MONKEY MIND A Memoir of Anxiety

TOUGH SH*T Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good

Smith, Daniel Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-4391-7730-3

Intimate, compelling memoir exploring the boundaries of the author’s severe anxiety. Raised in a neurotic family consisting of two anxious parents and a brother suffering from hypochondria, Smith’s (Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination, 2007) anxiety began in childhood. By his mid-20s, he had suffered multiple serious anxiety attacks. On the surface, Smith’s life seemed happy. He recently graduated from college with honors, had a great job, loyal friends, a nice place to live and a wonderful girlfriend. “Yet every day was torture,” he writes. “I slept fitfully, with recurring nightmares—tsunamis, feral animals, the violent deaths of loved ones. I have intestinal cramps and nausea and headaches. A sense of impending catastrophe colored every waking moment.” Combining a droll tone and a sharp eye for detail, Smith chronicles his consuming physical and mental symptoms. He unrelentingly gnawed his nails until they became a bloody mess. Sweat, “the great unspoken foe of the chronically anxious,” receives its own chapter. During a temporary job, the author squashed wads of toilet paper into his armpits, hoping the trick would stem the tide of his sweat. During a chat with his supervisor, he leaned over her desk and “the wad dislodged, rolled down my shirt sleeve, and landed beside her keyboard with a sickening splat.” In addition to his personal stories, Smith describes the character traits exhibited by the different types of anxiety sufferers. He compares homesickness to anxiety and explains the radical difference between anxiety and panic attacks. During college, Smith perused the library, using literature as a diagnostic tool; he found Philip Roth’s writing especially helpful. The author eventually found solace in meditation and cognitive therapy. Smith’s narrative smoothly juxtaposes clinical language with often-excruciating details of a life lived within the painful framework of severe anxiety. A true treasure-trove of insight laced with humor and polished prose.

Smith, Kevin Gotham Books (264 pp.) $25.00 | Mar. 20, 2012 978-1-592-40689-0 The slacker raconteur (slackonteur?) chronicles his offbeat career while seeking to inspire the next generation of cre-

ative thinkers. Since bursting onto the indie scene with Clerks in 1994, Smith (My Boring Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith, 2007, etc.) has carved out a unique niche, writing and directing a string of movies both critically praised (generally for the sharp writing) and panned (often for the lackluster directing), while also developing a cult following as a pop culture lecturer extraordinaire. Drawing on experiences from his eclectic career, he presents a mixed bag of self-deprecating humor, self-satisfied mooning, gossipy snark and a few truly golden nuggets of wisdom. Among the narrative’s high (or low) points are Smith’s contention that directing Bruce Willis was the equivalent of being held hostage by Hans Gruber; the tale of how mentor Harvey Weinstein, whom Smith has loyally defended for years, stiffed him at the opening of Smith’s Red State (the two haven’t spoken since); an in-depth account of Smith’s well-publicized eviction from a Southwest Airlines flight for being overweight; and a graphic description of a bout of self-gratification, which transpired as he stood behind his grudgingly tolerant, naked wife as she readied herself for an evening out. Though his never-ending cavalcade of bodily fluid–filled jokes wears thin, there’s a fascinating revelation within these pages: Despite having produced beloved and influential indie movies and critically acclaimed comics, Smith’s most innovative creation might just be Kevin Smith—a foul-mouthed, blarney-tongued pop culture savant who has built a touring and podcasting empire by mixing piquant loquacity with a heavy dose of Jersey earthiness. Filthier than it needs to be, more self-aggrandizing than it should be, but more inspiring than you’d think it could be.

THE TOOLS Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity Stutz, Phil & Michels, Barry Spiegel & Grau (272 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-679-64444-6

In their debut, Stutz and Michels provide a blueprint to actively change your life. Their tools are focused on solving problems rather than obsessing over their causes. Told mostly through Michels’ voice, the book outlines a process developed |

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1053


by Stutz in his psychotherapy practice. He found that while therapy elicits valuable memories, emotions and insights, people needed tools powerful enough to bring immediate relief and to connect to life-changing forces. The authors offer five tools to begin change. The first, the Reversal of Desire, helps you break out of your comfort zone, embrace pain and move past it. The second, Active Love, is used when your anger traps you in a maze of negativity. It involves creating and sending out love. The third tool, Inner Authority, asks you to embrace and celebrate your inner shadow, freeing your natural self rather than cloistering it in insecurity. When filled with worry, anxiety and negativity, Grateful Flow, the fourth tool, grounds you in the present and connects you with the ultimate positive force in the universe. The final tool, Jeopardy, provides the willpower to stay on track. These prescriptive tools ultimately invoke higher forces and give rise to spiritual evolution. In the final chapter, the authors help readers integrate the five tools to bring higher forces to bear on a personal problem and, by extension, society as a whole. Illustrated with stick figures and diagrams, the tools are adapted from Jungian psychology but go a step further. Stutz and Michels see problems as opportunities to enter a world of untapped spiritual potential. A thought-provoking book with a strong prescription to turn your life around—not for armchair self-help enthusiasts.

HIP FIGURES A Literary History of the Democratic Party

Szalay, Michael F. Stanford Univ. (352 pp.) $24.95 paperback | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8047-7635-6

Examination of the mid-20th-century novels that reenergized the Democratic Party’s staid image. Surveying a range of works including Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men and Joan Didion’s Democracy, Szalay (English/Univ. of California, Irvine; New Deal Modernism, 2000) posits that “selling hip to white consumers involved selling them the fantasy that consumption could turn them black—but only for as long as they wished to be.” Faced with mass defection from Southern conservatives opposed to civil rights and New Deal social programs, the Democratic Party rebranded itself as the arbiter of a culturally savvy neoliberalism that promised its supporters both personal independence and social justice. Unfortunately, white liberal authors often held conflicted views of African-Americans, idolizing them as “authentic” hipsters, while fearing their growing power to displace white hegemony. Szalay painstakingly delineates the contradictions inherent in books like William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, written from the perspective of a slave leading a revolt. In 1968, Styron’s book simultaneously won the Pulitzer Prize and prompted an outpouring of criticism. Rabble-rouser Norman Mailer also received his share of criticism and adulation for his essay “The White Negro,” which 1054

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

cemented the Beat-era image of African-Americans as heroic prototypes to be held at arm’s length, worshiped for their musical prowess and allegedly innate sense of “cool.” Angst-ridden white middle-class authors like John Updike and E.L. Doctorow plunged headfirst into the melee, often by grossly caricaturing African-American males on behalf of their own liberation. In his best chapters, Szalay addresses Ralph Ellison’s complex take on civil rights in his posthumous Three Days Before the Shooting…, and Joan Didion’s typically ambivalent and glacial response to the Democratic Party’s shifting alliances. A persuasively argued, though dense and occasionally pedantic treatise—will appeal to students of literature and liberal politics.

SURVIVAL INVESTING How To Prosper Amid Thieving Banks and Corrupt Governments Talbott, John R. Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-230-34122-7

A warning to investors that “the game is rigged” against them by cheating capital markets. Former Goldman Sachs investment banker Talbott (How I Predicted the Global Economic Crisis: The Most Amazing Book You’ll Never Read, 2011, etc.) lays out why he thinks investors in traditional securities—stocks and bonds—are wasting their time and money extending the life span of a system that guarantees losses. The author directs most of his ire at the international spread of indebtedness, as well as the corruption in finance and politics represented by the combination of money and lobbying. “There can be no true reform in the economics sphere,” he writes, “until we reform our system of money and politics, until we outlaw lobbyists.” He isn’t alone in arguing that reform efforts have been undermined by lobbyists bought and paid for by banks to protect activities that will cause another crisis. In that sense, Talbott emerges as part conspiracy theorist, part supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and part supporter of a third-party insurgency against the established order. Believing that expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and quantitative easing will sooner or later unleash a wild inflation, the author recommends investors seek to preserve their assets through defensive measures. His favorite means include borrowing long term at today’s historically low interest rates to purchase residential real estate and gold—though he cautions that “you probably don’t want to put everything you own into gold right now.” A nonconformist approach to finance and investing that should appeal to politically minded contrarians. (First printing of 50,000)

kirkusreviews.com

|


“A lively, rollicking good read.” from agent garbo

AGENT GARBO The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ICE One Family’s Treacherous Journey Negotiating the Northwest Passage

Talty, Stephan Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (320 pp.) $28.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-547-61481-6 The exciting, improbable adventures of a young Spanish spy who managed to become Britain’s most effective tool in

deceiving Hitler. The mammoth concerted effort to trick the Germans into believing that the D-Day invasion was not really landing at Normandy but at Calais—despite Hitler’s better instincts— required months of careful planning and streams of deceptive information fed to the Germans by agents like Juan Pujol, aka Garbo. A journalist of wide-ranging interests, Talty (Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama’s Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero, 2011, etc.) tells Garbo’s story with verve and suspense. Pujol grew to hate the Germans after witnessing the mechanized violence of the Spanish Civil War and concocted imaginative scenarios to help the Allies by initially offering himself as a spy for Germany. Once he convinced the British he was for real, he was used to feed the Nazis a steady mixture of truth and falsehood to establish his trustworthiness. Deflecting the Nazis from the real invasion at Normandy was the great task of the so-called XX Committee of the British secret services, whose function during the war the author compares to the workings of a Hollywood studio. As Garbo, the double agent was supplied with a wireless radio in his London safe house and communicated with the Germans in cipher. Despite German suspicions surrounding the disastrous trial run for the invasion in 1943, Garbo and other top agents were able to convince them that the invasion would be a “fake double-pronged attack—a spring assault on Norway and a summer invasion of the Pas de Calais.” To accomplish this, a ghost army was created and moved around southern England—duly reported on by Garbo in the hope of keeping Hitler’s 15th Army away from the Normandy beaches for the first 72 hours after the invasion. The ruse succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations— more than two weeks after the invasion, German divisions still stood on alert at Calais. A lively, rollicking good read.

Theobald, Sprague with Kreda, Allan Skyhorse Publishing (320 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-61608-623-7

The story of Emmy Award–winning filmmaker Theobald’s adventures through the Northwest Passage, a route through the Arctic Ocean well-known as a “ship killer.” The author’s journey was fraught with potentially deadly icebergs, polar bears and other dangerous elements, but his brief retelling of the experience buries most of the quest’s unique moments in an avalanche of dead-end detours. However, there are moments worth remembering; the best scenes are those in which he ceases telling about how much the trip means to his family (“Dominique’s words of wonder and amazement over the growing connections with her brothers overrode the pressures and concerns of what we all were attempting to do”) and simply shows what happens. Accounts of the boat’s near misses with ice and run-ins with animals are mostly well-narrated and will hold readers’ attention, but irrelevant details bloat the book. As Theobald describes his worries about the tremendous financial burdens of the trip, he switches gears to describe minutiae such as the layers of dust on the air conditioner in a doctor’s office, where his injured toe makes the first of its many appearances. Once the journey is underway, blow-by-blow dialogue of squabbles among the crew combines with over-the-top monologues of frustration. Unfortunately, co-author Kreda (Tales from the Montreal Canadiens Locker Room, 2012, etc.) does not stop Theobald from cramming the book with unmet promises. Though he writes of spending a day alone, “deep soul-searching,” very little of this introspection makes it to the page. Eventually, a truly suspenseful scene occurs off the Pacific coast, but many readers will have bailed out before this payoff.

THE LETTER My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life

Tillman, Marie Grand Central Publishing (272 pp.) $23.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-446-57145-6 The death of Pat Tillman, who put his NFL career on hold to serve his country, was a double blow to his wife. Upon joining the Army after 9/11, Tillman was first sent on a tour of duty to Iraq and then deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed. Though the first reports claimed he had died a heroic death under enemy fire, soon thereafter a different truth emerged: He had been killed by friendly fire. Marie Tillman had to face not only the loss of her husband,

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1055


but the fact that the Army had attempted to turn his tragic death into a public-relations coup, awarding him a Silver Star. In this moving debut memoir, the author describes her struggle to deal with grief and to come to terms with the cynical abuse of his sacrifice. She offers a nuanced portrait of Tillman, who, even in college refused to accept the role of jock. When he decided to leave the NFL for the military, he refused to talk to the press because he didn’t want to be made into a symbol. Although they were “disconnected from [their] previous lives,” they were “focused on being part of…this greater cause.” The Tillmans were not deterred by their belief in the illegality of the Iraq War, and they remained committed to his decision to serve. An inspiring account of the author’s difficult decision to become a public advocate for military families.

SUPERMAN The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero

Tye, Larry Random House (432 pp.) $27.00 | CD $45.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4000-6866-1 978-1-58836-918-5 e-book 978-0-307-99010-5 CD

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s Tye’s (Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, 2009, etc.) merry, dizzyingly detailed history of America’s first and greatest superhero. Superman made his debut in 1938 in Action Comics #1. The brainchild of Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster, two young dreamers from the tough Jewish precinct of Cleveland, Superman was an instant hit and remains an American icon. Tye explores the reasons for Superman’s enduring popularity by examining the lives of the many people who created and recreated the Man of Steel. Siegel and Shuster soon lost artistic control of their superhero, but others maintained the core of his appeal while changing the details of his image and story to fit the times—a chiseled and invincible image in the 1950s, for instance, then a more nuanced and vulnerable image in the ’70s. While he always fought for what was right, what was wrong would change, from fascism to pollution to greedy financiers, and so on. Able to leap from medium to medium in a single bound, Superman was also a marketing goldmine. He starred in a radio show in the ’40s (taking on the Ku Klux Klan in the first episodes) and became a movie star in an earlier serial but more significantly in the later films with Christopher Reeve in the starring role. Superman conquered television in the 1950s, as George Reeves donned the red-and-blue costume, and there has seldom been a period when some sort of Superman TV show has not been on the air. At his best, Tye ably narrates the stories of the many actors, artists and writers who influenced Superman. Occasionally, he offers details only true devotees will care about or be able to follow—e.g., the ever-changing story of what exactly happened on Superman’s home planet of Krypton. Fun, enlightening pop-culture history. (16-page color photo insert) 1056

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

A MAN AND HIS SHIP America’s Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build The SS United States Ujifusa, Steven Simon & Schuster (464 pp.) $29.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4516-4507-1

In his first book, historian Ujifusa delivers a delightful account of the era of grand ocean liners and the brilliant, singleminded designer who yearned to build the greatest ocean liner of all. Almost entirely self-taught, William Francis Gibbs (1886– 1967) grew up reading technical journals and blueprints and designing his own vessels. In 1915, he and his like-minded brother completed plans for the world’s largest and fastest superliner. Amazingly, they persuaded the directors of International Mercantile Marine Company (builder of the Titanic) to finance construction, but World War I halted the project. Setting up his own company in 1922, Gibbs made his name building modest liners for American companies. By this time, large luxury liners required government subsidies, so all of them were European. As World War II loomed, Gibbs became the leading designer for the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine. It took the Cold War and energetic lobbying to achieve Gibbs’ dream. Agreeing that national defense required the ship as a potential troop carrier, the U.S. paid nearly two-thirds of the construction costs. Launched in 1952 to national acclaim, the SS United States was a technological triumph; rival liners never matched her speed, reliability or safety. Sadly, by the 1960s she was losing money; she retired in 1969. Obsessed with ships, Gibbs seems a one-dimensional figure, but Ujifusa concentrates on his career, an excellent decision that results in a vivid account of the business, politics and technical details surrounding transatlantic travel in that time period.

THE GREAT DIVIDE Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

Watson, Peter Harper/HarperCollins (640 pp.) $31.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-167245-3 An ingenious work about the course of human history. From the time ancient people came into America until Columbus landed, two entirely separate populations existed on Earth, one in each hemisphere. Journalist and cultural historian Watson (The German Genius, 2010, etc.) examines that epoch of over 16,000 years as they adapted, developing different survival strategies, customs, languages, religions and ultimately different civilizations. After leaving Africa, modern humans took

kirkusreviews.com

|


“The author generally resists editorializing and allows the stories of these blasted lives and sturdy souls to transmit his powerful message.” from the fight for home

about 50,000 years to reach eastern Siberia, arriving during the last ice age when sea levels were lower, exposing a land bridge to Alaska. Around 15,000 years ago, many crossed. They entered a violent hemisphere with destructive hurricanes, dramatic temperature and rainfall variations and 90 percent of the world’s tornados, as well as far more seismic and volcanic activity than Old World mainland areas. Added to naturally occurring hallucinogenic and stimulant plants (rarer in the Old World), New World religions and ideology displayed a vivid, apocalyptic tone. Watson discusses what these migrants brought: specific flood and creation myths, genetic markers, language elements and dogs. Agriculture and cities eventually developed, but the New World made do without horses or other beasts of burden, except the llama, which never reached Mexico, as well as large, edible domestic animals, the plow and the wheel. The author seems to know everything about his subject and to hold an opinion on every issue, which he enthusiastically passes on. Watson makes a fascinating case that while there may be a single human nature, long exposure to dissimilar landscapes, food, animals and climate created two unique approaches to this nature.

FINAL VICTORY FDR’s Remarkable World War II Presidential Campaign

Weintraub, Stanley Da Capo/Perseus (256 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 15, 2012 978-0-306-82113-4

Historian Weintraub (Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941, 2011, etc.) looks at an ailing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last campaign. In 1944, Roosevelt was in very poor health, plagued by a heart condition, high blood pressure and exhaustion. He was noticeably gaunt and sickly, drawing concerned comments from those close to him, and even from the press. But with World War II still raging overseas, he chose to run for an unprecedented fourth term, even if it was likely that he wouldn’t live to see the end of it. In this well-researched, engaging history, Weintraub effectively brings the players to life, portraying the public and private faces of the witty, indomitable FDR and his opponent, the stiff, humorless New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey. Dewey mounted a tough campaign, claiming that “the New Deal was the beginning of a Communist ‘corporate state.’ ” He even considered accusing Roosevelt publicly of not acting on advance warning of the Pearl Harbor attacks; he was only dissuaded from doing so by Gen. George Marshall, who warned that such an accusation would endanger the ongoing war effort. He largely stayed away from exploiting Roosevelt’s illness during the campaign, although the Chicago Tribune warned that “a vote for Roosevelt is very likely to be a vote for [vice-presidential candidate Harry] Truman for President.” (Truman would in fact become president when Roosevelt died of a brain hemorrhage, |

just months into his fourth term.) Weintraub shows how Roosevelt, despite his illness, was still a force to be reckoned with. He continued to give dazzling speeches and enjoyed loyal support from many constituencies, including soldiers still at war, who voted absentee for FDR in large numbers. A well-drawn political history of FDR’s last days. (25 b/w photographs)

THE FIGHT FOR HOME How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back

Wolff, Daniel Bloomsbury (352 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-1-60819-479-7

Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, its psychological toll on residents, its political choreography and consequences—all revealed by a handful of people over a

10-year period. Writer and documentary film producer Wolff (How Lincoln Learned to Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations that Made Them, 2009, etc.) begins five months after the disaster with a group of ex-addicts, organized and animated by Pastor Mel, who quickly realized that resurrection would come not from government agencies or insurance companies (who come off here as criminally dilatory), but from local residents and volunteers. By the end, Mel is much better off, his ministry greatly enlarged. Wolff introduces us to some other locals as well, revisiting them continually. Among them are some men at the Common Ground Collective, a group devoted to raising money and saving property in the devastated Lower Ninth. The author intercuts his encounters with his principals with biographical information. We also meet Carolyn and Kyrah, a struggling mother and daughter. Kyrah was a star student as a child, but we watch her fortunes fracture as she tries one college after another. Actor Brad Pitt is a presence in the narrative as well; he donated funds and spearheaded the construction of earth-friendly houses. The locals greatly appreciate him and do not see him as a self-absorbed white do-gooder. Wolff employs the present tense throughout, an effective device that helps him communicate the smells of decay, the depth of desperation and the powerful frustrations of people who feel abandoned in their own land. The author generally resists editorializing and allows the stories of these blasted lives and sturdy souls to transmit his powerful message.

kirkusreviews.com

|

nonfiction

|

15 may 2012

|

1057


WHEN WE WERE THE KENNEDYS A Memoir from Mexico, Maine

Wood, Monica Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (256 pp.) $24.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-547-63014-4 A tender, plaintive memoir about the impact of a beloved father’s demise on a blue-collar Irish Catholic family. Novelist Wood (Any Bitter Thing, 2005, etc.) grew up in a paper-mill town in Maine where she was one of many “children of well-paid laborers” who were living the American Dream. But everything changed in April 1963 when her father, upon whom the burden of maintaining that dream rested, died at the age of 57. Without his sure and steady presence, the 9-year-old Wood experienced “a profound dislocation, a feeling like slipping on the shifting surface of my allotted scrap of God’s earth.” The sense of loss was as disorienting for her as it was for her siblings, who now measured their days by how long it had been since they had last seen their father alive. But the Wood children ultimately fared better than Mumma, their housewife mother, and Father Bob, their priest uncle. Mumma haunted her family’s home “like a spirit from the ghost stories she and Dad love to tell” and spent her days sleeping in her children’s beds. Father Bob succumbed to a crippling depression that sent him to the hospital. Just as the family began putting their lives back together again, another beloved Irish patriarch, John F. Kennedy, also died. Now all Americans knew the kind of loss that had become a fact of life for the Wood family. The author provides a genuinely compelling depiction of family grief, but the Kennedy tragedy functions more as an interesting narrative sidebar than as a major part of the storyline. Bittersweet end-of-innocence family drama.

