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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

Nobel winner Elie Wiesel continues to remind us of the brilliant possibilities of the philosophical and political novel p. 1214

Eric Jay Dolin returns with a rich, highly readable story of America’s first voyages to the Middle Kingdom p. 1232

Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz delivers a gloriously intricate multi-voiced gothic fantasy p. 1276

in this issue: best recent children’s & teen apps kirkus q&a

indie

Second lady Jill Biden offers an empathetic portrait of the effects of a deployment on the home front p. 1270

Indie booksellers from Bob’s Beach Books, Tattered Cover Book Store and Boulder Book Store talk about working directly with indie authors p. 1291

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Anniversaries: Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son 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

Yo u m i g h t n o t k n o w i t t o d ay, but there was a time in this country when books about drugs were kinda sorta popular. You had the collective wisdom of the ever so faux Don Juan, courtesy of Carlos Castaneda, and a little library of psychedelia whose entries included books by Aldous Huxley, Ram Dass and Timothy Leary. Grass was groovy—there was A Child’s Garden of Grass to attest to that—and acid eminently droppable. Leonard Bernstein was seen bogarting with the best of them,

Editor E L A I N E S Z E WC Z Y K eszewczyk@kirkus.com Managing/Nonfiction Editor E R I C L I E B E T R AU eliebetrau@kirkus.com Features Editor M O L LY B RO W N mbrown@kirkus.com

while prime-time TV shows alluded to forbidden chemical pleasures. Richard Nixon fumed, but

Children’s & Teen Editor VICKY SMITH vsmith@kirkus.com

only Art Buchwald paid much attention to him, and meanwhile moms and dads throughout Harper

Mysteries Editor THOMAS LEITCH

Valley and Pleasant Valley and all the other valleys of the land turned on and tuned in. That was the soft side of the equation, the Nehru jacket and scarf and medallion stuff. Over on the hard side, there were plenty of darker warnings. There was William Burroughs’s Junkie, celebrating—amazingly—its 60th birthday next year, a book that darkly warned of the consequences of too much fondness for narcotics and was packaged with an appropriately lurid cover. Burroughs took his time leaving the life. Meanwhile, others took the wrong lesson from the book and stuck needles in themselves, but, as Gus Van Sant’s descendant film Drugstore Cowboy makes plain, they were quite out of place in the peace-and-love era. Robert Stone’s superb novel Dog Soldiers, published in 1974 as the drug-drenched war in Vietnam was winding down, blended the world of flower children and Marines, and in the end only the CIA won. James Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, published in 1978, made the whole business of needle drugs seem incredibly dreary, though the book itself was one of the best-written artifacts of that last-gasp-of-disco time. Denis Johnson’s collection of short stories Jesus’ Son was in many ways out of place when it was published 20 years ago, in 1992, when its notes on the consequences of opiates took their place alongside Coleridge’s and De Quincey’s. The book belonged better to the 1970s, when Johnson was writing poetry and developing the skills that he brought to bear on his book, which memorably opens with a terrible moment: A hitchhiker in the rainy Midwest catches a ride with a boozehound salesman, and the two smack into another car. Some go to the morgue. The hitcher goes to the hospital, where, to his satisfaction, a tube full of “vitamins” is soon hanging from his arm. Oddly, when he appears on the first page, he knows—and Johnson knows, and subtly lets us know—that these events are out of sequence in a loopy narrative that hazily crosses years and miles. There’s a strange, hallucinatory quality to the book, a landscape of squished bunnies, wrecked metal, filthy hotel rooms and desperate lives. The narrators—who may in the end be a single narrator—are out of their minds. There are drugs everywhere, and hope nowhere. You weren’t just about to shoot up, were you? If so, read or reread Johnson’s book, his first published work of fiction, and reconsider. It’s worth 100 Nancy Reagans, and it retains its admonitory power, if not all of its timeliness, 20 years on.

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

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This Issue’s Contributors Maude Adjarian • Mark Athitakis • Joseph Barbato • Amy Boaz • Lee E. Cart • Marnie Colton • Donna ConawayMorrissey • Dave DeChristopher • Gregory F. DeLaurier • David Delman • Kathleen Devereaux • Steve Donoghue • Daniel Dyer • Lisa Elliott • Julie Foster • Peter Franck • Jeff Galipeaux • Bob Garber • Jeff Hoffman • Robert M. Knight • Paul Lamey • Louise Leetch • Peter Lewis • Elsbeth Lindner • Raina Lipsitz • Joe Maniscalco • Don McLeese • Gregory McNamee • Chris Messick • Brett Milano • Clayton Moore • Liza Nelson • Mike Newirth • Randall Nichols • John Noffsinger • Sarah Norris • Mike Oppenheim • Jim Piechota • Christofer D. Pierson • Gary Presley • David Rapp • Kristen Bonardi Rapp • Erika Rohrbach • Lloyd Sachs • William P. Shumaker • Rosanne Simeone • Elaine Sioufi • Arthur Smith • Wendy Smith • Margot E. Spangenberg • Andria Spencer • Matthew Tiffany • Claire Trazenfeld • Steve Weinberg • Rodney Welch • Carol White • Chris White • Homa Zaryouni • Alex Zimmerman


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contents fiction INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS.................................................. p. 1195 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1195 MYSTERY...................................................................................... p. 1214

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

SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY.................................................. p. 1221 TOP 10 FANTASY NOVELS BY FEMALE AUTHORS (INSPIRED BY THE KILLING MOON).....................p. 1204

nonfiction INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS.................................................. p. 1223 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1223 Q&A WITH PD SMITH.................................................................. p. 1238

children’s & teen INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS.................................................. p. 1253 REVIEWS....................................................................................... p. 1253 Q&A WITH JILL BIDEN............................................................... p. 1270 INTERACTIVE E-BOOKS.............................................................p. 1280 BEST RECENT CHILDREN’S & TEEN APPS..............................p. 1281

indie INDEX TO STARRED REVIEWS...................................................p. 1285 REVIEWS........................................................................................p. 1285 WORKING WITH INDIE BOOKSELLERS...................................................................p. 1291

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Rinsai Rossetti delivers a strikingly original and oh-so-satisfying romance that takes readers to a dusty oasis and far, far beyond. See starred review on page 1274.

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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:

Don Winslow James Joyce Best New Mysteries and Thrillers 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

As election season heats up, so does the coverage. Books about Obama continue to be hot topics, and the latest from David Maraniss is no exception. In Barack Obama: The Story, the Washington Post editor tackles our Commander in Chief ’s past, which should be of some help, ahem, in putting those birth certificate rumors to rest. We called it “an exhaustive, respectful study of the president’s ‘shattered genealogy,’ from Kansas to Kenya, Hawaii to Indonesia…Maraniss stresses that Obama’s Muslim ancestors encompass only one facet to his complex, fascinating makeup. Another in the author’s line of authoritative biographies.” Maraniss discusses his book online.

Is there anyone in the world who isn’t in a ter-

rible rush to get somewhere, do something, see someone? We pay a price for the mad hurry that is life today, from mild jitters to debilitating stress to the inability to remember or focus on much of anything. Frank Partnoy, a close student of things financial (Infectious Greed, 2003), turns his attention to the pace of life, and its psychological and social implications in his Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. We called it in a starred review, “A fascinating addition to the study 1194

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on the web

of decision-making. File alongside Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely, Jonah Lehrer and other similar writers.” Read our interview with Partnoy online.

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If it’s a comical tale of woes, miseries and life events you’re angling for, then pick up Tim Kreider’s latest book of essays, We Learn Nothing. The political cartoonist and New York Times contributor has wrangled up a book on his many misadventures and missteps, including attending a Tea Party rally; breaking up with a friend over his obsession with “peak oil”; and reconnecting with a friend who has undergone a sex-change operation. While many of Kreider’s life events are unlikely to happen to the rest of us, it’s funny and heartwarming fare that will appeal to anyone interested in the little—and big—changes we encounter as we go through life. We called it, “earnest, well-turned personal essays about screwups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick.” Kreider talks to us online about his new book. Want more news on summer reads? Our book bloggers weigh in on what’s hot—and not—online only. SF Signal and Book Smugglers take on science fiction and fantasy; The Rap Sheet brings you the best in mysteries and thrillers; and Bookshelves of Doom and Seven Impossible Things have all the latest and greatest on what the kids want. And it’s all only online at kirkusreviews.com/blog.

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

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fiction A PLACE IN THE COUNTRY

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Adler, Elizabeth St. Martin’s (384 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-312-66836-5

THE DREAM OF THE CELT by Mario Vargas Llosa....................p. 1213 HOSTAGE by Elie Wiesel.............................................................. p. 1214

THE DREAM OF THE CELT

Vargas Llosa, Mario Translated by Grossman, Edith Farrar, Straus and Giroux (368 pp.) $28.00 Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-374-14346-6

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Another over-the-top romantic suspense novel from the author of It All Began In Monte Carlo (2010, etc.). Following the collapse of her 16-year marriage to wealthy businessman James Evans, divorcee Caroline Evans and her sullen teenage daughter travel the English countryside searching for a new home. Having lived a life of leisure in Singapore, but now low on funds and quite determined to carve out a new life, Caroline buys an old ramshackle place that was once a bar and grill. Caroline, a trained chef, finds rooms and employment at a local establishment while renovation work is done on her place, and she and the proprietors become fast friends. As work on her property progresses, the complications and stereotypical characters begin to pile up while the beautiful Caroline collects suitors. A rain-soaked James appears on her doorstep and then quickly disappears as Caroline’s attraction to a younger man heats up. James’ business partner, who has loved her for years, invests in her business, and a gruff yet protective Russian artisan pursues her. James—Caroline was his third wife—wasn’t exactly faithful during his marriage to her. In addition to his liaison with a younger woman named Melanie, James also has a relationship with a Chinese businesswoman, Gayle Lee Chen, who has steered him into the seamy underbelly of Singapore’s criminal life. Issy, too, is struggling with typical teenage problems, but, luckily, Caroline’s hip, wise and extremely understanding parents step in to provide guidance. Adler, a veteran writer, pens beautifully descriptive phrases depicting the setting and the physical details of the book’s many characters, but one important element of the story falls short: an improbable plot that’s padded with references to money laundering, Ponzi schemes, Chinese mobsters and suspicious deaths, among the mawkish lessons about love and forgiveness. Adler, much like an inexperienced cook, has thrown everything she finds into the pot. Instead of creating a reasonably tasty dish, she’s dished up some unpalatable mush. (Agent: Anne Sibbald)

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“While Ampuero depicts Neruda warts and all, he still clearly admires his complex and demanding humanness.” from the neruda case

THE NERUDA CASE

Ampuero, Roberto Riverhead (352 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 14, 2012 978-1-59448-743-9

If the title sounds like something out of detective fiction, it is—for Ampuero asks us to consider the hypothetical possibility that Pablo Neruda, terminally ill, hires someone to track down a former lover. This someone—Cayetano Brulé—is not even a professional detective but rather a Cuban who’s casually met the aging Neruda at a party in 1973. Neruda had previously hired several professional detectives to pursue the elusive quarry, and not only have they all failed, but they’ve tried to defraud him as well. Brulé takes up the task in homage to a poet he reveres, and he even starts reading Georges Simenon novels for inspiration. At first Neruda disguises Brulé’s mission by asking him to find Dr. Ángel Bracamonte, who through his knowledge of herbal medicine might supposedly be able to cure Neruda, now dying of cancer. But the real reason Brulé takes up—and fumbles through—his first case is to locate Bracamonte’s wife Beatriz, a dazzling beauty from the 1940s. Neruda not only knew the Bracamontes 30 years earlier, he was also Beatriz’s lover and might be the father of their daughter, Tina. Neruda has Brulé chase down cryptic clues that lead him to Cuba, Bolivia and East Germany. Four of the five chapters in the novel are named after Neruda’s wives or lovers, from the exotic Josie Bliss to the dancer Matilde Urrutia, and within these chapters Ampuero fantasizes a first-person “reminiscence” that Neruda might plausibly have had. The action of Brulé’s discoveries is played out against the growing political tension that leads to the overthrow of Allende and the beginnings of the political oppression of Augusto Pinochet, a coup that Neruda survived by only 17 days. While Ampuero depicts Neruda warts and all, he still clearly admires his complex and demanding humanness.

GUN DEALERS’ DAUGHTER

Apostol, Gina Norton (224 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 9, 2012 978-0-393-06294-6

The stilted reminiscences of a daughter of privilege from the Philippines whose naïve acts of rebellion teach her a tough life lesson. In her third novel, award-winning, Manila-born Apostol delivers a sketchy history of her country’s politics from the solipsistic perspective of a “spoiled brat,” Soledad Soliman, now recovering from a mental breakdown in her family’s luxurious New York mansion. The child of arms dealers, Sol spent the 1970s in the U.S., avoiding the violence at home. Returning to Manila, to a life lived 1196

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among the elite, she had plans for a foreign education, but illness intervened and instead she attended a local college where she met a political crowd including another Soledad (this one a Maoist) and her wealthy boyfriend Jed. Sol’s attraction to Jed leads to an affair conducted during evening graffiti raids, but her wish to join the political group is compromised by her parents’ business, which props up the military government. Helping Jed steal arms from her parents’ warehouse, she colludes in a plot to assassinate a U.S. counterinsurgency expert, an operation which succeeds but reveals in its aftermath that life is a much dirtier business than she knew. The central character’s inexhaustible fragility and selfpity test the reader’s patience in this awkwardly-phrased parable of realpolitik.

LOVERS

Arsand, Daniel Translated by Curtis, Howard Europa Editions (144 pp.) $14.00 paperback | May 31, 2012 978-1-60945-071-7 Gay love and sacrificial death in prerevolutionary France; a minimalist offering from the French author (The Land of Darkness, 2001, etc.). Sébastien is a 15-year-old goatherd. Balthazar is a Prince, a courtier at Versailles. He is riding in the country with friends when his horse throws him. He appears unconscious. Sébastien, who has inherited his mother’s herbal knowledge, revives him with plant dust, murmuring “I am yours.” Attraction; initiation; union; separation. This will be the arc of their experience. The illiterate peasant and the worldly nobleman are both virgins, but they know their destiny. One year later, 1750, Balthazar returns, pacifies the father with gold crowns, removes Sébastien to his chateau and installs him in a chalet. His widowed mother, the Princess Anne, is forced to accept the situation. The men become lovers (no details). Versailles seethes with malicious gossip. They say Balthazar is a sodomite, a rebel, an alchemist. Arsand has taken the novel of transgressive love and distilled it into a hundred short takes. Images of heedless love and societal oppression substitute for character complexity and development. The Prince has an early vision of them burning to death together. He seals his fate when he refuses the King’s summons to appear at court. Sébastien, excited by rough trade in taverns, has been unfaithful to him, but their love endures. The Prince is taken by force from the chateau. In a last bid to save her son, Anne organizes a ball; nobody shows. Balthazar is tried and burnt at the stake. From beyond the grave, he prompts Sébastien to cause his own fiery death, but not before his lover has become embroiled in a new liaison with a married man. The ensuing soap opera exemplifies Arsand’s love of snapshots (a jealous spouse, an ax murder), but is a distraction from the main storyline. The momentous content doesn’t quite fit in this straitjacket form.

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SWIMMING TO ELBA

Avallone, Silvia Translated by Shugaar, Antony Viking (320 pp.) $25.95 | Jun. 18, 2012 978-0-670-02358-5 Who can help two young women escape the gravitational pull of their hometown? Can they rely on each other, or will they have to separate and trust others? Avallone’s debut novel tells an uneasy coming-of-age story. On the cusp of 14, on the cusp of young womanhood, best friends Anna and Francesca delight in their changing bodies. And so do all the men in town. Whether flaunting their assets in bikinis, sneaking into cabanas with boys, or performing a daily morning striptease, the girls revel in drawing as much attention to themselves as possible. Indeed, Avallone’s imagery incessantly sexualizes everything from the girls’ bodies to the machinery of the steel mills. Yet, as Francesca’s father and Anna’s older brother worry about the girls’ provocative behavior, they also struggle against economic disparity. Their own crowded shores of Piombino are littered with trash and drugs, while opposite, the pristinely white beaches of Elba beckon. Anna and Francesca will soon have to choose: work in the steel mills, marry a steel worker, or somehow escape to Elba. Staying in Piombino holds little attraction, particularly given the models of their own parents’ marriages: Francesca’s father is an abusive drunkard while Anna’s is a con artist, yet neither mother seems able to leave. Soon a complex constellation of adolescent pressures pushes the girls apart. Anna explores a relationship with her older brother’s friend, Mattia. Francesca becomes drawn into the vortex of the darker underbelly of Piombina, including fake girlfriends, lascivious older men and degrading behavior. A chance meeting on Corso Italia, however, forces the girls to realize that they belong together. Yet how can they shed the false friends, bad influences and familial troubles? How can they find their way back to each other and the dreams they shared at the beginning of the summer? A beach read for strong-willed, independent souls.

any information about where he might pass the night. Left to his own devices, the Investigator finds the mordantly misnamed Hope Hotel, where a Giantess forces him to review an exhaustive list of hotel policies before she gives him the key to a room where he collapses for the night. In the morning, the Server at the hotel restaurant won’t give him tea, toast or orange juice, and the Policeman he meets over his nonbreakfast ends up questioning him. When he arrives at the Enterprise, predictably without the identification he left at the Hope, he gets little cooperation from the Guard, the Guide and especially the Manager, who’s cordial enough but also insecure, delusional and prone to hysterical fits. After spending a second night passed out in the Enterprise, the Investigator finds all the functionaries who posed such obstacles yesterday so solicitous that the effect is even more disturbing. By this time Claudel (Brodeck, 2009, etc.) has long since made it clear that in this investigation, it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive. A technocratic Kafka nightmare—heavy on surreal diagnosis of the world’s ills, light on the traditional rewards of storytelling—crossed with Alice in Wonderland and a hint of Buster Keaton.

THE INVESTIGATION

Claudel, Philippe Translated by Cullen, John Talese/Doubleday (240 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-385-53534-2 A spare, dystopian fable that examines how closely contemporary life has caught up to Kafka since the publication of The Castle. No one comes to meet the nameless Investigator when a train lets him off at a nameless city. So it’s long after dark by the time he arrives at the Enterprise, where he’s been sent to look into a series of 20 suicides over the past year. A disembodied voice refuses to admit him so late and declines to give him |

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“A man grows increasingly convinced the ghost of his son haunts his previous home in this fast-paced suburban gothic tale.” from you came back

YOU CAME BACK

Coake, Christopher Grand Central Publishing (432 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4555-0670-5

A man grows increasingly convinced the ghost of his son haunts his previous home in this fast-paced suburban gothic tale. The debut novel by PEN/Bingham Award winner Coake (Creative Writing/U. of Nevada; stories: We’re in Trouble, 2005) opens with its hero, Mark, increasingly harassed by Connie, who owns the house where his son, Brendan, died years before in a fall that snapped his neck. Mark is eager to move on with his life, preparing to marry his fiancee, Allison, and cutting the cord with Brendan’s mother, Chloe. But Connie insists Brendan is “present” in the home, and Chloe is so bereaved she’s inclined to investigate. The plot hinges on making even the slightest possibility of a haunting seem credible, and Coake stretches out the story to sell that point, shuttling Mark between skepticism and belief. That makes for some wheel-spinning pages, and as a ghost story the novel feels restrained and low on chills. But Coake is expert at defining character: As Mark does all that waffling (and revisits his old drinking habit), he opens up to himself about the feelings of guilt and loss that have tormented him since Brendan died. And though the story is dialogue-heavy and engineered as a page-turner, Coake never lets the story move so fast that he can’t deliver an elegant, forceful observation about the ways couples (and exes) parry with each other as they struggle to get along. Our pasts have ways of worming into us if we fail to confront them, Coake argues—if ghosts aren’t actually real, they have a metaphorical power that makes them effectively real. The ghost question is definitively settled in the closing pages, but it’s the relationships between Mark and the two understandably frustrated women in his life that linger. An overlong but potent story, balancing supernatural gloom and marital conflict. (Agent: Marian Young)

WALLFLOWER IN BLOOM

Cook, Claire Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-7276-3 Cook, author of the bestselling Must Love Dogs (2002), delivers a minor comedy featuring a trod-upon woman who finds herself a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Deirdre has a bit of a jet-setter’s life: As personal assistant to Tag (one name only, please), a wildly popular self-help guru, she flies around the country, stays in chic hotels and lives in an adorable cottage on Tag’s well-appointed estate. The only problem is that Tag is her older brother, and her job feels like an extension of her childhood, with Tag always 1198

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bossing her around. Tag was the star then too, and life for Deirdre got stuck a couple of decades ago. At an event in Texas, she’s finally had enough: Tag is his usual self-centered self as he sabotages a first kiss between Deirdre and Steve, an old college friend of Tag’s. Deirdre quits, flies back home to Massachusetts, and runs into Mitchell, her on-again, off-again, marriage-shy boyfriend, who breaks the news he’s getting married to his pregnant girlfriend. Like any rational woman, Deirdre goes home and gets drunk. While in such a state, she signs up to become Dancing with the Stars’ first noncelebrity contestant (people vote for the winner online). But Deirdre has a huge advantage—Tag’s hundreds of thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers, who she cleverly enlists by pretending to be Tag. She wins by a landslide and is soon in L.A. practicing with Ilya. Meanwhile, no one is running Tag’s empire, and the family, all employed by Tag (including both his ex-wives), wants Deirdre back. Can Deirdre find an identity away from her family? Can she get past the first round of the competition? There are few surprises here (though there is some insider DWTS trivia), so much is left to Cook’s ability to charm the reader, which she does most of the time. Amiable fluff for poolside. (Agent: Lisa Bankoff)

WE ONLY KNOW SO MUCH

Crane, Elizabeth Perennial/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $14.99 paperback | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-06-209947-1

Crane delivers a unique and dizzying tale that delves into the emotional life of a family teetering on the brink of everything. Best known for her three short story collections, Crane (You Must Be This Happy to Enter, 2008, etc.) graduates to novels with a surprisingly centered and cohesive debut about a family that is, as their self-centered teenage daughter would phrase it, “losing their shit.” Our most promising and emotionally truthful character is Jean Copeland, seemingly dutiful wife to husband Gordon and equally devoted mother to teenage daughter Priscilla and 9-year-old romantic Otis. But we soon learn that life in the Copeland family is not at all what it might seem on the surface. In fact, Jean is having a joyful affair with James, a member of her book club who quietly suffers from disabling depression. Gordon is dealing with his own challenges, as the self-professed expert in nearly everything is rapidly losing his memory. Priscilla thinks her future lies in reality TV shows, but that’s mostly beside the point—“First of all, Priscilla is a bitch,” Crane candidly writes. Otis’ story is sweetest as he pines away for a classmate, toiling away at heart-shaped crosswords to win her heart. The beauty in Crane’s novel is her sweep from acid commentary to heartfelt portrayal of real-life loves and losses. “Review: difficult daughter, know-it-all dad, son sweet and okay if a little weird, mom delayed potential/having affair, great grand-mother bitchy, granddad losing it. So we know where we’re starting,” writes Crane. But Crane’s offhand style is woven seamlessly

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with heartbreaking arcs like the suicide of Jean’s lover, Gordon’s inappropriate Facebook stalking of a former classmate, and Jean’s elegant dismissal of her daughter’s drama. “God didn’t punk you, daughter,” adds Jean in an internal monologue. “Life is what you make it. Nobody knows this better than me.” Life in a snow globe made from dashed dreams and misunderstandings.

THE SACRIFICE GAME

D’Amato, Brian Dutton (672 pp.) $29.95 | Jun. 28, 2012 978-0-525-95241-1

The world’s going to end in 2012. It’s not? Well, don’t let the homicidal Maya who figures in the pages of D’Amato’s (Beauty, 1992, etc.) latest futuristic/apocalyptic/sci-fi thriller know.

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Now, the Mayan calendar runs out in 2012—and even if it’s lately been discovered that they cooked up a calendar that gives us a few thousand more years, said “ethnic Maya, a twenty-firstcentury descendant of those guys who built all those palaces in Mexico and Guatemala with the big wacko pyramids with the scary stairs,” young Joachim “Jed” Carlos Xul Mixoc DeLanda really wouldn’t mind if the crawling anthill that is the human world disappeared. “Life sucks,” he sighs. He knows more about it than most, having been sent back in time to save the world from one prophecy, only to decide that the world may not deserve saving. World-weary Jed’s got other world-savers on his trail, including a cool chick named Marena, who calls him as she sees him: “You’re what shit would shit if it could shit.” Never mind the scatological scurrilousness: everyone in D’Amato’s sprawling, busy novel has a job to do in playing the big, elaborate game that will decide the world’s fate. It helps to have a little knowledge of things Mayan to read it, and it helps to be a little geeky—geeky enough, for one thing, to be able to call up in your mind’s eye what the board of the old game Kriegspiel looked like. D’Amato is both funny and brittle, often both at

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“A lively narrative with a poignant core and quirky, lonely characters.” from the revised fundamentals of caregiving

once, as when he remarks of one bright, young thing, “She could end up like Jesus and be dead for a hundred years before the franchise really got going.” Hallucinatory and goofy, D’Amato’s yarn is a kind of Game of Thrones for those who prize jungles more than castles, and if it’s improbable in the extreme, it’s a pleasing and well-thought-through epic. But not one without loose ends that’ll take a sequel to tie up. Stay tuned for this literate end-of-the-world saga to continue—and well beyond 2012, come to think of it. (Blackand-white line art)

THE GIRL GIANT

den Hartog, Kristen Simon & Schuster (240 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-5617-6 The delicately-drawn portrait of an unlikely, fragile family comprising English war bride Elspeth, Canadian postman James and their giant daughter Ruth. Compassion radiates from Canadian novelist and memoirist den Hartog’s (The Occupied Garden, 2009, etc.) third work of fiction, a novella that considers what it is that makes an individual special. James Brennan, traumatized by his World War II experiences, meets Elspeth—whose parents and brother all died in the conflict—in an English hat shop and falls in love. Married and settled in a Canadian mill town, the couple delights in their first and only child, Ruth, but the baby develops at an abnormal rate, outgrowing first her clothes, later the house, yet Elspeth resists James’ suggestion that they seek a second medical opinion. So Ruth, getting endlessly bigger, grows up lonely, mocked at school, desperate for friendship, until unreliable Suzy moves in next door and Ruth discovers the joy of companionship. When a family bereavement calls Elspeth back to England, James goes off the rails and Ruth, treated unkindly by Suzy, ends up in the hospital, where her condition is finally diagnosed. Innocent and dreamy, combining fairy tale and true giants in history, den Hartog’s simple story offers a sweetly insightful mix of anguish and tenderness.

WINDEYE

Evenson, Brian Coffee House (176 pp.) $16.00 paperback | $9.99 e-book Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-56689-298-8 978-1-56689-307-7 e-book Twenty-five slices of the grotesque, the macabre and beyond from a gifted literary novelist with an eye for all things horrible. Evenson’s latest (Immobility, 2012, etc.) is a great introduction to his unique mindset, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The title story is a good example, a short 1200

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portrait of a boy who loves, above all things, his sister, who is, one day, inexplicably gone, unremembered by everyone except the boy. Other works seem to echo the anxiety of Edgar Allen Poe, as in the confessional “Angel of Death,” whose narrator confesses, “Questions have begun to plague me. About where I am, what I am doing here, where are we going. As I have not even the faintest most tentative of answers to them, I find I have no idea how to entertain them.” A pair of stories offer metaphysical takes on the physical presence of “The Absent Eye” and “The Other Ear.” There are a couple of great procedurals as well, “The Moldau Case” and “The Sladen Suit,” that lend a sense of humor to their ever-so-serious proceedings. And there is no funnier story here than “Bon Scott: The Choir Years,” in which an enterprising rock journalist discovers secret information outing the late lead singer of AC/DC as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. A unique collection, proving that Evenson is as deft at moving between genres as a ghost passing through a wall.

THE REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CAREGIVING

Evison, Jonathan Algonquin $24.95 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-1-6162-0039-8

Evison manages to find considerable humor in this plaintive story of care giving and receiving. Narrator Ben Benjamin is greatly in need of caregiving himself, so he doesn’t have much left for Trev, his adolescent charge, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. Ben has learned everything about his job from The Fundamentals of Caregiving, a book generous in providing acronyms meant to be helpful (for example, ALOHA: Ask Listen Observe Help Ask again) but scanty in providing practical advice. He takes the job of caring for Trev because—well, frankly because he’s broke, he’s responsible for a family tragedy, and his wife has left him, so the minimum wage job has a desperate appeal. Ben finds that providing care for Trev helps give his life some purpose. Trev’s father, Bob, had deserted his family years before, shortly after the diagnosis of MD was made, but he’s now making some attempts to get back in touch with his son, though Trev resolutely rebuffs him. Then Elsa, Trev’s mother, finds out that Bob has been in a car accident in Salt Lake City, and against her wishes, Ben decides to take Trev on a road trip to see him, a trip that becomes more an end in itself than a means to see how Bob is doing. Along the way from Oregon to Utah they pass through towns, pick up Dot, a punky but goodhearted girl, befriend Elton and his acutely pregnant girlfriend, Peaches, and are followed by a mysterious man in a Skylark. Ben expects the mystery man to be a private detective his estranged wife has set on him, but he turns out to be someone quite different. A lively narrative with a poignant core and quirky, lonely characters.

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HARRY LIPKIN, PRIVATE EYE

Fantoni, Barry Doubleday (224 pp.) $24.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-385-53610-3

A 70-something widow whose trinkets have started to go missing from her Coral Gables home hires an 80-something detective to find out who took them. “I might not be the best but I am certainly the oldest,” says Harry Lipkin, 87, who’s toiled as a private investigator longer than you’ve been alive. Relocated from Miami to Warmheart, Fla., Harry now works out of his house, but he works just as hard at everything except picking up the slate tiles that have been falling off his roof. So he’s a logical choice for Norma Weinberger when something happens to her house keys and her fan, her pillbox and her jade necklace. The suspects, who might have stepped out of a game of Clue, include her driver, Rufus Davenport; her maid, Maria Lopez; her inscrutable Chinese butler, Mr. Lee; her cook, Amos Moses, an Ethiopian Jew; and her doper/Zen/hipster gardener, Steve. As in the Golden Age stories Fantoni (Mike Dime, 1984, etc.) is sending up, they’re all hiding secrets, but none of the secrets makes it obvious that any of them is the thief. As the stakes mount (a diamond brooch vanishes, followed by the Weinberger love letters, and Harry gets threatened by someone who turns out to be in much greater danger himself), Harry questions witnesses and compiles a list to determine whose motive is most compelling, but his list leads nowhere. Neither does a trap he baits with an emerald necklace. How can Harry vindicate his honorable profession? The mystery won’t fool anyone who’s read the same books Fantoni has, but Harry’s digressive narration provides a good deal of gentle fun.

she must learn how to juggle parenting, career and friendships. She must make decisions that are difficult and painful at times, but with these feelings are moments of exhilaration and selffulfillment. Her 14-year-old daughter, Magnolia, has entered the difficult stage so many parents have trouble understanding, and Eve is caught between wanting to allow her daughter the independence she demands while still trying to protect her from the greater evils of the world. Her son, Danny, 8, remains blessedly naïve and sweet, but he spends hours playing video games and takes little interest in other activities. Meanwhile, Eric remains in Arizona, and Eve ignores his efforts to communicate with her. And, once confident in her career, Eve now worries that she is not doing enough to help her clients. The author’s portrayal of Eve as a woman who has no choice but to muddle through and do the best she can will resonate with many women who have been in, or are going through, similar circumstances. Hanauer delivers a novel that is rich with relatable characters, realistic in its approach and highly readable. (Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan)

GONE

Hanauer, Cathi Atria (432 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-4516-2641-4 Family dynamics change when a husband abandons his wife and two children. Nutritionist Eve Adams has gradually become her family’s primary emotional and financial support while husband Eric struggles with his identity as an artist, businessperson and family man. Following an evening out to celebrate Eve’s successful publication of a book, Eric volunteers to drive the baby sitter back to her apartment. Instead of returning home, however, he embarks on a cross-country trip from Massachusetts to Arizona to deliver the baby sitter to her terminally ill mother and to visit his own mother. Like many women in her position, Eve is forced to come to terms with her new role. Now, she truly is in charge of her family’s future, and |

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“Johnson’s novel speaks to race, class and culture; white, black, Hispanic and immigrant; the world as it is, and as it should be.” from elsewhere, california

ELSEWHERE, CALIFORNIA

Johnson, Dana Counterpoint (304 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-58243-784-2

When her father’s passion for a better life moved the family from Los Angeles’ 80th Street to West Covina, Avery Arlington liked the suburb’s “promised stellar living.” Now she’s not so sure. Avery, once in suburbia, disconnects, pulled toward angst and rebellion by her new best friend, Brenna, yet ensnared by the hard-line rules of her über-strict parents. Brenna is white, Avery African-American. Also in the mix: Avery’s cousin, Keith, flitting between Avery’s home and his single mother’s house in Victorville—and between trouble and rebellion. The story shifts between Avery’s childhood, descriptions and dialogue redolent of the rural south and of the ’hood, and the present day. Adult Avery lives in a Schnabel house wannabe in the moneyed hills of West Los Angeles. Avery graduated from USC—Johnson’s comprehension of poor girl among the rich is superb—and satisfied her parents’ ambitions. Soon after, she met and moved in with Massimo, an Italian immigrant and successful attorney. Avery holds a business degree, but her passion is art, both painting and collage, metaphorically symbolic of her self-constructed life, “putting together all my pieces of discarded things.” As much as Avery’s art represents the self she constructed, the shadow of Keith, thief and drug addict, hanging over and haunting her life, represents the oppression of choice, success and failure. Johnson’s novel speaks to race, class and culture; white, black, Hispanic and immigrant; the world as it is, and as it should be. Meditative literary fiction, a near-dream-state reflection on the duality of life.

