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REVIEWS

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

nonfiction

chi ldr en’s & te e n

Hollywood operators and creative washouts collide in Jess Walter’s superb romp p. 1120

Science writer Sam Kean impressively renders esoteric DNA concepts accessible to lay readers p. 1139

Newbery Medalist Rebecca Stead explores the dimensions of friendship in an intimate Brooklyn setting p. 1174

in this issue: back-to-school roundup kirkus q&a

featured indie

Jai Pausch, widow of The Last Lecture author Randy Pausch, discusses her poignant new memoir, Dream New Dreams p. 1144

In her tragicomic new novel, Indie author Angie Bennett writes about a high school teacher’s struggles with troubled students, school shootings and her own complicated love life p. 1188

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


Carlos Fuentes, 1928–2012 B Y G RE G O RY MC NA M EE

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

Carlos Fuentes, the novelist and essayist, died on May 15, at the age of 83, in Mexico City. He foresaw ending his days there, much as the Peruvian poet César Vallejo prophesied that he would die in Paris, but we must imagine that Fuentes might have preferred to leave this plane in Providence or London or, yes, Paris, all places in which he had lived over the course of a long life. For, though proudly and definitively Mexican, Fuentes was always a bit of an outsider in his homeland. Born in Panama, the son of a diplomat, he lived throughout South America, then attended school in Washington, D.C., where he learned a rich and fluent English. Only when he was 16 did his family move to Mexico, where, steeped in stories of the Revolution, which had ended only eight years before his birth, he began to write. Much of his work, in his early years, formed a critique of Mexican society as he found it. Where the Air Is Clear, published in 1958, dissects Mexico City and finds it wanting, a Bonfire of the Vanities in an earlier time and place, Aura (1962) turned Mexico City into a musty, airless house, a place of weirdly erotic dreams and labyrinthine pasts. Aspiring to epic, The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962) announced Fuentes’s grand ongoing critique of modern Mexican history, to which he would return again and again. The ruling elite and Mexico’s official cultural establishment may not have liked Fuentes’s barbed portraits, but other readers were paying attention, including Fidel Castro, who for a time numbered Fuentes among his favorite writers, and Gabriel García Márquez, who would lead the charge in the Latin American “boom” of the late 1960s and ’70s—a worldwide discovery, that is, of Latin American authors who wrote sagas, historical and magical-realistic alike, such as The Obscene Bird of Night, The War of the End of the World, One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Kingdom of This World that owed as much to William Faulkner as to Cervantes. If Fuentes never attained García Márquez’s popularity, he outstripped him in productivity, turning out a stream of essays, stories, novels, articles, speeches and feuilletons, with the occasional bestseller, such as The Old Gringo, to keep him in competition with Gabo, Mario Vargas Llosa and other contemporaries. Fuentes spent much of his adulthood living in other lands and speaking other languages, sometimes working as a diplomat, more often as a professor. All the same, his great subject remained Mexico, of which he remarked, “It’s a very enigmatic country, and that’s a good thing, because it keeps us alert.” One of the greatest writers to have come from that country, if by however roundabout a route, he has died—to be interred, without irony or reproach, in Paris. We can hope only that the best of his books live on.

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This Issue’s Contributors

Kent Armstrong • Mark Athitakis • Michael Autrey • Joseph Barbato • Gerald Bartell • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart • Derek Charles Catsam • Marnie Colton • Dave DeChristopher • Gregory F. DeLaurier • David Delman • Kathleen Devereaux • Steve Donoghue • Nora Dunne • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Gro Flatebo • Peter Franck • Bob Garber • Faith Giordano • Christine Goodman • Michael Griffith • BJ Hollars • Robert M. Knight • Paul Lamey • Isaac Larson • Louise Leetch • Judith Leitch • Raina Lipsitz • Joe Maniscalco • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Chris Messick • Carole Moore • Clayton Moore • Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • John Noffsinger • Sarah Norris • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Christofer D. Pierson • Brooke Pike • Gary Presley • David Rapp • Kristen Bonardi Rapp • Melissa Ruttanai • Lloyd Sachs • Bob Sanchez • William P. Shumaker • Rosanne Simeone • Elaine Sioufi • Wendy Smith • Andria Spencer • Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Mark Tursi • Steve Weinberg • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White • Homa Zaryouni


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contents fiction INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS..................................................p. 1099 REVIEWS.......................................................................................p. 1099 MYSTERY...................................................................................... p. 1124

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

SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY.................................................. p. 1128 LIFE ON THE RAILS, FROM THE BOOK SMUGGLERS............ p. 1109

nonfiction INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS.................................................. p. 1129 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1129 Q&A WITH JAI PAUSCH.............................................................p. 1144

children’s & teen INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS.................................................. p. 1155 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1155 SQUID AND OCTOPUS: BEST BUDDIES UNDER THE SEA.............................................. p. 1173 INTERACTIVE E-BOOKS.............................................................p. 1180 CONTINUING SERIES ROUND-UP............................................ p. 1176

indie INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS................................................... p. 1183 REVIEWS........................................................................................ p. 1183 Q&A WITH ANGIE BENNETT......................................................p. 1188

One of the world’s leading economists, Joseph Stiglitz, examines economic inequality in today’s society. See the starred review on p. 1152. |

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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: New and Notable June Fiction New and Notable June Nonfiction New and Notable June Children’s Books New and Notable June Teen Adventure and Travel Books 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.

w w w. k i r k u s r e v i e w s . c o m / b l o g s Ye a h , s u m m e r ! M a k e s u r e t o check in with kirkusreviews.com over the next three months to bring you the latest on all the biggest new releases. This June, look forward to…

Daily Show writer Kevin Bleyer offers his hilarious and “politically provocative” take on the Constitution in his new book, Me the People: One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America. We called it one of the better books to emerge from that show’s writing heavyweights in our review: “Bleyer makes readers think as well as laugh, and he targets those with the attention span for book-length arguments rather than TV bits.” Make sure to catch our interview with Bleyer online about all that is good and great about the United States as this election year heats up.

Speaking of America, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes

delivers another political take on the state of the United States in Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy. In a starred review, we called it “a provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest.” Here, Hayes dissects big government, big business, big religion, etc., and how things go awry in a “ ‘broad and 1098

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devastating crisis of authority’ resulting in a breakdown in trust.” Hayes talks to us online about his book, and the term “elite,” which he defines as a “small, powerful and connected” group with “three main sources of power: money, platform, and networks.” Debut author Stefan Bachmann is only 18, but he’s already caught our eye as a standout novelist with The Peculiar. Protagonist Bartholomew is half-faery, half-human, his genetic misfortune dooming him to a life of squalor in the faery slums. But when a swirl of dark faery magic from a captivating stranger results in the disappearance of his young neighbor, Bartholomew and his sister are propelled into a dark plot involving kidnapping, murder, espionage and a gaping door into the faery world that promises only mayhem, death and destruction. Bachmann talks to us online about writing his very first book, not out until September, but giving us a sneak peak into his world while presenting it at BEA. School’s out…stumped on how to keep the little ones busy? Every week, our stellar book bloggers for children and teens, Seven Impossible Things and Bookshelves of Doom, write about all that is the latest and greatest in books for kids. It’s exclusive content, available only online at kirkusreviews.com/blog.

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fiction DARE ME

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Abbott, Megan Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown (240 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-0-316-09777-2

DARE ME by Megan Abbott...................................................... p. 1099 THE DEMANDS by Mark Billingham........................................ p. 1101 MISSION TO PARIS by Alan Furst............................................ p. 1104 THE ISLAND HOUSE by Posie Graeme-Evans.......................... p. 1106 THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU by Joshua Henkin...................... p. 1108 LITTLE CENTURY by Anna Keesey............................................. p. 1110 IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN by Vaddey Ratner............ p. 1117 BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter............................................. p. 1120 THE LAST POLICEMAN by Ben H. Winters.............................. p. 1128 THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU

Henkin, Joshua Pantheon (336 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-307-90756-1

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Following the direction taken by her last novel (The End of Everything, 2011, etc.), Edgar winner Abbott again delivers an unsettling look at the inner life of adolescent girls in the guise of a crime story. The setting is an unnamed, frighteningly familiar town that could be found anywhere in contemporary America. Narrator Addy has been lifelong best friend to Beth, now the powerful captain of Sutton Grove High School’s cheerleading squad. The cheerleaders are popular mean girls, and Beth is the meanest and most popular. Then a new coach, young and pretty Colette French, arrives. She immediately asserts her authority, not only taking away the girls’ cellphones, but also announcing there will be no squad captain. A battle of wills ensues between Coach and Beth. Skilled at manipulation, Coach has the early upper hand. The girls respond to her tight discipline as well as to her perfect hair and her invitations to hang out at her carefully decorated house, where she lives with her workaholic husband and little girl. In particular, Coach befriends Addy, whose relationship with Beth has been strained since a dark episode at cheerleading camp the summer before. Addy tries to balance her increasingly divided loyalties but is gradually pulled into Coach’s orbit. Soon, Addy is spending more time at Coach’s house than anyone else. When Beth and Addy catch Coach having sex in the faculty lounge with a handsome National Guard recruiting officer assigned to the high school, Addy swears Beth to silence. But Beth’s simmering resentment and jealousy concerning Addy’s relationship with Coach have reached a boiling point by the time the officer turns up dead in his apartment. The whodunit aspect surrounding this death pales against the dark sexual and psychological currents that ripple among the girls (and Coach); the question of who is emotional victim versus who is predator becomes murkier and more disturbing than any detective puzzle. Compelling, claustrophobic and slightly creepy in a can’tput-it-down way.

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“Andrews delivers a satisfying read that will leave a taste as tangy, delicious and sweet as an ice-cold bottle of Quixie soda.” from spring fever

SPRING FEVER

Andrews, Mary Kay St. Martin’s (416 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-312-64271-6 Andrews’ latest romance serves up a tale about love, duplicity and second chances in this entertaining novel set in the Deep South. Advertising executive Annajane Hudgens is both excited and nervous about her future. In five days, she’ll be leaving her rural hometown in Passcoe, N.C., and traveling to Atlanta to start a new job and a promising life with her fiancé, bluegrass musician Shane Drummond. She has a few loose ends to tie up before she goes, including selling her loft and attending the marriage of rich and socially prominent Mason Bayless to beautiful and glamorous Celia Wakefield. Mason is the president of his family-owned business, the Quixie Beverage Company, and he also just happens to be Annajane’s boss and ex-husband. Celia, a newcomer to the company with a mysterious past, may have won his heart in a few short months, but she’s also managed to alienate Annajane and her best friend, Pokey, Mason’s spirited and outspoken sister. When an emergency interrupts the wedding ceremony, Annajane discovers that leaving Passcoe might not be as easy as she envisioned. Her unresolved feelings for Mason resurface, and it appears that Mason may share those feelings. As Annajane grapples with her emotions and the truth about her former marriage, she finds herself pitted against the manipulative Celia and her hostile former mother-in-law, Sallie. Both have reason to want Annajane to leave town, but just how far will each of these women go to control Mason and, through him, the future of Quixie Cola and the Bayless family? Enriched with Southern charm, character and colloquialisms, the author creates an appealing story full of unique personalities and clever plot twists. Andrews delivers a satisfying read that will leave a taste as tangy, delicious and sweet as an ice-cold bottle of Quixie soda.

IN THE KINGDOM OF MEN

Barnes, Kim Knopf (320 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 4, 2012 978-0-307-27339-0

When her husband Mason gets a job with Aramco, Oklahoman Gin McPhee moves from small-town life to a wider— and wilder—world of privilege, corruption and Middle Eastern geopolitics in the 1960s. Raised by her strict Methodist grandfather after her parents died, Gin begins to define herself by an attitude of rebellion. One form this rebellion takes is to date Mason McPhee, the local Golden Boy, who quickly impregnates her in the back of a sedan. Although, much to their sorrow, the child dies, 1100

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Mason does the honorable thing by marrying Gin and then, after briefly working on oil rigs in Oklahoma and Texas, accepts a position with Aramco in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. There, while Mason is working two-week shifts out in the desert, Gin finds herself getting acquainted with bored and blasé women such as Candy Fullerton, wife of the district manager, and Ruthie Doucet, who warns Gin about “uppity” houseboys and orients her about what behaviors women are not allowed to engage in outside the compound within whose walls they live. The rules include women not driving, not visiting the suqs and most of all, not going outside the gates alone. True to her rebellious nature, Gin begins to change in the exotic environment, befriending her “houseboy,” a mature man named Yash, as well as Abdullah, a Bedouin with a degree in petroleum engineering. At first Mason is content with his new job—or at least content with the money that comes with it—but soon he uncovers evidence of a corrupt scheme in which both Americans and Saudis are implicated. Stressed by what to do with this information, he finds his relationship with Gin deteriorating and then becomes implicated in the murder of a young Arabian woman. Barnes writes poetically and intensely about personal conflict and subtly informs the reader about continuing Western misunderstandings of Middle Eastern culture. (Agent: Sally Wofford-Girand)

THE FOREVER MARRIAGE

Bauer, Ann Overlook (320 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 14, 2012 978-1-59020-721-5

Bauer’s second novel (A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards, 2005) offers an introspective study of a woman as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Narcissistic Carmen Garrett is newly widowed. Married to her brilliant husband, Jobe, for more than 20 years, she has been waiting for him to die so that she can begin to live her life. She and Jobe meet when he is a graduate student in England, where she travels after the death of her mother. After returning to the United States, he invites Carmen to visit his family in Baltimore, and Carmen remains there as a guest of the Garretts, who also pay for her last year of college when she can’t do so. Upon graduation—Jobe with his doctorate and Carmen with her bachelor’s degree—the two marry. Although Carmen never loves the socially and physically awkward mathematician, their marriage produces three children. At the time of Jobe’s death from leukemia, Luca, their Down Syndrome son, is 20 years old; highly intelligent Siena is 17 years old; and young Michael is 12. Carmen wants to help her children cope with the loss of their father, but she is relieved that she no longer has to live with the subterfuge of their marriage. She’s not only wealthy from Jobe’s life insurance, but she is free to continue her affair with Danny. But the diagnosis of her own life-threatening illness causes Carmen to closely examine the choices and the emotions that have shaped her marriage and her life. As she faces

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her own mortality, she must also face her past. At times dispassionate and self-absorbed and at other times emotional and selfless, Carmen follows a path of self-discovery that is often painful, poignant and undeniably real. Bauer crafts an insightful story that is uncomfortable and bleak, but well-written. It’s a journey well worth taking.

THE DEMANDS

Billingham, Mark Mulholland Books/Little, Brown (416 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-316-12663-2 The clock is ticking for London detective Tom Thorne. A news agent, Akhtar, is holding detective Helen Weeks of the Child Protection Unit hostage in his shop, demanding justice. A year ago, Akhtar’s teenage son Amin died in a juvenile detention center in what was wrongly ruled a suicide. Unless Thorne finds who killed the boy, the grieving father will do something terrible. In what could be his commercial breakthrough novel in the States, British author Billingham serves up suspense on multiple fronts. In the shop, Weeks and a frightened male banker are handcuffed to a radiator and subjected to the normally pleasant news agent’s dangerous mood swings. Immediately outside, a battery of armed, high-tech cops are chomping at the bit to do their thing, impatient with a female hostage negotiator’s slow, by-the-books methods. And Thorne, re-investigating a case involving a clash between bullying white kids and Pakistani youths that resulted in Amin killing a white kid with the kid’s kitchen knife, immerses himself in the corrupt culture in and around the Barndale Young Offenders Institution. Secrets are revealed, notably that Amin was gay and frequented clubs where he took money for sex from men with reputations to protect. The book is an ingeniously constructed effort that unfolds with pinpoint timing, building to exciting finishes on all fronts. Thorne draws on his own rough beginnings to empathize with the young victims and his own busted relationship with a fellow cop following her miscarriage to empathize with Weeks, mother of a baby son. Billingham does an especially good job in his descriptions of Weeks’ steadfast efforts to remain calm at gunpoint and in the face of Akhtar’s polar inconsistencies. Thorne’s sidekicks are winning. This great novel should put Billingham in the same league as Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, John Harvey and Denise Mina.

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THE ABSOLUTIST

Boyne, John Other Press (320 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-59051-552-5 A novel set in the trenches of World War I, one of several by Irish author Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 2006, etc.) staged amid the 20th century’s worst moments. As the story opens, Tristan Sadler, who has just turned 21, is in the countryside north of London, looking to deliver a packet of letters from a wartime friend, Will Bancroft, to Will’s sister. Sadler is at once shattered and defiant: He has survived the horrors of the Western Front, one of just two boys—and boys most of them were—in his basic training unit to make it out alive. As for the rest: Well, Boyne honors convention by giving each soldier a turn in the spotlight, sometimes briefly, sometimes for symbolic purposes. One is killed

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off fairly early on in the proceedings, but not before he has had the chance to trouble the unit with doubts about just what this war among royal cousins is all about. In time, the seditious spirit will spread to Will, who, for complex and subtle reasons, has decided to become an “absolutist”—that is, to have absolutely no part in the war effort, not even as a stretcher bearer. That’s the kind of thing that can get a fellow in trouble in the king’s army—and so, too, the forbidden love that Will and Tristan share. If Will is an absolutist, then Tristan is a situationist; when Will asks him whether he has any principles, he replies, “No... People, perhaps. But not principles. What good are they?” Some of the key moments of the book—notably an encounter with a frightened German soldier—are very effective.

NEVER TELL

Burke, Alafair Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-06-199916-1 Burke (Long Gone, 2011, etc.) resurrects Ellie Hatcher, an NYPD homicide detective who followed in her father’s footsteps. Ellie’s father’s death, which police claimed was at his own hand, makes the callout to a young girl’s suicide even more difficult for Ellie. The girl’s grieving mom is a socialite and the wife of a mover and shaker in the music industry, and she’s pulled strings to get the homicide division on her daughter’s case. Teenager Julia Whitmire, privileged and spoiled but left on her own by her self-involved parents, was found dead of a combination of drugs, alcohol and wrist-slashing in the tub of her bathroom. Everyone, from the EMTs on the scene to the medical examiner who responds to Ellie, writes it off as a clear-cut suicide. Julia even left a note that is undisputedly in her own hand. However, pressure from the bigwigs sends the increasingly impatient Ellie and her partner, Rogan, back to the crime scene to work the case as a murder. In the course of their investigation, Ellie and Rogan meet a motley group of street kids, the family of Julia’s best friend, Ramona, and stumble onto a blog written by Ramona’s mom, Adrienne, that centers around her own sexual abuse while she was a child. Burke keeps it real by having Ellie unconvinced that Julia’s death was anything but a suicide, but her stubborn refusal to envision that the girl was murdered hinders, rather than helps, the probe. Ellie also suffers personal issues in that her boyfriend, an assistant district attorney, wants a little more out of the relationship, and Ellie remains afraid to take that step. In Ellie, Burke has built a likable, flawed heroine trying to leave the things that have haunted her behind and not succeeding very well. Burke’s prose falls into an easy, natural rhythm when she enters Ellie Hatcher’s world, and her plotting rarely disappoints. A smooth, compelling read that is proof positive that Burke continues to mature as a writer; this entry in the Ellie Hatcher series sings. (Author tour to Houston, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland and Seattle. Agent: Philip Spitzer) 1102

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THE LAST TRADE

Conway, James Dutton (416 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 14, 2012 978-0-525-95282-4

Fascinating, if uneven, debut thriller that links Wall Street treachery to international terrorism. Credit debut author Conway, pseudonym for a hedge fund insider and an ad firm global strategy planner, for a premise that layers the threat of international terrorism onto the world’s considerable anxieties over a global economic collapse. It’s a double whammy that, as Conway lays it out, seems plausible. The notion is that far darker villains than Bernie Madoff may lurk about Wall Street, namely international terrorists who seek to bring the country down through financial disaster. A glimmer of what’s afoot first appears to Drew Havens, “a CUNY-educated nobody” crunching numbers for Citibank in Long Island City. Havens is spotted by Wall Street shark Rick Salvado, who admires Havens’ crack ability to spot stocks ripe for short selling (some readers may need a tutorial to follow the author’s complicated expositions on this topic). Following Havens’ canny insights, Salvado’s firm, Rising Fund, soars. Havens soon finds the work distasteful and wants out. About to bail, he’s alerted by Danny Weiss, a co-worker, that Rising Fund is involved is some peculiar, suspicious trades. Then Weiss is rubbed out, leaving behind several coded messages that Havens endeavors to decipher. In Hong Kong, meanwhile, another trader is taken out just as he, too, made a series of trades in computer stocks. That murder brings onto the scene Cara Sobieski, who, as part of the newly formed Terrorism and Financial Intelligence task force, suspects that some sort of Wall Street jihad approaches—a possibility Havens also suspects as he begins to understand Weiss’ cryptic jottings and as other murders of traders follow. Conway effectively links Havens’ and Sobieski’s personal lives to their careers, giving the characterizations texture. Divorced and racked by family tragedy, Havens seeks solace in statistics. After a series of failed relationships, Sobieski turns to promiscuous sex. Alas, their troubles play out in scenes that, hampered by clichés and stilted dialogue, often go thud. Sure to unsettle readers who check their investments 10 times a day.

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MORTAL

Dekker, Ted; Lee, Tosca FaithWords (432 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59995-358-8 Series: The Books of Mortals, 2 Five hundred years into the postapocalyptic future, in a world largely populated by a different kind of walking dead—people who think they’re alive |


“Accomplished prose, an intricate mystery and insider Saudi scoop make for an unusual and winning combination.” from kingdom of strangers

but have been emptied of all emotion but fear—a group of living, feeling Mortals fight for humanity against the brutal forces of the Order. Nine years ago, in Forbidden (2011), the first installment in Dekker and Lee’s Books of Mortals series, 23-year-old Rom Sebastian brought himself back to life by imbibing an ancient blood potion. He discovered the existence of a boy, Jonathan, “with true life flowing through his veins,” who was next in line to become Sovereign leader. Now, on the eve of Jonathan’s ascendant 18th birthday, hope rests in Jonathan’s ability to reawaken humanity. The megalomaniac Saric, who commands a race of lowly, foul-smelling Dark Bloods, will have something to say about that. So will Saric’s sister Feyn, newly revived from a suspended state. She will accede to her brother’s demand that she treat him as her Maker; her relationship with Jonathan will prove to be crucial in this tale of scheming, betrayal, murder and warfare. So will the purity of Jonathan’s blood, which shows signs of deteriorating to Corpse quality. The overall tone of this book is decidedly Stentorian, but the asides and descriptions can be quite funny, and the book offers plenty of food for philosophizing concerning religion, states of consciousness, freedom, fate and the will to power. A book that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel by those who haven’t read Book One.

THE CONVICTION

Dugoni, Robert Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (384 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4516-0672-0 A legal thriller with more twists and turns than the lower intestine and as much coincidence and serendipity as a vintage episode of Law & Order. Dugoni continues his David Sloane series with this novel. Sloane is the attorney who can’t lose: He wins in prime time, for the big money; he wins for small potatoes. The book opens in the courtroom, when Sloane secures the conditional release of his troubled adolescent son Jake. Sloane takes Jake away from L.A., the scene of his latest drunk and disorderly; grieving for his murdered mother, Jake needs help. Sloane accepts an offer from his old friend Tom Molia, veteran detective from West Virginia. Jake and David fly back to California to join Tom and his son T.J. for a camping excursion in fictitious Winchester County. Truluck, the imagined landmark town in the Gold Rush country of the Sierra foothills, is the setting for their disaster. Jake is sullen, suffers humiliation, and ropes the younger and overeager T.J. into his revenge fantasy. The boys get caught, and Judge Earl Boykin, local tyrant of historic proportions, sentences them to Fresh Start, a juvenile offender boot camp. The villains in charge of the camp favor reflective sunglasses and have an appetite for destruction. Peopled with the usual contingent of sadists and victims, the plot’s fuse starts burning. Lawyer Sloane, Detective Molia and a posse of trusty associates skilled in the latest morally dubious |

investigative methods uncover a startling conspiracy. Unlike revenge, justice seems to be a dish best served warm, and pursuit is hot. The villains have rationalizations; their opponents have psyches and motives. A book that meets, sometimes exceeds, the expectations of the legal thriller. (Agent: Meg Ruley)

KINGDOM OF STRANGERS

Ferraris, Zoë Little, Brown (368 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-316-07424-7

In the third of a series, a Saudi Arabian detective hunts a serial killer as his career teeters on the brink. In the desert outside Jeddah, a Bedouin herder has discovered a shallow grave in the sand. Called to investigate, Ibrahim, a senior inspector for the Jeddah police, makes a grim discovery: 19 bodies are buried at the site, all women of Asian origin. All have had hands amputated, and three hands are buried at the grisly scene. Ibrahim and his team at first assume that the victims were all immigrants, brought into the country to work as domestics and in other menial jobs. Since many such employees are actually enslaved, their employers seldom report them missing when they run away. Without passports or resources, such women are easy marks for a killer who preys on those no one is looking for. Ibrahim is aided in his investigation by Katya, who is eager to escape her cloistered job as a lab tech and work in the field, a challenge in a gender-segregated police department. Virtue laws, requiring women to be shrouded in public, also forbid them to drive—they must be chauffeured by males, preferably relatives. When a Saudi housewife takes a taxi and disappears, Ibrahim immediately suspects that she is the first Saudi victim of the so-called Angel killer, particularly when her severed hand is left for police to find. The killer defies even the profiling expertise of American FBI consultant Charlie (a woman, much to the consternation of Ibrahim’s colleagues). Ibrahim’s chaotic home, shared by three generations and ruled by his tyrannical wife, Jamila, is no refuge. And his mistress, former undercover agent Sabria, is missing. Ibrahim faces a terrible dilemma—if word of his affair leaks out, he could be condemned to death for adultery. However Sabria’s disappearance could also be the Angel’s work. Only a woman—Katya—can help. Accomplished prose, an intricate mystery and insider Saudi scoop make for an unusual and winning combination.

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SKIOS

Frayn, Michael Metropolitan/Henry Holt (272 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-8050-9549-4 Frayn the farceur returns here, but the humor is so airy that at times it disappears altogether. Skios is a Greek island to which each year a world-renowned speaker is invited to enlighten a world-class audience of high-paying guests at the Fred Toppler lecture, one of the highlights of the Greek cultural calendar. This year the Fred Toppler Foundation has invited Dr. Norman Wilfred, a scientist who will speak on the scientific organization of science, a subject so rarefied that it’s questionable if even he understands it. Coming to the island at the same time is Oliver Fox, a celebrity with a tousled mop of blond hair and a mischievous streak a mile wide. Fox’s reason for the journey to Skios is more mundane than Wilfred’s—he’s planning to meet Georgie, an attractive woman he’d met at a bar and impulsively invited to spend some time with at a villa owned by people he barely knows. On arriving at the airport, Fox responds to the ubiquitous signs held by those providing transportation by impulsively pretending to be Dr. Wilfred. He’s whisked off to the lush grounds of the Foundation to be greeted by Nikki Hook, personal aide to Mrs. Fred Toppler. Nikki finds herself unexpectedly attracted to Fox, whom she expected would be a rather dowdy middle-age scientist—as the “real” Wilfred is. Meanwhile, through a misunderstanding tied to the garbled English of a local taxi driver—in exasperation he winds up responding to the name “Phoksoliva,” an inversion he doesn’t comprehend—Dr. Wilfred ends up at the villa with the attractive Georgie, who has a propensity for nude sunbathing that Wilfred quite likes. From this extraordinarily thin plot device of mixed and mistaken identities Frayn spins out a gauzy tale that exhibits more tedium than hilarity.

MISSION TO PARIS

Furst, Alan Random House (272 pp.) $27.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4000-6948-4

A historical spy novel that takes the reader back to the 1930s, when Europe hurtled toward the abyss. The dashing Austrian-born actor Frederic Stahl returns to France from Hollywood to film the movie Après la Guerre. On loan from Warner Bros., he’ll star as a soldier who survives The Great War and personifies its futility. All Stahl wants is to do his job on the movie set, have a pleasant dalliance or three and return to the States. But the Nazis have other ideas. Germany’s goal in the ’30s is to weaken France’s will to fight. Germans 1104

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infiltrate French society; citizens of both countries form alliances for peace while Germany quietly gathers all the intelligence it can about French military preparedness. Wouldn’t Frederic Stahl like to come back to Austria to judge a movie competition? One day, good pay, and he’d be in the limelight promoting both German filmmaking and the Reich itself. Repulsed, Stahl declines. Nazis increasingly pressure him to reconsider until his life is in danger. How can he finish the movie and return—no, escape—to America? Furst doesn’t make it easy on his hero, spinning strand on strand in a web of tension that’s big enough to hold a lot of victims. Will the web snare Stahl and his lover? The seductive Soviet spy? The resentful waiter? The Hungarian count? No one is safe, but readers will care about all the characters, whether wanting them to survive or die. They all either live under the cloud of doom that gathers over Europe, or they are part of the cloud. Furst conveys a strong sense of the era, when responding to a knock might open the door to the end of one’s days. The novel recalls a time when black and white applied to both movies and moral choices. It’s a tale with wide appeal. (Author tour to New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Agent: Amanda Urban)

RANSOM RIVER

Gardiner, Meg Dutton (368 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 28, 2012 978-0-525-95285-5

Gardiner shelves hard-used series heroine Jo Beckett (The Nightmare Thief, 2011, etc.) in order to put even more wear and tear on an employed, overcommitted California lawyer. Talk about your bad weeks. First Aurora Mackenzie’s foreign aid agency redefines itself away from her job. Upon her arrival back home in Ransom River, she’s instantly tapped for jury duty in the prosecution of Officer Jared Smith and Officer Lucy Elmendorf for shooting high school student Brad Mirkovic when he interrupted their tryst. Then a pair of masked gunmen break into the courtroom, shoot the judge and announce their intention of taking hostages, whose number of course includes Rory. A SWAT team ends the standoff, but Rory’s nightmare is just beginning, for Detectives Mindy Xavier and Gary Zelinski are convinced that she was in cahoots with the gunmen. Now the cops are watching her every move, waiting for the chance to arrest her for felony murder; the thuggish minions of Brad’s father, shady millionaire Grigor Mirkovic, are demanding that she tell them what really went down in the courtroom; and her manipulative cousin Nerissa and Riss’ bullying stepbrother Boone, who’ve made Rory’s life hell ever since the invention of flashbacks, have popped up once more to torment her. Can Rory’s old flame Seth Colder, a former undercover cop now living in L.A., help her dodge the threats to herself and her dog (just as the dog she had in high school was also menaced) and follow the trail to the $25 million cache that’s behind the mayhem?

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It’s hard to remember a time when a damsel was quite so distressed by so many different heavies. The tension, though synthetic, is so unrelenting that you’ll cheer when Rory finally walks away from it all. (Agents: Deborah Schneider and Sheila Crowley)

ISAAC A Modern Fable

Goldman, Ivan Permanent Press (222 pp.) $28.00 | May 1, 2012 978-1-57962-229-9

Goldman’s latest, following The Barfighter (2009), centers on an unlikely love story. Ruth is a beauty with a murky past— at 2, she was abandoned by her parents, and has never discovered the circumstances—who’s scratching

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out a living as an itinerant adjunct instructor of English, roving the freeways of southern California to teach overprivileged but underethical freshmen. Lenny is…well, Lenny is the biblical Isaac, nearly sacrificed by his father, Abraham. He’s been granted an eternal youth he is at pains to understand, for purposes he cannot divine, by forces he cannot identify. This state of affairs is, inevitably, as much curse as blessing, and he has no choice but to drift through the millennia, changing address and identity frequently and toiling at inconspicuous jobs like his current one in celebrity security. He and Ruth meet at an L.A. coffee shop in the embarrassing aftermath of a doomed first date Ruth arranged on the Internet. Lenny is troubled by his relatively frequent encounters of late with the strange, cruel specter he calls The Beast, who’s locked horns with him often across 40 centuries, and he knows he’ll soon need to move on again; this undermines the romance, and he retreats a little. Meanwhile Ruth is offered, suddenly and mysteriously—here the book jumps the rails—a job in a high-powered think tank at Columbia University. Tenure soon follows, and international fame (People! Oprah!) for a book on Mary Shelley. And then

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“A torrid extramarital romance is the heart of Goolrick’s powerful but problematic second novel.” from heading out to wonderful

Lenny realizes that the Adonislike ex-lover who offered her the job, a scholar-celebrity named Borges, is his old nemesis The Beast. The book is most comfortable in contemporary California and in the witty, sharp realistic mode in which Goldman has excelled previously. But when it moves either back in history or forward to New York—to grand sacrificial romance, to theological thriller—the novel falters, hews too closely to formula, and doesn’t do enough with its promising premise. Ultimately disappointing, but a brief, quick-moving novel that has, especially early, its share of pungencies and pleasures.

BY LOVE POSSESSED

Goodison, Lorna Amistad/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $14.99 paperback | May 29, 2012 978-0-06-212735-8 Betrayal is the emotional cornerstone of this collection of Jamaican-set stories by poet and memoirist Goodison (English/Univ. of Michigan, From Harvey River, 2008, etc.). Each of these 22 stories—most previously published in U.K. and Jamaican collections—is marked by the lyrical patois of Goodison’s characters, who generally hail from the country’s lower-middle classes. Her graceful language, however, too often serves moralizing plots. In “House Colour,” for instance, a young woman rebuffs a wealthy suitor who’s too dim to realize his money doesn’t impress her; lovely lines about her “looking around for some spare love lying accidentally somewhere, a kiss left languidly on a smooth surface” are negated with wooden dialogue in which the man boasts he’ll “lay siege to your life till you surrender…to me.” Well-worn conflicts abound: In “God’s Help,” a woman rejects a church’s charity after she detects a preacher’s insincerity; in “Bella Makes Life,” a man is at a loss to adjust to his wife’s new high standards after she returns from a U.S. trip; in “The Big Shot,” a prideful man tries to cover up his affair with a woman he sees as below his station, before receiving his inevitable comeuppance. Those stories come from a 1990 collection; those drawn from a 2005 book showcase more sophisticated conflicts and moral ambiguity. For instance, “Alice and the Dancing Angel” adds a dose of magical realism to the story of a dancer desperate to escape her life’s degradations, and “Mi Amiga Gran” follows a young girl’s growing self-awareness as her mother’s financial support disappears. “I Come Through,” told in the form of a famous singer recalling her life story for a reporter, ingeniously caps the collection. It’s unfortunate that so many thin tales precede it. Goodison knows the emotional space she wants her stories to occupy, but most are too brief and simplistic to generate much feeling. (Author events in Ann Arbor and Chicago)

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HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL

Goolrick, Robert Algonquin (304 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-56512-923-8

A torrid extramarital romance is the heart of Goolrick’s powerful but problematic second novel; it follows the acclaimed A Reliable Wife (2009). Brownsburg nestles beneath Virginia’s mountains. In 1948 it’s a no-stoplight, God-fearing, segregated place, the blacks out of sight. Strangers are monitored rather than greeted, strangers like Charlie Beale, a 39-year-old Northerner with a suitcase of cash. His first purchase is the river land where he’s been sleeping. He’s evidently a gentle soul, childlike even, but how could a naïf have acquired all that cash? That’s never answered; the stranger’s mystique is preserved at the cost of credibility. Charlie’s a butcher by trade, and he’s hired by a local guy, a good Christian like his wife. They dote on their only child, 5-year-old Sam, and soon Charlie does too. He also comes to dote on one of his customers. Sylvan Glass is a bewitching blonde, barely out of her teens, with a thrilling fantasy life; she’s a star-struck movie fan. She’s married to a much older man, Boaty Glass. Boaty is fat and rich and mean. He plucked Sylvan from her hillbilly family in the hollows, paying cash down; Boaty’s negotiation with her dirt-poor father is utterly convincing. Charlie and Sylvan are drawn to each other from the get-go; Sylvan sees him as her matinee idol, while Charlie is transformed by unconditional love. He buys her a house for their trysts, doing Sam no favors by using him as a cover. Goolrick is aiming for the somber momentum of the ballad, and there is much pleasure-giving psychological truth along the way, but at a key moment his calibration fails him. Something extraordinary happens, out of the blue. “You may wonder why, and I’m telling you that I don’t know,” is the narrator’s cop-out. That doesn’t stop the gothic flourishes of a murder/suicide, followed by a second suicide; yet arresting as they are, they seem arbitrary. There are some weak links in a chain that’s still capable of pulling you along.

THE ISLAND HOUSE

Graeme-Evans, Posie Atria (464 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-7432-9443-0 Graeme-Evans (The Dressmaker, 2010, etc.) intertwines two adventures separated by more than a millennium. Grad student Freya Dane inherits Findnar, an island off the northeastern Scottish coast, from her father, Michael, an archaeologist who left Australia and her mother years ago. Arriving on the island, she finds a letter left by Michael, who

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tells her he had been excavating in the stone circle that stands on Findnar alongside the ruins of an abbey. “There are riddles in this place that I have never solved,” the letter continues, “I must ask you to help me, though I have no right.” It’s soon apparent that these riddles concern the parallel narrative of Signy, who comes to Findnar from the mainland to perform a sacrifice, despite the hostility of the island’s Christian newcomers, who object to pagan rites near their church. Freya begins digging while improving on an initially uneasy relationship with Daniel Boyne, a fisherman still guilty about the fact that Michael died while rescuing him from drowning. Signy sees Findnar sacked by Viking raiders and is rescued by a kindly nun, as is a near-dead boy who was one of the raiders. Graeme-Evans unfolds separate but equally compelling dramas as Signy falls in love with the wounded raider, with disastrous consequences, and Freya and Daniel are drawn together by unnerving shared visions of the long-ago tragedy. The semi-supernatural way the modern protagonists uncover the mysteries of the past isn’t terribly plausible (or necessary), but the storytelling is so strong, the characters so engaging, that most readers won’t care. Freya, longing to connect with the dead father whose absence has always haunted her romantic relationships, and Signy, resolute and defiant under the most terrible circumstances, are surrounded by a vivid supporting cast, including starchy librarian Katherine MacAllister, who was Michael’s lover, and glib-but-not-so-bad architect Simon Fettler. The conclusion of Signy’s saga is dark indeed, so it’s a relief that Graeme-Evans lets Freya have a happy ending. First-rate commercial fiction. (Agent: Rick Raftos)

JASMINE NIGHTS

Gregson, Julia Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (432 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4391-5558-5

As war’s red storm rages over England, Dominic Benson and Saba Tarcan confront love, life and death in Gregson’s (East of the Sun, 2009, etc.) latest historical fiction. It’s no longer Chamberlain’s “phony war.” Dom has been shot down, suffering facial burns and, despite his French mother’s fears, is ratcheting up nerve to fly again. Saba, a talented singer, defied her Turkish engineer father and her subservient Welsh mother and auditioned for the Entertainments National Service Association. Dom first meets Saba, a woman “like electricity,” when she performs at his hospital. Entranced, he appears at her London ENSA audition. In an intimate cafe conversation, romance begins. As Rommel prepares to attack Egypt, Saba is sent to entertain troops in North Africa. Dom, recuperated, wrangles assignment to the Desert Air Force. Deepening the narrative are Arleta, a thoroughly theater-oriented, song-anddance good-time girl; Janine, a prim, unfriendly, obsessive ballerina; Ellie, once a Paris model, now a costumer; Capt. Furness, ENSA’s military martinet; and Cleeve, a languid Bond-type operative undercover as an armed forces radio network producer. The |

narrative is in full bloom before Dom and Saba once again meet after a long separation, but no wartime romance is without rigors. Cleeve enlists Saba to connect with a rich nightclub impresario, Zafer Ozan, half-Turk, half-Egytian. The ultimate goal is to sneak a German deserter out of Istanbul. Romance may be the theme, but Gregson shines in her descriptions of the life of the rich, poor and combatant in Cairo and Alexandria, the sights of Giza and the Bosphorus, and the chaotic World War II milieu where women no longer tolerated “boys making all the rules.” Saba and Dom love, face perils, triumph and intermittently reunite. Spare of any serious, distracting anachronisms, the story flows at a stately pace to a conclusion both satisfying and open-ended. Fans will want a sequel. Historical fiction as personal journeys through love and loss and war’s havoc. (Agent: Clare Alexander)

THE BOOK OF SUMMERS

Hall, Emylia Mira (368 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7783-1411-0

A young woman confronts her magical, tragic past when she receives a scrapbook of the summers spent with her estranged mother. Despite working in the London art world, Beth Lowe lives a reserved life. She sees her father (a mere shadow of a man) on occasion, but hasn’t spoken to her mother in 15 years. Then a package arrives, a handmade scrapbook marked The Book of Summers. Tucked inside is a note from her mother’s longtime lover Zoltán, informing Beth that her mother has died. She grabs the album and heads to the park to recall memories she banished as a teenager. Her quiet English father and wild Hungarian mother seemed an odd pair, but 9-year-old Erzsi (the Hungarian of Elizabeth) is a happy child excited about the family vacation to Hungary, the first time Marika has been back since she escaped as a girl. But on vacation, the incomprehensible happens: Marika decides to stay and sends David and little Erzsi back home to England. Her mother’s abandonment is almost too much to take, and Erzsi pines for letters and phone calls as her home life with her father (tea and detective shows) becomes unbearably gray. But then summer comes, and Erzsi is allowed to visit her mother. Marika and artist Zoltán live in a country house dominated by art and laughter and nature—a bohemian counterpart to the lonesome domesticity of Erzsi’s English life. Down the road lives Tamás, a boy Erzsi’s age, who shows her the pool in the forest, a touchstone for her subsequent stays. Every year she returns to Marika and their Hungarian summers and falls in love anew. Hall nicely captures a girl’s adolescence, as Erzsi waits all year to bloom under the Hungarian sun, under her mother’s care. At 16 Erzsi begs her mother to let her stay in Hungary. It is then that Marika tells her the truth: It’s a heartbreaking rewriting of history. A poignant tale of a daughter strung between two parents and of the kind of silence and secrets that destroy families.

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THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU

Henkin, Joshua Pantheon (336 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-307-90756-1 A family melodrama that encompasses both tragedy and farce, as an upper-middle-class clan gathers to mourn a dead son and perhaps move on. When conventionalists claim, “They don’t write novels like that anymore,” this is the sort of novel they mean. Yet the very familiarity and durability of the setup suggests that the traditional novel remains very much alive and healthy as well, if the narrative momentum and depth of character here are proof of vitality. As suggested by his previous novel, the generically titled Matrimony (2007), Henkin isn’t the type to offer literary surprises. The novel transpires over a holiday weekend, which sees an extended family reuniting to mark the first anniversary of the death of the beloved son, a journalist killed in Iraq. As you’d expect, someone will say things that have previously been left unsaid. Someone will come to terms with the past in a way that puts the future in fresh perspective. Each member of the family will have a heart-to-heart conversation with every other one. By the end of the weekend, things will have changed. The particulars: The son’s death has proven so difficult for his mother to overcome that she wants to divorce her husband (who has been mourning in a different way). The oldest daughter and her husband, a celebrated academic, have a “workmanlike marriage,” though her brother’s death makes her want what she previously didn’t, to have children. The second daughter has been with her partner for more than a decade and seems more fulfilled than her married sisters. The youngest daughter now lives in Israel as an Orthodox Jew with her recently unemployed husband, though her promiscuity had made her a scandal in her formative years. The son’s widow has fallen in love. A very rich grandmother hovers over the plot. Which relationships will endure, which will collapse, and which will change over the course of a long weekend? A novel that satisfies all expectations in some very familiar ways. (Author tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Northampton (Mass.), Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.)

SUMMERLAND

Hilderbrand, Elin Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown (400 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-31-609983-7 Hilderbrand’s latest Nantucket-based tale details the impact of a tragic accident on three families. Penelope Alistair and her twin brother, Hobson, are the golden juniors of Nantucket High. Penny, gifted with a beautiful 1108

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voice, is destined for Broadway or the Met, and Hobby is a star athlete. Both are being courted by elite colleges, to the satisfaction and trepidation of their mother, Zoe, a CIA-trained chef who raised them alone. Driving Hobby, Jake and another friend, Demeter, home from a beach party, Penny goes berserk at the wheel of her boyfriend Jake’s Jeep and speeds off a dead-end road. Penny is killed instantly, and Hobby hovers in a coma for days before awakening to injuries that will dash his athletic ambitions. Jake and Demeter are unscathed, at least physically. Alcoholic, overweight Demeter harbors guilt over something she said to Penny that enraged her. What exactly set Penny off becomes the key mystery of the novel. Jake fears that Demeter told Penny that another girl came on to him. Hobby fears Demeter spread a rumor that his prom date, Claire, is pregnant with his child. Demeter cannot bear to contemplate her indiscretion and instead concentrates on staying drunk, quite a challenge around her socially prominent, sober parents. Her summer job with a lawn crew enables her to pilfer premium liquor from well-heeled Nantucket dwellers who don’t lock their doors. Zoe withdraws from her friends, dedicating herself to Hobby’s recovery. Jake’s father, Jordan, removes him and his mother, Ava, to Ava’s native Perth, Australia. Jordan’s motives are mixed: Ava has longed to return home, and Jake needs a fresh start free of traumatic associations, but Jordan’s main intent is to distance himself from Zoe, his lover since his marriage to Ava foundered over the crib death of Jake’s infant brother. Despite some well-worn plot expedients and an unduly preachy denouement, a sensitive glimpse into the lives of damaged people groping their way toward healing. (Agents: Michael Carlisle and David Forrer)

BACK IN THE GAME

Holdefer, Charles Permanent Press (206 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-57962-265-7 Here’s another happy-go-lucky loser to join the protagonists of Apology for Big Rod (1997) and Nice (2001); Holdefer’s fourth novel is less inventive than its predecessors. Stanley Mercer is the product of a small-town American childhood; he’s back in the U.S. after a 14-year absence. His career in minor league baseball had taken him to Latin America and eventually France, where he’d lived for four years until his French girlfriend dumped him and his French boss fired him. Now he’s staying with his brother in Chicago without a clue what to do next, until his sister-in-law points out an ad. An elementary school in the small town of Legion, Iowa, is looking for a substitute teacher. Stan’s the man. You might think his colorful past would fill out his character, but no. He’s a blank, and a blank he remains. Holdefer casts around for items of interest in this dull town. Stanley is renting a farmhouse that used to be a meth lab until the cops closed it. He finds $640 in an old jacket; in a wasted opportunity, no tweaker returns to claim his stash. There’s a huge hog farm nearby which poses an

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we’re proud to introduce a new book blog to our network—the book smugglers, writing about science fiction, fantasy, ya and romance for kirkus.