RESILIENCE Why Things Bounce Back

Zolli, Andrew & Healy, Anne Marie Free Press (336 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4516-8380-6

Zolli and Healy seek to define how systems and people maintain their capacity to continue and recover from adversity. The authors report on global situations with a variety of different outcomes. In Bangladesh, a U.N.- and government-backed effort to promote the use of well water led to large-scale arsenic poisoning. In Chicago, former gang members are successfully collaborating to stop street violence. In Palau, Micronesia, local inhabitants are dealing with collapsing fisheries by “seek[ing] the correspondence between ancient and contemporary” methods. Zolli and Healy search for insights that illustrate how communities can best deal with disruptive disasters not just by surviving, but by 1058

|

15 may 2012

|

nonfiction

|

adapting successfully to changed circumstances. They also examine the interplay between local community initiatives and global context—e.g., in the disruption of oil refineries after Hurricane Katrina, which caused higher gasoline prices, making the use of ethanol more profitable and thereby creating a shortage of corn and price inflation in Mexico. The authors pursue questions of scale in regard to the functioning of urban communities, and they look at what has been done to make financial systems and the electrical grid safer and more robust through the factoring in of redundancy. Branching out into the realm of spiritual development, Zolli and Healy suggest that mindfulness and meditation should also be part of the mix. They conclude that “while there’s no single recipe for every circumstance, every journey toward greater resilience begins with continuous, inclusive, and honest efforts to seek out fragilities, thresholds, and feedback loops of a system.” Though the authors touch on a wide range of subjects, some readers may find the analysis to be overly superficial. A broad-sweep overview of a complex subject.

BURIED IN THE SKY The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers On K2’s Deadliest Day

Zuckerman, Peter & Padoan, Amanda Norton (320 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 11, 2012 978-0-393-07988-3

A fast-paced narrative of one of the worst climbing disasters in the history of K2. Zuckerman and Padoan join forces in this harrowing account of the 2008 mountaineering tragedy on the summit of K2. Presented from the untold perspective of the sherpas, the authors give voice to the men who risk their lives so others may garner fame and fortune. With few other career choices for these men, they turn aside their cultural differences to aid the rich and famous on their quest to reach the summit while receiving little acknowledgment for their own climbing expertise. In interviews with the sherpas and their families, Zuckerman and Padoan offer glimpses into the climbing culture that are as rare as the thin air the climbers breathe in the Death Zone. Although tradition dictates that K2 is an extremely dangerous mountain to summit, the world continues to press onto her flanks for personal glory or simply to make a statement. In 2008, when the one window of perfect climbing weather briefly opened, too many teams attempted the summit, with fatal results. The authors portray the grueling trek up as well as the gruesome, sometimes deadly ride back down the mountain as avalanches and rock slides picked some climbers off one by one. Readers will be left questioning the need to climb such mountains when many lives are frequently lost, severe frostbite and sickness are common, and the expense of engaging in one climb could be used to support families in the region for many months. A provocative perspective on one of the world’s most expensive and deadly athletic adventures. (16 pages of color illustrations; 8 maps)

kirkusreviews.com

|


children’s & teen THE FRIENDSHIP MATCHMAKER

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Abdel-Fattah, Randa Walker (192 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-8027-2832-6

A WORLD AWAY by Nancy Grossman........................................ p. 1067 ROCKET WRITES A STORY by Tad Hills....................................p. 1068 MOONBIRD by Phillip Hoose......................................................p. 1069 THE AMAZING HARRY KELLAR by Gail Jarrow......................p. 1069 THE LEOPARD BOY by Julia Johnson, illus. by Marisa Lewis.................................................................. p. 1070 BEACH FEET by Kiyomi Konagaya, illus. by Masamitsu Saito; trans. by Yuki Kaneko........................ p. 1070 TEAM HUMAN by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan.......................................................................p. 1071 THE MIGHTY MARS ROVERS by Elizabeth Rusch.................... p. 1078 NANNY PIGGINS AND THE WICKED PLAN by R.A. Spratt, illus. by Dan Santat............................................ p. 1078 MARATHON by Boaz Yakin, illus. by Joe Infurnari................... p. 1082

NANNY PIGGINS AND THE WICKED PLAN

Seventh-grader Lara Zany’s reign as the self-appointed “Potts County Middle School official Friendship Matchmaker” is in peril. Lara tackles her mission to aid the lonely with determination. Attempting to decipher the social nuances of middle school life, Lara busily compiles the “Friendship Matchmaker Manual,” a guide to help the friendless discover their perfect BFFs. However, readers soon realize that Lara the matchmaker mysteriously remains without close friends. When new student Emily defies the status quo by questioning Lara’s rigid rules of behavior, a friendship-matchmaking challenge ensues. As Emily and Lara endeavor to find BFFs for two friendless students, the reasons for Lara’s adamant rules— and her reluctance to have a BFF—are slowly revealed. Despite her aloof demeanor and exhaustive rules, Lara remains an amiable, sympathetic character. Her vulnerability and inherent kindness shine through, as when she defiantly defends students against the school bully. While the tale’s conclusion arrives rather abruptly, its encouraging message will appeal to readers. Abdel-Fattah demonstrates a savvy understanding of the middle school experience in this keenly observed tale. (Fiction. 10-13)

Spratt, R.A. Illus. by Santat, Dan Little, Brown (304 pp.) $16.99 Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-316-19923-0 Series: Nanny Piggins, 2

POISON TREE

Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia Delacorte (240 pp.) $15.99 | $10.99 e-book PLB $18.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-385-73754-8 978-0-375-98572-0 e-book 978-0-385-90672-2 PLB Here’s a new paranormal world populated by all new characters for fans of Atwater-Rhodes. Alysia is human, but she has achieved level three in all three guilds in the warlike Bruja, an assemblage of paranormal organizations. She’s also a tech expert, and she takes her talents to SingleEarth, an organization intended as a refuge from the paranormal wars. Meanwhile, Sarik, a tiger-woman who’s trying to

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1059


escape her tyrannical father, is in love with vampire Jason. These are only a few of the major characters in this entangled maze of people, paranormal creatures, relationships and organizations. Readers may need to chart it all to keep things straight. Atwater-Rhodes provides little direct exposition, leaving her readers to infer much of the structure of the story from conversations, a technique that helps immerse readers into the narrative but that may confuse those less attentive. She delivers her customary action-filled suspense, however, enriched with plenty of fighting and weaponry. The characters, whether witches, vampires, tigers or humans, can heal either themselves or others, facilitating many gruesome, normally fatal wounds that boost the action. Fans of the author’s previous series will find much of the same entertainment here, with possibilities left open for plenty of sequels now that this book has outlined a new setting with fresh romances and rivalries. The tigers are a nice touch. Complicated, but suspenseful. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

THE KNIGHT, THE PRINCESS & THE MAGIC ROCK A Classic Persian Tale

Azizi, Sara Illus. by Sadeghian, Alireza Wisdom Tales (32 pp.) $15.95 | Jul. 30, 2012 978-1-937786-01-4

Adapting a tale from a national epic such as the Persian Shanameh, or “Book of Kings,” is a task that takes great artistry. This effort doesn’t quite make the grade. Using an unnecessary frame story, the tale follows the original without the traditional flowery embellishments and can be easily understood. Bijan, a knight, is sent by the Persian king to rid a far-off region of wild boars. During his return, he meets the princess of a neighboring kingdom, Manijeh, but he does not know that she is his enemy’s daughter. She daringly brings Bijan into her father’s fortress, but the lovers are found out. Bijan is thrown into a pit and covered by a magic rock, and the princess is exiled. She eventually finds the pit and feeds the knight through a hole; the rock is immovable. The Persian king realizes that Bijan is not returning and uses his magical golden cup to see Bijan’s plight. He sends Rostam, “the bravest of all knights” to rescue him. Rostam, Bijan and Manijeh return to Persia, and the lovers marry. The paintings, almost too intense in color, are awkwardly rendered and lack the subtle patterned juxtapositions of the Persian miniatures that the artist is trying to imitate. The background note is useful, but the “Interpreting the Story” note will be heavy going for most adults, let alone children, not versed in Persian symbolism. A worthy but not entirely successful attempt to bring the past’s wisdom to a new audience. (Folktale. 6-10)

1060

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

THIS MONSTER NEEDS A HAIRCUT

Barton, Bethany Illus. by Barton, Bethany Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-8037-3733-4

Visually energetic but unsophisticated, with pedestrian text, this may be selected more by parents hoping the humor will coax their kids into a haircut than by the kids themselves. “Why, hello! This is Stewart. Stewart is a monster,” plods the opening. An arrow points to Stewart, whose hair is green, curly, wavy and wild. Skinny, curling tendrils of hair supplement bold black outlines; Barton’s mixture of thick and thin lines is the best part of her loose, freewheeling ink illustrations. Being a monster, Stewart “loves all the things that monsters love,” including spiders (for hair decoration and play) and helicopters (for eating). Stewart’s ever-lengthening hair is an obstacle. It blocks classmates’ view of the (tolerably funny) school blackboard: “Tonight’s homework: find human homework and eat it!” Candy, crayons and keys disappear into the unruly green coiffure. Stewart’s parents believe it’s haircut time, but the decision is Stewart’s, and he resists. Not until his prowess at frightening others becomes compromised does Stewart fold, chopping the green locks down to a popular, spiky “scare-cut.” It’s fitting that inability to incite fear feels intolerable to a monster, but some adults will cringe at the fact that Stewart—previously confident—changes his hairstyle specifically because other characters laugh at him. Neither terrible nor terribly interesting; Elivia Savadier’s (No Haircut Today!, 2005) is a more distilled treatment of the same subject. (Picture book. 3-5)

BASHER 1 2 3

Basher Illus. by Basher Kingfisher (48 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7534-6772-5 Series: Basher Learn the numerals from 1 through 20 with big, bold pictures and simple captions. The left-hand side of each double-page spread features the spelled-out number, center top; the numeral in question big and bold below; and all the numerals from 1 to 20 on the bottom, with the chosen one underlined. On the right-hand page is a simple illustration and description: “One smiling snake cuddles his favorite teddy bear,” for example. Each number is treated to a different color scheme and different figures to illustrate it. “Six greedy penguins gobble juicy jelly beans” on a mini-iceberg, “[n]ine daring ladybugs show off on their skateboards,” and “[s] ixteen lost clouds find their way home” in formation above a pink house with a purple roof. Several jokes are also tucked in. “Fourteen fearless kites fly higher and higher” features a child

kirkusreviews.com

|


“…Biden nicely touches on the experiences that are common to every family: loneliness, fear, long months of boredom and the paradox that life goes on despite the absence.” from don’t forget, god bless our troops

hitching a ride on the tail of one kite. And “Four freaky frogs have holes in their socks” depicts each frog on its own lily pad, a colorful sock on only one of its feet. After number 20 (“sleepy spiders”), there’s a review of each number, taking four pages. There is no unifying theme beyond Basher’s distinctive graphics. The use of simple shapes, multiple colors, a variety of minimally depicted figures (which a child might see in a kindergarten classroom), big numbers, and ample background space is a winning combination. (Picture book. 2-5)

SEA OF TEARS

Benjamin, Floella Frances Lincoln (288 pp.) $8.99 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-84780-058-9 Can a British teen overcome her bitterness at leaving London when her family moves to Barbados? Evidently not. Jasmine, almost 13, is furious that her protective parents didn’t consult her about their decision to leave the dangerous environment of South London and moved to Barbados. Even though her father was a born “Bajan,” all of the family meets resentment from the locals: her mother at her job at a bank; her father from the undermining construction workers he oversees; and Jasmine from the kids at school who label her “English.” In her bullheaded determination to get back to England and her friends, 4,000 miles away, Jasmine steals a 40-foot speedboat (she has no experience with them), causes a fight at school, and almost sneaks aboard a cargo ship sailing to England. Adding to the convoluted plot, a corrupt businessman threatens to buy the generations-old house where Jasmine’s Grannie lives, and a local fisherman’s son befriends her. British terms may perplex American readers: stroppy, people-carrier, cool box. Despite dabs of intrigue and romance, all of the plot developments are far too convenient, and Jasmine’s turnaround attitude at the end is unbelievable. An implausible novel not worth the sea salt of the title, despite the Caribbean setting and nod to island life. (Fiction. 11-14)

POOPENDOUS! The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop! Bennett, Artie Illus. by Moran, Mike Blue Apple (36 pp.) $16.99 | Apr. 24, 2012 978-1-60905-190-7

to hippos and from raccoons to rabbits, all animals excrete in large and small amounts. Sometimes it becomes food, as when dung beetles feast on termite mounds. Sometimes it’s manure for farmers’ crops. In Mongolia, yak poop insulates local homes. Moran’s cartoon-inspired computer-generated imagery sets the tone with bug-eyed animals and people and a layout that often resembles postcards in an album. Poop is no doubt a poopular subject, but the title is misleading. Pigeon droppings cause illness and damage urban environments, among many other excrement-related problems. There is no information on human excrement and its role in devastating cholera epidemics. Nor is there any note about E. coli bacteria, another current cause for concern. A more balanced presentation of information would better serve readers. Despite the interest, the treatment is too limited to be useful. (Informational picture book. 3-8)

DON’T FORGET, GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS

Biden, Jill Illus. by Colón, Raúl Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4424-5735-5 978-1-4424-5737-9 e-book Second Lady Biden delivers a sensitive, non-political account of one family’s deployment. “Does Daddy really have to go?” are the opening lines in this child’s view of deployment, and they are the first words many children say when their parents tell them of the long separation they are about to suffer. “Daddy is a soldier,” is the honest answer Natalie has to process. As the seasons change with Daddy still abroad, the difficulty is obvious. Natalie has to be brave as she waits and waits. She is comforted by the support of her neighbors, the prayers of her church, a sensitive teacher, and playing with her “Daddy Dolls” (GI Joes); video chats with her dad are big events. Colón’s soft brush-and-scratch technique invites the youngest readers in, taking a bit of the edge off the sadness but never turning the story saccharine. Each family facing deployment is unique and faces its own challenges, but Biden nicely touches on the experiences that are common to every family: loneliness, fear, long months of boredom and the paradox that life goes on despite the absence. She wisely leaves out the truly difficult moments: the goodbye scenes, the possibility of injury or death, and the readjustment upon the soldier’s return. Teachers and counselors will reach for this often for the extensive, excellent resources in the backmatter as well as the story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

We all poop—humans and animals—so readers are urged to be strong and come along for this silly scoop on a subject most nasty. In breezy and breathless rhyming couplets, Professor Pip Poopdeck, the safari-outfitted tour guide, tosses out euphemisms and factoids galore. From aardvarks to zebus, from flies |

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1061


“The witty nonchalance of both dialogue and narration keeps this rock-’n’-roll romp light and entertaining and successfully balances it with suspense.” from i am (not) the walrus

THE WONDEROUS JOURNALS OF DR. WENDELL WELLINGTON WIGGINS Blume, Lesley M.M. Illus. by Foote, David Knopf (256 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-375-86850-4 978-0-375-89918-8 e-book 978-0-375-96850-1 PLB

The creators of the helpful guide to Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins & Other Nasties (2010) now present the equally instructive, long-lost travel journals of a tubby but indefatigable paleozoologist with an unexcelled genius for unearthing uncanny, if long-extinct, animal and humanoid species. Systematically journeying to every continent between 1850 and 1885, Wiggins reports on over three dozen fossilized finds. These include “Thunder Vulcusts” (think vulture-locust), massive-limbed but “Pin-Headed Desert Giants,” and “Dreaded Gossip Peacocks” with ears and mouths as well as eyes on their feathers. The “Two-Headed Mammoth Buffalo” has a carnivore at one end and an herbivore at the other (“The whole arrangement reminded me of a marriage,” Dr. Wiggins notes jocularly). He also discusses centipede-like “Land Whales,” such as the one underlying Nantucket Island. The doctor proffers homiletic speculations about how each species came to its unfortunate end (the buffalos, for instance, probably ate themselves, just as we “are always biting off our own heads”) and provides sketched reconstructions of many specimens, with handwritten labels pointing out salient physical features and a human figure, usually tiny, for scale. The satire is neither as sharp as Dr. Swift’s nor as comical as Mr. Lear’s, but the fictive author’s discoveries should, as he hopes, “enlighten, amuse, appall, and guide” young fans of the biosphere’s imaginary reaches. (Informational fantasy. 10-13)

A PASSION FOR VICTORY The Story of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times

Bobrick, Benson Knopf (176 pp.) $19.99 | PLB $22.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-375-86869-6 978-0-375-96869-3 PLB

From the first Olympics in 776 B.C. to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, a good portion of world history is told through the lens of sport. The first Olympics were held in a meadow in Olympia, Greece, to seek favor from the gods. The games always have spawned superstars, and such legends as Milo of Croton, Jim Thorpe, Johnny Weissmuller and Jesse Owens are given their due here. The photo-essay format conveys their stories 1062

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

effectively, as well as the glory, shenanigans and pettiness of the Olympics throughout history. Almost every full-page spread includes at least one photograph, and the text adroitly addresses the cultural context of the games. This is especially effective in the discussion of Jesse Owens, who won four Olympic gold medals in Berlin. Bobrick points out how, despite Hitler’s views on non-Aryans, the German public adored Owens, and Owens could stay at any hotel, eat in any restaurant, and use all public transportation without interference, something he could not do at home in the United States. If the modern Olympics haven’t always succeeded in the original goal of currying the gods’ favor, they have always been, among other things, a grand celebration of the human spirit and the urge to achieve athletic greatness. A fascinating account of the Olympic Games and their place in history. (chronology, prologue, appendix, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

I AM (NOT) THE WALRUS

Briant, Ed Flux (288 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jul. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-3246-6

Toby’s life in Port Jackson, England, is frankly weird. This makes it hard to concentrate on his recent good luck: getting his first gig for the unnamed two-man band that only plays Beatles’ covers that he has started with best friend Zack. Toby is okay with being atypical, though, his attitude remaining light and carefree despite awkward experiences with girls and rugby. But the use of his older brother’s guitar and other band equipment sets up a moral dilemma when Toby begins to slowly realize that all of it may be stolen. Compounding this, an unusual encounter resulting from a dare Zack proposes may lead to romance with Michelle, a feisty female with her own ideas of right and wrong. Briant has an ear for smart-aleck teen talk and keeps the first-person narration crisp. Through Toby’s voice, he allows readers to make small leaps of understanding instead of relying on exposition. First love comes into the story sideways, as do entertaining characters; neither sidetracks the plot, which threads all the events together in a steadily satisfying manner. The focus is on romance, character and, above all, music. Even laid-back Toby is captured by the mystique of the Fender bass and the cloud surrounding its provenance. The witty nonchalance of both dialogue and narration keeps this rock-’n’-roll romp light and entertaining and successfully balances it with suspense. (Mystery. 12 & up)

kirkusreviews.com

|


EVA OF THE FARM

Calhoun, Dia Atheneum (256 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4424-1702-1

“[W]hoever heard of a heroine-poet?” Named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s heroine from his epic poem Evangeline, 12-year-old Eva lives on her family’s beloved Acadia Orchard in Eastern Washington. In this beautiful, tightly woven novel in verse, which follows the progression of the seasons, she may have to leave her idyllic home, just like her namesake. As Eva plucks words from the world around her—“They are warm, / as though sprinkled / with all the spices of the sky”— her “plant a forest, save a polar bear” father only sees the value of math, science and economics. Their rift grows wider when a blight starts the ripples of foreclosure. Eva begins to blame their mounting misfortunes on a blackened tree in the canyon known as the Demon Snag and the evil it must be emitting. Forming a fierce bond with the local Bead Woman, who’s encountered her own tough times, the resilient girl not only discovers a kindred artist, but the power of imagination, hope and even poetry to save her farm—and spirit. Calhoun doesn’t shy away from Eva’s reality, offering snapshots of the cycle of life, including a baby deer ripped from its mother’s womb. Although Eva’s poetry far surpasses most experienced poets, the effect leaves readers with splendid images to savor. Fans of Karen Hesse will welcome this partner in poetry. (Verse novel. 10-13)