A LADY CYCLIST’S GUIDE TO KASHGAR

Joinson, Suzanne Bloomsbury (384 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-60819-811-5

British first-time novelist Joinson intersperses a missionary’s adventures along the war-torn Silk Road to China in 1923 with a young woman’s more mundane travails in modern-day London. Eva has accompanied her younger sister Lizzie, a talented photographer, and Lizzie’s domineering religious mentor Millicent to Asia in 1923 without missionary zeal but in search of adventure. Traveling by bicycle, Eva keeps a notebook she hopes to turn into a book about the journey. After the mother of a baby Millicent has delivered dies, the three British women are placed under house arrest in the Muslim city of Kashgar. As their safety deteriorates, Eva becomes uncomfortably aware 1202

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of raw sexual tension between emotionally fragile, epileptic Lizzie and authoritarian, religiously fanatic Millicent. Millicent sloughs responsibility for the orphaned infant, called Ai-Lien, onto Eva. Initially, Eva resents the responsibility but soon becomes a passionately devoted mother. Shift to London and Frieda, a think-tank specialist on Islamic youth. Just returned from a researching trip in an unnamed Middle Eastern country in turmoil, Frieda realizes that her five-year affair with her married lover may be ending and learns that she has been named as the only relative and beneficiary in the will of a dead woman named Irene Guy. Eva has never heard of her. Having befriended Tayeb, a homeless Sudanese filmmaker with an expired visa who has been camping out in her hallway, Eva suggests he stay in Irene’s now vacant flat. Slowly Frieda and Eva’s connections are revealed. Each struggles to find her voice and independence despite social pressures. Each must define love for herself, even if it defies convention. Not only do the exotic locale and life-and-death violence make Eva’s story more riveting than Frieda’s, but she is also a more compelling heroine; her life defies formulaic expectations, while Frieda’s romantic evolution is familiar to any reader of women’s fiction. As often happens in novels that travel between past and present, the past sparkles while the present pales.

THE HEADMASTER’S WAGER

Lam, Vincent Hogarth/Crown (416 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-307-98646-7

The Chinese headmaster of an English language academy tries to keep body, soul and school together in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Chen Pie Sou, also known as Percival, is supremely aware of being an outsider. His father had moved to Vietnam in the 1930s to start a new life in the rice trade, and when that dried up during the Japanese occupation, his son eventually decided to go in a new direction. Although Percival’s marriage to his socially superior wife, Cecilia, began in derision and ended in failure, he had a son, Dai Jai, that he doted on. The novel opens with Dai Jai as a young man, flouting the recent edict that forces the teaching of Vietnamese at the school. Percival has always taught his son to assert himself, but his Chinese identity turns out to be dangerous in Saigon in the 1960s, so Percival smuggles Dai Jai out of the country and back to China. Percival also feels his son might be getting too close to Vietnamese girls, and he wants to ensure that his son chooses a Chinese wife. With Dai Jai gone, Percival takes up with an extremely attractive student, Jacqueline, who’s half-French and half-Vietnamese. They begin a fiery affair that culminates in her pregnancy. She gives birth a month before her time, precisely at the explosion of the Tet Offensive in 1968, when Percival is on a Viet Cong list of those to be assassinated as a collaborator with the Americans, and while he escapes this time, further revelations are in store—that Bak, his faithful

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friend and employee since the Japanese occupation, is actually in league with the Viet Cong, has been spying on Percival, and has encouraged graduates of the school to work with the Viet Cong to intercept and translate American military orders. Lam writes tellingly about intrigue, political collusion and the clash of cultures. (Author tour to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. Agent: Christie Fletcher)

CAPITAL

Lanchester, John Norton (528 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 11, 2012 978-0-393-08207-4 Elegant, elegiac, eloquent novel of London life in the time when things lolly-related are definitively beginning to fall to pieces. Pepys Road was once such a nice street, a place destroyed by a V-2 rocket in World War II and rebuilt in such a way that aspirational veterans and young people could buy a stake in the British Dream. But that was then. Now, in 2007, after boom and bust and boom and bust, in a time of “bonuses which were big multiples of the national average salary, and a general climate of hysteria [that] affected everything to do with house prices”—well, only the rich can afford to buy in, and the old-timers are increasingly besieged. One of them is the well-heeled and pound-laden banker around whom Lanchester’s (Fragrant Harbor, 2002, etc.) novel, as leisurely and complex as an Edith Wharton yarn, turns. But even he is much put-out, since his wife can’t seem to get it in her head that money is not simply a thing to be spent at every waking moment. Meanwhile, from out in the darkness, messages are raining down, vaguely threatening, saying, “We want what you have.” Ah, but practically everyone in this book wants everything, and those who don’t want at least something that they don’t have, from lost youth to a little peace and quiet. Who are the authors of these mystery demands? One thing that DI Mill (think, fleetingly, of John Stuart) concludes is that, first, they’re not Nigerians or Kosovars or Eskimos, and second, though capable of better things, he’s glad to have the distraction, even if “when he was doing routine repetitive work, that it was the equivalent of harnessing a racehorse to a plough.” Mill finds plenty to do, and so does Roger, our banker, who’s got a financial empire to save on top of his own bankbook and marriage. An expertly written novel of modern manners, with moments that read as if David Lodge or Malcolm Bradbury had stepped out of academia to take on the world of money and power. (Author tour to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia)

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THEFT

Loren, BK Counterpoint (224 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-58243-819-1 In Loren’s debut literary fiction, Zeb Robbins and his sister Willa are products of the wild western mountains, where “not fitting in was the only way to fit in.” Willa is a wildlife researcher, monitoring Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico’s Días de Ojos National Forest. Zeb, a chronic thief during childhood, drives a truck, but he prefers his cabin, his horses, his hunting bow and the forests of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The story switches from present day back to the pair’s childhood. Nearly raising themselves, Zeb and Willa provide care and support for their mother. Stoic, somewhat bitter over being relegated to a tract house adjoining her family’s farm (seized by eminent domain), the mother is incapacitated by Parkinson’s disease. Their father is on the road much of the time or working more than one job, unaware of Zeb’s thefts, Willa’s complicity and his children’s chronic problems with a neighbor who abuses his wife. Loren switches points of view from Willa to Zeb and sometimes to Brenda, childhood friend and later, Zeb’s lover. Brenda is Native American, adopted into a neighborhood family. Her natural father, Raymond, enters the story and offers another perspective on the reintroduction of the nearly extinct wolf. Zeb’s outlier behavior, “living on an edge sharp enough that it toughened his own skin but left his insides shredded and vulnerable and tired,” is wonderfully drawn, as is the powerful bond between the siblings. For reasons worthy of speculation, Zeb confesses to a longago murder, and a Colorado sheriff demands that Willa, a master tracker, trail Zeb into the mountains. The mood and myth and magic of the high country, especially Willa’s life atop an isolated mesa and Zeb’s mountain refuge, will resonate with those who love the American southwest. A literary narrative encompassing the bonds of family, the echo of tragedy, as well as love and acceptance, played out against a fragile yet enduring natural world.

HUNT THE WOLF

Mann, Don with Pezzullo, Ralph Little, Brown (320 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-316-20959-5 A year ago, a team of Navy SEALs impressed the world by killing Osama bin Laden. In this book, the SEALs go a few steps further by capturing a leading terrorist, breaking up a sex-trafficking ring and scaling K2 for good measure; all in a few days with little apparent food or sleep. Far-fetched but fast-moving, former SEAL commando Mann’s debut novel is essentially a series of action scenes strung

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F I C T I O N

Top 10 Fantasy Novels by Female Authors (inspired by The Killing Moon) B Y T H E A JA M E S

On May 1, Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award nominated author N.K. Jemisin released The Killing Moon, the first book in her highly anticipated new fantasy series, the Dreamblood duology. True to form, Jemisin’s new novel, set in an ancient-Egypt— inspired world and featuring a diverse cast of characters including an apprentice dream gatherer, a cunning diplomat and the equivalent of a ninja priest, is absolutely stunning. The Killing Moon is easily one of the best new releases we’ve had the pleasure of reading so far in 2012. 1204

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Inspired by Jemisin’s truly excellent writing, we’ve decided to compile a list of similarly awesome fantasy books written by similarly spectacular female authors. If you, like us, have read The Killing Moon and want more female-authored fantasy, look no further. Behold! Our Top 10 FemalePenned Fantasy novels/series:

1. THE KUSHIEL’S LEGACY AND NAMAAH’S BLESSING SERIES by Jacqueline Carey

Carey’s lush prose, stunningly comprehensive worldbuilding and passionate characters define the Kushiel and Namaah books. Spanning three separate trilogies, following three different protagonists, the Terre D’Ange canon is among the finest in all of fantasy literature. Ignore the terrible covers and give Kushiel’s Dart a try.

2. THE SEVENWATERS SAGA

by Juliet Marillier

Rich with Irish folklore and steeped in magic and romance, Marillier’s ongoing Sevenwaters Saga is beauty on the page. Start with Daughter of the Forest, a Celtic retelling of the Six Swans fairy tale.

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3. THE RAKSURA BOOKS by Martha Wells

We’ve only recently discovered Wells’ books and have since been glomming her backlist (recently, we discovered the brilliant Wheel of the Infinite), but The Cloud Roads is where it all started. Featuring innovative worldbuilding, genderbending politics and thrilling action sequences, the Raksura series has it all.

4. THE CITY IN THE LAKE

by Rachel Neumeier

Neumeier’s scope for characters and creatures is nigh unparalleled, as seen in her Griffin Mage trilogy and her more recent release of The Floating Islands. That said, our favorite book by the talented author is her breathtaking dark fairy tale, The City in the Lake. Once you’ve read that, you can run through Neumeier’s backlist.


5. THE QUEEN’S THIEF BOOKS

And because we cannot resist cheating just a little bit more, here are a few crossover female fantasy authors that are unforgivably under-read: Celine Kiernan, Cinda Williams Chima, Freda Warrington, Heather Tomlinson, Leah Cypess and Sherwood Smith. Look them up. You won’t regret it.

by Megan Whalen Turner

Mythology, politics, unreliable narrators (as well as a changing narrative with each subsequent book) plus an unforgettable cast of characters make the Queen’s Thief a phenomenal series. Start the journey with Gen in The Thief.

9 Thea James is half of the maniacal book review duo behind The Book Smugglers and a newly minted M.S. in digital publishing graduate. When she isn’t voraciously devouring the latest and greatest in speculative fiction, or swamped in papers and proposals, she can be found blogging, watching bad horror movies and concocting general plans toward world domination.

6. THE SPIRITWALKER TRILOGY by Kate Elliott

A more contemporary trilogy from seasoned fantasy author Elliott, the Spiritwalker books follow a girl gifted with the ability to move between worlds, as she tries to uphold her family honor and save her powerful sister from certain death. Exciting, action-filled and romantic, Cold Magic is one of the best starts to a new fantasy trilogy that we’ve read in a while.

7. THE INHERITANCE TRILOGY by N.K. Jemisin

OK, so maybe we are cheating by bringing up Jemisin’s books twice, but the Inheritance Trilogy is so brilliant, it warrants breaking the rules because of its unique mythology, beautifully developed stories and great female characters.

8. A DIRGE FOR PRESTER JOHN BOOKS

by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente has a gift for creating matryoshka dolls, palimpsests of novels—that is, her work folds stories within stories within stories. With her take on the historical, legendary figure of Prester John, Valente proves again her gift for wordsmithing, intricate storytelling and her flair for ineffable fantasy.

9. THE HEROES SERIES by Moira J. Moore

Cursed with perhaps the most terrible covers of all time, Moore’s books are the perfect example of the old adage: DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER! This fantasy series, set in a world where the climate is controlled and manipulated by “Sources” (who channel energy) who are paired with “Shields” (who protect their Sources from frying their synapses with too much magic), is all kinds of wonderful and follows the hijinks of practical Shield Dunleavy and her flashy Source, Shintaro. Trust us. The books are fantastic.

10. LIPS TOUCH THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor

Quite possibly one of the best contemporary fantasy authors with her gift for intricate and poetic prose, Taylor won our appreciation with Lips Touch Three Times, a collection of three supernatural stories. You can start here then move to the equally wondrous Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

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“Very low key, but rewarding for patient readers.” from the virgin cure

together. A car bomb devastates a U.S. embassy in Morocco during the prologue, a young woman is abducted two chapters later, and it doesn’t take long for the plot to tie those two events together (though we barely hear from the woman again, after one chapter from her perspective). Because the book quickly establishes that the SEALs are pretty much invincible and that freedom and justice sure beat the alternative, there’s never much suspense about how things will turn out. Co-writer Pezzullo (Jawbreaker, 2005, etc.) is probably responsible for fleshing out the character details—Chief Warrant Officer Tom Crocker is a music fan who hums Sonny Rollins and Bill Withers songs to himself, a nice touch—but even he can’t keep the terrorists from uttering stock terrorist lines (“You’re an infidel! What do you know of Allah?”) at crucial moments. The K2 side trip, which introduces a strong if short-lived female character and is full of gritty details about mountain terrain and hypothermia, is by far the most exciting section, though it has little bearing on the main plot. There’s also a bureaucratic supervisor who frustrates Crocker’s efforts at every turn, an action plot device that’s been familiar since James Bond was in diapers. The finale is a seaboard showdown complete with explosions and knife fights. SEAL aficionados and action addicts will find a couple engaging hours of reading here; everyone else can wait for the inevitable movie.

THE VIRGIN CURE

McKay, Ami Harper/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-06-114032-7 On the lawless streets of the 19thcentury Lower East Side, a 12-year-old girl’s choices seem limited to servitude or prostitution. McKay (The Birth House, 2006), who based this story in part on her family history, makes palpable the poverty and desperation that lead a gypsy fortuneteller to sell her daughter Moth as a maid to the abusive Mrs. Wentworth. Moth matter-of-factly accepts her fate, until Mrs. Wentworth’s ill-treatment moves from blows to attacks with scissors. The kindhearted butler, Nestor, instructs her to take two pieces from Mrs. Wentworth’s jewelry box: one for him, and one for Moth to sell to the fence whose address he provides. The money doesn’t last long, her mother has vanished, and with her face covered with bruises and her hair hacked off, Moth can’t get hired for even the lowest jobs. McKay supplements Moth’s first-person narrative with marginal notes and newspaper reports provided by a female doctor (in fact, the author’s great-great-grandmother) about everything from the plight of vagrant children to the “virgin cure,” a ghastly belief that having sex with a virgin will cure a man of venereal disease. With all this background, it’s entirely understandable that Moth walks into the brothel of Miss Everett with open eyes, knowing that she’ll be fed, clothed and displayed until one of the customers pays a premium to deflower her. There’s not much plot here, only 1206

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Moth’s increasing doubts as the fates of her peers at Miss Everett’s reveal that a whore’s life is only slightly better than starving, while Dr. Sadie tries to persuade her that she has other options. Strongly delineated characters and a vivid historical backdrop make up for the lack of narrative energy in this reflective novel, which quietly conveys fierce indignation about the savagery with which the rich prey on the poor in a world ruled by money. Very low-key, but rewarding for patient readers.

GILDED AGE

McMillan, Claire Simon & Schuster (256 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4516-4047-2 McMillan debuts with a present-day retelling of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth set in Cleveland, Ohio, Wharton’s hometown. Who knew the longtime symbol of Rust Belt decline is still home to a thriving, social upper class composed of old-money families and the nouveau riche? Despite a little partaking of marijuana, even the city’s young elite come across here as slightly anachronistic—the unnamed narrator refers to Betty Crocker and Phyllis Schlafly, and it’s hard to accept that her arch tone, brittle but not quite witty, belongs to a young woman of the 21st century. She is expecting her first child with her genial husband, Jim, a lawyer originally from the south but preppy enough to be accepted by Cleveland blue bloods. Ellie Hart returns to this gossipy, incestuous world from New York City after a nasty divorce and a stay in a rehab facility. Beautiful, glamorous and broke, she is hoping to use her cache and connections to find a new husband. The narrator witnesses Ellie’s escapades with a mixture of sympathy, jealousy and alarm. Initially Ellie seems to deserve jealousy as men flock toward her. But Ellie, a mix of mercenary man-eater and romantic innocent, is also self-destructive. She blows her chances with a pompous aristocrat, refuses to play the game with a coarse business tycoon, and invests what money she has unwisely. Her real attachment is to William Selden, a professor of romance literature, who is more conventional than he appears. As Ellie’s schemes flounder, the tone darkens from brittle comedy of manners to cautionary anti-drug tragedy. The narrator’s domestic happiness is briefly threatened, but her bourgeois domesticity stands in superior contrast to Ellie’s ruin. While pitying Ellie, the narrator blames her downward spiral squarely on her poor choices. Readers will likely blame William, who has been both a corrupter and a coward. While Wharton fans will have fun comparing and contrasting the plots and characters, McMillan’s version is a cartoonish echo of the classic. (Agent: Elizabeth Kaplan)

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TUMBLEWEEDS

Meacham, Leila Grand Central Publishing (480 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-4555-0924-9 A topical soap opera from bestselling novelist Meacham (Roses, 2010, etc.), set on the familiar turf of small-town Texas. Big hair is a big part of such places, but especially in the big-hair era of the early 1980s. Meacham captures the period details in her description of 11-year-old Cathy Benson, “her attitudes already formed by her upbringing and the ways and lifestyle of her native state”—that being California, the antipode of Kersey, Texas, with all the free-spiritedness and antinomianism that the Golden State might bring to the Lone Star State. Without really meaning to, Cathy gets inside the heads of two local boys, up-and-coming football stars for whom girls are a forbidden but irresistible attraction. What’s a quarterback to do? Well, one thing leads to another, and another, and another, and Cathy finds herself with a love bump and no place to go. Ah, but therein hangs much of the action of the book, which can be seen coming from a long way off; suffice it to say that the shotgun at book’s end isn’t necessarily meant to enforce a wedding. The plot is serviceable, the writing sometimes less so; one wonders what to do with a sentence such as, “The way he’d always thought of her had vanished as suddenly and completely as the boy’s make-believe playmate in the song ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon.’ ” Beg pardon? The soundtrack here ought to be provided by Boy George, if not Mickey Gilley. And there’s got to be a rule about expository sententiousness along the lines of “The town’s expectations were a heavy weight on their shoulders.” True enough, but no heavier than events are about to place on the lads, for all the unhappiness and convenient storyline twists that they entail. Though full of groaners—“It was a drive down memory lane”—Meacham’s latest is of a piece with her past work, and sure to find an eager audience among romance buffs. (Agent: David McCormick)

THE ROOTS OF THE OLIVE TREE

Miller Santo, Courtney Morrow/HarperCollins (320 pp.) $24.99 | $19.99 e-book | Lg. Prt. $24.99 Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-06-213051-8 978-0-06-213053-2 e-book 978-0-06-220138-6 Lg. Prt. Five generations of unusually longlived women have family troubles in Santo’s oddly static debut. With fourth-generation Deborah just paroled after 20 years in jail for killing her husband, and her daughter Erin about to |

have a child with no husband in sight, not to mention matriarch Anna (age 112) only one death away from being the oldest person in the world, there ought to be more excitement in the house they share overlooking their olive groves in northern California. Instead, there’s simmering resentment and whiny adolescent complaining, which sounds especially self-indulgent coming from 42-year-old Deborah. Granted, her mother, Callie, is thoroughly nasty almost all the time, despite the painkillers she constantly pops for a leg crippled in a bizarre accident, which the author refers to in frustrating fragments over more than 200 pages before finally deigning to tell us exactly what happened. Deborah’s violent quarrel with Callie in the hospital where Erin is giving birth is the novel’s only truly dramatic scene; the fact that Deborah then jumps parole, disappears and is barely ever referred to again is regrettably typical of Santo’s clumsy handling of plot and character. Amrit Hashmi, the geneticist who comes to study Anna and her descendants in the hope of discovering the secret of their longevity, at first seems like something of a nut, judging by a Washington Post column jarringly inserted in the text. Amorous emails exchanged between him and Callie do little to improve our opinion of either, though we’re later invited to think of their affair as a life-changing event. Other events that seem to merit attention, such as the birth of Erin’s son breaking the line of four firstborn daughters, are not commented on at all. Transcripts of news videotape and a closing folktale are other examples of the author’s failure to maintain coherent structure, pacing or tone. Some nice descriptions of the olive groves, but this is too scattershot to make for emotionally satisfying fiction. (Author appearances in Memphis, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle)

THE CHAPERONE

Moriarty, Laura Riverhead (384 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-59448-701-9

In Kansas-native Moriarty’s fourth novel (While I’m Falling, 2009, etc.), she imagines the life of the actual Wichita matron who accompanied future silent film star Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 as a favor to Brooks’ parents. Although Louise Brooks was a larger-than-life personality whose memoir LuLu in Hollywood is held in high critical esteem, she’s given short shrift by Moriarty, whose interest lies in Cora Carlisle. In 1922, 36-year-old Cora faces an empty nest as her twin sons prepare for college. Her lawyer husband, Alan, 12 years her senior, is a wonderful father and a good man, but their marriage is a sexless sham. She has grudgingly accepted and kept secret his (lifelong) homosexual love affair. So Alan is in no position to stop her when she announces that she is escorting Myra Brooks’ 15-year-old daughter to New York City, where the girl has enrolled in dance school. He knows Cora’s real reason for going east. She lived in a Catholic orphanage in Manhattan until she was 7, then was sent to Kansas, where she was raised by a loving farm couple.

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“A promising debut, and a glimpse at a hidden American subculture that few readers will suspect even exists.” from we sinners

Now she yearns to learn about her parentage. Louise, precociously sexual as well as beautiful and brainy (Schopenhauer is her favorite author), is a difficult, unlikable charge, but Cora finds time in New York to seek out information. Joseph, the janitor at the orphanage, helps Cora in her research while introducing her to the passion her marriage never offered. With Louise on the road to stardom, Cora returns to Wichita with Joseph, claiming he is her brother—a charade Alan agrees to maintain. Cora seems to represent the history of women’s rights in the 20th century. An early suffragette, she applauds the end of prohibition and champions birth control and racial equality. She also gives Louise good advice during a rocky period in her career. Unlike the too-infrequently-seen Louise, the fictional characters seem less alive or important than the issues they represent.

WE SINNERS

Pylväinen, Hanna Henry Holt (208 pp.) $23.00 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-8050-9533-3 Lovely, lyrical debut novel of a family in slowly unfolding crisis. In a book said to have plenty of elements of roman à clef about it, University of Michigan M.F.A. Pylväinen recounts life in a family of Finnish-American true believers for whom the word “fundamentalist” doesn’t quite do the trick. The Rovaniemi family practices a particularly austere brand of Protestantism, or, as a daughter puts it, “a kind of Lutheranism where everyone is much more hung up on being Lutheran than all the other normal Lutherans.” She adds, for emphasis, “End of story.” But of course it’s not, as her bewildered Chinese-Malayan-American beau learns while trying to comprehend both Laestadianism and Uppu’s odd mom and pop, who have had their own struggles. As the novel opens, another daughter is just beginning to buck at the traces, explaining to another young suitor that she can’t go to the dance with him because—well, just because she can’t, end of story. And again, the story doesn’t end but unspools, ever so unhurriedly, to reveal the complex dynamic of a father who’s wound up way too tight “and now expressed everything, even anger, in disappointment,” though he’s not without his sympathetic aspects; a mother who beams love and support and who trusts her children implicitly; and the certainty the two elders share that the world is going to come and steal their children away, luring them to the big city, where they’ll wear fancy clothes and dance and fornicate. Even so, contemplates Pirjo, the matriarch, “You can lose your faith anywhere.” Considering what life has thrown at them, it’s amazing any of the family remains steadfast in their alienating religion, and some do indeed drift—but not always far and not always along paths that we might expect. Pylväinen can be faulted only for over-compression: her story, beautifully written, is taut to the point of snapping, and it could have used a couple of dozen more pages of breathing room. 1208

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It’s always a good thing when one wants more instead of less. A promising debut, and a glimpse at a hidden American subculture that few readers will suspect even exists.

ISLAND APART

Raichlen, Steven Forge (288 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-7653-3238-7 In Raichlen’s debut mainstream fiction, luck can run out and leave happiness hanging by a thread. Raichlen, journalist and television host, takes readers to Chappaquiddick Island, site of a notorious misjudgment, and writes about a New York editor and foodie trapped in double tragedy. Claire Doheney has won awards at Apogee Press, all while dealing with a co-ed–seducing, professor husband and a daughter, Molly, whose life is all grunge, angst and piercings. Then Claire finds a dreaded lump. Diagnosed with breast cancer, she informs her husband, who promptly responds that he has found another woman to bed. Claire heals from disease and divorce at the elegant Chappaquiddick home of her best friend, Sheila. On the isolated island, Claire encounters the Hermit of Chappaquiddick, disheveled and distant, a man with dark secrets. Raichlen is solid in his descriptions of island life, in season and out. Characters are always accomplished or intriguing, although he often uses celebrity comparisons—“Imagine Queen Latifah as a white woman with a voice like Bette Midler’s.” Raichlen knows food, cooking and the ambrosial joy of natural ingredients. The foodie descriptions are succulent on the page, but the narrative is one of love, loss and endurance. On Chappaquiddick, Claire works with a “brilliant…nutty as a fruitcake” biographer of Wilhelm Reich, the iconoclast, psychiatrist and inventor of the orgone accumulator much referenced in the tale. Simultaneously, after he tends her following a bike accident, Claire draws the Hermit from his shell with empathy and gourmet cooking. Romance, happiness and death follow. The cad husband gets comeuppance. Molly finds her feet. And characters as varied as Wrench, Molly’s biker boyfriend, and Patrick, the compassionate ferry captain, make a veritable family. In the end, Claire even bests Beidermann, her bean-counting Master of Business Administration boss. Very much Nicholas Sparks, with a locavore’s idealization of venison bacon, ramps, wild asparagus, white cap flint corn and Cape Poge Bay littlenecks and scallops. (Agents: Jane Dystel & Miriam Goderich)

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THE WATCH

Roy-Bhattacharya, Joydeep Hogarth/Crown (304 pp.) $25.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-307-95589-0 Pressing parallels to Greek drama, this Indian author’s ambitious but poorly structured third novel is about an Afghanistan War episode. The setting is a U.S. combat outpost in Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold. The guys are spooked. An ambush in the surrounding mountains has claimed two of them. That was followed by an insurgent attack during a blinding sandstorm, leaving four Americans dead and four wounded. The Afghan National Army soldiers abandoned their positions. The next day, a strange apparition approaches the base perimeter. It’s covered in a burqa and is pushing a cart. Man or woman? Suicide bomber or decoy? There’s no suspense for the reader, for the apparition, a young woman called Nizam, has already introduced herself in the opening section. Her family, returning from a wedding party, was killed by a U.S. bomb, leaving herself and her brother Yusuf, who led the revenge attack on the base. Yusuf was not a Talib but an anti-American freedom fighter. The wounded Nizam, her legs reduced to stumps, has come to bury him. The American captain, awaiting orders from battalion headquarters, refuses to release the body. So there’s a standoff. But when the soldiers hear Nizam playing her lute, they are spellbound: She has won their hearts and minds but not the captain’s, and her mission will end tragically. There’s material here for a novella but not more. The author inflates it in various ways, including stateside flashbacks. Long quotations from Sophocles’ Antigone, in which a burial is key, bookend his story. One lieutenant, Frobenius, is a classicist who has enlisted for old-fashioned reasons of honor, and his journal is laced with classical allusions. He sees the Pashtuns, with their concepts of honor and shame, as descendants of the Greeks. There is much desultory chatter among the grunts, ethnically diverse in the old war-story tradition, but little action, apart from that early firefight. Nizam’s mission exposes the contradictions in the American presence in Afghanistan; the Greek connection is hardly necessary. (Author events in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.)

terrifying worry for her teenage daughter, who is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder. She, who remains unnamed, is at the end of her rope, calling her husband as he prepares for a business trip. “Don’t care. Scream into the phone. Imagine your tinny, bitchy voice leaking around his ear while men holding lattes, women with Coach briefcases, students and grandmas try not to look at his worn face,” Serber writes. With the next story, the author launches a series of interconnected tales about a single mother and her daughter that very nearly make up a novel of their own. In the first, “Ruby Jewel,” we meet a college girl who has returned home to the Gulf Coast to visit her whiskey-soaked father and emotionally distant mother. In the next, “Alone as She Felt All Day,” Ruby finds that the delicious liaisons she’s been enjoying with a boy named Marco have left her pregnant. Marco leaves. The girl, named Nora, grows up and the conflicts between Nora and her mother ebb and flow like the tides, with Serber zeroing in on painful episodes along the way. There’s little sweetness to be had in Serber’s stories, laden with the sharpness of realism, but their emotional depths are memorable. A terrific introduction to Serber’s gifts, and hopefully a preview of good things to come.

SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME

Serber, Natalie Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (240 pp.) $24.00 | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-547-63452-4 A debut collection of elegant and largely intertwined short stories about mothers and daughters. The collection starts with Serber’s most startling piece, which inspired the title of the collection. Written in firstperson, the story is a stream-of-consciousness dive into a mother’s |

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“War novelist Shaara returns with this first of a projected trilogy about the Civil War west of the Appalachians.” from a blaze of glory

A BLAZE OF GLORY A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh Shaara, Jeff Ballantine (464 pp.) $28.00 | May 29, 2012 978-0-345-52735-6

War novelist Shaara returns with this first of a projected trilogy about the Civil War west of the Appalachians. Why Shiloh? It was a flyspeck in a corner of Tennessee, 20 miles from the Rebel stronghold of Corinth, Miss. The two-day battle in April 1862 was an inconclusive victory for the North. Still, the seesaw nature of the contest, coupled with the death of a commander in the saddle, gives it obvious dramatic appeal. That appeal is missing in the troop movements that take up the novel’s first half. Everything is slowed in a sea of mud produced by the incessant rains. Shaara alternates between Union and Confederate war councils, while the common man is represented by a very green cavalry lieutenant from Memphis and an equally green infantryman from Wisconsin. It is the interplay between the generals, though, that fascinates Shaara. Grant must cope with his boss, the vainglorious Halleck in St. Louis, just as the sympathetically portrayed Southern commander, Johnston, contains his ambitious deputy Beauregard. While Grant waits for reinforcements, Johnston orders a surprise attack: a full-frontal engagement at dawn. The Confederates will dominate the first day, though waves of panic will infect both sides. Then Johnston dies suddenly, a leg wound. On the second day, Grant’s army, much enlarged, gains the upper hand. Shaara tracks the constant flanking maneuvers on a battlefield obscured by smoke. The sheer detail becomes numbing, though there is great dexterity in his long, rolling sentences. Due recognition is given to the staggering numbers of dead and wounded (one quarter of all soldiers); the psychological state of the survivors gets less attention. One infantryman who has discovered the joy of killing sees himself bound for hell, but this revelation of a man’s essence is rare. The particulars of the battle have been meticulously researched and rendered; what’s missing is a vision that would transcend them.

THE WATCHERS

Steele, Jon Blue Rider Press (592 pp.) $26.95 | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-399-15874-2 If Quasimodo had a love child with Holly Golightly, well, readers of this unchallenging but not unpleasant thriller wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Debut novelist and former ITV cameraman/reporter Steele (War Junkie, 2002, etc.), a longtime resident of Switzerland, conjures a promising 1210

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setup in which the oddball bell-ringer (in literature, there can be no other kind) of the Lausanne cathedral crosses paths with the superhot, superhigh-priced call girl who just happens to live across the street. Lon Chaney Jr. our ringer isn’t, not really, though young Marc Rochat knows everything that happens in, around and below his haunt. Katherine Taylor is no Esmeralda, either, though she has some of that gypsy’s soft touch. Enter third-wheel Jay Harper, a British Private Investigator who’s just arrived in Lausanne because people have been turning up dead all around the church, while strange noises have been coming from the basement. By some lights, that’s all to the good; says a friendly cafe keeper to Marc, “Surprise me sometime. This is Switzerland. We need surprises now and then. Keeps us from boring one another to death.” Well, one surprise is that Jay suffers from amnesia—but then, what detective hero doesn’t have a personal flaw to overcome? Another is that the efficient Swiss are inefficient killing machines compared to the fallen angels, halflings, monsters and other weirdos that turn up to duke it out, with the forces of good facing down the forces of evil and all that and sometimes not doing too good a job of it. Steele would seem to do a lot of borrowing here, particularly from the movies; some of the scenes echo the creepily apocalyptic 1995 film The Prophecy, while it’s probably not an accident that one of baddest of the bad guys shares a name with the baddest of the bad guys in the classic film Doctor Zhivago. And then the whole confection falls into territory somewhere between Stephen King (good) and Dan Brown (not good). Still, there’s plenty of diabolical fun to be had here, with “I see dead people” happily rejoined by “But I wouldn’t call her dead, not really.”