F I C T I O N

Life on the Rails B Y A NA G R I LO

When invited to go on a lifechanging adventure, Sham Yes ap Soorap, the main character of Railsea, ponders: “What if it’s terrible? What if it all ends in tears?” That’s exactly how I felt when picking my first China Miéville book to celebrate the momentous occasion of our debut at Kirkus. Thankfully, Railsea wasn’t terrible—far from it—and the only tears shed were the ones upon the realization that no, I cannot have a pet bat called Daybe. Sham Yes ap Soorap is a young doctor’s apprentice on board of the Medes, a moletrain that is always on the go on the railsea, cruising its never-ending tracks. The life of a moletrain doctor is not a bad one, but an insistent internal voice tells Sham that maybe he should be doing something else, something more exciting, like archesalvaging. And so he wonders, and he dreams, and life proceeds as normal onboard the Medes. Then one day the crew come across the wreck of a train, and Sham finds a series of images that depict something that shouldn’t, can’t exist. And that is just the beginning of Sham’s incredible adventures. Railsea is set eons in the future, and Sham’s world is our own world except it is not. The narrative subtly hints at a postapocalyptic scenario, intimating at a previous economical and ecological collapse. The railsea, the never-ending expansion of tracks that criss cross deserts and connect the few populated islands, is both the beginning and end of life for Sham and the people he knows. It is a world where merely stepping out of the rails becomes a grand adventure—the earth is the most dangerous place in existence with its giant vicious rodents.

With Miéville’s obvious penchant for creating new, richly developed worlds it becomes easy to picture what this world and its railsea look like—and incredibly clear that the railsea is at once familiar and yet a fundamentally altered version of our world. It is in the narrative language itself with its neologisms, in the changed environment and in the peoples’ varied ideologies. The idea of heaven and angels, for example, has shifted to incorporate the new ferro-reality. Railsea is kind of a retelling of MobyDick, only with trains and a giant mole named Mocker-Jack who is obsessively hunted by the Medes’ captain, an incredible woman called Naphi. But because this is the future, her obsession is not only nurtured, but a thing to aspire to—it is now even called something else, a philosophy. Much more than its Moby-Dick associations though, this is an adventure book through and through, following its hero as he discovers a brand new world full of awesome possibilities. And in a way, he is Christopher Columbus all over again. What made Railsea a definite winner for me was the narrative. The narrator of the story is not only omniscient, but also omnipresent. It is the true conductor of this train—it stops whenever it pleases and relates each character’s adventure at its own beck and call with as many or as little words as it wants. I found it extremely charming, even though I have the feeling that it might annoy some readers. I also truly appreciated the diversity of this world, in which some families are polyamorous, and strong female characters abound. Although the ending goes off the rails for a bit and veers toward Big Message Territory, this wasn’t enough to completely derail (I will stop now with the rail analogies, I swear) my reading experience. Railsea is a notable read of 2012. Or, in Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10.

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9 Ana Grilo is a Brazilian living in the UK, where she moved because of the weather. No, seriously. Together with her evil partner in crime, Thea James, she runs The Book Smugglers, where they review Spec Fiction and YA. World domination via book reviewing is their main agenda. You can also find them over at Twitter.

RAILSEA

China Miéville Random House (448 pp. ) $18.00 | May 15, 2012 978-0-345-52452-2 |

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“A light thriller with romantic elements.” from the line between here and gone

excremental threat, fulfilled when raw sewage spills into the river. As for Stanley’s sex life, it’s unproductive. A Chicago nurse’s email suggestion that they sleep together meant literally that: no sex, as Stanley finds out too late. This leaves Amy Rawlings, the mother of one of Stanley’s students. She’s off-limits, a gut feeling tells Stanley, but when did he pay attention to them? Amy has a stormy marriage to a realtor who’s also a tweaker (no avoiding that meth) and a wild man. The only drama in the novel flows from that marriage, leaving Stanley on the periphery. The jig is up for him when the principal discovers he’s been teaching without a degree. A more robust comic sense might have redeemed this plotless work; no such luck.

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY

Joyce, Rachel Random House (320 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-8129-9329-5

Those with the patience to accompany the protagonist on this meandering journey will receive an emotional payoff at the end. The debut novel by an award-winning British radio playwright (and actor) offers an allegory that requires many leaps of faith, while straddling the line between the charming and cloying (as well as the comic and melodramatic). The title character has recently retired from his office job at a brewery, lives with a wife who hasn’t loved him for decades—since their intelligent, perhaps disturbed son sparked her estrangement from her husband—and appears destined to live his life in everyday limbo until the grave. Then, one day, he receives a letter from a female co-worker with whom he had once been close but hasn’t been in contact for 20 years. She is dying from cancer and has written to let him know, to say goodbye. Without planning or preparation, he embarks on the title’s “unlikely pilgrimage,” somehow believing that if he can walk the hundreds of miles over the many months it will take him, she will remain alive to welcome him. On his journey, he meets a bunch of characters, becomes something of a celebrity and learns a little bit more about the meaning of life. These lessons are articulated in homilies such as “you could be ordinary and attempt something extraordinary,” and “Maybe it’s what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith.” Maybe, but if such sentiments seem akin to those from one of Mitch Albom’s bestselling parables, the novel’s evocation of everyday British reticence, heartbreak and wonder occasionally suggest the depths of the great Graham Swift. The final chapters of the novel resolve the mysteries that have been underlying the rest—how the son divided his parents, why the co-worker had disappeared from Harold’s life—and there’s a powerful resolution in which all’s well that ends well. Manipulative but moving, for readers who don’t mind having their strings pulled.

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THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE

Kane, Andrea Mira (400 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-7783-1337-3

Amanda Gleason’s infant son, Justin, is fighting for his life, and only his father can save him. But his father, Paul Everett, is dead. Or is he? Former romance novelist Kane (The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, 2011, etc.) offers the second installment in her Forensic Instincts series. Forensic Instincts is an unusual private investigative team. Headed by Casey Woods, a profiler, FI is staffed by a psychic, a technological genius, a former Navy SEAL, a former FBI agent and a dog. Each is a maverick, dedicated to FI and to their clients but willing to break all the rules to solve the case. Kane’s thriller begins with an intriguing premise. Paul Everett was the love of Amanda’s life. Romantic and successful, he swept her off her feet and was poised to transform the run-down pier area into an elegant casino and hotel. Without warning, however, he is gone, leaving behind a smashed, bloody car. He never even knew about Amanda’s pregnancy. Months later, however, Amanda is emailed a photo of Paul, and she realizes that he may be alive, and he may be able to save Justin, if only she can locate him. Enter the FI team. With Justin deteriorating, the team races against the clock, quickly discovering that all is not as it appears to be. And what’s with Amanda’s seemingly benevolent yet aloof Uncle Lyle Fenton? Why is Fenton meeting with the man who took over Everett’s grand real-estate development? Why is Fenton meeting with Congressman Mercer? Why is Mercer offering to be tested as a stem-cell donor for Justin? Meanwhile, romance is brewing between two members of the FI team, and Casey’s beloved Hutch has come to visit. With its twists and turns, the story is compelling. The fast-paced, dialogue-driven plot, however, cannot conceal the thin characters. A light thriller with romantic elements.

LITTLE CENTURY

Keesey, Anna Farrar, Straus and Giroux (336 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-374-19204-4

The title refers to a little town in the midst of the vastness of Oregon, where at the turn of the 20th century, sheepmen and cattlemen vie for grazing territory as well as for the love of 18-year-old

Esther Chambers. Recently orphaned, Esther travels from Chicago in search of Ferris “Pick” Pickett, a distant relative about 10 years older than she is. Pick is friendly but taciturn, and he takes her out

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to Half-a-Mind, a property that had recently been abandoned by a farmer. Through Pick, Esther finds out that if she can live in Half-a-Mind at least six months out of the year for five years, she can claim it as her own, so she begins to homestead. Esther quickly discovers that much of the conflict out West lies in the hatred between cattlemen and sheepmen, for they’re constantly fighting about who has the rights to free rangeland. At first the tension emerges as petty violence—windows broken by slingshots—but it soon escalates to a much more serious level with hooded cattlemen driving hundreds of sheep over a bluff to their deaths and a retaliatory action in which a prize bull is beheaded. Amidst this growing violence Esther finds herself attracted to Pick, cautious spokesperson for the cattlemen, and Ben Cruff, a sheepman who almost by definition is hostile to the cattle ranchers. Keesey introduces us to a large cast of Oregonians here, including Joe Peaslee, whose apparent suicide might have actually been murder; Violet Fowler, a postmistress whose snoopiness leads her to open any interesting letter that comes her way; and Mr. Elliot, of the Far West Navigation and Railway, who’s investigating the possibility of establishing a spur line to Century and thus ensuring its continued economic viability. Keesey writes lyrically and examines the ferocity of frontier life with an unromantic and penetrating gaze.

BORN OF SILENCE

Kenyon, Sherrilyn Grand Central Publishing (500 pp.) $25.99 | May 1, 2012 978-0-446-57331-3 Series: The League, 5 Remember how Darth Vader was a good guy, sort of? Keep that in mind as Kenyon’s latest space oater in The League series unfolds. The Ichidian universe is Blackwater’s dream: It’s a place where assassins call the shots, beg pardon, and in that setting, even the purest body of space ninjas are not incorruptible. Readers of the series, and they are many, will doubtless recall that the last volume, Born of Shadows (2012; all titles in the series are called Born of Something or Another, though so far none has been called Born of Two Loving Parents in a Stable Environment), featured a whole lot of smooching and swordplay on the part of MacGyver (or maybe, depending on who’s cast for the part, McLovin) type Caillen Dagan, whose spirit looms large on the very first page of the latest: “You have got to be the biggest manwhore in the entire universe. What are you trying to do? Tie Caillen for the record on how many people you can sleep with in a single month?” So Maris Sulle badgers Darling Cruel—sorry, that’s his name—at the outset of a tome that will find him beaming back and forth across the universe in his own person and that of his alter ego, who, naturally, is trying to undo all the good he’s done and kill all his pals while he’s at it. Who will win in this Manichean struggle between lightsaber and dark helmet? Maybe Zarya, the space vixen and fearless freedom fighter whose brief it is to prowl the galaxies looking for the man who did in her family. It’s good to know that in these |

weird quarters, where people have funny handles and even the butchest of them is “dressed in a long flowing cloak over a black battlesuit,” someone has the sensible name Arturo. Suffice it to say that Caillen cavorts, Zarya’s breasts spill over the top of her battlesuit (“Yeah, he’d much rather be naked with her in his bed than deal with a bunch of egotistical assholes”), and the universe is made safe for a sequel. In space, no one can hear you scream. That’s a good thing for those who love a well-written story and are trapped reading this one instead.

TIGERS IN RED WEATHER

Klaussmann, Liza Little, Brown (368 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-316-21133-8

Postwar marriage and motherhood are more complicated than two cousins expected in Klaussmann’s smart, unsettling debut. In September 1945, Nick and Helena are drinking gin in their backyard in Cambridge, Mass., looking forward to the end of rationing and the beginning of their adult lives. Helena is headed for Hollywood to marry Avery Lewis, Nick to Florida to be reunited with her Navy veteran husband, Hughes Derringer. Part I chronicles that less-than-successful reunion from Nick’s point of view, then moves back to Cambridge as both women become pregnant in 1947. Tiger House, Nick’s family home on Martha’s Vineyard, sees a turbulent summer in 1959 when Nick’s daughter Daisy (this section’s viewpoint character) and Helena’s son Ed discover the corpse of a Portuguese maid. We eventually find out who killed Elena Nunes, but the focus is on simmering tensions within and between the two families as the narrative moves into the 1960s and expands to include Helena’s, Hughes’ and Ed’s perspectives. Restless Nick has casual flings that make both Hughes and her unhappy. Avery, obsessed with a dead movie star, gets Helena hooked on pills and pimps her out to a producer. Passive-aggressive Helena, instead of dumping Avery, blames all her problems on the admittedly bossy Nick and encourages creepily detached Ed to resent Nick too. Daisy gets engaged to a young man who seems far too interested in her glamorous mother. Developments in the Lewis family strain credulity, but Klaussmann’s pitch-perfect portrait of the Derringer marriage gives the novel a strong emotional charge. Nick is frustrated by life as a decorative appendage; Hughes is uneasily aware that the part of himself he’s always held in reserve has something to do with her infidelities. Their complicated, painfully loving relationship and their mutual tenderness for fresh-faced Daisy ring true, while the odysseys of Helena and Ed clang with melodrama. Uneven, but stinging dialogue and sharp insights offer strong foundations on which this novice author can build.

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BETWEEN YOU AND ME

Kraus, Nicola; McLaughlin, Emma Atria (336 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4391-8818-7 A down-on-her-luck NYC girl gets a taste of the limelight when she becomes personal assistant to a rock-star relative. McLaughlin and Kraus (Nanny Returns, 2009, etc.) offer up another fable about a plucky 20-something beleaguered by an unstable employer. Their latest entry feels about seven years out of step with the times, as the crazy in the house this time is a Britney-esque pop star whose life is leaning dangerously towards the toxic. Our everygirl narrator is Logan Wade, who was offered the personal assistant gig by her cousin Kelsey when the young singer was first starting out. Now, Kelsey has become one of the world’s biggest celebrities, while Logan is living a half-life in the city with an arduous job, a selfish sort-of-boyfriend and a growing sense of dissatisfaction with her life. “Suddenly the life I’ve spent the last decade building is losing relevance, the veneer I’ve run frantic circles to secure showing its cracks like a puzzle held over a flashlight,” Logan says, in a characteristically overly wordy and featherweight observation from a generally impassive character. Even when the authors shoehorn Logan into the most glamorous and outrageous situations—and there are many, ranging from video shoots in exotic locales to flu-ridden blockbuster concerts to steamy Italian liaisons—she never seems to join the circus, just comments endlessly on it. Kelsey is a far more interesting collection of self-indulgences, poor choices and disconnects from reality, but her character is so fully drawn from real life that her troubles seem a bit clichéd. There are the paparazzi photos, her ill-advised romance with a sleazy backup dancer, a host of mood disorders and the helicopter parents who want to micromanage their daughter’s career, not to mention her life. The story shudders from plot point to plot point. Harmless, yes, but McLaughlin and Kraus flow better when their stories are more diabolical and less diatribe. White girl problems. (Author appearances in Boston, The Hamptons, Kansas City, Los Angeles and New York)

LIFE IS SHORT AND DESIRE ENDLESS

Lapeyre, Patrick Translated by Hunter, Adriana Other Press (336 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-59051-484-9 One need look no further than the apt title to uncover the frustrations of the two main male characters. At one point in the novel one of Nora Neville’s lovers wonders whether “she secretes an active substance when she comes in contact with men, one that singlehandedly makes them fall at her feet,” and after a brief acquaintance, the reader is 1112

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persuaded that this is an accurate depiction of her singular powers. Although she’s reputed to have many lovers, Lapeyre focuses on two: Murphy Blomdale, an American businessman living in London, and Louis Blériot, a hapless Parisian even more desperately in love with the elusive and provocative Nora. Blériot is a translator, and when the novel opens he hasn’t heard from Nora for two long and anguished years, but he gets a phone call—fortuitously on Ascension Day—and they rekindle their relationship. Although Blomdale had been sharing an apartment with Nora, Blériot is more secretive and constrained, of necessity because he’s married to Sabine, a French intellectual in whom he’s lost interest since his introduction to the alluring Nora. Blériot can be either ecstatic or miserable in her company, depending on how capricious she happens to be at a given moment, while Blomdale is a bit more circumspect—but still generally miserable. Eventually Blériot and Blomdale meet—almost accidentally—in London when Blériot can’t stand his life without Nora anymore (and not so coincidentally finds his marriage falling apart) and so goes to London to seek out some of her old haunts. Lapeyre writes with great wit and sly craft on the miseries of unfulfilled relationships.

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

Larson, Nathan Akashic (256 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Jul. 2, 2012 978-1-61775-079-3

Award-winning film composer Larson (The Dewey Decimal System, 2011) returns with another episode in the life of a man dubbed “Dewey Decimal.” This time the amnesiac hero (he’s a veteran and a bagman, too) has to deal with the fallout from killing dirty District Attorney Daniel Rosenblatt, his old employer. Have no doubt, Dewey is a seriously weird dude, obsessed with Purell, the systematic organization of the books back at the crib (The New York Public Library, where he resides), nursing the limp that came from having his kneecap blown off, and generally trying to survive in a world that’s been unraveled from manifold disasters. “Lest you’ve already diagnosed me as a hopeless psychopath, irredeemable, I do have a Code,” Dewey protests. “Which sets me apart from the bulk of the animals in this town and elsewhere.” Back at his old boss’ office six weeks later (Dewey broke in looking for evidence), he runs across a wealth of blackmail material that brings him into the orbit of two disparate groups vying for position: on the one hand, boss Kwon-Man Seok and the town’s Korean community (lucky Dewey, who believes he was the subject of invasive government experiments, speaks Korean) and on the other, the Cyna-corps stormtroopers, a corporation that has taken vertical integration all the way from janitorial services to militarymurderers-for-hire. As is the case with Charlie Huston’s vampire books, the plot is secondary to the whiplash prose, teeth-gnashing dialogue and post-civilization concepts that make a crazy (amateur) librarian in a pitch-black world a hell of a lot of fun for a few hours. A good time for fans of the likes of Charlie Huston and Charles Stross.

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“A heartwarming, spirit-lifting read just in time for beach season.” from the meryl streep movie club

THE MERYL STREEP MOVIE CLUB

March, Mia Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-4516-5539-1 When Lolly Weller summons her daughter and nieces home to The Three Captains’ Inn, her announcement that she has been diagnosed with cancer is just one of many life-changing secrets to be told. March’s debut novel uses the films of Meryl Streep to illuminate these women’s lives and to drive away the shadows that dim their happiness. After their mother and father die in a car crash, Isabel and June Nash are taken in by their Aunt Lolly, who lost her own husband in the same crash. Lolly’s daughter, Kat, gains instant sisters, but grief tinges the familial bonds. Now grown up, gathered back under Lolly’s roof, and drafted into Friday Movie Nights, these young women begin to reconsider the choices they have made—and the opportunities ahead. Like the heroine of Heartburn, Isabel is reeling from her husband’s affair. Handsome veterinarian Griffin might know the sting of infidelity, as well, and Isabel is certainly drawn to him for more than their shared pain. Kat has been all but betrothed to Oliver since they were toddlers, but she’s not sure if she is more ready to marry Oliver or to run off to a Paris patisserie. Defending Your Life makes her wonder if the real shame is in missing the opportunities life offers. Perhaps the exotic Dr. Matteo Viola is such an opportunity. Like the daughter in Streep’s Mama Mia!, June’s son, Charlie, has never known his real father. To help Charlie finish his family tree project, June agrees to once more search for John Smith, but maybe Henry Books is a truer father for Charlie. And she can’t deny her own attraction to him for much longer. But which movie mirrors Lolly’s past? What secret does she hide still? And why has she watched Out of Africa only once in her life? A heartwarming, spirit-lifting read just in time for beach season. (Agent: Alexis Hurley)

CUBOP CITY BLUES

Medina, Pablo Grove (270 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-8021-1984-1

Storytelling that playfully illuminates the essence of storytelling, though heavier on atmosphere and color than narrative momentum and cohesion. Some of the shorter vignettes seem to function as prose poems, and a few of the longer pieces work as stand-alone stories, though the recurrence of characters throughout the selections suggests a novelistic scope. The titular “Cubop City” is a Manhattan of the imaginary realm; it is “walking words and static silence and |

drums and saints and demons with penises like flaming hoses stalking the pretty girls by the school door...It is the long nose of the marketplace and the short nose of the church.” But it is not the only city explored here, as the book culminates in the birth of Afro-Cuban jazz in New Orleans (with Jelly Roll Morton as midwife) and makes extended stops in Havana and Las Vegas. The stories are attributed to “The Storyteller,” a blind man born to parents who never loved him or each other and are now on the verge of death. “I made believe I could see, I made believe I was a character in the stories,” he explains. “I made believe I had a life inside the fiction, that I could love and be afraid and tell stories and be wounded and married and divorced and live alongside the characters I created. And that it was all true.” Such truth manifests itself in repeated incidents of stabbing wounds and obsessions or foot fetishism, amid a more pervasive sexuality. He writes of “trying to devise a story that had no solitude, no death, and no sex. No sex? It was like fishing for the impossible fish.” Love of life, music, sex and language redeem a work that might have benefited from more continuity and focus. (Agent: Elaine Markson)

OFFICE GIRL

Meno, Joe Akashic (224 pp.) $23.95 | paper $14.95 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-61775-075-5 978-1-61775-076-2 paperback Sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter how hard we wish they would. But there’s irony, so we have that going for us. Right? The talented Chicago-based Meno (The Great Perhaps, 2009, etc.) has composed a gorgeous little indie romance, circa 1999. The titular protagonist is Odile, the arty, brazen and fearless 23-year-old who loves graffiti, the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours,” riding her bicycle around the city, and the married guy she can’t have. She’s also chronically unemployable, generous to a fault and susceptible to dumb mistakes like offering a sexual favor to a co-worker who can’t keep his mouth shut, forcing Odile to quit and go take a crap job in customer service. Jack is a few years older and a spiraling tragedy of his own making. An art school graduate with no creative traction, he’s devastated by his abrupt divorce from Elise, to whom he was married less than a year. To fill his soul, Jack records things, and Meno turns these fleeting sounds into mini-portraits. “Everything is white and soft and dazzling,” he writes. “And Jack, in front of his apartment building, can’t help but stop and record as much of it as he can. Because it’s a marvel, an explosion, a cyclone of white and silver flakes.” The encounter between these two creative iconoclasts is less courting and more epiphany, as they discover the amazing and transformative effects of love with a joy as naïve as that of children. Their story can be artificially cute, with secret messages scrawled on city walls and dirty magazines awash with surrealistic Polaroid snapshots. But when things Get Weird

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as things do when we’re young, Meno is refreshingly honest in portraying the lowest lows and not just the innocent highs. A sweetheart of a novel, complete with a hazy ending.

THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING

Methven, Jon Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-4215-5 What if the “Miracle on the Hudson” were completely faked by an unscrupulous airline company in order to boost prices? And what if we got a guy to write the whole thing up just like Carl Hiaasen? Frequent McSweeney’s contributor Methven employs a very familiar menagerie of misfits, misanthropes and damaged goods in his episodic debut novel. Told over the course of seven days, the book chronicles the epic story of Air Wanderlust Flight 2921. In the midst of a routine flight, the plane loses both engines in a “birdstrike,” and Captain Hank Swagger brings the flying brick to a miraculous halt in the Hudson River, saving all 162 souls on board. Except that it’s all a ruse, an invention designed to save the company and turn its alcoholic cowboy pilot into a national hero. To lend the book comic heft, Methven follows two additional passengers. The first, Normal Fulk, is a con man who recently faked his own death and is mourning the loss of his most prized possession—a vial containing the frozen sperm of John Lennon. “And really, passengers, was it not inevitable that it would come to this—the general citizenry, those with a little cash left and looking to burn it on a new vice—wanting to own the genetic code of their most beloved celebrities?” Methven asks. Where the book ratchets up the absurdity is in the story of Lucy Springer, a media darling whose two loves were her banker husband and a doppelganger named “Ava Tardner,” the puppet costume she was wearing when she shot up her cheating husband’s office. This leads a judge to sentence her to wear the puppet at all times, even on air. It’s Lucy who begins pulling at the frayed edges of the Swagger story, unraveling it bit by unhinged bit. Don’t miss Methven’s psychotic, if interactive, reading group guide at the end. A quick-witted comedy about celebrity a bit too tonguein-cheek for its own good. (Agent: David Patterson)

BRAND NEW HUMAN BEING

Miller, Emily Jeanne Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (272 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-547-73436-1 A family man is tested by his father’s death, his wife’s emotional distance and his son’s exasperating behavior—and the crush he’s nursing on his widowed stepmom isn’t helping. 1114

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As Miller’s debut novel opens, narrator Logan Pyle is just barely keeping it together as a stay-at-home dad. His 4-year-old son, Owen, has become increasingly closed-off and rude. His lawyer wife, Julie, is little help, working long hours on a case involving ailing miners. And he’s feeling pressured to sell the valuable Montana lakefront land his late father left him. Cue some heavyhanded symbolism (Logan stocking life preservers in a boating shop on the property) and a few scenes driven by Logan’s fuming at helicopter moms and wealthy know-it-all dads, and it’s clear a crisis is coming. Sure enough, he catches Julie flirting heavily with another man, prompting him to take Owen on an impromptu road trip to visit Bennie, the young widow of Logan’s father. The two work through their own history (including a drunken flirtation that went too far) and Logan’s crumbling marriage, speeding up a long-avoided reckoning with the past. Miller is at her best in scenes with Logan and Owen together—dad’s brutal honesty with his son about death in general (and Owen’s near-death experience in particular) exposes the depths of his emotional frustration. The sexual tension between Logan and Bennie is convincing, and the first-person-present narration gives the novel a breezy energy. Even so, stiff moments abound, as when Logan and Owen visit a church and joshingly baptize themselves, and much of the dialogue is earnestly engineered to push the chess pieces into their proper positions. The sense of manipulation increases in the closing pages, which tie the bow in a satisfying but not especially surprising way. A solid debut, though its redemption arc is predictable comfort food.

THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY

Moriarty, Liane Amy Einhorn/Putnam (416 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 14, 2012 978-0-399-15910-7 Australian Moriarty (What Alice Forgot, 2011, etc.) has managed to combine an infectiously lighthearted romance about a Sydney hypnotherapist with a potentially upsetting examination of a

stalker’s interior life. In the first scene, an unnamed narrator has come for treatment for mysterious leg pains at the home of the eponymous heroine, Buddhist-leaning but not stereotypically New-Agey Ellen, who uses her powers of hypnotic persuasion to solve other people’s problems. Unfortunately, Ellen has been less successful solving her own problems in maintaining relationships. Then she meets surveyor Patrick, a widower, and the rapport is immediate. The romance proceeds swimmingly. Ellen even hits it off with Patrick’s 8-year-old son, Jack. There is only one little hitch: Patrick is being stalked by his ex-girlfriend Saskia, who turns out to be the leg pain patient. Chapters take turns showing Ellen’s and Saskia’s perspectives as events unfold. Ellen, whose self-professed goal in life is self-awareness, tends to overanalyze, but she is also endearingly honest in rooting out her true feelings. Saskia’s way of showing up and knowing everything about Ellen’s and Patrick’s lives creeps

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her out, but Ellen also finds herself wanting to understand Saskia, especially when Ellen acknowledges her own reaction to Patrick’s lingering feelings for his dead wife. She is even drawn toward a gray ethical area in deciding whether to use her powers of suggestion on Patrick. But Saskia is the novel’s unexpected heart. Moriarty makes it clear why Patrick, who is refreshingly imperfect as a secondhand Prince Charming, finds Saskia a threatening presence in his life. How far she might go is worrisome. But like Ellen, readers will be drawn to Saskia. She is a predator but also a deeply troubled woman. Moriarty makes sure that any woman who has ever compared herself to a lover’s ex or Googled an ex of her own will identify to some degree with Saskia’s struggle to overcome what she recognizes is an unhealthy obsession. Amazingly, the effervescent comedy and troubling melodrama combine to create a satisfying beach read, escapist but not unintelligent. (Agent: Faye Bender)

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THE GIFT OF FIRE / ON THE HEAD OF A PIN Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion Mosley, Walter Tor (288 pp.) $24.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-7653-3008-6

Moving far from the milieu of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Fortlow (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, 1997, etc.), Mosley offers two novellas in one volume, part of a series entitled Crosstown to Oblivion, the common theme being, “a black man destroys the world.” In The Gift of Fire, the Titan Prometheus escapes from the bondage and torture imposed on him by the Olympians for bringing mankind the gift of fire and alights in present-day Los Angeles, intent on bringing humans a second gift: that of enlightenment, so they can free themselves from unwitting slavery at the hands of those selfsame Olympians. But so

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“A girls-only weekend turns deadly for four friends.” from guilty wives

spiritually impoverished is the modern age that Prometheus finds he cannot bestow his gift without killing the recipients or driving them insane. Finally he comes upon a physically helpless black boy, Chief Reddy, who fantasizes about being a superhero and saving the father he never knew from the forces of doom. What happens next will come as no surprise to fans of Robert A. Heinlein’s classic Stranger in a Strange Land. Flip the book, and read again from the front, like the old Ace doubles, to encounter On the Head of a Pin, where Joshua Winterland works as a documenter at a company designing a fiber-optic tapestry, the Sail, intended for advanced animatronics editing techniques. But to everybody’s surprise, the Sail turns out to be something quite different: a window into alternate worlds and times. Joshua finds he’s particularly attuned to the device and soon contacts beautiful Thalla of the Alto, a future race created by humans and perpetually threatened by a remnant humanity guided by a huge computer. Complications ensue when the government gets wind of the device. Ingenious and mystical, although readers familiar with fantasy and science fiction will find little new or provocative here. Fans of Mosley’s gumshoe noir books (or Blue Light, 1998, his earlier foray into the domain) will certainly wish to investigate.

INVISIBLE MONSTERS REMIX

Palahniuk, Chuck Norton (336 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 11, 2012 978-0-393-08352-1

Palahniuk (Damned, 2011, etc.) plays literary DJ, revisiting and updating his 1999 novel Invisible Monsters. In a new “Reintroduction,” Palahniuk explains that Invisible Monsters was never meant to be a conventional narrative, resembling in its original incarnation the Sears catalogue or an old copy of Vogue magazine, jumping forward and backward in time with the quick-cut style changes of a classic MTV playlist. The elder statesman of transgressive fiction even sounds a bit cynical—“You young people, you who think you invented fun and drugs and good times, fuck you.”—though with his skewed sense of humor, it’s generally hard to be sure. In matter of substance, there’s not much of a “remix” to be had here, just a, “Now, please jump to Chapter Forty,” Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style that doesn’t so much reorder the book as augment the disjointed, whiplash atmosphere its author intended. The book that Kirkus drubbed “Too clever by half ” in 1999 is still here in its ghoulish entirety. The narrator is Shannon McFarland, a fashion model whose beauty has been obliterated in an enigmatic accident. While recovering in the hospital, Shannon meets Brandy Alexander, a voluptuous pre-surgical transsexual who adopts Shannon and takes her on the road, granting them new monikers, identities and trades in the process. Throw in some more drag queens, a knife-wielding ex-cop, plenty of drugs, sexual abuse and even a wedding, not to mention some 1116

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eerie family values. The book is really a superfluous artifact, but that doesn’t change the fact that Palahniuk remains one of the most gifted writers in American fiction. Not worth replacing your old paperback, but a nice collector’s item for Palahniuk’s cult. (Author tour to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles)

GUILTY WIVES

Patterson, James; Ellis, David Little, Brown (448 pp.) $27.99 | Mar. 26, 2012 978-0-316-09756-7 A girls-only weekend turns deadly for four friends who find that what happens in Monte Carlo definitely doesn’t stay in Monte Carlo. Locked in an unspeakable French prison, Georgetown literature professor Abbie Elliot recalls the glamorous prologue to her murder conviction. Former U.S. Olympic skier Serena Schofield footed the bills for Abbie, British diva Winnie Brookes and South African beauty Bryah Gordon as they prepared for an unforgettable weekend of drinking, dishing and sexual adventures. Abbie doesn’t know that Devo, the man Winnie hooks up with, has actually been her lover for a year, or that he’s the President of France. Nor does she know that her husband Jeffrey, along with the husbands of Serena, Bryah and Winnie, is watching the four buddies as they sashay around Monte. When someone shoots Devo and the race car driver who turns out to be his bodyguard, the police arrest the four friends, but it’s clear that one of the four husbands (maybe more than one—they’re all so unappealing that it doesn’t much matter) has framed them for murder. There follows a trial during which Abbie keeps getting reminded that they’re not in an American courtroom, a prison stint marked by threats, bullying and worse (think Caged Heat), and a daring escape that leads to a high-fatality climax. Patterson (The Christmas Wedding, 2011, etc.) and Ellis (Breach of Trust, 2011, etc.) make the pages fly without creating a single memorable character or asking you to take any of their variously glossy or gritty menace seriously.

THE RISK AGENT

Pearson, Ridley Putnam (432 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-399-15883-4

If you have the right incentives, dollars in the billions can be made in Shanghai, where capitalism wrestles with communism. So says Pearson (In Harm’s Way, 2010, etc.) in this first in a new series of thrillers. Of course, “incentives” means bribery and overpayment. And that means more business for Rutherford

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Risk, specializing in corporate security. Now Rutherford has only days to free Lu Hao and Clete Danner, an American who had been surveilling Lu for Rutherford. The ransom is meager, but stakes are high. Lu delivered and accounted for incentives paid by The Bethold Group, an American company building Shanghai’s Xuan Tower, the world’s tallest building. Suspects are plentiful, especially considering entrepreneurs like Yang Cheng were resentful of the American company’s success. With private investigation illegal in China, Rutherford reaches out for John Knox, an import/exporter with a long history as a military contractor, and Grace Chu, an American-educated, Chinese army intelligence veteran who’s currently a Hong Kong forensic accountant. With subplots involving Grace’s muddied love affair with Lu’s brother, Knox’s need to protect his brother and partner, Tommy, who is autistic, and Danner’s shadowy connections, Pearson’s narrative grabs readers and rockets through hundreds of pages of nonstop action laced by violence, double-dealing and shady characters. First, there are the Mongolians, exiles working for a chimerical Bejing bigwig. There’s Shen Deshi, an inspector for the People’s Armed Police, “the Gestapo of China.” Most mysterious is mainland China itself, “an anything-goes market economy layered over a police state.” Knox knows China, but he’s a waiguoren (foreigner), never to be completely familiar with “the complexities of the interwoven social and professional etiquette involving the Chinese.” And then there is guanxi (connections), and that untranslatable matter of “face.” A cunning thriller worthy of the promised series, especially if the fascinating Grace Chu reappears regularly. Exotic locale. Credible heroics. Vicarious thrills. Fans will want more, and soon.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN

Ratner, Vaddey Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-1-4516-5770-8 Ratner’s avowedly autobiographical first novel describes her family’s travails during the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the late 1970s. Despite the lingering effects of childhood polio, 7-year-old Raami is living a charmed existence. Her father is a minor royal prince and a sensitive, even saintly, poet, a member of the wealthy intelligentsia. Raami and her baby sister, Radana, are cared for by their beautiful young mother and a household of kindly, devoted servants in an atmosphere of privilege and also spiritual grace. Then comes the government overthrow. At first Raami’s father is hopeful that the new leaders will solve the injustice, but soon the new government’s true nature reveals itself. Like most of the city’s residents, Raami’s extended family, including aunts, uncle, cousins and grandmother, are soon ordered out of Phnom Penh. They seek refuge at their weekend house but are driven from there as well. Part of the mass exodus, they try not to draw attention to their royal background, but Raami’s father is recognized and taken away, never to be seen again. |

Raami, her mother and Radana end up in a rural community staying in the primitive shack of a kindly, childless couple. There is little food and the work is backbreaking. During monsoon season, Radana perishes from malaria, and Raami blames herself because she did not protect her adequately from the mosquitoes. Raami and her mother are ordered to another community. For four years, one terrible event follows another, with small moments of hope followed by cruelty and despair. But her mother never stops protecting Raami, and although both grieve deeply for their lost loved ones, both find untapped stores of resilience. While names are changed (though not Ratner’s father’s name, which she keeps to honor his memory) and events are conflated, an author’s note clarifies how little Ratner’s novel has strayed from her actual memory of events. Often lyrical, sometimes a bit ponderous: a painful, personal record of Cambodia’s holocaust.

LITTLE NIGHT

Rice, Luanne Pamela Dorman/Viking (336 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-670-02356-1 A Manhattan ornithologist strives to heal the rift that has divided what is left of her family. Clare and her older sister Anne were always close, having grown up in a Chelsea brownstone with parents who kept secrets from each other and their daughters. But when Anne married a famous Danish glass blower, Frederik, he insisted she distance her own family. After a long silence, Clare goes to Anne’s isolated country home, where she’s welcomed by Anne and her children, Grit and Gilly. Bruises on Anne reveal abuse, confirmed by young Gilly, but when Frederik thwarts their escape and tries to strangle Anne, Clare hits him with a burning log from the fireplace. After Anne testifies against her, Clare goes to prison for two years. Almost 20 years later, Clare has rebuilt her life around her work as a birder and nature blogger, studying New York City’s avian population. Her boyfriend, Paul, an Urban Park Ranger, is still in her life, but since she broke up with him (for his own good, she thought) while in prison, their relationship has remained tentative. When Grit shows up at Clare’s apartment (in that very same childhood brownstone), Clare learns that Anne, who moved to Copenhagen with Frederik, has thoroughly identified with her captor. She has tolerated Frederik’s physical and emotional abuse, not just of herself but of her son and daughter. Gilly commits a tragic act as a result, and Grit is disowned by her parents. Frederik is such an odious character that it is difficult to see how he managed to ensnare Anne in the first place—let alone keep her in his thrall. When Grit is hurt while filming in a bog, Clare leaves a message for Anne. A scent of violets and other clues indicate Anne may have heard the call. A new rendering of Rice’s familiar themes of sisterhood and inherited dysfunction, which suffers from slapdash characterization but profits from a sure-handed depiction of the wilds of New York. (Author events in New York, California and Connecticut)

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PICTURE THIS

Sheehan, Jacqueline Morrow/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $14.99 paperback | May 22, 2012 978-0-06-200812-1 Surrounded by her Peaks Island friends, widow Rocky Pelligrino’s emotional journey continues in Sheehan’s sequel to Lost & Found (2007). Rocky, a psychotherapist, has settled comfortably into a rental house on Peaks Island, off Portland, Maine, with her beloved black lab, Cooper. Her husband Bob’s sudden death just 15 months earlier shook her entire world, but her stay on the island has given Rocky some much-needed time to adjust to and reflect on the changes that have occurred. Although she is working as a game warden and enjoys her new job, Rocky must face a difficult decision: Should she stay on the island or return to her counseling job at a university on the mainland? Rocky has forged close friendships with several of the locals in this special close-knit community, including Tess, an elderly physical therapist and rental property manager; her boss, Isaiah; and Melissa, a teenager who struggles with anorexia and is completely devoted to Cooper and Rocky. Still in the throes of trying to redefine her life, Rocky even has begun to take the first steps toward falling in love again with Hill, her archery instructor. Then two events occur that help Rocky decide. She buys an old house that she feels a strong connection to and makes plans to renovate, and she receives a phone call from Natalie, an 18-year-old girl who is searching for her biological father. In Natalie, Rocky discovers a troubled and secretive person, the product of an abusive foster care system. Rocky’s empathetic nature and background as a therapist compel her to help Natalie, and she invites her to stay with her on the island while Natalie searches for a job. As her guest settles into the daily life on Peaks Island, Rocky is determined to heal Natalie’s wounds as well as her own and to uncover the truth about her young visitor’s origins. Sheehan uses her skills as both a psychologist and a writer to create a solid, insightful story that will leave fans eagerly awaiting another visit from the strong heroine, her dog and her friends.

SEATING ARRANGEMENTS

Shipstead, Maggie Knopf (320 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-307-59946-9

New England blue bloods suffer through three days of wedding festivities in Shipstead’s debut, a bleak comedy of manners—think a modern-day Edith Wharton on downers. Winn Van Meter (Deerfield, Harvard), a banker apparently oblivious to the recession, and his 1118

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stoic wife Biddy (ancestors on the Mayflower) are throwing a wedding for daughter Daphne (Deerfield, Princeton) on the Massachusetts island where they always summer. Winn certainly approves of Daphne’s fiancé, whales-on-his-belt preppy Greyson Duff, whom she met at Princeton and whose parents own the entire Maine island where they summer. He is less thrilled that Daphne is 8 months pregnant. To make matters worse, Daphne’s younger sister Livia (Deerfield, Harvard) was impregnated by her Harvard boyfriend, Teddy, around the same time. What sticks in Winn’s craw is not Livia’s pregnancy or the abortion after her Teddy dumped her, but rather the embarrassment she caused by announcing her pregnancy in a drunken rage one evening at the Ophidian, a Harvard club. Winn takes club membership very seriously. Even his dangerous attraction to Daphne’s bridesmaid Agatha (Deerfield) is less compelling than his desire to get into the Pequod Club where he’s been lingering on the waiting list; ironically, Teddy’s parents, whom Winn treated badly in his college days (the Vietnam era although Winn hardly noticed) have influence at the Pequod. Once Greyson’s family arrives, a game of sexual musical chairs begins. Winn plays around with Agatha in the laundry room. Pursued by Greyson’s self-proclaimed Buddhist brother Francis, Livia instead hooks up with his black sheep oldest brother Sterling. The next day Livia and Winn walk into the garage and catch Sterling in flagrante delicto with Agatha, whose predatory sexual appetite is never explained. More embarrassing if less sexual incidents follow. The one outsider, bridesmaid Dominique (Deerfield, U. of Mich., but Egyptian!!), observes their escapades with a jaundiced eye. Despite Shipstead’s flair for language and scene setting, her characters are worse than cartoonishly unlikable— they are, with the exception of Dominique, yawn-provokingly uninteresting. (Author tour to Boston and New England, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco)

THIS BRIGHT RIVER

Somerville, Patrick Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown (464 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-316-12931-2 Past misdeeds afflict generations of a wealthy Midwestern family. Somerville’s latest concerns Ben Hanson, who, after several years out west wasting a fortune and serving a short prison term, returns to his small hometown of St. Helens, Wis. Ben’s Uncle Denny has died, and he has accepted his wealthy parents’ offer to fix up and occupy the house until it sells. Whereas the archetypal drifter is amoral, Ben is the postmodern type, crippled by self-awareness, paralyzed by the damage existence inevitably causes. What Ben has, and apparently needs, is an opportunity to babysit himself. Haunted by his cousin Wayne’s death that may or may not have been suicide, determined to learn Wayne’s secret, Ben is unable to name the larger conflict that makes his life a sequence

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“Plucky battlefield nurse Bess Crawford fights World War I diseases, deserters and more.” from an unmarked grave

of failures he cannot even dignify as attempts. Ben seeks out Lauren Sheehan, a girl he may or may not have had a crush on in high school. But Laura has suffered in the interim, and their courtship is inevitable if halting. While Ben is the protagonist, the narrative baton is passed between several principals. Somerville lets his characters talk and talk: The idioms of the tedious are captured with remarkable fidelity. But even the most patient reader may tire as these inarticulate souls tangle with their complicated feelings. It becomes a matter of taste: How do we react to overhearing a conversation while trapped on public transportation? Do we want to interrupt, to knock in some sense or offer advice, or do we listen, by turns angered and fascinated by tragedies only halfheartedly avoided? A provoking book: The reader will not escape untouched. (Author tour to Chicago, Milwaukee and New York)

THE CRAVING

Starr, Jason Ace/Berkley (320 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-937007-55-3

in this tale about a guy who parents by allowing his 3-yearold to hang out with people-eating werewolves.