VIVALDI’S FOUR SEASONS

Celenza, Anna Harwell Illus. by Kitchel, JoAnn E. Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $19.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-57091-637-3 978-1-60734-462-9 e-book In 18th-century Venice, a young priest named Vivaldi taught music to the orphans of the Ospedale della Pietà and later composed a concerto for them, the first of four “seasons,” each with an accompanying sonnet. In her serviceable re-creation of the circumstances behind the composition of “Spring,” Celenza provides a believable back story. She describes the orphanage, the hidden girls’ musical performances (they played behind a screen so no one could see them), and their story-telling teacher, whom they called “Padre Rossi” for his red hair. But there is no real narrative arc to carry readers along. The description and invented dialogue serve as a backdrop for presenting the program of the concerto: the opening birdsong, storm and sunlight’s return; the meadow scenes with the goatherd’s barking dog; and the celebratory dance of the third movement. Watercolor illustrations on double-page spreads give a sense of time and place, but the people are stiff |

and static. Included as backmatter are translations of the sonnets that accompanied publication of The Four Seasons and a note from the author, who is a commentator and professor of music, adding some further information. Included on CD is a much-lauded performance by the Venice Baroque Orchestra with Giuliano Carmignola on Baroque violin. Seventh of a series of music-appreciation books for young readers covering composers and interpreters from Bach to Ellington, this is a useful introduction to a beloved classic. (Picture book. 6-9)

GRANDMA DROVE THE LOBSTERBOAT

Clark, Katie Illus. by Huntington, Amy Down East (32 pp.) $16.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-60893-004-3

When the weather gets rough, Grandma takes the helm. The clanging of the bell buoy indicates choppy water, but that doesn’t deter Grandma from her planned adventure with Little Billy. It’s Labor Day, so she has the day off. (Most every other day she’s running her trash-hauling/snowplow business.) She and Billy are going to relax in the lobsterboat while her son Bill (who has a wee problem with seasickness) tends to the catch. A thick fog rolls in just as it’s time to head back. But Bill is weak-kneed in the stern of the lobsterboat, and Billy can’t raise uncles Buster or Burt by phone. There’s only one thing to do: With Little Billy as her eyes, Grandma takes the helm. It’s a heart-stopping ride, swerving past the buoy and veering away from the rocks that support the lighthouse. Thanks to Grandma and Little Billy, the Labor Day lobster bake is a great success, and she rewards him with the biggest lobster he’s ever seen. Clark’s text is ample, and, while giving empowerment to senior citizens, the tone is consistently tongue-in-cheek. Many of Huntington’s seascapes benefit by filling two wide pages. Some readers will wonder at plot holes, including the fact that savvy Grandma relies on her seasick son in the first place. Spirited and often exciting, if a little ragged. (Picture book. 5-8)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1063


MESSY

Cocks, Heather Illus. by Morgan, Jessica Poppy/Little, Brown (368 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-316-09829-8 Sisters Brooke (budding Tinseltown diva) and Molly (level-headed Midwesterner) return, along with Brick Berlin, their self-absorbed, dimly sweet megastar dad, in a companion piece to Spoiled (2011), gleefully sending up celebrity blogs and social networking. Molly’s friend, budding writer Max McCormack, lives “in a Fendi world on a Forever 21 budget.” Brainiac Max and savvy über-shopper Brooke share little beyond dim views of fashion crimes and cultural misdemeanors. Nevertheless, cash-strapped Max—her mother is the headmistress of a tony private school catering to celebrity spawn; her dad’s unemployed—can’t resist a high-paying job secretly ghostwriting Brooke’s new blog (part career strategy, part bid for parental attention). As blog success brings Brooke a starring role in a drastically re-envisioned Nancy Drew movie, Max increasingly resents her own invisibility—and especially Brooke’s rapport with her co-star and major blog fan. Satirizing Hollywood is a time-honored literary pastime, but timely satirical touches keep things fresh, from Brick’s latest film, Avalanche! (shot in Florida), to the vegetarian restaurant (Fu’d) where Max reluctantly serves toham and notwurst. For most of the lowlife celebrities skewered, fame will be justly fleeting, but this novel should have a longer shelf life, thanks to a cast of complex characters who offer ample evidence that, F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, the rich and famous are like you and me. (Fiction. 15 & up)

CROW COUNTRY

Constable, Kate Allen & Unwin (252 pp.) $13.99 | paper $13.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-74237-395-9 978-1-74237-395-9 paperback After moving to the country, an Australian teen travels back in time to right old wrongs involving her family and a threatened aboriginal site. When her single mum, Ellie, sells their house in Melbourne and uproots them to the isolated lakeside town of Boort, 13-year-old Sadie’s angry and lonely. Ellie’s at home in Boort where she spent childhood summers and soon reconnects with David, a former boyfriend who’s aboriginal. As Ellie and David start going around together, there’s obvious racial bias among the locals. Meanwhile, Sadie discovers a circle of standing stones covered with ancient aboriginal carvings in a dried-up lake bed, triggering the appearance of a talking crow who warns Sadie, “This is Crow’s place.” Haunted by Crow’s message, Sadie repeatedly slips back in time to 1933 to uncover 1064

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

the truth about the murder of an aboriginal man who tried to stop the flooding of his sacred land. When the current white owner of the land wants to misuse it as his ancestor did, Sadie must prevent history from repeating itself. This neatly structured story relies on aboriginal folklore, enduring racial biases, betrayed friendships and a perceptive heroine who knows the difference between right and wrong. An original Aussie time-travel tale. (Fantasy. 10-14)

RAT AND ROACH Friends to the End

Covell, David Illus. by Covell, David Viking (40 pp.) $12.99 | Jun. 28, 2012 978-0-670-01409-5

Best friends don’t always get along is the well-worn lesson of this tale of philosophically opposed urban pests. Rat and Roach are buds, but they can certainly get on each other’s nerves. While casual Rat enjoys swimming through crud, making a mess and farting, the surprisingly meticulous Roach prefers tidiness, flower scents and (in the case of his cooking) originality. So can these two friends make up after a big fight? Readers won’t spend a whole lot of time wondering, since the fight feels fairly arbitrary—if readers can spot it at all. The narrative opens with a lengthy, present-tense description of the friends’ differences, then shifts to the past tense with what seems to be the aftermath of a specific but unseen argument, making it feel like a tension-free gag rather than a story. Covell’s talents lie in his art, his book filled to brimming with spray-paint drips, clouds of noxious fumes and humorous details; the image of the two grumpy friends brushing their teeth in parallel is laugh-out-loud funny. But without a story, the illustrations, which are mostly displayed against a pure-white or light-gray background, aren’t enough to raise the book from merely okay to new and interesting. In the end, there are plenty of odd-couple picture books already available. Consider this only for a readership ravenous for city-critter fiction. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE SHIP OF LOST SOULS

Delaney, Rachelle Illus. by Guerlais, Gerald Grosset & Dunlap (256 pp.) $14.99 | paper $7.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-448-45776-5 978-0-448-45777-2 paperback

Endowed with the trappings of a comedic pirate yarn but not its heart, this series opener focuses more on one character’s soul-searching than nautical action. Hardly has sheltered young “Old Worlder” Jem arrived on tropical islands believed to be haunted by the ghosts of

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Children will begin by browsing and soon find themselves pulled into the stories behind the objects they thought they knew.” from how things work in the house

exterminated natives than he is kidnapped by genteel pirates led by a grandiose pipsqueak. He is then rescued by the Lost Souls—an unwashed crew of orphans and runaways (all 13 or younger) sailing the supposed ghost ship Margaret’s Hop (the terminal “e” having been lost in the past) under the command of fiery but insecure Capt. Scarlet McCray. Guided by a map that belonged to his vanished uncle and pursued by the aforementioned pirates, Jem and the Lost Souls set out to find a fabled treasure. The search, however, proves little more than a vehicle for Scarlet’s continual second-guessing as she frets about being a proper, “captainly” leader and struggles to keep the Lost Souls entertained and a rebellious crew member in line. In the wake of numerous contrived obstacles overcome, the sudden re-emergence of Scarlet’s suppressed awareness that she’s halfIslander serves as a more sharply felt (if, at least for readers, not particularly cogent) climax than the discovery of the “treasure.” This turns out to be a glade so mystically peaceful that the fact that it’s surrounded by birds’ nests full of rubies comes across as just a nice added feature. Echoes of Peter Pan notwithstanding, a less-than-seaworthy outing. (map, glossary) (Adventure. 10-12)

DARK FROST

Estep, Jennifer Kensington (390 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-6696-5 Series: Mythos Academy, 3 In Estep’s third Mythos Academy novel, Gwen Frost not only fights but causes more trouble than ever in a mighty clash of titans. The psychometry gift that has earned her the title of Gypsy takes on new dimensions when Gwen investigates an enemy from the last book. Her best friend, Daphne, whom readers know well at this stage, also undergoes a surprising ripening of her preternatural abilities. Estep’s ingenuity in devising strains of sorcery with which to endow her characters expands to drive her story forward and set the stage for unprecedented obstacles and revelations. Where the author has previously shielded Gwen from

HOW THINGS WORK IN THE HOUSE

Ernst, Lisa Campbell Illus. by Ernst, Lisa Campbell Blue Apple (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 25, 2012 978-1-60905-189-1

All of the household items you take for granted are explained in this colorful

and handy volume. Following her How Things Work in the Yard (2011), Ernst comes indoors. Ever wonder how your toilet works? A faucet? A straw? Ernst offers simple answers with engaging illustrations. Writing for a young audience, she mostly explains what can be done with things in our houses. “How does a banana work?” begins the volume, showing the varied uses of the humble banana: rubbing the inside of the skin on mosquito bites; using the leaves for making rugs, ropes and “fancy kimonos”; dipping it in chocolate for a tasty treat. Spoons are not just the workhorse of the utensil drawer; they can be used to make catapults, puppets, musical instruments and mirrors. Similarly, popcorn, sandwiches, scissors, glue, piggy banks and kazoos are featured. The youngest readers will be fascinated by the simple explanations, the bright and whimsical illustrations, and the pleasing design of the volume. Children will begin by browsing and soon find themselves pulled into the stories behind the objects they thought they knew. A good glimpse at how things work in our houses and a great way to encourage children to wonder about their everyday worlds. (Nonfiction. 5-9)

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1065


“Fitzpatrick delivers an almost perfect summer romance…” from my life next door

malevolence so dark it would tarnish her soul, she now pitches Gwen into the abyss. Readers will thrill to participate in Gwen’s transformation: She must accept the greatest responsibility yet possible in the battle of good vs. evil that the gods, goddesses and their magical mortals wage. Gwen also faces a difficult choice that a discovery about her recently murdered, and dearly missed, mother further complicates. The outcome is a secret Gwen keeps from friends and even from Logan, her Spartan heartthrob, who finally shares secrets of his own and titillates readers with his admirable ardor. The strongest installment thus far—Estep delivers. (Urban fantasy. 12 & up)

MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

Fitzpatrick, Huntley Dial (400 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-8037-3699-3

Good-girl Samantha finds herself when she falls for the boy next door. Her perfectionist, state-senator mother hasn’t forgiven “those Garretts” for moving next door 10 years ago. The burgeoning family (seven children by the time Samantha turns 17) is white trash as far as she’s concerned. But Samantha finds herself fascinated, watching the messy, boisterous family from the roof outside her window. When gorgeous Jase climbs up to talk to her one night, she begins to loosen her emotional stays for the first time in her life. Fitzpatrick delivers an almost perfect summer romance: The way Jase woos Samantha—gently, with humor, patience and a joint trip to CVS to pick out condoms—will have every girl who reads the novel wishing for a Jase of her own. His family is equally beguiling, a dramatic foil for Samantha’s sterile life with her campaigning mother. The story unfolds slowly, Samantha’s present-tense narration smart, funny and mildly astonished at the changes wrought by her new relationship. The leisurely pace encompasses a subplot in which one of Sam’s oldest friends, now an alcoholic and drug addict, begins his healing at the hands of the Garretts as well. Everything’s going so well that readers will feel as sucker punched as the characters when catastrophe strikes. Though the resolution is rushed, it is also satisfying— just as satisfying as Sam and Jase’s first night together. (Fiction. 14 & up)

1066

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

GUY-WRITE What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know

Fletcher, Ralph Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (176 pp.) $14.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-8050-9404-6 Guys love writing as much as they love reading...when they can do their own thing. Writer and writing instructor Fletcher offers a new writing guide with advice aimed squarely at boys. Most guys love to write, but they might not love writing what is expected of them at school. Fletcher starts by letting guy writers know that they are far from alone. He lets guy writers know it’s OK to write what they love: humor, grossness, battles, fantasy and horror. And he counsels guy writers on how to talk with their teachers about writing what they love to satisfy assignments. Along the way Fletcher peppers the text with general writing tips and suggestions for ways to make all types of writing stronger and more enjoyable (for the writer and readers). There are interviews with adult writers for guys, in which the likes of Jon Scieszka, Robert San Souci and Robert Lipsyte all talk about their writing process. The black-and-white illustrations come from real (young) guy writers as do many of the writing samples. The final two tips—keep a journal and read to improve your writing—deservedly get their own chapters. Fletcher even includes a reading suggestion for each type of guy writing. Encouragement and instructive pointers in a package guy writers will enjoy. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

SCHOOL FOR PRINCES Stories from the Panchatantra

Gavin, Jamila Illus. by Willey, Bee Frances Lincoln (64 pp.) $19.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-84507-990-1

Employing a series of newly created stories in combination with five traditional tales to reveal the Panchatantra’s themes, the author hopes to entice children to read these ancient Indian fables. Three arrogant princes change their tune in six short months as a sage uses stories to teach them the art of ruling. These fables have been introduced to people of all classes for generations to spread ideas of wisdom, kindness, friendship and unity, and self-control, while still awakening listeners to the possibility of treachery from old enemies. Didactic in nature, the stories still hold up, but contemporary listeners and readers may be put off by the pompous language of “The Preamble: the Princes Who Wouldn’t Learn” and the first frame story, “The Fighter Kite.” They will be caught up in the stories as the doves are “Caught in the Fowler’s Net,” the first fable retold. Gavin gives an introduction to the Panchatantra, but it’s too

kirkusreviews.com

|


bad she did not provide sources so interested readers could search out tales not included here. The illustrations take two forms: ethereal mixed-media pictures that combine pencil, oil pastels, acrylic and Photoshop in the frame stories and looser, simpler, bolder images of the animals in the fables. A less-is-more philosophy might have been employed to better advantage with only one style of illustration and less emphasis on the stories about the princes, but the fables remain eminently discussable. (Folklore. 8-11)

LITTLE NELLY’S BIG BOOK

Goodhart, Pippa Illus. by Rowland, Andy Bloomsbury (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-59990-799-6

Little Nelly reads a book that leads her to conclude that she is a mouse, because she is gray and has big ears and a skinny tail. She finds some mice and announces that she is one of them. Nothing they say can convince her otherwise, not even when they point out the obvious differences in size. But these mice are kind; they make her welcome and take very good care of her. Granny Mouse does some reading of her own and gently informs Little Nelly that there are “mice” like her at the zoo. When Nelly realizes that zoo mice are very much like her, she decides to live with them. Meanwhile, Micky Mouse (really!?) reads Nelly’s book and concludes that he is an elephant. Goodhart plays out the bizarre cases of mistaken identity with nary a nudge or a wink, relying on the sharp eyes and minds of young readers to understand the absurdities. In spite of Nelly’s delusions, or perhaps because of them, she is a sympathetic character who is finding her way in a confusing world. Rowland’s appropriately goofy digitally created illustrations adhere to the plot and are enhanced with lots of hilarious details. Unfortunately, the nonsensical moral of the tale—“books should always have pictures”—lands with a crash. Though the book has lots of potential, it ultimately falls flat. (Picture book. 4-7)

A WORLD AWAY

Grossman, Nancy Hyperion (400 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-4231-5153-1

This sensitive debut grabs hearts right away and doesn’t let go. Eliza, a 16-year-old Amish girl, struggles against the restrictions of her culture. She loves her family and friends but yearns to see the modern world. She gets her chance when a visiting woman offers her a summertime nanny job, but she must convince her reluctant mother to agree. |

Amish teens are allowed a “rumspringa,” a time of some freedom before they decide to accept baptism and join the permanent community, but her mother’s vision of this “running-wild” time is very different from Eliza’s. At last Eliza’s mother consents, and the girl moves with a modern wardrobe to Chicago, where she encounters the wonders of movies, computers and microwaves. Soon she meets Josh and begins dating, also entering the world of modern girl rivalries. Later, Eliza will meet someone from her past and learn more about her mother than she could have imagined. Throughout, Eliza faces a terrible choice: Which world will she join, and which will she leave forever? The author writes with simple sentences that fit Eliza’s simple way of life and convey her innocence. Readers experience their own world through the girl’s naive eyes, marveling at technology, experiencing new relationships, and worrying through her difficulties. Grossman’s love for her story seeps into every page, locking readers into the narrative. She produces a heartfelt tale that will be difficult for readers to resist. Simply lovely. (Fiction. 12 & up)

EGGS 1 2 3 Who Will the Babies Be?

Halfmann, Janet Illus. by Thompson, Betsy Blue Apple (32 pp.) $17.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-60905-191-4

Writing for a younger audience than usual, Halfmann pares down the text, leaving a math/science book that will have readers counting, guessing and learning baby-animal names. “Two eggs stuck together, / warmed by a furry tail in a tunnel by a stream. / Who will the babies be?” After guessing, readers can flip the gatefold to reveal, “2 platypus puggles, / with bills like ducks, slurping milk like kittens.” A clean design and predictable pattern help readers join in. Halfmann takes care to include animals from across the classes, featuring some old favorites such as penguins, monarch butterflies, robins, turtles, snakes and frogs, while also introducing some species that may be more unfamiliar to readers: glowworms, fish and ostriches. While rhyming verses might have better suited the pictures, subject matter and intended audience, Halfmann does well without it, using strong, descriptive words that might have been sacrificed in a rhyming text. For her picture-book debut, Thompson plays up the nature theme by using richly textured papers and fabrics to fashion her cut-paper collages. While her shapes and outlines are quite simple, their textures are anything but plain, adding another whole dimension to the artwork. A final page displays all of the eggs and their approximate sizes in relation to one another. A solid addition to the spring egg shelf. (Picture book. 3-7)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1067


GEORGE AND THE BIG BANG

Hawking, Lucy & Hawking, Stephen Illus. by Parsons, Garry Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $18.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-1-4424-4005-0 Series: George, 3

Like their first two collaborations, the Hawkings’ third and final George book offers a hybrid mixture of made-up adventures in space/time interleaved with miniessays on, as one character unoriginally puts it, “life, the Universe, and everything.” Most of the action centers on Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider, where the Order of Science to Benefit Humanity has gathered. The anti-environmentalist group Theory of Everything Resists Addition of Gravity (aka TOERAG, a tortured joke that American readers will miss) have planted a “quantum mechanical bomb” there, with a trigger that, quantum-theory style, remains indeterminate until it’s observed. Meanwhile, though conveniently provided with a defusing code, young George and Annie have been imprisoned in an Inverse Schrödinger Trap (with a cat, of course) that will assume a random and therefore almost certainly deadly location somewhere in the universe should they try to leave. The story is interspersed with suitably seriocomic illustrations and pauses every few pages for digestible disquisitions (some by prominent scientists other than Hawking) on the Big Bang, wormholes, Feynman diagrams, major components of the LHC and other topics in Newtonian, quantum and theoretical physics. It is less a single plot than a weakly connected chain of incidents, fetching up where it should in the end. Labored and wrapped in a thin film of artificial drama as it is, this set of mind-expanding if scattershot exposures to some of science’s biggest theories and ideas will once again find a large audience thanks more to its celebrity co-author than its content. (Science fiction/informational hybrid. 10-12)

ROCKET WRITES A STORY

Hills, Tad Illus. by Hills, Tad Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-375-87086-6 For new reader Rocket, every new book is a treasure and an adventure, “like a place he’d never been to, like a friend he’d never met.” The little yellow bird introduced in How Rocket Learned to Read (2010) continues to teach and encourage this special dog. Rocket sniffs out wonderful new words in his environment, and the bird helps him create a glorious word tree. Now Rocket searches for ideas for his own story in which he can use his word collection. A shy, friendly owl provides the inspiration he needs, and he sets to work on his opus. It’s not all 1068

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

smooth sailing; he writes, crosses out, and draws pictures, alternately wagging his tail and growling. Yellow bird helps with encouragement and questions, and Rocket keeps the owl informed about his work in progress. His finished story wins rave reviews from his teacher and his new owl friend. Hills maintains the same gentle tone he established in Rocket’s first adventure. Yellow bird’s innovative and thoughtful teaching methods are perfectly in sync with Rocket’s thirst for learning. The plot moves along at a measured pace that stresses the step-by-step process of Rocket’s endeavors. Illustrations rendered in oil paints and colored pencil lovingly depict the characters and events. A perfect choice to inspire new readers and writers. (Picture book. 4-8)