BAD FAITH

Tanenbaum, Robert K. Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (400 pp.) $26.00 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-3552-2 The latest installment in Tanenbaum’s long-running Karp-Ciampi series (Escape, 2008, etc.). An ailing young boy dies after a con man talks the 10-year-old’s parents into turning to faith instead of medicine. A female Russian assassin who infiltrated Islamic terrorist groups for the government has her own deadly agenda. So does Grale, king of the Mole People, an underground army of homeless people. It’s all in a day’s work for Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi, star husband-wife duo of the New York District Attorney’s Office. This installment is centered on Karp’s negligence case against David and Nonie Ellis, who put their faith in the slick Rev. C.G. Westlund to save their suffering son Micah from a rare cancer. The preacher, who recently escaped trouble in Memphis, pressured Nonie into putting him and his “church” down as insurance beneficiaries, but if Karp gets the parents convicted, there will be no payoff. Meanwhile, the Russian, Nadya Malovo, who is supposedly

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working for Karp, is plotting to kill him and his family, holding a grudge from incidents in previous books involving his nemesis, Andrew Kane. Nadya and Grale have a history as well. A book is in trouble from the start when its terrorism plot is second or third in importance. As celebrated as Tanenbaum is as a trial lawyer, he is unable to make the legal case at the heart of this story—or any of the narrative odds and ends surrounding it— fresh or suspenseful. The dialogue is stiff, the dramatic scenes unintentionally cartoonish. The book has its share of entertaining oddities, but they aren’t enough to make it more than a run-of-the-mill thriller. (Agents: Mike Hamilburg and Bob Diforio)

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AN ECHO THROUGH THE SNOW

Thalasinos, Andrea Forge (368 pp.) $23.99 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-7653-3036-9

Long ago the Guardians protected the Chukchi people of Siberia. These beautiful dogs became the locus for their community and culture. But that was long ago. Thalasinos’ debut novel toggles between the stories of Jeaantaa and Rosalie, set nearly a century apart. Jeaantaa’s story begins in 1919 Siberia and is framed against the impending invasion of Stalin’s Red Army, which ultimately displaces her Chukchi people and destroys much of their culture. Rosalie’s story, set in Wisconsin, concerns the cultural effects of displacement. Both young women have endured heartbreak as Jeaantaa’s childhood sweetheart dies the day they are affianced, and Rosalie’s husband belittles and

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“An English military wife has difficulty adjusting to her husband’s return from Afghanistan.” from soldier’s wife

abuses her. Both are estranged from their communities, with Jeaantaa blamed for her beloved’s death and Rosalie too shy to fit in. When Rosalie sees a maltreated husky at the local junkyard, however, her immediate bond with the animal establishes a link across time. Rosalie begins to fall into reveries, dreaming of a woman in a skin dress and boots, standing on the sea ice, hair waving in the screaming wind and mourning the loss of so much, so many. Haunted by Jeaantaa, Rosalie gains the courage to rescue the husky, which enrages her husband but releases in Rosalie a passion she had never suspected. Soon, Jan and Dave hire Rosalie as a dog handler for their dog sled—racing kennel, and Rosalie’s talents are abundantly evident. Just as Jeaantaa served as the Keeper of the Guardians, so does Rosalie seem to become a modern-day husky whisperer. Thalasino’s evocations of Siberian and Wisconsin seascapes and landscapes are deft and richly embroidered. Her characters hold tantalizing potential (particularly the troubled and secretive Dan Villieux), yet even the connection between Jeaantaa and Rosalie remains oddly forced rather than fated. Beautifully drawn and emotionally resonant, this book unfortunately stumbles over its unrealized characters.

SOLDIER’S WIFE

Trollope, Joanna Simon & Schuster (288 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4516-7251-0 An English military wife has difficulty adjusting to her husband’s return from Afghanistan. When Alexa’s husband, Dan, a career British Army officer, returns from a sixmonth deployment in Afghanistan, she expects his re-entry to be awkward. However she’s surprised when, instead of relishing his reunion with his wife, twin toddler daughters and teenage stepdaughter, he spends most of his time on base, helping soldiers in his battalion readjust from extended home leave. Alexa, who carries baggage from her own upbringing as the only child of distant parents in the diplomatic corps, can’t communicate her frustrations to Dan without starting an argument. Compounding her plight, Alexa’s daughter Isabel is a virtual outcast at her government-sponsored boarding school, where she’s been accused of stealing from another girl. Alexa is also running interference on Dan’s behalf with his father and grandfather (old soldiers themselves) because he’s not ready to deal with his extended family. Worse, because of the uncertainty of Dan’s next assignment, she’s had to turn down a job with a private school that would have accepted Isabel. Instead of facing his marital difficulties, Dan brings his comrade Gus (whose wife, by walking out, has done what Alexa can only fantasize about) home to live until Gus weathers his rough patch. When Isabel goes AWOL from school and returns home, Dan and Alexa must confront the unstable core of their military family. Dan has apparently been affected by the horrors of battle, but aside from ducking at the sound of a woodpecker 1212

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and talking in his sleep, this has to be one of the more muted descriptions of post-traumatic stress in modern post-warfare fiction. Trollope is less than sure-handed in her handling of this subject matter, preferring to prevaricate with endless and repetitive dialogue and rumination about the challenges of reentering the democratic society and domestic tranquility soldiers are sworn to protect. The couple’s emotional reckoning is more thoroughly articulated later, but the tedium of getting to that point is daunting. Eminently skimmable. (Agent: Joy Harris)

THE WAR THAT CAME EARLY: COUP D’ETAT

Turtledove, Harry Del Rey/Ballantine (432 pp.) $28.00 | Jul. 31, 2012 978-0-345-52465-2

Turtledove (The War That Came Early: The Big Switch, 2011, etc.) delivers the fourth installment in his latest series, depicting an alternate-history version of World War II. This grandly staged what-if series began with Turtledove’s 2009 novel Hitler’s War, which portrayed an alternate version of WWII starting with a 1938 German invasion of Czechoslovakia. (In the real world, the war began in 1939 when the Nazis invaded Poland.) A domino effect of divergent events followed in the next two books. As this book opens in January 1941, British and French forces have joined with Germany against the Soviets, while the U.S., fighting Japan, is staying out of the European conflict. Soon, however, a governmental coup in England begins a shifting of alliances. As with previous books, Turtledove tells his story through many different characters—frontline soldiers, civilian Americans and persecuted German Jews, among others—while major historical figures, such and Hitler and FDR, exist solely in the background. (Winston Churchill, however, has already met an untimely end.) Turtledove’s huge cast is a testament to his commitment to worldbuilding, but the constant scene shifts make the story feel a bit scattered, and some plotlines, such as the English situation, are more consistently interesting than others. For the most part, the story merely inches along, which may tax the patience of all but the most ardent WWII aficionados. While the book’s grand scope and Turtledove’s impressive historical knowledge are admirable, this installment seems to be merely laying groundwork for more earthshaking events to come. A fair middle chapter in the series, which will undoubtedly appeal to Turtledove’s fans. (Agent: Russell Galen)

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“A dazzling novel of great intensity and power.” from the dream of the celt

THE GOOD DREAM

VanLiere, Donna St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-312-36777-0

An indomitable 30-year-old spinster living in a Tennessee backwater opens her home to an abused wild child, in a story of decent values, tidily told. The small rural community of Morgan Hill in 1950 is the ideal and idealized setting for Christmas Hope series (The Christmas Promise, 2007, etc.) author VanLiere’s simple morality tale, which focuses on the uncomplicated relationship between a lonely woman and a needy boy. While Ivorie Walker, a single woman mourning the death of her mother, is wondering what to do with her life, a 7-year-old orphan with a cleft palate and no speech is being abused and starved by an evil man in a remote shack. When the paths of these two characters intersect, it’s not difficult for the reader to piece together what might happen. Ivorie rescues the child, whose name turns out to be Peter, and lives with the consequences, including gossip, expensive medical bills and a violent attack intended to discourage her from exposing a longguarded secret. VanLiere composes this picture with warmth, humor and enough charm to rebuff accusations of schmaltz, even as lost dogs are found, rich developers are made to pay a fair price and aching hearts are mended. If Norman Rockwell had written novels, they would probably have turned out as nostalgically reassuring as this one.

Company, whose board, Casement discovers, comprises a number of prominent Englishmen, but in his role of British consul he courageously speaks out against the atrocities he finds there and once again publishes a devastating report; this time his findings ironically lead to his being knighted by the British. In the final phase of his life—he died at the tragically young age of 51— he supports independence for his native Ireland, naively working with the Germans during World War I against an England he now hates. At the Easter Rising he’s caught and four months later is executed at Pentonville Prison in London. Although politically and morally committed to his causes, Casement feels poor in love, for his “relationships” consist solely of fleeting and furtive homosexual liaisons. Vargas Llosa speculates that the so-called Black Diaries Casement left are authentic but that he uses them to record sexual fantasies as much as sexual reality. A dazzling novel of great intensity and power.

THE DREAM OF THE CELT

Vargas Llosa, Mario Translated by Grossman, Edith Farrar, Straus and Giroux (368 pp.) $28.00 | Jun. 12, 2012 978-0-374-14346-6 The Celt in question is Sir Roger Casement, who advocated on behalf of oppressed natives of the Congo and of Amazonia, but when he turns his attention to the Irish Troubles in 1916, the British feel he’s gone too far, so he’s caught, tried and executed. Originally published in 2010 and now lyrically translated, the novel focuses on the three major stages in Casement’s life. As a young man he travels to the Congo, and while at first he’s enamored with the European “mission,” he soon has a Conradian epiphany about the exploitation of rubber workers, who are brutalized beyond belief. (Conrad, in fact, briefly appears in the novel.) Casement’s report about this exploitation garners him much acclaim in England. Next he turns his compassionate vision toward Amazonia, that section of Peru in which the indigenous peoples are once again being savagely misused by a multinational corporation—in this case the Peruvian Amazon |

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“Wiesel continues to remind us of the brilliant possibilities of the philosophical and political novel.” from hostage

m ys t e r y

HOSTAGE

Wiesel, Elie Translated by Temerson, Catherine Knopf (224 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 24, 2012 978-0-307-59958-2 Wiesel takes us on a journey through dream, memory and especially storytelling in his latest novel, which concerns Shaltiel Feigenberg, who in 1975 is captured and imprisoned for 80 hours in a basement by two captors. Feigenberg is politically unimportant and practically unknown before his capture, but soon thereafter he becomes front-page news, though his plight is reported in wildly different ways by the world press. His captors represent divergent political realities. One, Luigi, is an Italian political revolutionary with no particular animus against Jews, while the second, Ahmed, is a passionate advocate for Palestine with an intense hatred for the “Zionist cause.” Perhaps predictably, a “bad cop–good cop” dynamic develops as they tend to Feigenberg, Luigi gradually freeing him from restraints while Ahmed rails with fanatic fervor against all that Feigenberg represents to him. Luigi and Ahmed are motivated by “humanitarian” concerns—they demand that three Palestinian prisoners be freed in exchange for Feigenberg’s freedom—rather than materialistic ones. Feigenberg is mystified by his captivity, for he’s simply a professional storyteller with a special fondness for spinning his tales to children and the elderly. This forced period of darkness ironically provides him with an extended period of enlightenment, as he has time to reflect on his life—the death of his grandmother at Auschwitz, his frequently absent but observant father, his initial meeting with Blanca (the woman who eventually becomes his wife), and the growing Communist sympathies of his older brother. He begins to frame the narrative of his life in much the same way he frames the stories he makes up to entertain others. Even the Israeli government—a government that notoriously does not negotiate with terrorists—gets involved in trying to track down the elusive captive. Nobel Peace Prize winner Wiesel continues to remind us of the brilliant possibilities of the philosophical and political novel.

DINERS, DIVES & DEAD ENDS

Austin, Terri L. Henery Press (323 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-938383-00-7

When a part-time college student’s friend disappears, she does everything in her power to find him. Rose Strickland works as a waitress at Ma’s Diner to help finance her part-time college expenses. Her father is a wealthy, weak-willed doctor totally dominated by her snobbish mother, who kicked her out of her upscale household when Rose refused to accede to their plans for her life. Fortunately, she’s had in Axton Graystone, whose family is equally wealthy, a friend since grade school. Now a laidback, pot-smoking computer nerd, he shows up at the diner with a backpack he begs her to hide before disappearing himself. A stranger who approaches Rose while she plays with her nephew tells her he wants his property back. Rose soon learns that the hard drive she’s found in the backpack contains a list of names and unexplained numbers of some of the area’s bestknown citizens, including Axton’s brother Packard. The mysterious stranger, who on closer inspection is a drop-dead gorgeous guy, seems to know everything about her life. When he visits her apartment and threatens Axton’s life, Rose attacks him, kindling sexual sparks. With help from her fellow waitress Roxy, Ma, the diner owner, and Packard’s wife, Sheila, Rose digs around until she discovers the identity of the stranger and the reason he’s so eager to regain his property. Her life now in danger, Rose realizes that the enemy she thinks she knows may be the least of her troubles. Austin’s debut kicks off her planned series by introducing a quirky, feisty heroine and a great supporting cast of characters and putting them through quite a number of interesting twists.

MURDER ON THE HALF SHELF

Barrett, Lorna Berkley Prime Crime (304 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-425-24775-4 When a mystery bookstore owner and her ambitious cookbook-writer sister accept a free pre-opening night room at the Sheer Comfort Inn, they walk right into murder. Cooking maven Angelica, who’s won the room for the night, not only invites Tricia to come along, but insists on sneaking in her dog, Sarge. As Tricia is walking Sarge, they discover the body of Pippa Comfort. Tricia recognizes Pippa’s husband, Jon, as Harrison

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“Exploding grenades, Burmese slaves and, yes, a head on the beach.” from grandad, there’s a head on the beach

Tyler, author of a famous mystery novel and her former boyfriend, who was supposed to have drowned in a boating accident 20 years before. The alibi that Harry Tyler claims now puts Tricia squarely in the sights of her current boyfriend, Police Chief Grant Baker. Because Tricia is divorced from her wealthy former husband and has seen another romance go sour, she feels hurt by Grant’s efforts to be objective and treat her as just another suspect. It doesn’t help that Tricia’s already known as the town jinx, since Pippa’s is not the first body she’s found (Sentenced to Death, 2011, etc.). Now she realizes that she’s going to have to investigate the latest murder, if only to clear her name. Stoneham, N.H., may seem like a quiet, quaint little town, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and Tricia’s sleuthing may lose her more than some friends, since a desperate killer will do anything to stay free, including killing again. Barrett’s sixth Booktown mystery features a quirky collection of characters, a mystery that keeps you guessing and some appealing appended recipes. (Agent: Jessica Faust)

CREOLE BELLE

Burke, James Lee Simon & Schuster (544 pp.) $27.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-4516-4813-3 Great news for readers who feared that Burke had left Iberia Parish Sheriff ’s Deputy Dave Robicheaux dying at the end of The Glass Rainbow (2010); Dave and his old friend Clete Purcel are back for an even more heaven-storming round of homicide, New Orleans–style. No one else sees or hears Cajun singer Tee Jolie Melton when she appears to Dave in the dead of night and leaves behind the gift of an iPad whose playlist includes three of her songs nobody else can find. Maybe Dave’s drug-fevered brain has only imagined her appearance. But there’s no question about what’s become of Tee Jolie’s sister Blue, who washes ashore encased in a bathtub-sized block of ice, dead of a heroin overdose, a note she’s hidden in her mouth announcing, “My sister is alive.” Dave and Clete are swiftly pulled into the disappearance of the two sisters by Bix Golightly, who demands $30,000 from Clete for a 20-year-old gambling marker he bought from gangster Frankie Giacano. Bad move. In short order, Bix, his hired muscle Waylon Grimes and Frankie are all murdered. In fact, Clete actually sees Bix’s executioner, a contract killer code-named Caruso, who, he tells Dave, is actually Gretchen Horowitz, the illegitimate daughter who never knew her father. Clete’s unwanted knowledge of Gretchen’s guilt strains her growing friendship with both Clete and Dave’s daughter Alafair. Balancing the latest chapter of his heroes’ struggles to do the right thing is Burke’s unsparing anatomy of the monstrous Dupree family: Pierre, who owns an ad agency; his estranged wife Varina, Clete’s ex-lover; and Pierre’s grandfather, Alexis, a concentration camp survivor. As if all the complications aren’t enough, Burke, in his latest attempt to outdo himself, ties the Gulf oil spill to art |

fraud, sexual slavery and Nazis. A darkly magnificent treat for Dave’s legion of admirers, though not the best place for newcomers to begin. (Agent: Philip Spitzer)

THE AGE OF DOUBT

Camilleri, Andrea Translated by Sartarelli, Stephen Penguin (288 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-0-14-312092-6 Has the implacable Inspector Montalbano been thrown off his game by a femme fatale—or worse, a whole clutch of them? When rain forces traffic to a nearstandstill, Sicilian Inspector Montalbano, on his drive to work, rescues a young woman whose car is about to be flooded. Identifying herself as Vanna, she professes concern over her wealthy aunt’s yacht of the same name. When Montalbano humors her by checking, he finds a naked corpse in the yacht’s dinghy, his face bashed in to hinder identification. As for the mysterious Vanna, seems she isn’t who she claimed to be. The case proves to be so head-spinning that Montalbano writes himself a letter laying out facts and suppositions and excoriating himself for his slow progress. Relief comes in the person of Lt. Laura Belladonna, a local officer much more astute than his usual sidekicks Fazio and Mimì. But working in close contact with Laura brings up deep feelings Montalbano hadn’t bargained for. Montalbano’s 14th (The Potter’s Field, 2011, etc.) delves more deeply into the hero’s interior life than usual. A droll delight for series fans, maybe not so much for new readers.

GRANDDAD, THERE’S A HEAD ON THE BEACH

Cotterill, Colin Minotaur (384 pp.) $24.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-312-56454-4

Exploding grenades, Burmese slaves and, yes, a head on the beach. How much excitement can one tiny Thai town take? Highly engaging narrator Jimm Juree still stings from the abrupt relocation of her family to a run-down town on the Gulf of Siam after she’s worked many years as a crime reporter in the bustling university city of Chiang Mai. It was eccentric Mair, Jimm’s mother, who decided to trade in the family’s raggedy urban convenience store for an inflated seaside dream of a resort. Restless for adventure, Jimm is mostly stuck keeping her loony Granddad Jah out of trouble and her depressive musclehead brother, Arny, out of the dumps. And she can only fantasize about Hollywood screenwriting success with her transsexual writing partner, Sissi. So when a head washes up on the beach, Jimm, beside herself

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“A look at the Amish world that’s both piercing and sensitive.” from harmless as doves

with excitement, plunges in to probe its origin. In short order, two ratlike bureaucrats show up and attempt to keep Jimm away from their investigation, sound advice that she naturally ignores. Ironically, Jimm’s plans to ferret out the head’s identity keep encountering detours courtesy of the incognito pair of women who check skittishly in to the resort, and the mystery figure in mother Mair’s bed. Thai/Burmese relations and explosions on the beach figure in the loopy solution. The second installment of prolific Cotterill’s new series (Killed at the Whim of a Hat, 2011, etc.) definitely puts the fun in family dysfunction. Jimm, an Asian Stephanie Plum, rattles steadily to a solution, with many hilarious episodes along the way.

THE SLEEPING AND THE DEAD

Crook, Jeff Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-250-00028-6

A camera purchased by Jackie Lyons, former Memphis vice detective, photographer and recovering junkie, lands her in the center of a major murder case. Burned out of her apartment, Jackie’s just moved to a much nicer one that just happens to be haunted. Former coke addict Sgt. Adam McPeake, one of her friends on the Memphis force, has recommended her for some work shooting crime scene photos for Deputy Chief Billet, who’s feuding with the medical examiner. The most recent corpse Jackie’s photographed may be a victim of the Playhouse Killer, who arranges each of his gruesomely murdered victims to echo a scene from a play. Jackie’s newest camera is a Leica she bought from James St. Michael, still a suspect in the murder of his wife, a photographer who worked the social scene. Strangely, the camera takes pictures on its own and seems to capture the ghosts in Jackie’s new apartment. Jackie sells crime scene photos to Michi Mori, a wealthy Japanese American whose sinister house is home to an ever-changing group of young gay men. When the murder investigation leads to his house, Jackie, who hasn’t lost her edge as a detective, gets deeply involved in the case, putting herself in mortal danger. In a departure from his fantasy Dragonlance series (Dark Thane, 2003, etc.), Crook presents a dark and creepy mystery with a brave but deeply flawed heroine. A promising series kickoff, even though it telegraphs the killer early.

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HARMLESS AS DOVES

Gaus, P.L. Plume (208 pp.) $14.00 paperback | Jun. 26, 2012 978-0-452-29786-9 A rural Ohio community is rocked when one Amish confesses to killing another. The case seems as simple as it is astounding. Young Crist Burkholder tells his Bishop, Leon Shetler, that he’s just killed Glenn Spiegle in a fight over who’ll marry Vesta Miller. But Shetler, who cautions his flock to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” can’t believe gentle Crist capable of murder. Soon Shetler is joined by Coroner Missy Taggert, who finds that Spiegel was killed by a savage beating, not the one blow Crist admits to. Crist’s pro bono lawyer gets his confession bounced on the grounds that it’s virtually impossible to Mirandize the Amish, and Sheriff Bruce Robertson finds his case unraveling even quicker than Darba Winters, a mentally fragile ex-teacher who owns the barn where Spiegel’s body was found. Darba’s husband, Billy, drives a truck that delivers Amish cheese all the way to Florida, where he and Spiegle once lived. But when Vesta’s father, Jacob Miller, is found dead in Sarasota near the Pinecraft resort community where Amish travel to enjoy the beach, Robertson has no choice but to call professor Mike Branden (Separate From the World, 2008, etc.) away from his sabbatical at Duke. When Mike gets to Sarasota, he finds a trail of crime years old that leads him to a murderer who’s more serpent than dove. A look at the Amish world that’s both piercing and sensitive.

VENICE NOIR

Jakubowski, Maxim --Ed. Akashic (288 pp.) $15.95 paperback | Jun. 1, 2012 978-1-61775-073-1 Sex, food and real estate inspire 14 hot-blooded new takes on crime in the magical city of Venice. Of the three, real estate is the most divisive. Most Venetians can no longer afford to live in their own city. Like the heroine of Barbara Baraldi’s “Commissario Clelia Vinci,” they flock to mainland towns like Mestre, where they struggle with the mundane: How to balance work and family? How to share custody with a faithless ex? They contend with dampness and bad plumbing, like the old woman in Michelle Lovric’s “Pantegana.” Or they live in tiny houses near the old ghetto, filled with the odor of other people’s cooking, like the heroine of Francesca Mazzucato’s “Little Sister,” who finds it harder and harder to leave her cramped home. It’s the tourists who enjoy the beauty of the canals and the palazzos. In “Venice Aphrodisiac,” Peter James shows how one illicit rendezvous can become a lifelong

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“Slight but charming as ever.” from murdered by nature

obsession with the city. Sexual energy spirals out of control in Isabella Santacroce’s “Desdemona Undicesima.” And a tourist finds Venice the endpoint of his romantic dreams in editor Jakubowski’s “Lido Winter.” Venetians have their own take on the visitors who flock to their city, like Signora Adele, who finds her own special solution in Maria Tronca’s “Tourists for Supper.” But Adele isn’t the only Venetian with a hearty appetite, as a policeman learns in Michael Gregorio’s “Laguna Blues.” Rather than crimes of passion, this collection focuses on the passion of crime, painting its noir in robust tones rather than gritty gray.

MURDERED BY NATURE

Jeffries, Roderic Severn House (192 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8147-2

Why is Enrique Alvarez’s clearance rate the lowest in Majorca? Maybe it’s because the homicide rate is so stratospheric. Things couldn’t be more idyllic for Inspector Alvarez. A new alcohol tax initiative has been defeated, the weather is warm for October and his nemesis, Superior Chief Salas, is on vacation. His satisfaction marks a sad contrast with the travails of Laura Ashton. First, her husband Charles has been drowned while the two of them were sailing his yacht, then a second body that washes ashore is identified as that of Colin Kerr, a mysterious visitor to the Son Dragó, the Ashtons’ villa. Worse, a postmortem exam indicates that Kerr didn’t drown but was poisoned by prussic acid. Solicitously reluctant to intrude on the grief of a new widow who’d served as her wealthy husband’s nurse before she married him, Alvarez (Murder, Majorcan Style, 2011, etc.) can’t help noticing that the grounds of Son Dragó are studded with almond trees whose fruit could easily have yielded the poison that killed Kerr. Questions abound. Why would an unattached visitor to the island have rented a marginal cottage for a month? What connected Charles Ashton to his downscale visitor? What are the terms of Ashton’s will, and why are both his servants and his wife so clearly uneasy about the disposition of his estate? When will Alvarez’s cousin Dolores stop nagging her husband and stick to cooking the ambrosial fare that keeps her extended family on an even keel? Slight but charming as ever, with an unusually tart conclusion that insures that Alvarez’s well-earned reputation for incompetence will continue undimmed.

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ENDANGERED

Littlewood, Ann Poisoned Pen (278 pp.) $24.95 | paper $14.95 | Lg. Prt. $22.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-59058-621-1 978-1-59058-785-0 paperback 978-1-59058-735-5 Lg. Prt. Life behind those zoo cages is every bit as tense as life inside. Zookeepers Iris Oakley and Denny Stellar are called out to a remote drug bust to rescue some exotic animals. When they arrive, they find not the pets they expected but many ailing smuggled parrots and tortoises, apparently another moneymaking scheme for the violently anti-government Tiptons. Although they raised and sold marijuana for years, the Tiptons have recently branched out to cooking meth, and it’s a struggle for Iris and Danny to decontaminate the tortoises before taking them to the zoo. At the site, they discover the body of the

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Tiptons’ adopted teen daughter, a former prostitute chosen to marry one of the Tipton sons. As they leave, they’re ambushed by Father Tipton and the sons, Jeff and Tom, who want their birds back. Despite Iris’ best attempts at CPR, the old man has a heart attack and dies. When Jeff and Tom break into her house asking about their father’s last words, Iris and her son flee to her parents for safety. Denny, who had once dated Iris, recently dumped her best friend, Marcie, whose difficulty handling the breakup adds more stress to Iris’ life. Things get still worse when Denny is shot, forcing Iris to do more sleuthing on her own. Though she finds them both attractive, Iris even suspects the kindly dog warden and the charming reporter she met at the crime scene. Evidently someone who’s noticed that Father Tipton was bailed out of jail with some gold coins is on the trail of the whole cache. Former zookeeper Littlewood, who certainly knows her animals, adds an informative picture of life behind the scenes at the zoo to Iris and Denny’s third case (Did Not Survive, 2010, etc.). (Regional author appearances in Oregon, Washington and California )

CLASSIC CALLS THE SHOTS

Myers, Amy Severn House (208 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7278-8150-2

A call to investigate the theft of a 1935 Auburn speedster drops car detective Jack Colby into a difficult and painful case. Because Jack’s classic-car restoration business is always on the edge of failure, he helps fill the coffers by investigating car thefts. This time he’s called in by the police and famous movie director Bill Wade, who’s filming Dark Harvest close to Jack’s home in Kent. The Auburn, Wade’s car, is featured in the movie, which takes place in the 1930s. Jack soon realizes that all is not well on the set. Wade’s wife, Angie, seems to be the core of the trouble. The director’s blockbuster success Running Tides ended in tragedy when its star, Wade’s lover Margot Croft, shot herself. Now that many of the same cast and crew are working on the new movie, Jack and the police have to wonder if there’s a connection when Angie is found shot dead. Sparks fly when Jack meets Louise Shaw, the star of Dark Harvest. They soon become lovers, allowing him access to inside information about the cast and crew. After Jack discovers the Auburn hidden under cover in a nearby parking garage, his local sources intimate that there may be a much larger scheme to steal classic cars. But is that the motive for murder, or does it all come down to what happened in the past? Jack’s second case (Classic in the Barn, 2011) offers a thought-provoking look at the world of classic cars and moviemaking along with a swiftly paced mystery.

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THE WRATH OF SHIVA

Oleksiw, Susan Five Star (308 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 6, 2012 978-1-4328-2591-1

Subhomicidal misdeeds on a South Indian plantation. Everything but murder, it seems, has gone wrong at the Kerala estate of IndianAmerican photographer Anita Ray’s great-aunt, Punnu Chellamma. First her granddaughter Surya, Anita’s cousin-sister, fails to return from her latest extended trip abroad. There’s no record that Surya even arrived at the airport, and she hasn’t phoned to say where she is. When Anita and her Auntie Meena, the proprietor of the storied Hotel Delite (Under the Eye of Kali, 2010, etc.), pay a visit to the estate to see if they can help, they learn that Gauri, a longtime family maidservant, has been falling into trances. Is she possessed, as she serenely assures them, by the goddess Bhagavati, and if so, what can be done for her? An exorcism ordered by Konan, the family astrologer, is less successful at ending Gauri’s trances than at arousing Anita’s suspicions of Konan and his associates—especially after Bindu, the cook’s assistant, is attacked and left for dead, and Anita herself is garroted by an assailant who tells her she should have stayed home. Why have so many of the estate’s sacred images been sent away to be treated for “bronze disease,” which amounts to little more than the marks of routine handling? And what does all this disruption have to do with Surya’s worrisome disappearance? Nonstop but low-level malfeasance, conscientious sleuthing and—by far the best feature—an unruffled look at life on a South Indian country plantation where even outrageous events aren’t that far from the norm.

SLY FOX

Pirro, Jeanine Hyperion (304 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-4013-2457-5 TV judge Pirro’s first foray into fiction follows a Westchester County Assistant District Attorney through two slam-bang years as she battles rapists, killers and fellow pillars of law enforcement. Since it’s 1976 and she’s a woman, Dani Fox has been shunted into the appeals bureau and kept out of the courtroom. But all that changes when Detective Tommy O’Brien asks her to talk pregnant barmaid Mary Margaret Hitchins, whose common-law husband Rudy beat her within an inch of her life, into leaving town for her own safety. Instead, Dani persuades Mary Margaret to file a complaint that’ll put Rudy away, then refuses to back up the cops’ tale of resisting arrest when they cuff Rudy and knock him around. As Dani’s boss, Westchester District Attorney Carlton Whitaker III, observes, Dani clearly isn’t a team player, and it’s no surprise

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“The narrative arcs of the regulars continue to fascinate because Slaughter’s not afraid to put them through irreversibly life-changing situations.” from criminal

to anyone but her when the case against Rudy turns ugly. No matter: Her high-profile prosecution, juiced by Whitaker’s pursuit of women’s votes, propels her into heading the county’s new Domestic Violence unit and onto a state task force drafting historic legislation allowing battered wives to take their abusers into criminal court. With her career well under way, Dani can afford to take on the case of Carmen Gonzales, whose father, Carlos, a jeweler and respected community activist, has been selling cocaine for years and raping her since she was 14. Despite unhelpful rulings from a novice judge, Dani gets a conviction, but once again the case doesn’t turn out the way she expects. As absorbing, episodic and self-congratulatory as a season of Mad Men, though with more felonies and inferior costumes and hairdos. A sequel is promised.

CRIMINAL

Slaughter, Karin Delacorte (416 pp.) $27.00 | $13.99 e-book | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-345-52850-6 978-0-345-52851-3 e-book

BEHOLD A PALE HORSE

Tremayne, Peter Minotaur (384 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-312-65863-2

In a flashback to the days before she married, Sister Fidelma of Cashel has a wild adventure in A.D. 664 Italy. Sister Fidelma is returning from Rome, where she solved a murder for the Pope. While stranded in Genua, she saves Magister Abo of Bobium from an attack and learns that her old teacher Brother Ruadán is at the Abbey of Bobium. Determined to visit Ruadán before he dies, Fidelma rides with Abo and his companions, Brother Faro and Sister Gisa, toward Bobium. On the way, they are again attacked and rescued by Wulfoald, commander of troops for Radoald, Lord of Trebbia. Fidelma barely arrives in time to speak with her mentor, who’s been badly beaten and left for dead, apparently by a faction that

Now that Slaughter has put former Grant County Medical Examiner Sara Linton (Broken, 2010) and Faith Mitchell, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (Fallen, 2011), though hell, it’s GBI Deputy Director Amanda Wagner’s turn on the hot seat, in a jolting case that involves murders separated by 40 years but united in ugliness. Georgia Tech sophomore Ashleigh Snyder has gone missing. The case is a natural for endlessly troubled GBI agent Will Trent, but for some reason Amanda, though she’s directed every other available agent to search for Ashleigh, is keeping him off the case. Not only has she banished Will to the airport in a deadend patrol of men’s rooms, he also finds her hanging around the Techwood apartments, geographically close to Ashleigh’s place but economically a million miles away. How come? Amanda’s motives are rooted in the murder of Jane Delray (or was it Lucy Bennett, as Lucy’s brother Hank insisted?) back in 1975, the year Will was born and Amanda was cutting her teeth in the GBI. Shuttling back and forth between that fateful summer and the present, Slaughter links the murder of a prostitute you’d think would have been long forgotten to the fate of Ashleigh Snyder. As per usual in this explosive series, the darkest revelations involve recurring characters. Yet the narrative arcs of the regulars continue to fascinate because Slaughter’s not afraid to put them through irreversibly life-changing situations. However successful you find the dizzying alternation between present and past nightmares, this double-barreled load of horrors is the clearest indication yet that Slaughter, like the sage of Yoknapatawpha, is less concerned with the shape of individual novels than with her sprawling, multivolume saga as a whole.