AN UNMARKED GRAVE

Todd, Charles Morrow/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $24.99 | $11.99 e-book | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-06-201572-3 978-0-06-212701-3 e-book Plucky battlefield nurse Bess Crawford (A Bitter Truth, 2011, etc.) fights World War I diseases, deserters and more. When Pvt. Wilson, heading up the burial detail, notices that one of the corpses has no wounds except for a broken neck, he summons nurse Bess Crawford to decide what to do. Bess recognizes the victim as Maj. Vincent Carson, a former member of her father’s old regiment. But before she can get a message to her dad, the

Jason Starr continues the saga of regular-guy-turned-werewolf that he began with The Pack (2011). Women find Simon Burns irresistible. So much so that they practically yank his pants off while he’s out with his young son to enjoy a day in the park. But Simon’s conversion from an ordinary guy to a sexually magnetic stay-at-home dad with strange physical powers isn’t a coincidence. It all began when he turned into an urban werewolf courtesy of Michael, the strange German heir to a beer fortune. Simon’s wife, Alison, understands only that her husband suffers from some type of psychological disorder that makes him think he’s a werewolf, but Simon knows the truth, and he’s hidden it from her well. Or at least he’s tried, because lately his powers have been growing, and he’s becoming stronger, faster and more dangerous every day. As Alison grows more and more puzzled about her marriage and Simon’s weird behavior, Simon explores the werewolf side of his personality and discovers he can run faster and longer than ever before and sense smells like never before, all while experiencing amazing changes to his body. But Simon is worried about his family’s safety. He has seen firsthand the brutal appetite of werewolves in a feeding frenzy and worries that his own role in a police investigation led by a sexy female detective will soon bring much unwanted notice to him and the members of his pack. Not to mention that his own wife displays the critical judgment skills of a teenage girl who goes down in the basement knowing that there might be a guy with a hockey mask and a chainsaw waiting. Starr’s book is long on gore and rife with the kind of sexual thinking generally attributable to nerdy but hopeful 15-year-old boys, and none of Starr’s characters are especially redeeming, but there’s a goofy kind of fun to the writing. Starr doesn’t let plot development or characterization impede the flow of violence or improbable twists and turns |

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Col. Sahib, she’s stricken with influenza, falls into a coma, and is shipped home from Ypres to Dorset. In recovery, she volunteers at Somerset’s Longleigh House clinic, where a wounded Yank, Capt. Thomas Barclay, becomes semismitten and helps her investigate who might have wanted Carson dead. Simon Brandon, her father’s former batman now handling classified assignments for the government, also tries to help, but is seriously wounded before making much headway. Bess returns to France, as does the Yank. Soon enough she must face death twice, confront a deserter with good intentions, shoot a purported British officer in the head, sort through the whereabouts and motives of seven brothers, keep tabs on the Kaiser and the Prince of Wales, and worry about poor Simon’s state of health. Her father will have to step in to see to her safety, but peripatetic Bess, who crosses the channel innumerable times, sets matters right. How many wartime casualties and heroics from Bess does it take to exhaust a reader? Unfortunately, exactly this many, despite the author’s fierce antiwar sentiments. Readers weary of Bess can take refuge in Todd Ian Rutledge’s series (The Confession, 2012, etc.).

HEARTBROKEN

Unger, Lisa Crown (384 pp.) $24.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-307-46520-7 Unger’s latest offers a triumvirate of strong women pitted against a shared past and dangerous future. Birdie Heart loves Heart Island more than anything else, and that includes her family. She’s tied to the island in a way that is nearly visceral; so much so that she fought her siblings to the point of estrangement to gain ownership of it when her parents died. Now, she and her husband, Joe Burke, host an annual gathering of family on the small island that is barely touched by modern conveniences. Only this year, no one really wants to go other than her grandchildren, the son and daughter of Birdie’s daughter, Kate. With her brother, Theo, bowing out, dutiful daughter Kate proceeds with plans to take the kids to the island, but last-minute complications end up with her leaving her son and husband behind and taking only daughter Chelsea and her friend, Lulu. Independent of their preparations, Emily, a waitress at the Blue Hen, waits tables and returns home to worthless boyfriend, Dean, a druggie and thief who struggles to control Emily and work as little as possible. After causing a rift between Emily and her mother, Martha, Dean and a very dangerous associate of his hatch plans to rob the Blue Hen and take Emily along for the ride. Emily, seemingly incapable of telling Dean “no,” goes along with his plans and the two are caught up in a terrible sequence of events that lead them on a collision course with Birdie and the girls. Unger is a master at building characters that crackle with personality and purpose, and the women in this novel are no exception. Birdie, unhappy with everything in her life, is particularly well-drawn, but the character of Emily 1120

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remains a puzzle. Unger undoubtedly meant for Emily to come across as sympathetic. Everyone who encounters her feels inexplicably sorry for her, but in the long run, she’s an unlikable young woman who makes terrible life-altering choices. Unger knows how to write a taut thriller, but one improbable character keeps this book from being extraordinary. (Author events in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Houston. Agent: Elaine Markson)

BEAUTIFUL RUINS

Walter, Jess Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-06-192812-3 Hollywood operators and creative washouts collide across five decades and two continents in a brilliant, madcap meditation on fate. The sixth novel by Walter (The Financial Lives of the Poets, 2009, etc.) opens in April 1962 with the arrival of starlet Dee Moray in a flyspeck Italian resort town. Dee is supposed to be filming the Liz TaylorRichard Burton costume epic Cleopatra, but her inconvenient pregnancy (by Burton) has prompted the studio to tuck her away. A smitten young man, Pasquale, runs the small hotel where she’s hidden, and he’s contemptuous of the studio lackey, Michael Deane, charged with keeping Dee out of sight. From there the story sprays out in multiple directions, shifting time and perspective to follow Deane’s evolution into a Robert Evans-style mogul; Dee’s hapless aging-punk son; an alcoholic World War II vet who settles into Pasquale’s hotel to peck away at a novel; and a young screenwriter eagerly pitching a dour movie about the Donner Party. Much of the pleasure of the novel comes from watching Walter ingeniously zip back and forth to connect these loose strands, but it largely succeeds on the comic energy of its prose and the liveliness of its characters. A theme that bubbles under the story is the variety of ways real life energizes great art—Walter intersperses excerpts from his characters’ plays, memoirs, film treatments and novels to show how their pasts inform their best work. Unlikely coincidences abound, but they feel less like plot contrivances than ways to serve a broader theme about how the unlikely, unplanned moments in our lives are the most meaningful ones. And simply put, Walter’s prose is a joy—funny, brash, witty and rich with ironic twists. He’s taken all of the tricks of the postmodern novel and scoured out the cynicism, making for a novel that’s life-affirming but never saccharine. A superb romp. (Author appearances in Boston, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle)

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SEAL TEAM SIX OUTCASTS

Wasdin, Howard E.; Templin, Stephen Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (384 pp.) $26.00 | May 29, 2012 978-1-4516-7566-5

Capitalizing on the success of the memoir Wasdin wrote with Stephen Templin, Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper (2011), the pair returns with a cartoonish novel. Alexander “Alex” Brandenburg, John Landry, Catherine “Cat” Fares and Francisco “Pancho” Rodriguez are screw-ups. But screw-up is just another word for nothing left to lose. A supersecret program recruits this motley multiethnic crew to kill a group of terrorists engaged in a protracted battle to lead al Qaeda. The plot, a vehicle with one gear and no steering wheel, takes them back and forth from their base in Dam Neck, Va., to Jakarta, Zermatt, Beirut, Karachi, Islamabad, Paris and New York. Alex is team leader, and we glimpse his past, learn why he entered the service, hear his struggles and deepest thoughts: “When he was on land, he wanted to be at sea, and when he was at sea, he wanted to be on land. They were both his home, yet there were times when neither felt like his home.” While the comic book artist exaggerates anatomy, here the weapons and hardware are described in fetishistic detail—you might take them for product placements. The Outcasts visit elegant strip clubs and stay in the finest hotels, making love when not making war. And though they are meant to appear sympathetic, they return, as if for relaxation, to the blood Jacuzzi. The Outcasts, masters of covert operations—they are alone and allegedly disposable—engage in multiple firefights in major cities, killing dozens. In one instance, if you bother to count, you will find that two SUVs disgorge, like clown cars in a circus, at least 21 terrorists. If you enjoy multiplayer shooting games and know or want to learn more about weapons systems, this book is for you.

AMPED

Wilson, Daniel H. Doubleday (288 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-385-53515-1 In the near future, a schoolteacher with a cranially implanted “amp” must master an array of hidden talents when a wave of bigotry against those like him threatens to tear the country apart. A few decades ago, the government began installing “amps”—small devices, generally designed to aid in concentration and mental focus—into the brains of underprivileged and otherwise challenged children. Now, a political movement led by a rabble-rousing Senator seeks to strip “amps” (as implanted individuals are derogatorily called) of their basic rights as citizens based on the argument that they are no longer truly |

human. Teacher and amp Owen Gray, troubled after witnessing the suicide of an amp student, learns from his scientist father that the implant he received as a teen is something rather more than the anti-epilepsy device he’d always thought it was. Gray leaves moments before an explosion kills his father and destroys his lab. Following his father’s last advice and fearing for his life, Gray heads for an amp haven—a trailer park in Oklahoma called Eden. There he meets Lyle Crosby, an amp whose military-grade Zenith class amp makes him a super soldier. As Lyle helps Owen unlock the hidden powers bestowed on him by his supercharged amp, Owen must decide how far he’s willing to follow the charismatic but unpredictable and often violent Lyle, as tensions between amps and non-amps come to a head nationwide. Wilson delivers a thoughtful, well-written novel, which, like his previous novel Robopocalypse (2011), deals with the often tense interplay between machines and humans. Unfortunately, while he nails the machine part, the human part falls a little short. The characters lack depth, and a crucial romantic relationship feels forced and unearned. The plot is thin, too, hewing too closely to archetype. Wilson, whose prose is always a step above the norm, is at his strongest creating amp-augmented action sequences and in conjuring situations which explore the boundaries between humankind and its technological creations. Provocative, with strong action sequences, but weak in character development and plotting.

THE BELLWETHER REVIVALS

Wood, Benjamin Viking (432 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 2, 2012 978-0-670-02359-2

Eden Bellwether, an organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, has the idea he can heal through the power of music, but Wood raises the possibility that Eden has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is thus suffering from delusions about his powers. The Bellwether family is characterized by both brilliance and eccentricity—and perhaps the two inevitably go together. Eden’s sister Iris is a medical student at Cambridge and a fine musician in her own right, a cellist rather than an organist, and she bounces between unflappable adoration of her brother and suspicion that he might be a pathological case study. One autumn evening, Oscar Lowe, a nurse’s assistant at a local nursing home, cuts across the King’s College grounds and is attracted by the sonorous sound of an organ. On this fateful evening he meets Eden and Iris. Despite their differences Oscar and Iris feel an immediate, quirky attraction for one another, and they quickly become lovers. Oscar, though highly intelligent and well read, has found for himself a path other than academia, but he feels himself drawn in by the undeniable charisma of the Bellwethers. His favorite patient at the nursing home is Abraham “Bram” Paulsen, a former distinguished professor of English, whose friendship with Herbert Crest, a brilliant psychologist, leads to

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“In Wright’s debut literary fiction, teenage James Bonham meets evil one summer.” from what dies in summer

a complicated and volatile mixture of personalities and motives. When Iris breaks her leg, Eden seems to heal her through a bizarre regimen of physical and musical therapy. Crest becomes intrigued with Eden’s putative powers, at least in part because the psychologist is dying of a malignant brain tumor, so his professional—and skeptical—motives become entangled with his personal ones, the latter characterized by Delusions of Hope, the book he’s desperately trying to finish writing before his death. Wood moves the reader deftly through pastoral Cambridge, into the British upper crust, and ultimately into the mad mind of Eden himself.

WHAT DIES IN SUMMER

Wright, Tom Norton (288 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 4, 2012 978-1-455-15895-9

Youngsters sometimes confront this hard world too soon, coming away scarred or stronger. In Wright’s debut literary fiction, teenage James Bonham meets evil one summer. In an era when The Doors are on the radio and fans believe Elvis has grown too fat, James discovers his cousin, Lee Ann, on his grandmother’s doorstep, nearly frozen and shocked into muteness. James, his father dead, lives with Gram. His mother, Leah, had moved them from Jacksboro, Texas, to Dallas, only to take up with a boyfriend, Jack, who fancied himself a boxer and used James as a practice punching bag. James and Lee Ann (daughter of Leah’s sister, Rachel, and known as L.A. to the family) are almost the same age, old enough to drive, and great friends who are protective of one another. Wright’s gift is superb characterization. Churchgoing Gram is firm, loving, accepting and solidly independent. Gram’s dear friend Dr. Kepler taught at Southern Methodist but lost all faith when her family was sent to Hitler’s ovens. Incidental characters sparkle, like Colossians Odell, a halfmad, street-dwelling basso profundo, and Froggy, neighborhood store clerk. L.A., “something hard and dangerous in her eyes,” has been sexually abused by her father, Cam. That damage, and the childhood abuse of Rachel and Leah that still echoes, play out against the murders of three teenage girls. One body, mutilated and staged, is discovered by L.A. and James. Other threads blend into the complex narrative. James desperately wants Diana Chamfort, whose father, Don, is a Dallas police lieutenant leading the murder investigation. James’ friend, Dee, a “gentle boy” with artistic talent, is relegated to military school with tragic results. Told from James’ point of view, the story moves along believably as James is confused and overwhelmed by family crises, danger from the serial killer and his sexual desire for Diana, only to ultimately learn: “Maybe the big plan didn’t call for people being entitled to explanations.” A lyrical and realistic study of innocence lost.

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THE SEVENTH GATE

Zimler, Richard Overlook (400 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-59020-713-0

In early 1930s Berlin, with Nazism on the rise, self-possessed 14-year-old Sophie Riedesel joins her kindly Jewish neighbor, Mr. Zarco, in a secret resistance group known as the Ring. When the group’s leader is murdered, Sophie dedicates herself to solving the crime, even as her father and boyfriend are signing up with the Nazis. Zimler, a seasoned American writer living in Portugal, combines sexy coming-of-age adventures with coming-of-Hitler terrors in this powerfully understated saga. A sheltered gentile girl who had never met anyone who disliked Jews until recently, Sophie now is exposed to the anti-Semitic spoutings of her father, a spineless Communist engineer who will try to beat her Jewish sympathies out of her. Generations ahead of her time, she is a self-aware girl whose sexual experimentation with her boyfriend, Tonio, is as much an expression of individuality as a pursuit of pleasure. In addition to Zarco, who teaches her from the kabbalah and generally wins her over to a life of religion, Sophie befriends an odd physical specimen named Vera, who suffers from gigantism. The book depicts the Nazis’ brutal treatment of people with physical imperfections or the potential to pass them on to their children. Haunted by the loss of her tragically fated little brother, and now pregnant, Sophie eventually escapes to such distant places as Portugal (site of the massacre of Jews Zimler wrote about in The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, 1998) and Turkey. The book telescopes forward to the present, where Sophie narrates its events to her nephew, who has always thought she was Jewish. In the end, she is the best kind of survivor, a thoughtful and likable one with lessons to share. Adult fiction that counts on readers’ ability to draw meaning from cultural signposts such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Greta Garbo and The Magic Mountain. But its plucky heroine gives it young adult appeal as well.

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Discover Suzanne Jenkins

ISBN: 978-1461135920

“An intriguing �irst novel that revolves around a husband's death and hidden secrets . . . Women’s �iction with a touch of noir.” -Kirkus Reviews

ISBN: 978-1466219007

“An exciting, surprising story that leaves the reader hungry for the next book.” -Kirkus Reviews

ISBN: 978-1468126235

“A man's in�idelity rocks the lives of many New York women �ive months after his death . . . A gritty, realistic portrait of the aftermath of deceit.” -Kirkus Reviews

For orders or information about �ilm or publication rights, email suzannejenkinswriter@gmail.com or call 609-314-1872. www.suzannejenkins.net

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m ys t e r y OUTERBOROUGH BLUES A Brooklyn Mystery Cotto, Andrew Ig Publishing (200 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-9354394-9-3

A highly unlikely detective pursues the even more unlikely trail of a missing man during Holy Week in Brooklyn. Colette Rennet’s brother Jean-Baptist is missing—he stopped attending classes at the Brooklyn Art Institute soon after matriculating—and she doesn’t know where he’s gone. So she wanders into The Notch, a bar whose owner is universally known as the Captain, and asks Caesar Stiles, the bartender, to find him. Caesar has no experience as a detective, but his experience with crime is intimate and extensive. His grandmother emigrated from Sicily specifically to kill the man who’d traveled to America to escape her; his beloved brother Angie was struck and killed by a train during a fist fight that had migrated to the tracks; and his fearsome brother Sallie is doing time for maiming the man who nearly killed him in another fight. Caesar duly asks questions of Professor Reginald Hamersley, Jean-Baptist’s art teacher; his landlady, liquor-store owner Lillian Pettaway; his neighborhood real-estate mogul Will Page, who buys buildings and flips them; and his own friend Don Brown, a oneman construction crew. But any sense of forward motion is undercut by a torrent of anecdotal memories that pull Caesar back to his travels across the U.S., the women he’s loved, the men he’s fought and his troubled family history. Long before Easter Sunday dawns, present and past will have merged in a definite enough resolution but no clear sense of arriving at a destination. First-time novelist Cotto’s shaggy, dreamlike saga begins with a curse and ends with a redemption of sorts. What’s in between is a lot less clear.

UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE

Davidson, MaryJanice Penguin (316 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-425-24757-0

A vampire queen misses her late friend… until he mysteriously returns. Betsy “Don’t-Call-Me-Elizabeth” Taylor is having a hell of a week, which is quite a feat for the reigning vampire queen. She’s in the throes of mourning her dear friend Marc when she makes a unilateral decision to bring him back from the dead. The idea doesn’t go over so well with her housemates, but Betsy’s indifferent to everyone’s opinion but her own. Before 1124

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she can spring into action doing—well, she’s not quite sure, but doing something—she and her husband, Sinclair, discover Marc dissecting Betsy’s dead cat. Even though they live in a world of the Antichrist, werewolves and other supernatural folk, zombie-Marc is unexpected and not universally welcomed. Concerns about the politically correct way to say zombie (“metaphysically-challenged”?) are preempted by a more pressing need to address and contain the unwanted visitor to the household. As with all women in charge, Betsy knows she’s got to clean up the mess, but it seems possible she’s going to make things worse and not better. Davidson’s latest seems to be less interested in presenting new action than in laying groundwork for further volumes in her series (Undead and Undermined, 2011, etc.). The same mixture as before, but with more Game of Thrones references.

THE DARK CHRONICLES A Spy Trilogy: Free Agent; Song Of Treason; The Moscow Option Duns, Jeremy Penguin (880 pp.) $20.00 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-14-312069-8

A trio of gritty spy yarns featuring British double agent Paul Dark. Free Agent (first published in the U.S. in 2009) opens with a meeting between veteran agent Dark, who narrates, and the imperious Chief, ostensibly to discuss the dicey Nigerian situation. Instead, their lengthy cat-and-mouse discussion reaches all the way back to World War II, when Chief was in charge and Dark a field operative. Chief has recently discovered that there was a traitor in their midst, perhaps someone still at work. In an instant, Dark shoots him dead and then begins to cover his tracks, an activity that involves both going to Nigeria and remembering Anna, the beautiful Russian lover who attempted to turn him. After assuming that Anna was dead, he learns that she may be alive after all. Song of Treason (published in the U.K. in 2010) opens at the funeral of Chief, who is revealed as Sir Colin Templeton. Dark is delivering a funeral oration and just beginning to breathe easier about his freedom when a gunshot likely meant for Dark kills a colleague standing next to him. The game, so to speak, is afoot. The brand-new Moscow Option offers Dark a chance at redemption. Flashbacks aside, the entire span of the three novels covers but a few months in 1969, the latter installments finding greater depth and resonance in developments of the first. The weight of Duns’ historical detail is impressive—each tale includes a lengthy bibliography—and the whole of the trilogy is much greater than the sum of its parts. The immediacy of Duns’ writing grabs and suspends the reader in a beautifully realized heartbeat of recent history. (Agent: Antony Topping)

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“Gibson creates a mystery as laid-back and mellow as her heroine.” from a class on murder

A CLASS ON MURDER

Gibson, K.B. Five Star (250 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 15, 2012 978-1-4328-2593-5

An academic cozy about murder. Oklahoma’s Pursley University, a quiet school in a small town, may not be all that behavioral psychology professor Ronnie Raven once dreamed of for herself, but it’s perfectly good for now—until she finds a Harley-Davidson taking up the whole bike rack. Raven is more annoyed than surprised. Her boorish colleague Dr. Weldon Crutchfield acts as though his status as tenured professor entitles him to a lot of things. But when Raven finds Crutchfield’s body in his office, she’s more surprised than annoyed. The situation is especially delicate because Detective Melvin suspects that Raven’s responsible for the professor’s early demise. Melvin’s assistant, Lt. LeGrand, who’s fairly sure that one of Crutchfield’s many sworn enemies is the murderer, tries to help Raven clear her name. Raven has her doubts about LeGrand, whom she quickly dubs Lt. Kiddie Cop, even though he may be her biggest ally. That is, apart from her closest friend and amateur lothario Terry, who encourages Raven to stay on the good side of LeGrand in more ways than one. Gibson creates a mystery as laid-back and mellow as her heroine.

THE SKELETON BOX

Gruley, Bryan Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (336 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4165-6366-2

The inexplicable murder of his mother’s dearest friend sends Upper Michigan journalist Gus Carpenter, of the dying Pine County Pilot, back for another bracing trip to his town’s endlessly sordid past. Whoever the Bingo Night Burglar is, he’s pulled off his first four jobs with a minimum of fuss: nobody harmed, nothing even stolen. But the break-in at the home of Gus’ mother, Beatrice, leaves her next-door neighbor and old friend Phyllis Bontrager dead. Who would kill the inoffensive Mrs. B, who was on the scene only to stay with her failing friend? Mrs. B’s mysterious last non-word, “Nye-less,” sets Gus on the trail of a missing nun and a monstrous coverup 50 years old—a coverup that’s been so successful for so long that he, his ex-girlfriend Darlene Esper and Pilot reporter Luke Whistler have to go several rounds with interloping born-again troublemaker Wayland Breck, Detroit PR fixer Regis Repelmaus and golfing cleric Father Tim Reilly before the case comes to a head in a choleric judge’s chambers. Nor will they get much help from Pine County Sheriff Dingus Aho, who has to deal with an electoral challenge from his nasty little deputy Frank D’Alessio. Just in case all these conflicts aren’t enough, Gruley (The Hanging Tree, 2010, etc.) also showcases the |

River Rats, the teen hockey team Gus coaches, battling to go all the way to the state championship Gus blew himself when he let through the winning overtime goal 20 years earlier. Complex but lumpy, perhaps because of the true-crime roots a closing note reveals. But there’s no mistaking Gruley’s fierce love for his frigid hamlet. (Author tour to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and the Upper Midwest)

THE PARIS DIRECTIVE

Jay, Gerald Talese/Doubleday (336 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-385-53548-9

Pseudonymous Jay’s debut plops a killer-for-hire down in the placid Dordogne village of Taziac to produce a mashup of cloak-and-dagger and cozy replete with murder and fine dining. A cleaning lady shows up at L’Ermitage to find vacation renter Ben Reece, a New York art dealer, gruesomely slain. A further search of the villa discloses the equally dead bodies of Reece’s wife and the wife of his old friend Schuyler Phillips. The local flics assume that the killer is the absent Monsieur Phillips. Once they find his corpse too, they redirect their suspicions to handyman Ali Sedak. All of which proves that these cops are idiots, because readers already know that two retired French intelligence agents who still have a stake in the game have dispatched Klaus Reiner, a freelance assassin of many names, to Taziac on a murderous mission. Even after the hapless cops ask that Inspector Paul Mazarelle, a local celebrity, be assigned to the case, things are slow to improve for the forces of law and order. Mazarelle’s first move is to arrest Ali Sedak, even though he suspects that the evidence against him is a little too suspiciously generous. It’s not until Ali’s death in his cell that the wheels of justice start moving in the right direction. By that time the Reeces’ daughter Molly, a Manhattan assistant district attorney, has arrived on the scene to be wined and dined and menaced by the suave Reiner in his improbable guise as Pierre Barmeyer. By-the-numbers plotting, with a killer whose motivations make you wonder how he’s lasted so long; a police hero who’s bound to return in further installments; and some meals you’ll remember long after the 10 fatalities have faded from memory.

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DEATH’S DOOR

Kelly, Jim Creme de la Crime (256 pp.) $29.95 | May 1, 2012 978-1-78029-519-0 For CID coppers Shaw and Valentine (Death Toll, 2011, etc.), an unsolved murder poisons the air 20 years later. Even after a cyanide pill has done its work, DI Peter Shaw, studying the still, pale face, can readily see how remarkably beautiful Marianne Osbourne had been. Now “bloodless as china,” her face is an exact match for the white duvet that covers her. There’s no note, but George Valentine, Peter’s sergeant with 30 years on the job, tells the world that he knows a suicide when he sees one: Pills are pills, evidence is evidence. Peter takes his point, but certain emanations, vague yet stubborn, in the death room keep him from being persuaded. And of course he’s right not to be. Soon enough, the evidence begins tilting in a different, entirely unexpected direction. Twenty years earlier, an excursion ferryboat that had deposited 75 passengers on an uninhabited pleasure island off the coast of Norfolk returned with only 74. Young lifeguard Shane White had been left behind, murdered, his unsolved death destined to become a famous cold case. How are the two fatalities connected? To begin with, Marianne had been one of the ferryboat’s passengers. Other connections soon develop. Among the most intriguing and bedeviling of these to Shaw and Valentine is the sudden influx of death by cyanide pill. Not all the details of the complex investigation are equally compelling, but the quality of Kelly’s prose and the ongoing upstairs-downstairs relationship between the two protagonists will propel readers past the dry spots.

COP TO CORPSE

Lovesey, Peter Soho Crime (304 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-61695-078-1 How many mistakes can Detective Superintendent Diamond make and still catch the Somerset Sniper? When the third patrolman in the Bath area is felled by ammo from an assault rifle, Peter Diamond (Stagestruck, 2011, etc.) steps in, landing firmly on the toes of Chief Super Gull, who’s heading up the hunt for the media-dubbed Somerset Sniper. Gull wants total control, but Diamond has his own ideas and hunches, which immediately lead him to Hospital Casualty after a run-in with a motorcyclist, then set him up for an earful from one of the widows, and ultimately cause rifts in his own nick when he starts investigating everyone assigned there in the belief that the sniper might be a cop past or present. After all, the shooter has firearms expertise, knows the officers’ 1126

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duty rosters, and is a master at eluding discovery by keeping to little-used Bath-area byways. Still, Diamond can find nothing more than random motives to link the three murders and is further perplexed when only the last victim’s possessions include a note stating, “You’re next.” And what is he to make of the blog announcing that three women may have incontrovertible proof that one of their husbands is the Somerset Sniper? Nobody but Lovesey could thump out a gritty procedural yet instill Bath with so much charm and history that readers will have to put it on their bucket lists.

BONEREAPERS

Matthews, Jeanne Poisoned Pen (246 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59058-618-1 978-1-59058-620-4 paperback 978-1-59058-619-8 Lg. Prt. Freezing to death in Norway. Back in Hawaii, where she lives and works, anthropologist Dinah Pelerin buys a stylish pea jacket with chichi red buttons to keep her comfy when she accompanies Senator Norris Frye on a diplomatic mission to a tiny settlement within shouting distance of the North Pole. They plan to deposit hapai banana shoots in the Svalbard Seed Vault, which would ensure the preservation of sustenance should the planet come under attack from disease, warriors or aliens. Joining them on their jaunt to the permafrost are Senator Colt Sheridan and his Norwegian-born wife, Erika; Senator Whitney Keyes; various flunkies and gofers; and Jake Mahler, CEO of Tillcorp, a generous contributor to Sheridan’s presidential campaign bid, who travels with personal bodyguards and his attorney, Valerie Ives. The Minister of Agriculture who greets them at the far-north airport is maimed by a laser; a protestor who rants about gene modification is silenced with a carving knife in a back alley. Dinah, borrowing a warmer coat from Erika, is shot at, perhaps by mistake, perhaps for snooping too diligently into her traveling companions’ pasts, which include alcoholism, hallucinations, an unacknowledged birth and an African famine someone inflicted on Myzandia by tinkering with genes. When Valerie is killed in a sauna, DI Thor Ramberg, trying to solve his first cases of homicide, seems baffled. Everybody’s freezing except for Erika, who steps out for a brisk walk and disappears. Despite a kiss hot enough to thaw the permafrost, the detective suspects Dinah of skullduggery, but she warms his heart by solving the mystery. A tepid case that heats up only when Matthews (Bet Your Bones, 2011, etc.) delves into Norse myths. (Author tour to Washington, Oregon and Denver)

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A KILLING COAST

Rowson, Pauline Severn House (224 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8144-1

DI Andy Horton (Blood on the Sand, 2010, etc.) misses the mark when he mistakes a murder for an accidental drowning. Even though Colin Yately was dressed in a woman’s ankle-length dress when his body was pulled from the Solent, Horton has no reason to suspect foul play in the retired postman’s death. It isn’t until the next day that Dr. Clayton gives him the bad news: Yately was bashed over the head and deliberately drowned. By then, it’s too late to seal up Yately’s apartment on the Isle of Wight, which Horton inspected but left unguarded. Sure enough, when DCI Bliss sends him back after a thorough bollocking, he finds a manuscript missing. Also missing is Victor Hazleton, a retired office manager who reported seeing lights on the water the night Yately was most likely murdered. Horton had been distracted by his interview with Adrian Stanley, a retired police officer he thought might be able to shed some light on the disappearance of Horton’s mother some 30 years earlier. So he hadn’t pursued Hazleton’s lead. This omission earns Horton a further reprimand from Bliss, herself distracted by Operation Neptune, designed to thwart a possible caper aimed at the superyacht Russell Glenn has moored in Portsmouth Harbour. When Hazleton turns up in the trunk of a Morris Minor belonging to Yately’s friend, retired lawyer Arthur Lisle, Horton begins slowly but carefully to probe the web of crime that links these seemingly innocent pensioners. A generally satisfying puzzler whose hero takes a little too long to connect the dots.

a crash course at The Farm, Louise learns defensive maneuvers, is given a Schrade pocketknife and a cover story, and is giddy with the thrill of it all until Alessa commits suicide before she can deliver the name of the spy who’s been working the waterfront and giving the Nazis vital shipping information. Shocked, Louise, who insists that the suicide was staged, finds herself sidelined when Operation Underworld is shut down. Undeterred, she carries on alone, befriending both a low-level Mafioso working at the Mayflower Hotel and members of Alessa’s entourage living in its penthouse suite. Snooping in Alessa’s boudoir will demand skills learned at The Farm and reveal the shattering fact that she has been set up from the beginning. An alarming reminder of how sexist life was back in the ’40s and how the Mafia took root in Sicily. (Agent: Vicky Bijur)

LOUISE’S GAMBLE

Shaber, Sarah R. Severn House (192 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8133-5

The indignities of being a woman during World War II in Washington, D.C. Youngish widow Louise Pearlie, earning the grand sum of $1,600 a year as the Chief File Clerk of the Europe/Africa Section of the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services, is good at organizing index cards but woefully inept at knitting socks for the boys over there. Still, she joins a Friday evening knitting circle, where she’s befriended by Alessa, who takes her aside and asks her to deliver a message of great importance to her superiors. And just like that, Louise (Louise’s War, 2011, etc.) becomes a secret agent, passing information from Alessa to the higher-ups at OSS that will ensure the safety of convoys sailing from the New York docks to Casablanca with Allied supplies and troops. Given |

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“A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy.” from the last policeman

THE LAST POLICEMAN

Winters, Ben H. Quirk Books (288 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-59474-576-8 In a pre-apocalyptic world, one detective still keeps watch—but to what end? The impending impact of asteroid 2011GV1, unaffectionately known as Maia, has given life on Earth only six more months. It’s turned Concord, N.H., into a “hanger town,” a reference to the suicide preference of locals. Rookie Detective Hank Palace is determined to stay on top of his caseload even though many of his old colleagues seem to have cashed in and are bucket-listing it from now on. Enter Peter Zell, or rather exit Peter, whose death is Palace’s latest case. Any other cop would have let this apparent suicide go, but Palace is determined to do his duty when he senses something suspicious about the circumstances. Added to this is Palace’s mess of a little sister, Nico, who knows that Palace may be the only one with the cop chops to track down her missing husband. What’s more interesting than the mystery surrounding Zell’s death is Winters’ vision of a pre-apocalyptic world, one where laws are both absolute and irrelevant and even minor players have major control over what could be a new future. The imminent end of the world doesn’t mean that everyone has shown their hands—just that there’s a lot more at stake if they lose. A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy. For Winters (Bedbugs, 2011, etc.), the beauty is in the details rather than the plot’s grim main thrust.

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science fiction and fantasy BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH

Reynolds, Alastair Ace/Berkley (512 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-441-02071-3

First volume of a new planet-hopping series from the author of Terminal World (2010). By the middle of the next century, Africa is the dominant technological and economic power (a provocative notion, though Reynolds declines to show us how this came to be), wars and poverty have vanished, and violence is impossible: Thanks to mandatory neural implants, anybody that so much as attempts it gets zapped with an incapacitating migraine. Geoffrey, scion of the rich and powerful Akinya clan, studies elephants in the hope of achieving a full mind-meld with them. Recently, Eunice, Geoffrey’s grandmother, a brilliant researcher who spent the latter part of her long life as a recluse aboard an orbiting space station, died, having left a MacGuffin somewhere in the solar system and a series of teasing clues to its location. Geoffrey’s cousins, ruthless businessmen Hector and Lucas, prefer the MacGuffin remain undiscovered or, better, destroyed; still, they send Geoffrey up to the moon to investigate the first clue. Geoffrey, despite strict instructions from Hector and Lucas not to, can’t help enlisting his sister, Sunday, to help with the search. Thus the plot—find the MacGuffin, get the grand tour—uncomfortably resembles that of Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent 2312, for which we probably have Dan Brown to thank. The backdrop sparkles with human merfolk and bioengineering, artificial intelligences or “artilects,” “quangled” (quantum-entangled) mind-to-mind conversations and a whirl of experimental habitats and societies. The most lifelike character, Eunice, is a multipartite computer reconstruction, even though her MacGuffin turns up in the place most of us would look first, never mind the red herrings. Along the way, Reynolds tosses out and then casually abandons dozens more astonishing concepts and developments. Readers hoping for adventures in the mind-boggling fashion of Revelation Space may emerge dissatisfied but certainly not deterred. (Agent: Robert Kirby)

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nonfiction STELLA ADLER ON AMERICA’S MASTER PLAYWRIGHTS

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: STELLA ADLER ON AMERICA’S MASTER PLAYWRIGHTS by Stella Adler................................. p. 1129

Adler, Stella Knopf (368 pp.) $27.95 | Aug. 16, 2012 978-0-679-42443-7

VISIT SUNNY CHERNOBYL by Andrew Blackwell.................. p. 1131 HELLO GOODBYE HELLO by Craig Brown............................... p. 1132 WAYS OF FORGETTING, WAYS OF REMEMBERING by John W. Dower......................... p. 1134 AMERICAN EMPIRE by Joshua B. Freeman.............................. p. 1136 PORTRAIT OF A NOVEL by Michael Gorra.............................. p. 1137 THIS WILL END IN TEARS by Adam Brent Houghtaling......... p. 1138 THE VIOLINIST’S THUMB by Sam Kean................................... p. 1139 SHOOTING VICTORIA by Paul Thomas Murphy..................... p. 1146 THE PRICE OF INEQUALITY by Joseph E. Stiglitz..................... p. 1151

AMERICAN EMPIRE The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home, 1945-2000

Freeman, Joshua B. Viking (512 pp.) $36.00 Aug. 6, 2012 978-0-670-02378-3

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Brilliant lectures on the American masters from the late, legendary acting teacher. The indomitable Stella Adler (1901– 1992), who tutored Marlon Brando, displays both her omnivorous intellect and decades of experience in this generous second volume of acting-class lectures (following Stella Adler on Ibsen, Strindberg and Chekhov, 1999) edited by celebrity biographer Paris (Garbo, 2002, etc.). Here, the teacher covers Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, Clifford Odets, William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee. Adler knew the play, she knew the writer, and her message to her actors was direct: You must understand the play and the playwright at both the macro and micro level. You can’t do O’Neill if you don’t know about his tormented Irish-Catholic background; you can’t perform A Streetcar Named Desire or Death of a Salesman if you don’t know about postwar alienation. “If you don’t use the play’s world, you are not an actor, because the play is taken from that world, not yours, and you have to go there to find it.” Also, you must know the character’s inner and outer life: “Does he have an accent? How does he dress, how does he wear his hair? ...What are the circumstances he lives in?” In Beyond the Horizon, Robert is weak, but don’t play him weak; he thinks he is strong. In Mourning Becomes Electra, play Christine like a queen; “use your epic voice, not a little intimate voice.” In The Glass Menagerie, Laura wears a leg brace; when she sits on the floor with her gentleman caller, she’s in pain. Read between the lines; follow what’s said and what isn’t. Adler has another, subtler message for her actors: Stay true to your art. An exciting, inspiring and essential book for anyone interested in American theater.

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MARILYN MONROE The Final Years

Badman, Keith Dunne/St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-312-60714-2

A tedious exposé of Marilyn Monroe’s last days commemorates the 50th anniversary of her death. Badman (Beatles Off the Record, 2008, etc.) plunges headlong into the overcrowded field of Monroe-themed books (“almost 700” by the author’s count) with this nearly day-by-day account of her life from June 1961 to her death in August 1962. After dispensing with her early years in a decent, if rushed, prelude, the author bogs down in minutiae, detailing the amounts paid for household expenses, the airline numbers of various flights and hourly itineraries for her social outings. Badman fares better when he sticks to discussing Monroe’s fraught personal and professional lives. Living off the proceeds from 1959’s blockbuster Some Like It Hot, she embarked on the debacle of preparing to star in Something’s Got to Give, a film so entrenched in snafus that it deserves a biography of its own. Having recently turned 35, Monroe was beginning to feel the cold shoulder that Hollywood has traditionally shown women entering middle age, and her own insecurities and reliance on barbiturates led to relationships with unscrupulous hangers-on. Most bizarrely, her psychiatrist insisted on daily sessions, prescribed the potent sedative chloral hydrate, which contributed to her death, and even installed a spy/housekeeper in her home to report back to him on Monroe’s doings. Along with the fact that the FBI was bugging her home and that she counted shady Rat Pack actors like Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra as her friends, her lonely death comes across as an inevitability, accidental or not. Badman doesn’t so much reveal new information about Monroe as recycle the old into something tawdry and depressing. (16-page b/w photo insert)

I WAS BORN THERE, I WAS BORN HERE

Barghouti, Mourid Translated by Davies, Humphrey Walker (240 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-8027-7997-7 The emotionally powerful memoir of an exiled Palestinian poet. Barghouti (Midnight and Other Poems, 2008, etc.) won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for I Saw Ramallah, an account of his return to Ramallah in 1996 after a 30-year absence. In this sequel, he returns to introduce that land to his son, Tamim, who was born in Cairo to Barghouti’s Egyptian wife and is a stranger in his father’s homeland. When the author writes of olives and coffee 1130

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as metaphors for relationships, the poet in him shines through. When he writes of Israelis, his hatred is raw and his language loaded. Barghouti leaves no doubt about his feelings about Israel, nor about the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, whose “corruption is firm, deeply rooted, and beyond redemption,” nor about Arab dictatorships, which are “enamored to the point of scandal with their colonizers.” Barghouti’s chapters can be read as stand-alone essays, and one of the most unforgettable is “The Ambulance,” an account of slipping through the Qalandya checkpoint by riding inside an ambulance bearing a fragile old woman to a hospital in Ramallah. The memoir is full of flashbacks, and in this piece the flashback is to the death of his older brother Mounif. The fragments of poems embedded throughout the book often provide powerful images that speak louder than the author’s sometimes harsh condemnations. A moving picture of one man’s personal grief and undying anger.

SUGARHOUSE Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home Batt, Matthew Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (256 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-547-63453-1

A doctoral candidate takes on a massive project of home renovation. In explaining how he and his wife became determined to purchase a house while he was studying for his degree in writing at the University of Utah, rather than renting like most graduate students, Batt writes, “To buy a house—or at least to look in earnest for one—is to admit to yourself that you think you’re ready…It was time to grow up and settle down.” The author was propelled by a sense that adulthood had “coldcocked” them: “everyone but us was dying, getting divorced, or having a kid.” This in turn compelled Batt to recklessly purchase a Fisbo, a “for sale by owner” house with serious long-term maintenance issues—and a largely unexplored reputation as a one-time “crack house.” The author deferred to the earnest eccentricity of the owner (Batt’s character sketches are deft but briefly drawn), who assured him that the house was an undervalued bargain but left Batt the legacy of years of jury-rigged repairs. Much of the book follows Batt as he attempts to renovate the house on a low budget, haplessly doing much of the work himself, and also turning to bemused salt-of-the-earth Utah men for assistance in such tasks as building a cement kitchen counter. A major theme, unsurprisingly, is that of masculinity: Batt’s home-improvement misadventures allow consideration of how hard it is for young men today (particularly intellectual types) to measure up to absent fathers. The embodiment of this idea is Batt’s grandfather, a doctor turned cantankerous, lovelorn old man, whose deterioration provides the main element of the back story of the author’s complicated family life. In the conclusion, Batt

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“A compelling story, told with authority, of the final takedown of likely the most wanted criminal in history.” from manhunt

VISIT SUNNY CHERNOBYL And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places

discusses his selling of the house and moving on to an academic posting. The relatable author writes clearly, but the twin story engines of personal angst and home-repair strife don’t really mesh, resulting in a memoir that feels inessential and highly specific rather than potentially universal. This Old House for the NPR set.

MANHUNT The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden—from 9/11 to Abbottabad Bergen, Peter L. Crown (356 pp.) $26.00 | May 1, 2012 978-0-307-95557-9

An exciting insider account of the vast, secretive effort to track and kill the al-Qaeda leader. Shortly after coming into office, President Obama urged CIA Chief Leon Panetta to redouble the efforts to find Osama bin Laden; the trail had grown cold despite the dozen high-level intelligence officers working on the case for a decade. Only in 2010 did the monitoring of a Kuwaiti courier’s cellphone use suggest ties to bin Laden, and they followed his car to the compound in the quiet Pakistani town of Abbottabad, where he actually lived with bin Laden’s extended family. A CIA safe house was set up nearby to observe the “pattern of life” details: the wives and children living at the compound and never leaving, the wash hanging on the line, the mysterious “pacer” who walked around the “jail yard” and never left. In fact, bin Laden had lived there for years, increasingly isolated and out of touch with his network and with only the Kuwaiti and his brother as guards and conduits to the outside world. CNN national security analyst Bergen (The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda, 2011, etc.) ably delineates the U.S. government decision-making process in pursuing the Special Operations infiltration of the compound, despite the lack of certainty that bin Laden was actually there. Officials also had to consider America’s delicate relationship with Pakistan. In three weeks of rehearsal, SEAL teams manipulated every eventuality, even the helicopter mishap that actually happened. Bergen also stresses the enormity of the political risks undertaken by Obama and his staff, and he pursues the aftermath in terms of wounded Pakistan-U.S. relations and the spelling of the “twilight” for al-Qaeda. A compelling story, told with authority, of the final takedown of likely the most wanted criminal in history.

Blackwell, Andrew Rodale (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-60529-445-2 978-1-60961-456-0 e-book

Humor and dry wit lighten a travelogue of the most polluted and ravaged places in the world. Through seven nasty sites, journalist and filmmaker Blackwell teases out complex environmental issues and the history and cultures that surround them. The author conceived of the book because “to chase after the beautiful and pristine was to abandon most of the world.” Ultimately, he writes, “instead of finding degraded ecosystems that I could treat as though they were beautiful, I was just finding beauty.” The author engagingly chronicles his many adventures: canoeing near Chernobyl, museum-hopping by the oil sands of Northern Alberta, and piloting a ship through the Sabine-Neches Waterway in Port Arthur, Texas, “the pungent centerpiece of America’s petrochemical tiara.” Along the way, we meet colorful characters and learn what fuels these toxic places. Blackwell then sails off for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, formed by a vortex of currents that gathers buoyant plastic into a huge floating mess. Moving on to the Amazon, where issues are far from black and white, the author delves into the issue of why rainforest destruction is so complicated, particularly when the forest is inhabited. The author also visited Linfen, China, the heart of the country’s coal-producing region and reputedly the most polluted place on the planet. The final chapter covers a pilgrimage of sorts along the sacred Yamuna River in India, or at least the former channel of the river—the water has been diverted and its bed is filled with sewage and waste. In each chapter, Blackwell finds he loves the polluted places for all the ways they aren’t ruined. With great verve, and without sounding preachy, he exposes the essence and interconnectedness of these environmental problems.