ZEUS AND THE THUNDERBOLT OF DOOM

Holub, Joan & Williams, Suzanne Illus. by Phillips, Craig Aladdin (112 pp.) $15.99 | paper $5.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-4424-5787-4 978-1-4424-5263-3 paperback Series: Heroes in Training, 1 Promising myth-adventures aplenty, this kickoff episode introduces young Zeus, “a very special, yet clueless godboy.” After 10-year-old Zeus is plucked from his childhood cave in Crete by armed “Cronies” of the Titan king, Cronus, he is rescued by harpies. He then finds himself in a Grecian temple where he acquires a lightning bolt with the general personality of a puppy and receives hints of his destiny from an Oracle with fogged eyeglasses. Recaptured and about to be eaten by Cronus, Zeus hurls the bolt down the Titan’s throat—causing the king to choke and then, thanks to an alert Crony’s Heimlich maneuver, to barf up several previously eaten Olympians. Spooning in numerous ingredients from the origin myth’s traditional versions, the veteran authors whip up a smooth confection, spiced with both gross bits and contemporary idiom (“ ‘Eew!’ a voice shrieked. ‘This is disgusting!’ ”) and well larded with full-page illustrations (not seen). One thorough washing later, off marches the now-cocky lad with new allies Poseidon and Hera, to rescue more Olympians in the next episode. Readers will gobble this down and look for more, make no mythtake. (Fantasy. 9-11)

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Meticulously researched and told with inspiring prose and stirring images, this is a gripping, triumphant story of science and survival.” from moonbird

MOONBIRD

Hoose, Phillip Farrar, Straus and Giroux (160 pp.) $21.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-374-30468-3 As he did in The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (2004), Hoose explores the tragedy of extinction through a single bird species, but there is hope for survival in this story, and that hope is pinned on understanding the remarkable longevity of a single bird. B95 is a 4-ounce, robin-sized shorebird, a red knot of the subspecies rufa. Each February he joins a flock that lifts off from Tierra del Fuego and heads for breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, 9,000 miles away. Late in the summer, he begins the return journey. Scientists call him Moonbird because, in the course of his astoundingly long lifetime of nearly 20 years, he has flown the distance to the moon and halfway back. B95 can fly for days without eating or sleeping but eventually must land to refuel and rest. Recent changes, however, at refueling stations along his migratory circuit, most caused by human activity, have reduced the available food. Since 1995, when B95 was captured and banded, the rufa population has collapsed by nearly 80 percent. Scientists want to know why this one bird survives year after year when so many others do not. In a compelling, vividly detailed narrative, Hoose takes readers around the hemisphere, showing them the obstacles rufa red knots face, introducing a global team of scientists and conservationists, and offering insights about what can be done to save them before it’s too late. Meticulously researched and told with inspiring prose and stirring images, this is a gripping, triumphant story of science and survival. (photographs, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

BROKEN ILLUSIONS

James, Ellie St. Martin’s Griffin (352 pp.) $9.99 paperback | $9.99 e-book May 8, 2012 978-0-312-64703-2 978-1-4668-0245-2 e-book Series: Midnight Dragonfly, 2 With this steamy second installment, the Midnight Dragonfly series continues to sizzle. Sixteen-year-old Trinity Mounsour would like to focus on normal teenage stuff—like her new job in her aunt’s trendy New Orleans shop and her hot new boyfriend, Chase. But for this gifted psychic, a normal life is not in the cards. Another girl she knows is missing, she’s receiving some disturbing messages through a Ouija board, and she’s started seeing visions again. Trinity feels compelled to help find the missing girl, and so despite misgivings, she begins to investigate. Soon, the mysterious Dylan Fourcade is back in |

her life, and she can’t shake either the feeling that his destiny and hers are connected or the powerful attraction she feels for him. Thus it is that Trinity finds herself in the midst of both a murder mystery—one which seems to be closing in quickly on Trinity’s loved ones—and a tangled teenage love triangle. While the plentiful and (even for the genre) implausible plot twists can truly boggle the mind, the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter will keep readers turning pages. In addition to the thrill factor, an effective balance of quick dialogue and occasional text messages with rich descriptions of the gothic New Orleans setting and Trinity’s visions makes for an absorbing read. Fans of paranormal thrillers and romances will find plenty to love in this gripping series. (Paranormal mystery. 12 & up)

THE AMAZING HARRY KELLAR Great American Magician

Jarrow, Gail Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills (96 pp.) $17.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59078-865-3 A first-rate visual presentation accompanies a fascinating biography of the first dean of the Society of American Magicians, a man Houdini regarded as a mentor. The son of German immigrant parents, Harry Keller (later Kellar) lived in his hometown of Erie, Penn., only until he was 10, when he hopped aboard a train bound for Cleveland, Ohio, in 1859. He apprenticed to a performing magician a couple of years later. Kellar’s career in magic and illusion led him to South America, England and Australia before he achieved recognition and success in the United States. Kellar’s meticulous attention to detail in the building of his illusions and in the staging of his performances led to his success. Traveling magic shows and established theatrical illusionists were a widespread entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, incorporating aspects of spiritualism (Kellar demonstrated that he could replicate anything a medium could do) and mechanical wonders like automatons in their performances. Kellar and his team borrowed from other well-known performers, and he worked to polish and improve the illusions to perfection. Few secrets of the illusions are revealed here, but Jarrow makes it clear that it was Kellar’s art that made them seem like real magic. Dozens of spectacular Kellar posters along with a dramatic book design nicely support this well-constructed look at a consummate showman. (timeline, bibliography, annotated sources) (Biography. 10-14)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1069


“Unique and refreshing; a book about the Arab world that isn’t about war or oil.” from the leopard boy

DANGEROUS PUMPKINS

Jenkins, Emily Illus. by Bliss, Harry Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (160 pp.) $14.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-06-180223-2 Series: Invisible Inkling, 2 Brooklyn fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz faces his worst Halloween ever when his invisible friend, Inkling, discovers that pumpkins are his favorite kind of food. It’s hard enough to keep the bandapat in the laundry basket a secret from his parents, his sister, Nadia, his downstairs neighbor Chin and his classmates. Just keeping him fed takes all the pay from his job at the family ice-cream parlor, and he’s had to invent a top-secret project to explain all the squash he’s been buying. When Inkling goes bananas and chews up Nadia’s artwork—four intricately carved pumpkins—Hank takes the blame for the violence. Worse, although his father had promised to use one of his ideas for their special Halloween icecream flavor this year, they are advertising his sister’s stupid candy crunch. Finally, he has no one to go trick-or-treating with. Hank’s first-person narration is appropriately self-pitying. But while his unseen pet can cause trouble, the bandapat also helps. Gentle humor and a realistic urban setting add interest to this solid middle-grade read. Unlike Hank, readers can actually see the bandapat in Bliss’ gray-scale cartoons. (Final art not seen.) Events of the first book (Invisible Inkling, 2011) are summarized early on, and Jenkins introduces her characters and the situation so smoothly that readers can easily start here. Appealing any time of the year. (Fantasy. 7-10)

THE LEOPARD BOY

Johnson, Julia Illus. by Lewis, Marisa Frances Lincoln (96 pp.) $8.99 paperback | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-84780-213-2 When goatherd Khalid loses a kid high in Oman’s mountains, he discovers the hidden home of an old man who introduces him to animals who lived there long ago and helps him find surviving leopards, spoiling the boy’s uncle’s plans to sell the land. This gentle, environmentally hopeful tale pleases on many levels. To begin with, it’s a good story, deftly told. Johnson brings readers right in as Khalid spends a scary night alone on the dark mountain. Details of the landscape and of daily life in this unfamiliar Arabian world are woven smoothly into the third-person narration, while the suspense rises as the boy realizes that there might be leopards on the mountain and begins to defy his uncle. During a long wait at a hidden water hole, Khalid puts two and two together about his uncle’s activities, but the violent climax happens offstage. In a satisfying resolution, the rest of 1070

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

the villagers also get to see the beautiful animals. While this is a story about endangered species and the importance of the protection of a whole ecosystem, the lesson is implicit rather than explicit, appropriately simplified for young readers. The author has lived in and written about the Persian Gulf region for many years; her knowledge and love for that area shows. Unique and refreshing; a book about the Arab world that isn’t about war or oil. (Fiction. 8-12)

A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTMARE

Keplinger, Kody Poppy/Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-316-08422-2

Family breakups are the pits; six months into hers, Whitley Johnson is a one-girl disaster—partying more and loving it less. Coping isn’t her strong suit. Whitley’s embittered mother is obsessed with her ex-husband, a newscaster Whitley sees only for a few weeks each summer. Her brother, married with a new child, lives across the country. Throughout highschool, Whitley self-medicated with tequila and drunken hookups. She’s not happy to discover that her graduation-night hookup, Nathan, is the son of her dad’s fiancée, Sylvia. There’s a lot to love about this story. Whitley’s genuine—abrasive and outwardly tough, inwardly miserable and self-lacerating—a smart, assertive girl and a refreshing change from the passive, wryly observant heroines of non-paranormal fiction. Her gay best friend is a collection of stereotypes, though, from his fashion obsession to his vocabulary. Why Whitley is so drawn to Bailey, Nathan’s rather dull younger sister (her passionate quest to make the high school cheerleading squad goes unquestioned), isn’t clear. A half-hearted, preachy rationale for Whitley’s excesses surfaces occasionally, but luckily for readers, she’s complex enough to transcend didacticism, emerging as a rounded human being with her own internal logic. With her third novel, this young author continues to evolve; a talent to watch. (Fiction. 15 & up)

BEACH FEET

Konagaya, Kiyomi Translated by Kaneko, Yuki Illus. by Saito, Masamitsu Enchanted Lion Books (32 pp.) $14.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59270-121-6 Series: Being in the World, 2 In this newest installment in the Being in the World series, Japanese collaborators Konagaya and Saito offer a lovely account of a day in the life of a child at the beach. Cover art depicts pudgy toes scrunching down into the sand, and the book opens to a first-person, stream-of-consciousness

kirkusreviews.com

|


text detailing the child’s seaside experience. It’s never clear whether this child is a boy or a girl, but this doesn’t matter, as from page to page those feet from the cover art feel the heat of sun-baked sand, the coolness of the ocean waters, and the hard pressure of a seashell underfoot. Succinct, moment-by-moment narration delivers the child’s experiences in brief snippets of text that exult in the sensuous experiences of the surroundings. Throughout, Saito’s pastel illustrations make the most of cool and warm shades to convey the juxtaposition of water and sand and sun, while spontaneous line work depicts the exuberance of the child’s movements and the ebb and flow of the sea. Together, words and pictures combine to create a slice-of-life picture book that is more about setting than character and less a story than it is a mood piece. A quietly sublime depiction of a child at play by the sea. (Picture book. 2-6)

REUBEN AND BARNEY’S DAY ON THE FARM

Kuiper, Nannie Illus. by de Wolf, Alex Floris (28 pp.) $17.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-86315-858-2

Working on a farm is fun, especially when you do it with your best friend. Reuben, a young, blond boy with a bowl haircut, wakes up early and says hello to his dog, Barney, who’s white with brown spots and about the same size as the rooster. After putting on a blue jumpsuit and green boots, it’s time for Reuben to feed the chickens. He also gives them (and Barney) some water. Next, he visits the rabbits for a feeding and a cuddle, then picks some strawberries, weeds the vegetable patch, chases some goats out of the flowerbed, gives the pigs some apples, and visits the beekeeper, all in one morning! Reuben and Barney take a nap under an apple tree and play in the hayloft before more farm exploration. In the afternoon, Reuben gets to ride his favorite animal, Chestnut the pony. On the way, he and Barney find a bird’s nest in a hedge. There’s also a visit to the cows, a windmill, Dad on his tractor, the hay baler, birds eating grain, the pear orchard, and more. “It’s time for supper,” Dad declares. “You’ve had a busy day.” Reuben and Barney wave to all the animals before they go inside. Kuiper and de Wolf pack their simple portrait with content, the straightforward text and loose, soft-focus, well-composed illustrations in perfect harmony. Warm and subtly infectious. (Picture book. 3-6)

|

TEAM HUMAN

Larbalestier, Justine & Brennan, Sarah Rees HarperTeen (352 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-06-208964-9 Both lovers and loathers of teen vampire romance will revel in this hilarious satirical take on the genre. Mel might not exactly have her own life sorted out, but she’s always been there for her BFFs, Cathy and Anna. She indulges Cathy’s passion for history, ruins and old things in general; that is, until Francis Duvarney enrolls in their high school. Vampires may be both dead and deadly, but they are also a legally tolerated minority and even tourist attractions—and Francis, with his mesmerizing good looks and stuffy arrogance, is irresistible to an old-fashioned girl like Cathy. Meanwhile, Anna sees Francis as an unbearable reminder of the collapse of her parents’ marriage. Mel knows her duty to both of them: prove that Francis is up to no good, whether the clues lead her into the city’s terrifying vampire district, the school’s rat-infested basement, or even the arms of a cute guy. While primarily an affectionate parody of the genre, filled with clever allusions and devastating snark, the story also sympathetically illuminates the allure of vampire romance, for characters and readers alike. In an unexpectedly poignant turn, it becomes a celebration of love in all its forms: crushes and spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, families born and created, and, above all, friends tested and true. Laugh-out-loud funny, heart-wrenchingly sad and fistpump-in-the-air triumphant, this sparkling gem proves that vampires, zombies and even teenagers … at heart, we’re all on Team Human. (Fantasy. 12 & up.)

MOTHERSHIP

Leicht, Martin & Neal, Isla Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4424-2960-4 Series: Ever-Expanding Universe, 1 This science-fiction–comic romp set in a space-based school for pregnant teens hits the funny bone and adds in an alien conflict for good measure. Elvie can’t help being attracted to her worst enemy’s boyfriend, the handsome, charming Cole. Although Cole remains officially attached to nasty Britta, he’s smitten with Elvie and gets her pregnant. Alas, Britta also shows up pregnant at the orbiting space school, and the rivalry continues. Elvie, however, as an engineering geek, takes a leadership role when aliens attack the ship. More aliens show up to defend the girls, including Cole, who turns out to be an alien himself, part of a race that has been impregnating Earth girls for centuries. The attackers are rival aliens doing the same thing. All the

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1071


while, the spat between the girls continues as Elvie narrates the adventure, wisecracking the whole time. Leicht and Neal keep the focus mostly on wacky comedy, but it’s a creditable adventure as well. Despite the light tone, some girls die while trying to evade the attackers, although some thought dead will eventually be found alive. Eccentric characters such as artistic, clueless Natty help to keep the atmosphere buoyant, and the entrance of James Dean adds some spice to the story. Fans of science fiction and zany comedy should both be satisfied. Pure fun. (Science fiction. 12 & up)

SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE

Levy, Joanne Bloomsbury (208 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-59990-836-6

A lively preteen develops the “superpsychic” ability to converse with the dead, complicating her seventh-grade life in this lighthearted debut. When 12-year-old Lilah’s struck by lightning at her mother’s wedding, she wakes up hearing her deceased grandmother Dora talking to her. Lilah’s afraid she’s going crazy until Dora explains, “[w]hen the lightning hit you, it was like someone switched on a radio and I was tuned into your channel.” Soon, Lilah’s channeling lots of dead people like Serena, her music teacher’s sweetheart; Priscilla, a famous fashion designer; and Marion, the cafeteria lunch lady for 49 years. Overwhelmed with advice and requests from talking ghosts who are simultaneously irritating and invasive, Lilah confesses her psychic power to her best friend, Alex, who thinks she should earn money doing readings. But when Lilah tries to give a message to her crush, Andrew, from his deceased father, things go terribly wrong. Gradually, Lilah learns how to convert her psychic pals into allies and channel her powers positively, turning a disastrous school fundraiser into a success, winning Andrew’s trust and admiration, and helping her father find romance. In a fresh, frank and funny first-person voice, Lilah tells of her ghostly encounters from the perspective of a normal Jewish girl coping with abnormal powers. Droll middle school drama. (Fantasy. 8-12)

1072

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

HOLDING ON TO ZOE

Lyon, George Ella Farrar, Straus and Giroux (176 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-374-33264-8 After an operation for an ectopic pregnancy, an emotionally distraught 16-yearold girl struggles to care for her imaginary baby over the objections of her caring best friend and angry, joyless mother. When readers meet Jules McCauley, she believes she’s working in a factory that provides housing for her and daycare for her newborn baby girl, Zoe. But as she talks about her experiences—the “get-acquainted meetings” for the workers run by Dr. Stapleton (whom Jules thinks is an efficiency expert), the craziness of the other employees, and the vitamins the staff insists she take—it gradually becomes apparent that Jules is delusional and in an institution. Sensitively weaving the past and present together, Lyon adroitly describes the texture of the troubled teen’s world in the girl’s voice, which switches tenses appropriately. Particularly masterful is her depiction of Jules’s social-worker mother, an icy, furious woman who is so emotionally tone-deaf that she’s surprised when a potential client with cancer is offended when she asks if the woman will be around long enough to collect benefits. Jules’ therapy in the hands of the kindly Emma Douglas initially works, but the pat conclusion— an epiphany that leads to a too-easy cure—is hard to buy. Still, an intriguing window into the life of a damaged teen. (Fiction. 14 & up)

FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

Mack, Stan & Champlin, Susan Illus. by Mack, Stan Bloomsbury (128 pp.) $16.99paper $10.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-59990-014-8 978-1-59990-835-9 paperback Series: Cartoon Chronicles of America When the people in this graphic novel get into a fight, they go “ACK!” and “POW” and “G-R-R-R-R,” yet the book makes for surprisingly credible history. A prose prologue sets up the graphic novel that follows, providing background on slavery, Westward expansion and states’ rights before delivering a précis on the Civil War up to 1862, just before the Battle of Fredericksburg. The people in this book, introduced in a visual dramatis personae, feel more like movie characters than historical figures, which is appropriate to the form. Sam is a slave who’s memorized Shakespeare and can navigate most of Virginia by heart. Annabelle, the plantation owner’s daughter, can hit any target the instant she picks up a rifle. The slaveholders are so cruel they nearly twirl their mustaches. But like the best movie characters, they have narrow escapes and sensational battles that readers will want to follow to the last scene. Every chapter is based in fact,

kirkusreviews.com

|


“The story has often been written for children before, but never as comprehensively yet concisely for the very young.” from eight days gone

even if the heroes are invented (Lincoln makes a cameo). Every section has methodical, gripping historical notes. The drawing style is loose and imprecise, the word balloons are sometimes lopsided, and every character is 10 feet tall, but these are stars, and many readers will stay with them through the next volume. A graphic-novel series that aims to draw in reluctant historians; it looks like it may well achieve its goal. (Historical graphic novel. 10-14)

BECAUSE OF SHOE And Other Dog Stories

Martin, Ann M.--Ed. Illus. by Ivanov, Aleksey & Ivanov, Olga Feiwel & Friends (272 pp.) $15.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-8050-9314-8

Nine brief, sometimes pithy short stories explore children’s interactions with man’s (and kids’) best friend. Martin has gathered together a set of engaging tales by well-known children’s authors, each averaging just under 30 pages of text and accompanied by a few attractive blackand-white illustrations. Tyler, with the help of Max, his good-natured “weiner dog,” finds and defeats a dognapper. An 11-year-old girl explains to a judge in humorously round-about fashion how her shoe-stealing dog has caused her to appear in the courtroom. A very competitive but nerdy boy accidentally turns himself into a dog when trying to accomplish too much with a science-fair project. An impoverished boy attending a fancy school on scholarship loses his dog, and eventually that leads to a welcome bonding experience with his classmates. A young figure skater has to protect her chicken-stealing dog from the farmer next door. The best of the group is the one by the editor; 12-year-old Delilah, left home alone, accidentally loses her dog Picasso and singlehandedly launches a neighborhood search. Her first-person narration is often hilarious, creating a memorable character readers will wish to spend more time with. These amusing tales, all of them strong and distinct, total up to a nice, easily accessible package that will be a hit with dog lovers. (Short stories. 9-12)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST The Only One Who Didn’t Run Away

Mass, Wendy Scholastic (288 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-545-31018-5 978-0-545-44314-2 e-book Series: Twice Upon a Time

A reasonably charming middle-grade version of “Beauty and the Beast” has little bite. Told in alternating chapters by Beauty and the Beast, who is really a prince named Riley, this takes place in a sort of medieval |

world (travel by carriage and horseback, inns with straw beds) but has a sharp contemporary tone. Beauty has an older sister who is beautiful and accomplished and pretty nice, and Riley has an older brother whose perfection is somewhat marred by the fact that it is his comments to the witch they encounter that gets Riley turned into the Beast. The story takes a very long time to get started, as Beauty needs to go on a quest of her own before she can rescue the Beast with a kiss. While that quest provides a glowing pink talisman that helps save Riley/ the Beast, the connections between the first half and the second half of the story don’t always adhere. But Beauty and the Beast share an interest in science, a lack of interest in fuss and folderol, and more than one very sweet kiss. It’s all so clean and lighthearted and safe that readers accustomed to any edge at all might find their teeth aching; on the other hand, it is part of a series that has found its audience. Absolutely no villains—even the witch who cast the spell gets to turn herself into a cat to accompany her feline companion—and a bunch of supportive parents, siblings and buddies make for a squeaky-clean read. (Fantasy. 8-12)