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opposes the teachings of Abbot Servillius of Bobium. Several local lords who have religious differences are struggling for power, and Fidelma is soon caught in the middle. Since she doesn’t speak the local language, she seeks help from Brother Eolann, the librarian, who’s also from Ireland. A hidden treasure may hold the answers to many of her questions, but they won’t be disclosed until Brother Ruadan has been attacked again, this time fatally, and Fidelma herself kidnapped while trying to solve the murder of a young goatherd. Once again, Tremayne (The Chalice of Blood, 2011, etc.) presents a detailed, readable depiction of life in ancient times with a clever mystery neatly woven into the plot.

THE WHOLE LIE

Ulfelder, Steve Minotaur (304 pp.) $24.99 | May 8, 2012 978-0-312-60454-7 Conway Sax never had it so good, which means, of course, that it’s only temporary. There’s his new garage, providing work he’s expert at while promising a solid future—a remarkable outlook for a man who’s spent a lifetime being self-destructive. There’s his girlfriend, Charlene, and her daughter, Sophie, both of whom he adores, ready to move in and become a family with him. But then, predictably, there’s Savanna Kane. Nicknamed Savvy by one of the many kissed-off males she’s out-hustled through the years, she comes hip-swinging out of Conway’s past, and suddenly that solid future begins to seem illusory. Seven years earlier, Savvy and Conway had shared the kind of torrid affair that doesn’t end when it ends, and she’s confident that Conway’s irretrievably in her corner. She has a problem that involves one of the most powerful men in Massachusetts, and it scares the daylights out of her. Conway has to help her, she insists. To this, there’s Charlene’s contrary view, immediate and emphatic: Let Savvy find someone else’s man to extricate her from her jams. So Conway faces a clear-cut choice: Savvy or Charlene. But when certain agendas become less secret and, as a result, bodies start piling up, the choices are anything but clear-cut. In his second appearance, Conway, as engaging as he was in his debut (Purgatory Chasm, 2011), is undercut by a story that never quite jells.

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NIGHTWORLD

Wilson, F. Paul Tor (400 pp.) $24.99 | May 22, 2012 978-0-7653-2167-1 Wilson revises his 1992 novel, but Planet Earth remains on the cusp of extinction. The sun rises late on May 17. Not very late, only five minutes—at 5:26 instead of 5:21—and it’s still the sun, for heaven’s sake. Another sign of bleak things to come is the 200-foot hole that suddenly appears in Manhattan’s Central Park. Wise old Glaeken, who knows a portent when he sees one, nails the M.O. immediately. These disturbances are the work of evil megalomaniac Rasalom, who’s flexing his murder muscles as he prepares to launch the Change, the process that will consign Earth to history. That is, if there is a history. To a shellshocked friend, clinging to the idea of bedrock fundamentals, Glaeken explains that the Change is irrevocably the Change: “We’ll have to learn to forget about physical laws—or any laws, for that matter.” If there’s any way of forestalling the Change, an overmatched Glaeken acknowledges that it’s beyond his ken. Slim as the chances for success are, however, the attempt must be made. So Glaeken assembles a small but dedicated coterie, a sort of special forces unit in which Repairman Jack (The Dark at the End, 2011, etc.) plays a more glittering role than he did in the 1992 version, and sends teams off in quest of certain oddments that can be alchemized into an Excaliburlike sword, the only weapon that might level the fighting field. But against the monstrous Rasalom, who is to wield it? Prepare to be fooled. Readers who can march to an apocalyptic drummer will find much to enjoy. (Contact: Alexis Nixon)

HOT SEAT

Wood, Simon Creme de la Crime (240 pp.) $28.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-78029-023-2 A second case for British race car driver Aidy Westlake reads like a carbon copy of his first (Did Not Finish, 2011), with heat indiscriminatingly applied. His nomination as Pit Lane magazine’s Young Driver of the Year has catapulted Aidy from the Formula One circuit to the European Saloon Car Championship. Richard Ragsdale, his new boss at Ragged Racing, has paired Aidy with ESCC champ Kurt Haulk and sung his praises to the world. His presentation at Pit Lane’s Racecar Show and Exhibition at Earls Court is a night to treasure—until the departing Aidy stumbles over the form of mechanic Jason Gates, dying from a cut throat. From this point on, Aidy’s troubles rapidly multiply. DI Joan Huston makes it plain that she considers Aidy her top suspect in the killing. The following day he’s kidnapped by henchman Dominic Crichlow,

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bound and hooded, and taken to Jason’s brother Andrew, a loan shark who accuses Aidy of the murder and then demands that he unmask the real culprit if he wants to keep his grandfather, classic-car restorer Steve Westlake, healthy. An angry driver on the Runnymede roundabout nearly collides with Steve, then tells the local police that he crashed into her car. En route to deliver a sponsor’s car to Munich, Aidy gets picked up in France by cops who find cocaine in the vehicle and gets blackmailed into spying on Ragsdale’s operation. And that’s before the sponsor’s car gets stolen. It’s easy to see why Ragsdale tells his new employee: “You have fantastic talent for calamity.” Somewhere along the line Jason’s killer gets brought to book. But it’s much more entertaining to watch Aidy get into one jam after the next. His laps around the racetrack must provide the most relaxing hours of his life.

by outside forces. That said, it may make it hard for some readers, particularly newcomers to the series, to care about the characters’ fates. The ending leaves open the possibility for more Orion adventures, which will be good news for series’ fans. A pleasant, if unremarkable, time-travel diversion.

ENERGIZED

Lerner, Edward M. Tor (336 pp.) $27.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-7653-2849-6 Near-future struggle over energy resources, previously serialized in Analog magazine, from the author of Moonstruck (2005, etc.). Following a nuclear incident in which the Middle Eastern oil fields were contaminated with radiation, Russia is the world’s leading petro-power;

science fiction and fantasy ORION AND KING ARTHUR

Bova, Ben Tor (464 pp.) $25.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-7653-3017-8

Prolific sci-fi author Bova (Leviathans of Jupiter, 2011, etc.) returns with the sixth installment of his Orion series, his first since 1995’s Orion Among the Stars.This latest story of time-jumping warrior Orion opens with him helping Beowulf defeat the monster Grendel (and Grendel’s mother) in ancient England. Soon after, he is transported in time to meet a young Arthur, the legendary future king. Orion’s nefarious and powerful Creator, Aten, the Golden One, schemes to cause Arthur’s death and set in motion a long-lasting barbarian empire as part of his plot to control the space-time continuum. But the independent-minded Orion, with help from another Creator, and romantic interest, Anya, is determined to defy him. As time-travel adventures go, the book’s plot is relatively simple, with some famous figures replaced by Bova’s characters (for example, Anya as the Lady of the Lake). Its straightforward approach has its appeal; in some ways, the book feels like a throwback to 1950s pulp fiction. The story, though not particularly challenging, moves along at a rapid clip, and the fight scenes, in particular, are exciting and welldrawn. The biggest problem is that the characters, often saddled with stilted dialogue, never quite come alive; it feels as if Bova is merely moving pawns around a chessboard—although perhaps that’s fitting in a story where history itself is being manipulated |

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“Eye-bulging escapades tempered with invention and mordant wit.” from railsea

as a result, gasoline is upwards of $10 a gallon and the U.S. is desperately scrambling to develop alternative energy resources. The largest project involves capturing an asteroid, Phoebe, steering it into Earth’s orbit, and using its resources to build a gigantic solar power station that will beam microwave power to receiving stations in the U.S. Opposing the project are environmental activists, technophobic Resetters and—secretly—the Russians, who like their monopoly and intend to preserve it by dispatching Federal Security Service heavies to blackmail key players in and near the powersat project, not to mention saboteurs in space and computer hackers on the ground. Radio astronomer Valerie Clayburn finds another reason to be annoyed with the project: Stray microwaves mess up her studies. NASA engineer Marcus Judson, determined to make the project succeed, manages to persuade Valerie of the importance of the project, and the two develop a relationship. But when things start to go wrong on Phoebe, Marcus must go into space to take charge. Just then, however, the Russians strike, hijacking the powersat and using its intense microwave beams to destroy alternative energy installations all over the globe, knowing the Americans will get the blame. These extended action sequences are the yarn’s most convincing feature, with the overlong setup technically competent if plodding. The cast of stock Cold War villains, sincere but deluded eco-freaks, weepy scientists and lantern-jawed engineers doesn’t help. An overdose of Message. (Agent: Eleanor Wood)

RAILSEA

Miéville, China Del Rey/Ballantine (433 pp.) $18.00 | May 15, 2012 978-0-345-52452-2 Moby-Dick meets Kidnapped by way of the Strugatsky brothers’ Roadside Picnic: Another astonishing blend of cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy and science fiction, from the hugely talented author of Embassytown (2011, etc.). In a world of endless land threaded and interwoven with train tracks, gigantic and voracious subterranean rats, stoats, millipedes and the like, layer upon layer of archaeological remains and a poisonous upper sky inhabited by flying angels, Capt. Naphi of the moletrain Medes hunts Mocker-Jack, a colossal yellow molelike moldywarpe. Other moletrain captains like Naphi are equally obsessed with pursuing their “philosophy,” while other trains make a living salvaging the plentiful and often incomprehensible detritus of past civilizations and the discarded junk of passing aliens, while still others ply more orthodox trades. Young Sham Yes ap Soorap is Medes’ apprentice doctor, a profession he has little aptitude for or interest in. While investigating a wrecked train, with which the landscape is littered, he discovers an ancient camera card whose pictures show, impossibly, a part of the Railsea that has narrowed down to a single set of tracks. Who took the pictures, and where might the tracks lead? Many folks, including pirates and some of Medes’ own crew, dream of treasure. Miéville’s omniscient, 1222

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detachedly amused narrator (whose identity is eventually, slyly, revealed) follows these and other points of view in relating a yarn that can be read as pure adventure, tongue-in-cheek homage, gleeful satire or philosophical meditation. It’s billed as YA and, indeed, Miéville’s usual high level of violence and sex is toned down, often to the point where the characters appear gender free (in one case, literally so). Eye-bulging escapades tempered with invention and mordant wit, perfectly complemented by the author’s own pen-and-ink drawings of the Railsea’s weird denizens.

THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR

Saintcrow, Lilith Orbit/Little, Brown (320 pp.) $13.99 paperback | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-316-20126-1

Sorcery, steampunk, Sherlock Holmes and an alternate world: first of a series from the author of Angel Town (2011, etc.). Beneath Britain slumbers a huge, ancient, mighty dragon; if it ever wakes up, its fire will destroy the world. In Londinium, Queen Victrix, the current incarnation of the goddess Britannia, commissions Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime, to protect Archibald Clare, a failed and now unregistered mentath—due to a mistake, he served time in prison for reasons only hinted at—capable of extraordinary feats of deduction. Mentaths, for whom data manipulation is a compulsive need rather than a means to an end, have more in common with Frank Herbert’s human-computer Mentats than legendary fictional detectives, however. Bannon has formidable skills, although how magic works is far from clear. She mistrusts Clare and won’t give him the data he needs, while he, naturally, is extremely well-informed, except, oddly, about sorcery, and considers her illogical. Mikal, Bannon’s lone Shield, or protector (he kills nasty things that threaten her while she’s preoccupied with sorcery), betrayed his previous employer, a treacherous sorcerer; secretly, he’s a shape-shifting serpent—and her lover. Plot? Well, Saintcrow doles it out piecemeal, without giving Clare or the reader enough clues to add up, but somebody’s killing registered mentaths and also sorcerers. The conspiracy possibly involves Cedric Grayson, Chancellor of the Exchequer. But to what end, and who’s behind the conspiracy? Clearly not the clownish Grayson. Add to the mix a logic engine, dragons, gryphons, an Italian assassin, steam-powered clockhorses and the curious unavailability of hansom cabs. Intriguing but messy; two of the chief ingredients would have sufficed, four is extreme overkill.

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nonfiction BRIGHT LIGHTS, NO CITY An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan

These titles earned the Kirkus Star: THE FORGETTING RIVER by Doreen Carvajal......................... p. 1227 AFTERMATH by Rachel Cusk...................................................... p. 1230

Alexander, Max Hyperion (400 pp.) $24.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-4013-2417-9

WHEN AMERICA FIRST MET CHINA by Eric Jay Dolin.......... p. 1232 TOO HIGH TO FAIL by Doug Fine............................................... p. 1234 AIR by William Bryant Logan.....................................................p. 1240 SAVAGE CONTINENT by Keith Lowe........................................p. 1240 THE GUARDIAN OF ALL THINGS by Michael S. Malone.........p. 1240 TWELVE PATIENTS by Eric Manheimer..................................... p. 1241 HOW TO BE A WOMAN by Caitlin Moran................................ p. 1243 THE DANGEROUS ANIMALS CLUB by Stephen Tobolowsky.....p. 1251 TWELVE PATIENTS Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital

Manheimer, Eric Grand Central Publishing (272 pp.) $26.99 Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4555-0388-9

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The story of the trials of running a startup company in Africa. “I never cared about Africa,” writes Alexander, a former executive editor of Variety and senior editor of People. “I never wanted to join the Peace Corps, raft the Zambezi, haggle in Fez or climb Kilimanjaro.” Nonetheless, he accompanied his brother, Whit, on one of his entrepreneurial quests there. Whit’s company, Burro, which rents batteries to people in villages in Ghana that lack electricity, aims to help the villagers save money while making a profit. It has been a worthwhile but arduous venture, and Alexander documents the many challenges of running a profitable business in an unfamiliar country. Burro is not Whit’s first company, however; he was also co-founder of the board game Cranium. Alexander notes that getting a startup off the ground is complicated even for the experienced entrepreneur, and sure enough, Burro ran into problems such as unreliable workers, faulty batteries and missed payments. There were two main issues underlying most of the complications: selling to a consumer base with extremely limited disposable income and working in a country without a viable infrastructure. Whit’s insistence that the company operate as a profitable business without handouts has made it an even more difficult, yet more rewarding, journey. After the author’s yearlong stay, Burro was still not breaking even, but it was closer to doing so with the help of a few interns and new advertising strategies. Alexander vividly describes the landscape of Ghana’s urban areas and villages; the portrait is beautiful at times, but the poverty is astonishing. Ultimately, the author’s colorful writing and humanitarian drive make the book well worth reading. An invigorating reality check for anyone thinking about starting a business in a developing country.

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HOME IS A ROOF OVER A PIG An American Family’s Journey in China

Arrington, Aminta Overlook (320 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-1-59020-899-1

A miltary wife turned ESL instructor’s sharp-eyed account of how the adoption of a Chinese baby girl led to her family’s life-changing decision to live and work in rural China. Soon after Arrington adopted her Chinese-born daughter Grace in 2004, “something began to nag at [her].” She knew that she would be giving the child a family and opportunities that would be unavailable in China, but at the same time, she would also be taking away an essential part of Grace’s identity. Consequently, she and her retired military husband decided to become ESL teachers and move their family to China. “Grace’s adoption gave a Chinese heritage to our whole family,” she writes. In 2006, they traveled to the city of Tai’an in rural China, where they took jobs at a small medical college. Assimilation did not come easily: Not only were they Westerners, but they were also a “threechild family in a one-child world.” Arrington became fascinated by her adopted country and its contradictions, but many aspects of its culture, including the authoritarianism and disparaging attitudes toward women, disheartened her. What especially troubled her as a teacher was the way the students, whose minds she had hoped to change, clung to parochial ideas and practices, especially regarding matters of education and politics. Gradually, however, she realized that the freedom she so cherished as an American was an abstract concept that paled in comparison to “real things like family and security” for the Chinese. Arrington neither romanticizes nor demonizes Chinese culture, and she learned to love it despite its limitations. Candid and heartfelt.

WHAT THE BEST COLLEGE STUDENTS DO

Bain, Ken Belknap/Harvard Univ. (260 pp.) $24.95 | Aug. 27, 2012 978-0-674-06664-9 Bain (History and Academic Affairs/ Univ. of the District of Columbia; What the Best College Teachers Do, 2004, etc.) taps into the experiences of dynamic, innovative individuals to tease out how their college experience shaped them. The author does not present much groundbreaking material, but his interviews with Nobel Prize winners, professional athletes and entertainers and well-regarded educators and researchers demonstrate the many vital approaches a student can bring to their college experience. Bain writes with clarity 1224

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and modulated enthusiasm about intrinsic motivation, adaptive experts and the necessity of invention and the importance of mindfulness. He convincingly argues for the significance of a liberal education—“engaging in dialogues that brought their own perspectives to bear yet tested them against the values and concepts of others and against the rules of reason and the standards of evidence”—but what really piques Bain’s interest is the act of immersing oneself in any activity that ignites true passion. Creativity comes to those who become “lost in something other than themselves.” The experiences of successful students are certainly burnished by exposure to the length and breadth of a liberal curriculum, but they are spurred by awe and fascination. The best students seek the meaning behind the text, its implications and applications, and how those implications interact with what they have already learned. To think in so rich and robust a way as Bain describes—“trying to answer questions or solve problems that they regard as important, intriguing, or just beautiful”—is an aspiration of the first order. A soundly encouraging guide for college students to think deeply and for as long as it takes.

THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS Essays

Baker, Nicholson Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-4165-7247-3 The erudite novelist and essayist ponders obsessions both old (newspapers and rare books) and new (Kindle 2, Wikipedia, video games). Very little escapes the attention of Baker (House of Holes, 2012, etc.), whether it’s the small details of old jobs, fleeting summers, technology—both dying and cutting edge—or odd but fascinating obscurities. He likes to find the form in abstractions. In “I Said to Myself,” he digs away at questions many fiction writers have considered at one time or another: What does a person really sound like when he talks to himself? Are thoughts sentences? Should they be placed between quotes, or was James Joyce right to get rid of those? Baker also wants to preserve the past even as he warily embraces the future. In an essay about gondoliers, he refers to the gondola as “an ancient and noble boat, which summed up many lost beautiful things.” Baker is a champion of beauty on the verge of vanishing, whether it involves old newspapers or rare books tossed out by space-squeezed libraries, or Wikipedia entries on forgotten Beat poets. He’s against destruction on principle, as he shows in a defense of pacifism, in which he argues that wars only create retribution and violence. An “armistice without victory” would have saved more Jews in World War II, he believes, a deeply felt if unconvincing hindsight proposition. He prefers war as a video game—and who doesn’t?—such as Modern Warfare 2, which turns out to be “an unjingoistic, perhaps completely cynical amusement.”

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“An enthusiastic report from the front lines of cognitive science designed to pique the interest of nonscientists.” from the ravenous brain

Not a major work, but a thoughtful collection from a writer who, to quote his own description of Daniel Defoe, has “an enormous appetite for truth and life and bloody specificity.”

THE BLACK RHINOS OF NAMIBIA Searching for Survivors in the African Desert

Bass, Rick Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (288 pp.) $25.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-547-05521-3 A well-known nature writer travels to the Namib Desert, “one of the oldest unchanged landscapes on earth.” In search of a change of pace, Bass (Why I Came West, 2009, etc.) accepted an invitation to travel with his friend, Dennis, who heads a nonprofit studying South African rhinos that have been saved from extinction but are still threatened. They visited a Namibian field station run by the Save the Rhino Trust, where a collaborative project is underway. A high point of the trip was their five-day trek through the desert during which they had three encounters with potentially dangerous rhinos, including a mother and her calf. Armed only with cameras, Bass experienced the extreme desert conditions in which this once populous species now lives in “staggering” temperatures, with barely enough drinking water to survive. The author describes his journey as “not like anything I have ever done, hurrying to stride alongside this big cruising creature, an animal that could so easily dispatch, finish, erase any or all of us.” In addition to discussing his own experiences, the author provides interesting background on the Cold War era, when pro-communist Angolan armies battled South African forces, and both sides financed their efforts by selling the horns of the rhinos they massacred. An exciting adventure, but may disappoint animal-lovers interested in learning more about rhinos.

THE RAVENOUS BRAIN How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning

Bor, Daniel Basic (352 pp.) $27.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-465-02047-8

From a cognitive neuroscientist, a lively look at what research is revealing about consciousness and a view of some of the ethical implications of recent findings about the brain’s “ravenous appetite for wisdom.” Bor (Research Fellow/Univ. of Sussex, Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science) asserts that centuries of philosophical |

arguments about consciousness have shed little light on the subject and that the science of consciousness, now some two decades old, has much to tell us. Descartes receives special scrutiny. After an opening chapter dismissing many philosophical debates, Bor turns to the evolutionary background of consciousness, which he describes as a certain kind of processing of information that captures useful patterns in the environment. His experience of being under general anesthesia for surgery introduces a discussion of the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness. He distinguishes between conscious and unconscious processes, examines the psychology and neurophysiology of awareness, and explains how our brains utilize a process called chunking to organize pieces of information into meaningful groups. Bor also takes up the question of how to assess consciousness in various species of animals and in mute individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, and he explores the relationship of dysfunctional consciousness in autism, schizophrenia, ADHD and other mental disorders. Finally, the author includes a cautionary note about the fragility of the human mind; in his view, adopting an attitude of skepticism and practicing meditation are beneficial. Bor keeps general readers in mind, making challenging subject matter entertaining by peppering his narrative with personal anecdotes, imaginative thought experiments and probing research studies. An enthusiastic report from the front lines of cognitive science designed to pique the interest of nonscientists. (9 b/w figures. September main selection of the Scientific American Book Club; second selection at the Book of the Month Club)

THE MAN WHO SAVED THE UNION Ulysses Grant in War and Peace

Brands, H.W. Doubleday (736 pp.) $35.00 | Oct. 2, 2012 978-0-385-53241-9

An unabashed admirer of the great Civil War general portrays the most unlikely, reluctant American hero since

George Washington. While there are moments of frustrating small-picture detail to veteran biographer Brands’ (The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr, 2012, etc.) book, his portrayal of his subject’s essential humanity proves truly compelling. The author sticks to Grant’s own words, through letters and contemporary records, rather than relying on what later historians wrote. Since Grant was so unassuming and unprepossessing, this can be a torturous exercise. From his initial reluctance to consider himself a candidate for West Point, to his taking up farming in Illinois and business out of desperation to support a growing family, largely relying on filial indulgence and always uncomfortable managing his wife’s slaves, Grant never displayed a sense of self-confidence, except in handling horses. The breakout of the war saved Grant from drifting, and he was soon swept up in preparing his local militia in Galena, Ill., where he

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was employed in his family’s business. In his methodical fashion, Brands shows how Grant’s quiet proficiency continually caught the attention of his superiors. His ability to organize, discipline and inspire his men gained him swift promotions and earned him accolades in a series of signal battles, especially Vicksburg. Though President Lincoln doubted some of his strategies, Grant was the general that Lincoln needed (“[H]e makes things git! Where he is, things move!” Lincoln declared), and with William Sherman as Grant’s right-arm scourge, the Rebels were ground into the sea. Brands also considers Grant’s reputation for drinking, his deep devotion to his wife, his aversion to speechmaking and politics and his moral center. A direct, engaging approach to Grant’s life that would have pleased him.

SAVING THE SCHOOL The True Story of a Principal, a Teacher, a Coach, a Bunch of Kids and a Year in the Crosshairs of Education Reform Brick, Michael Penguin Press (320 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 20, 2012 978-1-59420-344-2

The lively journalistic account of a troubled Austin, Texas, school that endured a year of tough medicine while facing shutdown. Opened in 1965 to great fanfare and team spirit, lauded by national leaders for its two state football championships in the late-’60s, John H. Reagan High School was beset by the classic concerns troubling much of the rest of the country’s public schools from the 1990s onward. A huge increase in English language learners, rotating teaching staff, a spike in school violence and dropout rates and alarming slumps in test scores branded Reagan with “the stigma of failure.” During the school year of 2009-2010, when Reagan was given one more chance to bring up test scores or face closure as part of the national get-tough approach to school reform headed by the new president, former New York Times reporter Brick immersed himself in the lives of the teachers and students at Reagan. He focuses especially on the formidable task faced by the school’s principal, Anabel Garza. Arriving onboard in 2008, Garza worked tirelessly to try to restore some of the lost luster to the neighborhood school. Raised in Brownsville, having struggled herself to build a career from hardscrabble beginnings, Garza employed a combination of hands-on mothering, hectoring and toughness, inspiring teachers to expect all of their students to pass the standardized tests. Overall, instilling a sense of personal responsibility within the larger student body seemed to be the heartening key to this school’s amazing success. This nondidactic journalist’s record of one school’s journey through the confounding stakes of recent reform makes for instructive reading.

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THE ART OF BEING UNREASONABLE Lessons in Unconventional Thinking

Broad, Eli Wiley (226 pp.) $24.95 | May 8, 2012 978-1-118-17321-3

Billionaire philanthropist Broad, who has built two Fortune 500 companies, serves up a lifetime of business lessons. This memoir/business primer is not of the warm, avuncular variety, but readers will sense the author’s presence on the page, as if he were making eye contact, ensuring that readers are listening and understanding. In discreet, bite-sized chapters, Broad dispenses plenty of down-home, commonsensical business practice, all surrounded by an aura of pride, yet mercifully free of moony sentimentality. The author started out as an accountant, then moved into homebuilding before tackling retirement savings investment. Broad stresses a fairly simple approach, noting that his achievements have been driven by a combination of traits: a high degree of focus, commitment, a willingness to conduct serious research (no shortcuts), exercising the art of being effectively unreasonable, and always asking “why not” as an effective antidote to received opinion: “It’s a question that helps sharpen my convictions and break down my unexamined prejudices.” What singles out this book is Broad’s applicable advice: how to pitch to the right person, how to manage risk, the value of being the second mover, to “never bet the farm—or even half the farm.” The author explains how to tender a sound offer, substitute praise with a raise and higher expectations, and never abandon principles for power. He speaks to the intangibles—luck—and he details the tough stuff: hard work, sacrifice, the sting of time lost that might have been spent with family. In meaningful, attention-worthy ways, Broad wisely distributes mental habits and daily practices that have made him a happy, successful man.

THE LONG WALK TO FREEDOM Runaway Slave Narratives

Carbado, Devon W.; Weise, Donald--Eds. Beacon (288 pp.) $28.95 | $28.95 e-book | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-8070-6912-7 978-0-8070-6913-4 e-book

Excerpts from the narratives of runaway slaves organized by the principal reason for the flight to freedom. In some ways, this is an unnecessary volume, as the narratives are widely available elsewhere, in print and online. But editors Carbado (Law and African American Studies/UCLA) and Magnus Books editor in chief Weise have sharpened and particularized the focus, allowing readers a chance

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“A mesmerizing journey through time, across cultures and into one woman’s rich personal history.” from the forgetting river

to experience the stories from a fresh perspective. After a brief introduction—where we learn that most runaways didn’t head north but instead to southern cities, hoping to disappear into anonymity—the editors step aside and let these remarkable men and women tell their own stories. Carbado and Weise arrange the escapes by motive (recognizing that no such radical act has a single reason): runs for freedom, family, religion and “by any means necessary,” a sort of catchall category. Included are the stories of Moses Roper, who found his mother years later (she didn’t initially recognize him); James Curry, who writes about brutal floggings; Bethany Veney, who relates how she never again saw her husband; Isaac Williams, who battled wolves during his escape; and William and Ellen Craft, whose bold escape featured crossdressing and passing as white on public transportation. Among these perhaps lesser-known stories are also selections from the famous narratives of Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner and Harriet Jacobs. Many of the cruelties remain horrifying to read. Emerging as true humanitarian heroes are the Quakers, who invariably helped when others would not. A useful one-volume selection featuring grim but inspiring tales.

THE FORGETTING RIVER A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition Carvajal, Doreen Riverhead (400 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 16, 2012 978-1-59448-739-2

The haunting account of an investigative journalist’s efforts to uncover her family’s hidden Sephardic Jewish past. In the aftermath of 9/11, Paris-based New York Times journalist Carvajal began to experience “a strange yearning for something indefinable—a sense of refuge, of belonging.” She also wanted to “fill in the deep, black holes” of memory that persisted in her Catholic family’s history. Eventually, the author moved to Arcos de la Frontera, a town located in the same Spanish province where her father’s family had originated. From this vantage point, she began to explore the fascinating, fraught history of the Sephardic Jews, who had been forced to become Catholic converts or exiles. She learned about the double lives of many of the conversos and the secret, often ingenious ways they developed to pay tribute to their true heritage. Carvajal also began to understand the ways in which Judaism had infused such time-honored and apparently Catholic traditions as the saeta, a song performed during Holy Week to pay homage to life-sized images of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Her quest for knowledge about los sefarditas soon evolved alongside a parallel quest for information about her family’s past. Dissatisfied with the vague responses she received from relatives about family history, she pursued DNA testing, which offered tantalizing hints rather than conclusive answers to her questions. Carvajal |

finally found the “defining clue that resolved all doubts.” As was the case with so much else they and other Sephardic Jews had left behind, the answers, though encrypted, were in plain sight, awaiting eyes that could decipher the truth. A mesmerizing journey through time, across cultures and into one woman’s rich personal history.

THE LONG WALK A Story of War and the Life that Follows Castner, Brian Doubleday (224 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-385-53620-2

“The first thing you should know about me is that I’m Crazy.” So begins this affecting tale of a modern war and its home-front consequences. The capitalization is deliberate, for by debut author and combat veteran Castner’s account, that Crazy is something like another person lying inside, more than a shadow within, something that can be neither stilled nor exorcised. The ordinary-Joe author found himself as a volunteer Army officer in Iraq—and not just a soldier, but one with the very special job of disarming bombs. It’s a business of acronyms, EFP (explosively formed projectile) being a particularly dreaded one. “EFP’s are real bad,” writes Castner. “They take off legs and heads, put holes in armor and engine blocks, and our bosses in Baghdad and Washington want every one we find.” Given that demand, a dangerous job becomes even more dangerous, and the “long walk”—the one an explosives disposal expert takes toward the bomb and the task of denaturing it—becomes ever longer. It’s an assemblyline sort of job, one of “stamping machines” and “broken widgets,” in which a single mistake means being vaporized. For Castner, there were no good days. Most days were a blend of boredom and terror, with some more terrifying than others, as with the “Day of Six VBIEDs”—i.e., six very nasty car bombs within 15 minutes. That’s the kind of thing that can wear on a person, to say nothing of the sound of small-arms fire, mortars, bombs and artillery. All of this fed the Crazy, whose “spidery fingers take the top of my head off to eat my brain and heart from the inside out every night.” And the Crazy turns out to be very real, on the way to the dread thing called TBI, traumatic brain injury, which all that exploding ordinance spawns just as surely as cigarette smoking gives way to emphysema. Scarifying stuff, without any mawkishness or dumb machismo—not quite on the level of Jarhead, but absolutely worth reading.

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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE FIX An Insider’s Guide to a Less than Holy World of Politics Cillizza, Chris Crown (192 pp.) $11.99 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-307-98709-9 978-0-307-98710-5 e-book

Cillizza, writer of The Fix, a political blog sponsored by the Washington Post, makes use of all the tricks of his trade in this debut about what he calls “the greatest sport,” American politics. The author assembles a playbook that helps identify the players and strategies and proposes improvements. Like many others, Cillizza sees the economy as the major issue in upcoming elections, and he considers the effect of Hispanic population growth on the GOP and discusses the Supreme Court’s contribution to campaign finance reform. The author compares the passions of Ron Paul’s conservative supporters to his own attachment to his all-time favorite TV show, Friday Night Lights, and he offers his thoughts on books and movies about politics. From the blogging world, Cillizza provides websites he finds useful. In addition to his assessment of the current political climate, the author presents proposals for reform of the political arena—e.g., doubling the length of terms for House members, using nonpartisan panels for redistricting—each intended to improve the process. In a discussion of candidates who never had a chance of winning on the biggest stage, like Chris Dodd, Rick Santorum and Alexander Haig, Cillizza grants that it is possible for someone to have a reason for running for office even while knowing they will not prevail. Dodd did it, he writes because “he had always wanted to run for president and would have spent his life regretting it if he hadn’t given it a try,” and Santorum was concerned about his legacy. The author does not discuss the importance of contributing to the shaping of national debate as a reason for participating. Some readers will welcome the breezy flippancy adopted from the Internet, but the thoughtful should look elsewhere for serious discussion.

GIL HODGES The Brooklyn Bums, the Miracle Mets, and the Extraordinary Life of a Baseball Legend

Clavin, Tom; Peary, Danny New American Library (320 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-451-23586-2

A neglected baseball great receives his due in this comprehensive biography. In their second collaboration, veteran authors Clavin and Peary (Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero, 2010, etc.) highlight 1228

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another player egregiously overlooked by baseball’s Hall of Fame. At the conclusion of his playing career, Gil Hodges (1924–1972) had put up numbers that ranked among the all-time best. The authors dutifully chart his on-field heroics, reminding us of his slugging prowess (career home-run record for National League righthanded batters), his Gold Glove fielding and his knack for the big moment. More than anything, though, they feature Hodges the man, a fellow whose decency and character made an impression on everyone around him. From his sports-obsessed Indiana boyhood, to his short college tenure, his World War II service with the Marines, his crucial role as a leader of the storied 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers, his managerial stint with the Washington Senators and, most famously, with the Miracle Mets of 1969, Hodges was the sort of man after whom friends named their sons. For his quiet manner, stoicism and professionalism, he regularly drew comparisons to the sainted Lou Gehrig. A modest, devoted family man, Hodges was beloved in Brooklyn. When he slumped horribly in the 1952 World Series, church congregations prayed for him; when he brought a championship to the historically hapless Mets, all of New York toasted him. Perhaps he kept too much inside. As an adult, he was a chronic worrier, and he never discussed his combat experiences. Only a longtime smoking habit hinted at the stress he must have felt before his second heart attack in 1972, which killed him. The authors’ brief on behalf of Hodges’ Cooperstown credentials won’t persuade everyone, but baseball fans will appreciate this look at an often-overshadowed star. A loving appreciation of a rare commodity: an extraordinary athlete who was an even better man.