THE CALIPH’S SPLENDOR Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Baghdad

Bobrick, Benson Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $28.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-1-4165-6762-2

A nonscholarly depiction of the cultured, cosmopolitan world of the early Abbasid caliphate. Bobrick (Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas, 2009, etc.) gives a fresh overview of the turbulent state of the Middle East and Europe during the 8th |

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century, just as Islam was consolidating power under the Abbasid caliphate of Abu Jafar Abdullah al-Mansur, who founded the new capital at Baghdad in 766. His grandson Harun al-Rashid acceded to the caliphate at age 23 in 786, becoming King of Kings, creating a diverse, hierarchical theocracy with many military and administrative trappings held over from the Persian kings. His enlightened rule was fancifully portrayed in the much later Thousand and One Nights, a legendary source Bobrick refers to constantly. At the same time that Harun was establishing Islam’s Golden Age with Baghdad as its jewel, Constantinople as the Christian capital of the East Roman Empire was feeling embattled from within, while Western Europe was overrun by the Lombards and Saxons, and was soon to be violently quelled by Charlemagne. The kingdoms of the Franks and the Abbasids opposed the Byzantines and Umayyads of Spain, and thus had communicated by diplomatic envoy, though inconclusively, as if only to prove to the Muslims that their caliph was of greater wealth and significance. The author helpfully compares the reigns of Charlemagne as the source of Carolingian Renaissance and Harun as instigator of Islam’s Golden Age, though the overall sprawl here, also encompassing Al-Andalus, Empress Irene’s Constantinople and “Iron Charles’ ” Aachen, rather overwhelms this modest effort. A valiant, if superficial, attempt at rendering in readable format this significant period in Muslim history. (16page color photo insert; 2 maps)

HELLO GOODBYE HELLO A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings Brown, Craig Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-4516-8360-8

A hilarious collection of strange-buttrue tales of encounters between the rich and famous. BBC Radio Host, Daily Mail columnist and all-around English wit Brown (The Lost Diaries, 2010, etc.) delivers a fine and funny assortment of oddball celebrity meetings and matchups. Some are well-known, such as when a drug-addled Elvis Presley met Richard Nixon, or Marilyn Monroe snuggled up to visiting Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. At least one is historically important: when Prince Felix Youssoupoff lured Grigori Rasputin to his death. Most, however, are delightfully inconsequential, whether it’s Harpo Marx driving Sergei Rachmaninoff bonkers with his harp playing, Sarah Miles sharing tea with a thighsqueezing nonagenarian named Bertrand Russell, or Leonard Cohen having a quickie with Janis Joplin (and getting a song out of it). Some encounters go off without a hitch, such as between mutual admirers Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain. Others slightly misfire; Groucho Marx tries to impress dinner companion T.S. Eliot by quoting The Waste Land, only to find the poet “was thoroughly familiar with his poems and didn’t need me to recite them.” At least they talked, which is barely more than can 1132

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be said for James Joyce and Marcel Proust. There are also plenty of bad dates, whether it’s Madonna snatching off Michael Jackson’s glasses and sailing them across the room, Isadora Duncan tempting Auguste Rodin with her perfect young body, or Allen Ginsberg making an awkward pass at Francis Bacon. Brown is as smart as he is puckish, and there are plenty of laughs on this terrific trip through modern fame.

THE LUCKY ONES My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals

Brown, Jenny with Primack, Gretchen Avery (304 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-1-58333-441-6 Animal-rights activist Brown explains why she considers being a vegan to be a moral imperative. In this debut memoir, written with the help of Primack (The Slow Creaking of the Planets, 2007), the author presents a reasoned if controversial case that it is not enough to expose the abuses committed in factory farms and large slaughterhouses, while continuing to eat eggs, drink milk or wear wool or leather clothing. She describes abusive practices used to sheer sheep on small farms—e.g., scraping off the animal’s skin when its wool becomes infested. Noting that humans and animals should be operating on a level playing field—“Animals are here with us, not for us—that’s my motto”— she describes the events in her life that led her to this radical conviction, beginning with years of recovery from bone cancer in her childhood that included partial amputation of her leg and culminating with the creation of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in 2004. One of the threads of her intriguing story is her fierce determination to lead an active life despite her disability. During her orientation at the University of Louisville, she first came into contact with animal-rights advocates from PETA and became involved in demonstrations protesting the use of animals to test the safety of medicines and cosmetics. She was arrested wearing a rabbit suit while picketing Gillette. The vignettes about the animals in her care are charming, but this is not a cozy story. Much food for thought even for those who don’t embrace Brown’s ideology.

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“Callow makes us wish we’d been in those crowds to watch this astonishing magician weave his literary spells.” from charles dickens and the great theatre of the world

CHARLES DICKENS AND THE GREAT THEATRE OF THE WORLD

Callow, Simon Vintage (384 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-345-80323-8

Callow (My Life in Pieces, 2011, etc.) rehearses the life of Dickens with a sharp spotlight on the importance of the theater and of performance both in Dickens’

life and in his fiction. The author is a front-row fan who has read Dickens’ works repeatedly and whose admiration for his subject glistens on every page. It’s hard not to admire the Dickens appearing here, a man whose Promethean production and energy make Trollope-Updike-Oates look a tad slothful. Writer of serial novels (he was producing The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist simultaneously), creator of the most beloved Christmas story outside the Gospels, editor of his own literary magazines, performer of his own works, husband (not an attentive one), father of 10, philanthropist…all in an age when rail travel was a novelty and writers still used that old-fashioned word processor, a pen. Callow generally follows the traditional narrative line of Dickens’ life (with emphasis on his early and never-ending interest in theater), chronicling his time in the blacking factory, his indigent father, his schooling (very little), his rise in the world of letters, his friendships (literary and otherwise) and his enormous, trans-Atlantic celebrity. Callow doesn’t ignore—though he does diminish a bit—Dickens’ very human failures: his long affair with actress Ellen Ternan, his harsh treatment of his wife and his petulance and even pomposity in his dealings with publishers. But Callow’s greatest achievements are his analysis of Dickens’ prodigious thespian skills and his generation of an absolute love affair with his readership. The author shows us the vast, adoring crowds and tallies the enormous psychic and physical costs of Dickens’ myriad performances and celebrity. Callow makes us wish we’d been in those crowds to watch this astonishing magician weave his literary spells.

FIRE IN THE BELLY The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz Carr, Cynthia Bloomsbury (640 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-59691-533-6

Former Village Voice arts reporter and columnist Carr (Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, A Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America, 2006, etc.) examines the life and art of provocative artist David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992), a star of the downtown New York art scene of the 1980s. |

The author, who covered the arts during Wojnarowicz’s heyday and knew him personally, delivers the definitive biography of this complicated artist, from his troubled childhood to his untimely death from AIDS-related complications at the age of 37. After years of abuse as a child, he left home while still a teenager; for a time, he was homeless and prostituted himself to men in Times Square. Soon he became a Beat-influenced writer and quickly moved into visual arts, including painting, sculpture and photography, as part of an East Village–based art scene that included such notable figures as Keith Haring, performance artist Karen Finley and underground filmmaker Richard Kern. His controversial art, which portrayed such disturbing images as burning children, skeletons and disembodied heads, ambitiously addressed what he termed “the wall of illusion surrounding society and its structures.” His work took a more activist turn after the 1987 AIDS-related death of his close friend, photographer Peter Hujar, and his own AIDS diagnosis the following year. Carr conducted countless interviews with the artist’s surviving friends, family and acquaintances, and she provides a thoroughly researched picture of his life and times. While the author offers some intriguing insights about Wojnarowicz’s inner demons and his devotion to his art, the narrative is repetitive in parts—particularly when Carr relies on his journals, in which he worries constantly about loneliness and his difficulties revealing himself to others. An ambitious bio that may seem overlong to casual readers but will appeal to Wojnarowicz’s most fervent fans. (16-page color insert; b/w illustrations throughout. Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta)

X-EVENTS The Collapse of Everything Casti, John L. Morrow/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-06-208828-4 978-0-06-208830-7 e-book

Award-winning mathematician and complexity scientist Casti (Mood Matters: From Rising Skirt Lengths to the Collapse of World Powers, 2010, etc.) lays out a series of worst-case scenarios—peak oil, pandemics, global economic collapse, bio- or nanotechnology run amok, nuclear accidents, terrorism, etc.—for the continued advancement of civilization. With just the right circumstances, argues the author, any of these can expand into an extreme event—X-event, for short— for which we will not be prepared and which will have dire consequences for our way of life. Casti sets aside such natural disasters as asteroid collisions, over which we have little control to begin with, to focus on the sorts of impending disasters similar to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the financial crash of 2008— events that could have been avoided or at least mitigated with proper preventive measures. Most often, the catalyst for an X-event is the conflict between systems of different complexity levels. The 2008 economic crisis, for example, resulted from

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a disconnect between the increasing complexity of financial instruments and the government’s ability to regulate these instruments. Here, Casti makes an odd error, especially for an author whose recent work focuses on chaos theory in economics. He claims that the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which limited the ability of banks to speculate, was partly to blame for the 2008 financial crisis. In fact, most economists blame the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall provisions prohibiting FDIC member banks from engaging in speculation. It’s an unfortunate error, especially because the author’s introduction, which succinctly summarizes chaos theory, and his conclusion, which gives reason to hope despite all the dire predictions in the preceding pages, are well worth reading and seriously considering. Despite some flaws, Casti provides thought-provoking speculation on the future of civilization.

GLOBAL WEIRDNESS Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future

Climate Central--Ed. Pantheon (240 pp.) $14.00 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-307-90730-1 978-0-307-74337-4 e-book

An intelligent primer on what experts know about global climate change, what they don’t know, and what the future could bring. Written by scientists and journalists at Climate Central, a nonpartisan advocacy group, the book begins with what everyone, climate-change skeptic included, accepts: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat. While natural phenomena (volcanoes, fires, decay) produce carbon dioxide, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) has added so much extra that levels have reached record highs and continue to rise. The consequences include rising temperatures, rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidity and shifting, unstable weather and rain patterns. Alarmist scenarios abound, but these scientists admit that it’s not clear what the future holds or how fast changes will occur because the Earth does not respond passively to increasing temperature. All agree, however, that burning fossil fuels is a bad idea. They explain that easy solutions (high-tech advances) are nowhere in sight, tolerable solutions (conservation, renewable energy) are only modestly effective, and powerful solutions (regulation and taxes) are painful. Not a call to action, the book is lucidly written and thoughtful, but skeptics likely won’t read it. Since fighting climate change requires government action, conservatives tend to dismiss it. President Obama, no skeptic, treats the topic as electoral poison and limits himself to uncontroversial actions such as urging international cooperation. For students and the genuinely curious, this is an ideal introduction to the facts about global warming.

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong

Conard, Edward Portfolio (320 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 28, 2012 978-1-59184-550-8

A retired Wall Street investment banker delivers a contrarian explanation of the recent financial crisis. Former Bain Capital partner Conard argues that investment bankers and lending banks across the nation played no meaningful role in the financial crisis. Instead, the author blames politicians, executive branch regulators, misguided academic economists and, especially, middle-class and lower-class borrowers signing mortgage contracts in the hope of owning homes clear of backbreaking debt. Although Conard mostly stays away from specific references to political parties, he employs “liberal” in its ideological political context as a dirty word. The author blames the Obama administration for doing too little too late, while seeming to absolve the Bush administration, still in office when the financial crisis began. As a result, the “causes” portions of Conard’s argumentative book are not contrarian in any meaningful way; the author merely parrots what numerous Republican leaders and relatively apolitical wealthy businessmen have claimed for years: Trust the wealthy to use their gains wisely, with the trickle-down effect kicking in to reduce unemployment and otherwise ameliorate the recession. Conard is especially rough on those who favor income redistribution. He charges that such thinking is not only naive in an economic sense, but also wrong morally because the superrich deserve to spend their wealth as they see fit. If less-wealthy citizens received additional money through income redistribution, Conard writes, they would do little if anything to promote innovation, and thus the economy would continue to stagnate or fall even deeper into recession. A densely written, repetitive text that fails to live up to its grandiose claims.

WAYS OF FORGETTING, WAYS OF REMEMBERING Japan in the Modern World Dower, John W. New Press (336 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-1-59558-618-6 978-1-59558-811-1 e-book

A series of astute academic essays on the forging of postwar Japan. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Bancroft Prize, Dower (History Emeritus/MIT; Cultures of

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War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq, 2010, etc.) is comfortable going against the grain. He was key to bringing back into print the significant work of forgotten Canadian historian E.H. Norman, whose deep research into the Meiji state revealed the authoritarian, feudal legacies that later helped drag Japan into imperial militarism, misery and defeat. In his essay on Norman, Dower shows how this approach contrasted with the postwar modernization theorists then in vogue, who held that Japan’s militarism was essentially an aberration and hoped to put a positive spin on accomplishments since the Meiji era. Dower was told in 1970, during his time as a student, that his interest in the postwar occupation of Japan was “too recent to be history,” foreshadowing some of the obfuscation he would later encounter. Other essays here, which appeared between 1993 and 2000, are fascinating explorations into Japanese racial theories, intense militaristic and racial propaganda, pervasive sense of “victim consciousness” and eruptions of reactionary language and a faulty sense of responsibility. “The Bombed” is a riveting analysis of the effects of the atomic bombs on the Japanese psyche. Thanks to the collusion of the U.S. government, which aimed for an easy occupation of the country, the Japanese were censored from venting expressions of outrage and grief over their government’s rampant militarism and the end-of-war atomic apocalypse. Dower explores the dual role of science as both destroyer and postwar miracle worker, a lesson to be gleaned by both America and postwar Japan in terms of economic growth and military technology. Scrupulously researched and bravely presented scholarship.

COQUILLES, CALVA, AND CRÈME Exploring France’s Culinary Heritage: A Love Affair with French Food Dryansky, G.Y. ; Dryansky, Joanne Pegasus (360 pp.) $28.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-60598-329-5

A gastronomical memoir of French cuisine that combines historical facts and traditions with today’s best dishes. Longtime Condé Nast Traveler senior European correspondent Dryansky (The Heirs, 1978, etc.) and his wife and contributing author, Joanne (Fatima’s Good Fortune, 2003), have been living and eating in Paris for more than 30 years. Their remembrances include the joys of eating ortolans, a small bird “not much bigger than the top joint of your thumb,” before the creature was declared endangered, and drinking an 1874 Mouton Bordeaux at Chateau Mouton Rothschild with Philippe Rothschild and a Japanese ambassador. The authors write of eating leg of lamb with Coco Chanel in the flat above her couture house and pieds de cochon, breaded and fire-roasted pigs’ feet, at a brasserie surrounded by local Parisians. The couple has traveled among farms, vineyards and restaurants across the country, and they recall with great love their adventures and meals. They move |

from the decadent, overblown, gourmet dishes of the past to the simplicity of the terroir movement, “the unique savor of things that are what they are because of where they are.” The prose is as rich and delicious as the highlighted meals, and the authors also include some of the chefs’ recipes for confident or adventurous home cooks to try. A journey that will delight the palette and nourish the soul. (24 pages of illustrations)

THE RISE OF ROME The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire Everitt, Anthony Random House (512 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-4000-6663-6 978-0-679-64516-0 e-book

Far less documented than its glory years, Rome’s early period receives a capable account from historian Everitt (Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome, 2009, etc.). The legendary hero Aeneas led refugees from the sack of Troy to Italy around 1100 B.C. Another hero, Romulus, son of the war god, Mars, murdered his twin, Remus, and then founded Rome in 753 B.C. There followed seven more or less legendary kings with an implausible average reign of 35 years before the last, Tarquin, was expelled in 509 B.C. By the 5thcentury B.C., the Roman Republic of history emerged, a belligerent warrior state where soldiers enjoyed such status that only property owners could enlist. The government was a senate, whose members served for life, and two consuls, elected yearly. Patricians dominated but could not ignore the unruly plebeians who elected powerful officials of their own. Unique among the ancients, no division existed between bureaucrats, generals and priests. A Roman leader combined all three. By the 3rd century B.C., Rome had become a Mediterranean power, defeating armies from Macedonia, Carthage, Greece and Gaul. Wealth poured into the city along with a burgeoning lower class, as vast estates, worked by slaves, took over the countryside. Fighting overseas required a standing army, and the decline of small farms meant that, by 100 B.C., soldiers came from the landless poor. Unlike citizen-soldiers, these warriors owed allegiance only to their generals, who used them to fight vicious internecine wars whose ultimate victor, Octavian Caesar, became Emperor Augustus, ending the moribund Republic. An engrossing history of a relentlessly pugnacious city’s 500-year rise to empire. (Photo insert; 4 maps)

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“A well-researched, engaging account of an important scientific discovery that should also find a place on women’s-studies shelves.” from soundings

SOUNDINGS The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor Felt, Hali Henry Holt (352 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-8050-9215-8

A complex, rich biography of a groundbreaking geologist who discovered “a rift valley running down the center of the Atlantic,” essentially transforming 20th-century geophysics despite “mid-century American gender bias” and scientific rivalries. In her debut, Felt (Writing/Pittsburgh Univ.) ably enriches each of the biographical, historical and scientific threads she pursues. From the 1950s through the ’70s, Marie Tharp (1920–2006) mapped the entire ocean floor, an accomplishment honored by the Library of Congress in 1997, when she was named “one of the four greatest cartographers” of the 20th century. Trained in geology and mathematics, Tharp joined a team headed by Dr. Maurice Ewing at Columbia’s Lamont Geological Laboratory. They were searching for a relationship between the continental shelf and seismological events, and Tharp’s task was to collect data from ocean-bottom sounding and draft maps that they overlaid with data on earthquake activity. Tharp partnered with another member of the team, seismologist Bruce Heezen (who became her longtime lover), and they were able to correlate her maps with earthquake epicenters. This contributed to the discovery of the massive rift running through all the world’s oceans and a revival of interest in continental-drift theory, which led to our modern understanding of plate tectonics. Although the duo’s work was originally dismissed by Ewing, who targeted Tharp in particular, critics were silenced by evidence revealed in a Jacques Cousteau film. The author presents Tharp’s career through the prism of a woman’s struggle for recognition in a traditionally male scientific field. After Heezen’s tragic early death, Tharp collected and organized the record of their joint scientific accomplishments, from which Felt draws. A well-researched, engaging account of an important scientific discovery that should also find a place on women’s-studies shelves. (8-page color insert)

RUNNING WITH THE KENYANS Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth

Finn, Adharanand Ballantine (224 pp.) $26.00 | May 15, 2012 978-0-345-52879-7

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Guardian production editor and Runner’s World contributor Finn is an avid running hobbyist. Fueled by the desire to improve significantly, the author set his sights on training in Kenya, home to the top marathoners in the world. In 2011, he uprooted his wife and three small children to live in the highaltitude small town of Iten, sometimes referred to as the running capital of the world. Finn was a good runner in England, but in Kenya, he was slower than the slowest “junior girl” racer. After reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run (2009), he tried running barefoot, which he counts as one of the keys to Kenyans’ speed because “it forces you to adopt a better running style.” Finn notes additional secrets to their success: training camps, running to school, getting plenty of rest and eating a primarily vegetarian diet. As the author and his family adjusted to the cultural differences, including roaming lions and a night watchman, Finn prepared to run a marathon by training with a group of excellent runners. Even among those who have no chance of going to the Olympics, there’s an attitude of reverence for the sport. “After a run,” Finn writes, “you feel at one with the world, as though some unspecified, innate need has been fulfilled.” The same could be said of his quest, which strikes a balance between memoir and applicable lessons for those interested in learning the reasons for the success of Kenyan runners. Finn’s writing is accessible, and he threads entertaining familial vignettes through the book. Recommended for runners as well as the sport’s fans.

AMERICAN EMPIRE The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home 1945-2000

Freeman, Joshua B. Viking (512 pp.) $36.00 | Aug. 6, 2012 978-0-670-02378-3

A terrifically useful wide-lens survey of the United States in the last half of the

20th century. Freeman (History/Queens Coll. and CUNY Graduate Center; Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II, 2000, etc.) has full command of his vast material, fashioning a structured history that is both readably general and restrained of scholarly matter as well as nicely specific regarding meaty information—e.g., he names important court cases and offers occasional quotes by contemporary observers and newsmakers. The author demonstrates how postwar economic growth helped spur the great process of democratization that placed America in the first rank among nations in terms of standard of living and basic rights for all citizens. Yet, along with the rise of consumerism, globalism and prosperity, the power shifted from the public to the private realm, specifically corporate. From the 1970s onward, Freeman shows how incipient economic inequality, unharnessed military spending and burgeoning political conservatism threatened to check much of that social progress

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at the end of the century. The expansion of government with the New Deal promoting socially benevolent programs generated an ongoing debate about whether government should be a muscular arm of progressive reform in the fashion of FDR or more restrained, the latter conservatism given new energy by Barry Goldwater’s ascendancy in 1960. Freeman comes down fairly hard on Kennedy’s “hyperbolic rhetoric” and “obsession with manhood and virility,” while the sections on LBJ and the “democratic revolution” of the 1960s, including civil-rights legislation and the antiwar movement, are masterly and thorough. With the dawn of the ’70s, the country moved from “dreams to nightmares,” from equal rights for women and gays toward an utter contempt for government amid Watergate, urban decline, manufacturing shutdowns, stagflation, new corporate models, deregulation and Reaganism. A liberal-minded but still evenhanded primer for all students of U.S. history.

INEQUALITY AND INSTABILITY A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis Galbraith, James K. Oxford Univ. (340 pp.) $29.95 | Mar. 30, 2012 978-0-19-985565-0

A new approach to economic analysis based on the idea that “you can’t actually study economic inequality without measuring it.” Galbraith (Public Affairs, Government and Business Relations/Univ. of Texas; The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, 2008, etc.) directs both a team at the University of Texas Inequality Project and a group of international experts; their collaborative work resulted in this book. The author presents the results as a new approach to answering two critical questions: How has inequality in a given place changed over time? To what extent is inequality in one area greater than another? Finding appropriate solutions required new methods and new sources of evidence. His team members cross-checked both domestic and international data on earnings, employment and population, and they processed the data using a modern refinement of older econometrics methods, which allowed them to compare global, regional, national and subnational aggregations. Combining macroeconomics and econometrics, they were able to view economic data through a framework that included the effects of financial governance and financial instability. Applying this potentially groundbreaking new methodology, Galbraith discredits a number of shibboleths of the economics profession— e.g., the notion that unemployment in Europe is the result of labor rigidities and social expenditures. He compares economic disparities within Europe to the United States and shows that inequalities in Europe are actually greater. County-level data identifies increasing U.S. inequality as a function of financial markets, with income effects restricted to just 15 counties |

nationwide. In this rich study, the author brings both transparency and a fresh approach to a profession where a shake-up seems more than overdue. Economics specialists will enjoy this book, but so too will general readers disenchanted with current economic orthodoxies.

PORTRAIT OF A NOVEL Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece Gorra, Michael Liveright/Norton (384 pp.) $29.95 | Aug. 27, 2012 978-0-87140-408-4

Gorra (English/Smith Coll.; The Bells in Their Silence: Travels Through Germany, 2004, etc.) blends a focused biography of Henry James (1843–1916) with the story of his composition of The Portrait of a Lady (1881). Throughout this work of astonishing scholarship, Gorra directs our attention to the quotidian life of James (and his remarkable family), his composition of the novel (which first appeared in serial installments in the Atlantic here and Macmillan’s Magazine in England), the significance of the events and characters in the story, and the influence of the novel on the subsequent fiction of James and others. Gorra also blends accounts of his own visits to important James sites in America, England and elsewhere. After a brief introduction to James’ life and to the novel, the author establishes his narrative pattern: chapters about the novel followed by others about James’ activities, family, friends, typists, contemporaries and so on. We read about his relationships with Atlantic editor William Dean Howells and with James’ gifted brother William. We follow his travels to England, France and Italy; we visit his final home in Rye; we view his intimate relationships with Constance Fenimore Woolson and others—including Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (Gorra does not accept the suggestion that Holmes and James had sexual encounters). We also see him, near the end of his life, visiting and comforting hospitalized World War I soldiers. But most of Gorra’s book examines Portrait—its creation, significance and revision (for the New York Edition in 1908). The author argues that chapter 42 of the novel, Isabel Archer’s reverie, is “one of James’ greatest achievements and a turning point in the history of the novel.” Not for all readers, but Gorra’s approach will appeal to scholars, fans of the James family and lovers of important novels and those who create them. (10 illustrations)

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“Holt may not answer the question of his title, but his book deepens the appreciation of the mystery.” from why does the world exist?

THE BIG MISS My Years Coaching Tiger Woods

Haney, Hank Crown Archetype (268 pp.) $26.00 | Mar. 27, 2012 978-0-307-98598-9

An insider’s look at a champion’s rise and fall. There’s something both profoundly sad and profoundly satisfying about watching a former spouse, partner or friend crumble. So it is with Haney, host of the Golf Channel show The Haney Project, who opens with a vignette of standing 10 feet from his student Tiger Woods at the 2010 Masters and getting—well, nothing except blown off. “He’s become less of a golfer,” Haney concludes, “and he’s never going to be the same again.” As well known now for personal scandal and strange shortcomings as for a particularly brilliant approach to the game of golf, Woods emerges here as a mercurial, difficult character who meets discipline with indiscipline and genius with mulishness. Over the years, Haney corrected strokes and stances, taught the geography of the course, and issued pointed critiques. All this will be meaningful to golf aficionados, though the big news for less tee-crazed types comes with Woods’ apparent efforts to become a Navy SEAL and leave golf behind. “There is a strong likelihood,” writes Haney portentously, “that a Kill House is where Tiger did serious damage to his career.” Read the book for details of said Kill House, but be warned that the indifferently written narrative is stocked with standard sports clichés, though full of junkie-pleasing stats—e.g., “In nine official events on the 2011 PGA Tour, Tiger hit only 48.9 percent of his fairways, a career-low number in driving accuracy that ranked him 186th on the tour.” Woods has won big and lost bigger, and not just on the green, and he probably merits a more insightful book— though Haney does provide some good tips for would-be pros.

WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST? An Existential Detective Story

Holt, Jim Liveright/Norton (320 pp.) $27.95 | Jul. 16, 2012 978-0-871-40409-1

A guided tour of ideas, theories and arguments about the origins of the universe. Any book with such a title is bound to raise at least as many questions as it tries to answer. “I cannot help feeling astonished that I exist,” writes Holt, “that the universe has come to produce these very thoughts now bubbling up in my stream of consciousness.” With too much abstract theory, the author runs the risk of the narrative collapsing under its own weight. However, if he moves too far in the other direction, 1138

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rigorous exploration gives way to platitudes. Holt finds the right recipe, combining a wide variety of subjects in his exploration of his “improbable existence.” The author lists his background as an “essayist and critic on philosophy, math, and science,” which could serve as the boiled-down review of this book, as he draws from those three disciplines and others and respectfully does not shy away from posing thoughtful, difficult questions to his interview subjects. Through discussions with philosophers of religion and science, humanists, biologists, string theorists, as well as research into the scholarship of days past—from Heidegger, Parmenides, Pythagoras and others—and an interview with John Updike, Holt provides a master’s-level course on the theories and their detractors. The interludes find the author positioning himself as an existential gumshoe, but also working through the sudden loss of a pet and, later, the death of his mother. Holt may not answer the question of his title, but his book deepens the appreciation of the mystery.

THIS WILL END IN TEARS The Miserabilist Guide to Music

Houghtaling, Adam Brent It Books/HarperCollins (400 pp.) $16.99 paperback | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-06-171967-7

A comprehensive, sharply written journey through the music of sadness, of every stripe and from every genre. In his first book, Houghtaling takes what could have been a routine collection of lists and turns it into a highly useful roadmap through musical melancholy. Helpfully arranged by topics that cover everything from heartbreak to death to apocalyptic doom and all the many subcategories in between (divorce, depression, suicidal despair, murder, etc.), the book provides both highly specific playlists (e.g., songs to cover every one of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief) and the context to go with them. Houghtaling delves into the physiology of sadness, such as the way the body responds to sad music and how the aging process enriches a singer’s voice. Mini essays shed light on world-class mopes (Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Nico, The Cure, Townes Van Zandt), fascinating obscurities (16th-century weeper John Dowland, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, East River Pipe, The Field Mice) and key tracks in every genre (Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”). The author also includes a well-annotated list of the “100 Saddest Songs.” Houghtaling can get hyperbolic (anything involving The Smiths), and there are some slight omissions (No P.J. Harvey or Lefty Frizzell?), but the book is buoyed throughout by the author’s thoughtful approach and enthusiasm. Whether read straight through or dipped into at random, in times of despair or not, this is a most helpful musical sourcebook through every kind of blue.

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HARVESTING THE BAY Fathers, Sons and the Last of the Wild Shellfishermen

Huling, Ray Globe Pequot (288 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-7627-7042-7

In an in-depth study of the Rhode Island shellfishing community where he was raised, a journalist celebrates the lives of his father and grandfather and probes the nature of sustainability. Huling describes the physically demanding life of these fishermen who haul the hard-shell clams, known as quahogs, from the depths of Narragansett Bay by using long-handled tools called bullrakes. In the author’s opinion, the sustainable lifestyle of the bullraker represents a model for a radical shift that must take place in how our society values hard physical labor. He is not offering practical proposals for returning production to the methods of hundreds of years ago, nor did he choose to emulate his father, who ended his life in a wheelchair. However, he writes, it “is a happy thing for a son to hear stories of his father’s physical prowess.” The author provides many colorful stories about the fishermen and the turf battles between men who dive from boats and bullrakers who fish from their skiffs. He chronicles the history of the quahog, including its name and the difference in its pronunciation in Rhode Island versus Cape Cod, but he mainly focuses on the many competing priorities involved in sound ecosystem management. These include enclosing sections of the bay contaminated by sewage runoff (though there is still the possibility of depuration of quahogs taken from polluted waters), regulating how the fish are harvested by licensing (prohibition of dredging, limitations on the daily catch), and dealing with the competitive threat of large-scale aquaculture. A thoughtful examination of the implications of sustainability.

double-helix model of Watson and Crick. Kean also explores less-well-known territory, deftly using his stories as jumpingoff points to unpack specific scientific concepts. He discusses how DNA discoveries led not only to medical breakthroughs, but also to new ways of looking at the past; they “remade the very study of human beings.” Kean delves into theories regarding possible genetic diseases of Charles Darwin, French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and ancient Egyptian King Tut, among others, and how their ailments may have subtly affected developments in scientific, artistic and even royal history. Some stories edge into more bizarre areas, such as one Soviet scientist’s dream to create a human-chimpanzee hybrid, but Kean also tells the moving story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, “perhaps the most unlucky man of the twentieth century,” who was near both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 when the nuclear bombs were dropped—and who, despite almost certainly suffering DNA damage from radiation, lived into his 90s. At his best, Kean brings relatively obscure historical figures to life—particularly Niccolò Paganini, the titular violinist who wowed early-19thcentury audiences with his virtuosity, aided by finger flexibility

THE VIOLINIST’S THUMB And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code Kean, Sam Little, Brown (400 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-316-18231-7

Science writer Kean (The Disappearing Spoon: and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, 2010) returns with another wide-ranging, entertaining look at science history, this time focusing on the many mysteries of DNA. The author examines numerous discoveries in more than a century of DNA and genetics research, including such familiar touchstones as Gregor Mendel’s pea-plant experiments and the |

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HOSTILE TAKEOVER Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America

that may have been due to the genetic disease Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Kean’s talent also shines in the sections on scientific rivalries, such as that between biologist Craig Venter’s private company Celera and the government-funded Human Genome Project, both of which are racing to sequence all human DNA. In an impressive narrative, the author renders esoteric DNA concepts accessible to lay readers.

I AM JENNIE

Ketcham, Jennie Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4516-4476-0 A former porn star’s account of her disillusionment with the industry and quest to forge a new identity. This is the type of book that tells all and says little. In his introduction, addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky praises his former patient’s bravery and candor in sharing her story. However, Ketcham’s insistence on seeding her narrative with pornographic vignettes may be candid, but it is not illuminating. In fact, nearly every sex scene obscures more than it reveals. For example, the book opens with a profoundly unsexy play-by-play of a sexual encounter with another woman described with such clinical detachment that it’s impossible to tell whether Ketcham was being paid to participate. To some extent, this confusion is the point. The author claims to have felt real desire almost as often as she faked it, which makes it difficult to maintain a distinction between her lovers and the people with whom she was paid to have sex. Her paid work was at least occasionally thrilling; having sex with certain unpaid partners was artificial and joyless. Rather than examining these potentially fruitful distinctions, Ketcham blithely glides over them, leaving readers more often bemused than enlightened. Her inability to distinguish between real and fake compromises her writing as much as it did her love life, and she often appears to be an unreliable narrator: Can parents who regularly abused alcohol and drugs in front of their children accurately be characterized as “not abusive?” Ketcham is obviously a spirited, intelligent and painfully earnest young woman who wants others to learn from her mistakes, but her understanding of herself and the world around her is too limited to make her story instructive.

Kibbe, Matt Morrow/HarperCollins (272 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-06-219601-9

FreedomWorks president Kibbe (Rules for Patriots, 2010, etc.) attempts to make the Tea Party case for smaller, less expensive government. The author’s primary target is the “unholy alliance between big business and big government.” While this sounds much like a grievance of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Kibbe contends that OWS differs from the Tea Party because of the former’s lack of respect for private property rights and because OWS advocates using government to curb business, an approach doomed to failure because it “ignores the political power of big business to effectively lobby government for favors.” In a jaunty style replete with pop-culture references, the author presents critiques of progressivism and of such standard conservative bugbears as the Federal Reserve, the Internal Revenue Code and the Department of Education. He marshals compelling statistics and diverting anecdotes that effectively portray his targets as examples of an expensive and unaccountable government run amok. His solutions, however—a return to the gold standard, a flat income tax, more school choice, etc.—are utterly predictable, and the text is liberally larded with right-wing cant, unsupported contentions and tired tropes like “We the People.” Though he promises to show how the Tea Party will “return power from self-appointed ‘experts’ back to the people,” this is no trumpet call for specific popular action. Even elections are apparently not really critical; “real change,” writes Kibbe, “isn’t really about political power anyway…It’s about the paradigm shift, from the top-down to the bottom-up.” The author suggests only that readers “embrace the beautiful chaos of citizen action and, by our movement’s success, prove that freedom works.” A rambling exposition of Tea Party grievances with the tone of preaching to a rather bored choir.

SIXTY MILES OF BORDER An American Lawman Battles Drugs on the Mexican Border Kirkpatrick, Terry Berkley (336 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-425-24762-4

A behind-the-scenes look at the adventures of a U.S. Customs special agent on the front lines of the drug wars. Retired agent Kirkpatrick reflects on his nearly 30 years spent patrolling the 60-mile stretch of land between Arizona’s Santa Cruz County and Sonora, Mexico. The author’s 1140

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straight-shooting narration leaves little to the imagination, as he provides a loose-tongued recounting of drug busts, fistfights and the occasional sexual escapade. Kirkpatrick’s exploits paint him as a renegade Customs cowboy who discovered early in his career that “[n]ot every rule can be followed to the letter”—proof of which he demonstrates throughout the book. Yet his strong-armed approach to the law was more than a power trip; it was the result of a sincere desire to level a wildly uneven playing field. “You’re not just battling the traffickers,” he writes, “you’re fighting the will of the American people, the entire justice system, the liberal Ninth Circuit Court, defense attorneys, and Washington D.C.” His frustration grows even more palpable as he notes that drug smugglers have the added benefit of “better surveillance equipment, more personnel, [and] better vehicles.” Unfortunately, these insights are rare, and rather than providing additional commentary on the struggles of drug-trafficking prevention, the book spirals down an episodic path veering toward indulgence. A heart-pounding read lacking a climax or overarching structure.

MOST OF ME Surviving My Medical Meltdown

Levy, Robyn Michele Greystone Books (248 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Aug. 14, 2012 978-1-55365-632-6 978-1-55365-633-3 e-book One woman’s plight surviving simultaneous illnesses. In her debut memoir, Levy provides a dark-humored account of being afflicted with both Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer. After losing her job as a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a bout of depression gave way to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, a blow that left Levy turning to humor as a defense. In one particularly comedic selfwritten obituary, Levy writes: “Robyn Michele Levy passed away peacefully into her bowl of organic cornflakes. She leaves behind a ripe kiwi, a fistful of pills, her teenage daughter, and her devoted husband. In lieu of flowers, donations to her MasterCard account would be appreciated.” Similarly, a few months later, after a doctor diagnosed her with breast cancer as well, Levy wryly replied, “At least I don’t have testicular cancer.” Levy’s comedic insertions into what might otherwise prove a depressing narrative provides readers an unexpected, though greatly appreciated, dissonance between subject matter and tone. As her physical ailments continued to compound, Levy explains her decision to embrace humor in spite of the darkness surrounding her. “What else can one do but see the humor, albeit black humor, in life?” she asked a friend, a philosophy regularly put forth throughout the narrative. What initially seemed like a dual death sentence provided Levy with a new lease on life, reuniting her with friends and family, all of whom reminded her of the many blessings that remained. A traumatic tale surprisingly liberated by laughter. |

BROOKLYN ZOO The Education of a Psychotherapist Lockman, Darcy Doubleday (288 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-385-53428-4

The challenges facing a psychotherapist during a yearlong internship in a New York City public hospital. Based on her own positive experience in psychoanalysis, Lockman pursued an education in the psychoanalytic tradition, which included supervised therapy with clients, one of whom she saw over a three-year period. She explains that this put her at odds with the mainstream of the profession today because of “the pernicious hostility toward the psychoanalytical way of working,” which often dismisses psychological problems as “nothing more than chemical occurrences in the brain.” She chronicles her initial frustration with her inability to put her education and skills to good use and her dawning understanding that the chaotic conditions at the hospital often made her skills irrelevant anyway. Her patients constantly struggled with the brutal conditions of inner-city life, job loss, random violence and more. The author eventually realized that the most important gift she could give them was her willingness to listen to their concerns and treat them with respect, while evaluating whether they should be released or sent to long-term care. Her internship included forensics (the determination of whether a prisoner was mentally fit to stand trial), different stages in the intake procedure, and consultations with doctors treating medical patients who seemed disturbed. Lockman remains convinced that along with the socioeconomic problems that place limitations on the treatment offered to mental patients in public hospitals, the medicalization of mental illness is also at fault. Before returning to graduate school Lockman worked as a magazine journalist, a skill she puts to good use in this insider’s look at the practice of psychiatry in a poorly funded, understaffed public institution.

SERVICE A Navy Seal at War

Luttrell, Marcus with Hornfischer, James D. Little, Brown (352 pp.) $27.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-316-18536-3

A Navy combat veteran showcases the deadly operations in Iraq, promoting American military duty as ennobling in the service of humanity. In something of a sequel to his first book (Lone Survivor, 2007), Luttrell chronicles his missions preserving democracy for America. Much of this book, co-authored by Hornfischer (Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal,

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“Invisible ink, double-agent homing pigeons and a Hollywood double for Gen. Monty—nicely woven tales of stealth, brashness and derring-do.” from double cross

2011, etc.), is set in Ramadi, an especially bloody Iraqi outpost. During their time in Iraq, his SEAL combat brothers killed perceived enemies, suffered countless wounds, and died at a rapid pace, making the narrative occasionally difficult to follow. In some chapters, battle tactics predominate, and the sentences are quick and graphic. Other chapters aren’t as violent, as Luttrell explains why some men answer the call of war no matter the risk to themselves or their loved ones. The author seeks to explain the honor of military service to the vast majority of readers who have never experienced it. Luttrell is mostly silent about questions of whether inserting U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan ever made sense in terms of American foreign policy. He followed his military commanders because of his belief in their knowledge and motivation. Though George W. Bush appears in the book multiple times, Luttrell seems unable to grasp the ferocity of the opposition the president faced at home and abroad. Toward the end of the book, the author departs from Iraq and expands on his earlier book by discussing the war in Afghanistan, and he devotes a chapter to military wives, who understandably worry every day about their men in combat. An action-packed, occasionally reflective saga of contemporary military service.

DOUBLE CROSS The True Story Of The D-Day Spies Macintyre, Ben Crown (384 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-0-307-88875-4

Newly declassified intelligence files flesh out the intricately interwoven network of World War II spies who formed the Double Cross British espionage system. Unlike the narrower focus of Stephen Talty’s Agent Garbo (2012), veteran espionage writer and Times (London) journalist Macintyre (Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, 2010, etc.) fashions a more expansive, ambitious tale of five double agents with dubious credentials but certain loyalties employed by the British to “cook up a diet of harmless truths, half-truths and uncheckable untruths to feed to the enemy.” Double Cross was a pun on the Twenty (XX) Committee formed in January 1941 by British intelligence agencies, led by John Masterman and aimed at coordinating the work of a new strain of double agents. These included the Serbian playboy Dusko Popov (aka Tricycle), who creatively worked the Berlin-Lisbon circuit, though he failed to create an American counterpart to Double Cross because of FBI distrust (and his wild expenditures); Polish patriot Roman Czerniawski, exposed by the Germans in Nazioccupied France and compelled to infiltrate the British spy system; the bored Peruvian gambler Elvira de la Fuente Chaudoir, known as Bronx, employed by MI6 to “coat trail” some influential Germans while larking about Vichy France; the former Spanish chicken farmer and Franco refugee Juan Pujol (aka 1142

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Garbo), who managed by his confounding literary flourishes to hoodwink the Germans utterly regarding the Normandy landings; and Lily Sergeyev (aka Treasure) who cultivated her charm on Maj. Emile Kliemann of the Abwehr. While the spies were highly effective in deflecting interest in the Torch landings, and later Fortitude, the run-up to Normandy proved disastrous. Moreover, the dangers of getting picked up by the Gestapo and tortured for information was a constant danger, as in the case of Johnny Jebsen (aka Artist). Invisible ink, double-agent homing pigeons and a Hollywood double for Gen. Monty—nicely woven tales of stealth, brashness and derring-do.

SINCERITY How a Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and the Curious Notion that We All Have Something to Say (No Matter How Dull)

Magill Jr., R. Jay Norton (224 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 16, 2012 978-0-393-08098-8

An illumination of the shifting attitudes and ambivalence toward a value that society claims to hold in high esteem. The topic and treatment suggest an academic inquiry, but Magill (Chic Ironic Bitterness, 2007) engages readers with a style that is more conversational than scholastic. The author examines sincerity from a variety of perspectives—religious, philosophical, political, sociological, artistic—as Western culture has alternately feared sincerity, embraced it, or denied the very possibility of it. Perhaps the crux of Magill’s argument comes with his assertion that sincerity and irony, rather than polar opposites, are complementary correctives, with the latter exposing the hypocrisies within professions of the former. The author covers a lot of ground, as he traces the early equation of sincerity with heresy as a challenge to the dogmatic authority of the Catholic Church, through the peculiar attitudes toward authenticity taken by Beats, hippies and hipsters. In the “Hipster Semiotic Appendix,” Magill analyzes the significance of hipster totems, including the trucker hat: “It has become so tired that even to talk about how tiresome it is has itself become tiresome.” The author hopscotches his way through Montaigne and Machiavelli, Emerson and Rousseau, Duchamp and Warhol, and he encapsulates Kerouac and Sartre within the space of a couple of paragraphs (“Sincerity for Sartre is an unachievable state. The fundamental nature of man is that he is insincere in all things”). Ultimately, Magill concludes that “society…likes to turn sincerity on and off when it wants.” Sincerity proves to be a richer, more provocative topic than readers might initially suspect.

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MIRACLE BOY GROWS UP How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity

Mattlin, Ben Skyhorse Publishing (320 pp.) $24.95 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-1-61608-731-9

Born with a severe neuromuscular condition, writer and NPR commentator Mattlin pens the story of his life so far. In 1962, Mattlin was six months old and still unable to sit up on his own. After years of visits to different medical specialists, he received a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited disease that causes progressive, degenerative muscle weakness. While most people with this illness are unlikely to live to adulthood, Mattlin’s story is filled with details of how he managed to beat the odds again and again. He not only survived childhood, but be became one of the first wheelchair-bound students to graduate from Harvard. He eventually married and had two children. Although he strives to make this memoir as free from self-pity as possible, what comes across is a portrait of a rather unpleasant man. While the author touches on the history of the disability movement throughout the book, the story gets bogged down by a litany of Mattlin’s grudges, from the Harvard dorm room he was promised but didn’t get, to his disagreements with his father over his financial support. He describes how nearly every personal attendant he’s had has failed him—they are variously described as drunk, stupid, untrustworthy, crazy or some combination thereof. Mattlin also describes his sexual proclivities at uncomfortable length—e.g., how he manages to masturbate despite his muscular degeneration and his adolescent attempts at autofellatio, “a dirty little secret of the extremely scoliotic.” It isn’t until the final pages of the book—during which Mattlin discusses his hiring of an attendant who punctured his “self-righteous emotional shield”—that the author begins to open up in a genuine way. Unfortunately, it may be too late for most readers. Mattlin’s life is inspiring, but his attempt at an unsentimental memoir falls short of the mark.

THE SCIENCE OF SKINNY Start Understanding Your Body’s Chemistry— and Stop Dieting Forever

McCaffrey, Dee Da Capo Lifelong/Perseus (448 pp.) $16.99 paperback | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7382-1557-0

A whole-food advocate shares her transformative experience when she realized that the obesity she struggled to control was caused by processed foods. At age 30, McCaffrey (Plan-D: The Amazing Anti-Diet that Will Change Your Life Forever, 2009, etc.) was 5 feet tall and weighed 210 pounds. She realized she was unhealthy, but it |

took a chance occurrence to get her to act. While studying organic chemistry in college and working in an environmental testing laboratory, she decided to check the label of the prepared angel-food cake mix she enjoyed. To her surprise, she recognized that it contained sodium lauryl sulfate, a “detergent-like chemical” that was routinely used at her lab to test “smelly water samples.” Shocked, she began to wonder whether the chemicals in the processed foods she ate were contributing to her obesity. The author describes the next two years as a time of “cognitive dissonance.” Despite her increasingly enthusiastic environmentalism, she could not bring herself to give up the processed foods that she knew were polluting her own body. Only after she had a “vital spiritual experience” (hearing a voice say, “Change your life or die”) was she able to give up smoking and eating processed foods. Just over a year later, she had lost 100 pounds, and she has kept it off in the 20 years since. No longer a compulsive eater, McCaffrey began to study nutrition in order to share her newfound wisdom, and she co-founded the Center for Processed-Free Food Living. In addition to her personal story, the author presents a number of dietary recommendations, some more mainstream than others. Few will quibble over the importance of eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains, but her ringing endorsement of saturated fats will be more controversial. Although McCaffrey’s claims to be breaking new ground are exaggerated, sample menus, recipes and tips on how to avoid processed foods make this a helpful lifestyle guide.