EIGHT DAYS GONE

McReynolds, Linda Illus. by O’Rourke, Ryan Charlesbridge (44 pp.) $16.95 | paper $7.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-364-0 978-1-58089-365-7 paperback 978-1-60734-448-3 e-book The momentous Apollo 11 mission unfolds in pictures and rhyming verse. Eighteen two-page spreads illustrate the story, and McReynolds tells it in tight four-line verses using identical rhyme schemes, beginning with “Hundreds gather. / Hot July. / Spaceship ready— / set to fly.” The rocket blasts into space, begins its orbit, and, after a uniform check, the lunar module disconnects and lands safely on the moon. The control room watches intently. Michael Collins stays with Columbia, “Waits, observing, / tracking trip.” Neil Armstrong is the first to walk on the moon (“Armstrong makes his / one small step. / Giant leap from / years of prep”), and Buzz Aldrin? Well ... “Edwin Aldrin / hops around. / Boot prints left on / ashen ground.” O’Rourke’s richly detailed illustrations are done in oils, with black, white and many shades of gray predominating. They often resemble photographs, with the exception of the people, who look jarringly like Playskool figures. The story has often been written for children before, but never as comprehensively yet concisely for the very young. The rhyme scheme and flat perspectives, if not palette, recall Dan Yaccarino’s splendid Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! I’m Off to the Moon (1997). An author’s note and bibliography extend the experience, though the books listed notably omit the many fine titles published recently on the subject. Still, nifty. (Informational picture book. 3-6)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1073


“This penultimate volume in the Imaginarium Geographica series features such a massive ensemble of dead white men that it’s difficult to follow their storylines.” from the dragons of winter

TOADS AND TESSELLATIONS A Math Adventure Morrisette, Sharon Illus. by O’Neill, Philomena Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | paper $7.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-354-1 978-1-57091-355-8 paperback 978-1-60734-461-2 e-book

Two children work out a patterning problem in a tale that is more “math”—actually geometry—than “adventure.” The tale is set in Renaissance Italy and illustrated with sweetly idyllic period scenes done in pale, low-contrast watercolors. The largely incidental plot hands Enzo, inept son of a magician, and his friend Aida, the shoemaker’s little sister, a poser: It seems that the town’s 12 princesses need new dancing shoes, and the penny-pinching castle housekeeper orders that they be made from a single piece of leather. The shoemaker Tessel insists it can’t be done—but by disassembling one kind of shoe, trimming the pieces into geometric shapes and rearranging them, the young folk somehow manage a pattern that fits a dozen shoes (of a different kind, but never mind) onto the leather exactly. “I guess we’ll have to call you a grande matematico,” concludes Aida admiringly. The actual template is neither depicted nor described, and the simple repeated pattern imprinted on the leather in O’Neill’s picture bears no obvious relationship to the finished shoes. Instead, in closing notes the author recapitulates her explanation of how tessellations are constructed and invites young viewers to re-examine the illustrations for tile floor patterns and other examples. Readers will come away with a little more knowledge about tiled patterns, if not shoemaking, but the visual and fictional wrapping does more to obscure the concept than illuminate it. (Picture book. 5-8)

THE STONES OF RAVENGLASS

Nimmo, Jenny Scholastic (272 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-439-84674-5 Series: The Chronicles of the Red King, 2 A prequel spun off from the Charlie Bone series slogs through a second episode hobbled by an unwieldy cast, a Eurocentric attitude, and convenient magic that overcomes all obstacles without much ado. The British castle that the 200-year-old preteen and future Red King Timoken had thought a new home in The Secret Kingdom (2011) has turned instead into a prison. There’s nothing for it but to fly off atop his mild-mannered camel Gabar in search of a site where he can build a castle of his own. They acquire a crusty Merlin-esque wizard, a chubby dragon and over a dozen 1074

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

fugitive children as companions on the way and are later joined by more characters from the opener. With their help, he fends off repeated attacks from malign spirits and mailed “conquerors,” while constructing a luxurious palace overnight with help from “spirit ancestors.” Though neatly folding in connections between Timoken and his distant descendant Charlie, Nimmo endows her protagonist with such overwhelming powers that all the threats and tasks with which he is faced are but momentary challenges, quickly dealt with. More problematically, in a doubtless well-meant but parochial effort to distinguish Timoken from the general herd of boy wizards the author repeatedly dubs him a generic “African”—and even describes his palace as “more African than British,” whatever that means. A weakly plotted, overpopulated and only fitfully suspenseful follow-up. (author interview) (Fantasy. 10-12)

THE DRAGONS OF WINTER

Owen, James A. Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-1-4424-1223-1 Series: Imaginarium Geographica, 6 The Caretakers fight the mind-controlling Echthroi through a tangle of timelines. This penultimate volume in the Imaginarium Geographica series features such a massive ensemble of dead white men that it’s difficult to follow their storylines. Don Quixote, Aristophanes and a badger quest for magic armor. Charles Williams, original characters Rose and Edmund, H.G. Wells, Richard Burton and a Clash of the Titans–style mechanical owl travel in time. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne meet a secret society so packed with dead authors that six William Blake clones (“We call them Blake’s Seven”) fit right in. A Chinese librarian speaking pidgin English betrays the questers, Medea meets Gilgamesh, and triple agents abound. A goblin market is peopled with characters from The Last Unicorn who make jokes from Blazing Saddles; Nathaniel Hawthorne paraphrases the 1988 cult classic They Live; a future Caretaker quotes Darth Vader. “Jules Verne show[s] goats descended from the herds of Genghis Khan in a county fair in an Indian nation in America … ” Confused yet? If not, perhaps you’ll be able to make sense of a resolution that relies on pasts that never were and futures that might-have-been. Fans of the series who managed to enjoy volumes four and five will be pleased to find more of the same. (Fantasy. 14-16)

kirkusreviews.com

|


BETWEEN THE LINES

Picoult, Jodi & Van Leer, Samantha Illus. by Gilbert, Yvonne & Fischer, Scott M. Simon Pulse/Emily Bestler Books/ Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $19.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-1-4516-3575-1 In her first foray into teen fiction, Picoult and her co-author daughter deliver an enjoyable, metafictive twist on the traditional teen-romance novel. Delilah is a 15-year-old, self-professed loner who would rather have her head buried in a book than gossip about boys or play fashion police in the halls between classes. But it’s not just any book that Delilah wants to lose herself in; it’s an obscure fairy tale called Between the Lines with a dashing young prince who literally comes to life before her very eyes. Prince Oliver is equally captivated with Delilah, and the two embark on a quest to find a way and a world in which they can finally be together. Told from Delilah and Oliver’s alternating points of view, this take on the traditional star-crossed-lovers tale will make for a light read for those preteens and early teens who aren’t looking for more mature, emotionally complex love stories. Book lovers in particular are likely to get a kick out of the blurring of the lines between character and reader, fact and fiction. Periodic illustrations from the fairy tale Between the Lines function well as reminders of Oliver’s fictive “reality,” but others, too closely resembling clip art, are distracting and out of place. Fizzy fairy-tale fun. (Fantasy. 9-13)

BEFORE YOU GO

Preller, James Feiwel & Friends (208 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-312-56107-9 A summer of love and loss nearly derails a teenage boy. Jude takes a summer job flipping burgers at Jones Beach, degrading uniform and all. Anything’s better than being at home with a mother who’s kept to darkened rooms ever since his little sister drowned several years ago. Jude makes new friends, falls for a co-worker named Becka, and hangs out with his best friend, Corey. The Long Island setting is richly drawn, and Jude has a distinctive, funny voice. The details occasionally get the better of the narrative, however; after a riveting opening, there are some weak spots. Preller, known for his books for younger readers, seems to have some trouble finding the right style for a teen audience. He lets his omniscient narrator drift from unnecessarily detailed definitions of such concepts as riding shotgun to repetitive descriptions of secondary characters that pull the perspective away from the story at hand: “Though Vinnie wasn’t a natural fit with Jude and Corey, in real life these kinds of accidental friendships |

happened all the time.” For the most part, the author strikes the right tone in capturing Jude’s inner struggles with grief, angst and love as he tries to come to grips with the direction his life has taken. Solid. (Fiction. 12 & up)

ART IS EVERY DAY Activities for the Home, Park, Museum, and City

Prince, Eileen S. Zephyr (224 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-56976-715-3

Just add water (and a little paper, some crayons and pencils) for instant and inspiring art projects. This third art-education book by Prince is a deep well of resources for experienced teachers who want to supplement their existing curriculum or for a caregiver who is in search of a meaningful project to share with a child. Prince touches upon such topics as how to define art, how pervasive visual communication is in our world, and how vital it is that we become “bilingual” in the language of art. She also discusses the benefits of having students keep portfolios and the importance of honest criticism and praise when critiquing children’s artwork. Included is a concise and user-friendly overview of various elements and principles of art, such as contrast, texture and composition, as well as a beautifully simple discussion about color, including definitions of hue, value and intensity, and primary, complementary and tertiary colors. There are more than 65 easy-to-follow projects neatly divided into the activities’ environments: lessons for an afternoon in the city, the park, at the art museum or at home. The author even includes a referenced cross-index that lists the specific principles and elements taught in each project. Most lessons are, by design, suited for children as well as adults, and the supplies required are generally inexpensive and easily obtainable. Photographs and illustrations of the projects and principles add a visual dimension. Though not for the rank amateur, a handy resource for artistically minded teens and adults who work with children. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1075


k i r ku s q & a w i t h e r i c g r e i t e n s E r i c G r e i t e n s h a s made it his mission to take on challenges, and his life’s work is amazing and impressive—an action-adventurer/philanthropist/scholar’s dream. He taught English in China while still in college, learned to box in a nails-tough African-American gym in St. Louis, and worked as a volunteer with orphans in Bosnia and survivors of genocide in Rwanda. If all that isn’t enough, Greitens immersed himself in a Rhodes Scholarship before nearly drowning during a Navy SEAL training course. Greitens’ latest challenge was to adapt his bestselling memoir, The Heart and the Fist, for a teen audience in Warrior’s Heart. In our review, we noted that his “writing throughout is straightforward and effectively personalized, detailed yet unadorned; one would have to be mighty cynical to resist the power of Greitens’ experiences, and young Americans would benefit from contemplating his message.” They have an even greater chance of tuning in with this powerful excursion through a life that has been boldly lived, with purpose, decency and a great breath of compassion.

The Warrior’s Heart

Eric Greiten Houghton Mifflin (288 pp.) $16.99 Oct. 9, 2012 978-0-547-86852-3

Q: In Warrior’s Heart, you speak about managing your fear when you find yourself in difficult situations. Can you give an example of the strategy a SEAL might use to overcome the fear of patrolling the streets of Fallujah, Iraq? A: It’s easy to think about this question the wrong way. When the average person thinks about “patrolling the streets of Fallujah,” it fills them with fear, possibly even terror. Most of that fear is brought about by the fact that the experience is new for them, unknown and dangerous. SEALs train. And then they train more. And then they train more. Then, after that, they train again and then again. The process of building courage is not so much about “psyching oneself up” as some think of it, but about building true, deep confidence based on having overcome difficulties in the past. In the middle of a patrol, one’s adrenaline might spike, the heart rate might rush in a moment of danger, but even this has been trained for, and SEALs know—and to “know” is as much a physical and spiritual knowing, as a mental knowing—how to handle themselves in a situation like this.

A: Tom McCollough was one of my favorite teachers of ethics at Duke University, and he wrote a book on the moral imagination and public life. [He said,] “Moral imagination is energized and 1076

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

Q: You write that for your boxing mentor, Earl, “any location where people gathered to make themselves better,” including a ratty gym or a parking lot, “was a place or worship,” and that ordinary tasks could have the power of ritual. How do you see a sense of spirituality lending a hand in life’s progress? A: For me, spirituality speaks to a sense of using one’s talents and gifts to serve something beyond the self. It means having a purpose rooted outside the self. Spirituality also includes the simple act of giving thanks, which helps us to ground ourselves and focus on all that we are fortunate to have. Finally, a sense of spirituality can help us to see that there are things beyond our understanding. This encourages a sense of humility, a recognition that, as human beings, no matter how hard we’ve studied or how much we think we know, we never have all the answers. –By Peter Lewis

9 For the full interview, please visit kirkusreviews.com

kirkusreviews.com

|

p h oto © ch lo e c re s p i

Q: You present a number of parable-like scenarios that put the reader in just such trying situations. You ask them to decide what they would do. How do you imagine they will triangulate a way to an honest, honorable response?

expanded as we remember and reflect on…those experiences in which we empathize with others and find ways to meet their needs and take action on their behalf.” There are no perfect answers to the scenarios in the book. What I hope is that when teachers use this book in their classrooms, the scenarios will help kids to imagine, to trade ideas and to explore possible answers. As students exercise their moral imagination through these scenarios and put themselves in the shoes of another, they will expand their sense of the world and see their own place in it.


BURNING EMERALD

Reed, Jaime Dafina/Kensington (320 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-6925-6 Series: The Cambion Chronicles, 2 Adjusting to her new status as a Cambion and the rest of the fallout from Living Violet (2012), Samara learns just how complicated sharing a single body with an extra soul can be. Though she’s still grieving the loss of her friend Nadine, Samara thinks she’s getting a handle on living as a Cambion; she became a demon-hybrid when Nadine passed her succubus soul, Lilith, to Samara right before dying. While Nadine also transferred many of her memories, there are still unanticipated gaps in Samara’s Cambion knowledge, leading to bombshell revelations of important details that affect Samara’s life. These bits of information range from olive-oil intolerance to the concrete, permanent consequences should Samara ever consummate her relationship with fellow Cambion Caleb. That one in particular, along with other details of demonic puberty, showcases the drawbacks of being supernatural. The expansion of supernatural creatures and Cambion mythology is neatly knitted in with the other huge ramification of Lilith and Nadine’s hidden memories: Romantic baggage from Nadine/Lilith’s past coming back to haunt Samara, with potentially grave consequences for Caleb. The solid worldbuilding is complemented by Samara’s voice, which reads as more consistent and developed than in the earlier outing, and nuanced racial dynamics. The rock and the hard place Samara ends up trapped between stalls the plot temporarily, but a twist ending sets up the next book. The simultaneous broadening of world, story and character will please fans. (discussion questions) (Paranormal romance. 13-17)

FOOD AND FAITH

Reuben, Susan & Pelham, Sophie Frances Lincoln (48 pp.) $18.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-84507-986-4 Focusing on six children growing up in Britain, this photo-laden book provides a very brief introduction to the world’s major religious groups, customs related to holidays and services, and special foods. Today’s multicultural world is in great evidence as the Muslim family includes people of various ethnic backgrounds, and many in the Buddhism section are not Asian, including Francis, the narrator. Jacob highlights the Jewish Shabbat, as well as Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Purim and Passover. The meal described for the Muslim Eid ul Fitr is South Asian with Tandoori Chicken. The pakoras in the recipe section are also from South Asia, but there is no explanation that Muslims from other regions might eat different festive foods. Francesca’s Christingle, a recent |

Christmas symbol in the Anglican Church, will be of interest. Hinduism and Sikhism are also included. Recipes for one representative dish per religion are included at the back, with the exception of Buddhism, as the text concentrates on the custom of providing plain food to Buddhist monks and nuns. While the book conveys a lot of information, the layout is almost too busy. Photos of children, families, cooking implements, shops and foods are all attractive, but the intense backgrounds and many design elements overpower the photographs. Lot of food for thought and multicultural programming for schools, libraries and religious classes, despite its limitations and lack of sources. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 7-11)

WHAT TO DO IF AN ELEPHANT STANDS ON YOUR FOOT

Robinson, Michelle Illus. by Reynolds, Peter H. Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-8037-3398-5

The moral of this tongue-in-cheek instruction book is, Don’t Startle the Elephant. If, in the course of your explorations, an elephant stands on your foot, “keep calm,” lest you rouse the tiger, and then the rhino, snakes and crocodiles, requiring a rescue by monkeys. Our intrepid explorer (outfitted with safari vest, adventurer’s hat and binoculars) has one misadventure after another in this effective collaboration between words and pictures. Sharp-eyed readers will see the problems coming even before the reveal of the page turn. The narrator, whose helpful advice appears in the white above the cartoon-like illustrations, is not above saying “[t]old you so” and “don’t say I didn’t warn you.” While adults may want to remind the creators there are no tigers on the African savanna, the apparent setting for this romp­—why not a leopard or a lion?—children will happily go along with the story’s silliness. Reynolds’ traveler bears a strong resemblance to his rendition of Judy Moody. His Horton-like elephant is particularly appealing, his tiger and alligators especially toothy, and the monkeys downright manic. The humor of these watercolor drawings fits the exaggeration of the storyline nicely. When the ending suggests that the story is starting over, listeners will be happy to hear it again. This is Robinson’s first published picture book, but others are in the pipeline. A promising launch. (Picture book. 4-8)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1077


“Readers are carried aloft by Rusch’s exciting, clear prose and the rovers’ exceptional photos sent Earthside.” from the mighty mars rovers

RUNNING WITH TRAINS

Rosen, Michael J. Wordsong/Boyds Mills (112 pp.) $15.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59078-863-9

The differing worlds of two boys come together in this intriguing novel in poems set in rural Ohio. Rosen, a talented poet with a penchant for haiku (The Hound Dog’s Haiku, 2011, etc.), here stretches in a more narrative form to show a slightly older crowd that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. The story begins as 13-year-old Perry makes the train trip from his grandmother’s for his weekly visit with his mother. Captured by the farm landscape flying by his window, Perry notes that “Nothing’s for keeps,” and longs for more permanence in what feels like a very transitory life. He is waiting for his father, missing in action in Vietnam, to return; for his sister, who’s left the fold to promote world peace, to respond to his letters; for his mother to finish nursing school so they can resume the life they knew prior to his father’s going to war. Watching that same train, whose tracks bisect his family’s farm, is 9-year-old Steve, who feels trapped by the constancy of his doting parents and farm chores and wishes he could ride that train to exotic locales, recognizing all the while, though, that “coming home has to be a part / of going away.” Cows straying from Steve’s pasture bring the two boys together briefly for a reality check, but mostly the novel’s poems alternate between the voices of these young foils, adding a refreshing immediacy to their intimate reflections on home life and the nature of happiness. A thoughtful, beautifully image-laden tale of learning how to appreciate what one has. (Poetry. 11 & up)

THE MIGHTY MARS ROVERS The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity Rusch, Elizabeth Houghton Mifflin (80 pp.) $18.99 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-0-547-47881-4

What’s it like to explore Mars? Did life ever exist on Earth’s red neighbor? To find out, readers need only soar along with this enthralling account of the adventures of two rovers designed to seek evidence on Mars of water that could have once supported life. Expected to last three months, the indefatigable Spirit and Opportunity incredibly carried out their missions for more than six years. In the process, lead scientist Steve Squyres and his team learned more about and probed more terrain on Mars than anyone before. Readers are carried aloft by Rusch’s exciting, clear prose and the rovers’ exceptional photos sent Earthside. Along with the team, young people celebrate every thrilling moment of success—yes, there once was water on 1078

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

Mars!—and accept failures and disappointments. This is edgeof-your-seat reading as the author explains how setbacks were handled. Readers are not only drawn in by the dedication, hard work and emotions of the people involved, but they will also, like the scientists themselves, feel proprietary toward the rovers—and, fortunately, there’s an update about them. One quibble: the ample backmatter has little specifically for children. Another stellar outing in the consistently excellent Scientists in the Field series. How extraordinary to visit Mars in Spirit; readers will be very glad of the Opportunity. (sources, chapter notes, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

NANNY PIGGINS AND THE WICKED PLAN

Spratt, R.A. Illus. by Santat, Dan Little, Brown (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-316-19923-0 Series: Nanny Piggins, 2

If Amelia Bedelia and Mary Poppins raised a piglet, Nanny Piggins...could surely beat that pig in a cake-eating contest. Australia’s favorite porcine childcare worker returns in a new collection of adventures sure to entertain and possibly inspire envy in readers who’ll wish she were their nanny. In the first tale, Nanny Piggins, former circus performer and abject worshipper of cake, and her charges, the three Green children (not to mention Nanny’s brother, the dancing bear Boris), thwart the wicked plan of Mr. Green, penny-pinching tax attorney and father of the kids, to find a wife who’ll do Nanny’s job for free. Nanny does jury duty, and the jurors fall so deeply in love with her baking they conspire to lengthen the trial by never agreeing. She turns a game of pirates into a tunnel to China (to sample authentic Chinese food) only to end up breaking into a men’s prison...even that doesn’t end where one would expect. She fends off egotistical armadillos, gypsy queens and Buzzy Bee cookie salesgirls while making sure the children don’t spend too much time in school. Santat’s energetic, expressive and silly line drawings are the delectable icing on this confection. Feisty, funny Nanny Piggins and her adoring charges will charm readers and listeners stateside, who’ll be overjoyed there are five additional volumes already out Down Under. (Humor. 7-10)

kirkusreviews.com

|


SAILING TO FREEDOM

Stiles, Martha Bennett Henry Holt (256 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-8050-9238-7