ALL WE KNOW Three Lives

Cohen, Lisa Farrar, Straus and Giroux (432 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-374-17649-5

Meticulously researched biography about three extraordinary but underappreciated women who, as they memorialized themselves, also “colluded in [creating their] own invisibility.” The subjects of the book are the complicated, interconnected lives of New York intellectual Esther Murphy, playwright and celebrity admirer Mercedes de Acosta and fashion editor Madge Garland. Murphy was a brilliant, charismatic woman who dazzled everyone with her “extravagant verbal style.” Despite the minor successes she experienced with her essays and reviews, she was unable to finish any of the books she was contracted to write. Cohen (English/Wesleyan Univ.) hypothesizes that Murphy was a performer whose “need for an audience was so great that she could not isolate herself to write” the texts that would have earned her greater recognition. By contrast, de Acosta actively attached herself emotionally, and sometimes sexually, to some of the greatest performers of her time, including Isadora Duncan, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. But in the process of obsessively collecting memorabilia

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“A scrapbook from the first family of American cartooning, containing collaborative strips that date back to the mid-1970s.” from drawn together

related to these women, she effectively erased her own life. Like de Acosta, Garland, an editor at British Vogue, also immersed herself in the world of women. A closeted lesbian who led a double sexual life to protect her social position, Garland “played a defining role in almost every aspect of the fashion industry in England in the interwar and postwar years.” Yet because she took interest in the ephemeral (fashion) and because she never trumpeted her achievements, she left no lasting memorial to her accomplishments. Murphy’s life was an apparent monument to failure, de Acosta’s to the irrational and Garland’s to the trivial. As Cohen shows, however, each woman succeeded in problematizing the concept of modern celebrity. Ambitious, erudite and only occasionally pedantic.

THE GIFT OF PETS Stories Only a Vet Could Tell

Coston, Bruce R. Dunne/St. Martin’s (336 pp.) $25.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-250-00666-0 978-1-250-01498-6 e-book Tender tales of animal care from a veteran veterinarian. There is a special bond between a pet and its owners, which Coston (Ask the Animals: A Vet’s Eye View of Pets and the People They Love, 2009) gracefully brings to light in his second memoir about his Virginia practice. “The core of a veterinary hospital,” he writes, is the “emotional and compassionate intertwining of hearts and hands, of science and souls, of lighthearted laughter and wrenching sadness.” The author’s concern toward the sick animals under his care and his empathy for the owners merge with humor as he recalls his daily routines. Independent, eccentric, fun-loving, serious—all words that aptly describe owners and animals alike as Coston diagnoses and treats a myriad of maladies in the dogs, cats and birds that come to him for help. Vivid descriptions place readers in the operating room as Coston treats cancerous tumors, removes partly digested tennis balls, coins and rocks from intestinal tracts, or puts a seriously ill animal to sleep. Woven throughout these stories of animal care are the author’s reflections on his relationships with his staff. There’s Rachel, “an unassuming, quiet woman…one of those people you think you know well but whose waters run deep and unseen, with surprising twists and eddies,” and Lisa, a young woman who, through diligence and hard work, moved from kennel assistant to veterinarian technician, only to have her personal story end in tragedy. Benevolent, instructive stories of the bonds between animals and humans.

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SUA SPONTE The Forging of a Modern American Ranger Couch, Dick Berkley Caliber (368 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-425-24758-7

A former Navy SEAL takes an inside look at how the Army selects and trains its elite warriors. Among the American military’s special operations forces none has an older or more distinguished history than the Army Rangers. Couch (Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior, 2007, etc.) takes us briefly through these glittering annals, but quickly focuses on the unit’s modern incarnation, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and its preparation of soldiers for their direct-action mission. A light infantry, mobile assault force that typically fights at night, the rapidly deployed Rangers conduct raids designed to kill or capture the enemy, to disrupt his operations, and to seize objectives like airports or embassies. To accomplish this mission, Ranger candidates, recruited from regular Army volunteers, undergo arduous training and merciless evaluation, all levels of which Couch examines. Granted unprecedented access, Couch follows a Ranger class through to its departure for the battlefield. He liberally sprinkles the narrative with interviews of the candidates and their trainers, paying due attention to the specific skills taught—shooting, breaching, mobility, hand-to-hand fighting, fast-roping, etc.—but focusing even more on a complete picture of the unique Ranger culture. The requisite physical fitness, intelligence, mental toughness, ethical maturity, patriotism and cultural suitability of each Ranger are always subject to proof in a regiment where you “have to earn your Scroll every day.” The peer-review process will strike civilians as brutal, but the Rangers’ candid assessment of their fellows, Couch makes clear, is crucial when lives depend on the creativity, cooperation, stability and reliability of each soldier. An admiring, inspiring account of how the Army shapes and sharpens the tip of its spear.

DRAWN TOGETHER The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb Crumb, R.; Crumb, A. Illus. by Crumb, R.; Crumb, A. Liveright/Norton (272 pp.) $29.95 | Oct. 1, 2012 978-0-87140-429-9

A scrapbook from the first family of American cartooning, containing collaborative strips that date back to the mid-1970s. The title serves a dual purpose, underscoring the claim, made throughout the book, that the authors are “The World’s Only Cartooning Couple,” as the two-headed cover proclaims, but also

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indicating the qualities that drew them together and keep them together. In a flyer for the aptly named Dirty Laundry Comics, Robert Crumb dubs them “the John and Yoko of Underground Comics!!” There are some parallels. In both cases, he had a wider following, and some fans have suggested (as these panels admit) that she was horning in, co-opting his work by capitalizing on his renown. In both cases, he proved to be his wife’s strongest defender, suggesting that, if anything, she is carrying him. “Aline, I can’t do this without you,” he writes in one of the four-panel “The Crumb Family” strips (changes of pace from the longer, more elaborate narratives that dominate). “If I tell stories about my life it just comes out grim & sad.” Not only does her presence provide comic relief, but the two of them present her as the stronger, both physically and emotionally. And then there’s the sex (and there’s plenty of it). “I go where the butt goes,” he reflects while she beams, “So nice you’re actually moving to a remote village in a foreign country just to satisfy an impulsive whim of mine!!” Generally, each of them draws themselves, though the panels make note of occasional reversals. The collection documents the changes in their lives as they’ve grown older, had a daughter (now a published cartoonist herself), moved to the south of France, and received more attention than they’d wanted through a couple of films (a documentary on the Crumb family and the adaptation of American Splendor, the acclaimed bio-pic of friend and collaborator Harvey Pekar). From the bathroom to the bedroom, they respond to the question of just how open and honest a marital comic can be. Not the most ambitious Crumb work, but there’s a lot of love here.

THE YEAR OF LEARNING DANGEROUSLY Adventures in Homeschooling Cummings, Quinn Perigee/Penguin (224 pp.) $23.95 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-399-53760-8

A mother’s candid and humorous account of the exploits of homeschooling her child. When her daughter, Alice, continually balked at learning long division at public school, math-phobic Cummings (Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life, 2009) decided she didn’t want Alice to grow up fearing numbers. The author realized she needed to try a different approach to education, and homeschooling became the solution. Almost instantly, Cummings was confronted with doubts about her ability to successfully teach Alice, especially math, and the fear that Alice would not develop socially without daily interaction with other children. To combat her insecurities, Cummings delved into some homeschooling variations, including unschooling (letting the child’s interests dictate the curriculum), a belief system where “the first priority of homeschooling is not giving our children the skills required to succeed in society but protecting our children from the corrupting influence of that society,” and following the 1230

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teachings of Dr. Bill Gothard, an extremely Bible-based format of learning. Not content just to research these variations online, the author went undercover, complete with proper attire and wig, to homeschooling conventions to witness and experience these styles of learning firsthand. She provides practical advice on how not to homeschool as well as entertaining commentary on the multiple styles available. Ultimately, Cummings and Alice survived their year together, with both child and parent learning from the other. With the future of all education in flux, the author foresees children adopting multiple methods of learning to remain successful in the years ahead. An amusing and informative memoir about an alternative approach to education.

AFTERMATH On Marriage and Separation

Cusk, Rachel Farrar, Straus and Giroux (160 pp.) $23.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-374-10213-5 A novelist’s unflinching analysis of her failed marriage. Cusk (The Bradshaw Variations, 2010, etc.) fixes an unnervingly steady gaze on the breakdown of her domestic life. “There was nothing left to dismantle,” she writes, “except the children, and that would require the intervention of science.” In her third memoir, the author brings together elements of a well-constructed novel—it’s compelling and even thrilling, even though the story is unsurprising and banal (man meets woman, and they create a family; family falls apart; man, woman and children grieve)— and its novelistic feel is a credit to Cusk’s literary risk-taking. She doesn’t tell her tale straight; instead, she weaves in figures from ancient Greek drama (Oedipus, Antigone, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra) and thickens the bare-bones plot with striking, elaborate turns of phrase and powerful images. The last and most unorthodox chapter is told, by Cusk, from the perspective of her au pair Sonia, a scared, scarred girl whom the author abruptly fired when her husband left (though she did provide her with another job). What is most startling about the Sonia chapter is not that the self-sufficient, Oxford-educated Cusk so convincingly inhabits the mind of an unskilled young foreigner, but that she is willing to expose herself at her worst: cold, harsh, pitiless and even cruel to a woman far more vulnerable than she. Bold, gripping, original and occasionally darkly funny.

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ISRAEL The Will to Prevail

Danon, Danny Palgrave Macmillan (240 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-230-34176-0

The deputy speaker of the Knesset, believing the Obama administration is softening American support of Israel, argues that his country should “take firm hold of its own destiny, with a ready willingness to act decisively on its own behalf.” In this debut, Danon establishes his thesis early: Israel must think of itself first. He chides the United States for, well, thinking of itself first. The author begins his argument with a look at the current situation in the Middle East, emphasizing terrorist acts throughout the region and around the world. He worries deeply about a nuclear Iran, and he’s skeptical about the so-called “Arab Spring” and warns that revolutions can frequently produce unexpected and calamitous consequences. He takes readers through a number of Middle Eastern trouble spots (Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and others), emphasizing their tinderbox character. He follows with what he considers President Obama’s early missteps in the region—accepting the Nobel Peace Prize before he’d really accomplished anything, his Arab-friendly 2009 Cairo speech, his evident sympathy for the Palestinian desire for a separate state and his misunderstanding of the situation in Jerusalem. Danon also goes after Secretary of State Clinton for her criticism of some women’s issues in Israel, Leon Panetta, and the U.S. media and institutions of higher education. Danon then offers some brief history lessons: the establishment of the state of Israel, the 1956 Suez crisis, the Six-Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. He ends with a defense of Israel’s right to exist, citing biblical texts and international law, and he claims that there should be no Palestinian state (they’ve already got Jordan, he writes), and that a peaceful, thriving Israel will benefit the world as a whole. A concise but deeply tendentious summary of the issues in the region. (First printing of 75,000)

serves as a reminder of the event’s less-glamorous origins and of a race that helped change its history. Tracing the beginnings of both the modern games and the modern marathon race, Davis focuses on three runners: pre-race favorite Tom Longboat, a Native American running for Canada, the largely unknown Italian pastry cook Dorando Pietri, and the scrappy IrishAmerican Johnny Hayes. The race became a sensation after a controversial finish, sparking a marathon craze and helping establish the Olympics as the headline-making international gala it is today. Davis has a great story to work with, and he does a solid job bringing it to life. He is assisted by the colorful characters of the athletes, Longboat in particular, and others, including United States Olympic Committee member James Sullivan, whose repeated claims of poor sportsmanship by the British hosts helped stir controversy and interest, and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, whose reporting on the race helped turn it into instant legend and Pietri into an international star. The author argues convincingly that if the 1908 Games had not been a success, the Olympics might not have continued and certainly would not have taken their current

SHOWDOWN AT SHEPHERD’S BUSH The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Craze Davis, David Dunne/St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99 | Jun. 19, 2012 978-0-312-64100-9 978-1-250-01239-5 e-book

Sports journalist Davis recounts an influential and largely forgotten chapter in Olympic lore. As the Summer Olympics, and all the attendant pomp and circumstance, prepare to return to London in 2012, this book |

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“An entertaining and informative look at the troubled gestation of a film of both artistic and social significance.” from i am spartacus!

I AM SPARTACUS!

form. The same can also be said for the marathon, now a major event around the world, whose distance was first established by the 1908 Olympic course. A valuable addition to the history of the Olympics and distance running. (8-page b/w insert)

WHEN AMERICA FIRST MET CHINA An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail Dolin, Eric Jay Liveright/Norton (384 pp.) $27.95 | Sep. 10, 2012 978-0-87140-433-6

The author of Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America (2010) returns with the story of America’s first voyages to the Middle Kingdom, where Americans and Chinese looked at each other with wonder, alarm and calculation. Dolin begins at the end of the American Revolution. With America’s relationship with England in ruins, the country looked to the Far East. On July 22, 1784, the Empress of China sailed into the Pearl River in China. The author, whose grasp of the intricacies of international trade is firm, proceeds confidently and skillfully through a complex narrative. He describes the beginnings of trade with China, examines the mystery of silkworms, and shows how China established Canton as the center for their trade with the West, whose residents craved silk but also tea (and serving sets). Soon, thousands of vessels—British and American—were sailing on the Pearl, and the most profitable commodity swiftly became opium. Everyone loved it, especially the English and the Chinese, and Americans profited handsomely from the trade. Dolin introduces us to some important American names— including Robert Morris, John Ledyard, John Jacob Astor, Robert Forbes, Harriet Low—and he relates the adventures of the first Chinese to come to America, who became sort of carnival attractions. The author also describes the perils of the voyage, the designs of the ships (and the rise and fall of the clipper ship) and the American involvement in the Opium War. A rich, highly readable examination of the seeds of poppies, trade, greed, grandeur and an international partnership that remains uneasy and perilous. (16 pages of color and 83 b/w illustrations; map)

Douglas, Kirk OpenRoad Integrated Media (242 pp.) $16.99 e-book | Jun. 12, 2012 978-1-4532-3937-7 He is Spartacus…and here’s how it happened. Douglas (Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning, 2008, etc.) famously helped break the Hollywood blacklist when he insisted Dalton Trumbo—previously jailed for contempt of Congress and made an unemployable industry pariah due to his membership in the “Hollywood Ten”—be given sole screenwriting credit under his own name for Spartacus, rather than employ a pseudonym, as was common practice at the time. That act of courage is at the heart of this memoir about the creation of the epic film. The author’s evident pride in the matter is wholly justified, but the book’s true appeal lies in the off-camera antics of the storied cast and the candidly described aggravation and terror the production’s many complications engendered in Douglas, who, as the producer, had staked his reputation and financial wellbeing on the results. Among Douglas’ many headaches were the childish rivalry between stars Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton, who regarded each other with a curious combination of respect and utter hatred; the scene-stealing machinations of Peter Ustinov, whose efforts would net him an Academy Award; a scheduling standoff with a similarly themed sand-and-sandals epic starring Yul Brynner; and, most fascinatingly, Douglas’ frustration with director Stanley Kubrick, a replacement for Anthony Mann who alienated Douglas and much of the cast and crew with his high-handedness and lack of social skills, while ultimately delivering a technically accomplished and viscerally emotional masterpiece. Douglas is a fine natural storyteller, unafraid to portray his quick temper and nasty outbursts when the going got rough. An entertaining and informative look at the troubled gestation of a film of both artistic and social significance.

MARIE CURIE AND HER DAUGHTERS The Private Lives of Science’s First Family Emling, Shelley Palgrave Macmillan (272 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-230-11571-2

An intimate portrait of the professional and private lives of legendary scientist Marie Curie and her daughters,

Irène and Eve. Journalist Emling (The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World, 2009, etc.) opens with Marie receiving her second Nobel Prize a few years after the 1232

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death of husband, Pierre, with whom she shared her first Nobel. While many Curie biographies pay scant attention to this last quarter-century of her life, Emling explores the later years of “the woman, mother, and friend behind the pioneering scientist,” bolstered by the Curie family’s personal letters, given to the author by Curie’s granddaughter, Hélène Langevin-Joliot. Emling describes Curie’s life trying to balance the demands of her scientific research with the needs of her two daughters. At the time of her second Nobel, Curie’s career was nearly derailed when news emerged of an affair between her and a married former student, physicist Paul Langevin. Although the scandal died down eventually, Curie would remain wary of journalists for the rest of her life, save one: American magazine editor and socialite Marie “Missy” Meloney, who befriended Curie and brought her to America as part of a campaign to raise funds for Curie’s Radium Institute. Emling explores in full the scientific career of Curie’s daughter Irène; working together, Irène and her husband followed in her parents’ footsteps, sharing a Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1935—an honor Marie did not live to see, having died the previous year. Unfortunately, Eve, the daughter who opted for a career as a musician and journalist, receives scant attention; Emling relegates the details of her life to a single chapter, which feels obligatory and tacked on. A slightly uneven but uniquely human look at a brilliant scientific family. (Author tour to New York and Boston)

GOOD ITALY, BAD ITALY Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future

Emmott, Bill Yale Univ. (304 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-300-18630-7

The former editor-in-chief of the Economist finds a few bright spots amid the dark economic clouds in post-Berlusconi Italy. Expanded and updated since its 2010 publication in Italian, this brisk journalistic account by Emmott (Rivals: How the Power Struggle between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade, 2008, etc.) argues that Italy’s current financial crisis eerily echoes the previous one of 1992-1994, and that understanding why meaningful reforms failed to be enacted then may help Italians do better this time. He dismisses as unhelpful in this effort the traditional distinction between the wealthy, industrial north and the poor, rural south. Instead, Emmott discerns a “Bad Italy…selfish, closed, umeritocratic and often criminal,” and a “Good Italy…more open, community-minded and progressive.” As examples of the Good Italy, he offers social movements such as Addiopizzo (“goodbye bribes”) and Ammazzeteci Tutti (“kill us all”), an anti-mafia group. Emmott also visits and praises various nimble new businesses that have managed to thrive despite restrictive labor laws and a glacially slow judicial system that makes it extremely difficult to enforce contracts. The slow food movement in Turin, a cashmere exporter in Perugia and a company that manufactures sophisticated measurement devices are among the author’s examples of the kind |

of dynamic capitalism Italy needs. However, these praiseworthy efforts don’t immediately address the problem of Italy’s massive debt, which occurs in the context of a global economic crisis due in large part to the kind of unrestricted, unregulated capitalism the author seems to be advocating, despite a brief acknowledgement of the banking industry’s excesses. When Emmott praises Ireland’s governing institutions for becoming “from the late 1980s onward…more efficient and less profligate,” without making any reference to the fact that Ireland is now experiencing a financial crisis at least as severe as Italy’s, it’s difficult to entirely trust his prescriptions for economic health. Well reported but with debatable theoretical underpinnings.

TEACHING MATTERS Stories from Inside City Schools

Falk, Beverly; Blumenreich, Megan--Eds. New Press (208 pp.) $19.95 paperback | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-59558-490-8 Educators Falk and Blumenreich (The Power of Questions: A Guide to Teacher and Student Research, 2005) present case studies of kindergarten and elementary school classrooms that, although located in economically stressed urban areas, have found creative and intelligent means of making education effective. Few cultural and social arenas have managed to dodge the divisiveness that has overtaken modern political discourse, and education is not one of the exceptions. Standardized testing, long proven to be ineffective at best and incredibly damaging at worst, remains the driving force behind assessing student progress; the distractions of technology and social media continue to spread further into kids’ lives; the promise of a decent, reliable job based on academic performance is no longer taken for granted. The difficulty in crafting a solution is that one solution won’t suffice. Falk and Blumenreich compile case studies that approach some of the problems from a micro, rather than macro, perspective. Whereas educational policy might suggest that one particular methodology is superior in a majority of situations, these case studies provide a more eclectic set of approaches to dealing with issues. A handful of the case studies, and the conclusions from those studies, overlap each other in content; this ties into the overall thrust of the book. Issues of immigration sensitivity in children just starting school tie into the importance of drawing from the strengths of a multicultural classroom. The authors take the studies further than standard liberal boilerplate issues, however, wading into the animosity of parent-teacher relationships and providing constructive insight into the failings and strengths of both groups. Flying in the face of national standardized testing, three studies explore the strengths of differentiated teaching. As often happens with thoughtful consideration of a problem, the solutions raise more questions, which the authors strive to explore without getting lost down a rabbit hole. A valuable book for urban educators.

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“A captivating, solidly documented work rendered with wit and humor.” from too high to fail

TOO HIGH TO FAIL Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution

Fine, Doug Gotham Books (320 pp.) $27.00 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-1-592-40709-5

NPR contributor Fine (Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, 2008, etc.) reports on his year spent in Northern California researching the hazy world of medical marijuana. As the epicenter of the sustainable cannabis-growing industry in America, Mendocino County serves as the starting point for the story. Fine’s intention was to track one cloned female cannabis plant, later named Lucille, from the farmer who tended her to the first patient who inhaled her smoke. Along the way, the author explores the intertwined history of humans and cannabis, as well as potential future benefits of cannabis, including biofuel, textiles, foodstuffs, farming and substantial economic boosts for cash-strapped communities. In 2006, Fine writes, the medical cannabis crop contributed $100 million in “sales tax to California’s general fund.” The author peoples the narrative with a colorful cast, including Sheriff Tom Allman, who touts the departmental and countywide benefits of the cannabis industry in Mendocino; a ganjapreneur and member of the National Cannabis Industry Association who hopes medicinal cannabis will one day be branded in a manner similar to fine Napa Valley wine; and an indoor grower turned outdoor cannabis farmer who simply wants to pay his taxes while providing high-quality organic medicine to his patients. Fine also examines how the American people have borne the massive economic and social expenditures of the failed Drug War, which is “as unconscionably wrong for America as segregation and DDT.” A captivating, solidly documented work rendered with wit and humor.

UNDEFEATED Inside the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ Perfect Season

Freeman, Mike It Books/HarperCollins (304 pp.) $25.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-06-200982-1

A conventional, sometimes fawning account of a remarkable NFL season. There’s not much hard hitting here, other than what occurs on the gridiron. Freeman (Bowden: How Bobby Bowden Forged a Football Dynasty, 2009, etc.) is clearly in awe of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins and their Hall-of-Fame coach, Don Shula. He even engages in a pointless were-they-the-best-ever argument near the end. The clichés and hyperbole fly downfield frequently—far more often than passes from the throwing arm of Dolphins’ quarterback Bob Griese, the disciplined, conservative signal-caller who 1234

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came off the bench at halftime in the 1972 AFC Championship Game. Griese threw only a handful of passes that year’s Super Bowl, relying instead on his “No Name” defense and on the punishing running of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick and the speed and agility of Mercury Morris, who subsequently went to jail on drug charges. Scattered throughout are sketches of other key Dolphins; the history of the Dolphins and its Scroogean owner, Joe Robbie; and some accounts of other games, other players and opponents. Some will not enjoy their portraits. Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer, for example, was consistent, says the author, only in his beer drinking. Freeman reserves his highest praise for the Dolphins and their coaches. Other, less Einsteinian coaches, “filled their special teams with psychos and dickheads.” Oddly, the author’s account of the 1972 Super Bowl is sketchy and scattered, not the climactic clash that readers will expect. Freeman also includes some occasional passages about race issues and drug wars in Miami. Will appeal mostly to fans of Shula and the Dolphins. (8-page b/w photo insert)

HONG KONGED One Modern American Family’s (Mis)adventures in the Gateway to China

Hanstedt, Paul Adams Media (304 pp.) $24.95 | Jul. 18, 2012 978-1-4405-4073-8

A neurotic American father of three relocates his family to Hong Kong for one year. Hanstedt (General Education Essentials: A Guide for College Faculty, 2012), an English professor and editor of the Roanoke Review, is no stranger to international travel, having visited 30 countries on four continents. But living in Asia on a Fulbright exchange program for 12 months became a challenge of epic proportions for him, his wife, Ellen, and their three kids, 9-year-old Will, 6-year-old Lucy and 3-year-old Jamie, whose bright, distinctive personalities are on full display. Though their first few days abroad were marred with the death of Ellen’s father, the family trudged on with wide-eyed excitement at the cross-cultural opportunity unfolding before them. From navigating the subway system to procuring palatable food for picky kids in Kowloon restaurants, the culture clash began immediately. The author excitedly dictates stories of rocky junk rides, pedestrian dangers and space issues inside their temporary home, situated 20 minutes from China’s border, and he balances the inconveniences with pages of familial history and beautifully described scenery. When Will got bullied, Hanstedt drew on his own painful moments of tortured life at school; in the final pages, he tenderly reflects on Jamie’s incremental growth while in China from a baby to a vibrant toddler. Through text that reads like dynamic blog material and flows with the hyperactive flare of an anxious father of three, the narrative moves along seamlessly with enthusiasm, parental trepidation and a healthy dose of sardonic humor.

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THE VOTING WARS From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown

Hasen, Richard L. Yale Univ. (256 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-300-18203-3

Loyola Law School professor Hasen (The Supreme Court and Election Law, 2003, etc.) keeps us current as he catalogs the old horrors and contests and new laws involved in the U.S. election process. Since the 2000 election, the 24-hour news cycle and computer-driven results have caused more contested elections than ever before. Especially notable are the Minnesota Senate race of 2008 and Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections in 2011. The Wisconsin election hinged on the returns that the head election official had forgotten on her personal laptop and a local elections board official who didn’t “understand anything about computers.” Minnesota’s Coleman v. Franken took nine months to resolve, but as the author compares it to Florida in 2000, he notes that Minnesota’s superior handling was due to bipartisanship and transparency as well as the “niceness factor.” The cries of voter fraud that accompany every election rarely end in convictions, and Hasen points out that voter fraud is not worth the effort since the advent of the secret ballot. Selling votes only works with absentee ballots; the problem is that many of those ballots are never even counted. Republican demands for fraud prosecution that resulted in the firing of nine attorneys brought attention to the partisan drive to control voting. The new voter ID laws in multiple states show just how far that control extends. An astute but not terribly encouraging outline of the partisanship of election boards and the jockeying for power among local, state and federal officials.

TRUST ME, I’M LYING Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Holiday, Ryan Portfolio (256 pp.) $26.95 | Jul. 19, 2012 978-1-59184-553-9

In his first book, media consultant and American Apparel marketing director Holiday takes on the blogosphere, finding its content to be little more than manufactured and manipulated “conflict, controversy, and crap.” “Did Saddam Hussein write book reviews for Kirkus?” Of course he did not, but such a headline, writes the author, would be typical for a “blog,” by which he means all online publishing including Twitter, major and obscure websites, Web videos, group blogs with hundreds of writers and whatever else is out there. All blogs face the same pressures and same weaknesses. |

In a medium of infinite space and endless deadlines, they must publish and publish often—a professional blogger must write several times per day in order to make any money at all. All of this is driven by the need for page views, the number of times someone hits on a website. Page views determine advertiser dollars, which determine the reality presented by blogs. In the search for “traffic by any means,” journalistic standards and responsibility often go out the window, replaced by a new strategy: Publish first, and then, perhaps, verify. Headlines must instantly capture the audience’s attention, and adding a question mark allows plausible deniability. Truth gives way to sensationalism and innuendo, and blog-fed information devolves into “sensationalism, extremism, sex, scandal, hatred.” But if blogs manipulate, they can also be manipulated. Plant a story— true or not—in a small blog, and it could be picked up by a larger blog, then by a large media outlet. Holiday has done this countless times to create a buzz about authors, musicians, clothing apparel, etc. Ultimately, this practice is harmful. Reputations can be destroyed in a few minutes, but more broadly, blogs create a “constructed reality,” a world that does not really exist but yet seems true. Holiday has written more than a dyspeptic diatribe, as his precise prose and reference to the scholarship of others add weight to his claims. A sharp and disturbing look into the world of online reality.

MORE BATHS LESS TALKING Notes from the Reading Life of a Celebrated Author Locked in Battle with Football, Family, and Time Itself Hornby, Nick McSweeney’s (200 pp.) $14.00 paperback | Aug. 14, 2012 978-1-938073-05-2

The rock-obsessed novelist confesses his idiosyncratic reading habits in this fourth collection of columns written for the Believer. Critics tend to write reviews as if in a bubble, rarely acknowledging the ways the world can intrude on their reading and comprehension. The charm of Hornby’s (Juliet, Naked, 2009, etc.) “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column is his candor about the messy intersection of living and reading. One column opens with his two young children demanding his attention as he struggles to finish Nicholson Baker’s novel The Anthologist; in another, he points out how a trusted recommendation led him to Don Carpenter’s obscure 1966 noir, Hard Rain Falling. That intimate perspective makes this book read more like a set of personal essays than book reviews, but he still delivers some funny and clear-eyed insights on writing. He demolishes the sexism of John Updike’s Marry Me by calling out the preposterousness of its dialogue, and writing about Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn gives him the opportunity to thoughtfully consider the pleasures of rereading and the distinctions between screenwriting and writing novels. Hornby’s tastes often match those of the Believer audience’s, which prefers

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“A funny, sexy memoir of a good girl gone momentarily very bad.” from klonopin lunch

contemporary fiction and hipper nonfiction, but he roves widely, devouring Muriel Spark and Charles Dickens along with David Kynaston’s dense history Austerity Britain and a biography of Preston Sturges. Hornby’s reading life is pleasantly experimental, and though he softens his disappointments for the no-snarkallowed Believer, he’s at his most entertaining when he falls in love by accident with a book, as with Sarah Bakewell’s Montaigne biography, How to Live. Hornby is an entertainingly unpretentious critic; any reader would come away with a handful of book recommendations they’d be eager to check out.

SCATTERED SAND The Story of China’s Rural Migrants

Hsiao-Hung Pai Verso (320 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-84467-886-0

A Taiwanese-born investigative journalist reports on the conditions facing migrant workers in China’s rural interior. Hsiao-Hung Pai (Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour, 2008) brings her knowledge of China’s history to this detailed examination of the plight of the millions of peasants searching for work in China’s booming cities and, failing that, in other countries. She recounts her interviews with individual peasants, during which she urged them to describe their experiences in their own words. The author traveled from Russia, where the closing of a large outdoor market in Moscow sent thousands of Chinese migrant workers back home, to China’s industrial northeast, to the province of Sichuan, the site of a devastating earthquake, and to its southern manufacturing centers. She also spent time in Guangdong province, where a special economic zone with thousands of new factories has brought great prosperity to the upper-middle class but for migrant workers has meant exploitation, homelessness and suicide. At one point, the author accompanied her mother on a trip to her home province of Shandong, a trip that provides her with the opportunity to fill in readers on family history as it entwined with Chinese history. In Fujian province, where tens of thousands of peasants have sought jobs overseas, many going to Japan, the United States and Europe, she introduces readers to Xiao Lin, whose misadventures in trying to escape to the West are material for a book of its own. Her final stop was the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest, where the Uighur ethnic minority are considered security risks and endure harsh discrimination and grinding poverty. Unlike Michelle Dammon Loyalka’s Eating Bitterness (2012), which concentrates on a few rural migrants in one city, Hsiao-Hung Pai’s examination ranges across the whole country and provides background information on factory conditions, political corruption and worker unrest. A grim but keen view of the dark underside of China’s prosperity. 1236

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KLONOPIN LUNCH A Memoir Jones, Jessica Dorfman Crown (272 pp.) $25.00 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-307-88697-2

A funny, sexy memoir of a good girl gone momentarily very bad. The title suggests yet another tale of addiction and redemption. Not quite. Jones (The Art of Cheating: A Nasty Little Book for Tricky Little Schemers and Their Hapless Victims, 2007) was an unhappily married executive at a Manhattan dot-com in the late 1990s, just past 30 and worrying about losing her edge too soon when she began taking guitar lessons from a “Jewish Vinnie Barbarino” for whom she felt an instant sexual attraction. Thus followed a couple of years in which she fell in deeper with her Virgil of badness and increasingly estranged from her oddly passive and incurious college-sweetheart husband. She began nightclubbing, putting together a band, taking cocaine and other drugs, and enjoying lots of the best sex of her life. This is not an especially profound book—the deepest thing in it is the epigraph from the Gnostic Bibles—and Jones skirts romantic-comedy cliché territory. She even has a gay male confidant who inspired the book’s title and delivers its biggest laugh-out-loud line (which may be worth the price of the book). However, Jones is a talented writer. The chapter explaining the book’s title is a masterpiece of comic writing, and Jones writes freshly and perceptively about love, lust and sex. Despite ample evidence of her real-life ability to lie, in her book, at least, she is starkly (and wittily) honest about her own faults while being generous toward the deeply flawed men in her life. Some readers will find Jones’ sins unappealing, but many will be eager to see what other books come out of her—a guilty pleasure.