DREAM TEAM How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever

McCallum, Jack Ballantine (384 pp.) $28.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-345-52048-7 978-0-345-52050-0 e-book

The inside story of the greatest basketball team ever assembled. The 1992 United States men’s basketball team not only stands as the most talented basketball team ever, but it remains something of a cultural phenomenon that helped make basketball a truly global sport and the NBA an international brand. Longtime Sports Illustrated writer McCallum, who covered the “Dream Team” at the Barcelona Olympics, recounts the process whereby NBA stars cruised to the gold medal, crushing opponents who would later pose for pictures with and ask for autographs from the American players. The author sketches a group biography in which some figures (Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley) perhaps rightfully garner more attention than others and in which even the selection of the team became a source for drama. Unbeknownst to most, Jordan and Magic

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h ja i pau s c h In 2006, Jai Pausch’s husband Randy, a professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon, was stricken with pancreatic cancer at the age of 46. Given only a few months to live, his life was prolonged for two years by heroic measures, including a dangerous operation followed by an experimental program involving radiation and three different chemotherapy drugs. Randy is notably known for giving the uprising speech at Carnegie Mellon titled “The Last Lecture,” which also went on to become a New York Times bestseller he co-wrote with Jeffrey Zaslow (who also sadly died in a car accident in February while on tour promoting his book The Magic Room). As Randy’s illness took hold, the role of primary caregiver fell on Jai Pausch’s shoulders, along with the care of their three young children. In her new memoir, Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss, Pausch shares her experiences as a way to help other caregivers. As she writes in the preface, she hopes that her story will help draw attention to the much overlooked need for the medical community and society to provide support for those left to care for the sick and their families during times of great duress.

DREAM NEW DREAMS:

Reimagining My Life After Loss Jai Pausch Crown (240 pp.) $24.00 May 15, 2012 978-0-307-88850-1

hospital for the weeks of his treatment was a big expense for us. For people without good insurance the cost would have been prohibitive, which is why I think we need universal health coverage. Throughout his illness, I was the one picking up the pieces, his fevers, kidney failure and so on. Randy was determined to fight to survive despite the harshness of the chemo. Our discussions were about whether he should take more despite his body’s increasing inability to tolerate the treatment or stop. With the ability of medicine to prolong life this is a question people do have to talk about. I am thankful that Randy got the chance to fight against the odds, but it was a tough decision for him and for me. Q: And when you came back home to Pittsburgh from Houston? A: I was becoming more and more exhausted, and we were both under great stress, psychologically and physically. We were lucky to find a counselor who could help us deal with the stress. Both of us were resentful of each other at different times. I was very upset when he suggested that I offer our young daughter, Chloe, for adoption should he die. Without the counselor, I am not sure even if Randy survived that our marriage would have. It is too much to expect that people in my position at that time should be left by the medical community to struggle on their own. It was natural for both of us to feel resentment and guilt in such a situation. Both the patient and the caregiver need psychological help and support. Our counselor helped us maintain our ability to communicate and discuss things together. With the counselor’s help we were able to continue that dialogue to the end.

Q: In his bestseller The Last Lecture, Randy wrote that he asked you what lessons you had learned since his diagnosis and comments, “Turns out, she could write a book titled Forget the Last Lecture: Here is the Real Story.” Is your book a belated answer to this question? A: I don’t think my experience as a caregiver was necessarily unique, but my experience was valid. In our society, caregivers are expected to be stoical and shoulder the burden without support, but I think this is unrealistic.

Q: You showed such strength throughout the terrible ordeal and also in picking up the pieces of your life and moving on.

Q: You describe the period when Randy was receiving chemotherapy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on an outpatient basis. It was a trial program, and the regimen was very harsh. You had to leave your children behind in the care of others, traveling back to Pittsburgh on the weekends to be with them. Could he have managed on his own?

A: Writing the book has been cathartic for me. I started the project in 2010, and it helped me move on with my life. I was a caregiver for 23 months, but now I am determined to forge ahead and enjoy life. I didn’t want our tragedy to define the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be like the high school quarterback who makes a winning touchdown and 20 years later that’s what everyone remembers.

Q: I don’t see how. He was getting three types of chemo and radiation for five days at a stretch. He could barely eat, and he became weaker and weaker over the seven weeks of the treatment. The few blocks, walk to the hospital would take him an hour with my help. I have no complaints with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. We were very fortunate to have the coverage. The cost of just one chemo infusion was $2,000. Fortunately, we did not have to pay it, but many people are not so lucky. Even so, our stay in a hotel near the |

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—By Carol White


(recently diagnosed with HIV) jockeyed for alpha-dog status while Bird was happy to cede the spotlight, comfortable in his accomplishments and willing to use the Olympics as a career capstone before retiring. Barkley represented one of the most controversial choices for the team primarily because of his unpredictable nature, which could be endearingly frank or just plain irascible. Ultimately, though, Barkley probably took the greatest pleasure in the Barcelona experience, slipping past the team’s security apparatus to enjoy the nightlife and the Olympic experience. Coach Chuck Daly held the team together in large part because he could masterfully steer the egos without seeming to do so. McCallum tells the story well, albeit occasionally too choppily, and some might find that he inserts himself into the story a bit too freely. However, he also effectively evokes the remarkable team while placing it within the larger historical context. Basketball and Olympics fans will welcome this nostalgic trip through the recent past. (8-page color photo insert)

ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent—and How to Reclaim Our Skies McGee, William J. Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $26.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-208837-6

Award-winning Consumer Reports travel journalist McGee (Creative Writing/Hofstra Univ.) delivers a workmanlike tell-all about the airline industry. “[I]t pains me to see what’s happened to what was at one time the exhilarating experience of boarding a flight,” writes the author. “Today, commercial flying sucks. And everyone knows it.” Indeed. Although he worked for three different airlines between 1985 and 1992 (all of which were “financially liquidated”), he derives most of the book from his interviews with, among others, flight attendants, congressmen, an FAA whistleblower and family members of an individual who died in a plane crash. McGee explains how the shortcomings of airlines can and do cost consumers more than a comfortable flight; they result in unsafe conditions. In his well-researched narrative, the author exposes the common practice of outsourcing repairs, which can result in crashes because the companies doing the repairs are not as competent or as tightly regulated. Furthermore, in at least one incident in which shoddy repairs resulted in a crash and a lawsuit, the big-name airline attempted to protect its brand by dumping the blame on the smaller company. The smaller company subsequently restarted operations under a new name. McGee’s exploration of this lack of accountability is intriguing and often damning for the companies cited. Eventually, however, the book becomes repetitive. The author’s rant against customer service, though certainly justified, is far from original, and he often rehashes his valid points with excess explanation and anecdotes. Informative but not terribly entertaining. |

RACING THROUGH THE DARK Crash. Burn. Coming Clean. Coming Back.

Millar, David Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (368 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-1-4516-8268-7 Engagingly straightforward recollections of a champion athlete who succumbed to the dark side of illegal performance enhancement. Cyclist Millar was a contender for the British Olympic team when he was arrested in 2004 by French authorities as part of their investigation into the Cofidis racing team. Unlike many athletes, the author chose to cooperate and was forthright about his disgrace. While accepting responsibility for his actions, he notes a willful blindness throughout the cycling establishment—“Cofidis had fundamentally failed when it came to preventing doping”—and he tries to convey the enormous pressures faced by neophyte athletes. Millar rose quickly as a young amateur cyclist, and his passion is evident in the focus on the technical side of racing. He portrays competitive cycling as a macho, closed society under close scrutiny. However, he writes, cycling officials tolerated an insidious culture of performance boosting and “recovery” that started with obscure, quasi-legal measures. After a few physically tortuous years of high-stakes races, the use of illegal substances came to seem inevitable, though the guilt and stress destroyed the happiness he’d found in riding. After he came clean to a French judge and the British Cycling governing body, he was banned from competition for two years (and banned from the Olympics for life). His forthright tone makes his downfall seem relatable: “I had become completely removed from my sport… I wasn’t an athlete anymore.” He ultimately received an opportunity to redeem himself with a smaller team, Saunier Duval, making his comeback at 29 in the 2006 Tour de France, just as the event was roiled by yet another doping scandal. Such events support Millar’s core argument that only candor about the seamy aspects of high-stakes athletics might allow problems like doping to be addressed. Will appeal to cycling enthusiasts and readers who seek an honest explanation of the scandals sullying the sport.

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“The pages slip by in this well-written new take on Victoria and her times. Murphy’s detailed rendering sheds entirely new light on the queen’s strengths and her many weaknesses.” from shooting victoria

SPECIAL AGENT MAN My Life in the FBI as a Terrorist Hunter, Helicopter Pilot, and Certified Sniper Moore, Steve Chicago Review (336 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-914090-70-0

Conversational memoir of the author’s career in the FBI. Moore is candid about his personal flaws and shortcomings, but most of the book is a love letter to a dangerous career and an agency filled with colleagues he admired. His assignments included counterterrorism, especially after 9/11; operator of a SWAT team that conducted surprise raids; sniper with the highest sharpshooter status; and pilot of FBI aircraft. Despite the dramatic-sounding assignments, Moore emphasizes that a career in the FBI does not involve around-the-clock adventuring; bureaucratic routine is part of the mix. Early in his career, he received a posting to the FBI office in Salt Lake City, an outpost where excitement and even normality sometimes seemed lacking. His first substantial assignment took Moore to rural Idaho, where he was keeping watch on members of a white-supremacist group known for violence. The author does not hide his mistakes due to inexperience and openly admits how fear nearly overcame him at certain moments. As he became more experienced, fear rarely entered his mind; he became an adrenaline junkie. Welcome interludes explore how Moore’s career occasionally meshed well with family life, but more often kept him away from his wife and children. The section on how Moore met and romanced the woman he would marry is especially poignant and well-written, while some of the sections about pursuing criminals are less compelling because they contain too much barely relevant detail. When Moore steps back from spinning narratives about tracking specific criminals, he offers fascinating insights. An unpretentious account of a proud career in service to public safety. (8-page color photo insert)

SHOOTING VICTORIA Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy

Murphy, Paul Thomas Pegasus (688 pp.) $29.95 | Aug. 15, 2012 978-1-60598-354-7

Enlightening study of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and her reign. Though the book is focused on the attempted assassinations of Victoria, Murphy (Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies/Univ. of Colorado) also shows how those misguided men strengthened both the queen and the empire. 1146

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It’s great fun to see the trail of the author’s research as he includes the politics, crises and sensational crimes that went along with each incident. The use of expert medical witnesses and the establishment of the “McNaughtan Rules” for insanity pleas set precedents that are still used today in England and the United States. The men who attempted to kill the queen can hardly be called assassins, however. All were in some way mentally challenged, and most used guns that weren’t loaded, were nonfunctional or were plainly not pointed at Her Majesty. It was said at the time that the queen’s popularity was so great that any attempt to harm her could only come from a madman. She was praised for her calm under attack, but she was actually quite afraid and forcefully demanded her government establish stronger punishments for the miscreants, with little success. Murphy depicts Victoria’s close relationships with most of her prime ministers, the only exception being William Gladstone, whom she kept at “arm’s length.” During her 64-year reign, and especially after her marriage to Albert, Victoria jealously guarded her power as sovereign, while at the same time learning to appear apolitical. After each of the attacks, the outpouring of affection increased the strength of the throne and weakened any attempts at political change. The pages slip by in this well-written new take on Victoria and her times. Murphy’s detailed rendering sheds entirely new light on the queen’s strengths and her many weaknesses. (16 pages of color and b/w illustrations)

FUEL ON THE FIRE Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq

Muttitt, Greg New Press (464 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-59558-805-0 978-1-59558-822-7 e-book The former co-director of Platform, a London-based group devoted to combating the harmful influences of transnational corporations, unravels Iraq’s oil politics. In this well-reported debut, Muttitt never insists that oil was the sole motive for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As both an activist and freelancer, he makes his sympathies plain from the beginning, but he rejects crude conspiracy theories in favor of a more subtle take: that the occupiers genuinely saw themselves as liberators, never acknowledging their own self-interest in securing an energy supply. Still, the British and Americans acted in precisely the manner expected of imperial powers, particularly when it came to the oil sector, installing dubious allies in government and industry, starving domestic institutions of resources and authority, and stoking political divisions among the indigenous opposition. Muttitt relies on his own deep familiarity with the region, damning documents made available by the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with numerous Iraqi oil experts and government officials to demonstrate the centrality of oil to the war’s planning and execution, to explain the chaotic first

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months of occupation (ever wonder why the Ministry of Oil was the sole public building unlooted or unburned?), and the many missteps of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Follow the oil, Muttitt advises, to fully understand the years of sectarian violence, the tortuous formation of the deeply flawed permanent government, the thwarted attempt to privatize an oil industry 30 years nationalized, and the handoff from occupying powers to armed security forces of the big oil companies. Throughout, the author displays an exquisite sensitivity and a deep respect for the resilience of the Iraqis and the sophistication of their oil industry before its gutting by the occupation. He’s contemptuous of today’s scramble for profits among the likes of ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. No, the war wasn’t only about oil, but as one State Department adviser asked, “What did Iraq have that we would like to have? It wasn’t the sand.” There will be readers who disagree with Muttitt’s thesis. They will now be obliged to marshal similarly convincing evidence.

ASCENT OF THE A-WORD Assholism, the First Sixty Years Nunberg, Geoffrey PublicAffairs (256 pp.) $24.99 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-1-61039-175-7 978-1-61039-176-4 e-book

Linguistic analysis and cultural criticism meet sociopolitical rant in this investigation of the word asshole and the modern phenomena of “assholism.” What exactly does it mean to call someone an asshole? When did the epithet come to prominence as a social and now political invective? Who are some of the biggest assholes in the public eye today? These are just a few of the questions that linguist Nunberg (The Years of Talking Dangerously, 2009) explores in this often raucously funny account of what seems to be America’s most popular insult. The author avoids many potential hazards, including an overly academic and pretentious tone or, conversely, an exceedingly snarky or droll satire. In other words, he avoids, by his own surmising, being an asshole himself, thereby rendering a skillful narrative. He looks carefully at both the political right and left with a plethora of examples from different mediums: blogs, radio talk shows, twitter feeds, TV news, reality television, films, literature and more. At the top of the asshole list—the arch-assholes—he places Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Newt Gingrich, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, among others. Like other obscenities, asshole is closely linked to class tensions, and Nunberg is deft at examining the word in this and other contexts. Though the word ass as a term of derision seems to have ancient origins, Nunberg traces asshole as a derogative filled with anger and contempt to the slang of World War II soldiers. He examines its potential for symbolic violence, as well as the unique characteristics that distinguish it from other kinds of disparagement. The nearly universally understood qualities of an |

asshole—self-delusion, arrogance, thoughtlessness, pretentiousness, egotism and an exaggerated sense of entitlement—become a kind of catalyst for the author to enact a broad critique of contemporary public discourse and behavior. A witty and politically charged analysis of a potent obscenity in its modern and contemporary context.

FINDING THE GAME Three Years, Twenty-Five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer Oxenham, Gwendolyn St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-250-00204-4 978-1-250-00204-4 e-book

A former star college soccer player travels the world to find and film pickup games for a documentary. In addition to chronicling three years spent filming and editing a documentary, Pelada, about pickup soccer around the world, Oxenham also grapples with a question familiar to many former student athletes: “How can you move to a new world without betraying the first? How can you drop it if you love it?” The author, who played at Duke, found that life after the game was empty. With money provided by her alma mater for film equipment, as well as funds from investors, Oxenham, her boyfriend and a small crew traveled to Brazil, Bolivia, Trinidad and 22 other countries, discovering that there were many other people around the world who lived to play soccer. The author joined pickup games played after work, in alleys and dirt fields and by players beset by exhaustion, poverty, political repression or a combination of all three. When Oxenham focuses on the players, she is at her best. She and her crew took considerable risks to find games in Iran, Palestine and the slums of Buenos Aires, and readers are rewarded with telling scenes demonstrating how soccer can unite strangers even in the most fraught circumstances. However, the author’s focus is fragmented: Is the book about soccer as it is played by passionate amateurs, or is it about Oxenham, a privileged young woman who couldn’t give up the game and constantly wrestled with the idea of playing professionally? Though both topics are worth exploration, the author is unable to effectively blend them together. A compelling travel and sports narrative occasionally marred by a lack of focus. (20 b/w photos)

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LIBYA The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi

Pargeter, Alison Yale Univ. (304 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-0-300-13932-7

A thorough but wooden examination of the making of Muammar Qaddafi. Unlike Lindsey Hilsum in her onthe-ground journalistic account, Sandstorm (2012), Pargeter (The Muslim Brotherhood, 2010, etc.) maintains an academic distance with her workmanlike prose. The author takes a more historical approach, portraying the coup by the young Bedouin soldier in 1969 as the last in an unhappy series of power grabs over the sparsely populated, disunited, tribe-riddled Libya. Under the imperious Italians, the Libyans were treated merely as “shadows in their own land”; the country achieved independence in December 1951 only by the maneuverings of the victorious powers of World War II. “At the time of independence,” writes the author, “Libya was ranked the poorest nation in the world.” When the group of fervently nationalist officers finally seized power from the ineffectual King Idris in 1969, Qaddafi took the lead, insisting on a purity of purpose—despite the fact that he had no worldly experience or education to speak of, shocking other Arab leaders with his fulsome political naivety. What Pargeter calls the “shambolic atmosphere” around him grew to nightmarish proportions once Libya struck oil. It resulted in a bloated public sector, bureaucratic chaos based on his “hopelessly simplistic” utopian Green Book (which Pargeter has actually read and helpfully dissects), the formation of “curious alliances” (e.g., with terrorist organizations and the worst dictators of Africa once the Arab League shunned him), rampant nepotism, a whimsical Islamist doctrine, and the elimination of opposition parties, among other dictatorial prerogatives. Ultimately, readers will wonder why the populace waited so long to get rid of him. Pargeter’s cliché-ridden prose detracts from, but does not completely overwhelm, her account of the brutal Qadaffi regime.

CAVEAT EMPTOR The Secret Life of an American Art Forger Perenyi, Ken Pegasus (368 pp.) $27.95 | Aug. 15, 2012 978-1-60598-360-8

Perenyi, who barely finished ninth grade, illustrates how he became America’s top art forger. When the author met Tony Masaccio, who lived in a building called the “Castle” near the author’s hometown of Fort Lee, N.J., Perenyi was a blank slate just waiting for someone with chalk. The Castle was a center of cosmic 1148

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energy where dozens of people showed up for Masaccio’s parties and long, lost weekends. When he discovered his talent for art, Tom Daly, a local artist, took Perenyi under his wing, sharing his artistic knowledge and encouraging his eager student to learn by copying great works. A book about Han van Meegeren, a Dutch art forger, taught the author the basic principles of forgery, and a job working for a conservator allowed him to hone his talents. Visits with Daly and Masaccio to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the auction rooms of New York City gave Perenyi all he needed to begin producing his “Flemish” paintings. He began with Dutch paintings and moved on to American art and then British sporting pictures. He never copied known works, but he developed an eye for what inspired the artists and created paintings that they could very well have done, always using authentic materials. His eager buyers ranged from local shops to the great auction houses of New York and London. Readers will be captivated as they follow the development of this remarkable talent over a 40-year career. (32 pages of color and b/w illustrations)

UNCLE SWAMI South Asians in America Today

Prashad, Vijay New Press (208 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59558-784-8 978-1-59558-801-2 e-book An update on the residual societal repercussions from 9/11 on the South Asian American population. Reverberations from 9/11 in the Sikh culture have been fully felt for more than a decade, writes Prashad (South Asian History/Trinity Coll.; Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, 2012, etc.) in this natural extension of his The Karma of Brown Folk. The author begins in the months following 9/11 as South Asian immigrants (and those even remotely resembling them) became the objects of retaliatory violence in the form of hate crimes and abject discrimination. South Asian businessmen were pulled from trans-Atlantic flights, angry street intimidation proliferated, and random detainments by police became as commonplace as the notion of racial profiling—all contributory byproducts of The Patriot Act. Though “the turban has always provoked anxiety,” writes Prashad, once the shock of 9/11 subsided, what remained were concerted efforts to curb misconceptions about South Asian people, which continues to be a challenge amid a debate over an unemployment-hobbled economy and corporate outsourcing to India. Incorporating personal experiences, the author examines Indian migratory ebbs and flows, how and why South Asian American immigrants became “united by fear,” and the chronological timeline of political activism that united them, regardless of affiliation. Prashad’s diatribes on foreign policy and America’s “imperial ambitions” may overwhelm readers seeking a generalized prognosis, but the author also

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“An intriguing, astute counterbalance to the scaremongering that dominates many other books on digital life.” from brain gain

DREAMLAND Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

includes such universally digested statements as, “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.” An eye-opening, relevant discourse on the unfortunate fallout of an American catastrophe.

BRAIN GAIN Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom Prensky, Marc Palgrave Macmillan (288 pp.) $27.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-230-33809-8

A technology and education expert examines how technology can make us better—if we let it. Prensky (From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning, 2012, etc.) opens with the thought that “today’s technology is changing your mind—and all of our minds—for the better.” He then rigorously examines the notion that technology improves not only our daily lives, but humanity as a whole. The author devotes many chapters to the questions surrounding the ways in which technology has changed our lives, predominantly in how we receive or use information. For example, Prensky addresses the question of whether making communication more concise (e.g., the 140-character limit of Twitter) is dumbing us down, taking the position that the ability to be succinct in our communication is a worthwhile skill and one we need in order to stay current. The most interesting chapters focus on education, a subject the author has covered at length in two previous books. Here, he posits that because many adults are uncomfortable with the latest innovations, they focus only on the possible downsides and too often limit children’s access to laptops, smartphones, tablets and other technological devices. It should come as no surprise, Prensky concludes, that students may have little interest in entering science, engineering or any technology-based fields when teachers “are continually broadcasting to them the unconscious message that technology is bad and best avoided.” The author closes with a chapter on the coming “Singularity,” which refers to “the moment, not very far off…when our technology will become as powerful, and even more powerful than our human brains.” Referencing theories from science fiction writers and futurists (including Ray Kurzweil), this ending seems an odd, speculative conclusion in an otherwise reasonable, practical book. An intriguing, astute counterbalance to the scaremongering that dominates many other books on digital life.

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Randall, David K. Norton (336 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 13, 2012 978-0-393-08020-9

AP reporter Randall provides a brisk tour of sleep research and what it means for individuals hoping to feel well rested. The author engaged with sleep research in part because of his sleepwalking. The book is not a seamlessly constructed narrative but rather a loose progression of chapters about different sleep-related issues: the sometimes fatal dangers in various occupations caused by lack of sleep; causes of and partial cures for insomnia; the ugly reality of sleep apnea; why dreams happen and whether they can be interpreted sensibly; what happens when an infant enters a household; the advantages of romantic couples sleeping in separate beds; and much more. Randall explains how the invention of electricity led to countless cases of sleep deprivation; the lack of utter darkness after sunset is often the enemy of sound sleep. Researching the world of sleep is obviously difficult because sleeping subjects selected for studies rarely remember anything concrete. Nonetheless, Randall interviewed sleep researchers and read academic papers to glean what he could from those who devote their careers to the science of sleep. Depending on the quality of their sleep, readers may be alternately saddened or validated by research suggesting that sleeping pills rarely improve the quality of sleep and rarely increase quantity by more than a few minutes. Randall emphasizes the too-often neglected commonsense realization that sleep is no void; rather, it is perhaps onethird of the puzzle to living well. The author also notes that sleep is not an undifferentiated continuum; the most restful sleep arrives in five stages of about 90 minutes each. A welcome study of an element of life that is often “forgotten, overlooked, and postponed.” (10 illustrations)

THE RISE OF MARCO RUBIO

Roig-Franzia, Manuel Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-4516-7545-0

The story of a Cuban-American politician on the Republican fast track. Born in 1971, Marco Antonio Rubio rose rapidly from West Miami city commissioner to Florida house speaker to his current post as junior U.S. senator from Florida. His rapid rise has led many to predict he will one day be elected president. “American politics had never seen anything like him: a young, made-for-YouTube Hispanic Republican with realistic national prospects,” writes Washington Post reporter Roig-Franzia. The author begins with the Rubio family’s arrival

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in the U.S. in 1956, during the last years of the Batista regime. In need of work, Rubio’s grandfather, a bartender, returned to Castro’s Cuba in 1959 and took a minor treasury post. Three years later, uneasy with Castro’s regime, he returned to Miami and became a permanent resident in 1967. Rubio grew up in Miami’s Little Havana and moved with his family to Las Vegas for several years, where he was baptized a Mormon. It was the first of several changes in his religious affiliation. Born Roman Catholic, Rubio returned to Catholicism when the family came back to Miami, where he played football in high school and studied law at the University of Miami. Later, in what his staff calls his “faith journey,” he would straddle the Baptist and Catholic faiths. Entering politics in his mid-20s, he quickly won right-wing establishment mentors, notably former Florida governor Jeb Bush. In 2009, he was saluted in a National Review cover story. Drawing on interviews, Roig-Franzia details controversies over Rubio’s credit card spending while in the Florida house, his attempts to claim a place as the son of Castro exiles, and his inspiring abilities as a public speaker. Now, writes the author, Rubio is a “cagey political veteran” whose national influence far exceeds his seniority in Congress. A solid, well-written, anecdote-filled political biography. (8-page b/w insert)

INDEPENDENTS RISING Outsider Movements, Third Parties, and the Struggle for a PostPartisan America Salit, Jacqueline S. Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-230-33912-5

Independentvoting.org president Salit (co-author: Talk/Talk: Making (Non) Sense of an Irrational World, 2010) discusses independent voters in this “honest and unvarnished account of events, personalities, and contexts in the formative decades of what I feel certain will turn out to be a century-defining dynamic.” The independent movement began to grow in the 1970s when Fred Newman launched the New Alliance Party in an attempt to beat back the bipartisan election process. The party gained acceptance among minorities and progressive whites, groups who felt they had been shut out of the system. In 1988, Leonora Fulani, the party’s presidential candidate, was slated on the ballot of all 50 states—not only the first woman, but also the first African-American to do so. As the NAP expanded, their influence was felt in both local and national politics. Eventually, Fulani and Newman joined Nicholas Sabatine to form the Patriot Party, which was absorbed in California by the Reform Party. As the quest expanded across the country, the candidacy of Ross Perot really put the independent movement on the map. Salit managed Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral race for the Independence Party, proving that they could be a great influence in politics. Two other significant instances in which independent voters displayed their 1150

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power were the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 congressional elections. As she explains the pitfalls of political life, the author demonstrates her expertise in the fight to give nonpartisan voters a more potent voice in the democratic process. Fighting against the strong political machines of a twoparty system may seem Sisyphean now, but Salit’s story of how well they’ve done so far inspires hope that one day they will succeed. (Author tour to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.)

GRAVITY’S ENGINES How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos

Scharf, Caleb Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux (256 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-374-11412-1

An intelligent explanation of a weird but essential feature of the universe. Black holes are bodies so massive that they are invisible because their light cannot escape. Although permitted by relativity, nobody, Einstein included, believed they existed. It turns out they are everywhere, writes Scharf (Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology, 2008), director of Columbia University’s Astrobiology Center. As stars age, cool and shrink, most, like our sun, will become white dwarves: tiny and immensely dense but still shining. As larger stars shrink, their greater gravity squeezes them into even smaller, denser neutron stars. In stars more than three times our sun’s mass, gravitational collapse continues, distorting space-time so much that the star’s light curls back on itself, producing a “singularity,” an infinitely small point containing the entire mass. Physicists dislike infinities, so there may be a better explanation, but there’s no denying that black holes happen. Their gravity attracts material, including stars, which disappear inside. Other material orbits in a huge “accretion disk” whose high-speed interactions generate torrents of radiation. Supermassive black holes at the center of every galaxy may pour out more energy than a billion stars. This energy plays a vital role in controlling the size of galaxies and the formation of stars, which means, ultimately, the formation of planets and life. Written for educated laymen, this should not be treated as an introduction to cosmology (for that try Brian Clegg’s Gravity or Chris Impey’s The Living Cosmos), but Scharf provides a rich, satisfying and usually comprehensible account of an extraordinary phenomenon. (16 b/w illustrations)

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“A provocative and articulate discourse on the dismal science and moral philosophy.” from how much is enough?

JANUARY FIRST A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her Schofield, Michael Crown (288 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-307-71908-9

A father descends into the emotional depths of his daughter’s schizophrenia. In his debut memoir, Schofield (English/California State Univ., Northridge) provides a brutally honest account of his young daughter, January, whose violent outbreaks crippled their family. January’s behavior worsened upon the arrival of a baby brother. Fearing for the new child’s safety, Schofield and his wife plunged headlong into their newly confused labyrinthine world populated by psychiatric wards, medication and only occasionally competent doctors. January’s shocking behavior took a severe emotional toll on the family, particularly her father, who found himself admitting his dark thoughts. While January was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia, the long period of uncertainty left Schofield shaken. After his daughter’s EEG came back normal, the author admits that he was “so desperate for answers that I would actually have been relieved if I’d been told she had a tumor.” This stark honesty characterizes the book, whose author openly admits his complex relationship with his daughter. January’s mental illness soon consumed every aspect of Schofield’s life, spurring marital strife, false charges of sexual abuse and a work-related outburst. It even pushed the author toward a suicide attempt. In a final effort to diffuse the extreme resentment January felt toward her baby brother, the Schofields attempted a wildly unorthodox living situation, which demanded breaking the family apart in an effort to keep it together. An unflinching portrait of the scourge of mental illness.

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? The Economics of the Good Life

Skidelsky, Robert; Skidelsky, Edward Other Press (272 pp.) $24.95 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-1-59051-507-5

A provocative and articulate discourse on the dismal science and moral philosophy. Eminent economic historian Robert Skidelsky (Political Economy Emeritus/Univ. of Warwick; Keynes: The Return of the Master, 2009, etc.) and his philosopher son Edward (Moral and Political Philosophy/Exeter Univ.) recall when John Maynard Keynes predicted that, in his grandchildren’s days, no one would need to work much more than a few hours a week to satisfy our shared human needs. As the great economist expected, production soared, but work increased |

as well. What happened to the dream of Keynes? Though he thought needs were finite, the sought-after good life expanded. Needs may be satisfied, but not wants or the insatiable desire for more. In seeking to find suitable goods for the blissful life, the authors conflate economic theory with philosophy. They cite Marx and Marcuse, Aristotle and Adam Smith, happiness economists and ecological economists, the dharma sutra and story of Faust. In sum, they posit certain requirements: health, security, respect, individuality, harmony with nature, friendship and leisure. Individually and as a society, we should value these, not perpetual growth. With a statement likely to attract notice, the Skidelskys write, “the capitalist system in our part of the world is entering its degenerative phase.” As an alternative to avarice and excess, the authors propose “non-coercive paternalism,” including basic income payments to all (as in Alaska), reduction of advertising (how else would we choose our presidents?), a graduated use tax and, possibly, some sumptuary laws. Not for libertarians or the Fox News crowd, but the authors deliver powerful, timely material for Wall Street occupiers, public intellectuals, policy wonks and op-ed columnists.

THE PRICE OF INEQUALITY How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future

Stiglitz, Joseph E. Norton (352 pp.) $27.95 | Jun. 11, 2012 978-0-393-08869-4

From one of the world’s leading economists, a political call to action in defense of equality and human rights. Nobel laureate Stiglitz (Economics/Columbia Univ.; Freefall: America, Free Markets and the Sinking of the World Economy, 2010, etc.) insists that increasing inequality in the United States stems from a breakdown of the country’s political and economic systems. The failure to hold any banker accountable for actions that contributed to the recent economic crisis is a prime symptom of the case. The current level of inequality, writes the author, “increases instability, reduces productivity, and undermines democracy.” Stiglitz concedes that there is merit in the arguments of those who point to the effects of technology, greed or the absence of bank regulation as contributing factors, and he agrees that corrective measures are needed. He goes further, arguing that inequality is a by-product of the ability to exploit consumers through monopoly power, and borrowers through shady practices. He shows that the consequences include a monopolistic redistribution powerful enough to have caused massive distortions in the U.S. financial system. This is still not the deeper problem, however. More fundamentally, people underestimate the problem of inequality; as a result, they fail to perceive the changes that are already underway. Stiglitz presents the situation as “the bigger battle over perceptions and over big ideas,” a battle being fought through persuasion, framing, misrepresentation and obfuscation. Changing course requires winning

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“The author’s voice and energy are compelling, but his hot, volcanic anger saturates the narrative, and the sheer self-indulgence and lack of filter make the book oscillate from wildly engaging to off-putting. Nonetheless, it’s sure to be a bestseller.” from hotels, hospitals, and jails

HOTELS, HOSPITALS, AND JAILS A Memoir

this battle for truth. In this way, he argues, equality, the rule of law and accountability can be reestablished. An impassioned argument backed by rigorous economic analysis. (Author tour to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle)

FOOLING HOUDINI Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind

Stone, Alex Harper/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-06-176621-3 A physics scholar explores how the combination of science, magic and real life stirred his inner magician. Stone begins his kaleidoscopic tour through the world of illusion at the 2006 World Championships of Magic in Stockholm, where be beheld tricks of the trade that soon became more life altering than spectacle. A self-described “nerdy and unsocialized” only child, the author was 5 when his father, an eccentric geneticist, gave him a magic kit from F.A.O. Schwarz, which provided him a real-world escape and a perpetual fascination. In a memoir studded with historical factoids, charming anecdotes and a variety of behind-the-curtain insider secrets to classic magic tricks, Stone serves as a winsome tour guide through several wizardly institutions where he gleaned a magical education. After a disastrously amateurish onstage flop, meetings at the Society of American Magicians restored the author’s wounded confidence, as did time at a magic school in Las Vegas, an instructional apprenticeship with master illusionist Wesley James, shadowing Manhattan’s Canal Street hustlers, and even a stint at clown school. He enthusiastically describes the delicate mechanics of wristwatch stealing, cardsharping and finger calisthenics. Stone’s first attempt at exposing trade secrets (an unspoken industry no-no) appeared in a 2008 Harper’s article that drew vehement criticism and practically shunned the author from the magical community altogether. Juicy bits aside, there’s plenty of eye-opening knowledge on display for those inclined to discover what lies behind the curtain. Magically engrossing.

Swofford, Anthony Twelve (300 pp.) $26.99 | $12.99 e-book | Lg. Prt. $28.99 CD $29.98 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4555-0673-6 978-1-4555-0672-9 e-book 978-1-4555-1351-2 Lg. Prt. 978-1-61113-454-4 CD

Fiery follow-up memoir by the bestselling author of Jarhead (2003). In his first memoir, Swofford (Exit A, 2007, etc.) chronicled his brutal stint as a sniper in the First Gulf War. A smash success, the book was made into an eponymous Hollywood movie. Reveling in his newfound fame, Swofford relished his easy access to money, casual sex and drugs. Here, he chronicles how his overindulgence in all three resulted in the loss of his fortune. The stream of women feels endless; he cheated and lied about being in love, using sex to quell boredom and his deep, sometimes deadly, loneliness and intermittent hopelessness. Details of intimate entanglements with women, booze and a rainbow of prescription pills make for sometimes painful reading, as one relationship after another crashes and burns, and the hypersexual Swofford displays little to no emotional growth or empathy. Simultaneously, he revisits his volatile, even hateful, relationship with his father, a veteran who verbally and occasionally physically abused his three children. Swofford’s father is now divorced and suffering from emphysema, but this pitiable state doesn’t blunt the author’s rage about his father’s past failings. These include a laundry list of misdeeds, such as the time Swofford overlooked dog droppings that he’d been charged with picking up and his father dragged him across the yard and held his face inches away from the feces. Flooded with anger toward his father, Swofford is choked by grief when recalling vivid memories of his older brother, Jeff, who died of cancer as an adult. Swofford’s writing, like many of his stories, is explosive. The author’s voice and energy are compelling, but his hot, volcanic anger saturates the narrative, and the sheer self-indulgence and lack of filter make the book oscillate from wildly engaging to off-putting. Nonetheless, it’s sure to be a bestseller.

DIAL M FOR MURDOCH

Watson, Tom; Hickman, Martin Blue Rider Press (3668 pp.) $26.95 | $10.99 e-book | May 8, 2012 978-0-399-16263-3 978-1-10160-137-2 e-book Comprehensive chronicle of the British phone-hacking scandal that cost Rupert Murdoch part of his coveted media empire. Revelations that Murdoch employees hijacked the private voice mails of thousands of people (including a

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missing girl who was later discovered murdered), not only sparked the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid in 2011, it also gave the House of Parliament and U.K. police undeniable black eyes. Member of Parliament Watson and Independent correspondent Hickman delve deeply into the sordid mess, a tabloid hell in which the only imperatives were to sell more newspapers, cultivate power and destroy enemies. The authors detail the depths of the illegal phone-hacking scandal as well as the payoffs, coverups and intimidation that followed. The authors also show the bulk of Britain’s famed Fleet Street press and much of the Metropolitan Police force casting a blind eye to the “dark arts” practiced by Murdoch’s henchmen (and henchwomen). Members of Parliament, meanwhile, and even the occupants of Number 10 Downing Street, routinely kowtowed to the Aussie power broker’s will. Readers will be continually taken aback by the level of hubris involved in the whole affair. For example, Prime Minister David Cameron blithely appointed News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications director just four months after Murdoch’s man quit the newspaper in disgrace. Coulson was eventually busted on conspiracy charges in 2011 in connection to the phonehacking scandal and payoffs to police. Other Murdoch confidants, like former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, would follow Coulson down. The story, however, only started to gain traction after the New York Times covered the scandal. Interestingly, it might now be left to Watson and Hickman’s book to spark new investigations into Murdoch’s activities on this side of the Atlantic. Required reading for news junkies and those interested in understanding Murdoch’s seemingly ironclad grip on the news.

THE ODYSSEY OF KP2 An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species

Williams, Terrie M. Penguin Press (304 pp.) $27.95 | Jul. 9, 2012 978-1-59420-339-8

A true tale of an orphaned Hawaiian monk seal and the humans who rescued him. Abandoned almost at birth by his mother, KP2 would have certainly died without human intervention. Because Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered marine mammal species in the United States, researchers were unable to let nature take its course. In this informative book, renowned marine biologist Williams, who directs the Marine Mammal Physiology Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, chronicles the seal’s rescue and first years of life. “From the moment of his birth,” writes the author, “he changed how many of us view our lives on this fragile planet.” After several months of care, KP2 was released into the warm waters of Hawaii. However, frequent sightings and close encounters with the seal on the shoreline made it apparent that KP2 craved human contact over that of his fellow seals. So he was returned to human custody. Scientists soon discovered the pup had developed severe cataracts over his eyes due to a lack of vital nutrients at birth. He |

was flown to Williams’ lab in California for treatment. Williams and her team of researchers began an intense study of the young male, and they collected important data on KP2’s growth rates, feeding habits and sociability, with the “survival of [the] entire species” resting on his shoulders. A moving, action-packed account of KP2’s rise to fame, his humorous antics while at the lab and the political and social battles that ensued by moving the seal away from his native Hawaiian waters.

WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED Rebuilding Home in the Wake of Katrina

Wooten, Tom Beacon (256 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-8070-4463-6 978-0-8070-4464-3 e-book

Tales of community activists who salvaged their neighborhoods from natural disaster and governmental neglect in

New Orleans. After participating in a Harvard fellowship to volunteer with and research the stories of Hurricane Katrina victims, Wooten (co-author: No One Had a Tongue to Speak: The Untold Story of One of History’s Deadliest Floods, 2011) moved to New Orleans to more fully immerse himself in the community’s rebuilding efforts. Focusing on five distinct neighborhoods, he allows residents and organizers to convey their dismay at government failure, their pride in their communities, and their resilience in tackling unwieldy projects, from gutting damaged homes to applying for charter school status. Many of these neighborhoods were marked for “redevelopment” by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, an ill-conceived mayoral project that essentially recommended that neighborhoods like the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward be bulldozed and turned into parks. Facing these kinds of odds, the scrappy New Orleanians who refused to kowtow to city officials and outside consultants command the utmost respect. They also provide excellent examples of how communities facing similar threats (blight, poverty, environmental problems and crime) can work together to improve living conditions, whether or not natural disasters loom on the horizon. Readers won’t fault Wooten for his sincerity in gathering these stories, and many of his subjects possess strong voices—e.g., octogenarian Phil Harris, who pragmatically speaks of saving his wife and son from the floodwaters, and Father Vien The Nguyen, who narrates the history of New Orleans’ significant Vietnamese population. However, potentially compelling tales often get lost in endless re-creations of committee meetings, charter school board applications and fundraising rallies. The author’s tone is a problem as well. Wooten vacillates between addressing a general audience interested in the social ramifications of Katrina and presenting an overview of urban planning better suited to a civics textbook. A well-intentioned but prosaic book.

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“A useful introduction to one of America’s great scholar-activists.” from the historic unfulfilled promise

THE HISTORIC UNFULFILLED PROMISE

Zinn, Howard City Lights (184 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-87286-555-6

A collection of essays by American Left icon Zinn (The Bomb, 2010, etc.) originally published in the political journal The Progressive. “What kind of country do we want to live in?” asks the author in these essays dating mostly from the last years of his life, and thus following the historic arc from 9/11 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the election of Obama. As always, he responds to this question with a radical’s zeal, a historian’s insights and an activist’s optimism. War is on his mind. As the “war on terror” commenced, he railed against what he perceived to be the assault on American liberties this war had allowed. As the invasion of Iraq loomed, he warned against the countless lives that would be lost or ruined. As victory was declared in Iraq, Zinn was there to point out the horror of destroyed innocent lives and the chaos left behind. But the larger issue was war itself: “The abolition of war has become not only desirable but absolutely necessary if the planet is to be saved. It is an idea whose time has come.” On the whole, this is not Zinn at his best, as these are, after all, polemical articles meant perhaps more to arouse the converted rather than enlighten the uninitiated. There is also a certain degree of repetition of themes and phrases, as will happen with any collection of articles not originally meant to be read together. Certainly, many readers will not appreciate his message, but the spirit and passion of the messenger, an American original, cannot be denied. A useful introduction to one of America’s great scholar-activists.