A rebellious Massachusetts boy finds himself caught up in the Underground Railroad. Deemed still too young to join the crew of his father’s clipper ship, 12-year old Ray and his pet monkey, Allie, are left with his miserly Uncle Slye when his mother has to tend an ailing relative. Less than 24 hours later, Ray runs away to join the crew of Uncle Thad’s schooner, which is making a run up the coast to Canada. Ray’s heard rumors of stowaways, and he’s smart enough to connect them with the new Fugitive Slave Act, which says that anyone caught helping runaway slaves will be imprisoned. Uncle Thad’s cook is a former slave, but he has free papers—so why is he being so secretive? Allie’s constant mischief leads Ray to discover Cook’s infant granddaughter, hidden in the pantry. When slave-catchers board the boat, Ray’s quick thinking earns him a real place on the crew. Stiles intersperses Ray’s first-person narration with short third-person accounts of the baby’s brother, Ogun, and mother as they make their way north through swamps and forests, aided by members of the Underground Railroad. While enlightening, Ogun’s story is too choppy to be fully engaging. Occasionally the monkey’s antics wear thin, but Ray’s character is appealing, and the plot propels itself forward with storms, sharks and other seaborne perils. Adventuresome and enjoyable, even if it breaks little new ground. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

THIS IS NOT A TEST

Summers, Courtney St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-312-65674-4 A girl wants to commit suicide, but she’s caught in the zombie apocalypse with a group that’s trying to survive in this intriguing psychological thriller. It takes some artistic guts to set a portrayal of a suicidal teenager amid attacking zombies, but Summers has a history of risky choices (Fall for Anything, 2010, etc.). Sloane was left trapped in her severely abusive home when her older sister, Lily, escaped. When the zombies attack, Sloane joins a group of her fellow students who take refuge in their high school, a building built almost like a prison. They barricade the doors and live off food from the cafeteria and water stored on the roof. Yet, although the zombie threat keeps tension high, Summers’ focus remains on Sloane and the group of teens hiding in the school. The teen suffers from the betrayal she feels from Lily, while the others jockey for dominance and squabble over perceived ills done to them by others in the group. As events |

proceed, the teens make real decisions about life and death, while Sloane looks toward a possible reunion with Lily. Readers never learn why zombies attacked; they are kept in the moment by Sloane’s first-person, present-tense account. The focus stays on the personalities and on Sloane’s struggle with her emotions and her own decision to live or to die. Unusual and absorbing. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Tarshis, Lauren Illus. by Dawson, Scott Scholastic (112 pp.) $16.99 | paper $4.99 | $4.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-545-20693-8 978-0-545-20700-3 paperback 978-0-545-44299-2 e-book Series: I Survived, 6 A terrified 11-year-old gets an “extremely loud and incredibly close” view of the World Trade Center attacks in this disaster series’ latest entry. Thoroughly bummed at having to drop football in the wake of his third concussion, Lucas cuts school for the lower Manhattan firehouse where beloved “Uncle” Benny—his firefighter father’s colleague and closest friend—is stationed. He arrives just as the first plane does, and hearing that all firefighters have been summoned to the scene, he sets out to find Benny and his dad. Supplemented by occasional staid but realistic scenes from Dawson, Tarshis effectively captures not only the sequence of events and the pervasive confusion and shock as the catastrophe develops, but also its gargantuan scale. Though the author plays with readers’ sympathies in the final chapter with a needless red herring, in general she crafts a dramatic, emotionally intense tale that takes account of 9/11’s physical and emotional costs—short- and long-term—while ending on an upward beat. Though not yet born in 2001, the intended audience will come away feeling more connected to the tragedy and aware of its historical significance. (afterword, timeline) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

Tashjian, Janet Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (288 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-8050-9365-0 A music-obsessed teen in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon begins to connect the songs he loves to world events. In 1971, Quinn enjoys a sweet life. His family counts Mama Cass Elliott and Carole King as friends, and he can spend every dime on an impressive collection of some of the greatest albums pressed to

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1079


vinyl. Quinn’s taste and knowledge are as eclectic as they are rigorous—he loves Frank Zappa, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Aretha Franklin and Nick Drake with equal gusto—and music permeates his every waking thought, including the thematic lists and columns he publishes in his high school newspaper. While the endless stream of musical and historical references places the action very firmly in 1971-72 and showcases Tashjian’s flawless research, it also threatens to overwhelm the narrative, which is itself overstuffed. Too many pages call attention to historical details such as the cancellation of Star Trek or the passage of the 26th Amendment, ejecting readers from the story. They may have a hard time caring about Quinn’s humorously awkward first romance with Caroline, his Ouija-board–based communication with the spirits of Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin, or his developing political consciousness regarding the draft and the brutalities of the Vietnam War. Young readers will discover some wonderful music, but only if they’re prepared to wade through a stultifying thicket of social and cultural references. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

LIFE HAPPENS NEXT

Trueman, Terry Harper/HarperCollins (144 pp.) $17.99 | PLB $18.89 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-06-202803-7 978-0-06-202805-1 PLB Trueman skates the edge of fantasy as he puts readers’ hearts through a workout in this sequel to Stuck in Neutral (2000). Shawn is completely locked out of his physical body by cerebral palsy, but inside he’s a smart, sarcastic and (generally) emotionally stable 14-year-old. He takes up his narrative only days after surviving his well-meaning father’s aborted mercy killing (Cruise Control, 2004) and hasty departure. He’s already past that, though. Between rapturous affirmations that he’s developed “over-thetop, teenaged-love-junkie, mac-daddy-extreme hotz” for his sister’s BF Ally and more dispassionate descriptions of diaper changes, he notes with mixed feelings the arrival of his mother’s cousin Debi, a newly orphaned adult with Down syndrome, and her large and excitable dog, Rusty. Inspired by real members of the author’s family, Debi and Shawn are characters whose conditions are portrayed with credible accuracy—but who also display enough self-awareness, emotional range and human insight to lift them well past any sort of typecasting. On the other hand, unlike the rest of Shawn’s loving family, Debi and even Rusty somehow turn out to be able to tell what’s going on in his head, and in a further credulity-straining development, Debi shows up, disability free, in his dreams after a sudden loss. A winning central and supporting cast provide strong compensation for a plot that seems overly worked and too tidily resolved. (afterword) (Fiction. 11-14)

1080

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

GRIM

Waggener, Anna Scholastic (320 pp.) $17.99 | $17.99 e-book | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-545-38480-3 978-0-545-41519-4 e-book As a human family tussles against bitter seraphim in the underworld, misery runs constant—never waning, never tempered. Waggener’s debut opens with a cryptic prologue by mother-of-three Erika. A car accident sends Erika to the underworld, accompanied by Jeremiah, an adult rogue (neither seraph nor human). Jeremiah refuses to explain anything, including whether Erika’s dead. He mutters arcane things and snaps when Erika doesn’t understand. That this motif, of a controlling male who keeps a woman in the dark, is common doesn’t make it any less infuriating; that Erika falls for Jeremiah is predictable as well. What makes no sense is Erika’s demand that her children join her—as if people could travel to Limbo alive and unharmed. She visits them in dreams, unconcerned that those dream-visits are nightmares to them. Erika’s 17-year-old and 18-year-old sometimes narrate as the unrelentingly dismal plot moves through drowning, stabbings, metaphorical rape and breathless chases. The youngest child dies more than once. Generations-long sourness infuses both Erika’s family (alcoholism, abuse) and the seraphim (marital infidelity and a bastard child; black pages with white font tell Jeremiah’s parents’ thread). Limbo is a city slum. Moreover, although youngadult literature has no cemented definition, casting two of four protagonists as adults—Erika’s in her 30s—firmly removes this particular text from teen concerns. Grim indeed, without respite, often without rhyme or reason. (Horror. 16 & up)

HEART OF STONE

Welsh, M.L. David Fickling/Random (416 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-385-75243-5 978-0-375-89916-4 e-book 978-0-385-75242-8 PLB When Verity and her friends destroyed the Mistress (Mistress of the Storm, 2011), they thought peace had been restored. However, the sands are sifting. The Mistress, they discover, was as merciless to her own family as to humans. Providing the background, Welsh inserts a tale of love and deception as compelling as any fairy tale: Jealous of her sister’s devoted lover, the Mistress had tricked and crushed the Earth Witch, hiding her heart and thus keeping her scattered. With the Mistress gone, the Earth Witch is gathering her millions of pieces, bent on unleashing her revenge on all. The descriptions of the hissing, invasive sand are eerie. The Earth Witch is attempting to scrub

kirkusreviews.com

|


“Grouped in sequential panels teeming with expressively drawn cartoon figures and framed within finely patterned borders, the illustrations glow with bright colors and brisk energy.” from the elephant’s friend

out all the happy stories stored under the library in a secret room. They, in particular, librarian Miss Cameron explains, “keep things as we know them to be.” If the premise is a bit weak, the action is not. Verity is threatened by a deranged teacher— the Earth Witch’s servant—as the two race to find the Earth Witch’s heart. As before, the setting is well-drawn, and Verity’s loyal friends, including her romantic interest, are by her side, providing easy banter even as the situation becomes dire. With a final plot twist as shattering as an earthquake, the Earth Witch’s story comes to its tragic conclusion. A story sure to grip readers by the heart. (Fantasy. 8-12)

ENDLESSLY

White, Kiersten HarperTeen (400 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-06-198588-1 Fashion-conscious Evie continues her fight for paranormal creatures’ freedom and rights (Paranormalcy, 2010, etc.). Evie’s adventures will make little sense to readers unfamiliar with the earlier books in this trilogy. Characters from the first two books reappear, including Reth and Jack, both baddies from the middle book, Supernaturally (2010), but this time they seem to be helping. Or are they? Evie’s dishy boyfriend, Lend, is cursed to fall asleep in her presence for a good portion of the book, limiting the romance somewhat, but at least he presents her with a fantastic magical birthday party as a present before nodding off. The details of the plot are not logical or important, but Evie’s voice amuses, as when she describes prom: “Reth kidnapping me, confronting Vivian and almost killing her, nearly sucking the soul out of Lend…yeah, prom hadn’t been quite what I’d hoped.” Unfortunately, the device that truly distinguished the earlier books, Evie’s disconcertingly funny transitions from cool teen chick to supernatural fighter and back, is largely missing here. Fans will like knowing who all the creatures are by name, but newcomers will wish for a cast of characters. Ending the trilogy, White leaves some space for further adventures while tying most loose ends into pretty bows. Modestly inventive but a bit of a letdown. (Paranormal romance. 10 & up)

|

THE ELEPHANT’S FRIEND And Other Tales from Ancient India

Williams, Marcia Illus. by Williams, Marcia Candlewick (40 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-7636-5916-5

Eight animal tales highlighting the value of cleverness and the hazards of greed are retold in Williams’ signature breezy style. In the most familiar, “The Monkey and the Crocodile,” she exonerates Crocodile (partially, at least) by endowing him with a nagging wife who demands Monkey’s heart. In other tales, a golden bangle tempts an unwary traveler into the jaws of a “Scrawny Old Tiger,” a kind “Golden Swan” ends up completely plucked after giving a feather to a needy but ungrateful woman, a canny rabbit convinces a “Foolish Lion” that a reflection at the bottom of a well is a rival lion, and, in the title story, a close if unlikely friendship that develops between a royal elephant and a stray dog survives a separation attempt. Grouped in sequential panels teeming with expressively drawn cartoon figures and framed within finely patterned borders, the illustrations glow with bright colors and brisk energy. Dropping in the occasional multisyllabic proper name for atmosphere and adding further zing with waggish side comments (“Maybe I could eat a reader instead!” mutters Crocodile’s disappointed wife), Williams relates each fable economically and keeps the tone lighthearted even in the face of fatal consequences. Readers, wary or otherwise, could do far worse than dive into these witty, spirited renditions. (no source notes) (Graphic folktales. 8-11)

ALL THESE LIVES

Wylie, Sarah Farrar, Straus and Giroux (256 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-374-30208-5 Surely a girl with nine lives can spare one or even a few for her leukemia-stricken twin sister, right? Ever since Danielle and her mother survived a horrific car crash, her mother has made her “nine lives” part of the family legend. Now 16, she’s used only a couple. Wracked with guilt that she is not a donor match for a bone-marrow transplant for her sister, Dani has been turning off and acting out. When Jena seems to improve after Dani, drunk, drowns by accident (six lives left), Dani becomes more purposeful. As her lives count down, she marks time by bullying nerdy Jack in math class and desultorily auditioning for a toothpaste commercial (her mom’s dream, not hers). Her real preoccupation is the seismic shift Jena’s illness has wrought upon her family. Her mother has become a cancer expert, her father has taken up smoking again, and the formerly athletic Jena just holes up in her room

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1081


“Among the most historically and culturally significant battles ever fought, Marathon gets righteous due—and so does its greatest hero.” from marathon

when she’s not at the hospital or getting chemo. Brilliantly, Dani’s chillingly acute present-tense narration doesn’t provide much in the way of exposition or back story but lodges readers directly in Dani’s grindingly miserable present, giving them glimpses of the smart, funny girl she used to be. Though it breaks little new ground, it is a tight, even gripping chronicle of the way one girl grapples with domestic catastrophe. (Fiction. 12 & up)

MARATHON

Yakin, Boaz Illus. by Infurnari, Joe First Second/Roaring Brook (192 pp.) $16.99 paperback | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-59643-680-0 Retold in Expressionistic blurs of action, this account of the battle of Marathon chronicles at once a glorious win for the underdogs and an awe-inspiring personal achievement. Cruel Hippias, former king of Athens, is on his way back with a huge army of Persians to reclaim the throne and crush Athenian democracy. As the city’s squabbling and much smaller forces hustle to meet the invaders, Eucles, Athens’ best runner, is charged to race the 153 miles to Sparta in hope of finding an ally. Battling heat, sun, bandits and pursuing enemy troops, Eucles makes the trek, then makes it in reverse with the dismaying news that the Spartans will not be coming in time. He joins the savage fight and then runs 26 more miles over rugged mountains to Athens—dying on arrival but not before both announcing the victory and warning of an impending surprise attack by sea. Using sepia washes to indicate present time and black and white for flashbacks, Infurnari fills patchwork panels with glimpses of rugged faces, slashing swords and jumbles of martial action with “KLAK” “CHK!” sound effects. Yakin draws from ancient historical and legendary sources but adds invented incidents to round out Eucles’ character and elevated dialogue to heighten the epic atmosphere: “The gods have laid a feast both bitter and sweet before me.” Among the most historically and culturally significant battles ever fought, Marathon gets righteous due—and so does its greatest hero. (Graphic historical fiction. 12-15)

QUENTIN BLAKE’S MAGICAL TALES

Yeoman, John Illus. by Blake, Quentin Pavilion/Trafalgar (112 pp.) $19.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-84365-155-0

Although some of the motifs will certainly be familiar—three princes, evil stepmothers, ogres—most of these complicated and often bloodthirsty stories are not. Yeoman does not offer any sources, although he says in the introduction that they come from all over the world. A quick search reveals that “The Blue Belt” is Norwegian and that “Prince Baki and the White Doe” is Tibetan, but it would have been good to know that from the volume itself. Not all of the tales have happy endings or completely resolved storylines, either. In “The Princes’ Gifts,” the beautiful maiden cannot choose among the three and shuts herself up in a tower, as do the bereft princes. Females in general tend to the dark side: “The Old Man and the Jinni” features a nagging wife who is left down a well; the maker of “The Magic Cakes” gets turned into a donkey, as she has done to others (but she is allowed to resume her own form later and is never heard from again). The pictures, full-page color and vignettes in blackand-white wash, are full of spirit and energy, their vivacious line drawing the eye again and again—the stories, however, may not be such a draw. (Folktales. 8-12)

MADELEINE’S LIGHT

Ziarnik, Natalie Illus. by Dunn, Robert Boyds Mills (32 pp.) $17.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59078-855-4

A well-meaning picture-book debut features an episode from the life of a 19th-century artist. Ziarnik’s fascination with Camille Claudel, the pioneering French academic sculptor and protégé of Rodin, led to this brief, stiffly imagined encounter between Claudel and her real-life child-muse, Madeleine Boyer, during a sojourn at Madeleine and her grandmother’s country house. This little girl inspired Claudel’s iconic sculpture La Petite Châtelaine (The Little Lady). The determined and beautiful artist sculpts the child while kindly guiding the child’s creation of a little clay bird for her Grandmère. Though backmatter refers to Claudel’s “passionate temperament,” there is precious little earthiness or intensity here. Dunn’s accompanying art is an awkwardly composed succession of domestic watercolor tableaux that owe more to Disney than Millet. Annoyingly, Dunn depicts the three female characters with coiffures featuring escaping, wispy hair tendrils—presumably a shorthand for their preoccupation with art and housewifely duty. Worse, the closing spread of Claudel’s leave-taking is almost impossible to decode visually: Claudel is actually pressing a lump of clay and sculpting tools into the child’s hands. Unfortunately this slim slice of Claudel’s life makes for a prim little picture book; both story and art are suffused with greeting-card optimism and sentimental speculation. (Picture book. 5-7)

Quentin Blake’s magical, whimsical illustrations are the best raison d’être for this eclectic and unsourced collection of stories. 1082

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

kirkusreviews.com

|


ROBIN, WHERE ARE YOU?

Ziefert, Harriet Illus. by Woods, Noah Blue Apple (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 25, 2012 978-1-60905-192-1

Lucy goes birding with her grandfather, learning to use binoculars and identifying many birds before they finally

find a robin. In this unlikely bird-watching trip, the pair see common birds such as mourning doves and Canada geese and surprising birds such as a pileated woodpecker and Eastern screech owl, all before they find a robin’s nest and then the robin. The simple sentences of the text seem designed for early readers, who may also be intrigued by the flip-out additions to the pages. These reveal the birds and supply an interesting fact about each one. Wood’s colorful illustrations are primitive in style but capture the birds’ silhouettes and color schemes. Experienced birders would have no trouble identifying the 15 birds introduced, although they might be astonished at the uniformity of the pigeons. Curiously, though mallards are prominently featured among the birds at the pond and also in the fold-out quiz at the end (no answers provided), they are left nameless. Inexcusably, towhee is misspelled as “t w o h e e” twice. Readers in western states should know that a number of these birds are not found west of the Rockies. Better options for encouraging young birders include Carol L. Malnor, Sandy F. Fuller and Louise Schroeder’s The Blues Go Birding (2010), Joanne Ryder and Susan Estelle Kwas’ Wild Birds (2003), Jim Arnosky’s Crinkleroot’s 25 Birds Every Child Should Know (1993) or Cathryn and John Sill’s About Birds (1991). Skip this one. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

interactive e-books THE GREAT GALACTIC JOURNEY OF ZULU, BOB AND PIXIE

Ascend NetSolutions SRL Ascend NetSolutions SRL $1.99 | Mar. 6, 2012 1.0; Mar. 6, 2012

A silly, out-of-order tour of the solar system’s planets provides a pretext for poking passing meteors (to make them explode) and aliens or robots (to make them squeak). Big whoop. Making no more sense read silently than by a heavily accented narrator, the badly rhymed text starts off: “Three fantastic friends start their adventure, / for they really are bored |

in a platonic venture.” It continues on through misinformative introductions to Neptune (“Its clouds are white but stride”) and “[t]he big, fat Saturn and its asteroid belt” to encounters with ghosts on “Jupiter’s [nonexistent] surface” and Martians living in “muddy jars.” In the cartoon art, the planets, drawn as big smiley faces, appear behind aliens and small items that will twitch, chirp or otherwise respond anemically to taps as sprightly circus or generic space-age music plays in the background. The misnamed “galactic journey” comes to a protracted end as the titular trio of robot tourists take three frames to approach and then land on Earth. Space trash worth not even a first look, much less repeat visits. (iPad storybook app. 5-7)