THE REVENGE OF GEOGRAPHY What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate

Kaplan, Robert D. Random House (256 pp.) $28.00 | Sep. 11, 2012 978-1-4000-6983-5 978-0-679-60483-9 e-book Kaplan (Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, 2010, etc.) sagely plots global territorial transformations from the United States to China. The overthrow of artificial borders imposed by the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall, postwar treaties and dictatorships has recalled this senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security back to some essential geopolitical truths. While not

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promoting geographical determinism, Kaplan reminds readers that to understand the role of geography is to understand a “historical logic” lost to our age of instant information and travel. For example, the recent democratic upheavals in the Arab world seized Tunisia first partly because it was early on the North African hub under numerous civilizations from the Carthaginians and the Romans to the Turks, while Yemen, with its stubborn terrain of mountains and desert, remained isolated and ungovernable. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Central Europe” has now replaced “Eastern Europe,” yet with the reunification of Germany, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Balkans, and massive military intervention in ethnic struggles for self-determination in the 1990s, geography has been ignored to great peril. Kaplan returns to hard lessons by “realists” like Hans Morgenthau, who appealed to historical precedent rather than abstract moral principles in foreign policy; Nicholas J. Spykman, who reminded us that geography was permanent while dictators were not; and British geographer Halford J. Mackinder, who conceived the notion of the “Eurasian Heartland” as the area on which human settlement (and power) would always “pivot.” Kaplan extends his academic argument to the early-21st-century map and offers predictions on how the historical logic will play out in Europe, Russia, China, India, Iran and North America. A solid work of acuity and breadth.

THE GRAVES ARE WALKING The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People Kelly, John Henry Holt (416 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-8050-9184-7

A fresh, fair look at the causes of the devastating Irish potato famine. While there already exists solid coverage of this tragic episode in history—from Thomas Keneally and Colm Tóibín, among others—Kelly (The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, 2005, etc.) provides a comprehensive exploration of the crisis in terms of the Irish demographic and geographical makeup, economic infrastructure, tenant-farming patterns, landowner manipulation and wrongheaded British relief policy. The appearance of the mysterious potato blight in 1845, accompanied by the smell of rot, devastated the year’s harvest. The old Protestant Irish landholding system was gradually breaking up into smaller groups of tenant farmers, and then into numerous landless laborers (70 percent of the population of rural Ireland in 1841), such as the cottier and the spalpeen, many of whom still celebrated a “Hidden Ireland” of Catholic faith, Celtic culture and a Bedouin-like meanness that appalled British visitors. The collapse of the Irish manufacturing sector in the 1820s had thrust people onto the already overworked land; families were large, and the potato was the most cost-efficient, high-nutrition crop. As news from Ireland worsened, the British government |

was thrown into disarray, precipitating debate on the hated Corn Laws. Yet relief did not reach the people who needed it; Irish grain was still being exported to British dining tables, and predatory landowners moved to evict impoverished tenant families. Kelly gives a thorough tracking of Irish emigration as well, which helped account for the shrinkage of the Irish population, by more than 2 million people, during the crisis. Roundly researched work with many poignant stories of misery and loss. (20-25 b/w images)

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

Klinkenborg, Verlyn Knopf (224 pp.) $22.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-307-26634-7

A New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm. Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes. Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h p. d. s m i t h Q: What are the unique challenges of prophesizing what the world’s great cities might look like in 50 or 100 years?

We built this city, sang those celebrated prophets Starship. But in point of fact civilization rests on a rich and long-buried history of human beings communing, fighting, loving and surviving the great metropolises of our little blue world. Now British researcher P.D. Smith turns his piercing attention to the history and development of cities in City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age, touching on topics ranging from gladiatorial combat to the murky world of underground labyrinths.

A: One of the challenges is that, just like sciencefictional accounts of the future, attempts to design ideal cities or predict the shape of future cities can date very quickly. Of course, that hasn’t stopped a range of futurists and architects imagining some wonderfully creative cities. They include Ron Herron’s “Walking City” from the 1960s, a robotic mega structure that could move across the landscape. In reality though, things never turn out quite the way we expected. Unforeseen discoveries in science and technology can completely revolutionize the way we live and therefore the shape of our cities. In the future, climate change will almost certainly force us to rethink our urban lives, as some cities face water shortages and others have to contend with rising sea levels.

Q: Most people write about specific places. Why write about the concept of cities themselves?

CITY:

A Guidebook for the Urban Age P.D. Smith Bloomsbury (400 pp.) $40.00 Jun. 19, 2012 978-1-60819-676-0

A: There are already some wonderful biographies of specific cities. Peter Ackroyd’s London and Alexandra Richie’s history of Berlin, Faust’s Metropolis, spring to mind immediately. But I wanted to do something different. Namely, to explore our enduring love affair with cities and to try to identify the essential features that explain the global success of cities and city life. I wanted to write a book that captured something of our urban DNA.

Q: You’re something of a visual artist by nature. How did you visualize the layout of the book and the images that accompany your text?

Q: You write in the introduction that you tried to create a guidebook “in which you can wander and drift.” What inspired this unique structure to City?

A: It is illustrated in full-color throughout with double-page spreads between the sections. There is an image for each essay and text box. The eight sections—Getting Around, Time Out, etc.—are color coded, which gives each one a unique visual identity. From the start, I saw it as an illustrated book, just like a guidebook. Some of the photos in the book are taken by me, as I love wandering around cities taking pictures of buildings and people. Cities are wonderfully visual subjects. Just think of the work of the great street photographers, people like John Thomson in London, Brassaï in Paris, or Bruce Davidson in New York City. There are also many historical images in City. My publisher, Bloomsbury, did a brilliant job tracking down some of the more obscure photos and designing the book. It looks gorgeous, and I’m very grateful to everyone who worked on it for helping to turn my idea into reality.

A: I’ve always thought that the best way to get to know an unfamiliar city is to wander round it on foot, even to get lost in it. A city is a labyrinth of streets and alleys and I wanted to write a book that did not force the reader to follow a fixed narrative route. I wanted the reader to be able to open the book anywhere and to be immediately drawn into the subject. The idea of structuring it as a guidebook was immensely appealing. People have been writing guidebooks to cities for hundreds of years. They often took the form of a walk through a city. Similarly, in my book you can choose your own route through the past, present and future of the city. Q: You’ve traditionally written about scientific topics— a biography of Albert Einstein, an exploration of nuclear physics. How did writing about a subject that is a bit less precise compare for you as an author?

–By Clayton Moore

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P HOTO BY S US A N N G

A: Certainly the subject of cities is less clearly defined than, say, the life of Einstein. But breaking this “baggy monster,” to use Henry James’ phrase, of a subject into specific essays made it much easier to deal with. Nevertheless, I will not deny that it was a challenge. But, as a writer and as a reader, I like big subjects. And they don’t get much bigger than this!

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OCTOPUS Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con

Lawson, Guy Crown (352 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-307-71607-1

The sordid saga of debauched Wall Street hedge fund manager Sam Israel and how he lost more than $100 million—and most of his sanity. At one time, Israel could do no wrong. He had the magic touch on Wall Street, seemingly able to turn anything he touched into gold. Never mind that his financial prowess as a trader stemmed from a steady font of insider trading information provided by some of the most conniving players in the stock market. When Israel’s fraud was discovered and his fund inevitably collapsed, he fell prey to even more pernicious con men than himself. Blinded by the promise of billions of dollars and an escape hatch from his sinking firm, Israel decided to roll the dice and bet on the wild schemes of Robert Booth Nichols, an eccentric figure claiming to be an ex-CIA asset. Nichols promised Israel entrance into the dangerous world of international high finance known as the “Shadow Market,” a secretive world where the strapped financier could recoup his losses and even amass a new fortune. However, the Shadow Market didn’t really exist. Or did it? The line between fact and fantasy becomes elusive in the second half of this mind-bending yarn, but Lawson (co-author: Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia, 2006) somehow manages to make sense of it all. He provides a penetratingly comprehensive profile of a crooked trader run amok, and he nimbly traverses the labyrinthine depths of a worldwide banking con that managed to involve looted Federal Reserve notes and the JFK assassination. The author is sympathetic to Israel—at least he, unlike Bernie Madoff, tried to pay back those he swindled—but he doesn’t sugarcoat his crimes. An eye-opening window onto Wall Street’s destructive culture of unchecked hubris and a harrowing thrill ride into the unraveling mind of a desperate operator.

THINGS THAT ARE Essays

Leach, Amy Illus. by Christopherson, Nate Milkweed (192 pp.) $18.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-57131-334-8 Quirky, poetic essays about elements of the natural world. This debut collection by Leach, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a Pushcart Prize, explores fantastical and curious subjects pertaining to |

natural phenomena. Her slim volume is divided into two sections— “Things of Earth” and “Things of Heaven”—containing essays with names such as “Goats, and Bygone Goats,” “When Trees Dream of Being Trees” and “Sail On, My Little Honeybee.” Each of the essays range from three to seven pages, and they are accompanied by beautiful, original pen-and-ink drawings by Christopherson. Leach’s writing, though cerebral, displays her enormous imagination and attention to detail as she poses and attempts to answer such varied questions as how to transport a wave, or considers the upside of life as a goat. The opening line of “Please Do Not Yell at the Sea Cucumber” demonstrates her direct and casual, slyly funny tone: “One nice thing about having bones is that you don’t get rerouted every time you run into something.” The author’s appreciation for absurdity and the joys of wildlife infuses her pieces with a childlike suspension of disbelief; her descriptions strike a balance between imagination and science, with dashes of magical realism, and some of her wording is far more similar to poetry than prose. The work as a whole, despite its occasional similarities to essays by Thoreau, likely won’t appeal to many general readers, but for those interested in looking at the natural world through the lens of a fairy tale, this is a bonbon of a book. (Author appearances in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Washington)

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL Parenting for Authentic Success

Levine, Madeline Harper/HarperCollins (352 pp.) $25.99 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-06-182474-6

Practical advice for raising wellrounded and successful children. Psychologist, author and co-founder of Challenge Success, Levine (The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids, 2006, etc.) draws on 30 years of counseling experience and current research to debunk contemporary thoughts on raising children. Beginning in preschool, parents and teachers push their students to obtain good grades and high SAT scores and participate in numerous extracurricular activities, with the end goal of attending a prestigious college. While these are still worthwhile endeavors, Levine offers readers hands-on solutions to “optimize conditions so that a far greater number of children can actually be successful without the accompanying high levels of distress that have become so prevalent.” Today, there is too much emphasis on driving children toward an often unrealistic and narrow definition of achievement, creating a generation of young adults at “high risk for emotional, psychological, and academic problems.” Through the use of scenarios from her own experience of raising three sons, as well as instances from her clinical practice, Levine provides examples of common situations encountered while raising children and suggests new solutions to handle these situations. The author’s approach includes

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“A tour-de-force journey through the natural world.” from air

unconditional love, empathy, stimulating challenges, a safe environment that encourages curiosity, and discipline when necessary. With these tools, Levine believes all children are capable of leading “satisfying, meaningful, and authentically successful lives” without the accompanying stress, panic and exhaustion commonly seen in adolescents. A rethinking of the term “success” provides new insight on how to raise today’s youth. (Author appearances in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.)

AIR The Restless Shaper of the World Logan, William Bryant Norton (384 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 20, 2012 978-0-393-06798-9

An examination of the all-encompassing role that the atmosphere plays in shaping our lives. Arborist Logan weaves together history, philosophy and culture in the third volume of his trilogy. As in his earlier works—Dirt (1995) and Oak (2005)—he celebrates the union of the inorganic and organic realms that nurture life: “The air cannot be owned. It cannot be controlled…It changes the fate of creatures and the destiny of peoples.” The author explains that his purpose is to make us aware of how remarkable the role of the atmosphere is in the evolution of life on Earth and in every aspect of daily existence. Too often we take it for granted, he writes, except when problems arise. In our focus on air quality and global warming, we tend to forget that it is the medium in which spores, fungi, airborne bacteria and pollens circulate—along with soot and other pollutants. Logan provides a biting critique of the failure of government officials to be honest with the population of New York City about the dangerous level of pollution following 9/11, when he was able to accurately measure the air quality as he worked to save trees in the area. He explains how global patterns of air circulation are responsible for cyclones and describes the problem faced by weather forecasters because of the famous butterfly effect: how “the smallest unobserved change could make the difference between a sunny day and a massive storm.” Logan celebrates the atmosphere as a medium of communication—transmitting pheromones as well as sound, bird calls, music—and notes that the breath of life separates the living from the dead. A tour-de-force journey through the natural world. (25 illustrations)

SAVAGE CONTINENT Europe in the Aftermath of World War II Lowe, Keith St. Martin’s (464 pp.) $30.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-250-00020-0

A breathtaking, numbing account of the physical and moral desolation that plagued Europe in the late 1940s. Drawing on recently opened Eastern European archives, Lowe (Inferno: The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, 2007, etc.) presents a searing and comprehensive view of postwar Europe that calls into question the very nature of World War II. Europe in this era is often seen through a rosy mythology of liberated nations cheerfully coming together to begin the task of reconstruction. In fact, the story of this period “is firstly a story of the descent into anarchy.” Across this devastated, lawless continent, millions of displaced persons trudged on foot in search of vanished homes or safety, some voluntarily, some driven at bayonet point as part of the massive ethnic cleansing that engulfed Eastern Europe; all were generally unwelcome on arrival. Everyone was “hungry, bereaved and bitter about the years of suffering they had been made to endure—before they could be motivated to start rebuilding they needed time to vent their anger, to reflect and to mourn.” Vent they did. Hostilities ended with the defeat of Germany, but violence continued unabated as partisans and communities punished collaborators, terrorized and expelled ethnic minorities, and pursued with brutal enthusiasm the class wars and civil wars that had long bubbled just beneath the surface. Viewed in this light, the familiar Allies-Axis war appears as a simplistic cover for the far more complicated and vicious local conflicts beneath. Lowe writes with measured objectivity, honoring the victims of atrocity and understanding the causes of, but refusing to excuse, the violence directed by freed victims against their former oppressors. Authoritative but never dry, stripping away soothing myths of national unity and victimhood, this is a painful but necessary historical task superbly done.

THE GUARDIAN OF ALL THINGS The Epic Story of Human Memory Malone, Michael S. St. Martin’s (304 pp.) $25.99 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-312-62031-8

Every living organism possesses a memory, however primitive, but Homo sapiens carried it to a dazzling level, writes technology journalist Malone (The Future Arrived Yesterday: The Rise of the Protean Corporation and What It Means for You, 2009, 1240

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“An exquisite—and often exquisitely depressing—patchwork of joy and pain.” from twelve patients

etc.) in this ingenious, richly complex account of how humans exchange, record, preserve and manipulate information. All creatures, early hominids included, lived in the present and kept their memories to themselves. This changed less than 100,000 years ago when modern humans developed consciousness, allowing us to see ourselves as individuals and life as a continuum. Speech evolved simultaneously, giving us the ability to share this new avalanche of experiences and memories. Our ancestors developed amazing techniques for remembering vast quantities of information, but writing worked better, so Malone provides lots of information about clay tablets, papyrus, parchment and, ultimately, the best, paper (because it’s the cheapest). Memories in the brain appear instantly, if surprisingly inaccurately. Once written, making use of information requires additional writing (indexes), institutions (libraries) and even more writing (dictionaries, encyclopedias, instruction manuals). Memory preservation had been a visual process for 5,000 years until Thomas Edison added a second sense with the phonograph. The 20th century saw a quantum leap as computers recorded and retrieved information 1 billion times faster, leading to what Malone suggests is a universal brain with memories available to everyone: the Internet. The author stresses that while microprocessors get the headlines, it was relentless improvement and shrinkage of computer memory that permitted these phenomenal advances. An original, fascinating scientific history of how human memory and a series of inventions have driven the advance of civilization. (25 b/w photos)

TWELVE PATIENTS Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital

Manheimer, Eric Grand Central Publishing (272 pp.) $26.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4555-0388-9 Captivating samplings of one doctor’s tour of duty inside the country’s oldest and perhaps most illustrious public hospital. As the “oldest hospital in the country” New York’s famous Bellevue Hospital stands strong in the ashes of centuries of illness, death and, indeed, survival. Manheimer started his residency there in 1997, and each of these 12 vignettes coalesces into a humanitarian and heartbreaking tapestry where modern medicine confronts the atrocities of life. The profiles begin with the strife of incarcerated Mexican mobster Juan Guerra, admitted to the prison health unit with a neck swollen with cancerous tumors, the same type of carcinoma the author was battling at the same time. Other chapters introduce patients like Tanisha, a Dominican-Haitian teenager who was abandoned at birth and had ricocheted for years through an overburdened foster-care system; a recovering drug addict; an undocumented factory worker with a failing heart caused by debilitating Chagas disease; an obese woman requiring a C-section; and a homeless schizophrenic. As |

harrowing as the stories of the patients is the chronicle of Manheimer’s own arduous battle with cancer. Sampling three decades of the doctor’s tenure as medical director, the book offers desperate glimpses into the unfortunate lives of the sick, the injured and the dying, yet the author never relinquishes his hold on hope, however fleeting. Manheimer’s unflinching reportage of his patients, the country’s fractured healthcare system, irresponsible food manufacturers and hospital politics is authoritatively written, though not recommended for the medically squeamish. An exquisite—and often exquisitely depressing—patchwork of joy and pain.

AMERICAN GYPSY A Memoir

Marafioti, Oksana Farrar, Straus and Giroux (368 pp.) $16.00 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-374-10407-8

In this engaging immigrant memoir, first-time author Marafioti, née Kopylenko, describes with humor and introspection how the self-described “Split Nationality Disorder” she experienced growing up only magnified upon her family’s emigration from the former Soviet Union to Los Angeles when she was 15. Born into a Moscow-based Roma family, the author spent the first 15 years of her life seeing Siberia, Mongolia and the former Soviet Union with her parents, who performed in a traveling Roma ensemble “the size of a circus.” Even as a child, Marafioti became acutely aware of racism both within her own family, as she witnessed the difficulty her Armenian mother faced gaining acceptance from her Russian paternal grandmother, and in school, as her Roma heritage was cruelly outed by a classmate sticking a sign to her back that read “Gyp.” Though well-off in their native Moscow, Marafioti’s family—especially her father, a gifted guitarist and composer—looked to the United States as a land of even greater opportunity, where their Romani roots would not carry the Gypsy stigma. One of the more humorous scenes involves the family’s green card interview, where the U.S. consular officer’s limited Russian led her to question Marafioti’s mother on her drinking (which she was notorious for), when she meant singing (one letter difference in Russian), her father babbling on about wishing to play with B.B. King and heal people with his bare hands. Soon after the family arrived in California, the author’s parents divorced, leaving her to cope with a broken home and dramatic change in finances, alongside the more typical immigrant difficulties of adapting to a foreign language and culture. As she recounts her love, loss and academic achievement experienced while “attending the same school that Cher once did,” Marafioti’s probing observation of the contrast of American individualism with fierce Roma ethnocentrism, even xenophobia, yields a provocative exploration of identity. Contrasting cultural values shine in this winning contemporary immigrant account of assimilation versus individuation.

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THE BOY KINGS OF TEXAS A Memoir Martinez, Domingo Lyons Press (456 pp.) $16.95 paperback | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-7627-7919-2

Seattle-based Latino journalist Martinez recalls his youthful adventures in the 1980s romping around the border town of Brownsville, Texas. Though dirt poor, the author’s Mexican-American family continually demonstrated resilience, solidarity and humor. His parents, “children themselves” right out of high school, began having kids in the late-’60s. In a household of “Sisyphean wetbacks” struggling to make ends meet, Martinez was the youngest. Much like his siblings, he was lightskinned, didn’t identify with Mexican culture, and spoke English, an anomaly in a primarily Spanish-speaking region. From his family’s crowded house emerge resonant stories about a tough, gun-toting, spell-casting Gramma; the death of the family dog and his father’s swift retribution; his two older sisters, “the Mimis,” who dyed their hair blonde, dressed in designer labels and adopted a “Valley Girl” affectation; his hard-drinking, abrasive father’s drug trafficking; shenanigans with friends; turbulence with close older brother Dan; and melancholy recollections of beatings from his parents and what he can remember of their sordid histories. At more than 450 pages, the personal remembrances may prove wearisome, even as the narrative brims with candid, palpable emotion. Still, Martinez lushly captures the mood of the era and illuminates the struggles of a family hobbled by poverty and a skinny Latino boy becoming a man amid a variety of tough circumstances. A finely detailed, sentimental family scrapbook inscribed with love.

A CASE FOR SOLOMON Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping that Haunted a Nation

McThenia, Tal; Cutright, Margaret Dunbar Free Press (464 pp.) $26.99 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-1-4391-5859-3

A convoluted account of an infamous child kidnapping from 100 years ago, with a contemporary twist. In August 1912, 4-year-old Bobby Dunbar disappeared during a family gathering near Opelousas, La. His well-to-do parents, Percy and Lessie Dunbar, worked with the police in Louisiana, Mississippi and other states in an effort to recover the child. About eight months later, police arrested an itinerant laborer, William Walters, who was traveling with a boy who appeared to be Bobby. The case became complicated, however, when Julia Anderson, an impoverished single mother, responded to 1242

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the publicity surrounding the arrest by claiming the boy as her child—though Anderson’s son was named Bruce. Furthermore, Anderson said Walters was caring for Bruce temporarily, with permission. Journalists pounced on the saga, printing accounts that conflicted in almost every detail, and politicians and lawyers also got involved. Some of the Dunbar clan were sure that the boy found with Walters was Bobby. Others who knew the Dunbars felt less certain, believing that Percy and Lessie were claiming parentage of the wrong boy because of emotional imbalance. Because Anderson could muster far fewer resources during the proceedings than were available to the Dunbars, she operated from a disadvantage. Furthermore, many journalists and lookers-on portrayed Anderson as a woman of questionable virtue. Months of conflicting information finally played out in a Louisiana trial, with the jurors finding Walters guilty. Bobby grew up as the Dunbars’ son, and Bobby’s descendants were taught to disbelieve anything said by Anderson and her kin. Cutright, Bobby’s granddaughter, collaborating with journalist McThenia, has sought the truth with modern DNA testing, which showed that Anderson was telling the truth. An intriguing story diminished by the inability of the authors to screen out irrelevant or marginal details, making the saga difficult to follow.

KEY MOMENTS Experiences in a Dedicated Life

Mohn, Liz Crown Business (192 pp.) $23.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-7704-3601-8 Mohn chronicles her story of being a fifth-generation member of the familyowned international media conglomerate Bertelsmann, a corporation with more than 100,000 employees in 50 countries. The author began working for the Bertelsmann Book Club in the 1950s, and she became the protégé of Reinhold Mohn, head of the company and 20 years her senior. Though he was married, the couple had three children together and ultimately married in 1982. Mohn soon began taking on larger projects for the company, such as overseeing the construction of its headquarters. During the ’70s, the author became deeply involved with the Bertelsmann Foundation, which was designed to “work with specialists and with public and private institutions to develop projects.” Mohn has been instrumental in projects in the medical and health care fields and music and the arts, and she stresses the necessity of combining intuition with reason as the formula for success in business and life. The author also discusses the social responsibility of corporations, the role of women in the professional world, the differences between men and women in the workplace and the importance of combining family and work. She touches on globalization, migration, global warming and the debt crisis in Europe. For years, she writes, European leaders refused to confront the problems facing the European Union and purposely

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“With equal amounts snarky brio and righteous anger, Moran brings the discussion of contemporary women’s rights down from the ivory tower and into the mainstream.” from how to be a woman

withheld information from citizens. “For me,” she writes, “the social unrest that is taking place in Greece and France is the precursor to serious social conflict.” A straightforward account that will appeal to CEOs, business bloggers, business students and professional women.

I’LL STAND BY YOU One Woman’s Mission to Heal the Children of the World

Montanti, Elissa with Haupt, Jennifer Dutton (288 pp.) $25.95 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-0-525-95295-4 An uplifting story of one woman’s compassionate aid to wounded children. Almost 15 years ago, part-time singersongwriter Montanti was battling severe depression and panic attacks brought on by the deaths of her mother, grandmother and first love. Unable to write or perform her music, she was forced out of this “very dark hole” by a friend who asked her to help with a fundraiser for war-torn Bosnia. Seeing pictures of children who had lost limbs during the war triggered an emotional response, allowing Montanti “to hear a faint melody.” From there, she embarked on her own crusade to aid these wounded children. She quit her full-time job and started the Global Medical Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization run from Montanti’s walk-in closet that would bring wounded children to the United States to receive free prosthetics. Aided primarily by the Shriners, Montanti opened her home, life and heart to these children, giving hope to the victims and their families. Despite the difficulties in obtaining documentation needed by Homeland Security and reams of red tape to access exit visas from foreign countries, Montanti has successfully helped more than 150 children from around the world. Bosnians, Haitians, Afghanis and Iraqis have all shared her home, with music and laughter serving as the universal languages. When asked why she has done so much for these children, the author replies, “how could I not?”—she believes “there are actions we can all take in our daily lives to help others in need and create a global family.” A moving testament to the will and single-mindedness of one woman determined to help those in need.

THE ROCKS DON’T LIE A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood Montgomery, David R. Norton (288 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 27, 2012 978-0-393-08239-5

Geology and history bring the relationship between science and religion into focus. |

For MacArthur Fellow Montgomery (Geomorphology/Univ. of Washington; Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, 2007, etc.), the science of geology provides a way to understand the relation between the Bible and the conception of nature coherent with modern science. “No other story,” he writes, “has had as profound an influence on geology as that of Noah’s Flood.” Further, theologians have always manipulated geologic records to support literal interpretations of scripture. The author presents his view that “geologic time” provides a frame for “an entirely new creation story,” which remains unfinished and ongoing, and he advocates the rebuilding of cooperation between science and faith. Examining a wide variety of flood and creation stories across centuries, Montgomery provides an enthusiastic and valuable recounting of the history of geology and how the advances in science have consistently faced opposition from the guardians of so-called religious authority, based on a literal reading of the Bible. The immense chronological spans and what is now known about the origins of the Earth and universe provoke the bitter opposition of the creationists. Montgomery insists that faith and science “can peacefully coexist,” and his extensive documentation shows that the revival of creationism, as it exists today, has nothing to do with either science or faith. A forceful rallying cry for people of goodwill to join together to develop an alternative to the dangerous irrationalism that afflicts so many Americans. (20 illustrations)

HOW TO BE A WOMAN

Moran, Caitlin Perennial/ HarperCollins (320 pp.) $15.99 paperback | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-06-212429-6 A spirited memoir/manifesto that dares readers to “stand on a chair and shout ‘I AM A FEMINIST.’ ” With equal amounts snarky brio and righteous anger, Moran brings the discussion of contemporary women’s rights down from the ivory tower and into the mainstream. Although women have come a long way from the battles fought by the early suffragettes and the first-wave feminists of the 1960s and ’70s, they have also lost ground in some disturbing ways. Society still scrutinizes female sexual behavior for incipient signs of “sluttiness”; girls still grow up dreaming of becoming brides and wives (aka princesses), and pornography and strip clubs still objectify women. Moreover, celebrity culture puts women under a magnifying glass, dismissing their talents in favor of crowing over their physical flaws, their marital status and whether or not they have children. Into this sorry mess strides Moran, a self-deprecating, no-nonsense guide to womanhood. She frames her debate via a series of chapters detailing her own journey toward becoming not only a woman, but also a good person—polite, kind, funny and fundamentally decent. After all, feminism, she argues, is not a form of man hating; it is a celebration of women’s potential to effect change and an affirmation of their equality with men.

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That such an important topic is couched in ribald humor makes reading about Moran’s journey hilarious as well as provocative. With nary a hint of embarrassment, she reveals personal anecdotes about her miserable early adolescence as an overweight girl and her evolution into a music journalist who took London by storm on a quest to fall in love—or at least to kiss a lot of boys. She proves equally forthright in her views on abortion, childbearing and high heels. While some American readers may struggle with the British references and slang, they will find their efforts rewarded. Rapturously irreverent, this book should kick-start plenty of useful discussions.

ENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS The Science Behind the Headlines Muller, Richard A. Norton (288 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 27, 2012 978-0-393-08161-9

Regarding the merits of clean energy technologies, eminent scientist Muller (Physics/Univ. of California, Berkeley; Physics for Future Presidents, 2008, etc.) offers a road map through the minefield of competing claims by security analysts, environmentalists and potential investors. The author distinguishes between concerns about a coming domestic oil shortage and the threat posed by global warming. The author explains that the necessity to import petroleum is a threat to military security and the major cause of the U.S. balance-of-trade deficit, but it is not a significant contributor to global warming. “As far as global warming is concerned,” he writes, “the developed world is becoming irrelevant. Every 10 percent cut in US emissions is completely negated by 6 months of China’s emission growth.” Muller writes that a decent alternative would be a worldwide switch from coal to natural gas, which could halve the rate of carbon dioxide emissions. For the longer term, he anticipates that the developing sector will adopt nuclear power, employing small modular nuclear reactors that are designed to be intrinsically safe. Muller makes an intriguing case that for the U.S., extracting natural gas and oil from shale will be cost-effective, can be regulated to ensure environmental safety, and is a plentiful, untapped source of supply (substantiating his claim with a detailed overview of the technology). In his opinion, plug-in electric automobiles will prove unfeasible because of the time required to recharge them and the replacement cost of batteries, but hybrid vehicles that use gasoline or natural gas as fuel are an attractive option. An informative, comprehensive discussion of important economic and environmental issues. (50 photographs)

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BORN IN JERUSALEM, BORN PALESTINIAN A Memoir

Nammar, Jacob J. Olive Branch/Interlink (224 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Jul. 25, 2012 978-1-56656-886-9

A Palestinian-American remembers an idyllic pre-1948 childhood in Palestine. Because of restrictions on economic opportunity, Nammar was forced to leave his beloved homeland at age 23. Here, he looks back at this bittersweet era of his youth. “Balance” marked the community he knew as a child, where the three Abrahamic religions resided in harmony, socializing and patronizing each other’s businesses within a curious mixture of Turkish, Armenian, Arab and Jewish customs. Born to an old, well-established family in the Haret al-Nammareh neighborhood—his father was a tour guide, and his mother was an educated refugee of the Armenian genocide— Nammar generally enjoyed a bountiful, bucolic first six years of life in Palestine. All changed abruptly when Zionist agitation broke out, marked by such events as a machine gun attack on his school bus and the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, where Nammar’s older brother, Mihran, worked at the front desk. After Israeli independence, the Palestinian neighborhoods were inhabited by Israelis in what Nammar describes as a deliberate Zionist policy of nikayon, or ethnic cleansing. Herded into a military zone, Nammar’s father and Mihran were detained in prison without explanation. Eventually, the family was reunited but without employment or prospects. The author writes movingly of his education by the nuns and his refuge at the Jerusalem YMCA, where he was both embraced for his athleticism and eventually marginalized, rejected for Israel’s national basketball team because of his nationality. An authentic, matter-of-fact, nonpolemical depiction of Palestinian life.

THE ART OF MAKING MAGAZINES On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry

Navasky, Victor S.; Cornog, Evan--Eds. Columbia Univ. (192 pp.) $27.50 | paper $22.50 | $18.00 e-book Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-231-13136-0 978-0-231-13137-7 paperback 978-0-231-50469-0 e-book

A collection of smart essays and lectures by accomplished professionals in the magazine world. Navasky (A Matter of Opinion, 2005, etc.) is the former editor of the Nation and now a professor of magazine journalism at Columbia University. Cornog (The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success

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“An elegiac testament to friendship, love and survival.” from giving up the ghost

from George Washington to George W. Bush, 2004, etc.) is the former publisher of the magazine Columbia Journalism Review and now dean of the school of communication at Hofstra University. Their insightful introduction explains that they have compiled something other than a how-to book. Perhaps it is best to consider it a how-to-think-about-it book. Ruth Reichl, who as editor made Gourmet magazine a must-read for foodies, compares the way magazines operated before the advent of the Internet with the new digital-inspired reality. Other high-profile editors sharing their philosophies include Roberta Myers (Elle), Tina Brown (Talk, the New Yorker, Newsweek) and the late Michael Kelly (the Atlantic and the National Journal). Peter Canby, factchecker at the New Yorker, and Barbara Walraff, copy editor at the Atlantic, explain why the rush of online magazine publishers should never lead print periodicals to lower standards concerning facts, grammar, spelling and the like. Without rigorous standards, confusion reigns and quality is compromised. John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s, and Felix Dennis, publisher of Maxim and others, offer divergent views on how those controlling the budget should think about the editorial content as a way to attract and retain readers. Robert Gottlieb, former New Yorker and Simon & Schuster editor, discusses why, at a book publisher, the job of the editor is to make authors happy, but at a magazine the writer’s happiness is secondary to the editor’s vision of what readers will consume. A useful, even timely collection, even though some of the pieces are 10 years old.

GIVING UP THE GHOST A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted Nuzum, Eric Dial Press (320 pp.) $15.00 paperback | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-385-34243-8

An original, deeply moving memoir about how a man’s quest to understand the supernatural led him to confront his own haunted past. Writer and NPR executive Nuzum was a young teenager growing up in Ohio when he encountered his first ghost, a little girl in a blue dress who appeared to him in his dreams. As he grew up, the author became convinced that the girl “was a harbinger of my own self-destruction.” Perhaps she was. By the time Nuzum was 18, he was a “doped-up, undependable, unpredictable mess” who actively courted suicide. His bizarre, sometimes violent behavior eventually landed him in a psychiatric ward. When medical intervention failed, a beautiful and unconventional friend named Laura helped pull him back from the brink. But as he healed, their complex, enigmatic relationship faltered; soon he lost track of her altogether. Then, during his first year back at college, he received word that Laura had died after getting hit by a car. Although Nuzum moved on with his life, he remained permanently marked by his experiences. |

Closed doors still frightened him because they could “have ghosts hiding behind them.” Determined to confront his fears, he began investigating famous haunted places across America. His occasionally humorous encounters with the spirit world did nothing to cure his phobia, but they did push him into a reckoning with his past and with the ghost of Laura. An elegiac testament to friendship, love and survival.