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children’s & teen DARK COMPANION

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Acosta, Marta Tor (368 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-7653-2964-6

TIGER LILY by Jodi Lynn Anderson............................................ p. 1156 TIMELESS THOMAS by Gene Barretta...................................... p. 1157 OUT ON THE PRAIRIE by Donna M. Bateman......................... p. 1158 DAY BY DAY by Susan Gal.......................................................... p. 1163 SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman.............................................. p. 1164 SMALL DAMAGES by Beth Kephart.......................................... p. 1165 FLYING THE DRAGON by Natalie Dias Lorenzi...................... p. 1167 MONKEY COLORS by Darrin Lunde........................................ p. 1168 SUCH WICKED INTENT by Kenneth Oppel.............................. p. 1169 LIAR & SPY by Rebecca Stead...................................................... p. 1174 JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK by Colin Stimpson....... p. 1174 MOM, IT’S MY FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN! by Hyewon Yum...................................... p. 1179 PETE’S ROBOT by Heartdrive Media........................................ p. 1181

This enjoyable, chick-lit update of undead culture gives vampires and their victims a long-overdue makeover. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre marked by creaky gender relations and unchallenged class stratification. Smart, ambitious and now aged out of foster care, Jane Williams is thrilled with her free ride to Birch Grove, a prestigious private high school. Her scholarship includes a cottage of her own, courtesy of headmistress Radcliffe and her family. Jane’s streetwise toughness conceals a naive, inexperienced heart that’s soon given to self-centered but gorgeous Lucian Radcliffe. (His musician brother, Jacob, has his own disturbing appeal, but he’s no Lucian.) While Jane recognizes that Lucian harbors his own sinister agenda, she thinks she’s willing to pay the price, which buys other compensations. Despite her lack of pedigree, she’s befriended by upper-crust classmates and encouraged by teachers who recognize her potential. Still, Jane can’t avoid asking troubling questions—she’s no meek Eyre apparent. Any resemblance to Brontë’s governess is purely cosmetic; this Jane’s true peers are the heroines of the historical gothic romances. Quotes from such deathless classics as The Monk and The Castle of Otranto, among others, begin each chapter, making the book something of a survey of the genre all by itself. Acosta’s savvy take on sexist vampire traditions is refreshing even if much of its bracing astringency gets lost in the melodramatic resolution. Young readers won’t mind, and all can look forward to the inevitable sequel. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

LOVE, AMALIA

Ada, Alma Flor; Zubizarreta, Gabriel M. Atheneum (125 pp.) $14.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4424-2402-9 Ada and Zubizarreta (Dancing Home, 2011) reunite to focus on a young Latina girl coping with loss. Sixth-grader Amalia lives in Chicago with her Mexican-American mother and Puerto Rican father. While making |

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melcocha (taffy) one afternoon with Abuelita, Amalia shares that her best friend, Martha, is moving to California. Abuelita calms her with tales of the people she has lost through the years. While these tales temporarily relieve Amalia’s anxiety about Martha’s move, she is still upset. When Martha and her family leave sooner than expected, Amalia becomes angry and is convinced that she has lost her friend forever. She feels the emptiness of life without Martha and reminisces about the great times they had together, but her worries are pushed aside when Abuelita dies unexpectedly. As her family gathers from Mexico and Costa Rica to celebrate Abuelita’s long life, Amalia has a difficult time understanding why everyone else isn’t as sad as she is. After her mother gives her one of Abuelita’s most cherished possessions, she begins to understand the important role she played in her grandmother’s life and finds the courage to contact Martha. The authors tackle issues of love, loss and familial ties with a sympathetic, light hand and blend Spanish words and Latino music and recipes into Amalia’s tale. A charming story, especially for children facing the loss of grandparents. (recipes) (Fiction. 8-12)

THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR (PATHETIC) LIFE

Altebrando, Tara Dutton (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-525-42326-3

It’s the week before high school graduation, time for the annual Senior Week Scavenger Hunt. Over a long day, Mary and the three other members of her team will bond one last time, settle old scores with rival teams, and pursue the elusive prize: a giant lawn-ornament Yeti. For Mary, winning also means beating out Jake Barbone, the gay-bashing jock whom Georgetown admitted over Mary, despite her superior grades. Teammate Dez is a past Barbone victim; Winter and Patrick have agendas of their own that Mary’s forced to reckon with as the day unfolds. Harvard-bound Patrick isn’t satisfied with Mary’s friendship—he wants more. Is Winter hiding her own romantic secrets that might interfere with Mary’s scheme to secure Carson’s affections? While texting, sending videos and doing online searches via smartphone (this is one high-tech hunt), not to mention searching out live goldfish and puzzling over Dixie-cup icosahedrons and origami sheep, Mary will make surprising discoveries and confront uncomfortable truths. Anxious and excited, ebullient and sorrowful, she’s poised to take flight into the intoxicating world of adult freedom. But tearing around capturing fireflies and hunting out old stuffed animals brings home the bittersweet truth of what—and whom—she’ll leave behind. Funny and nostalgic, a highly contemporary riff on a timeless rite of passage. (Fiction. 13 & up)

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GUITAR NOTES

Amato, Mary Egmont USA (272 pp.) $15.99 | $16.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-60684-124-2 978-1-60684-300-02 e-book 978-1-60684-125-9 PLB Tripp Broody and Lila Marks (Mr. Odd and Ms. Even) alternate lunchperiod use of an instrumental practice room and a school guitar, developing a bond through their shared feelings of pressure and their love for making their own music. Lila’s deceased mother was a professional cellist. While Lila expects to follow in her footsteps, part of her would like a break from both the cello and a demanding best friend, Annie Win. Playing the guitar helped Tripp forget the death of his father and the absence of his best friend, who moved away, but his mother has confiscated his instrument until his grades improve. It is their developing emotional relationship rather than a physical connection that defines the novel. Short, third-person present-tense vignettes, each headed with a place and date, carry the plot along, helped by frequent emails, text messages and handwritten notes, as well as illustrations (not seen, but said to include music, notes, tests and receipts). The intense drama of the ending surprises after the gradual development of their friendship, but the picture of the myriad pressures teens feel rings true. Amato, also a Washington, D.C.–area songwriter, weaves in convincing musical detail and advice that will appeal especially to readers experimenting with an instrument themselves. This one will resonate. (Fiction. 12-16)

TIGER LILY

Anderson, Jodi Lynn HarperTeen (300 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-06-200325-6 It’s no paradise—white-sand beaches and spectacular sunsets come with mud, mosquitoes and croc-infested swamps— but guided by fragile, insect-size faerie Tink, readers are drawn into this richly re-imagined Neverland anyway. Tink is obsessed with Tiger Lily, whose tribe avoids pirates and Peter Pan’s lost boys, believed to carry the aging disease. (Neverlanders stop aging when some life-defining event occurs.) Adopted daughter of shaman Tik Tok, Tiger Lily is proud and competitive, kept at a wary distance by her peers except for gentle Pine Sap, whose unconditional love she appreciates but doesn’t return. Athletic Tiger Lily, nonathletic Pine Sap and Tik Tok, whose identity doesn’t match his gender, share a bond that’s shaken after Tiger Lily rescues an English shipwreck survivor, then falls in love with Peter, following him into an emotional wilderness as intoxicating and dangerous as Neverland

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“Young readers who know Edison only as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb will be fascinated by the breadth and scope of his genius as well as the sheer number of electrical devices he brought forth.” from timeless thomas

itself. Equally strong passions rule psychotic Smee, alcoholic Hook and, especially, Peter, with his need to be best—from winning games to protecting the lost boys. He’s irresistible; even mermaids, with their long hair and sharp teeth, aren’t immune. Tink’s love and helplessness (faeries read thoughts but cannot speak) become a source of tension and metaphor in this postcolonial fable that covers a lot of ground: wilderness and civilization, gender and power, time and change. Working with the darker threads of Barrie’s bittersweet classic, Anderson weaves an enchanting tale. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

THE CHAMBER IN THE SKY

Anderson, M.T. Scholastic (336 pp.) $17.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-545-33493-8 Series: The Norumbegan Quartet, 4 Frequent shifts in point of view amid a welter of journeys, captures, escapes, lampoonery and alien invasions cap the Norumbegan Quartet with a patchwork close. The psycho-vampiric Thusser continue to conquer Vermont while mounting a massive attack through an interdimensional gateway on the degenerate elves living in the innards of a continent-sized Great Body. Meanwhile, Brian and Gregory, along with hot if easily distracted elven companion Gwynyfer and doglike bacterium Tars Tarkas, set out to contact the remote Rules Keepers—a convenient, one-step way to bring the invaders to heel. Anderson sends his contentious young adventurers down a country-sized intestinal tract and through encounters with fungal mystics and other biota into captivity in a Thusser prison built from hardened phlegm. As he does, the author makes increasingly rapid-fire cuts from that world to this one, from the advancing hordes of genuinely creepy Thusser to the comically self-absorbed elves and other previously met characters. Just as his tale shows signs of being wrung dry of both satiric juice and bodily fluids, the author engineers a dizzying, last-moment save. Better-read fans will discern strains from Swift, Tolkien, Burroughs and others (not to mention Grey’s Anatomy and Fantastic Voyage) within this climactic orchestral cacophony of ickiness and farce. (Burlesque horror. 11-14)

THE END 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About... Before It’s Too Late Barcella, Laura Zest Books (176 pp.) $12.99 paperback | Jul. 4, 2012 978-0-9827322-5-0

An entertaining and fascinating compendium of doomsday scenarios depicted in fiction, film, graphic novels, plays, songs, television series and works of art. In her introduction, Barcella notes it was “overwhelming… having to narrow the list down to just fifty,” but offers no insight into how she arrived at her final list. Her sole criterion for selection seems only to be that they are “iconic.” The apocalyptic scenarios include alien conquest, bioterrorism, natural catastrophe, nuclear war, superviruses and zombie plagues. R.E.M.’s song “It’s the End of the World” and the film When Worlds Collide are obvious selections, but there are many interesting surprises. Who knew authors as different as E.M. Forster, Jack London and Mary Shelley all wrote apocalyptic short stories and novels? Most people listening to Nena’s “99 Luftballons” today probably don’t realize it’s about the Cold War–era shadow of nuclear annihilation. The examples are unimaginatively listed in alphabetical order by title rather than by type of apocalypse or medium. Each entry includes a concise synopsis of the work, brief discussion of its impact and influence, photograph or visual outtake, and quotes from or relating to it. A sidebar called “Reality Factor” discusses the plausibility of the scenario. Doomsday buffs will especially enjoy second-guessing Barcella’s choices and dissecting her synopses. An amusing, informative look at apocalyptic pop culture. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

TIMELESS THOMAS How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives

Barretta, Gene Illus. by Barretta, Gene Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-8050-9108-3 A fine introduction to Thomas Edison’s exceptional inventions, innovations and career—and how his work continues to affect our lives today. Young readers who know Edison only as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb will be fascinated by the breadth and scope of his genius as well as the sheer number of electrical devices he brought forth. They will be astonished that it is Edison whom they can thank for the phonograph, movie camera and projector, and improvements on the telegraph and telephone. There seems to have been little the man didn’t think of: an early vending machine, a vote recorder for the government

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“The poetry is not sacrificed to the information; [Bateman] pays careful attention to language and rhythm, using splendid verbs.” from out on the prairie

(for which he received his first patent), and the first device to make use of X-ray technology. The modern photocopier and even the tattoo needle were based on an Edison creation, the electric pen. Barretta’s admiring, clear prose; detailed, childappealing paintings; and easy-to-understand diagrams cast a focused spotlight on the “Wizard of Menlo Park” and his extraordinary work. In a nice touch, he pays homage to the gifted, dedicated team of scientists, chemists, engineers and inventors with whom Edison worked for years at both of his New Jersey laboratories; short biographical sketches of these important men are included, as is a list of “Thomas Trivia.” A glowing tribute to the inventor who continues to influence modern life. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-11)

OUT ON THE PRAIRIE

Bateman, Donna M. Illus. by Swan, Susan Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $15.95 | paper $7.95 | $9.99 e-book Jul. 21, 2012 978-1-58089-377-0 978-1-58089-378-7 paperback 978-1-60734-456-8 e-book Traditionally patterned verses celebrate the flora, fauna and wide sky of the mixed-grass prairie of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. “Out on the prairie where the snakeroot greets the sun, / Lived a shaggy mother bison and her little calf One.” As she did in Deep in the Swamp (2007), Bateman has chosen representative features and creatures to introduce a remarkable ecosystem. Counting from one to 10, she goes on to include pronghorns, meadowlarks, prairie dogs, grasshoppers, grouse, owls, rattlesnakes, coyotes and toads in a series of verses that also span the day from dawn to night. The poetry is not sacrificed to the information; she pays careful attention to language and rhythm, using splendid verbs. It reads aloud smoothly. Swan’s energetic cut-paper, mixed-media illustrations delight and instruct. She includes found objects and hand-painted paper, collaged and digitally combined on doublepage spreads that blend into a spatter-paint frame in the story section. Plants and animals are identifiable in the pictures and described further in the backmatter, 10 pages of “Prairie Flora and Fauna Facts.” This describes the animals’ child-bearing and -rearing habits, offers further information about the plants, and defines the term “prairie.” Another outstanding appreciation of the natural world for young readers and listeners both. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

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ABC ZOOBORNS!

Bleiman, Andrew; Eastland, Chris Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $12.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-4424-4371-6 978-1-4424-4373-0 e-book Series: ZooBorns! With shelves full of ABC books and animal-baby books, is there room for another one that combines the two? The ZooBorn brand by Bleiman and Eastland presents 26 baby animals that will have children keening to their parents, “Can I have one?” Similar to their title ZooBorns (2010), each page has an adorable close-up photograph of a baby animal from Anteater to “ZOOBORNS!” Lions and giraffes, vicuñas and dholes appear in between, among others. The graphic image of each capital letter includes a silhouette of the adult animal, along with a quote from the baby about its young life. The baby panda, lying flat like a rug, says, “Phew…I’m flat-out pooped from playing with my panda pals.” This is more about ramping up cuteness than actually providing information on the species represented, and the language is at odds with the ABC format. While the panda example has the appropriate phonetic reinforcement, others do not. The hardest words to read will be the animal names; nyala (a type of antelope) and Ural owl may trip up adult readers as well as children. The endnotes include conservation-status information with a short description on the specific animal and its zoo home. But that is just dressing on simply adorable infants. If looking for cuteness, pick this one. For alphabet learning, try something else. (Picture book. 4-8)

THE SCORPIONS OF ZAHIR

Brodien-Jones, Christine Delacorte (384 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-385-73933-7 978-0-375-89749-8 e-book 978-0-385-90783-5 PLB Combine a complicated and not entirely explained premise involving the link between a mysterious planet and a half-buried desert city, giant scorpions with the power to communicate, and an eccentric cast of characters, and you’ve got a wild ride indeed. Long ago, the Azimuth people thrived in the beautiful city of Zahir, which was protected by a pyramid that absorbed energy from a planet called Nar Azrak. When a stone was removed from the apex of the pyramid, deadly scorpions invaded the city, and Nar Azrak began to veer off course in a path that would ultimately result in a collision with Earth. Fast forward to present day, and readers find 11-year-old Zagora, her brother, Duncan, and their father, archaeologist Dr. Charles Pym, venturing into the Moroccan desert to rescue Dr. Pym’s long-lost partner

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and to save Zahir and what remains of the Azimuth people. Although the focus is on the fast-paced, suspenseful plot, some welcome character development is also present. Zagora’s confidence grows, and she and her brother Duncan bond in a way that didn’t seem possible in their previous, ordinary lives. Loose ends and a fuzzy mythology are flaws that will likely be overlooked by readers who enjoy immersing themselves in adventures featuring creepiness of both the historical and otherworldly varieties. (Fantasy. 9-13)

52 REASONS TO HATE MY FATHER

Brody, Jessica Farrar, Straus and Giroux (352 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-374-32303-5 There’s no reason to hate this novel, but there are certainly plenty of reasons to feel apathetic about this formulaic work. After the shallow, childish Lexington Larrabee crashes her luxury car into a convenience store, her father takes control of her life. He’s only a parent in biological terms to Lexi, so she’s just counting down until she turns 18 and takes control of her trust fund. But her father says she has to wait a year longer, which she’ll spend working 52 different jobs. She’ll work menial, minimum-wage jobs, and she’ll be supervised by Luke, an intern from her father’s company. If she doesn’t work, she’ll lose everything. Predictably, Lexi pouts and whines until she learns valuable lessons about work and family from a new friend. There’s romance, of course, and the expected happy ending. Characters are flat and stereotyped, and there’s nothing surprising in the plot. The writing is competent, though, and at least Lexington’s voice is engaging enough to snare readers. It’s sure to be enjoyed by teens, but this novel is just another example of poor-little-rich-girl lit. (Fiction. 14 & up)

PERFECT ESCAPE

Brown, Jennifer Little, Brown (368 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-316-18557-8

For 17-year-old Kendra, life has been defined by her older brother’s OCD, causing her to strive for perfection in all things. When Grayson is released from his latest treatment center, she worries that her brother’s presence will disrupt the family’s tranquility. But this time it’s Kendra’s secret extracurricular activities that threaten the facade of perfection—she is caught buying test answers and reselling them. Rather than face consequences, she hijacks Grayson for an impromptu road trip to see California’s Hayward Fault (one of his leading obsessions) |

while hoping to reconnect with her past best friend, Zoe. Compared to Brown’s previous work—on school shootings and abusive relationships (Hate List, 2010; Bitter End, 2011)—this story seems almost fluffy. While lies and family stress should fuel narrative tension, the flat emotions and unsympathetic characters can’t capitalize on it. Sibling fighting simply can’t achieve the level of raw emotion that Brown has communicated in the past. Kendra’s pursuit of perfection isn’t anything new, and the correlation of perfection with obsession never solidifies. Grayson doesn’t emerge as a character beyond his disorder, so his meltdowns and compulsions become plot-device annoyances rather than emotional turmoil. An imperfect offering from a nearly perfect author. (Fiction. 12 & up)

ONCE An Eve Novel

Carey, Anna Harper/HarperCollins (368 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-06-204854-7 Series: Eve, 2

This second book in the Eve series finds Eve trapped in the tyrannical City of Sand in this near-future dystopia. Sometime in the mid-21st century, the world tries to recover from a plague that wiped out most humans. The former governor of California has established a repressive monarchy that controls the lives of the population under his jurisdiction, while most cities, including San Francisco, are abandoned. Eve, running from The New America, became separated from her boyfriend, Caleb, in the previous installment. This time she’s captured by New America soldiers and taken to the former Las Vegas, now ruled by the King, who’s rebuilding the city with slave labor. There, Eve learns that she has a whole new privileged identity with the royal family. When Caleb contacts her, however, she sneaks out to meet him and becomes involved with the dissidents who intend to foment a rebellion. All does not go well, and Eve finds herself in a situation wherein she must make a desperate bargain with the deceitful King. Carey delivers a believably devastated world, sparsely populated by savvy survivors, and keeps pages flipping throughout most of the story, although the romance is standard stuff. If the book’s crisis is a bit predictable, the sudden, menacing ending ought to propel readers to the next book in the series. Suspenseful. (Dystopian romance. 12 & up)

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ABOUT AVERAGE

Clements, Andrew Illus. by Elliott, Mark Atheneum (128 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-4169-9724-5

How can a plain girl with few talents possibly achieve the triumphal moment of a sixth-grader’s dreams? Organized, orderly and all-around average, Jordan Johnston has a more pressing problem than fame in her last few weeks at Baird Elementary School. Classmate Marlea Harkins’ bullying seems as unwarranted as it is emotionally painful. Jordan’s solution is surprising: She fights back with niceness; at least it distracts. The tension rises as the warm, late-spring weather becomes more threatening and the heat frays tempers. The tornado that finally comes offers relief as well as an occasion for Jordan to demonstrate her strengths. As he has done so often before, Clements (Troublemaker, 2011, etc.) offers a comfortable third-person narrative, a convincing school story full of familiar sights and sounds, as well as a believable cast of characters. Unusually, Clements also models grown-ups with fulfilling, if ordinary lives—a radio-station meteorologist who weekends with the National Guard, an English teacher who provides books from his childhood collection for his students. Even the setting in central Illinois seems ordinary. What is extraordinary is how Clements can continue to produce realistic examples of kid power year after year. More than a feel-good story with a message, this is another good read. (Fiction. 9-12)

CREATE WITH MAISY A Maisy First Arts-and-Crafts Book Cousins, Lucy Illus. by Cousins, Lucy Candlewick (48 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-7636-6122-9

A beloved children’s-book character explores her creative side and encourages children to get crafty. Super-simple directions and projects make these crafts a breeze for young children. The materials lists include items that are common household objects (but if you don’t have something, not to worry—Cousins encourages you to substitute something else). This laid-back attitude pervades the entire book, which seems designed for maximum creativity. The photos of Cousins’ finished projects are a standout for their imperfection—childlike, they do not look intimidating to children who cannot replicate the more polished look of adults’ crafts. The 17 projects are ideal for young children—they encourage creative play and can be used as decorations or given as gifts, and most do not require the use of anything more dangerous than the recommended rounded safety scissors. They include a cardboard-box house, 1160

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tissue-paper flowers, a pencil holder, painted pebbles, paper lanterns, a pasta necklace, colorful cookies (decorating alreadymade cookies) and a feathery mask. Each project is presented on a two-page spread, with a close-up view of the finished product on one side and directions and materials list on the other. Scattered throughout are Cousins’ gouache illustrations of Maisy at work and play. Bright primary colors and simple backgrounds and details keep the focus on the craft projects. A wonderful resource for those who work (and play) with young children. (Craft book. 2-8)

PIGMARES Porcine Poems of the Silver Screen

Cushman Doug Illus. by Cushman, Doug Charlesbridge (44 pp.) $12.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-401-2 978-1-60734-457-5 e-book Mummy Pigs, Frankenswine and Werehogs…oh my! “A thousand-foot pig breathing nuclear fire. / Gurgling gasps from a swamp’s murky mire. / Sharp fangs and red eyes on pale porcine faces. / Dead zombies crawl out from foul-smelling places.” Prolific illustrator and occasional scribe Cushman versifies classic movie and literary monsters in 18 single-page poems with accompanying movie-poster–inspired watercolor illustrations starring, of course, pigs rather than people. Plants from outer space (Pigweed), the Yeti (Abominable Snow Pig) and Pig Kong all enjoy the spotlight in turn. All entries are rhymed, though in various schemes, and each has a humorous twist beyond the punny titles. “I ride along the highway, / a demonic, devilish bat. / ’Tisn’t just a head I want, / but a place to put my hat,” says the swiney spirit in “The Legend of Sleepy Wallow.” Several sentences of notes about each poem in the “credits” at the back of the book detail the film or book or scene that inspired the verse and the picture, adding a layer of fun and information that may lead young spook seekers to the source material. Likely to inspire more giggles than gasps; these hammy horrors are sure to please. (Poetry. 8-12)

MONET PAINTS A DAY

Danneberg, Julie Illus. by Heimerl, Caitlin Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $15.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-240-7 978-1-60734-454-4 e-book An engaging and well-researched picture book written in the voice of the artist and drawn from the letters of the noted French Impressionist Claude Monet. In the late autumn of 1885, Monet sojourned at the coastal resort of Étretat in Normandy. Each morning Monet and village

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“Full of energy and zip, this is a good example of onomatopoeia, well complemented by the engaging pictures and heartfelt story.” from bow-wow wiggle -waggle

children transported his canvases, easel, paints, brushes and more to the motif he had elected to paint. One day, so absorbed in painting as much as he could within a seven- to 15-minute window—his calculation for the time it took before the light changed—Monet was actually swept away by a high tide, supplies and all. Monet struggled and fought his way to the surface and then ruefully resolved to carefully consult the tides tables from then on. Danneberg, known for picture books and earlygrade fiction, does a fine job here, effectively integrating details from Monet’s letters and minifacts about Impressionism and the exciting practice of plein-air painting. First-time illustrator Heimerl contributes some sensitively rendered watercolors. Though adept at small still lifes and landscapes, she often struggles with the figure and once awkwardly depicts the daubs of paint on Monet’s palette as scoops of brightly hued sorbetlike blobs. Rookie mistakes notwithstanding, this is an engaging collaboration. The backmatter is particularly clear and wonderfully informative—including details on Monet’s life, the theories that fueled the Impressionist movement, and the innovations in art materials that facilitated their work. Young art lovers will appreciate this appealing glimpse into the life and work of Monet.(bibliography) (Picture book. 6-9)

BOW-WOW WIGGLE-WAGGLE

DePalma, Mary Newell Illus. by DePalma, Mary Newell Eerdmans (32 pp.) $14.00 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8028-5408-7 A game of fetch with a brown spotted dog turns into a wild pursuit that passes by a rhythmic cacophony of animals along the way. A bright-eyed and bouncy pup yowls for joy waiting to play ball with its young owner. But as the game of fetch begins, the “paw-paw pitter-patter” of a tiger cat creeps onto the page. DePalma has created a syncopated soundscape of animal noises as the puppy chases the cat past a host of other wildlife. The book seems like two stories in one—a wordless picture book depicting the chase, and a tongue-twisting play on animal noises. For example, “TWITCH-TWITCH shiver, quiver nibble BLINK / dart, dash scatter chatter scamper wink” describes rabbits and squirrels that watch as the action runs by. Though punctuation is sparse, the text is printed in different types and colors to match the sounds. Luckily, the watercolor illustrations propel the story’s action forward. The scenery shows the chase through field, stream and forest, with the boy lagging farther and farther behind. The storyline is easy to see, as the boy and his hyperactive dog are finally reunited after the chase ends. Full of energy and zip, this is a good example of onomatopoeia, well complemented by the engaging pictures and heartfelt story. (Picture book. 3-7)

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WEIRD SCIENCE Mad Marvels from the Way-Out World

Fairbanks, Randy; Lake, Matt Sterling (128 pp.) $14.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-4027-6041-9 From “Zany Zoology” to “Medical Marvels & Mishaps,” the creators of Weird U.S. (2011) scout out wonders—mostly of the astonishing or gross-out sort—from scientific fields. In haphazard order in each chapter but in enough detail that readers won’t feel as if they’re being barraged by unsubstantiated facts and factoids, Lake and Fairbanks report from “Weird Central” on a dizzying array of topics. These include naked mole rats and giant tube worms (their candidate for “Weirdest Animal Alive”), Mike the Headless Chicken, feuding inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, Silly Putty, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster, how to produce both static electricity and X-rays from Scotch tape, the strange fates of Einstein’s brain and Ted Williams’ head, and several dozen related diversions. Though written in a casual “hey, get this!” tone (“Spider senses aren’t all that. Moth and cricket senses are much cooler”), the entries are laced with such need-toknow information as the evaporation temperature of diamond, the common ingredients shared by air and chocolate, and the difference between “ligers” and “tigons.” Photos of the aforementioned head, the bacteria paintings of Alexander Fleming, crop circles, geysering soda bottles, two-headed animals and more add equally memorable visual notes. Riveting fodder for casual browsers and budding scientists alike. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

SWORD MOUNTAIN

Fan, Nancy Yi Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-06-165108-3 Series: Swordbird, 3 Set directly after the defeat of the archaeopteryxes, this third in Fan’s bird fantasy series follows the golden-eagle princes, Fleydur and Forlath, to their home in the mountains. Unbeknownst to them, the villainous Kawaka (introduced in a prologue) also journeys there—but not with good intentions. Fleydur and Forlath find an orphaned eagle fledgling, Dandelion, whom Fleydur insists on bringing into the stuffy, stratified golden-eagle society. The narrative, hinging on Dandelion’s acceptance in the eagle community as well as Kawaka’s stratagems for taking over Sword Mountain, is fast-moving, engrossing and entertaining. Characters new to the series include an unexpectedly diverting villain, Kawaka’s accomplice, an owl leader whose clan occupies the caves in the heart of the mountain. Story elements may initially seem unrelated, but they

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“A fun, intergalactic buddy story that may not reinvent the wheel—or the UFO—but works well here, nonetheless.” from earthling!

come together nicely in the exciting, suspenseful climax. Sparkling humor, from amusing personality portraits to hilarious segments (at one point, the king of the golden eagles, during his funeral ceremony, rises from the dead), offers insights to characters and their actions. Readers new to the series may experience some initial disorientation; fans of these tales will welcome this further installment. (map, dramatis personae) (Fantasy. 9-12)

EARTHLING!

Fearing, Mark Illus. by Fearing, Mark Chronicle (248 pp.) $22.99 | paper $12.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8118-7106-8 978-1-4521-0906-0 paperback After catching the wrong bus, young Bud finds himself at a school that’s out of this world—literally. On what is to be his first day at his new school, Bud accidentally finds himself on a spaceship school bus on the way to the Cosmos Academy, where Earthlings are the most feared creatures in the galaxy. He is quickly befriended by lovable green alien computer geek Gort McGortGort. At the Academy, it is quickly apparent that the current administration is up to no good. They are suspicious of Bud, who is being passed off as a Tenarian, an alien race that excels at ZeroBall. Bud, desperate to get home, and Gort devise a plan to hitch a ride back to Earth by winning the ZeroBall tournament, a near-impossible feat. The classic underdogs must fight their way against bullies both young and old—a well-trod storyline. Fearing adds appealing touches, such as the Transchip, a nod to Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish, which makes all languages understandable, or the Blip, a handheld computer that’s “a map, runs homework modules...has video chat, staff directory...” Couple this with vibrant cartoon art and a surprise happy ending for an easy, feel-good read. A fun, intergalactic buddy story that may not reinvent the wheel—or the UFO—but works well here, nonetheless. (Graphic science fiction. 9-12)

BALLERINA ROSIE

Ferguson, Sarah Illus. by Goode, Diane Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster (32 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Aug. 28, 2012 978-1-4424-3066-2 978-1-4424-3067-9 e-book

her in ballet class, but this turns out to be a challenge. Rosie cannot manage the steps and looks like a “wilted flower” instead of a prima ballerina. Her ballet teacher comes to the rescue, giving her a pair of red ballet shoes, and now Rosie’s classroom steps are perfectly perfect. Even though her teacher also wore red, as Rosie sees in a photograph, they are not the real reason Rosie has bloomed: She now has confidence, and that comes from within, her teacher explains. Madame Natalie’s explanation notwithstanding, the red shoes function as a sort of preschool deus ex machina, a baffling device in this context. Goode’s familiar illustrations in brush, pen and ink and pastel are appropriately delicate, the blues and pinks looking quite lovely on the white pages. The girls should not be shown en pointe in class, however; they are much too young. With so many wonderful ballet stories available, this is one to skip. (Picture book. 3-6)

ZORA The Life of Zora Neale Hurston

Fradin, Dennis Brindell; Fradin, Judith Bloom Clarion (192 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 078-0-547-00695-6

Zora Neale Hurston and her times come alive in this introduction for young readers. Living in the all-black town of Eatonville, Fla., Zora Neale Hurston never had to face the racism of her times. She grew up proud and confident, believing “the moon followed her wherever she went.” Early on, she cultivated the dream of becoming a famous writer, and though she faced many obstacles along the way, she succeeded with Their Eyes Were Watching God, which has sold over five million copies and is now a fixture of high school and college curricula. The volume is nicely designed, and the many photographs (captions not seen) make it feel like a Hurston scrapbook, though there are too many pages of dense text unbroken by images. Somehow, though, Hurston’s odyssey— through the Harlem Renaissance and the Prohibition era, as well as through the South collecting stories from former slaves, lumber workers near the Everglades and voodoo practitioners in New Orleans—comes off as dry and not especially interesting. Audience is an issue, too, since the volume is aimed at young readers who won’t have heard of Hurston and won’t find books by her for their age group. A work aimed at an older teen audience might have better hit the mark. An adequate introduction to a remarkable 20th-century author. (two folktales, timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 9-12)

A little girl with red curls loves to dance—until she starts ballet school. Rosie Red Curls, as her mother calls her, wears her tutu everywhere, points her toes and loves to listen to ballet stories— all with her beloved stuffed panda close by. Her mother enrolls 1162

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DAY BY DAY

Gal, Susan Illus. by Gal, Susan Knopf (40 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $19.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86959-4 978-0-375-96959-1 PLB Day by day, brick by brick, a community is built in this winning tribute to fellowship and family. Across a golden prairie, a family of pigs heads west. Their small actions grow in significance as bricks become a house, beloved paraphernalia create a home, neighbors are welcomed and friendships begin. With each handsome spread, the author rephrases the proverb she was inspired by: “little by little, the bird builds its nest.” Words flow on a curvature that matches the lyrical nature of both text and artwork. Sophisticated, digital illustrations done in a pastel color palette dazzle the senses, allowing readers to feel the vastness of sky, the heat of summer; to smell the scent of flowers and fields; and to hear the slow dance-floor melody as they safely drift to sleep. Gal skillfully employs the computer to create a handmade, collage aesthetic. Through her application of textures, she creates a world that’s rich in pattern, color and, most of all, love. As pigs gather around a table, under a festive tree at twilight to enjoy the bounty they have grown, they give thanks. A luminous celebration of family, food and home. (Picture book. 4-9)

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

Goodman, Susan E. Illus. by Slonim, David Flash Point/Roaring Brook (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-59643-448-6 (A lot of) everything kids ever wanted to know about dogs—but couldn’t ask. Now, the bare bones of doggy secrets are revealed. Readers will pore over and savor this slim, well-paced guide, which is narrated in friendly, conversational tone by a scruffily engaging mutt. Wittily illustrated in child-appealing, cartoony watercolors and chock-full of simple explanations of why man’s best friends do what they do, this is just the book for younger dog lovers, dog owners and wannabes. They’ll learn why our four-legged friends will eat almost anything (they have far fewer taste buds than humans), why they run from vacuum cleaners (supersensitive hearing), why they love hanging out of car windows (their sense of smell works better at high speed), and what those urine spatters on fire hydrants really mean (doggy newspapers). Who knew a dog’s inability to see colors well derives from prehistoric feeding habits? Sadly, some misspellings, including “Dalmation,” were not caught in copy editing. Children will be barking up the right tree with this enjoyable read. There’s still no telling why dogs run after letter carriers, though.… (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 7 -10)

THE LION BIBLE FOR ME

TECHNOLOGY A Byte-Sized World!

Goodings, Christina Illus. by Bolam, Emily Lion/Trafalgar (96 pp.) $10.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7459-6264-1

A concise introduction to most of the best-known stories from the Christian Bible, with bright, cheery illustrations and a small trim designed for younger children. The stories are necessarily shortened and summarized, following the progression of the Old and New Testaments in standard fashion. The most familiar stories are all there, including the Creation story, Noah’s Ark, Daniel in the lions’ den, and David and Goliath, as well as others that are not as well known. The life of Jesus is told in 22 short segments, including several of the Parables. Each story is told in one page of text with an illustration on the opposite page. The volume’s cozy size, slightly padded cover and simple, uncluttered illustrations seem to indicate the audience as preschoolers, but some of the stories are more suitable for school-age children, due to difficult names or concepts. The small size of the book makes this a better choice for reading to just one or two children rather than to a larger group. There aren’t many collections of Bible stories for young children with such a concise text and attractive illustrations, and this could be used in creative ways with a wide age-range of children. (Picture book/religion. 3-7) |

Green, Dan Illus. by Basher, Simon Kingfisher (128 pp.) $14.99 | paper $8.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-7534-6819-7 978-0-7534-6820-3 paperback Series: Basher

More hip pop-art science from Basher and Green, though here the collaborators may have “bytten” off more than they can chew. They lead off with a tribute to “that ancient Greek brainiac” Archimedes, the only inventor who gets more than a quick name-drop. Then, portrait-gallery–style, the team introduces several dozen personified machines from “Wheel and Axle” (“Hey there, let’s start this thing rollin’!”) to “Radar” and “Rocket.” Household appliances like “Toilet” and (landline) “Telephone” also step up to the mike, as do such basic materials as “Concrete” and “Plastic,” as well as high-tech wizardry including “User Interface” and “Internet.” Each subject introduces itself with a pair of paragraphs over a trio of unrelated facts, while Basher provides for each a stylized, considerably simplified cartoon portrait anthropomorphized by a smiling white face with slanted, slit eyes. Though readers will come away at least exposed to terms like “thermosetting” and “laser sintering,” Green’s facts aren’t always kosher—“once defunct,”

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says Satellite, “we move to a graveyard orbit”—or even comprehensible (“World’s most efficient gas turbine: 60%.”). Furthermore, despite statements from “Smart Card” and “Particle Accelerator” not all of the entries are so cutting-edge; the “Cell Phone,” for instance, only makes phone calls and sends texts. A quick skim; flashy though not particularly nourishing. (foldout poster) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

WEDGIEMAN A Hero is Born

Harper, Charise Mericle Illus. by Shea, Bob Random House (48 pp.) $3.99 paperback | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-307-93071-2 Series: Adventures of Wedgieman, 1

Captain Underpants he ain’t. Although some may initially associate Harper and Shea’s beginning reader with Pilkey’s popular series, it falls short with a thin story and none of the master’s clever sense of subversive, ribald humor. The titular hero starts as Veggiebaby, then becomes Veggieboy, then Veggieman, his growth and development attributed to his love of vegetables. He practices his superpowers as he grows, with text and art taking cheap shots at elderly women (as he lifts “a bus filled with chattering grandmas”) and overweight people (as his X-ray vision enables him to see into a house where a rotund man stands, embarrassed and clad only in his underwear: “Some things are better not seen.”) The book ends with Veggieman getting a new name from children who see a stick stuck to his shirt, making the V into a W, and dub him Wedgieman. “We don’t care about spelling,” they assure him when he objects that the word “wedgie” has a “d” and not a double “g.” His new name is sealed when (in an odd turn of events that is, sadly, characteristic of the poorly executed text) he gives himself a wedgie. In what seems like a veritable golden age of beginning readers, perhaps some things are better not published. Or read. (Early reader. 5-7)

SERAPHINA

Hartman, Rachel Random House (480 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86656-2 978-0-375-89658-3 e-book 978-0-375-96656-9 PLB In Hartman’s splendid prose debut, humans and dragons—who can take human form but not human feeling— have lived in uneasy peace for 40 years. The dragons could destroy the humans, but they are too fascinated by them. As musician Seraphina describes it, attempting 1164

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to educate the princess, humans are like cockroaches to dragons, but interesting. As the anniversary of the treaty approaches, things fall apart: The crown prince has been murdered, antidragon sentiment is rising, and in the midst of it all, an awkward, gifted, observant girl unexpectedly becomes central to everything. Hartman has remixed her not-so-uncommon story and pseudo-Renaissance setting into something unexpected, in large part through Seraphina’s voice. By turns pedantic, lonely, scared, drily funny and fierce, Seraphina brings readers into her world and imparts details from the vast (a religion of saints, one of whom is heretical) to the minute (her music, in beautifully rendered detail). The wealth of detail never overwhelms, relayed as it is amid Seraphina’s personal journey; half-human and halfdragon, she is anathema to all and lives in fear. But her growing friendship with the princess and the princess’ betrothed, plus her unusual understanding of both humans and dragons, all lead to a poignant and powerful acceptance of herself. Dragon books are common enough, but this one is head and talons above the rest. (cast of characters, glossary) (Fantasy. 12 & up)

CLOTHESLINE CLUES TO JOBS PEOPLE DO

Heling, Kathryn; Hembrook, Deborah Illus. by Davies, Andy Robert Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $15.95 | paper $7.95 | $9.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-251-3 978-1-58089-378-7 paperback 978-1-60734-456-8 e-book Heling and Hembrook’s clever conceit challenges children to analyze a small town’s clotheslines to guess the job each of their owners does. Close-up on the clothesline: “Uniform and cap, / an invite for you. / Big bag of letters. / What job does she do?” A turn of the page reveals a macro view of the home, van and the woman doing her job, “She is a mail carrier.” Indeed, she can be spotted throughout the book delivering invitations to all the rest of the characters, who gather at the end for a “Launch Party.” The verses’ rhymes are spot-on, though the rhythm falters a couple of times. The authors nicely mix up the gender stereotypes often associated with several of these occupations, making the carpenter, firefighter and astronaut women. But while Davies keeps uniforms and props pretty neutral (he even avoids U.S. mail symbols), he keeps to the stereotypes that allow young readers to easily identify occupations—the farmer chews on a stalk of wheat; the beret-wearing artist sports a curly mustache. A subdued palette and plain white backgrounds keep kids’ focus on the clothing clues. Still, there are plenty of details to absorb— the cat with arched back that anticipates a spray of water, the firefighter who “lights” the rocket. Pair this with Leo Timmers’ Who Is Driving? (2007) for twice the guessing fun. (Picture book. 3-6)

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“A young woman is forced into unexpected territory when she is packed off to a vividly imagined, shimmering Spanish countryside in order to conceal an unexpected pregnancy.” from small damages

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

Holub, Joan Illus. by Smith, Jan Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-6660-2

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20. At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text. Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

LOST GIRLS

Kelley, Ann Little, Brown (336 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-316-09062-9 A group of female campers are marooned on a wilderness island off the coast of Thailand during the Vietnam War. With a sly nod to Lord of the Flies, author Kelley drops Bonnie MacDonald, the 14-year-old daughter of an American serviceman, on a (not quite uninhabited) tropical island. Initially, Bonnie is thrilled. Not only is she there on a three-day camping trip with her fellow Amelia Earhart Cadets, the adventure is being led by her idol, the glamorous Layla Campbell. But almost immediately things begin to sour. The boat goes off course and the girls end up on the taboo Koh Tabu, which Bonnie’s friend Jas translates as forbidden island. On their first night a storm hits, killing one of the younger girls and injuring another. The gruesome discovery of their boatman’s body, and along with it the realization that nobody knows where they are, further amplifies the tension. What stands out is the anger and betrayal that Kelley’s willful, survival-focused protagonist feels toward the weak, irresponsible Layla, as well as Bonnie’s later condemnation of her own behavior, both of which can be seen as morally ambiguous and subject to multiple truths. Although the material could use some judicious cutting, it’s strong and provocative, offering readers a forum to discuss friendship, blame, forgiveness and situational morality. (Historical fiction/adventure. 12 & up)

ALL BY MYSELF!