WELCOME TO MONSTER ISLE

Chin, Oliver Illus. by Miracola, Jeff Mobad Games $4.99 | Mar. 14, 2012 1.0; Mar. 14, 2012 An undistinguished story with plodding text and clashing interactions tries to walk the line between humor and horror and doesn’t succeed very well at either. The Summers family takes a ride on the boat Lollipop on their vacation, but the weather goes bad, and they wash up on a creepy island with an angry volcano monster at its center. They split up into two groups and encounter strange, fantastical creatures like a Quetzalcoatl (winged snake), a Zillard (firebreathing lizard) and a Catoblepas (horned, armored beast). The castaways seem doomed until one of the kids trips, accidentally dislodging a tree that has been stuck in the mountain’s foot like a splinter. The volcano becomes happy, the clouds clear and a rainbow appears. “Quickly, Man and beast became pals. They played, picnicked, and paraded about.” The app includes a plethora of features. Tilting the device hints at an unimpressive 3-D effect. Occasional starbursts appear on the screen, and if they’re touched quickly, a Halloween jack-o’-lantern appears with a creepy laugh and trail of black smoke. The characters have their own sound effects and animations, which sometimes interfere with the ability to activate the jack-o’-lanterns. There is a map icon on each page, and periodically a message appears that the viewer has “unlocked” a piece of the map, although the map doesn’t appear to change when that happens. Tropical illustrations and cheerful music are at odds with the scary creatures and sound effects, making for a less-than-cohesive experience. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1083


WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR Storybook 1

Cranford, Darren Keyframe Digital Productions Mar. 7, 2012 Series: Peggy’s Little Harbour, 1 1.2; Mar. 7, 2012

A saccharine tale about a little girl and her animal friends is further marred by inharmonious narration. Peggy and her dog, Droolie, a Newfoundland, live with her grandmother in a lighthouse in a small town by the ocean. Peggy wants to do something nice for Nanny, so she and Droolie head off to the blueberry patch to pick her some blueberries. There, they meet a beaver whose home has been crushed by a fallen tree. Peggy plays a violin to call her animal friends—a puffin, moose, lynx and bear—to use their various abilities to help the beaver, and then they all help Peggy pick blueberries. Peggy and her grandmother look like appealing little Lego figures, with squarish heads and bodies that look like they’ve been assembled with small plastic pieces. The illustrations have a 3-D effect that is enhanced when the screen is tilted. The fiddle music is lively and enjoyable, but the text and narration are painful, with a jerky cadence and forced volume. Additional effects are limited to animations and sound effects for the characters. Extras include “Peggy’s Theme Song” and a short video that is much more appealing than the main app story. The fiddle music is just about the only element in tune in this humdrum effort. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

PETER PAN

Disney Publishing Worldwide Disney Publishing Worldwide Applications $3.99 | Mar. 8, 2012 Series: Disney Classics, 1.2; Mar. 29, 2012 So scanty is this condensation of the tale’s 1953 Disney version that the mermaids, the Indians (except for Tiger Lily) and even the crocodile make only cameo appearances—but there are plenty of interactive side features to compensate, along with art that looks like it came from a contemporary adaptation. Enhanced by panning scenes, vigorous sword fights and occasional touch-activated animations, the pictures—rich in color and action, and done in an evocative period style—are the chief attraction. The text appears piecemeal and runs to lines like, “When Tinker Bell discovered Hook’s plan, she felt awful!” and, “…with happy thoughts, faith, trust and pixie dust, away flew the pirate ship.” Readers can view it silently or listen to either an avuncular narrator or a self-recorded version (with further personalization offered by uploading a photo onto a digital “bookplate” at the beginning). Children who aren’t being held by the skeletal plot will find scattered icons that lead to coloring 1084

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

pages, jigsaw puzzles, memory-matching games and a digital panpipe. A sure annoyance to most readers, though possibly helpful for those with profound attention issues, is the fact that touching or even swiping past any character at any time calls up both an audio and a floating visual ID that unnecessarily labels the characters (“Wendy”; “Peter Pan”; “Pirate”). Thin soup, but perhaps useful as a prelude to seeing the film for the first time or as a keepsake afterward. (iPad movie storybook app. 4-6)

THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN

The Brothers Grimm Illus. by Oberdieck, Bernhard Mark Holme $3.99 | Mar. 14, 2012 1.0; Mar. 14, 2012

A disappointingly flawed version of the classic Brothers Grimm tale. The storyline in this effort sticks quite close to the original: An aging donkey, dog, cat and rooster all flee from their abusive masters. After a couple of encounters with human thieves, the animals settle in a cottage where they live happily ever after (though they never make it to Bremen). Oberdieck’s lovely illustrations are bathed in warm, muted tones, making the artwork by far the app’s greatest asset. The technological elements are almost all illogical or only marginally functional, though. There’s a story map that corresponds to numbered sections, but it takes far too long to decipher. Interaction is scant and repetitious. The most problematic issue is the “record me reading” feature. Small signs at the bottom of each screen labeled “page” and “paragraph” record the reader’s voice when tapped, but they are activated for predetermined segment lengths (which are not communicated to the reader), and there’s no clear play-back control. There are a few other worthwhile elements, but they’re hopelessly lost in the myriad technological and navigational quandaries. The developers would do well to either give this app a major overhaul or put it out to pasture. (iPad storybook app. 4-7)

FLIP Interactive Storybook

Hackett, Jill Grids Interactive $3.99 | Mar. 23, 2012 1.1; Apr. 5, 2012

An eye-pleasing, imaginative ride through a dark pop-up–book world that’s unfortunately too choppy and short to

truly take flight. In a paper city where everything is attached to the storybook by paper tabs, a girl named Emma manages to free herself and go on an adventure by tearing the tab on a hot air balloon. Text and narration along the way tells readers what they already see in the

kirkusreviews.com

|


“The overall effect of the design makes the digital book an art object in itself.” from horse magic

illustrations, that “[t]he fields were vast” and that “[t]he forest was dangerous.” Even riskier are a paper tornado and a hole in the sky, the literal “The End” that would complete Emma’s tale. She backtracks, terrified, and is able to get back on paper ground and make a home for herself among the pop-up buildings. For such a beautifully animated app, it’s a shame that the story itself is so brief, lacking detailed twists and turns. The app also insists that readers interact with it only on its terms. Readers are instructed to “Tear!” “Jump!” “Tap!” in specific, purple-colored spots, and the story stops until the commands are obeyed. It stops the flow of the story cold and makes it feel more like operating a remote control than a fully formed iPad storybook. Emma’s world is neat, if a little grim, in concept, but without narrative development, it’s as paper-thin as Emma’s pop-up surroundings. (iPad storybook app. 5-10)

HORSE MAGIC

Hapka, Cathy Bookerella and Story Worldwide (110 pp.) $1.99 | Mar. 26, 2012 1; Mar. 26, 2012 An interactive introduction to three female friends linked by their love of horses and a fantastical adventure. When summer vacation starts with a downpour, Shelby, Annalee and Cammie, all 12, are challenged to amuse themselves in the barn at Crooked Creek Stables, which is owned by Shelby’s mom. Boredom has set in when an unfamiliar gray horse with a magical mark on his neck appears both in the story and as an image that slowly materializes on the screen. Despite many warnings about the dangers of an unfamiliar animal, Annalee rides the horse, which they name Magic, and her friends follow alongside as he leads them back in time to a medieval adventure. Each girl bonds with the horse, and their individual interactions showcase their distinct personalities and provide a brief window into their lives. Leveraging the digital format, the text includes high-quality sound effects such as falling rain, hoofbeats and a variety of nature sounds, which not only flesh out the immediate situation, but are well-timed to enhance rather than distract from the overall reading experience. Images, mostly of Magic, are used sparingly, maintaining a pleasing rhythm with the text. Each “page” appears to be made of a warm homemade paper edged by greenery, such as ivy and clover, that changes with the flow of the text. The overall effect of the design makes the digital book an art object in itself. Well-used technology paired nicely with solid characters make this a promising series opener. (iPad fantasy app. 8-10)

|

LITTLE LOST RABBIT FINDS A FAMILY

Lemniscates iLUBUC $2.99 1.0; Mar. 31, 2012

An abandoned bunny doesn’t stay homeless for long in this understated, simply illustrated import. Venturing out into “their” vegetable patch with baskets under their arms one day, the Bunnybig family hears loud noises (“CATACRACK, CRASH, CRASH!”). Investigating, they see the neighboring rabbits being run off by tractors. Spotting a droopy refugee on the other side of the garden fence the next morning, the littlest Bunnybig quickly enlists help from everyone to dig a hole and to adopt a new Bunnybig into the clan. In the spare art, which looks like cut-paper collage with bits of added brushwork, a tap activates twitching bunny ears or a drifting cloud, makes figures move a few inches or nibble on a carrot, along with like restrained animations. Optionally read by a sympathetic narrator, the equally spare text is available in English, Spanish or Catalan. Though navigation isn’t as seamless as it might be—touching small carrots in the lower corners moves the story ahead or back, but an unlabeled sun in the middle flips the story back to the opening screen, willy-nilly—and at just 12 scenes, the tale seems barely begun before it’s done, the overall feeling of warmth and welcome will leave all but the most hardhearted audiences smiling. Brief, but loaded with appeal for younger readers and pre-readers. (iPad storybook app. 3-5)

IRON MAN MARK VII

Loud Crow Interactive Loud Crow Interactive Apr. 11, 2012 Series: Marvel’s The Avengers, 1.2; Apr. 17, 2012 Punctuated by driving beats of melodramatic background music and blasts of weapons fire, Tony Stark works on successive iterations of his Iron Man armor while facing villains from his earlier solo films in this digital minicomic. Designed as a bridge between the Iron Man movies and the upcoming Avengers flick—and ending abruptly with a teaser for the latter—the app comprises 16 comics-style tableaux. Each one consists of multiple frames that either shift perspective slightly or allow for the inclusion of insets that extend the story. They set Stark in his lab or out battling terrorists, robotic “Hammer drones” and other previously met foes. Along with optional audio narration of Stark’s pithy quips (“No, Dummy! Only if I’m actually on fire, okay?”), each scene not only features a selection of high-tech zaps, zings and like touch-activated sound effects, but the voice-over will obligingly, if pointlessly, repeat any tapped word in the dialogue balloons. It’s all smooth and

kirkusreviews.com

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

15 may 2012

|

1085


“An invitation to play that lacks the simplicity of its print forebear but has its own charms.” from press here

slick, but it’s limited by the source material, which is rather less thrilling as a movie tie-in than as a movie. Straight marketing fluff that offers a gallery of highlights in place of a storyline and is just worth its price (free). (iPad movie tie-in app. 9-12)

PRESS HERE The App

continuing series UNDERWORLD Abandon, #2

WILD QUEEN The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots The Young Royals, #7

Cabot, Meg Point/Scholastic (336 pp.) $17.99 | e-book $17.99 May 8, 2012 ISBN: 978-0-545-28411-0 e-book: 978-0-545-41507-1 (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

Tullet, Hervé Illus. by Tullet, Hervé Chronicle $1.99 1.0; Apr. 11, 2012

Extending the bestselling print version’s ingeniously interactive contents, this somewhat overheated app offers 15 challengingly abstract games built on unevenly colored, frenetically spinning dots and circles in various primary hues. Other than the title page/publication information and a labeled “Return to Home” icon that appears when the screen is not touched for several seconds, the only text is the sometimes unhelpfully allusive (“Yum Yum”?) game titles hidden beneath rows of dots on the contents screen. Users are left to discover for themselves in each game whether their tap-created dots will fall or fly, change color or explode, make noise or draw lines—or even respond differently (as many do) with successive touches. In addition, the dots in “Studio” and “Rain” are tilt-responsive, though similar arrays in other games are not, which may cause confusion (for adult players at least). The jiggling “keys” lined up in “Free Play” not only chime single musical notes (or cacophonous noises, depending on the color) when touched, but can be knocked against one another with a swipe for more complex compositions. Though too much exposure to the flickering visuals may cause overstimulation (or headaches), young children comprise only part of the audience that will find all this abstract, experimental play beguiling. An invitation to play that lacks the simplicity of its print forebear but has its own charms. (iPad game app. 4 & up)

Meyer, Carolyn Harcourt (384 pp.) $16.99 | June, 19 2012 ISBN: 978-0-15-206188-3 (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

DANCING DIVA Sugar Plum Ballerinas, #6

WARRIORS AND WAILERS One Hundred Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled Jobs in History

Goldberg, Whoopi & Underwood, Deborah Illus. by Roos, Maryn Disney Jump at the Sun (160 pp.) $16.99 | May 8, 2012 ISBN: 978-1-4231-2084-1 (Fiction. 6-10)

Tsiang, Sarah Illus. by Newbigging, Martha Annick (96 pp.) $25.95 | paper $16.95 June 1, 2012 ISBN: 978-1-55451-391-8 Paper: 978-1-55451-390-1 (Nonfiction. 9-12)

BODY & SOUL The Ghost and the Goth, #3

Kade, Stacey Disney Hyperion (320 pp.) $16.99 | May 1, 2012 ISBN: 978-1-4231-3466-4 (Paranormal. 12 & up)

This Issue’s Contributors # Kim Becnel • Elizabeth Bird • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Sophie Brookover • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Julie Cummins • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Carol Edwards • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Melinda Greenblatt • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Megan Lambert • Angela Leeper • Lauren Maggio • Joan Malewitz • Jeanne McDermott • Kathie Meizner • Daniel Meyer • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Shana Raphaeli • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Erika Rohrbach • Leslie L. Rounds • Ann Marie Sammataro • Mindy Schanback • Dean Schneider • Hillary Foote Schwartz • Nancy Scrofano • Robin Smith • Edward T. Sullivan • Shelley Sutherland • Monica Wyatt

1086

|

15 may 2012

|

children ’s

&

teen

|

kirkusreviews.com

|


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 Kirkus Indie, we’ve offered professional, unbiased reviews of selfpublished 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

THE FEDAYEEN EMERGE The Palestine-Israel Conflict, 1949-1956

Bartal, Shaul AuthorHouse (436 pp.) $24.30 paperback | Sep. 29, 2011 978-1456786793 Bartal’s scholarly monograph examines the Palestinian rebellion in the decade following the creation of the state of Israel. After Israel was founded in 1948, U.N. Resolution 81 portioned the land into three regions, uprooting 800,000 Palestinians and destroying hundreds of villages. While the history of the Israelis is well known, the Palestinian side of the story has rarely been told. Bartal, a lecturer on Palestinian affairs at Bar-Ilan University and a former major in the Israeli Defense Forces, details the lives and struggles of Palestinians as they worked to reclaim their independence and land during the 1950s. The “Fedayeen” of the title refer to Palestinians who, having been displaced, attempted to infiltrate Israel in the years following the war. The book, previously published in Hebrew, grew out of Bartal’s dissertation; as such, it is a scholarly work, both in tone and execution. With more than 150 pages of endnotes and a dozen pages of indices, the book is designed for fellow historians, serious scholars and others with a deep investment in the time period and players. It is both a work of historical excavation and critical analysis, and, if the research proves sound, should be considered for republication by a U.S.- or U.K.-based university press, which would make the study accessible to academics who could benefit from and build on Bartal’s work. The central subject has modern implications: As tensions continue to rise between Israel and Palestine in the 21st century, the history of past generations’ involvement in the conflict will remain relevant. For higher-level academics and serious scholars of the Arab–Israeli conflict.

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: LIVING PROOF by John Capecci and Tim Cage ........................ p. 1088 THIS WAY OUT by Diane Light...................................................p. 1090

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

indie

|

15 may 2012

|

1087


“Don’t let the tough talk fool you; Bennett’s book has heart.” from narcissitic praise -junkies

NARCISSISTIC PRAISE-JUNKIES

LIVING PROOF Telling Your Story to Make a Difference: Essential Skills for Advocates and Spokespersons

Bennett, Angie CreateSpace (278 pp.) $11.69 paperback | $9.99 e-book Jan. 18, 2012 978-1469924724 A wry teacher creates controlled chaos in her high school classroom in this tragicomic novel set in Texas. Ellie Warden is a perfectly named character. As a teacher in a high school behavior-modification unit, her responsibilities lean more toward prison guard than educator. Ellie’s students in the New Pathways unit (or, as she has dubbed them, the Narcissistic Praise-Junkies) are a group of troubled kids with learning and behavioral problems, including OCD and Asperger’s syndrome. Ellie is full of patience and tough love. She copes with the stresses of her job with a hearty dose of black humor: She privately nicknames the kids based on their disorders (Becca, who suffers from OCD, is The Count; Trevor, who has Tourette’s syndrome, is Twitch) and talks about their various disabilities with a faux insensitivity that masks her compassion. But in many ways, Ellie is just as much of a misfit as her students. She’s a single, 32-year-old virgin who still lives at home with her cat and her religious mother, who raised Ellie to be mistrustful of relationships and marriage. Her monotonous life changes instantly when a horrific school shooting involves one of her students—an event that leaves Ellie shattered, although it pushes her toward an unlikely love interest, Dr. Peter Harmon. Peter, the uncle of one of Ellie’s students, is a smart, successful veterinarian—and he has Asperger’s syndrome. It’s a joy to watch their relationship blossom in the aftermath of the shooting and in spite of the complications associated with his condition. Bennett beautifully portrays Ellie’s quick wit, sharp sense of humor and deep vulnerability, and she provides an exquisitely rendered look at living with Asperger’s. Heavy themes suffuse the novel—sexuality, religion, prejudice and death—yet Bennett artfully provides moments of levity and humor. Her characters are realistic, heroic and flawed. Don’t let the tough talk fool you; Bennett’s book has heart. This gritty novel about the pain others can inflict provides an unexpected sense of hope.

Capecci, John & Cage, Tim Granville Circle Press (212 pp.) $21.95 paperback | Mar. 22, 2012 978-0983870302

Smart, well-delivered and timely advice to help advocates and spokespeople tell the

most effective stories. Stories seem to be what consumers crave, particularly if they are heartfelt and authentic; storytelling is responsible for hit reality-television shows, wildly popular brands and carefully packaged politicians, among other things. But stories can also be useful for nonprofit organizations when ordinary people with extraordinary stories are employed as leading advocates for the cause. As authentic as an advocate’s story may be, however, it can always be improved in style and delivery; that’s the mission of this exceptional instructional guide. The authors carefully lead storytellers through examples and exercises to show how to make content more compelling and relevant to the audiences speakers are trying to influence. The authors present many engaging techniques, such as asking advocates to describe their mission in just six words and demonstrating how to create a visual “story map” to document one’s experience. Capecci and Cage convey “the five qualities of effective advocacy stories,” discuss how to develop key messages, and explain how to craft a story and deliver powerful presentations. They also offer advice for how to ace media interviews; the helpful tips and prep sheets they include will make any reader feel more confident in front of a reporter. The book is divided into easy-to-digest chapters, replete with numerous sidebars, graphics and charts. The convenient format makes it possible for readers to move quickly from start to finish or to pick out chapters that target areas of particular interest. All the while, Capecci and Cage weave into the text actual stories told by advocates, so readers gain a full appreciation for the power of storytelling. Highly readable, this engaging manual never veers from its focus of providing the basic skills one needs to tell a story that can truly make a difference.

BEAMISH BOY (I Am Not My Story) DeSilver, Albert Flynn The Owl Press (300 pp.) Jun. 1, 2012

DeSilver’s memoir recounts the adolescent and young-adult experiences that shaped his writing and artistic endeavors as an acclaimed poet. Growing up in the upper-middle -class–Connecticut suburbs during the 1970s and ’80s, DeSilver used alcohol at an early age to dull the 1088

|

15 may 2012

|

indie

|

kirkusreviews.com

|


emotional aches and pains he was too young to process. A sensitive observer even as a young child, he first experienced deep anxiety and loneliness after his parents hired an austere, often violent German governess to care for him and his two sisters. His fascinating parents (especially his feisty mother with her hilarious one-liners and anecdotes) struggled with addiction, too, although they are portrayed as loving yet detached from their children’s emotional needs. DeSilver leaves for college and, pursuing photography and art, slowly begins dealing with his demons. After a series of damaging meltdowns and relationships, he finds a path to sobriety and self-awareness through therapy, meditation and nature, which help him transcend his battle with alcoholism. DeSilver details this pursuit of inner peace via his talent for painting rich imagery with words, while his keen ability to gracefully and openly express his vulnerability brightens and enriches the memoir. He writes honestly of the times in his life when he produced tiresome art amid a plethora of self-centered decisions. With eloquent metaphors, lyrical prose and subtle humor, DeSilver engagingly expresses his determination to examine his life’s purpose. Told clearly but not chronologically, his path to sobriety leads to a life about much more than addiction. A beautifully written memoir of awakening and self-acceptance.