WE ARE ANONYMOUS Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency Olson, Parmy Little, Brown (512 pp.) $26.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-316-21354-7

A detailed account of the hacker collective Anonymous and its splinter group, LulzSec. In 2008, the website Gawker published a leaked video of a wild-eyed Tom Cruise cheerleading for Scientology, a video the Church of Scientology had been trying to suppress. The church retaliated by issuing a copyright violation against YouTube, where the video had eventually ended up. When the news reached 4chan—a site originally for discussion of Japanese anime that spread to include other Internet subcultures—a user posted a suggestion to one of its message boards: Hack the Scientology website. “It’s time to use our resources to do something we believe is right,” the post read. The idea quickly gained traction, and a handful of users banded together to lead a nebulous group of hackers and Internet activists collectively known as Anonymous. They not only took down the Scientology website, but went on to attack other targets, including the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church and the Tunisian government. Eventually, a faction of Anonymous split off on its own, called LulzSec; rather than attacking oppressors of free expression, they attacked companies just for the sake of publicly embarrassing them for laughs, or “lulz” (a play on LOL, the internet abbreviation for “laugh(ing) out loud”). The events that Forbes London bureau chief Olson describes are captivating, such as the story of how Jennifer Emick, a former Anonymous supporter and “middle-aged mom from Michigan,” managed to track down and identify Hector Monsegur, one of Anonymous’ chief hackers. However, the book is choked by jargon (though Olson provides a much-needed glossary) and lengthy, tiresome descriptions of the group’s juvenile and petty squabbling, infighting and backstabbing. The attention lavished on the minutiae of these relationships diminishes the impact of the narrative. Certain to thrill 4chan readers, hackers and others on the Internet’s fringe, but may struggle to hold the interest of casual readers.

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CLEAN TECH NATION How the U.S. Can Lead in the New Global Economy

GROWING UP BRAVE Expert Strategies for Helping Your Child Overcome Fear, Stress, and Anxiety

Pernick, Ron; Wilder, Clint Harper Business (320 pp.) $29.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-06-208844-4

Two consultants associated with Clean Edge, a clean-tech advisory firm, review potential areas for investment in clean

energy and technology. Pernick and Wilder (co-authors: Clean Tech Revolution, 2007, etc.) believe that America is at a crossroads, bedeviled by a stillslow economy but poised to become a clean-technology powerhouse. “[C]lean tech,” they write, “has become the most critical industry of the 21st century—an essential component to global economic success for all developed countries, and increasingly for developing nations as well.” They review the latest developments—substantial price decreases in solar voltaic cells, wind power, electric vehicles and more—but consider the most significant development to be on the capital front with the growing involvement of venture capitalists. State and federal mandates have encouraged this development—e.g., federally mandated use of energy-efficient light bulbs and state regulations requiring utilities to incorporate alternate energies in the power mix. Pernick and Wilder also welcome a broadening of the debate from a narrow focus on global warming to a wider concern with environmental issues such as clean air and clean water. One of their most original contributions is their discussion of the synergistic relationship between urbanization and the creation of centers of innovation, spotlighting “15 U.S. cleantech cities.” In 2008, half of the world’s population was living in cities, a development fueled by China’s rapid urbanization. This has encouraged the development of hubs in which there is a “concentration of intellectual and financial capital, business acumen, and university and research-lab R&D.” The authors compare these clean-tech clusters to the earlier development of Detroit’s automobile industry, Hollywood’s film industry and Silicon Valley’s computer and software industry. An informative, optimistic look at how a partnership between private capital and government can unleash America’s innovative capabilities.

Pincus, Donna B. Little, Brown (288 pp.) $25.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-316-12560-4

A psychologist explains how cognitive behavioral therapy offers simple tools to assist parents in dealing with their children’s anxieties. Pincus (Director, Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program/Boston Univ.; co-author: Mastery of Anxiety and Panic for Adolescents Riding the Wave, 2008, etc.) describes exciting new techniques for dealing with anxiety, the “number one mental health disorder, [which affects] more than 18 million [American] adults and perhaps as many as one in five children.” She provides anecdotal evidence from her clinical experience and supportive research showing that simple interventions by parents (with or without guidance from a therapist) can be effective within an extremely short time frame. Her hopeful message to parents is that they, “not therapy, not prescription medications—can be the key ingredients in how successfully a child or adolescent begins to approach the world with greater joy and confidence.” The author provides a clear, easy-to-follow guide that will enable parents to deal with their children’s problems—e.g., the inability to make friends, fear of school, separation anxiety and obsessive worries. These include tried-and-true practices such as establishing daily bedtime and waking-up routines and leaving space for relaxation after finishing homework. Setting aside a regularly scheduled special play period for as little as five minutes a day, when a mother or father engages in pleasurable, nondemanding play with a disturbed child, has been shown in research studies to be effective. Another tool is the bravery ladder. Here the parent and child break down a fearful activity into a number of manageable small steps. As the child accomplishes each, he or she is rewarded with praise, with planned celebrations following at suitable intervals. A valuable guide with useful tips for every parent.

WHERE’S THE TRUTH? Letters and Journals, 1948-1957

Reich, Wilhelm Farrar, Straus and Giroux (304 pp.) $35.00 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-374-28883-9 The last volume of the letters and journals of the prototypical mad scientist, Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957). A prolific writer, erstwhile disciple of Freud and renowned psychiatrist with a special interest in orgasm, Reich left Europe in 1939, when the Nazis burned his 1246

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“A rarefied, intimate literary study delineating a roiling revolutionary era.” from the black count

books. He immigrated to the United States, where, once more, his books were burned. This final collection of ephemeral material, filled with emphatic italics and capitalization, reeks of transcendent egotism and excessive paranoia. During this time, Reich discovered what he considered to be a mass-free life force, or “orgone energy.” His study consumed him, and all else became secondary. He was driven to calculate how orgone affected hurricanes and drought, emotions and auroras, fleeting sensations and flying saucers, the life of rocks and many cosmic matters. He invented a drought-relieving “Cloudbuster” and proposed to cure radiation sickness. He also devised wooden cabinets lined with steel wool to accumulate curative orgone pulses. These orgone boxes, in which patients, particularly those with sexual complaints, would sit, came to the attention of the FDA. As the lonely investigator’s legal battle continued, his distance from reality, as most of us know it, increased. His defense against the government’s injunction, which required destruction of all orgone-related material and devices, was mismanaged. Convicted of contempt, Reich went to prison in early 1957 and died there before the year ended. Edited by Higgins, the text’s introduction and notes admit no flaws in the master’s thinking, but the book itself is evidence that he was deluded. However, some readers may wonder what he would have said about global warming, dark matter, string theory and other contemporary fields of scientific study. Raw material on the life of a dissident thinker that does little to enhance or further damage his reputation. (8 pages of b/w illustrations)

in The Count of Monte Cristo and the swashbuckling D’Artagnon in The Three Musketeers. The general’s own father pawned the boy and took him to Paris to make a gentleman of him. Enlisting as a private in the Queen’s Dragoons at age 24, he changed his name to Dumas, his slave mother’s maiden name. Thanks to the republican spirit of the period and to his own dazzling exploits, he was handily promoted, yet as swiftly demoted by Napoleon, who later passed harsh racial laws. He was never provided the military pension allowed him, and his widow and children sank into hardship; Dumas the novelist was excoriated 40 years later for his black ancestry. Reiss eloquently argues the general’s case. A rarefied, intimate literary study delineating a roiling revolutionary era.

THE BLACK COUNT Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Reiss, Tom Crown (352 pp.) $26.00 | Sep. 18, 2012 978-0-307-38246-7 978-0-307-95295-0 e-book

A compelling new work by literary detective Reiss (The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, 2005) tracks the wildly improbable career of Alexandre Dumas’ mixed-race father. Using records from Gen. Dumas’ final residence and the military archives at the Chateau de Vincennes, the author provides a vivid sense of who Dumas was and how he attained such heights and fell so low after the French Revolution, being nearly forgotten by the time of his death in 1806. The simple answer seems to be racism. Born to an aristocratic French father and a slave mother in Saint-Domingue, Dumas became a general in the French Revolution and served under Napoleon, by turns lauded as a hero and vilified as a black insurgent. Taken prisoner on the way back from Egypt, his health was ruined after two years’ imprisonment in Italy. His novelist son paid homage to his father’s legendary stature, manliness, athletic prowess and bravery in his best-known protagonists—e.g., Edmond Dantès |

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HERETIC QUEEN Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion

Ronald, Susan St. Martin’s (352 pp.) $27.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-312-64538-0 978-1-250-01521-1 e-book

Ronald (The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire, 2007, etc.) imparts her vast understanding of the queen who tried to establish religious tolerance in her kingdom. The 1558 Acts of Supremacy and Settlement established Elizabeth as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and revived the statutes that allowed both Protestant and Catholic communion. Ronald’s premise that Elizabeth never intended to marry illustrates how well the queen mastered political gaming; she ingeniously used her marriage card to play the European leaders against each other. Those countries also struggled with religious conflict. Catholic France’s attempts to deal with the Huguenots failed miserably, and Rome supported the Irish as they attempted to expel the English. The Spanish King Philip II suffered religious civil wars in the Netherlands, which not only ruined Spain’s commerce, but also forced them into bankruptcy multiple times. The Low Countries readily accepted the Catholic scholars who deserted Oxford for the safety of their Universities of Louvain and Douai. Elizabeth, never one to miss an opportunity, insisted on the expulsion of those scholars before trade could be resumed after their civil wars. While Elizabeth may have agreed to expel the Dutch rebels in England in return, when the time came, she conveniently forgot. The author calls Elizabeth a heretic due to Pope Pius V’s excommunication in 1570. However, since the members of the Church of England did not support the pope, neither she nor her supporters ever recognized the act. An illuminating portrait of the 25-year-old woman who led England through religious and political crises with diplomacy, vision and pure force of will. (16-page b/w photo insert)

TRICKLE DOWN TYRANNY Crushing Obama’s Dream of the Socialist States of America

Savage, Michael Morrow/HarperCollins (336 pp.) $26.99 | Apr. 3, 2012 978-0-06-208397-5

One of talk radio’s most inflammatory voices fires a damp squib at the president, the liberal media and society in general. Renowned for exploding into fits of vulgar profanity at the slightest provocation, Savage (Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama’s Attack on Our Borders, Economy, and Security, 2010, etc.) 1248

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has long inspired theories that his rabidly conservative posturing is an elaborate put-on. Whether or not his radio persona is a calculated ruse, it is clear that his books are an afterthought, a sideshow with no other aim than generating profit. To say that Trickle Down Tyranny was phoned in would be too generous to a man who has made a fortune by shouting apoplectically. Most of the book reads like a high school intern combed through a year of his transcripts and deliberately selected the most soporific snippets, stitching them together at random into a manuscriptlength document. Equally sure that he’s sharing secret knowledge that no one else has the courage or wherewithal to state and that everything he says is just common sense, Savage provides little substantiation for his assertions. He delves deeply into arcane conspiracy theories involving the Trilateral Commission, George Soros and the Weather Underground. The author vaguely sorts his fiery statements (“The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have one important characteristic in common with Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler: They’re blatantly anti-Semitic”) and rhetorical questions (“Is Holder going to pardon the Gitmo terrorists…and then release them with compensation because they were freedom fighters…? Is this part of Obama’s overall plan to grant amnesty to illegal aliens in order to get reelected?”) into sections dealing with finance, foreign policy, energy and so on, but no other organization or structure is in evidence. Fans of Savage’s radio program should stick to the genuine article; opponents of President Obama should turn to someone whose sympathies are not so mercenary and self-serving.

MARILYN & ME A Photographer’s Memories Schiller, Lawrence Talese/Doubleday (128 pp.) $20.00 | May 29, 2012 978-0-385-53667-7

A photographer’s unfocused memoir of his time with Marilyn Monroe. Accomplished photojournalist Schiller (Into the Mirror: The Life of Master Spy Robert P. Hanssen, 2002, etc.) recounts his brief access to Monroe in a curiously sour volume that does little to reveal new facets of the famously troubled actress’ life or art. Schiller photographed Monroe during the production of her final films, Let’s Make Love and the unfinished Something’s Got to Give, undistinguished entries in the Monroe filmography made as the actress’ irresponsible behavior on set sabotaged her faltering career and the personal problems that would lead her to commit suicide began to dominate all aspects of her life. In Schiller’s recollection, Monroe was alternately warm and wary, chatty and chilly, personable and remote. More consistent was her mercenary understanding of her sexual allure and a single-minded focus on exploiting her mystique to its fullest commercial potential. Schiller is equally self-interested, and the narrative is as devoted to his wheeling and dealing with various magazines and attempts to outmaneuver rival photographers as it is to

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“Deliciously engaging account of a journalist’s odyssey through New York City’s thriving organic farm culture.” from eat the city

presenting a compelling portrait of his most famous subject. The author’s zeal in maximizing the profits from his shots of a nude Monroe, who desperately hoped their notoriety might improve her shaky position with the film studio, may strike some as offensive, and the memoir, ostensibly a compassionate look at a troubled star, becomes instead a queasy document of the ways in which prurience, opportunism and crass calculation drive the entertainment industry and exact a tragic human toll. An unhappy little book that fails to illuminate the Monroe legend or the woman underneath.

RETHINKING REPUTATION How PR Trumps Marketing and Advertising in the New Media World

Seitel, Fraser P.; Doorley, John Palgrave Macmillan (256 pp.) $26.00 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-230-33833-3

A fun and educational discussion of building and protecting a reputation by two leaders in the field of public relations. Seitel (The Practice of Public Relations, 11th Edition, 2010) and Doorley (co-author: Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communication, 2006), the founding academic director of the Public Relations master’s program at NYU, assemble a set of case studies from the fields of business, politics and sports, and they separate their view of public relations from advertising and marketing. “Public relations,” they write, “is mandatory; advertising optional.” The authors show how it is now possible to build a successful international business in a short time without advertising. Susie Levitt and Katie Shea, student designers of CitySlips footwear, achieved this through networking among family and friends and using their Facebook and Twitter accounts to organize and expand their outreach. Other cases showcase the relationship between branding and reputation and how qualities of character, such as integrity, impact the performance of both business corporations and individuals. An example is Roy Vagelos, who developed a cure for river blindness and who, when he was made an executive at Merck, ensured the drug was made available where needed for free. The authors contrast Exxon’s disastrous response to the Valdez oil spill with the different types of blunders made by BP’s leadership during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and they profile figures in sports and politics who have required PR help, including Kobe Bryant, Michael Vick, Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner. Seitel and Doorley also highlight the integrity of Clinton’s former press secretary Mike McCurry, and they use Paul Volcker’s example of public service to derive their own Volker rule: “never spin.” Lots of practical information for both building a business and living a life.

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THE COURAGE TO HOPE How I Stood Up to the Politics of Fear

Sherrod, Shirley with Whitney, Catherine Atria (320 pp.) $24.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-1-4516-5094-5 Sherrod sets the record straight on her forced resignation from the Department of Agriculture in 2010. The author, now nationally known as a speaker on empowerment strategies, was director for the USDA’s Rural Development in Georgia when conservative political blogger Andrew Breitbart attacked her for allegedly reverse racist comments she made at an NAACP event. The threat of exposure on national TV was enough to send the USDA running for cover, and she was dismissed. Sherrod decided she had to fight back. She and her husband have been directly involved in the struggles for political and economic justice in Georgia and elsewhere since the 1960s, and they were part of Martin Luther King’s movement for civil rights. She writes about growing up in segregated Georgia and the circumstances surrounding her father’s murder and the arson of her family home—at that time, “fear was the daily diet that kept the status quo alive.” In the ’70s, Sherrod and her husband worked with other farmers in Georgia on experimental projects. Denied drought assistance funds by the USDA, they faced foreclosure and joined a class-action suit to redress the discrimination. Eventually, they won the settlement, a decision strongly opposed by conservatives. Sherrod writes sharply about the continuing legacy of racism and how economic policy, hidebound bureaucracy and plain malice affect poor people everywhere, and why pretending that we are in a post-racial world doesn’t help anyone. An inspiring memoir about the real power of courage and hope.

EAT THE CITY A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York Shulman, Robin Crown (352 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-307-71905-8

Deliciously engaging account of a journalist’s odyssey through New York City’s thriving organic farm culture. When roving reporter Shulman came home to New York in 2005, she marked the occasion and permanence of her return by “literally plant[ing] roots” in a small garden. She soon realized, though, that she was more interested in finding out more about the urban back-to-the-land trend she observed around her. So she set out to interview the foodies and “hipstavores” who engaged in

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the agricultural activities that made up the city’s food underground. She talked to beekeepers who kept hives on city rooftops; gardeners who cultivated fruits and vegetables in vacant lots; butchers who cut up Queens-bred livestock; beer brewers from Brooklyn and winemakers from Manhattan; and fishermen and crab catchers who caught their meals from the East River and New York Harbor. Shulman also began intensive research into the history of victuals in the city, and she discovered that the do-it-yourself agricultural practices were more than just reactions to a struggling economy. They were also in keeping with the city’s rich food-producing heritage and a reflection of the newcomers who “insisted on their own vision of the good life, in which food comes from trusted hands: their own or their neighbor’s.” What makes Shulman’s narrative so captivating is the way she emphasizes the relationship human beings have with an urban environment that at first glance is anything but farm-friendly. A feast for foodies of all persuasions.

A DAUGHTER’S TALE The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child Soames, Mary Random House (368 pp.) $28.00 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-8129-9333-2 978-0-679-64518-4 e-book

Memoir of the youngest child of Winston Churchill, focused largely on the years encompassing World War II. Countless books have been written about Churchill, and even this memoir is only the latest book that Soames (Clementine Churchill, 2002, etc.) has written or edited about her family’s history. As the baby of the family, born in 1922, she is Churchill’s only surviving child, and she delivers a rare eyewitness account of her father. However, readers looking for an emotionally engaging look at the Churchill family’s private lives will be disappointed. Soames clearly worshipped her father, but she appears not to have known him on a deep emotional level. Indeed, other than a few airy letters, the author shares relatively little direct communication between them. She draws heavily on journals and letters she wrote during her young womanhood, in which she apparently had a habit of recounting the menus of lunches and dinners in great detail. Though famous figures make appearances, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, T.E. Lawrence and Charlie Chaplin, Soames rarely judges anyone as less than utterly charming, nor does she provide particularly useful information about historical events. The memoir becomes marginally more interesting in later chapters, as when Soames recounts her stint serving with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war, and especially when she briefly tells of her visit to the liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. However, Soames rarely delves much below the surface of things, keeping events (and emotions) strictly at arm’s length—which often makes for dreary reading. A lackluster memoir, of interest only to the most devoted Churchill aficionados. (Two 16-page photo inserts) 1250

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DESERT RECKONING A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History Stillman, Deanne Nation Books/Perseus (320 pp.) $26.00 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-1-56858-608-3

Ambitious, vibrant true-crime narrative from the dangerous deserts of

Southern California. Stillman (Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, 2008, etc.) seizes on the too-common flashpoint of a police officer’s murder by a marginalized individual to examine larger social changes, embodied by the unusual locale of the Mojave Desert. In 2003, desert hermit Donald Kueck shot Deputy Sheriff Steve Sorensen after a brief confrontation on Kueck’s property. The ensuing weeklong manhunt was one of the largest law enforcement operations in recent history, involving local, state and federal agencies determined to bring Kueck to justice, lest he set an example for the desert’s “eccentrics, ex-felons, [and] fugitives.” Stillman intersperses this narrative of pursuit with chapters that offer a panoramic examination of tangential elements of the story, and this approach pays off in providing a thorough consideration of a place and character set that could be easily caricatured. One sad thread involves Kueck’s son, a doomed punk rocker representative of a larger population of neglected youth in California’s hardscrabble “Inland Empire.” Kueck comes off as a menacing and complex figure, a struggling, antisocial dropout who was nonetheless well read, skilled and capable of kindness to others. Sorensen gave up a stereotypical “surfer” adolescence for military and law enforcement service; he’d partnered with a few established residents in the rural desert community to push back against the entropy and violence that ultimately claimed him. Stillman’s prose can become heated—the deputy “was blazing a path behind a badge and a wall of will”—but she does an admirable job building a full portrait of this beleaguered landscape by looking at individual characters, including Sorensen’s aggrieved fellow officers and the eccentric ruffians who compose the hermit and punk subcultures, which Kueck and his son embodied. The result is lyrical and intense, if slightly unwieldy, with aspirations that suggest influences including Joan Didion, Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy. A dynamic synthesis of Western saga, true-crime thriller and California-based transformation narrative.

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“A copiously examined life rendered with humor and heart.” from the dangerous animals club

THE DANGEROUS ANIMALS CLUB

Tobolowsky, Stephen Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $24.00 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-1-4516-3315-3 Veteran character actor Tobolowsky, perhaps best known for his role in Groundhog Day, offers a beguiling collection of autobiographical essays detailing his experiences in and out of show business. The actor has plenty of rich material to mine—he has been held hostage at gunpoint by a lunatic, suffered an apocalyptic infestation of fleas, barely eluded a goring by a bull, and auditioned with a broken neck—but the delight of the book is the author’s voice: wry, discursive and full of generous spirit and curiosity. Tobolowsky recounts his various heartbreaks, struggles as a young artist and status as a bemused member of the human race with unfailing wit and gratitude for the richness and strangeness of life, marveling at the small miracles and surprising reversals that inform relationships and careers. Occasionally the author’s observations skirt along the fringe of New Age platitudes, but a leavening lack of pretention prevents the spiritual content from curdling, and there is always another jawdropping anecdote around the corner to carry the proceedings. Tobolowsky contributes intriguing insights into the absurdities of TV and film production (his description of acting against a green screen is particularly amusing), the politics of graduate school life and the perils of pet ownership, endowing both the most mundane and rarified endeavors with equally close attention and appreciation. His reminiscences of the early days of the AIDS crisis and the decline and death of his mother provide the collection with profound emotional ballast, but even in the heavier sections Tobolowsky’s light touch and effortless empathy delight and sustain readers’ engagement. A copiously examined life rendered with humor and heart. (7 b/w images)

PHI A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul

Tononi, Giulio Pantheon (352 pp.) $30.00 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-307-90721-9 978-0-307-90722-6 e-book

Neuroscientist and psychiatrist Tononi (Consciousness Science/Univ. of Wisconsin; co-author: A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, 2000) offers an original, provocative tale of a scientist’s quest to understand how the brain generates consciousness. The scientist is the aging “father of science” Galileo, who sets out in the company of three others (Francis Crick, Alan Turing and Charles Darwin) to investigate all aspects of consciousness: |

what it is, how it can be measured, why it fades during dreamless sleep but returns when we dream, and how the known facts can form a theory of consciousness. The theory is Tononi’s integrated information theory (IIT) of consciousness, which, as he notes in the preface, he describes scientifically in his paper “Consciousness as Integrated Information.” This book takes Galileo—and readers—step by step through the development of the theory, now widely viewed as a promising fundamental theory of consciousness. During the course of his imagined journey of discovery, Galileo has lengthy conversations with his guides, hears accounts of what’s involved—or not—in consciousness and sees innumerable paintings, photographs, drawings and other images from over the centuries (all reproduced here) that help elucidate aspects of the lessons. There are intriguing discussions of whether consciousness exists in the split brain, during seizures, in dementia and other states. Tononi playfully draws us deeply into the wondrous adventure of understanding consciousness and the critical role of integrated information in shaping our experience in the world. With Galileo, we learn that each moment of awareness is a unique and unified experience unlike others before or after it. Indeed, consciousness—the flow of integrated information—can be expressed in a set of mathematical equations. A challenging, rewarding read that will undoubtedly alter your consciousness.

RABID A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

Wasik, Bill; Murphy, Monica Viking (240 pp.) $25.95 | Jul. 23, 2012 978-0-670-02373-8

From a husband-and-wife team, a literate look at the history of one of humankind’s oldest and most frightening scourges. Wired senior editor Wasik (And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture, 2009) and veterinarian Murphy survey literature, cultural history and medical science to tell the story of a disease that has plagued humans wherever they have attracted the company of dogs and other feral animals. Rabies infects not only the bodies of the unfortunate few who have contracted the disease, but also more generally, our fears and imagination. The authors plausibly postulate that the “rage” that made Hector such a terrifying enemy in the Iliad was modeled on rabies; lyssa, the word that describes Hector’s savagery, is the same term Greeks used to describe rabid dogs. So what makes rabid animals so mad? According to Wasik and Murphy, rabies is a slow-working virus that almost uniquely affects the nerves. Once in the brain, it inhibits the autonomic nervous system and manifests in the victim’s foaming at the mouth and hydrophobia (aversion to water). According to the authors, rabies, for which there was no protection or cure until Louis Pasteur’s vaccine of the 1880s, is the primary reason for humanity’s long-term love-hate relationship with canines. “Rabies coevolved to live in the dog, and the dog coevolved to live with us,” they

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“An entertaining adventure tale worthy of republication.” from blue water, green skipper

write, “and this confluence, the three of us, is far too combustible a thing.” Fear of rabies may have been behind some other ancient nightmares: the big, bad wolf of fairy tales, the werewolf and vampire of gothic romances and even the zombies so popular today. As entertaining as they are on rabies in culture, the authors also eruditely report on medicine and public health issues through history, from ancient Assyria to Bali to Manhattan in the last five years, showing that while the disease may be contained, it may never be fully conquered. Surprisingly fun reading about a fascinating malady.

SAVAGE ANXIETIES The Invention of Western Civilization

Williams, Robert A. Palgrave Macmillan (272 pp.) Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-230-33876-0 A tidy academic survey of the savage, from the ancient centaurs to today’s indigenous tribal peoples. Williams (Law/Univ. of Arizona; Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the Legal History of Racism in America, 2005, etc.) asserts that the West’s obsession with the outsider, the alien, the barbarian—those living outside of the rule of law, presumed to be oppositional and subversive—has actually helped form by “counterexample and antithesis” the conventional forms of Western civilization. The first savages in ancient times were those depicted by Nestor in Homer’s Iliad, who recounted the tale of the great warrior heroes who destroyed the mountain-dwelling centaurs. Homer’s idea that these half-humans lived outside the inhabited, civilized world has been scripted down through history, allowing what evolved as Western civilization to justify the enslavement of other peoples, wage war against barbarians and stage crusades against the infidel. On the other hand, there has evolved the notion of the noble savage, thanks originally to Hesiod, who celebrated the virtuous, simple life of the yeoman farmer, far from the evils and corruption of civilization. These virtuous primitives can also be traced through Western philosophy in the works of the Sophists, Plato, Ovid and Rousseau. To the Enlightenment mind, the Indians of America acted as “an ideal stand-in for humanity’s first, primitive, backward stage of social development,” ripe for study yet never accorded actual humanity or equality with the white man. Williams demonstrates how colonizing nations continue to use the Doctrine of Discovery to justify their claim over indigenous people and their land. A straightforward scholarly study that concludes with a compelling look at the pervasive harm in stereotypical attitudes and language.

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BLUE WATER, GREEN SKIPPER A Memoir of Sailing Alone Across the Atlantic

Woods, Stuart Putnam (224 pp.) $26.95 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-0-399-16111-7

Republication of the real-time maritime adventures of the bestselling crimethriller author. In 1973, fed up with more than a decade in advertising and yet to finish the first of his 50 novels, Woods (Unnatural Acts, 2012, etc.) decided to take time off. He moved to a remote coastal area in Ireland, “an ideal place…[with enough] peace and quiet to make it very difficult to find an excuse not to write.” Instead, he tried his hand at sailing, connecting with the local sailing club and becoming quickly hooked, despite an early misadventure with a borrowed dingy in which a rapid incoming tide almost swamped his car. Undaunted, Woods purchased a 30-foot cruising yacht designed to his own specifications. Less than two years later, he had qualified for and entered the 1976 Single-Handed Transatlantic Race. Originally published in 1977, this then-debut memoir describes the author’s two-year apprenticeship in the lore of the sea, from navigation to boat design, a journey that culminated in a hair-raising six-week solo, trans-Atlantic sail. Of the 125 boats that started in 1976, 36 dropped out and five sank, and there were two deaths by drowning. The author finished 63rd, an impressive accomplishment. In addition to frightening winds and other nasty weather, Woods’ challenges included disturbed sleep, diminishing food and water, a series of structural failings and mechanical problems. Solitude did not prove to be a serious problem, although he suffered from the hallucinatory experience of hearing a nonexistent phone ring. An entertaining adventure tale worthy of republication.

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children’s & teen EXCUSE ME, I’M TRYING TO READ!

These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

Amani, Mary Jo Illus. by Eldridge, Lehla Mackinac Island Press (32 pp.) $16.95 | paper $7.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-934133-51-4 978-1-934133-52-1 paperback 978-1-60734-464-3 e-book

1-2-3 PEAS by Keith Baker.......................................................... p. 1254 LONG LANKIN by Lindsey Barraclough..................................... p. 1254 IT’S RAINING, IT’S POURING by Christine Davenier.............. p. 1258 THE SECOND LIFE OF ABIGAIL WALKER by Frances O’Roark Dowell ........................ p. 1259 MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE by Annabel Pitcher..................................... p. 1272 AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE by Kat Rosenfield.......... p. 1274 THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS by Rinsai Rossetti........ p. 1274 THE IMPOSSIBLE RESCUE by Martin W. Sandler.....................p. 1275 SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS by Laura Amy Schlitz................. p. 1276 PETE’S ROBOT by Heartdrive Media......................................... p. 1282 LEONARD by Ink Robin............................................................... p. 1283

Curious animals continually disrupt a young African girl’s attempts to read. But who would try to read while sitting in a crocodile’s mouth or lying on a rhino’s back? And what if a dung beetle wants to join you? This series of silly situations is sure to appeal to those who enjoy the absurd. Sprayed by an elephant and squeezed by a snake, the girl never gets all the way through her book—the very same one that is in readers’ hands. The patterned text and repetition of the title line make this both an engaging read-aloud and a good choice for an early reader. Eldridge’s double-page illustrations appear to have been computer generated using a variety of styles—line drawings, collage and watercolor texture— and savannah colors. Though rough, they are realistic enough to allow for animal identification. Unfortunately the “African ibis” is depicted with the body and straight beak of a stork. First published in 2011 by the author and illustrator as a fundraiser for their Books for Kids Africa project in Mozambique, this title was the picture-book winner for the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ children’s book competition. A crowd-pleasing celebration of reading; nevertheless, it doesn’t hold a candle to such more-polished presentations as Judy Sierra and Marc Brown’s Wild about Books (2004). (Picture book. 3-6)

OF GIANTS AND ICE

Bach, Shelby Simon & Schuster (352 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-4424-3146-1 Series: The Ever Afters, 1 On an expedition to steal a giant’s coins, hen and harp, Rory Landon discovers that she is destined for a special role in fairy-tale history. Only child of divorced celebrities, Rory is not your ordinary sixth-grader. She’s had plenty of |

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experience with after-school programs in the many different places she’s lived. Nor is Ever After School your ordinary day care center. The children and grandchildren of fairy-tale characters, EASers are Characters-in-training, likely to be part of each other’s tales and certain to be sent on one or more quests of their own. Here, for the first time in years, Rory makes friends who don’t care about her famous parents. Here, she fights a dragon, with a real sword. And when her friend Lena’s first tale turns out to require beanstalk-climbing, Rory’s thrilled to be one of her Companions, even though she’s afraid of heights and even though her least favorite person, Chase Turnleaf, is coming along. Their accidental visit to the Snow Queen in her Glass Mountain prison changes their relationship and sets the stage for a promised sequel. Rory recalls her adventures in a firstperson chronological narration that includes plenty of dialogue. This fast-paced combination of middle school realism and fairy-tale fantasy will appeal particularly to imaginative readers already familiar with traditional tales. (Fantasy. 9-13)

1-2-3 PEAS

Baker, Keith Illus. by Baker, Keith Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 | $12.99 e-book | Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-4424-4551-2 978-1-4424-4552-9 e-book After an alphabetical, rhyming tour de force (LMNO Peas, 2010), Baker’s energetic pea pack is back—this time, to count by ones and 10s. Baker sidesteps the trickiness of rhyming the numerals by selecting a repeating word for each short verse. “ONE pea searching—look, look, look, / TWO peas fishing—hook, hook, hook.” Those numerals rise sky-high (to peas, at least) to dominate the digitally composed visuals, often serving as props for the frenzy of vegetative activity. At “TEN peas building—pound, pound, pound,” the peas erect a wooden platform around the numeral—mainly, it would seem, as an excuse for exuberantly hammering dozens of nails. Baker circumvents those oft-pesky teens in one deft double-page spread: “Eleven to nineteen—skip, skip, skip!” Then it’s a double-page spread per decade, with peas traveling, napping, watching fireworks and more. “SEVENTY peas singing” provide a bevy of details to spy: A fab foursome (the Peatles) rocks out above a chorus and director. Nearby, a barbershop quartet, a Wagnerian soloist, a showering pea and a dancing “Peayoncé” add to the fun. Whether they’re counting scores of peas, enjoying the rhymes and puns or relishing the funny visual quirks, families are sure to devour Baker’s latest winner. Totally appea-ling! (Picture book. 3-7)

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THE THING ABOUT THE TRUTH

Barnholdt, Lauren Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4424-3460-8 A teenage he said/she said caper. With her opening line—“I am in so much trouble”—17-year-old prep school refugee Kelsey draws readers into her complicated existence, studded with white lies and whoppers. On her first day at the local public school, the gimlet-eyed heroine meets her match in Isaac, the hot, reckless son of a senator. Their sarcastic sparring, brimming with pride and prejudice and f-bombs, builds a Lizzy-vs.Darcy chemistry as they each struggle to overcome their mistakes. The first-person narration alternates between them, providing insight into their separate journeys toward authenticity as they work together on a school project that is designed to save them both—and goes horribly awry. Although the chaotic aftermath is detailed early on, Barnholdt’s snappy dialogue and deftly woven flashbacks will keep readers turning the pages in comic suspense. Romance fans will find the conclusion satisfying even as it is refreshingly messy. (Fiction. 14 & up)

LONG LANKIN

Barraclough, Lindsey Candlewick (464 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-7636-5808-3 A thoroughly terrifying, centuriesold monster stalks two children sent from London to stay with their greataunt in the country. Cora and little sister Mimi’s Auntie Ida could hardly be less welcoming when they show up at her door, sent by their father while their Mum, always prone to “funny moods,” is away—again. They must keep the windows and doors locked, even though the crumbling old house is steaming in the summer heat. They mustn’t explore in the house, or go down to the marshes, or—especially—go down to the old church. Roger and his brother Pete, local boys, are also forbidden to go there, but when the four children fall in together, down to the church they go—and wake up Long Lankin. He likes them young. This atmospheric, pulse-pounding debut makes the most of its rural, post–World War II setting, a time and place where folklore uneasily informs reality. Barraclough controls her narrative with authority, shifting voices and tenses to provide both perspective and the occasional welcome respite from tension. The actual threat remains mostly unknown for almost the first half of the book, evident mostly in the long scratches by the door, the fetid stench of the church, the secretiveness of the villagers and, overwhelmingly, Auntie Ida’s frank terror. If some of the historical exposition comes very conveniently, readers won’t care—they will be too busy flipping the pages as Long Lankin closes in.