SMALL DAMAGES

Jadoul, Émile Illus. by Jadoul, Émile Eerdmans (26 pp.) $14.00 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8028-5411-7

Kephart, Beth Philomel (304 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 19, 2012 978-0-399-25748-3

A precious, witty addition to the potty shelf, this will bring smiles to harried mamas and papas going through the toilet-training phase with their children. Little penguin is learning to go potty all by himself. Accustomed to “going” two times a night, each trip to the potty requires little penguin to call out to a parent: “Mommy, I need to go potty!” The bleary-eyed penguins in the tidy little igloo need to get a good night’s sleep. How will they convince little Leon to take his first giant step toward independence? What captures the imagination instantly is the title: Those are powerful words for small children with small bodies and growing minds. Almost as quickly as the title connects with readers’ minds, the naive yet charming illustrations connect with their hearts. The artwork is refreshing and whimsical. Lots of white space and clean, black type strengthen the visual impact of the sweet, egg-shaped penguins. Little readers, future readers and exhausted parental readers will appreciate the charming presentation of tidy art and the story of a critical rite of passage. (Picture book. 2-5)

A young woman is forced into unexpected territory when she is packed off to a vividly imagined, shimmering Spanish countryside in order to conceal an unexpected pregnancy. Provided by her mother with only the barest of details about a couple that wishes to adopt her baby, Kenzie finds herself an unofficial apprentice in the kitchen of the home of a successful bull breeder connected to the prospective adoptive parents— a world away from where the talented filmmaker expected to be following her high school graduation. In an introspective firstperson narration, Kenzie’s story effortlessly unfolds. Her initially strained relationship with terse Estela, the marvelous chef charged with her safekeeping, eventually melts into a mutual trust. Readers will sympathize deeply with Kenzie’s emptiness over her father’s death, which led the way to a loving but uncommitted relationship with her baby’s father, a longtime friend. Parallel to Estela’s history is a tale set against Franco’s

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“A sophisticated color-concept book featuring a contemporary family introduces Islam to young Muslims and children who don’t practice this faith.” from golden domes and silver lanterns

rule, which poignantly serves to help Kenzie sort through her numbed confusion. Characters are never simple in this gorgeous landscape so masterfully described by National Book Award–finalist Kephart; fully engaging in their lives—touched as they are by gypsies and bullfighters and the tragedy of war— will require an audience that is willing to be swept up by unfettered romanticism. Lovely and unusual—at once epic and intimate. (Fiction. 13 & up)

GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS A Muslim Book of Colors Khan, Hena Illus. by Amini, Mehrdokht Chronicle (32 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8118-7905-7

A sophisticated color-concept book featuring a contemporary family introduces Islam to young Muslims and children who don’t practice this faith. Here the basic colors, plus gold and silver, are used to explain aspects of Islamic life. A young girl with very large eyes narrates, using short, childlike and occasionally forced verses to match colors and objects: “Gold is the dome of the mosque, / big and grand. / Beside it two towering / minarets stand.” She describes a red prayer rug, her mom’s blue hijab (headscarf), white kufis (traditional men’s woven hats), black ink for a calligraphic design, brown dates for Ramadan, orange henna designs, an Eid gift of a doll with a purple dress, a yellow zakat (charity) box, a green Quran (green has special significance in Islam, not explained here), and a silver fanoos, “a shiny lantern.” The glossary is excellent, explaining unfamiliar terms succinctly. The stylized illustrations, richly detailed, often play with the sizes of the objects in a surrealistic way. It is difficult to tell whether the family lives in the Middle East, Britain (home of the artist) or North America. The secular architecture looks Western, but the mosque looks very grand and Middle Eastern. The clothing styles are difficult to associate with a particular country. This both maximizes accessibility and deprives the tale of specificity—clearly a conscious trade-off. A vibrant exploratory presentation that should be supplemented with other books. (Picture book. 4-7)

GRAMMY LAMBY AND THE SECRET HANDSHAKE

Klise, Kate Illus. by Klise, M. Sarah Henry Holt (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-8050-9313-1

How embarrassing! Grammy Lamby is coming to visit, but one little lamb is anything but pleased. 1166

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Larry is continually rattled by his grandma, what with her secret handshake (which means “I love you”), her flouncy church clothes and loud voice and her extravagant plans for future travel (what if he doesn’t want to go?). Warm and appealing acrylic paintings with just the right amount of detail show Larry’s quiet distress and Grammy’s abundant character as she visits the Lamby home. Grammy is patient and kind despite her eccentricities, and when a summer storm frightens Larry and damages the house, fearless Grammy steps in and helps with comfort and repair. Maybe Grammy isn’t so embarrassing after all! How can Larry show her what he feels? Between a new secret handshake and a surprise that Grammy can open on the train, he is certain to find a way. While providing a nice acknowledgement of Larry’s feelings, this decidedly un-pedantic selection is replete with affection and gentle humor, from the simple text to the beguiling illustrations, and shows how feelings and perspectives can develop and change. Sister team Kate and M. Sarah Klise collaborated here and share some of their own grandma memories on the sleeve in this paean to embarrassing but wonderful grandmothers everywhere. A special treat for grandchildren and grandmas. (Picture book. 3-7)

LIES, KNIVES, AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES

Koertge, Ron Illus. by Dezsö, Andrea Candlewick (96 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-7636-4406-2

Short, brisk vignettes flip traditional fairy tales onto their backs. Twenty-three rewritings disclose dark secrets. Although each ostensibly has its own narrator, a lascivious narrative tone runs throughout. Dezsö matches that tone with black cut-out silhouettes of death and dismemberment, breasts unobscured. Incest recurs, as does kinky sexuality. Red Riding Hood, one example of the latter, reveals, “I was totally looking / forward to that part. With the wolf and all. I’m into danger, / okay?” Kink is rarely acknowledged in teen literature; it’s unfortunate that these tales are too abrupt to address the topic meaningfully. The line-breaks of Koertge’s free verse seem gratuitous. Sexual imagery includes both children (Hansel and Gretel “eat and eat, filling up the moist recesses / of their little bodies”) and projected rape-fantasy (the Beast claims that Beauty “almost wanted / me to break her neck and open her / up like a purse”). Descriptions are incomprehensibly flip (“Oh, her skin is white as Wonder bread, / her little breasts like cupcakes!”) or harsh (“a beautiful girl…not the usual chicken head ho”). The voice dances from incongruous humor (“it’s weird inside a wolf, / all hot and moist but no worse than flying coach to Newark”) to modernity forced into fairy-tale diction (“She’d slept over at their hovels”). Will catch some eyes, but this feels like edginess for edginess’s sake, no deeper. (Fractured fairy tales. 14 & up)

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KING ARTHUR’S VERY GREAT GRANDSON

Kraegel, Kenneth Illus. by Kraegel, Kenneth Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-7636-5311-8

On his sixth birthday, Henry Alfred Grummorson, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Arthur, King of Britain, goes in search of adventure. First, he challenges a fire-breathing Dragon that simply blows smoke rings. He announces his presence to the giant Cyclops who, instead of fighting, engages him in a staring contest. “NO! NO!” cries Henry. “I want a struggle of arms, a test of might and courage!” Traveling far in search of a worthy adversary, his search leads him past the winged Griffin (who offers a game of chess) to the sea monster Leviathan. Has he finally found something worthy of a fight? With all the courage and flourish of Arthurian legend, Henry’s formal voice bellows each call to duel, all in capital letters and in a distinguished font from ye olden days. Kraegel teases this tiny knight with monsters that prefer play over fray. Despite the determined lack of conflict, Henry still manages to find a treasure he didn’t know he was seeking. The illustrations succeed in matching the rugged scenery with the adventurous text while giving clues to the surprising ending. This is a good choice for reading aloud and for discussing such topics as friendship, aggression and the bravery it takes to change your mind. (Picture book. 4-7)

SAVING YASHA The Incredible True Story of an Adopted Moon Bear

Kvatum, Lia Photos by Pokrovskaya, Liya National Geographic (32 pp.) $16.95 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4263-1051-5

Not one but three roly-poly moon bear cubs star in this true animal rescue tale. Orphaned by poachers, Yasha, joined later by Shum and Shiksha, are nurtured by Pokrovskaya and another scientist for nearly two years on a game preserve until they were ready to be released into the Siberian wild. Taking a slightly anthropomorphized bear’s-eye point of view (“Yasha was happy with his new home”), Kvatum chronicles the cubs’ development as they learn to forage on their own while playing together and learning to climb trees. She also notes how important it is for human observers to remain aloof—minimizing physical contact and even wearing scent-concealing clothing—to prevent the animals from becoming dependent or domesticated. Looking positively fetching in the big, color photos, shaggy Yasha and his ursine cohorts grow visibly as they ramble through woodsy |

settings, splash in a river and survive an encounter with a prowling tiger before being deemed ready to live on their own. An affectionate picture of bears and bear scientists, capped with a page of moon bear facts and an afterword. (map, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

CHOKE

López, Diana Scholastic (240 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-545-41822-5 A tale of friendship and trust intersects with a problem novel about dangerous behaviors among middle schoolers. Windy Soto is solidly GP: “general public.” She’s neither a loner nor popular, neither a brain nor a failure, and she spends her days happily making Top Five… lists. When charismatic new girl Nina appears and completely upends the school’s social hierarchy, Windy sees her chance to jump into the incrowd. Brushing off her dorky and lovable best friend, Windy joins Nina at lunch tables and secret bathroom conferences. Nina invites Windy to be her “breath sister,” surely Windy’s ticket to the in-crowd at last. But being a breath sister requires Windy be willing to play the choking game—a.k.a. “sleeper hold” and “suffocation roulette”—and she comes to realize with horror that the scarves Nina always wears around her neck cover the bruises from this dreadful pastime. Tragedy strikes, and a character is left disabled. In the absence of alternate representations of disability, this damage—portrayed lavishly through the eyes of more virtuous characters—turns disability into punishment for bad behavior. What had been a touching story of honesty and self-discovery devolves in the final pages into an over-the-top public-service announcement, and Windy’s final Top Five… list reads like a brochure from the school nurse. Though pegged by the publisher for ages 12 and up, both writing style and Windy’s age argue for a preteen audience. Surprisingly real, until the mawkish Afterschool Special finale. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 9-11)

FLYING THE DRAGON

Lorenzi, Natalie Dias Charlesbridge (240 pp.) $16.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-434-0 978-1-60734-449-0 e-book When her cousin unexpectedly moves from Japan to Virginia, a Japanese-American girl finds their cultural differences embarrassing until kite fighting unites them. Skye’s Japanese father has not seen his family since marrying her American mother and moving to Virginia. Skye knows some Japanese, but she’s an American

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kid, obsessed with soccer. Her Japanese cousin Hiroshi speaks some English, but he’s thoroughly Japanese and loves making and flying kites with his beloved grandfather. Everything changes when Hiroshi and his family relocate near Skye’s family for Grandfather’s cancer treatment. Skye’s parents enroll her in Japanese classes, jeopardizing her dream to play on the All-Star soccer team. Hiroshi, meanwhile, has lost his chance to compete in his town’s annual rokkaku kite battle. As Skye struggles with Japanese and Hiroshi struggles with English, both feel angry and frustrated. Ashamed because Hiroshi’s different, Skye fails to help him acclimate to fifth grade, where he feels like an alien. Hiroshi resents sharing Grandfather with Skye, until Grandfather’s health fails, and the cousins find common ground. Skye and Hiroshi’s American and Japanese perspectives emerge gradually through alternating chapters, while their grandfather functions as a pivotal character whose wisdom and legacy binds them. Details of Japanese language, culture and kite fighting enhance the diversity theme. A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family. (Fiction. 9-12)

MONKEY COLORS

Lunde, Darrin Illus. by Wynne, Patricia J. Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $15.95 | paper $6.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-57091-741-7 978-1-57091-742-4 paperback 978-1-60743-455-1 e-book “Monkeys come in many colors.” Repeating this statement as a refrain, Lunde and Wynne describe 12 monkey species in simple sentences. The monkeys are grouped into three categories: four whose fur is a single allover color (yellow, red, brown, orange); four who have colorful features or stripes; and four whose colors vary with sex or age or gender or who are truly multicolored. Each individual watercolor-and-ink illustration includes a tiny label; most also show a simplified version of the animal’s habitat. Sections begin with the refrain on a double-page spread. The first spread shows all 12 species; the second, the first four described; then eight, and finally all 12 in a museum diorama. These offer an identification game, an additional way for readers to engage with the material. The backmatter includes another picture of each species plus an interesting fact or two, as well as a world map showing where each can be found. A final author’s note on the copyright page reminds readers that the 12 would never be seen together in the wild, only in a natural history museum. The author and illustrator, who both work at such museums, have collaborated successfully before, most recently in Hello, Baby Beluga (2011). Simple and effective, a charming early reader about variety in the natural world. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

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CAPTURE THE FLAG

Messner, Kate Scholastic (240 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-545-39539-7 Series: Silver Jaguar Society, 1 When the Star-Spangled Banner is taken from its super-secure Smithsonian vault, three kids connected by their Vermont background and family membership in a secret artifact-protection society combine with a visiting fourth to find the irreplaceable national treasure. Messner launches her projected three-book Silver Jaguar Society series with a fast-paced mystery. It finds a diverse group of young people snowed in at an airport with an aspiring presidential candidate; they must engage in an improbable but gripping hide-and-seek game through the belts and tunnels of the baggage-handling system to find the flag and avoid the perpetrators. There’s a character for every reader: Anna, an aspiring journalist; African-American Henry, facing big family changes; José, who loves books; and 8-year-old Sinan, Pakistani son of two traveling musicians. The frenetic action comes right out of Henry’s beloved video games or José’s well-thumbed Harry Potter volumes, but there are political overtones, too. The xenophobia behind some proposals for immigration reform is addressed directly when José suggests that Anna’s family might be Malfoys, and again as candidate Snickerbottom accuses “artsy all-over-the-world orchestra types” of the theft. While the way the cast moves in and out of secure areas of the airport is improbable, readers caught up in the chase won’t care. Just in time for the Fourth of July, a sparkling start for a promising new series. (Mystery. 8-12)

THE SPIDER AND THE DOVES The Story of the Hijra Morley, Farah Illus. by Morley, Farah Kube Publishing (30 pp.) $8.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-86037-449-7

The lowly spider is a strong hero in this traditional story about Muhammad. During the Prophet’s flight from Makkah (Mecca) to Madinah (Medina) on the journey called the Hijra (Hejira), he stopped in a cave with his follower, Abu Bakr, to escape his pursuers. As the story goes, birds (usually pigeons, but here called doves) nested outside the cave, and a spider wove a web to fool the tracker sent by Makkah’s leaders. The animals instinctively thought that their presence would cause the tracker to think that Muhammad couldn’t be inside. (In similar stories, spiders also save King David and the baby Jesus with their webs. The image of a tiny creature standing up against stronger forces

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“Jam-packed with meaty storylines, spot-on pacing, an active heroine and the strongest romance yet, this ending will thrill fans of the series.” from bound

unites disparate faiths.) An unobtrusive asterisk and plus sign are used when Muhammad and Abu Bakr’s names are mentioned to indicate that Muslims should say a blessing after the Prophet’s name and the name of his companion. This is explained on the inside cover, but the blessings are omitted. Black silhouettes are cleverly juxtaposed against intensely colored watercolors, working within the Muslim injunction against showing human images. A source note would have been helpful, placing the story within the context of Muhammad’s life. Although a little too wordy for younger listeners, this is one of the more attractive books on Islam’s origins. (Picture book/religion. 6-9)

THE BOOK OF BLOOD From Legends and Leeches to Vampires and Veins

Newquist, H.P. Houghton Mifflin (160 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-547-31584-3

Newquist expands considerably on the premise that “[t]here is more to blood than that it’s red and kind of gross” without neglecting to keep the “kind of gross” parts in view. Along with a suitably gore-spattered parade of Aztec and other bloodthirsty gods and blood rituals throughout history, the author takes quick looks at various kinds of blood in the animal kingdom and at vampires in modern pop culture. He also recaps the development of our understanding of blood and the circulatory system from ancient times through the scientific revolution, and thence on to modern uses for blood in medicine and research. In considerably more detail, though, he tallies blood’s individual components and the specific functions of each in keeping our bodies alive and healthy. Aside from a debatable claim that “[e]verything you put in your body ends up in your blood,” this transfusion of information offers a rewarding experience to readers whether they’re after the specific differences between blood types and other biological data or just gore’s icky lore. It’s nicely enhanced by a generous array of photographs, microphotographs and artists’ renderings. A closer focus on biology than bloodshed makes this a natural companion for Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s more anthropological Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood (2012). (bibliography, Web sites) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

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O’Rourke, Erica Kensington (336 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7582-6707-8 Mo must play all sides, magical and mob, in this complex trilogy conclusion. Mo’s a double agent, working for her uncle, Billy, in his restaurant and passing on fake information to the Russian mob boss who believes Mo to be in his pocket. It’s part of the deal she’s made to keep her boyfriend and bodyguard Colin alive (one of many secrets she keeps from Colin). She’s also continuing to give information to Jenny Kowalski for her to pass on to an investigation of the mob outfit. Complicating matters is Mo’s father’s early return from prison and quick embrace of Billy and the mob, leading to a strained father-daughter relationship. Mo’s worlds collide when Billy catches the leader of the Seraphim, Anton, sending Darklings after her—Billy thinks magic is his new secret weapon. Anton, still looking to destabilize magic and create a new order, thinks Mo knows something about magic’s nature that can help him— and she does. The Quartoren, already proven untrustworthy to Mo, needs her to keep away from Anton and stay with them in a display of strength while they fill the council vacancy, after which the leadership structure will be much more solid against Anton’s schemes. Jam-packed with meaty storylines, spot-on pacing, an active heroine and the strongest romance yet, this ending will thrill fans of the series. (discussion questions) (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)

SUCH WICKED INTENT

Oppel, Kenneth Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-1-4424-0318-5 Series: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, 2 He failed to save his twin brother through alchemy, but young Victor Frankenstein eagerly delves back into the sinister sciences in this sequel to 2011’s This Dark Endeavor. Three weeks after Konrad’s death, Victor plucks a mysterious box from the still-warm ashes of the books of the Dark Library. Demonstrating tremendous hubris, Victor aims to return Konrad to the living world and still win Elizabeth, Konrad’s grief-stricken love and the boys’ childhood friend. When Victor uncovers a way into the spirit world, he finds that Konrad is in neither heaven nor hell but in an alternate version of the house, where eons collide, a ravenous mist lurks outside, and groans arise from below. Elizabeth and Henry Clerval soon join Victor on his journeys to the other realm and on his mission to build a body for Konrad, based on ancient drawings and

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“In this surreal, well-drawn Long Island town, the inexplicable fires and strange behaviors seem oddly fitting, and the dangerous trust games played by the protagonists meld right in with the dreamlike setting.” from fury ’s fire”

monstrous bones discovered in caves beneath the castle. As in the first book, the trio realizes the high cost of their quest too late. Victor is a fascinating if sometimes unlikable character, ambitious, brooding, reckless and obsessive in his pursuit of knowledge and power; Printz honor-winner Oppel skillfully portrays him as both a troubled teen and the boy who would become Frankenstein. Addictions and lustful encounters add another layer of sophistication to the gothic melodrama. A standout sequel and engrossing ghost story. (Horror. 14 & up)

FURY’S FIRE

Papademetriou, Lisa Knopf (256 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $19.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86862-7 978-0-375-96862-4 PLB Will and Gretchen may have narrowly avoided being killed by Sirens, but they’re not in safe waters yet in this lyrical, eerie fantasy. Gretchen doesn’t remember the events of Siren’s Storm (2011), but her best friend, Will, does. He remembers that Gretchen saved their lives by killing the murderous seekriegers—Sirens—with fire, a fire she created with the power of her mind. Since he’s decided the best way to protect his childhood sweetheart is not to tell her of her deadly superpower, Gretchen can’t understand what’s going on. She’s trying to focus on making a place for herself in a new school; meanwhile, she’s having dreams of death by fire while fending off attacks from mad dogs and crazed muggers. The only people who can help Gretchen make sense of the world are two classmates: a boy who’s had a nervous breakdown and a girl who’s probably a witch. In this surreal, well-drawn Long Island town, the inexplicable fires and strange behaviors seem oddly fitting, and the dangerous trust games played by the protagonists meld right in with the dreamlike setting. Less grounded than the previous volume, which is perhaps fitting for a heroine who loses and must regain her sense of self. (Fantasy. 12-16)

TREASURE IN THE GRAVEYARD

Pavanello, Roberto Translated by Zeni, Marco Illus. by Pisapia, Blasco; Brughera, Pamela Stone Arch Books (128 pp.) $9.95 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-1-4342-4248-8 Series: Echo and the Bat Pack 1

writes mysteries. Then a mysterious, skull-faced stranger in a black cloak arrives in the middle of the night. He seems to be searching for something. When his raven sidekick discovers Echo watching, a scary chase ensues. Thankfully, the Silver kids, Becca, Michael and Tyler, are still awake, and they rescue Echo. A series of break-ins in the days that follow prompts neighbors to tell tales of a spooky flying monster in a cloak. Can it be the stranger from the graveyard? Echo and his new friends (and the ghost of Captain Trafalgar) work to discover the truth (and maybe a treasure). Italian children’s author and teacher Pavanello’s Bat Pack series debuts in America with this first of four not-too-frightening tales of mystery and monsters. A few odd attempts at colloquialism stick out in the translation, but the language is simple enough for those just graduating from easy readers. Pisapia and Brughera’s bright, cartoon illustrations are a plus (though, strangely, the Silver siblings look nothing alike). Scooby Doo as a bat for the chapter-book crowd. (Mystery. 6-9)

THE SERPENT’S SHADOW

Riordan, Rick Disney Hyperion (416 pp.) $19.99 | May 1, 2012 978-1-4231-4057-3 Series: The Kane Chronicles, 3

Riordan’s Kane Chronicles trilogy concludes with a smash, as Carter and Sadie Kane once again try to save the world from the forces of Chaos. The giant Chaos snake Apophis and his rebel magician allies are on the rise. Luckily, Carter and Sadie Kane are back, ready to fight Apophis and restore Ma’at, the order of the universe. The ghost of an ancient psychotic magician offers help: Find the shadow of Apophis, capture it and use it for an execration spell that will pop the evil god so far into the Duat—the magical realm that coexists with our world— that he will never return. As in the previous volumes—The Red Pyramid (2010) and The Throne of Fire (2011)—the tale is told in the alternating and still-fresh voices of Sadie and Carter. Beyond the explosive action and fireworks, Riordan deftly develops the theme of the duality of the universe—order versus chaos, living a normal life versus risking the extraordinary, being protected by parents versus growing up and stepping out of their shadows. A rousing adventure with plenty of magic and food for thought. Other gods and future stories are hinted at in the conclusion; in the meantime, Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles Survival Guide is available to maintain the spell. (glossary, list of gods and goddesses) (Fantasy. 10-14)

Introducing Echo and his mysterysolving Bat Pack! Echo the bat grew up in a library and lives in the Fogville cemetery, where it’s usually quiet. He likes quiet because he 1170

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THE ROLLER COASTER KID

Rodman, Mary Ann Illus. by Roth, Roger Viking (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-670-01150-6

Life can be like a roller coaster. Grandpa loves roller coasters and was known as “The Rollercoaster Kid” as a boy, while Zach prefers to ride the Ferris wheel with Grandma, in part because coasters scare him. Zach knows he’ll get over it though; as Grandma says, “When the time is right, you’ll face your fear.” Relaxed, pencil-and-watercolor illustrations depict the beach town where the extended family summers and show Zach and his grandparents enjoying the amusement park and seaside. Unfortunately, by the next year, Grandma has died, and though the whole family misses her terribly, nobody mentions her for fear of making Grandpa even sadder. In an effort to help Grandpa feel better, Zach decides to face his fears and take Grandpa for a ride on the roller coaster, but when Grandpa doesn’t praise him as Grandma would have, it makes Zach blurt out how much he misses her. Is this a mistake? Presented with warmth, sensitivity and a light touch, this story demonstrates the human need for sharing and support after a death, whatever one’s age, and emphasizes the need for communication and comfort. This gentle book provides a good starting point for conversations about death and how people react to it. (Picture book. 4-7)

SOMEDAY DANCER

Rubin, Sarah Chicken House/Scholastic (256 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-545-39378-2 978-0-545-49194-5 e-book A young teen in 1959 South Carolina has one dream, dancing on stage in New York City. Unfortunately, Casey’s family is dirtpoor, with no money for dance lessons or much else. Her father died fighting in Korea, so her mother and grandmother, both of whom she loves dearly, must work. She can only watch from a tree limb as her rich, snooty, bullying classmate (dubbed Miss Priss) takes ballet classes. When New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet announces auditions, the Priss is certain of acceptance, while Casey must work after school for the bus fare. Once in New York, she is overwhelmed by its size and teeming population. Her lack of formal training and the ballet master’s astute eye lead to a referral to the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. Casey loves the movements, takes classes, rehearses and soon dances with the company. Rubin, a debut author, describes the Graham style well but falters in her depiction of New York. Casey may not be the best tour guide for readers, obsessing over dance and |

family instead of geography, but she does learn to embrace both new friends and Miss Priss. Both Carolinians see their singleminded obsessions quickly—almost unbelievably—rewarded. Dance fans will enjoy the up-close look at a legendary dance troupe. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-16)

DESTINY

Shields, Gillian Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (384 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-0-06-200041-5 Series: Immortal, 4 The fourth entry in this pure-gothic series continues to hit all the clichés of the genre as hard as possible. The Sisters of the Mystic Way, Helen, Evie and Sarah, along with their ghostly cohort, Agnes, still practice their supernatural skills at the Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, located, of course, on the English moors. This book focuses on the perpetually depressed Helen as she agonizes her way through her diary. The abusive, evil Dr. Franzen, who has taken over Wyldcliffe as headmaster, taught Helen to hate herself in the orphanage he ran. After 200 pages of Helen’s self-loathing, readers may agree with her assessment. Meanwhile, because you can’t keep an evil priestess down, the girls continue to battle their longtime foe, Helen’s mother, Celia Hartle, thought vanquished in the previous book. This does appear to be the final showdown with Celia, but, alas, the story still leaves one villain undefeated. As usual, the eye-rolling dialogue and writing remain all melodrama all the time. Clearly, Shields chooses to write this genre to the hilt. She has her fan base and gives them what they want, all the way, at a dime-store romance level. For fans only. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

MONKEY SEE, LOOK AT ME!

Siminovich, Lorena Illus. by Siminovich, Lorena Dial (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-8037-3737-2

This playful, gentle romp for the toddler set depicts a monkey encountering various animals and getting the last laugh. “Look at me! / I can fly away fast. I’m a bird!” read the first two spreads, and softly colored digital-collage illustrations show the imaginative monkey running down a hillside with his arms outspread. The next page-turn, however, shows a little red bird alighting on his head and saying, “No, silly monkey. I’m a bird. I can flap my wings.” This establishes the pattern for the rest of the book, as the monkey encounters a rabbit, a lion and an elephant who all assert themselves over his playful efforts to jump and hop, roar and splash, respectively. The animals all

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end up together for the denouement as they swing and climb on playground equipment, declaring, “Look at us…We’re monkeys.” Then, the true monkey responds, “No, friends, you’re not monkeys. / Look at me! I’m the silly monkey, can’t you see?” The closing illustration shows the monkey gazing out at readers, casting them as the “you” of this final line. Never mean-spirited, the animals’ exchanges leading up to this final point of engagement invite young children to anticipate the text’s pattern while enjoying the friendly illustrations. A sweet new title about friends and imaginative play. (Picture book. 1-3)

A CATASTROPHE OF NERDISH PROPORTIONS

Sitomer, Alan Lawrence Disney Hyperion (272 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-1-4231-3997-3 Series: Nerd Girls, 2

Defiantly nerdy and full of spunk, Maureen along with friends Alice and Barbara return in this boisterous sequel. The feud between Maureen’s group and the trio of “Pretty, Popular, Perfect girls” known as the “ThreePees,” begun in Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus (2011), continues unabated. The escalating series of pranks they play on each other attracts the attention of the school administration, and the girls are given an ultimatum: compete as a team in the upcoming Academic Septathalon or be suspended. Suddenly, Maureen is the captain of a team comprised of skirmishing factions and preparing for a rigorous academic competition. However, unexpected alliances form as these archenemies struggle to work together. Their captivating drama culminates during the televised contest. Sitomer gives several returning characters greater depth and invigorates a familiar storyline with intriguing subplots. “Allergy Alice,” weary of her mother’s overprotectiveness, embarks on a quest to gain independence, with alarming results. Meanwhile, Maureen’s long-absent father reappears to repair the family relationship—much to Maureen’s consternation. Readers ultimately realize that, regardless of the Septathalon’s outcome or family dramas, the Nerd Girls will prevail due to their steadfast, enduring friendship. Truly, as Maureen triumphantly proclaims, “Nerds rule” in this satisfying sequel. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT

Slade, Suzanne Illus. by Bond, Rebecca Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-262-9 978-1-60734-450-6 e-book A simple, well-constructed overview takes a close look at how the magnificent house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was built on an empty piece of land with a view of the Potomac. It was George Washington who conceived of a superb residence for the American President and directed its development over the 11 years it took to build, including surveying, vetting the design and administering the construction from his presidential office to bring the project in on schedule. Slade’s clear description of the steps in the building process accompanies Bond’s amiable edge-to-edge detailed watercolor depictions of the construction site and its busy progress. A cumulative rhyme—“the house that George built”—accompanies the compact, informative text and serves as a place holder and mnemonic to convey the stages of this impressive undertaking. A charming illustration of John and Abigail Adams, standing at last in a great hall not entirely swept of workmen’s tools and stray nails, shows the first of the residents who would leave their mark on this principle residence of democracy. The author’s note and list of some of the improvements made by those in residence over the years (tennis courts for Theodore Roosevelt; a vegetable garden for the Obamas) add to a fascinating first history of the White House. Sure to see—and worthy of—plenty of use, and not just in election years. (author’s list of sources and suggested resources to learn more) (Informational picture book. 5-10)

THE SPY PRINCESS

Smith, Sherwood Viking (400 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-0-670-06341-3

A middle-grade fantasy squashes an entire trilogy into one volume. In the first part, 12-year-old Lilah, who tells the tale, strives to have adventures not suitable for a princess, a conundrum she solves in the usual way, by disguising herself as a scruffy boy. She learns quickly that the townsfolk are taxed to the limit by her father and her uncle, the king, and that her adored older brother, Peitar, despite his crippled leg, is in league with revolutionaries led by Derek, a friend of many years. In the second part, the uses of magic, barely mentioned earlier, become clearer, as Lilah finds refuge from the bloody revolution in a magical place beloved of her dead mother. In part three, Peitar and Derek, whose revolution has fallen apart in chaos, are captured by Lilah and Peitar’s uncle, and Lilah, with her loyal band, finds a way to help make things

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C H I L DR E N’S

& TE E N

Squid and Octopus: Best Buddies Under the Sea B Y JU LI E

DA NI ELSON

There’s no shortage of picture books or beginning readers about Two Best Friends. James Marshall’s George and Martha series, and Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad are but two classic examples of literary duos that will never be forgotten. And my favorite duo from recent years? Cowboy and Octopus from Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. (IF ONLY we could see more from this unlikely pair. In a 2010 7-Imp interview, Scieszka did say, “I do have a bunch more Cowboy and Octopus stories that I wrote, just because I loved those two guys and how they interact. Could be a good idea.” But I digress—and expectantly so.)

Actually, I do not digress. Author/ illustrator Tao Nyeu, whose work I follow with great interest, has a new set of stories about yet another dynamic duo to add to the picture-book canon, though this one stands out, primarily for Tao’s beautiful silkscreens. And this one involves an octopus, too. That’s right. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to skedaddle over for a moment, Cowboy. Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always will be released next month by Dial Books for Young Readers. Here we are presented four stories— “The Quarrel,” “The Dream,” “The Hat” and “The Fortune Cookie”—all about two eight-legged friends at the bottom of the ocean. Without altogether too much schmaltz, which would have been easy for a less talented author to pull off, these two creatures navigate their way through a quarrel (do cephalopods wear mittens or socks?); remind each other of their strengths during low self-esteem moments (when Squid is feeling ordinary, Octopus reminds him that the brilliant Tickle Monday, for one, is all his doing); support each other in letting their freak flags fly (of course boots should be worn on one’s head); and…well, each one has got the other’s back. Always. And they share. ‘Cause children and grown-ups alike know that good friends listen and give and share what they’ve got. Striking here is the detailed underwater world that Nyeu has created. The first spread reveals Squid’s comfy underwater home: He’s got coffee mugs hanging from his coral and an alarm clock, tea kettle and balls of yarn resting in the same, and he’s even got a fishbowl with a tiny fish inside. (Right? Heh. It’s these little details that children will enjoy.) It’s also remarkable how much expression she gets out of these sea mollusks with only two dots for eyes and a small line for their mouths. There’s lots of humor, warmth, and affection in these tales. Nyeu’s pastel-colored silkscreen artwork is mesmerizing. Nyeu has been an illustrator to watch for several years |

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now, and she seems to really be coming into her own with her handsomely designed books. With fluid lines, textured patterns and her trademark style, she tells these endearing tales with an impressive artistry. Here’s hoping there’s truth in the book’s subtitle and that we spot these sea creatures again in future volumes from Nyeu.

9 Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.

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SQUID AND OCTOPUS: Friends for Always

Tao Nyeu Dial (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-8037-3565-1 &

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“…the surprises are meticulously foreshadowed, so when the pieces of the puzzle finally click in, the readers’ ‘aha’ moments are filled with profound satisfaction.” from liar & spy

right. There is very little onstage violence, and the language is relatively simple. Readers may find themselves a bit nonplussed as various types of magic appear without warning and the physical dangers of revolution are noted but not made real. The well-meaning adventure suffers from the unwieldy compression of events and tropes. (Fantasy. 8-12)

LIAR & SPY

Stead, Rebecca Wendy Lamb/Random (208 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-385-73743-2 A seventh-grade boy who is coping with social and economic issues moves into a new apartment building, where he makes friends with an over-imaginative homeschooled boy and his eccentric family. Social rules are meant to be broken is the theme of this big-hearted, delightfully quirky tale, and in keeping with that, Stead creates a world where nothing is as it seems. Yet the surprises are meticulously foreshadowed, so when the pieces of the puzzle finally click in, the readers’ “aha” moments are filled with profound satisfaction. When an economic downturn forces Georges’ family to move out of their house and into an apartment, it brings Georges into contact with Safer, a home-schooled boy about the same age, and his unconventional but endearing family—and a mystery involving their possibly evil neighbor, Mr. X. At school, Georges must grapple with another type of mystery: why his once–best friend Jason “shrugged off ” their lifelong friendship and suddenly no longer sits with him at lunch. Instead, Jason now sits at the cool table, which is controlled by a bully named Dallas, who delights in tormenting Georges. It would be unfair to give anything away, but suffice it to say that Georges resolves his various issues in a way that’s both ingenious and organic to the story. Original and winning. (Fiction. 10-14)

JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK

Stimpson, Colin Illus. by Stimpson, Colin Templar/Candlewick (40 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-7636-5563-1

Stimpson’s authorial debut is a remaking of the timeless fairy tale that includes both a wonderfully fleshed-out city circa the 1930s and an ending that is happy for everyone. Jack’s Fast Food is a hopping café run by Jack and his mother out of an old, broken-down burger truck. But when the new overpass closes the street out front, Jack and his mom fall on hard times. Per tradition, Jack spends their last coins on a can of magic baked beans, which his furious mother hurls outside. In the morning, Jack climbs the cans-of-beans–festooned 1174

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beanstalk to find a friendly but lonely giant busily counting his money, “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fummy, / I’m always counting money. / Be it silver or be it gold, / It’ll make me happy— / Or so I’m told.” Jack, the giant, the magic radio and the giant chicken all bond over lunch, but a beanstalk mishap extends their visit indefinitely while opening a whole new chapter for the Baked Beanstalk Café. As in The Polar Express, Stimpson’s artwork masterfully evokes both the mood and setting of the story. Retro styling, colors and type all work together to convey an old-time, urban feel to the digital illustrations, which portray a world where suits and dresses are the dress code (both incomplete without a hat), and the streets are filled with classic cars. Stimpson’s money-can’t-buy-happiness moral goes down easily with the help of his wonderfully atmospheric artwork. (Picture book. 3-9)

THE DRAGONET PROPHECY

Sutherland, Tui T. Scholastic (336 pp.) $16.99 | $16.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-545-34918-5 978-0-545-44317-3 e-book Series: Wings of Fire, 1

Five young dragonets find themselves destined to fulfill a prophecy that will end the war between the dragons. Six years ago, the underground group Talons of Peace, determined to make the end of the war a reality, stole, bought and borrowed five eggs and began raising the young dragons in secret. Gentle-hearted Clay, the MudWing; sassy Tsunami, the SeaWing; bookish Starflight, the NightWing; loyal Sunny, the SandWing; and shy Glory, the RainWing, are the Dragonets of Destiny. After six long years in seclusion with only their history lessons and combat training for occupation and their harried minders for company, the five young dragons yearn to see what life is like beyond the thick stone walls of their cave. Escaping their prison is only a vague fantasy until the original prophet arrives and threatens the life of one of the dragonets. The five flee, only to be captured almost immediately by a ruthless dragon queen. Fast-paced and detailed, this first installment in a new adventure series is entertaining if not terribly original. Adult dragons are all cast as untrustworthy, cruel and selfish; only the young dragonets seem to have any depth and complexity. While expected, violent battle scenes seem at odds with the story of peace and quest for home. Nevertheless, this first outing has all of the key ingredients for a successful formula-fantasy series: hierarchical social structure, destiny, attributive names and a map. Exciting, but not outstanding. (dragon taxonomy) (Fantasy. 9-12)

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THE UNNATURALISTS

Trent, Tiffany Simon & Schuster (320 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-1-4424-2206-3

A flavorful variant of Society Girl meets Scruffy Rapscallion in a steampunk-influenced fantasy. Vespa is the daughter of the Head of the Museum of Unnatural History. Though she should be preparing for marriage, she wants only to work with the Unnaturals; she aims to be the first such woman in 500 years. Syrus, meanwhile, is a Tinker, one of a Chinese-speaking, tilted-eyed race who protect the Elementals, those magical creatures the city folk call Unnaturals and would capture and display in the Museum. Though their positions initially place them at odds—they meet when Syrus robs Vespa’s carriage on the highway—they are thrown together in a quest to save the world from the requisite dark forces. Here, though, the darkness comes through a tricky and clever bit of worldbuilding: the Victorian-esque humans arrived here when Saint Tesla tore a hole in the universe and brought them willy-nilly from Old London. The conflict between the human colonists and the local population of Sphinx, Grue and Manticore can make or unmake this world. Though the steampowered technological potential promised by “Saint Darwin’s Litany of Evolution” and statues of Saints Bacon and Newton is disappointingly unmet in this thoroughly magical world, the rich ambience makes up for the loss. Leaves readers wanting more, so it’s a good thing the sequel potential is well set up. (Fantasy. 13-16)

BENJAMIN FRANKLINSTEIN MEETS THOMAS DEADISON

Tuxbury, Larry Illus. by McElligott, Matthew Putnam (128 pp.) $12.99 | Aug. 30, 2012 978-0-399-25481-9 Series: Benjamin Franklinstein, 3 Closing a comical series’ first story arc, America’s two greatest inventors square off in a death match over the Emperor Napoléon’s scheme to conquer the world…with science. Well, science of a sort. To the electrically preserved Franklin and his modern young cohorts Victor, Scott and Jaime, there’s something fishy about the “Infinity Bulbs” that the strangely familiar “Ed Thomason” is passing out for free. Their suspicions are confirmed by the discovery of a gigantic, almost-complete “harmonic supertransmitter” in the bowels of the Infinity Unlimited factory—a device that, at the command of the megalomaniac Emperor, will turn everyone within reach of an Infinity Bulb into an obedient zombie. Tuxbury and McElligott liberally |

endow their tale with patent drawings, circuit and other diagrams, and like techno eye candy as well as such general silliness as a wizened Bad Guy who gets around in an ornately decorated bathtub. It spins through melodramatic twists and sudden reversals of fortune to an appropriately explosive climax that puts Ben out of action but (probably) leaves Napoléon at large for future episodes. Another entertaining foray into science both mad and real; new readers should start with the opener, though, to make sense of it all. (Sci-fantasy. 10-12)

FLABBERSMASHED ABOUT YOU

Vail, Rachel Illus. by Heo, Yumi Feiwel & Friends (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-312-61345-7

The third Katie Honors entry (Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, 2002; Jibberwillies at Night, 2008) again traverses critical emotional territory, though the visual and textual quality don’t match the topic’s importance. The plot is simple: Katie’s best friend plays with someone else at recess; Katie feels furious and wounded until she makes a new chum herself. Although Katie boasts about her own social dabbling (“I like to play with everybody, and they all like to play with me, too. I go on lots of playdates”), and although Jennifer never implies that their friendship’s over, powerlessness and loss of routine do sting. Unfortunately, the artwork is too stilted and static for the roiling emotions and theme about change. Composition varies, but despite interesting white space between figures and background, the vibe is stiff. Even when Katie imagines screaming, Heo’s geometrical shapes look balanced and regular. When Katie does yell, her eye becomes a spiral, and the visuals finally match the mood. Text changes type, color and size, in a way that feels not playful but instructional and provides volume levels. Description of Katie’s old and new pals waxes sentimentally adult: Jennifer’s “smile is as bright as the morning sun in your eyes,” Arabella’s “smile [i]s gentle like the afternoon sun between the leaves.” As the future of Katie and Jennifer’s friendship remains unknown, this is for readers who are confronting loss or shifts in friendship. (Picture book. 4-6)

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DEAD OF NIGHT

Viehl, Lynn Flux (312 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jul. 8, 2012 978-0-7387-2646-5 Series: Youngbloods, 2 The second entry in the Youngbloods series continues 15-year-old Cat’s romance with Jesse, her forbidden, almost-a-vampire heartthrob. Jesse and his parents have become undead, but Jesse won’t become an actual vampire unless he drinks human blood, something he intends never to do. Cat isn’t completely human herself. She’s a reluctant member of the Van Helsing family of legendary vampire hunters and has special powers, as do her brothers, who act as her strict guardians. Cat’s family lives on a horse farm that’s struggling to survive, while Cat gets a job cataloguing a collection of occult books. Jesse assists her, and they learn astounding facts about the library’s owner. Meanwhile, girls who look like Cat begin to disappear from the town. Viehl smoothly brings readers up-to-date even as she keeps momentum going with this new story. Cat, with her love of horses, rebellious spirit and paranormal ability to control felines, stands out as a spunky heroine. Mystery builds as the missinggirls plot heats up, leading to the exciting climax. An affecting subplot about a difficult horse weaves in as a thread that holds it all together. Paranormal-romance fans can get everything they want here, and others will find an exciting story. Well crafted. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

back-to-school roundup OOPSY, TEACHER!

Calmenson, Stephanie Illus. by Yoshikawa, Sachiko Carolrhoda (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-7613-5894-7 978-1-58013-999-1 e-book

propels most of the story, as the teacher and his students chase the errant class pet through the school, around the track and into town. Momentarily airborne on the tail of a kite, Nibbles is finally cornered at the local pizza place, where he is nibbling some pepperoni. Calmenson’s verses reflect Mr. Bungles’ breathless day. The clever format leaves the last rhyming word to the page-turn, allowing kids who are listening to shout out the answer. “Mr. Bungles sat down with a sigh. / He said, ‘Nibbles, you’re a smarty. / You ran us ’round till lunchtime. / Kids, let’s have a pizza… // party!’ ” Yoshikawa’s energetic artwork plays up the action of the text with bright colors and blurry lines that denote motion. Poor Mr. Bungles—readers’ enjoyment practically guarantees that he will face yet another bad day sometime in the near future. Here’s hoping his positive attitude holds up. (Picture book. 3-7)

MARCO GOES TO SCHOOL

Chast, Roz Illus. by Chast, Roz Atheneum (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-4169-8475-7

In his second outing, the parrot with big dreams does his daydreaming at school. “Skool” is a completely foreign word to Marco, who at first wonders if it might be something to eat. On his first day, the little red parrot finds his teacher’s flowered pants quite fascinating, but even better is the astronaut toy atop the bookshelf, which suddenly turns Mrs. Peachtree’s speech into “blah, blah, blah,” and sparks a “First Bird Reaches Moon” fantasy. Playtime and a block tower to reach the moon cannot come soon enough for the jittery, imaginative bird. Block basketball (aka cleaning up) distracts him from the tower’s failure, and a turn on the swing with a new friend just may spark a new idea on how to achieve his dream. Chast’s world is a little like Stuart Little’s. The parrot acts like a human child, but everyone around him is an actual Homo sapiens. Chast’s watercolors emphasize this dichotomy, the tiny parrot dwarfed by his enormous (by comparison) classmates. Cute is not a word that would apply to her spreads, which are filled with toothy kids with limited facial expressions. This lacks much of the humor of Marco’s first outing (Too Busy Marco, 2010), does little (or nothing) to allay children’s fears about school, and touts a character who daydreams during lessons instead of listening to his teacher: Skip. (Picture book. 4-8)

Calmenson and Yoshikawa’s high-energy romp follows the hapless Mr. Bungles through another calamitous day (Late for School!, 2008). Though he’s not late this time, the teacher’s bad day begins with a bump on the head before he even leaves his bed, and things only get worse from there: There’s soap in his eye, jam on his tie and a hamster on the loose. It is this last thread that 1176

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“Would that every teacher could be this cool; Ms. Frizzle would be proud.” from i gotta draw

IT’S TIME FOR PRESCHOOL!