FINAL EXAM A Legal Thriller

Huebner, Terry CreateSpace (384 pp.) $13.99 paperback | $2.99 e-book Feb. 22, 2012 978-1470108366 In Huebner’s debut thriller, trial lawyer Ben Lohmeier faces death and doubledealing as he fights to exonerate a friend from a murder she didn’t commit. When Ben’s close friend Megan Rand Cavallaro is questioned by Chicago police in connection with the murder of their former law professor, Daniel Greenfield, Ben is shocked. His prosecutorial background quickly keys him in to the fact that Megan is the prime suspect. Her decision to retain Ben as counsel thrusts him into a high-profile murder investigation; Ben, who has tried only a few criminal cases as a defense lawyer, is suddenly scrutinizing a crime scene, hiring blood spatter experts, and appearing opposite an ambitious former colleague. He assembles a ragtag defense team to prepare Megan’s case, and, in order to ensure the jury doesn’t find reasonable doubt, Ben scrutinizes everyone in Daniel’s orbit as a possible suspect. His determination to find out who killed Daniel does not waver, even when he learns that Megan is keeping secrets or after he’s attacked by a thug outside his office. Fortunately, Huebner incorporates realistic details about criminal procedure into the narrative without slowing down the story. What does slow down the narrative, however, are lengthy descriptions of car trips and locations. Huebner often provides GPS-level detail about Ben’s travels; when Ben is on the hunt for a witness |

in Florida, the carefully constructed tension evaporates when Huebner describes Ben’s drive to a courthouse. Similarly, Huebner could significantly streamline his description of the quirky layout of Ben’s office without affecting any necessary information. Repetitive phrasing can hamper the flow of the prose, too, such as the frequent use of “you know” and repeated references to revenge as a dish “best served cold.” However, the author is so skilled at creating suspense that these flaws barely register. Only a crotchety law school professor would give this legal thriller less than a B+.

DREAM LOVER Book Three of Pam of Babylon

Jenkins, Suzanne CreateSpace (322 pp.) $14.99 paperback | $2.99 e-book Mar. 13, 2012 978-1468126235 A man’s infidelity rocks the lives of many New York women five months after his death, as former lovers discover that he was infected with more than just an elec-

tric personality. Jenkins’ sequel to Don’t You Forget About Me explores a new set of women linked to financial giant Jack Smith. Pam Smith, grieving her husband’s death, suffers the haunting news that she is infected with AIDS. She searches for a way to cope with the pain Jack caused as she comforts the other women Jack infected during their estranged marriage. A cast of sympathetic characters filters in and out of the Smith household, illustrating the complexity of a marriage that seemed tranquil on the surface but was furious and unpredictable underneath. More than six women, including Pam’s sister, Marie, and Jack’s co-worker Sandra, had affairs with Jack. Pam, meanwhile, cannot help but wonder why she is extending herself to those who deceived her, taking on the responsibility Jack should have endured had he lived to see his own path of destruction. Jenkins blends Pam’s omniscient narration with monologues from each of the secondary characters, providing resolution and a range of perspectives on Jack, Pam and life with AIDS. While each character brings his or her own drama and complexity, they unite in a blend of love and hate for the toxic yet irresistible Jack. Jenkins shows the reader all sides of Jack, even the tender and vulnerable: Maryanne, one of Jack’s girlfriends, has a daughter with birth defects, with whom Jack had a close relationship and for whom he established a large trust fund. A gritty, realistic portrait of the aftermath of deceit.

kirkusreviews.com

|

indie

|

15 may 2012

|

1089


“Readers shouldn’t let the trippy cover fool them into thinking this book is ungrounded—this title is a well-substantiated, fascinating breakthrough in therapy and transformation.” from this way out

THE JESUS GOSPEL

Kartal, Osman CreateSpace (239 pp.) $7.99 e-book | Lg. Prt. $11.99 Mar. 18, 2012 In Kartal’s (The Prophet’s Scribe, 2012) religious thriller, a post-grad Sovietologist traverses the globe in search of Jesus’ handwritten autobiography. Frankie Karter, a minor MI6 agent and Eton-trained student of Soviet history, is called to his grandmother Irena’s deathbed in the Georgian capital in 1987. Irena reveals a family secret involving Frankie’s late grandfather, Nickolas: The Bolshevik revolutionary stole the original Gospel of Jesus from Joseph Stalin. She leaves Frankie three items: an ancient Nestorian ring, an unfamiliar address in Krakow and the first sentence of Jesus’ Gospel, written on Egyptian papyrus in his own hand. Irena instructs Frankie to locate the rest of the Gospel but warns that many would kill for this document. In the style of The Da Vinci Code, Kartal sends Frankie on a dangerous quest for the Messiah’s own words—leading him to Poland, Russia and Rome— with a slew of evil international operatives on his tail. Frankie— along with his friend Rich, a post-grad student specializing in religious antiquities, and Bogdan, a well-connected Polish acquaintance—manages to stay one step ahead of the spies and smugglers who covet the treasured scripture. Frankie’s pilgrimage unearths a wealth of lies, secrets and betrayals, resulting in a trail of deaths. His circuitous quest is revealed in very short chapters, allowing readers a moment to digest the plethora of clues and historical facts embedded throughout the text. A self-proclaimed truth addict, Frankie is determined to learn what lies behind the sacred writings while keeping his enemies at bay. His adventures ultimately lead to a faceto-face confrontation with the most powerful figure in religious history. Shocks and twists underscore Kartal’s masterful storytelling, but this slim volume could easily be developed further. Although Kartal attempts to tie it all together at the end, readers will still be left with weighty, unanswered questions. Fans of Dan Brown will enjoy this invigorating, informed quest to uncover ancient secrets.

THIS WAY OUT The Power to Change

Light, Diane Trafford (276 pp.) $27.48 | paper $17.48 | $3.99 e-book Sep. 23, 2011 978-1426926273 978-1426926266 paperback Psychotherapist and life coach Light explores psychology and spirituality in her debut self-help title, offering a new model for personal change. Light’s profound book offers a clear program for personal growth that is both well-researched and well-explained. 1090

|

15 may 2012

|

indie

|

kirkusreviews.com

Demonstrating expertise in a program she has practiced for more than 30 years, Light promotes Personality Integration Theory and Therapy as a unique blend of psychology and spirituality that can lead to empowerment and awareness. She suggests that this psychological approach is more successful than models based on pathology, reasoning that many issues can be attributed to a lack of maturity rather than mental illness. Light challenges many of Freud’s notions and builds on others, clearly explaining how Personality Integration empowers patients to acquire self-knowledge, embrace adult behaviors and integrate the parts of the self that remain fragmented or unconscious. In her explanation of the theory and therapy, Light explains how her program is both similar to and different from other self-help approaches, including the 12-step programs: Hers begins with the development of a healthy inner relationship—“the first relationship”—and discusses how to move through the stages of survival to end up in a state of thriving. Modern self-help readers will find a satisfying balance of existing and revolutionary concepts. For those who wish to begin exploring this therapy, Light offers workbook-style exercises and quizzes. Readers shouldn’t let the trippy cover fool them into thinking this book is ungrounded—this title is a wellsubstantiated, fascinating breakthrough in therapy and transformation. Light’s marriage of psychology and spirituality is sure to satisfy modern seekers of self-enhancement. Fans of Eckhart Tolle, Pia Mellody and Deepak Chopra will enjoy this unique and powerful book.

THE INDESTRUCTIBLE RELATIONSHIP Support and Understand Each Other Better During Grief, Illness, Catastrophic Loss, and All Life’s Stressful Moments

Pryor, Kimberly www.indestructiblerelationship.com (182 pp.) $3.99 e-book | Dec. 28, 2010 Pryor’s debut is a guide to help couples through trying times. Exasperation is inevitable in any marriage. Even the happiest couple can stumble and fall in the wake of a debilitating injury, loss, natural disaster, financial stress, infidelity, miscarriage—the list goes on. Here, the author shares the stories of 10 couples who have overcome hardship, managing to stay together and even strengthen their relationships. Their stories are especially refreshing in light of a seemingly sky-high divorce rate. Pryor examines how family-based grief and healing differ from community-based grief and healing. She also explores how gender can cause differences in coping strategies and lead to friction, suggesting that flexibility is a key to overcoming struggles. The book weaves expert research with anecdotes and uses familiar examples of large-scale tragedy like Hurricane Andrew. While the book is focused on real-life stories, it is intensely practical: Readers are asked to learn effective communication techniques, change their expectations, and realize that crises can consume |


either partner. Most challenging is a chapter focused on two couples whose marriages end in divorce, but Pryor uses these stories for readers’ benefit: She follows up with 20 powerful exercises designed to troubleshoot problems and teach preventative strategies. The exercises, while helpful, are fairly specific and don’t lend themselves well to adaptation for different circumstances. The stories in the book don’t shy away from despair, frustration and complicating factors like religion or finances. Pryor’s writing is clear, concise and relatable as she deftly avoids imposing conclusions and instead lets the couples speak for themselves. The book will find an audience with new couples looking to safeguard their relationship despite inevitable challenges and changes. Any couple could benefit from the wisdom shared in these inspired stories of hope, commitment and love.

HILLWALKING

Ridnouer, Katy CreateSpace (251 pp.) $9.95 paperback | $0.99 e-book Jan. 1, 2012 978-1463768270 Ridnouer’s debut novel relates the gentle spiritual journey undertaken by three American women living in Dublin. The number three manifests throughout this tale of longing for meaning and love, and no more so than in the trinity of women examining their mundane lives in Ireland’s Fair City. Uprooted from the U.S. by their husbands, Jamie, Christy and Heather come together as hillwalking companions. They are drawn to Glendalough Valley in the Wicklow Mountains, where rises and vales of dewy green shelter ancient stone churches and holy wells—an apt backdrop to this meditative story. Each woman carries a burden of lost children or illness, and they wander unhappily through life until each finds a passion that transcends mere occupation. Heather becomes intrigued and artistically inspired by Saint Kevin, the founder of Glendalough’s monastic settlement; the 6th-century monk’s philosophies illuminate her own spiritual style, one in which Celtic paganism lies just beneath the surface. Christy, desperate for a baby, befriends a lonely girl in her apartment building, while Jamie, the skeptic, becomes captivated by the labyrinth at Glendalough and begins work on her own spiraling path. The women alternate between closeness with one another and their children and a growing distance from their unsympathetic husbands. But it’s not all reflection and insight: Heather and Jamie’s likable children are a nearly constant, squabbling and pouting presence. Ridnouer balances poetic descriptions with extremely casual, often pointed dialogue, peppered with words like “whatcha” and “didja.” She also does a fine job portraying the temporal, frequently amusing details of an expat American’s life in a city more than 1,000 years old. At heart, this novel is a spiritual quest, with portents, metaphor and prodigious symbolism. In time, each woman arrives at the end of her winding path changed in some quietly momentous way. A story as observant and thoughtful as the lives of Irish monks; rewarding for contemplative readers. |

THE BENEVOLENCE OF ROGUES

Righten, John AuthorHouseUK (472 pp.) $26.95 paperback | $3.99 e-book Feb. 22, 2012 978-1467889476 Debut memoirist Righten describes his working-class childhood and erstwhile young adulthood amid a motley crew of relatives and friends in Ireland and England. Righten’s memoir will remind readers of a drunken evening in a pub spent listening to tales of a sordid and colorful life. He takes turns as a rollicking fighter, pub denizen and gambler before, eventually, becoming a humanitarian. With a sly, ironic voice, Righten avoids sentimentalizing his life by undercutting every harsh observation with humor; ever the “Fenian bastard,” Righten has a gift for rendering the eccentricities of his friends and relatives in a comedic way. Wacky travel anecdotes and scenes of brawls, workplace shenanigans, and football matches gone awry are lively and engrossing. However, this is not a memoir for the straight-laced, politically correct or fainthearted: Massive quantities of alcohol are consumed, many teeth are knocked out, and sarcasm is in generous supply. Righten’s life philosophy, represented in the title, plays a large part in the narrative. He believes that even the most unlikely of rogues has a moral compass and is capable of unexpected acts of kindness. Of course, the author employs a uniquely flexible definition of good, which may include violence against cheating husbands and abusive fathers. But readers will find it difficult to disagree with the thrust of Righten’s arguments in the second half of this memoir, which focuses on the author’s career as a humanitarian worker in Bosnia and Latin America. His run-in with a sociopathic mercenary is particularly chilling, as are his descriptions of delivering medicine to hospitals filled with traumatized, needy children during the Bosnian War. Righten’s own near-death experiences will convince readers that the author is one of the benevolent scoundrels he so admires. A roguishly charming memoir.

ALICE AT THE HOME FRONT

Tarantino, Mardiyah A. iUniverse (124 pp.) $22.95 | paper $10.95 | $3.99 e-book Dec. 23, 2011 978-1462068029 978-1462068005 paperback A strong-willed, patriotic young girl growing up during World War II dreams of being a war heroine in Tarantino’s (Life at the Café Berlitz: A Memoir of Paris, 2004)

heartwarming tale. It’s 1942 and precocious 11-year-old Alice Calder commits to the war effort as an airplane spotter. Even though Alice is told she is too young for such a job, she perches at her window kirkusreviews.com

|

indie

|

15 may 2012

|

1091


k i r ku s q & a w i t h t h om a s p r yc e The post-apocalyptic world Thomas Pryce so effectively renders in Unnatural Selection, his debut novel, may be rife with sun-seared cannibals and other assorted perils, but the former science teacher from Yonkers, N.Y., says, “There’s no more comfortable place for me to be than building a world in my own little room behind a computer.” Kirkus caught up with the author in southwest Florida, where he runs a company that builds and manages high-end custom aquariums. Here, he talks about finally making the decision to self-publish his book, the evolution of the self-publishing industry and how rejection made him a better writer. Q: Unnatural Selection is a story you began crafting way back in 1991 while still teaching public school. What compelled you to revive the tale?

Unnatural Selection

Pryce, Thomas Cenozoic (386 pp.) $14.99 paperback January 24, 2012 978-0984669103

A: Back then, I got lucky and got an agent. Then life happened. I got sick for a little while and moved away. I put in on the back burner. But I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to get it going again. Then, in 2008, I saw an interesting article about a polyomavirus virus [linked to a rare skin cancer] that I could incorporate into the story when I got back at it. And almost right away, I got another agent. We shopped it around to all the big houses and, of course, we got the standard rejections. I don’t know if they even read it. It was at that point that I started doing research into the self-publishing thing. I created my own publishing company with my brother, called Cenozoic Publishing, and began working with CreateSpace to produce the book. They were fantastic. It was a different time back in ’91—these options weren’t available. There were vanity presses, but I never wanted to do that.

K i rk us M edi a L L C # K i rk us M edi a L L C President M A RC W I# NKELMA N President SVP, Finance M A RC W I NH Kull ELMA N J ames SVP,Marketing Finance SVP, J ames ull M ike HH ejny SVP, Marketing SVP, Online M ike H ejny Paul H offman

Q: How have your perceptions about self-publishing changed? I grew up in an era when self-publishing was frowned upon. But then I started looking around and seeing other established authors like J.A. Konrath do it. I’ve worked with professional editors who have told me my book was as good as anything they’ve read. It just seemed time to make my statement and go the indie route. Q: Still, didn’t it take a long while for you to get to that point?

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.

1092

|

15 may 2012

A: I got so many rejections—enough to wallpaper a small cathedral—and it hardened me as a writer. It forced me to go back, rework things and evolve. I write mostly by mimicry. I’ve never had any formal training. I’m just a persistent son of a gun. I go |

indie

|

kirkusreviews.com

|

Q: Having had that experience, what’s your advice for other struggling authors? A: I think a new writer probably should try to go the traditional route. I think it hardens a writer. It just takes experience and time. I think part of the problem is too many people are jumping in too early when they’re not ready. Just keep writing. Keep reading. Read some of the books about writing. I read Stephen King’s On Writing—that’s probably like the bible. Use the Internet. Don’t be afraid to use the writers’ forums. Believe it or not, Craigslist has a writers’ forum. I’ve been on there for four or five years. There are some smart people in there and they will really help you. I like to think that I put the work in to get the thing to a level where I could get a positive Kirkus review. Q: What impact has that review had on you? A: It’s been huge. I mean, when I heard about it, I almost wanted to go out and get a T-shirt that said, “I survived a Kirkus review.” For me it’s just added to my confidence and reinforced my decision that I made the right move. It’s an ecosystem out there, and the good will be selected to some degree, and the others will go by the wayside. –By Joe Maniscalco

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

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.

back in and look at things. I read prodigiously. I also spent a lot of time on writers’ forums and was able to turn a lens on myself. Eventually, I realized that my stuff is valid. It’s good. I reached a point where I thought it was professional. I didn’t want to just put out a piece of slop like, unfortunately, I think a lot of people these days are doing. It took me awhile to come over to the other side of selfpublishing, but I’m so glad I did it.


“Wills enjoyably explores the fallout that can result from seemingly small decisions.” from the diary of an idiot

with binoculars and a logbook—much to her mother’s dismay. The novel chronicles Alice’s adventures and misadventures as she volunteers at the Red Cross, encourages other kids to get involved in the war effort, and keeps in touch with her teenage friend, Jimmy, who flies planes for the Civil Air Patrol. She even looks for spies in her hometown of Providence, R.I., reporting any suspicious activity she sees to police. But she is most interested in Jimmy, whom she admires and has a crush on, even though she doesn’t yet understand her feelings toward him. Tarantino’s convincing narrative evokes Alice’s childlike excitement and fears. When Jimmy disappears after flying in a storm, Alice is extremely upset; her overactive imagination contributes to the overwhelming worry she feels for Jimmy. Desperate to see him again, Alice will do anything she can to help. But Alice doesn’t let much get her down. She perseveres through everything thrown her way, showing her courage, innocence, enthusiasm and zest for life. Her spirit and can-do attitude are engaging and inspiring. The story is unique in that it approaches this time period through a child’s eyes, while the dialogue and inner monologue are spot-on. There’s also an enjoyable balance of period details and characterization, which combine to transport readers back to the ’40s with a fresh perspective on a trying time. A story for children and adults, full of historical details and humorous anecdotes.

ROMA, UNDERGROUND

Valjan, Gabriel Winter Goose Publishing (342 pp.) $16.99 paperback | $7.99 e-book Feb. 13, 2012 978-0983676485 The first in a series, Valjan’s debut novel explores the hidden history preserved beneath the streets of Rome and the even more elusive world of covert government agencies. Alabaster Black is a government analyst on the run after she compromises her position in a secret U.S. government operation called “Rendition.” Her flight brings her to Rome, but, unfortunately, her former employers are hot on her trail. In the Eternal City, she meets Dante—a government investigator, amateur archaeologist and possible love interest—who lets her in on a huge case involving Mafiosi and stolen historical artifacts. Dante’s passion for underground cave exploration leads the pair on several subterranean adventures during which they are afforded a unique view of Rome’s history, while Valjan’s passion for Rome colors his crisp, idiosyncratic descriptions of its geography, history and customs. There are also keen depictions of Roman social life and the media. Such attention to detail not only makes the city a character, it also makes for a more believable narrative. Although this isn’t a traditional high-octane thriller, the book still manages to incite frantic page-turning and knuckle-biting reactions. Weapons and car chases are as deftly handled as pasta and bruschetta. Sophisticated subplots are conflated with ease and cleverly extended toward a sequel. |

Twists and turns are convincingly executed, but the artfulness of the structure is not mirrored in rhetorical finesse. For the most part, the author writes with a skilled hand, although important information can be revealed much too bluntly, and the dialogue is sometimes inorganic. Despite minor flaws, the strong, captivating heroine and an allure of conspiracy and organized crime make this novel an undoubted success.

THE DIARY OF AN IDIOT

Wills, David Xlibris (112 pp.) $29.99 | paper $13.99 | $3.99 e-book Feb. 9, 2012 978-1469138022 978-1469138015 paperback A young man begins keeping a diary to improve his humdrum existence—just days before love, violence and loss con-

sume his life. In Wills’ page-turning debut novel, 27-year-old Marco begins a diary in order to “assess and improve [his] state of mind” so he can take “[f]ortune by the throat.” There’s a somewhat ominous tone to the writing; it’s clear that Marco is in for some major changes, but the relatable narrator doesn’t know it yet. Through his dead-end job at a grocery store, Marco meets Bernie, a broke old man who is desperate for a friend. Taking pity on him, Marco gives Bernie a pack of cigarettes, a kind act that sets off a wild series of events. Other characters include Natalie—a charming girl who lives in Marco’s apartment building—Natalie’s rougharound-the-edges brother, and Bernie’s ne’er-do-well grandson and son-in-law. Once Bernie realizes that Marco is trustworthy, he ropes him into a dangerous situation: keeping a large sum of money hidden from Bernie’s grandson until the teenager can cut ties with his toxic father, Bernie’s son-in-law. Marco is less than thrilled to be the middleman, but he decides to help out Bernie— until Marco makes a grave error in judgment that causes his life to quickly fall apart. The plot moves rapidly, but Wills manages to fully flesh out each of his major characters. Marco is a darkly humorous narrator and his strong voice carries the novel, while Bernie and Natalie are often scene-stealing characters. Wills does an excellent job creating tension, introducing unexpected plot twists that propel the story forward. The diary style allows Marco to reflect on the events of his life after they occur, adding insight and weight to the action. Wills enjoyably explores the fallout that can result from seemingly small decisions. A well-drawn narrator, fast-paced plot and dark humor make Wills’ debut a promising one.

kirkusreviews.com

|

indie

|

15 may 2012

|

1093


May 15, 2012: Volume LXXX, No 10  

Look inside for the 2012 BEA big book guide; Featuring industry-first reviews of the biggest BEA titles in Adult and Children's & Teen; and...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you