Codell, Esmé Raji Illus. by Ramá, Sue Greenwillow/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-145518-6 Codell walks children step by step through the sights, sounds and activities of preschool. “What’s at home? What’s at school? / What’s different, what’s the same? / Let’s go to a preschool room / and see what we can name.” The first several pages mention common preschool objects and activities that observant readers can spot in the watercolor-and–digital-collage artwork. From there, Codell goes on to describe some of the regular parts of a preschool day: circle time, nap, art, and cleanup time, among others. Pages are also devoted to such once-in-a-while things as fire drills and field trips, as well as those all-important preschool (and life) skills of sharing and using manners. With a deeper nod than usual to those kids who may be having a tough time, Codell writes about “thinking-about-home time,” offering a poem that will have kids pondering what adults do when their children aren’t around. The sometimes wordy text is a mix of free and inconsistently rhyming verse that can make for a difficult read-aloud; the audience’s lack of reading skill precludes this being anything but. In a scratchy, scribbly style reminiscent of preschool, Ramá moves away from her usual round-headed, rosy-cheeked children for a less distinctly drawn classroom full of multiracial kids. While this introduction may help a few pre-preschoolers, there are better options out there. (Picture book. 3-5)

I GOTTA DRAW

Degen, Bruce Illus. by Degen, Bruce Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $17.89 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-06-028417-6 978-0-06-028418-3 PLB One teacher who is willing to look outside the box for a solution changes the life of a budding young artist. Charlie Muttnik is the “pup with the pencil, / the mutt with the marker.…” He draws all the time, but finding a place to draw in his crowded Brooklyn apartment is not always easy, and things only get worse when he starts school. The margins of his papers become a doodling pad, which does not endear him to his teacher, Miss Rich, who is strict and by-the-book, or help his grades. Finally, when Charlie turns in a wordless climate report, Miss Rich decides to try something different. Equipped with supplies, Charlie stands at the back of the room orally answering questions while creating his artwork—a ploy that works to improve both his grades and his self-esteem, leading Miss Rich to try it with the whole class. And his now-proud parents dedicate a corner of the apartment to a drawing table just for Charlie. As with the illustrations he did for Joanna Cole’s Magic School Bus series, Degen mixes panels, vignettes and full-page spreads on his busy pages, his dog and cat |

characters spouting speech bubbles that both continue the story and add funny asides (“Is there fresh air in Brooklyn?”). Would that every teacher could be this cool; Ms. Frizzle would be proud. (Picture book. 5-9)

FOXY

Dodd, Emma Illus. by Dodd, Emma Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $14.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-201419-1 A very young girl’s first-day-of-school jitters prompt a nighttime visit from Foxy, whose magical tail causes “school supplies” to appear, fairy-godmother style. Emily is an adorable, rosy-cheeked tyke with curly red hair, black button eyes and the terrible worry that she will not have the right school supplies, hence the visit from the magical Foxy. A swish of his tail produces a pencil…or not. Close, but not quite—it’s actually a penguin. Luckily, the second time’s a charm. But subsequent requests also produce mixups: a birdcage instead of a pencil case, an easel in place of a notebook, an elephant (life-size) rather than an eraser, a pirate flag instead of a school bag. Emily is ever polite, sweetly correcting Foxy when he is wrong and thanking him when he gets it right, commenting, “I guess magic is hard.” And when her next worry arises—that she is not smart enough—Foxy’s tail fills her head with knowledge, which prompts her to remark, “I think I would rather learn these things at school.” Her last worry, that no one will like her, does not require any magic to dispel. The silly humor that characterizes many of Dodd’s other books is evident here, text and digital illustrations pairing seamlessly to create chuckles. Kids nervous about their own first day may just fall asleep wishing for their own Foxy visitor. (Picture book. 3-7)

MONSTER SCHOOL First Day Frights

Keane, Dave Illus. by Keane, Dave Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | paper $3.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-085476-8 978-0-06-085475-1 paperback Series: I Can Read! With its wide variety of monsters, mild creep and gross factors, and potential to allay some fears about fitting in, this is sure to find a wide audience among beginning readers. Perfectly normal Norm realizes immediately that he does not fit in at his new school. Horns, claws, fangs, strangely colored skin, hairy bits and eyes on stalks are all common at the Monster School, where the teacher is Miss Clops (she has only one eye), and the headless principal announces that, “It is normal

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“From music, show-and-tell and crafts to storytime, lining up and getting ready to go home, all the standard markers of school are here…except for metaphors that are meaningful to children.” from you are my wonders

to feel odd on your first day.” Slightly creepy tongue-in-cheek humor abounds, as it did in the author’s Bobby Bramble Loses His Brain (2009), and is sure to elicit chuckles. Is Miss Clops winking or blinking? Will the class ever find Gary, a ghost, in their game of hide-and-seek? Which of the two-headed girl’s heads will win the bubble-blowing contest? And most importantly, will Norm ever fit in, or will he be normal forever? Keane’s artwork nicely complements the text, his monsters coming off less as scary freaks out to get Norm than as regular kids who look a little different on the outside. Their faces are childlike and expressive—not frightening at all—and the illustrations ably help readers decode vocabulary. Not just for the first day of school; this is sure to appeal year-round. (Early reader. 5-8)

YOU ARE MY WONDERS Love, Maryann Cusimano Illus. by Ichikawa, Satomi Philomel (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0399-25293-8 Series: You Are My…, 4

More like Love’s second book (You Are My Miracle, 2005) than her first (You Are My I Love You, 2001) in the You Are My… series, this fourth, school-themed one falls flat, especially since most of its intended audience does not yet attend school. “I am your teacher; / you are my school child. // I am your welcome; / you are my running wild.” And so a new group of students gets to know their teacher, a kindly gray elephant who ushers them through their first day of school. Ichikawa’s weather nicely echoes the feelings that accompany those new to school—the rainy day giving way to lovely sunshine that allows the class to get outside. Her stuffed-animal students are a bit of a tougher read, as their facial expressions and body positions are stiffer than the usual anthropomorphized-animal picture-book fare. From music, show-and-tell and crafts to storytime, lining up and getting ready to go home, all the standard markers of school are here…except for metaphors that are meaningful to children. While many kids will not have trouble understanding that they are the “doublequick” to their teacher’s “go slow,” few will glean meaning from being a “Popsicle stick” to her “glue.” And while each of the rhyming verses flows on its own, together, the inconsistent rhythms and sometimes-forced rhymes make for an uneven read-aloud. Those nervous about attending school for the first time will not find much comfort here, though teachers might like the sentiment. (Picture book. 3-6)

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TEDDY BEAR, TEDDY BEAR, SCHOOL DAY MATH

McGrath, Barbara Barbieri Illus. by Nihoff, Tim Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | paper $7.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-420-3 978-1-58089-421-0 paperback 978-1-60734-460-5 e-book Series: McGrath Math In the bears’ third outing, the counters, classroom staple that they are, invite readers to follow the cadence of the familiar jump-rope rhyme and answer some simple math questions. McGrath fixes the who’s-my-audience problem that plagued Teddy Bear Math (2011) by returning to the youngest math learners, but her focus could still use some tightening. Readers are challenged to count, then skip-count, identify a group of four, and tell whether there are fewer of this color or that one. A balance scale allows children to identify which of two bears weighs more. Readers are also asked to tell which group has more than five, complete two different patterns, and solve one addition and one subtraction problem. Throughout, McGrath’s rhyming verses may encourage audiences to do more than math: “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, / a great big laugh. / Which teddy bear / is a bear in half?” The scattershot approach does not go deeply into any one math concept or afford readers any sense of continuity or pattern. As in the previous two titles, Nihoff ’s bears coordinate well with the text; this time his hand-drawn digital illustrations are accompanied by collaged found objects. Cutesy, but ultimately lacking in substance—there is little here that will draw children (or teachers) for a second reading. (Math picture book. 3-6)

HARRY GOES TO DOG SCHOOL

Menchin, Scott Illus. by Menchin, Scott Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-195801-4 Menchin introduces readers to a boy who has taken pretending to be a dog to

new levels. From growling at the dinner table and barking at cats to licking his sister goodnight, Harry makes it clear that he would rather be a dog than a boy. When it is time to send him to school, the Pavlov Royal Academy seems the perfect choice. Harry loves his new classmates and excels at all the morning subjects—sitting, rolling over and fetching. But lunchtime, with its unappetizing food, is a turning point for Harry, who afterward wants to draw and build with blocks. While his new friends are all napping, the teacher wrangles sleepless Harry into being her

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helper. He plays with, waters and washes the dogs, which finally tires him enough for a nap of his own, during which he dreams of normal boy activities. By dismissal, Harry is cured of wanting to be a dog (mostly). Menchin’s humorous, digitally colored pen-and-ink illustrations feature crisp lines, bright colors, a wide variety of dog breeds and lots of tongue-in-cheek humor. Harry’s expressive face completes the package. An amusing turnabout that is sure to have readers in stitches…as long as they are not chasing their own tails instead. (Picture book. 4-8)

MISS FOX’S CLASS GETS IT WRONG

Spinelli, Eileen Illus. by Kennedy, Anne Whitman (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8075-5165-3

When her class starts to see Miss Fox in the frequent company of Officer Blue Fox, rumors start to fly that their teacher is in trouble with the law. Young Bear sees the officer stop Miss Fox on her bike. He tells his classmates. Then Frog sees the policeman escorting his teacher into the police station. He shares, as well. And when the class starts seeing the pair together more often, the rumors and gossip really get going. They wonder why she is in so much trouble—after all, “Miss Fox believe[s] in peace. And in recycling.” They spy her in a floppy red hat and sunglasses “disguise” and then spot her placing a suitcase in her car. But the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back is the travel brochure on Miss Fox’s desk. They rush to assure their beloved teacher (who is accompanied by Officer Blue Fox!) that they will visit her in jail. Adults, and some children, will see the resolution coming a mile away. But their teacher cannot leave for her honeymoon without one last lesson about getting all the facts straight before spreading stories about other people. Kennedy’s anthropomorphized multi-species cast of characters is as charming and expressive as ever, especially when envisioning Miss Fox in black-and-white stripes. Sly clues sprinkled throughout point readers to the big reveal at the end. This lesson on gossip and rumors goes down like a spoonful of sugar. (Picture book. 4-8)

MIRACLE MELTS DOWN

Wells, Rosemary Illus. by Wells, Rosemary Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $14.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-192115-5 Series: Kindergators, 2 Harry, star of the first Kindergators book, Hands Off, Harry (2011), relates the school day’s dramas to his parents. And was it ever a doozy of a day. Miracle, who brings an unhealthy snack to school and doesn’t want to share, spends a |

good portion of the day sneaking bites. But when the radiator melts the Fudgettes, Miracle melts as well, and not for the last time—her lunch isn’t right, she spills her grape juice, she’s not the counting-card leader, Miguel steps on her foot. Throughout, her classmates sweetly though unrealistically go out of their way to try to cheer her up and generally let her get away with her whining ways. Her teacher even awards her the Star of Bravery for the one time she counts to 10 and doesn’t melt down. No mention is made of her selfishness or breaking of the rules. No doubt, these students and their teacher are models of classroom harmony, but most classes will fall far short of their example. (Wells’ backmatter does provide a few tips for teachers on “Creating Harmony.”) The gators are as visually distinctive as in their first outing, collaged clothing covering lumpy green skin, and Harry has not changed his active ways, doing flips in the classroom. While more didactic, William Mulcahy and Darren McKee’s Zach Gets Frustrated (2012) teaches children to deal with their frustrations rather than depend on others to solve difficulties for them. (Picture book. 3-6)

MOM, IT’S MY FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN!

Yum, Hyewon Illus. by Yum, Hyewon Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-374-35004-8 Yum, known for using text and artwork to explore emotions (There Are No Scary Wolves, 2010, etc.), looks at the first day of school from two points of view—that of a little boy who is more than ready and a nervous mother not quite prepared to let him go. The author’s watercolors are the true standout here, the colors and relative sizes of the characters masterfully conveying their emotions—many spreads could stand on their own without the text at all. Readers first see the pair when the 5-year-old shakes his mother awake on the first day of school; he is huge and pink-faced, towering over his tiny mother, who is bluefaced and cowering in the bed. As the text enumerates her worries (that he won’t have time to eat, she forgot some vital supply, he’ll be late, he’ll get lost, he won’t have any friends), the exuberant boy’s facial expressions, body language and oral responses counter her fears…until they reach his classroom door, and their sizes and colors flip. He quickly gets over it and has a great day at school, greeting his blue-toned mother exuberantly at dismissal, and the two, regular sizes and colors again now that they have survived the day, reunite and share the day’s events. Yum has perfectly captured the emotional ups and downs of both parent and child in a visually expressive work that will shore up adults as they send their children off on that momentous day. (Picture book. 4-7, adult)

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interactive e-books CHOPSTICKS

Anthony, Jessica Illus. by Corral, Rodrigo Penguin $6.99 | Feb. 2, 2012 1.0; Feb. 2, 2012 Multimedia collage tells the tale of a child prodigy’s struggle with madness in this app version of the novel for teens. On paper, Anthony and Corral pushed narrative’s edge in this unsettling tale of star-crossed love and burgeoning talent. The app does as well. Using snapshots, newspaper clippings, postcards, concert programs, text-messaging conversations and illustrations, Anthony and Corral present a scrapbook-style biography of Gloria “Glory” Fleming’s extraordinary life from before birth to her disappearance at age 17. Glory’s prodigal talent as a pianist gains her world renown, and her love for Frank Mendoza, the boy next door, appears to be able to surmount all obstacles. But when Glory starts introducing the basic Chopsticks theme in performance and then finds she can’t stop, the shadow of madness casts a pall over the story, leading readers to wonder whether Frank even exists. This app’s interactive features underscore Glory’s instability. With the ability to zoom in, for example, readers can play detective and scrutinize key objects in the story, such as a wine bottle’s label, that contradict her account. The ability to move photos on the page suggests their transience, and touch-screen English translations of Spanish passages make the spare text even more accessible. It’s a pity that the app does not make fuller use of an audio recording of Chopsticks; instead, it relies on Internet access to view embedded links to YouTube clips (which don’t add appreciably to the work), making it less portable than the print version. Though engaging, this app calls more attention to the medium than the message behind this wonderfully disturbing tale. (iPad book app. 15 & up)

OVER IN THE OCEAN In a Coral Reef

Berkes, Marianne Illus. by Canyon, Jeanette Dawn Publications $4.99 | Mar. 16, 2012 1.0; Mar. 16, 2012

one-by-one introduction to the featured coral-reef babies from one octopus to 10 seahorses, a “Find the Babies” game brings them all back together for one final count. Backed by music and ocean sounds, the text is read or charmingly sung by the book’s multitalented author, or readers can choose to read to themselves. True to the publisher’s mission to connect children to nature, the app includes photographs and factual information about the sea life in the story. Additional pages introduce the author, illustrator, developer and publishers. Artist Canyon explains how she created the illustrations with polymer clay and tools from her kitchen in an accessible way that encourages children to create their own art projects. In fact, counting skills and science aside, her vibrant pictures of the coral-reef habitat are enough to make this app appealing to readers of all ages. With a format that includes science, math, art, music and reading, it still manages to be what learning should be— fun. (iPad informational app. 4-8)

THE CHAMPION HARE

Christie, Gwen Illus. by Wrangles, Paul Interact Books $3.99 | Mar. 19, 2012 1.1; Apr. 10, 2012

In this reversal of the age-old tortoise-vs.-hare tale, a young hare competes against some formidable opponents. A hare walks into a bar…actually, he vaults over one being held by meerkats stacked one atop the other. Such are the events of the animal decathlon. The hare (who is ridiculed by a chortling hyena for entering) participates in all 10 events. He’s up against a gorilla in the shot put, a kangaroo in the long jump, and a cheetah in a sprint race—all of whom handily beat him. At the end of the story, he’s a good sport, pronouncing that though he didn’t take first place in any of the events, he had a good time. Only then does he learn that he’s the top athlete of the competition, thus winning the decathlon. Along the way readers can tap the animals to set them in motion or prompt sound effects, though quite often there are no interactive elements to match descriptive text. Tapping the (adequately rhyming) text is the only way to prompt narration, and a handy frog icon allows easy navigation between pages. The technological and literary value of this app is only fair, but the story behind the narrative makes it medal worthy (if only a bronze). Concepts like sportsmanship, perseverance, humility and knowing and accepting one’s own strengths and limitations are a gold mine of potential teaching moments. They also warm the heart. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

This beautifully illustrated counting and singalong app version of the 2004 book introduces young readers to the creatures of the coral reef. The original book is enhanced by simple, well-executed animations. With a touch or a jiggle, kids can send baby fish swimming, puffer fish puffing and squid squirting ink. After a 1180

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“An impressively scruffy app with scribbly artwork and nary a straight line to speak of, this mix of low-fi presentation and top-shelf interactivity is a unique pleasure.” from pete’s robot

PETE’S ROBOT

Heartdrive Media Heartdrive $2.99 | Mar. 23, 2012 1.1.1; Apr. 8, 2012 An impressively scruffy app with scribbly artwork and nary a straight line to speak of, this mix of low-fi presentation and topshelf interactivity is a unique pleasure. Hyperactive, blue-haired Pete and his dog Spot send away for all the parts necessary to build a custom robot. But when the gleaming, red, string-limbed ’bot arrives, the thing goes crazy in an amusing series of adventures. (The robot delivers mail to the wrong addresses, spills the goods in a candy store, and serves stinky mud pies at a diner, among other things.) It turns out the robot is missing a “Heartdrive,” which happens to be the name of the app developer, Heartdrive Media. Once the addition is installed, the robot becomes “Hero” after rescuing a cat in a tree. Then Pete, Spot, Hero and some of their friends start a band. The busy stream-of-consciousness plotting at work in the app perfectly fits the intentionally rough artwork. The characters often look like they’ve been chewed up in a paper shredder, but they’re set against sometimes-gorgeous spinning backgrounds. Every page has at least one or two touch-screen toys to play with, like telescoping arms on Pete or a full set of instruments to play and mix up when the musical group is formed. There’s also optional narration from three different voice actors and a cast of characters like a monkey mailman and a dinosaur chef, who’ll likely reappear in future adventures. If there’s one strike against the app, it’s the exhausting overuse of exclamation marks in the text, which makes every! Line! Appear! To! Scream! There’s a sunny, boisterous sense of fun about the whole thing that’s positively endearing; both robot and app have got a lot of heart. (iPad storybook app. 4-10)

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS Huomo, Jari JH Digital Solutions $2.99 | Mar. 31, 2012 1.0; Mar. 31, 2012

Another iPad adaptation of the infamous ursidae family and their goldenhaired intruder. There are no surprises in this high-definition offering from Huomo, meaning it’s the same story with the same outcome, told in a predictable way. The illustrations are definitely lovely and will look even more stunning on the HD screen of the iPad 3, but beyond that, it’s a typical retelling. The narrative is presented in undistinguished verse (quite common in the classic-meets-tablet genre) and is effective enough at telling the story—if not terribly engaging. In places, the text is redundant, seemingly a slave to meter and rhyme: “But the thing that Papa Bear didn’t realize / was that a little girl, a girl of small size…” Do readers really |

need a tutorial on what constitutes a “little” girl? Ironically, when Goldilocks turns around to face the reader, she looks more like a middle-age woman than a child. There are some run-of-the-mill animated elements—steaming porridge and transient clouds, for example—and a handful of moderately entertaining yet inconsistent interactive components (items and actions that are interactive on one page may not be on another), but none stand out as particularly unique or innovative. This app will hold little ones’ interest long enough to eat a bit of porridge before a quick nap, but probably not much longer than that. (iPad storybook app. 3-6)

MY SISTER’S NOT LIKE OTHER SISTERS

Kim, Graci Illus. by Southam, Gerrard Nabee Productions $3.99 | Mar. 15, 2012 1.0.1; Apr. 3, 2012

A young girl learns that the things that drive us crazy about our loved ones are often the things that make them wonderful in this welldesigned lesson on sibling appreciation. The bookish, tidy narrator tells readers about Maggie, her messy, adventurous, center-of-attention little sister, whom she insists is “not like other sisters!” Maggie, a firecracker with freckles, red hair and a talent for making silly faces, is also generous, attentive when her sister’s sad, and brave on scary, dark nights. By bedtime, older sis has come to appreciate Maggie: “And every night we climb in bed. / While stars are dancing overhead. / Then in my ear, she whispers this: / ‘I love you lots and lots, big sis!’ ” The illustrations throughout are crisp, colorful and filled with eye-catching background detail. Animations, especially of canine companion Pugsley, are simple and justenough. Navigation is almost completely absent. Page swipes are fluid; large white circles appear briefly to clue younger readers as to where they might find spots to touch to make the characters act; and big, helpful arrows prompt when it’s time to move on. Interactions beyond the app include a link to a website where readers can share their own sister stories and a store filled with merchandise related to the app. Maggie is an easy-to-love kid. She is, it turns out, the very model of a loving and loved sister. (iPad storybook app. 2-8)

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THE 12 MONTHS

Lindmeier, William William Lindmeier $3.99 | Mar. 24, 2012 1.1; Apr. 5, 2012

A charming Cinderella tale from the Czech tradition suffers from amateurish computer illustrations, a lack of features and no narration. Marusa lives happily with her father in a house in the woods next to an apple tree, until her father takes a second wife, a woman with a jealous daughter. When her father dies, the apple tree withers, and the stepmother and stepsister make Marusa’s life miserable. In the dead of winter, they send her out to find violets, then strawberries and finally apples. Each time, she gets help from 12 men she finds sitting around a fire; they represent the 12 months. Finally, the stepmother and stepsister venture out to find more of the delicious fruit, but when they are rude to the men, the men disappear and leave them lost in the forest. Marusa plants a new apple tree, and readers find her seven years later, happily married and living in her childhood home. Though the story doesn’t necessarily call for complex artwork, these illustrations, drawn on the iPad with Inkpad, are regrettably simplistic and unemotional. Some of the words are voiced or have sound effects (touch “apple” to trigger a crunching sound), and there are a few animations, but those are the only features. A navigation bar at the bottom works well. This little-known folktale deserves better treatment; Rafe Martin’s picture book of the same name, illustrated by Vladyana Langer Krykorka, is a much better alternative. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

cover the horrors viewers might imagine are happening behind it. The text is in a pull-down menu, so viewers can only see the text or the illustration, not both at the same time. Text and narration are offered in Spanish, French or English, and the repetitive music is blessedly optional. Navigation is easily accessible on each page, and 14 scene puzzles are available. Good-natured fun and some well-designed interactive elements distinguish this fairy-tale remake. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

ALTERNATIVE STORY: RED RIDING HOOD ZigZag Studio ZigZag Studio $1.99 | Mar. 24, 2012 1.0; Mar. 24, 2012

Over-the-top and hokey, but somehow this “choose your adventure” fairy tale works by never taking itself too seriously. A sultry fairy narrates the story of Little Red Riding Hood and offers choices along the way for viewers, the most dramatic of which is “Did the Wolf help Little Red Riding Hood?” If viewers choose yes, the Wolf gives Little Red Riding Hood a piggyback ride to Grandma’s and they all have a nice afternoon snack together. If viewers choose no, Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood are the Wolf ’s afternoon snack. The illustrations have the feel of a shoe-box diorama, with props, characters and scene elements dropping in from the top or sliding in from the sides of the screen. There are enjoyable and unexpected interactive options on each page to keep viewers interested, as well as some tongue-in-cheek laughs. When Grandma is about to be eaten by the Wolf, a camera with a red X across it materializes to 1182

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This Issue’s Contributors # Kim Becnel • Marcie Bovetz • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • Alta Dawson • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Robin L. Elliott • Brooke Faulkner • Omar Gallaga • Barbara A. Genco • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Melinda Greenblatt • Heather L. Hepler • Julie Hubble • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Laura Jenkins • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • Robin Fogle Kurz • Megan Lambert • Ellen Loughran • Lori Low • Kathie Meizner • Lisa Moore • R. Moore • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Erika Rohrbach • Ann Marie Sammataro • Mindy Schanback • Dean Schneider • Chris Shoemaker • Karyn N. Silverman • Edward T. Sullivan • Shelley Sutherland • Jennifer Sweeney • S.D. Winston • Monica Wyatt

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indie Self-publishing has opened an incredible number of doors—not just for authors but for readers, too. With well over 1 million books self-published a year, those doors won’t be closing anytime soon. Of course the sheer quantity of self-published books is astounding—after all, everyone has a story to tell, and sharing that story with thousands, or even millions, of people has never been easier or less expensive—but what may be more surprising is the quality of self-published books ready to be discovered. At 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 These titles earned the Kirkus Star: HACKED by J. D. Allison...............................................................p. 1183

HACKED

Allison, J. D. J. D. Allison (275 pp.) $0.99 e-book | Feb. 19, 2012 In a realm of virtual reality, “subscribers” hone in on the lives of others. Allison’s debut novel unfolds intricately, inundated with slang and jargon yet very little context—readers unfamiliar with cyber terminology may need to brush up on the language. Tenyen (just a handle, not his name) is in a virtual world with his love, Nether, but on his way home he’s hit by a truck. He doesn’t die, though; instead, he’s downloaded to a “Shell”—an avatar of sorts—and taken to the Plant for repair. His trek leads him to a “dwarf ” named Migaroy, who enlists Tenyen’s help in stopping a “twitcher,” which can turn people into a zombielike state. Nether, meanwhile, is searching for Tenyen and somehow infecting people just like the twitcher; masses of stumbling, empty and gray bodies lie in her wake. The story’s unreliable narrators (Tenyen, Nether, et al.) make the story sometimes hard to follow: Tenyen begins in a Mediapod (a “private room”), heads home but is still virtually connected to Nether; then he wakes up somewhere else after the truck accident. He and Nether are often besieged by memories and dreams, so most, if not all, of the story seems unreal. The focus is initially on Tenyen, but once the perspective shifts to Nether, the author sharpens the story. It’s almost a reboot, re-examining events that have happened to Tenyen, like when he was attacked by giant crabs with a fondness for gears. Other characters, including Migaroy and the twitcher, take the narrative reins to further illuminate the world, explaining, for instance, some of the players’ origins. The author’s prose can be poetic, which lends the story the air of a modern epic poem. Chandleresque analogies (“You make love like razor blades”) and animated descriptions (“The blood drip, drip, drops on the floor”) also brighten the prose. A few recurring images in the novel, including panda bears and a toy monkey that speaks to Nether, are amusingly outlandish, although they are given deeper meaning as the plot progresses to its satisfying conclusion. An original voice that’s initially disorienting, but, given time, Allison lyrically creates an intriguing world.

THE TEN by Leland Myrick..........................................................p. 1187 LYLA LYTE AND THE LI’BERRY FRUIT by I’deyah Ricketts............................................................. p. 1189

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“Armed with his own team of highly regarded investigators and forensic experts and a ‘just the facts, ma’am’ approach, Dear makes a compelling case.” from o.j. is innocent and i can prove it

ARE YOU A MULE OR A QUEEN? How to Have Others Honor Your Wishes and Value Your Time

Blackwell, Lisa Langdon Street (198 pp.) $14.95 paperback | $7.99 e-book Dec. 1, 2010 978-1936183487 In her first book, a former executive coach and certified change agent attempts to provide readers the tools they need to eliminate the situations that weigh them down. Blackwell divides women into two categories: Mules, who tend to be the overburdened dumping ground for everyone else’s problems, and Queens, who maintain healthy relationships and are rewarded with friends and family who treat them like royalty. She targets typical areas in which this kind of divide occurs—family, relationships, work, society—but delves into more thoughtprovoking and less-mined territory as well, examining Victorian ideals, routine behavior and appearances. In each area, Blackwell defines the behavior of the Mule as opposed to the behavior of a Queen, using examples of real women from each category. The concrete examples help shed light on negative aspects of behavior while providing models to emulate. Moreover, Blackwell chooses examples from a wide spectrum: young singletons, happily married women, divorcees, mothers, career women, homemakers, middle-aged women, women in their later years and more. Nearly every reader will find a woman in this book to whom she can relate. Though Blackwell recognizes that most women—regardless of personal schedule and responsibilities— shoulder a caretaking role for those around them, she stresses that women need to take care of themselves first. Doing so will allow them to live richer, more satisfying lives, which can only benefit their spouses, children, co-workers, friends and extended family. It’s not enough to go to work, attend church and go home, she says; women should seek activities, events and people who can fulfill their emotional needs. Blackwell gives women permission to unapologetically stand up and demand the respect and courtesy they rightfully deserve. It’s a valuable lesson for women who want to have it all—family, career, success—even if they are still expected to do it all. Blackwell’s inspiring call to action will help women get out of their own way on the path to fulfillment.

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RESISTANCE

Brennan, Jerry Tortoise Books (786 pp.) Jun. 9, 2012 Brennan’s three intertwined novellas revolve around the Nazi occupation of Prague and the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. The first section of Brennan’s accomplished and readable novel is a lightly fictionalized “autobiography” of Czechoslovakian Gen. František Moravec. After experience on the Eastern Front during World War I, then time as a Russian prisoner of war and as one of the heads of the Czech resistance in exile, Moravec was one of the chief architects behind Operation Anthropoid, the plot to assassinate Heydrich, the brutal Czech proconsul. The second section is a minute-by-minute documentation of the operation, told through a collection of reports and memoranda. The final section is the almost stream-of-consciousness diary of Czech collaborator Karel as he sits in jail awaiting his execution. “The key to controlling the present is controlling the past…. And the best way to control the past is to tell a story about it,” says one resident of occupied Czechoslovakia, and this is certainly the case in Brennan’s triptych. Three very different prisms are implemented to bring Operation Anthropoid—and the larger experience of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia—alive for readers. The central events of the story—the plot to kill Heydrich, the assassination itself and the staggering reprisals taken by the Nazis—are approached from several different angles, heightening both the tension and the power of the narratives. Brennan’s command of facts is absolute and his ear for dialogue is pitchperfect. The author is unafraid of making readers spend a great deal of time with some very unsavory people; Karel is particularly repellent yet mesmerizing. An extremely impressive debut.

O.J. IS INNOCENT AND I CAN PROVE IT

Dear, William C. Skyhorse Publishing (524 pp.) $18.38 | $15.37 e-book | Apr. 1, 2012 978-1616086206 A piece of true-crime investigative work focuses on the supposedly true killer of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. From the time of the bloody and brutal murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on June 12, 1994, until he finished writing this book, private investigator and author Dear (O.J. Is Guilty But Not of Murder, 2000, etc.) searched for the truth about what really happened to the two victims on that warm summer night in Los Angeles. The immediate and overwhelming opinion voiced by media, law enforcement and the public in general was clear—O.J. was guilty |


“There’s nothing mind-bending or complex here, just easy entertainment for readers who like their erotic, extraterrestrial science fiction on the light and fluffy side.” from the genitalia scrolls

and there were no other suspects. As a PI, Dear disapproved of the rush to judgment amid a media circus. He probed the case, starting with a comprehensive list of possible perpetrators. One by one he eliminated them until he was left with, in his view, a viable and logical suspect. Here he makes the case that O.J.’s eldest son, Jason Simpson, was the murderer. Like a textbook for investigators, the book exhaustively uncovers, documents and extrapolates information and evidence to support his conclusions. He raises questions that were never asked, including why O.J. Simpson retained a criminal defense attorney for Jason the day after the murders. He cites the peculiar behavior by Simpson after the murders and the inept investigation by the LAPD. Yet Dear doesn’t argue that O.J. was never involved. Using everything from high-tech gadgets to the most basic gumshoe techniques, along with the patience of Job, Dear pursued evidence to support his view that Jason Simpson was the killer. He believes LAPD should conduct a new investigation. Armed with his own team of highly regarded investigators and forensic experts and a “just the facts, ma’am” approach, Dear makes a compelling case. A cogent, well-documented new take on a controversial verdict.

THE LAST SHIPWRECKED SAILOR

Ezzo, Joseph Amazon Digital Services (1432 pp.) $3.99 e-book | Mar. 7, 2012

In Ezzo’s first series of novels, folkloric tales and unsettling violence suffuse a contemporary sea journey. In this modern picaresque in the tradition of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Gulliver’s Travels and The Odyssey, each episode links loosely within the frame of protagonist Q’s journey of self-recovery. Q, an amnesiac, finds himself in dire situations full of brutal violence and disturbing sexual politics. With the wrathful goddess of the ocean propelling him to impossible lands, he navigates dangerous obstacles with the minimal purpose of continuing onward. A small sampling of Q’s trials: life as a kept husband in a house laden with dreamlike murals; imprisonment in a concentration camp with broken children; battles with horrific demons wielding gigantic phalli; descents into underworlds; encounters with deviant shape-shifters and a mystic with scatological powers; ballgames against Mayan gods of death; a spat in a brainwashing, postcolonial missionary camp; a conversation with Herman Melville resurrected; and many others—some disturbing, some comical, all bewildering. Ezzo’s series is vast in scope, sourcing everything from African folklore and Norse mythology to The Waste Land, Moby-Dick and Les Chants de Maldoror. To read it requires endurance and fortitude, not only to transcend its horror, but to traverse its 1,400 pages. Ezzo impressively synthesizes a great deal of information, but his prose often lacks compression, and the narration sometimes lapses into a tiring rhythm that merely relates the events of each tale. Extensive cuts could have benefitted the work; readers must sift through many pages to find Ezzo’s most insightful passages, which are stark yet |

striking, even though they dissipate quickly. Much of the series’ power comes in its critique of colonialism and fascism, so moments of described beauty in the text are scarce. In order to experience them, readers must be willing to suffer Q’s ordeals and gaze into an abyss, however unpleasant that vision may be. Imaginative and ambitious, but this epic requires great patience.

THE GENITALIA SCROLLS The Bottom Line From Upper Space Gaines, Barry E. (411 pp.) $5.99 e-book | Aug. 7, 2011

Aliens bring bad news for sexy earthlings in this otherworldly, tongue-incheek romp. Evan Wallace Simon’s life as a single, 40-something writer and reluctant Angeleno stargazer takes a drastic turn after he is contacted by an intelligent alien life-form seeking earthly reform. Valdek, a wise, philosophical priest of the Vi-Kalderians, intends to use him as a vehicle to speak to the people of Earth about the consequences of their destructive behavior. Valdek believes the people of Earth have become pollutive, overindulgent and irresponsible with their bodies (their genitalia, specifically), which could cause planetary overcrowding and the forced migration of earthlings carrying their careless behaviors to other galaxies, like the one containing Valdek’s heretofore undiscovered planet, Vi-Kal-Der. His message is spread through a variety of involuntary messengers, like Simon, with the hope that change can be implemented before Genitalia Out of Control (GOOC) is reached. Reiterating his cautionary procreation-message through fantasy training at the mall and regressive therapy at home, our hero, together with best friend Myles and new love Cassie, sets out to spread the good word of the all-knowing Valdek to a disbelieving English professor and various media outlets. This creates worldwide hysteria and conspiracy theories, especially after a threat is delivered about abstaining from sex on Halloween night or, as punishment, suffering debilitating headaches. Will Earth join the ecologically balanced United Galactic Alliance of Planets in time for Simon and Cassie to enjoy a spaceship ride with Valdek on New Year’s Eve? Gaines incorporates plenty of exposition into his sexually charged satire, and while a good portion of the details amount to minutiae orbiting a cosmos of goofy acronyms, those are the key ingredients that make this debut effervesce. There’s nothing mind-bending or complex here, just easy entertainment for readers who like their erotic, extraterrestrial science fiction on the light and fluffy side. Creatively powered silliness with cautionary undertones.

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“Once we understand our own ‘Innate Lesson Cycle,’ Lewis says, we’ll embrace mental models that produce pioneers and thought-leaders rather than simply experts.” from the explanation age

RETURN TO FINKLETON

Hilton, K.C. CreateSpace (228 pp.) $9.89 paperback | $2.99 e-book Apr. 26, 2011 978-1469901084 A father leads his family hiking one evening to see an unforgettable sight: thousands of glowworms lighting up Finkleton Valley. In The Magic of Finkleton, the first book in this series, Jack, Lizzy and Robert realize their family acquired not just a shop, but a shop with magical secrets, including the ability to control weather. After mastering the weather and reaping two years of perfect crops, two of the children find a room hidden beneath the library floor. Initially, it seems to be just a room with more books, but closer inspection reveals some peculiarities, such as a book that glows and one that feels cold to the touch. A rather ordinary book about memories seems harmless, but odd things start happening after Robert takes it with him upstairs to browse: A lightning strike causes a fire that burns the house of one of Finkleton’s leading citizens, and one of the children carelessly reveals the magical secrets found in Uncle Harry’s shop, encouraging a greedy outsider to pursue owning land in Finkleton. Robert believes he can right some of his past mistakes, but he accidentally breaks a clock which has the ability to move a person forward and backward through time. Meanwhile, the children work tirelessly to fix their town. In Hilton’s lively book, she creates a thriving town as the setting, using images children can easily imagine and appreciate. Miss Caroline, a resident devoted to helping the children, needs more detail and history, considering her central role. The story sharply focuses on the three children and their actions, which young readers will appreciate. At first glance, some of the magical items in this book may remind readers of Harry Potter—a clock that controls time and a book that can answer direct questions—but their use here is unique. The plot ambles along and presents situations that, beneath their supernatural surfaces, readers will likely find familiar. Suitable for children 9–11 years old, this continuation of a magical adventure is a pleasure to read.

THE EXPLANATION AGE

Lewis, John CreateSpace (274 pp.) $24.99 paperback | Feb. 21, 2012 978-1452811062 Lewis’ guide to the changing landscape of modern society calls for a new method of processing information. The mental models that drive businesses, schools and government institutions are outdated, Lewis contends. In today’s economy, ideas are currency and creativity is essential to 1186

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effective decision-making. So why rely on old, factory-inspired thought models from the Industrial Age? Lewis argues that it’s time to move into the “Explanation Age” with a new model more aligned with how the human mind actually learns. Drawing from the brainy field of epistemology, he aims to combine “First Philosophy” with today’s technologies. Doing so, Lewis says, will allow readers to recognize that explanations, not simply data and information, provide the foundation on which innovation stands. Once we understand our own “Innate Lesson Cycle,” Lewis says, we’ll embrace mental models that produce pioneers and thought-leaders rather than simply experts. Corporations will cultivate inventiveness, not just productiveness; Internet search engines will present explanations, not just data. Armed with tools like the “Options Outline,” policymakers will be able to untangle society’s most contentious issues, such as climate change. Grasping the topics Lewis covers may require more than one reading, but his nimble style and simple analogies can make intimidating subjects more accessible, although readers may be put off by the book’s many diagrams, which sometimes stumble when translating complex ideas into visual form. This can be forgiven because the text never strays far from practical, real-world applications: Lewis applies his concepts to everything from how the Wright brothers built their airplane to the invention of the Post-it Note. His “8 Degrees of Reason,” alongside other models, illuminates not only how people learn but also, he says, how you know what you know. Ultimately, wisdom still reigns, but it rests on lessons and decisions—not just data and knowledge. An iconoclast’s blueprint for a new era of innovation.

BATS, RATS, & HOLY COWS Or Seventeen Days in India: One Family’s Adventure

Margulis, Mariann CreateSpace (214 pp.) $14.99 paperback | $7.99 e-book Apr. 12, 2012 978-1468168396 A travel memoir from a mother and her two young sons on a tour of India. On the flight to New Delhi, Margulis and sons—Julian, 12, and Fillip, 10—unhappily discover that their seats’ entertainment systems are out of order, a tip-off to the fact that, although they’re anxious for adventure, the family isn’t quite ready to leave behind their creature comforts. The sheets, towels and napkins in their hotels are covered with brown stains, and the author spends too much time describing her attempts to procure clean replacements. Their drivers don’t speak much English, Margulis repeatedly informs the reader; similarly, it would be better to tell the reader fewer times that some Indians are unable to determine whether her kids are boys or girls, thanks to their long hair. Eight days of the trip coincide with Passover, something Margulis seems not to have planned for, so she has a hard time |


“The author masterfully crafts vivid battle scenes and heart-pounding chases across oceans, over snow-peaked mountains and into city sewers.” from the ten

explaining to waiters the ingredients her family needs for their Seder. Margulis has an assortment of other concerns: sharing train compartments with strangers, cold water in hotel showers and other worries she probably should have expected, or could have avoided by not venturing beyond typical tourist haunts. Thankfully, the whining fades away as the charms of India win over the family, and readers will be engrossed in the trio’s experiences in Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur and especially the Thar Desert. Margulis offers information about each place they visit, finally relaxing enough to enjoy the new experience by coming to ignore the things that so preoccupied her in the beginning of the book. Her writing is strong (she has contributed to Fodor’s) and readers may come to see her as something of a parental role model because she allows her sons to experience India on their own terms, not necessarily hers. As long as there’s a glass of wine with dinner, Margulis is a happy traveler indeed. By turns amusing, touching and occasionally irritating, this travelogue colorfully portrays India, perhaps convincingly enough for readers to want to visit with their own children.

MERIBAH

Mokin, Arthur CreateSpace (286 pp.) $15.00 paperback | $9.99 e-book Mar. 14, 2012 978-1463773915 Documentarian Mokin draws on the Book of Exodus in a novel about a man who learns to balance his love for a woman with his love for his adopted nation and their God. The life of a young scribe—referred to only as the Egyptian— is irrevocably changed the instant he sees a Habiru woman on the banks of the river. Miryam is sister to Aharon and the prophet Mosheh, who will lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt. When Egypt is struck down, the scribe pursues Miryam, throwing in his lot with the budding nation of Israel. As Israel defies God time and time again, the Egyptian’s commitment to wandering with these troubled people wavers; though he does not question his devotion to Miryam, he questions his place among his adopted nation. Through the eyes of this outsider, readers see the young Israel: rebellious, malcontent and constantly challenging their jealous God. That lens allows Mokin to muse on questions modern readers may have about the actions of God in the Book of Exodus and the harsh punishments he doles out to his chosen people. Though Mokin bends historical details to service the narrative, his clear style and beautifully conceived rendition of the characters—particularly Miryam and Aharon—are sure to draw readers into the world. The book shifts between third-person omniscient narration, which delivers insight into the actions of the Israelites and their prophet, and the journal kept by the Egyptian scribe, allowing Mokin to paint a fuller picture of events while giving readers a character in whom they can invest. This is the Egyptian’s tale, but he is not its protagonist; the conceit fits well with this character’s occupation as a scribe. While not all readers will be drawn in, any |

with an interest in biblical studies or the history of Egypt, the Middle East and the children of Israel will find much to absorb. A tale of the Exodus that brings Israel’s prophet and people to life.

THE TEN Book One of the Kingdom of Graves

Myrick, Leland Adept Books (360 pp.) $2.99 e-book | Feb. 12, 2012

Graphic novelist turned fantasy author Myrick (Feynman, 2011, etc.) releases the first installment of a promising trilogy that trails an elite warrior as he adventures through foreign lands, weaves magic and vanquishes his enemies. Capt. Jorophe Horne survives a three-year war only to witness his country’s annexation to the mighty Kingdom of Graves. Worse still, he is reassigned to the enemy army that destroyed his homeland. Understandably reluctant to serve his new master, Jorophe reports for duty at the behest of his now-dethroned monarch. But when evil forces conspire against the kingdom, Jorophe’s oath drives him to action: He rises to become the most powerful weapon in the King’s elite 10-man force. Armed with two ancient dark blades, he hunts down devils from the Abyss who threaten the provinces. Myrick’s epic tale features assassins, dark priests, blue demons and an Amazon warrior as it chronicles the lives of more than six core characters. All are uniquely crafted, with intentions to either destroy or save the kingdom. Brief chapters juxtapose longer prose, fueling a high-paced story line that flies from one end of the world to the other. As the author shifts from one point of view to the next, readers slide through a rich mosaic of betrayal, greed, loyalty and honor. Of its manifold strengths, the novel is fluid and full of surprises. Readers will question the characters’ loyalties to the king as they ponder the mysterious identity of the final member of the Ten. As the book draws to a close, the final lines are likely to send shivers up readers’ spines. The author masterfully crafts vivid battle scenes and heart-pounding chases across oceans, over snow-peaked mountains and into city sewers. Neither diehard nor casual fantasy readers will be able to resist this trilogy’s rousing start. An exemplar of storytelling and character-driven adventure.

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h a n g i e b e n n e t t In Angie Bennett’s gritty new book, Narcissistic Praise-Junkies, teacher Ellie Warden struggles with troubled teens, school shootings, and her own complicated love life. As a devoted educator who leads a high school behavior-modification unit, Ellie deals with kids whose learning and behavioral problems range from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Tourette’s syndrome. Her sharp wit and caustic sense of humor allow her to cope with a stressful job and a school system that provides little support for her program. Bennett herself teaches students who have emotional and behavior problems, and, like her protagonist, she takes a tragicomic perspective on their issues and her own. We recently spoke to Bennett about her teaching background, and how she relates to the characters and events in her novel.

NARCISSISTIC PRAISE-JUNKIES

Bennett, Angie CreateSpace (278 pp.) $11.69 paperback $9.99 e-book January 18, 2012 978-1469924724

Q: This book feels like it comes from personal experience. The characters are so clearly drawn, and the humor and heartache are perfectly balanced. Can you tell me a little about your own background and how it compares to your novel? A: Ellie’s experiences were inspired by some of my own. Yes, I once wet myself in a Porta-Potty. I’ve also taught in a behavior unit—a very different kind of place from the one that Ellie runs! And I currently teach English in a residential treatment facility for girls who are emotionally and/or behaviorally disturbed. The loss of Ellie’s child was inspired by my own infertility. In another review, the critic panned the novel as “too funny to be tragic and too depressing to be comic,” but that’s life. Life in the behavior unit and life with a husband with a disability. Oh, yeah…and my husband has Asperger’s syndrome. When he was in school there was no name for it; he was just that weird kid. Like Peter, he’s enjoyed a lot of success in his career (he’s an engineer), but he has to have a lot of support.

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Q: Ellie is a rather unconventional teacher in many ways. She tries to maintain her distance by nicknaming her students, but she also repeatedly risks her own life and wellbeing for them. Does Ellie truly love her job, despite all the pain and emotional exhaustion? Do you think she would choose this path again? A: Yes, Ellie loves the drama. She loves it so much that when the drama with her mama gets old, she falls in love with Peter. She’s an adrenaline junkie— but not the kind that jumps out of airplanes or joins the Marines. The kids are so flawed that she can more easily see herself in them than the “regular” kids. She’s not like the cheerleaders or the brainiacs; she’s like the kids who brand pentagrams on their arms—she’s just never had the guts to do anything.

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A: Mama’s form of Catholicism has held her back, absolutely. But Ellie’s beliefs, her brand of religious fervor, are genuine and necessary for her. Manny serves as a foil for Ellie in this regard. Does he enjoy life more? Is he happier? Ellie doesn’t think so. Not because he’s not following God or the church or Mama, but because he values nothing, until Krista—his own little salvation. Q: Autism features prominently into your novel, and Ellie ends up marrying a man with Asperger’s syndrome. Is this an area of personal interest to you? A: My husband has Asperger’s syndrome, and Ellie’s struggles are real. Living with someone who has no ability to translate emotion into words or actions— and no way to interpret my emotions—is taxing. But Matt’s struggles in the rest of the real world are far more difficult than what we deal with at home. Recently, on a business trip, a co-worker got irritated with him and kicked him out of the car on the side of the highway, hours from the office. This prompted my consistent response: There’s no special ed in the real world, but there should be. There are no accommodations for those with disabilities—unless it’s a disability others can see. You’re in a wheelchair? Here’s a ramp. You have Asperger’s syndrome? Stop being an ass. –By Emily Thompson

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Q: Religion, in particular, Catholicism, is a theme that runs through your story. Is her Catholic faith a comfort to Ellie? Or has it held her back?


LYLA LYTE AND THE LI’BERRY FRUIT

Ricketts, I’deyah Illus. by Williams, Katie Climbing Clouds Publishing (196 pp.) Jan. 17, 2012 978-0983711315 Nine-year-old author Ricketts (Where Are the Animals, 2010) returns with the adventure of Lyla Lyte, a young girl who rescues books from obscurity. Lyla is desperate to use her imagination, but she doesn’t know how. Several attempts end in failure before Lyla’s mother reveals that, before Lyla was born, there were objects called books that helped people learn how to use their imaginations. But the Mayor banned all books and ordered them to be buried. Despite promising to keep this newfound information secret, Lyla tells all her friends. They join her in a quest to find the buried books, but their search instead turns up a seed. Lyla plants the seed and an unusual tree sprouts—one that grows books. The kids take to referring to the books as “li’berry fruits” to disguise their true identity, but soon everyone in Lyla’s class knows. Eventually, the li’berry fruits spread across town through a series of sweetly hopeful book exchanges and strategic drops around the community. The children’s increasing engagement with these illegal books—and, as a result, with the world around them—ratchets up the suspense in an already fastpaced and well-written novel. In a fresh and frank way, never betraying the youthful naiveté of a child, Ricketts addresses sophisticated issues of personal freedom and the longing for change. Why a town of readers would willingly surrender their books and not fight back may be a question that strains readers’ credulity, but Lyla’s mission is noble nonetheless. Although the characters remain single-minded and often seem a bit flat, Rickett’s tale has much to teach about the redemptive power of reading and imagination. An impressive story about a girl whose courage transforms a town.

demonstration, Zoey must use her power to rescue him. She quickly realizes the morbid connection between music and aviation when she’s transported back to “The Day The Music Died.” Legends Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Glenn Miller all died while flying, and now a nasty villain is trying to send Nathan to the same fate. The premise is certainly original, if far-fetched, but young readers with an interest in music will relish the trivia and lessons embedded in this story. Zoey develops as a musician while grappling with typical teen issues—her relationship with her father, a crush on a cute older boy, selfawareness—but heavy plot points dominate the latter half of the book. At one point, Zoey, Nathan and other time-traveling characters land in a Nazi concentration camp with a group of jazz-loving German youths. There they witness and endure great horrors. Through it all, Zeidler portrays music as an idealistic beacon of hope, the solution to all of life’s mysteries. This philosophy is explicitly stated many times but would have been better conveyed if subtly expressed through plot development. A fast-paced, imaginative story ideal for young readers who understand the urge to make music.

FLYING THROUGH MUSIC Zeidler, Susan Wasteland Press May 30, 2012

A girl transports to an alternate musical universe to save her friend in Zeidler’s (The Practice Room, 2009) mystery for young teens. Three years ago, Zoey Browne’s world changed for the better when she discovered she could transport to a magical world called Musicland. There, she cultivated a talent for keyboard playing and reunited with her amnesiac, rock-star father. Now 15 years old, Zoey is spending her summer on tour with her famous dad. Weary of the road, she meets her best friend in Oshkosh, Wis., for an annual air show. When her friend Nathan disappears in a puff of purple smoke during a flight |

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June 01, 2012: Volume LXXX, No 11  

Hollywood operators and creative washouts collide in Jess Walter's superb romp; Science writer Sam Kean impressively renders esoteric DNA co...