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“This bully-themed anthology stands out in both the breadth of its scope and its tolerance for moral ambiguity.” from cornered

A good, old-fashioned literary horror tale for sophisticated readers. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

CORNERED 15 Stories of Bullying and Defiance

Belleza, Rhoda--Ed. Running Press (384 pp.) $9.95 paperback | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-7624-4428-1 This bully-themed anthology stands out in both the breadth of its scope and its tolerance for moral ambiguity. A distinguished and ethnically diverse set of authors contribute to this volume, which focuses not only on teens who are targets of bullying, but also those who perpetrate it—and many, realistically, do both. Bullying takes many forms, including a teacher ridiculing students, a viral racist email and hazing on a soccer team. The contributors largely delve into bullies’ behavior without resting on cliché: David Yoo’s unnamed protagonist targets another teen in part because he himself has been bullied, but readers also see the specific incidents and pressures that make his actions, though unforgiveable, more understandable. Most contributors also wisely observe that family dynamics can have as much impact as those at school: James Lecesne’s suicidal teen protagonist is called “lezzie” by a classmate, but her mother also snips at her, “Would it kill you to wear a skirt every once in a while?” Overall, however, the book’s handling of homophobic bullying is mixed; it is believable that Elizabeth Miles’ straight narrator is humiliated by malicious rumors that she is a lesbian, but one wishes the story indicated that being LGBTQ need not be shameful. For the most part, a diverse, robust collection that looks unflinchingly at cruelty. (Anthology. 12 & up)

THE FO’C’SLE Henry Beston’s “Outermost House”

Beston, Henry Illus. by Rossiter, Nan Parson Godine (32 pp.) $17.95 | Jul. 26, 2012 978-1-56792-433-6

Rossiter mixes short quotes from the original (“…the sandpipers stand on one leg and dream, their heads tousled deep in their feathers”) with commentary written in a similarly measured style. Her full-page and double-page–spread paintings are likewise spare: formal glimpses of avian passersby, views of the author gazing out to sea, or broad, subtly colored expanses of sky over ocean bordered by a slanting strip of empty beach. The language and visuals both will put budding naturalists in a meditative mood. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

SOULBOUND

Brewer, Heather Dial (416 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-8037-3723-5 Series: The Legacy of Tril, 1 Seventeen-year-old Kaya is the daughter of two Barrons who were forbidden to marry; they are all in hiding when she’s discovered by her country’s leaders and forced into training at Shadow Academy, an isolated boarding school. To her great frustration, Kaya isn’t of the respected warrior class, like her parents. Instead, she’s a Healer, able to lay her hands on the Barron she’s Bound to and heal his wounds, but not good for much else—a secondary role she’s not willing to accept. Since the Barron she was Soulbound to at birth is dead, the academy binds her to a wealthy Barron, Trayton, whose Soulbound Healer is also dead. Although Trayton is handsome and friendly, he’s not a rule breaker like the attractive, moody Barron Darius, a young instructor at the school with a mysterious background. Both Barrons will be needed to fight off the Graplars—the dinosaurlike monsters that keep attacking the students and that Kaya’s determined to learn how to destroy. Kaya’s rigidly class-structured, relentlessly embattled world is vividly sketched, and while the stock characters never fully spring to life, the slice-’em–dice-’em, gore-infused action keeps the pace brisk. A fictional swear word, “fak,” obviously substituted for another expletive, peppers the text, an annoying contrivance. Readers will be swept along as Kaya determinedly takes control of her own future in this predictable if spirited series opener. (Fantasy. 11 & up)

SO CLOSE TO YOU

Carter, Rachel HarperTeen (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-06-208105-6

A poetic tribute to an early-20th-century cousin of Walden and the house where it was written. Originally published in 1928 and still in print as an early classic of the modern environmental movement, Outermost House chronicles a year spent in a remote bungalow on Cape Cod watching waves and wildlife on the nearby beach and dunes. This account focuses less on Beston—a journalist, author of fairy tales and husband of children’s writer Elizabeth Coatsworth—than on his observations while in residence and the house’s later history up to its being “taken by the ocean” in 1964. |

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A wan time-travel tale delivers a clichéd romance and a little history lesson. Lydia’s grandfather has been haunted by the disappearance of his father when he was a child in 1944. He spends his days tramping through the abandoned Camp |

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“[Chantler adds] an element of star-crossed romance to a typically fast-paced tale replete with narrow squeaks and spectacular gymnastic feats.” from the captive prince

Hero for evidence of the Montauk Project (“the East Coast Area 51”), which he believes is responsible. While examining yet another overgrown bunker with him one day, Lydia finds a door open and makes her way through a series of mostly empty corridors to a room with a beautiful boy and a mysterious chamber. She plunges into the chamber and is taken back to 1944, to the active Camp Hero where her great-grandfather is stationed. Coincidences pile up: Her great-great-grandfather, a doctor, just happens to be there, too, with her great-great-aunt, just her age. She is welcomed into the family with almost no questions asked, from which point she watches for her opportunity to prevent her great-grandfather’s disappearance. Oh, and the beautiful boy, Wes, is also there, to prevent her from changing time. The history is conveyed mostly through Lydia’s denseness as she encounters such unfamiliar concepts as a girdle and “The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.” Eyes will roll as Wes and Lydia declare undying love in scenes dripping with syrup; lids will droop as Wes tortuously explains the Montauk Project. A cliffhanger-ish ending dangles the promise of more of the same. (Science fiction/romance. 12 & up)

THE CAPTIVE PRINCE

Chantler, Scott Illus. by Chantler, Scott Kids Can (116 pp.) $17.95 | paper $8.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-55453-776-1 978-1-55453-777-8 paperback Series: Three Thieves, 3 Three fugitives and a bookish young prince repeatedly rescue one another in the latest episode of this particularly adventuresome graphic-novel series. Coming by chance upon two mercenaries and a kidnapping victim, ex–circus performer Dessa and her nonhuman companions Fisk and Topper engineer a rescue. The lucky fellow? Paladin, Crown Prince of Medoria. Smitten but annoyed (“Really? It’s gotta be me? Every time?”), Dessa does it again after Paladin ineptly tries to woo her by entering his first joust and then falling beneath his frantic charger’s hooves. Kidnapped again by the same pair during the ensuing brouhaha, Paladin gets away by himself and, turnabout, reappears in time to help Dessa and her friends escape the wrath of his ungrateful royal father. Chantler leaves some questions unanswered (such as how the kidnappers seem to get away so easily each time) and doesn’t advance the larger plotline he set up in the previous two volumes much. He does add an element of star-crossed romance to a typically fast-paced tale replete with narrow squeaks and spectacular gymnastic feats. Both the nonstop action and the sometimes subtle interactions between characters are easy to follow in the cleanly drawn and colored panels. Nary a dull moment, nor even a slow one in this escapade’s latest outing. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

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CITY OF LOST SOULS

Clare, Cassandra McElderry (544 pp.) $19.99 | May 8, 2012 978-1-4424-1686-4 Series: Mortal Instruments, 5 What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift. Clary’s long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace’s foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can’t carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary’s continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the “million little paper cuts” of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips (“all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking”). Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure. (Fantasy. 13-16)

DO YOU KNOW DEWEY? Exploring the Dewey Decimal System

Cleary, Brian P. Illus. by Lew-Vriethoff, Joanne Millbrook/Lerner (32 pp.) $16.95 e-book | PLB $22.60 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4677-0130-3 e-book 978-0-7613-6676-8 PLB The Great Library Code is deciphered simplistically and, more problematically, in labored rhyme. After opening with an introduction to young Melvil Dewey, who “would grow up to make a system / to organize those stacks of books and classify and list ’em,” Cleary conducts a tour from 000 to the 900s. With occasional oversimplifications—“Peek in the 800s, and you’ll have all kinds of sightings / of works in many languages and many types of writings”—he highlights general subjects and a few scansion-fitting specific topics (700s: “Motown, Mozart, Ellington, the Beatles, and the blues, / along with most activities that you might ever choose”). He breaks

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down call-number structure in a more detailed (prose) closing section and also notes that most (public and school) libraries use different classification schemes for fiction, picture books and biographies. He also at least drops in a mention of online catalogs, if not librarians, as helpful resources. Though the loosely shelved books visible in Lew-Vriethoff ’s cartoon illustrations are all fat, generic tomes unrealistically free of titles, jackets and even (despite suggestive streaks of lighter color) spine labels, at least her library scenes bustle with happy patrons of diverse ages and skin tones. Not likely to be much help in an actual library, but the concept that there’s a system may be reassuring. (basic chart) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

THE LAND OF STORIES The Wishing Spell Colfer, Chris Illus. by Dorman, Brandon Little, Brown (304 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-316-20157-5

Celebpub collides with fairy-tale redux in this unsuccessful debut. Alex is enraptured with fairy tales and soaks up her teacher’s lessons on their universal truths. Twin brother Conner, on the other hand, falls asleep in class. On their 12th birthday their grandmother gifts them her treasured Land of Stories, a book their late father often shared with them. Predictably, they fall into the book and encounter all the fairy-tale characters, albeit some years after their happily-everafters. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Rapunzel are now queens, while Jack (of beanstalk fame), Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood are embroiled in a fierce love triangle. Alex and Conner must collect eight fairy-tale items in order to return to their world, all while being pursued by a snarling wolf pack in the employ of the Evil Queen, whose life Snow White has spared. Unfortunately, Colfer’s prose, though sincere, drowns in bizarre imagery and trite phraseology. A Curvy Tree is saved from loggers because of its “uniqueness.” Alex wants to be in this fairy-tale world because it is “where good things [come] to good people.” Conner, upon learning that he is part fairy (grandmother = fairy godmother), “sarcastically” opines that “[t]he guys at school can never hear about this.” Cardboard characters and awkwardly episodic situations result in a poorly manufactured tale. (Fantasy. 8-12)

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ACTS OF COURAGE Laura Secord and the War of 1812

Crook, Connie Brummel Pajama Press (272 pp.) $14.95 paperback | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-9869495-7-9 Written from a Canadian perspective, this well-researched and -documented historical novel offers young readers a fascinating perspective on the events following the American Revolution and leading up to the War of 1812. Laura Ingersoll Secord spent her early years in Great Barrington, Mass., before emigrating with her parents to Upper Canada (Southern Ontario) during the tumultuous years following the American Revolution and Shay’s Rebellion. Although sometimes the historical details threaten to overwhelm the story, and the dialogue seems stilted, for the most part pivotal and gripping incidents propel the story forward. These incidents also reveal Laura’s strength of character, building a believable foundation for her rescue of her husband and her dramatic journey on foot to warn the Canadians of an impending American attack during the War of 1812. Covering a span of over 25 years, from 1787 through 1813, the tension between history and story keeps the book from being entirely successful as either. Nevertheless, the author tells a good story and presents some fascinating and little-known history (including such issues as slavery, economics, and social justice) in an interesting way. A historical note, sources and maps supplement the account. An opportunity for American children to see a little-known war through a rarely considered lens. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

THE WHITE GLOVE WAR

Crouch, Katie; Hendrix, Grady Poppy/Little, Brown (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-316-18750-3 Series: Magnolia League, 2

In the second installment of the Magnolia League series, the stakes are higher, the drama more palpable and the hoodoo even hairier. In 1957, on an island off Savannah, a few daring women struck a bargain with the formidable Doc Buzzard, a bargain that would keep them and their descendants beautiful, prosperous and powerful. Now, two of these descendants are ready to formally join the League as its newest members: Hayes, a natural Magnolia in the making who was born and raised in Savannah, and the outsider Alexandria, who grew up on a commune and has only recently morphed into a true socialite. Hippie-at-heart Alex has an ulterior motive for this seeming transformation—to save her mother’s soul from her grandmother’s clutches. On this quest, Alex discovers that her grandmother is not the only Magnolia to have ventured

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into darker dealings with the Buzzards, and that she just might have more of a friend in would-be rival Hayes than she had ever dreamed. The harrowing story is told by Hayes and Alex, their alternating perspectives keeping the tale fresh and transforming the previously one-dimensional Hayes into a complex character with her own goals and convictions. Though lighter on the romance, this creepy, cliffhanging thrill ride will still delight Magnolia League fans and leave them desperate for the next episode. (Supernatural thriller. 12 & up)

HOCUS POCUS HOTEL

Dahl, Michael Illus. by Weber, Lisa K. Stone Arch Books (216 pp.) $10.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-4342-4253-2 Series: Hocus Pocus Hotel, 1

Ty Yu, one of the biggest bullies in middle school, recruits Charlie Hitchcock and his “acute visual memory” for a little detective work. There have been some mysterious occurrences at Ty’s home, the Hocus Pocus Hotel, a residence for retired magicians. His plans to purchase a dirt bike, a “Tezuki Slamhammer 750, Edition 6, in cherry-pop lightning red,” must wait when tenant Mr. Madagascar disappears, along with his rent payment. Brack, an employee with some surprises of his own, mentors the students as they connect the clues. Charlie’s interests (his skillz at Sherlock Holmes Maximum Z serve him well) allow him to quickly summarize the information and bring tidy resolutions. The children’s second case involves the identity of a local ghost. The first in a series, these two mysteries connect to a larger storyline as the hotel’s performers prepare for their revival show. At times, exposition causes pacing to drag. “It was just that Tyler never showed he had brains while he was in school. At school, Tyler pretty much only showed off his big arms and fists.” Digital art depicts Ty as a lanky teenager with slickedback black hair and almond eyes; Charlie, with glasses and freckles, is significantly shorter. Drawings dissect the duo’s major discoveries. With a touch of The Twilight Zone, it’s the building and its guests that provide the eeriest entertainment. (Mystery. 9-12)

IT’S RAINING, IT’S POURING

Davenier, Christine Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $17.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-936140-77-0 In 1961, Peter, Paul and Mary made an extremely engaging piece combining the title ditty, a game of hide-and-seek and snatches of nursery rhymes; Davenier takes it a visual step further to make an absolutely engaging picture book. Fluid colors and vivacious line define the images, which not only show a wonderful old house with a warm kitchen and a fine 1258

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old stairway, but a huge apple tree outside. Populating this cozy locale are a gaggle of children visiting grandma and grandpa. It’s grandpa who is in bed with an ice pack on his head (“the old man is snoring. / Bumped his head…”) The children, driven indoors by the rain, start a game of hide-and-seek. One moppet climbs into bed next to grandpa and reads to him. Familiar nursery rhymes (“Star light, star bright”; “Hey diddle-diddle”) play out in the pictures with grandpa and moppet as actors. Meanwhile, the barefoot children (all of their shoes are lined up by the stairs) are quietly hiding in the closet, under the table where grandma is peeling apples and even under grandpa’s bed! (That’s where the twins are.) There’s a big old dog and a ginger cat, and the cow who jumped over the moon—at least in grandpa’s and moppet’s imaginations—peeks in the window at “Olly, Olly in free!” And it looks like the sun has come out. A note about the song from the performers, Davenier’s note about being at her grandmother’s with all of her cousins and an enclosed threesong CD round out a near-perfect whole. The original song with its three-part counterpoint is deliciously imagined on these pages. (Picture book. 4-8)

SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY

Dennard, Susan HarperTeen (400 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-06-208326-5

Zombies strike the 1876 Philadelphia World’s Fair. Eleanor Fitt—of the Philadelphia Fitts—wants nothing more than for her brother to return from his three-year odyssey abroad. She and her dear Mama have just about run out of funds, and she misses Elijah terribly. So when a shambling Dead gives her a note from him telling her he’s been detained, she is mightily distressed. The next day, the determined teen is off for some help from the Spirit-Hunters who have set up shop at the International Centennial Exhibition. Once readers accept Eleanor’s casual response to the animated corpses—she recovers awfully quickly from her initial close encounter—they are in for an enjoyably breathless, if slightly disgusting romp. Her can-do attitude finds her at one point systematically disabling a throng of zombies by smashing their kneecaps with her parasol. Mystery, romance, humor, action, a sure-fire setting: Dennard delivers. The romance is less a triangle than a straight line, as readers will instantly spot Eleanor’s best match, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Two of the Spirit-Hunters, the Creole magician at its head and a de-sexed Chinese girl who disguises herself as a boy, are more stereotypes than fully realized characters, but there is room for them to grow in the sequel. Readers who can look past the gloomily generic paranormal cover will find themselves pleasantly occupied. (Paranormal historical fiction. 12 & up)

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“…Dowell weaves themes of friendship and personal growth into a rich and complex narrative.” from the second life of abigail walker

ORANGE JUICE PEAS!

Don, Lari Illus. by Wells, Lizzie Floris (32 pp.) $11.95 paperback | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-86315-872-8 A big brother allows the baby sitter to misunderstand his little sister in this Scottish import. Small Jessie is just learning words, and when she says “please” it sounds just like PEAS. Mum and Dad are off to a ceilidh (Dad’s in his kilt and Mum’s in her dancing boots), and they tell Rachel, the baby sitter, to give Jessie anything she asks for, as she is just getting over a cold. So when she asks for “Orange juice peas” Rachel gamely finds some leftover cooked peas in the fridge and drops a few in the juice. Jessie is not pleased, and she asks for a “Boon peas!” Ben translates “spoon” but not the other, so Jessie gets a spoon with peas, which she uses to get the peas out of her juice. Alas, though, now the orange juice tastes of peas. “Yack!” says Jessie. This continues. While Ben tries to hold in his giggles, Jessie grows ever more frustrated, and Rachel gets increasingly mystified. There are peas all over the place. Finally, Ben explains that Jessie means “please,” not that she wants peas with everything. The cheerful and individualized characters, bright surroundings and patterned fabric-collage effects make for winning pages, and the use of British/Scots terms are easily understood in context. This provides both a fairly high cute factor and hard evidence that big brothers tend to be the same everywhere. (Picture book. 4-7)

THE SECOND LIFE OF ABIGAIL WALKER

Dowell, Frances O’Roark Atheneum (240 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-1-4424-0593-6

When Abby’s one-time friend whispers to her, “You’re dead,” Abby knows it’s true. Maybe not dead physically, but dying inside. Avoiding Georgia and Kristen, who make snarky remarks about her weight in the lunchroom, the sixth-grader makes new friends, including two Indian-American boys whose easy tolerance is refreshing. Fleeing a home visit by the two bullying girls, she meets 9-year-old Anders, whose father is also dying inside. The Iraq War veteran is frightened by much of the peaceful world of the family horse farm, where he waits for space in a VA hospital. For “Tubby Abby,” farm visits are both physically and emotionally helpful. As she did in The Secret Language of Girls (2004) and its sequel, The Kind of Friends We Used to Be (2009), Dowell weaves themes of friendship and personal growth into a rich and complex narrative. A third story strand follows the desert fox Abby meets in the overgrown lot |

across the street from her house, adding a fantasy element and further connections. Like the fox in the Wendell Barry epigraph, some of Abby’s tracks are in the wrong direction. But her resurrection is satisfying. Middle school mean girls are not uncommon, in fiction or in life, but seldom has an author so successfully defeated them without leaving her protagonist or her reader feeling a little bit mean herself. (Fiction. 9-12)

BANG! BOOM! ROAR! A Busy Crew of Dinosaurs Evans, Nate; Brown, Stephanie Gwyn Illus. by Santoro, Christopher Harper/HarperCollins (40 pp.) $15.99 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-06-087960-0

A teeming dino crew in hard hats and safety vests create organized if frenetic chaos on a mucky construction site in this alpha-romp. The 16 full-bleed digital collages are jammed with hundreds of sharply reproduced images and photos of hand tools, heavy machinery, construction materials, litter and hidden letters, as well as flying glop of various sorts. Within them, a swarm of grimacing, toothy cartoon monsters convert a trash-filled empty lot into an urban playground. Rhymed, if not always regular, stanzas of alliterative text provide a heavy background beat: “Trample rock with this track paver. / Toss in tar! A true time-saver! / Towering torches and twisting necks. / Teetering, tottering tons of high tech!” Whether peeking out of a port-apotty, racing lumbering earth movers or putting their “[j]umbo blubber in a wiggle” with jackhammers, the well-larded laborers are easily identifiable thanks to a labeled opening gallery (with bananas or steaks added to indicate dietary preferences). Along with the aforementioned hidden alphabet—plus dozens of other items listed at the back—the pictures are chock-full of funny side business for young eyes to pick out too. Pure pleasure for children addicted to dinos, the delights of big trucks and decoding visual jumbles. (Picture book. 5-7)

MONSTROUS BEAUTY

Fama, Elizabeth Farrar, Straus and Giroux (304 pp.) $17.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-0-374-37366-5 A mermaid’s attraction to a man begets both love and evil in the waters off Plymouth, Mass., where these exotic creatures have always lived and will live forever. The romance between Syrenka and her beau, Ezra, in 1872 leads to a particularly disturbing murder-suicide, and the pact she makes with Noo’kas, the queen of the mermaids, has repercussions that reach into the present. In modern times, Hester puzzles

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“This snazzy cautionary tale packs quite a bite (even with its tongue in the way).” from watch your tongue, cecily beasley

over her family history; her female ancestors have tended to die young for generations, her mother included, making her decide to swear off love and maybe have a chance to survive into old age. Fama’s lush language makes the past seem as immediate as the present-day scenes. Fantasy elements are incorporated seamlessly, so despite knowing about the mermaids from the first, readers will only gradually comprehend the extent to which they have influenced the lives of those around them. The sense of foreboding grows as Hester learns more and more about the past and struggles to find answers to her questions about her own future. The blend of history and fantasy enhances both storylines as the narrative shifts between past and present, gradually doling out clues. Dilemmas and choices are complex, providing much food for thought. Not so much romance as suspense, this stylish fantasy mesmerizes. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

THE MOST DANGEROUS

Fields, Terri Illus. by Jacques, Laura Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | paper $9.95 | Aug. 10, 2012 978-1-607185-260 978-1-607185-352 paperback A talent show of dangerous animals misses the mark in so many ways. Parading before a panel of quaking human judges, a paltry 10 contestants for the titular trophy flash fangs, teeth or other weapons. They do so in closely cropped painted portraits that— except for the slavering, charging Cape buffalo—fail to deliver any sense of menace, motion or even size. The animals’ own statements are equally unimpressive, ranging from the saltwater crocodile’s obscure, “When a person or animal comes by, I explode from the water and drown him,” to the great white shark’s unconvincing “I have 3,000 teeth that bite really hard.” The “winner” turns out to be the mosquito, which (a judge awkwardly explains) “because of its blood-sucking spreads the most sickness and death in the entire animal kingdom.” Neither the main text nor the enrichment quizzes and other material at the back and online elaborate on this baldly stated claim. Children are in no danger of encountering detailed information about animal offenses and defenses, or even a thrill or two, from this quick wash of generalities. (map) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

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WATCH YOUR TONGUE, CECILY BEASLEY

Fredrickson, Lane Illus. by Davis, Jon Sterling (32 pp.) $14.95 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-4027-7089-0

That’s right, Cecily. If you make an ugly face, it just might get stuck. There once was a time that little Cecily Beasley was a gradeA brat. She wouldn’t share; she slurped her food; her belches— public and smirk-enhanced—were stinky. She would stick out her tongue and waggle her fingers, and she took no heed when warned her gesture might freeze just so. Sure’s shootin’, one day her tongue won’t retract, and a Mockingbeak Tongue-snatcher quickly makes a nest thereupon. A doctor counsels the family not to disturb the bird, which can be as feisty and ill-mannered a customer as Cecily. She had to wait—patience not being among her virtues, either—for the eggs to hatch. Fredrickson’s salute to the risks of bad manners is gladdening and admonitory in all the right, playful ways. When the Tongue-snatcher hatchlings stick their collective tongues out at Cecily, it makes for a fair rebuke. Fredrickson also has her share of fun with the dexterity of her rhymes: “It’s a Mockingbeak Tongue-snatcher, rude and tenacious. / They roost on the tongues of the loud and audacious.” Then there are Davis’ illustrations full of fruity, tropical color and theatrical line work; they are spot-on in catching Cecily in her predicament—the sheer misery of having a tongue as big as a mature sea cucumber. This snazzy cautionary tale packs quite a bite (even with its tongue in the way). (Picture book. 4-7)

CUTTLEFISH

Freer, Dave Pyr/Prometheus Books (276 pp.) $16.95 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-1-61614-625-2 An overwhelming wealth of precise detail bogs down this steampunk effort from adult-fantasy author Freer. In a world where synthetic ammonia was not invented in 1898 (per the exhaustive backmatter), two primary facts have remained true: The British Empire holds most of the political power, while coal supplies the actual power. By 1953, when the story is set, global warming has resulted in a political sphere entirely unlike the mid-20th century readers know. Fourteen-year-old Clara’s mother has notes that may lead to synthetic ammonia at last, so the two of them find themselves aboard the submarine Cuttlefish on the run from the Russians, the British and possibly the Americans. Amid a barrage of minutiae (from engine workings to background elements that try but fail to establish worldbuilding), Clara finds herself and true love with the lone black crew member, whose own story plays a role (and includes some commentary on racism). The repetitive

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plot consists of near misses and tight escapes; overt statements replace character growth (“She hadn’t realized before just how important people who merely made food and hot drinks were”), and the burgeoning romance moves too rapidly from a kiss to “I love you.” Moreover, the image of Clara on the cover is reminiscent of the TV Laura Ingalls Wilder in her preteen years. Steampunk and the Cuttlefish’s coal engines might be hot, but tepid storytelling sinks this tale. (glossary) (Steampunk. 12-15)

UNDEAD ED

Ghoulstone, Rotterly Illus. by Baines, Nigel Razorbill/Penguin (224 pp.) $10.99 | Aug. 16, 2012 978-1-59514-531-4 Bad enough being a newly undead nerd...but Ed’s renegade left arm is trying to kill him! After several strange near-accidents, 13-year-old Ed Bagley wakes up dead. Before that shock wears off, he finds his left arm missing—and then out of nowhere it attacks him! Once he escapes his possessed left arm, he meets Max Moon, a teen werewolf who has been designated his “Dead Buddy.” Thank goodness, Max can introduce Ed to Jemini and Evil Clive, who (at least according to Max) have some answers to newly zombified Ed’s questions. Suffice to say, Ed is underwhelmed by the answers, but he is thankful for the help in avoiding the fat baby ghouls and, most importantly, in finding his arm, beating it and reattaching it. British children’s author David Lee Stone attempts a third leap across the pond under a second pseudonym with, as before, mixed results. (Writing as “David Grimstone,” he created the Gladiator Boy series with James de la Rue.) The British-toAmerican translation is inconsistent and may confuse, and the illustrations often don’t match the descriptions in the text. Fans of silly, gory zombie fiction can do better, but the large type and brisk pace make this a possibility for the more reluctant readers among them. Two sequels out already in the U.K. may follow. Discriminating readers may want to look elsewhere. (Funny horror. 9-12)

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THE BIG SOMETHING

Giff, Patricia Reilly Illus. by Palmisciano, Diane Orchard (40 pp.) $6.99 | PLB $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-545-24459-6 978-0-545-43369-3 PLB Series: Fiercely and Friends, 1 The Big Something doesn’t end up amounting to much in this lackluster beginning reader. As the first in the planned Fiercely and Friends series, the text amounts to more exposition than narrative substance. Jilli’s dog Fiercely digs a hole under a fence, and though she frets that he is “digging straight down to China” he ends up in the neighboring yard. Peeping through a hole in the fence, Jilli and Jim (children will ask whether he’s her friend or her brother— the text is unclear) see workers “building a Big Red Something.” Also in the next yard is a mysterious woman wearing a witch’s hat and standing on a ladder to paint ice-cream cones and gumdrops on the structure’s walls, making it akin to the witch’s house in “Hansel and Gretel.” Curious, Jilli and Jim go to a shed to don disguises (and pause to eat gummy bears stuck to its floor). Then they use a gummy bear to entice Fiercely to return, which provokes the painting woman to come talk with them. Lo and behold, she isn’t a witch, but Ms. Berry, “the nicest teacher.” She tells the children that The Big Red Something is a “new school” and they follow her into the yard to help her paint. Palmisciano’s watercolor illustrations visually describe the text but stop short of adding engaging detail or expansion. A disappointment from a noted writer in an era when outstanding early readers abound. (Early reader. 5-7)

COLD FURY

Goeglein, T. M. Putnam (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 24, 2012 978-0-399-25720-9 Paranormal elements uneasily mix with Mafia entanglements in this debut. Chicago teen boxer Sara Jane has grown up cozily protected by her warm Italian family, presided over by Grandpa Enzo “the Biscotto.” (The “Men Who Mumbled” who visit the family bakery sometimes call him “Enzo the Boss.”) When her grandparents die, tension flares between her father and his younger brother. On her 16th birthday, she returns home from a school dance to find her house trashed and her family vanished. In between violent encounters with a terrifying man in a ski mask, she works feverishly to find her family, discovering in the process a colossal secret (that will not surprise readers) and a family trait passed down from Sicilian ancestors that mystically intimidates foes. Goeglein’s book has a lot going for it—Sara Jane’s school friendships, her warm

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relationship with her family, cool Mob stuff, boxing action, some humor—but the parts don’t hang together gracefully. Sara Jane narrates from an irritating had-I-but-known perspective for too much of the book, then continues narrating in the past tense, leaving readers unsure exactly “when” she is. Exposition is fed to readers through a variety of contrivances, some thoroughly unbelievable. And the blue-eyed, “cold fury” glare feels tacked-on rather than necessary to the plot. With another draft or two, this could have been a terrific thriller; here’s hoping the sequel gets a little bit more time to develop. (Thriller. 12 & up)

THE BLOOD KEEPER

Gratton, Tessa Random House (432 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-375-86734-7 978-0-375-89769-6 e-book 978-0-375-96734-4 PLB Blood and roses, love and death, past and present, the mundane and the magical; all intertwine in this dark fantasy, a stand-alone companion to the well-received Blood Magic (2011). Will Sanger, high school soccer star, only wanted to free himself from his recurrent nightmares. Mab Prowd, neophyte guardian of the blood magic, only wanted to understand the curse buried beneath her rose garden. But when their choices bind their fates together, an old love story and a long-concealed crime begin to creep into the present. As Will is forced to confront his family’s recent tragedy and the demands of their expectations, Mab is called upon to devise rituals and seize powers well beyond her training. Their alternating perspectives interweave to form a nightmare of steadily building desire, obsession, sacrifice and violence. The power of this narrative lies in the gorgeous prose, lush with a gothic sensibility, ripe with sensual images of horrific beauty. The characters, while vividly drawn, are more poetic archetypes than real people, and the instant attraction between Mab and Will depends more on destiny than convincing chemistry. The workings of the blood magic make for spectacular unforgettable set pieces, but they rely upon the surreal logic of dreams rather than any rational system. But this isn’t a tale for thinking; it’s all about feeling: Passion, heartbreak, yearning and dread bleed from every page. A perfect book for those who loved Wuthering Heights and are looking for an essentially American gothic. (Horror. 14 & up)

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HUMAN BODY FACTORY The Nuts and Bolts of Your Insides Green, Dan Illus. by Davis, Edmond Kingfisher (48 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-7534-6808-1

Take an eye-catching journey through the human body, examining various organs and systems. Accurate, relatively detailed information spiced up by a humorous presentation accompanies lively, intricate illustrations of a human body–as-factory, staffed by hundreds of tiny uniformed workers whose dialogue bubbles contain information about the body’s functions. “Blood sugar needs to be topped off! I’ll send some agents to the liver with messages to release more glucose from its supplies,” thinks a worker in the pancreas as he juggles red briefcases of hormonal information to release. The Where’s Waldo?–style illustrations and relatively simple text (by comparison to David Macaulay’s The Way We Work, 2008, for instance) will keep readers engaged, since there’s so much going on. If bodily functions aren’t sufficiently interesting for some readers, they can keep busy looking for a tiny skeletal figure hidden on each spread. Amusing trivia—“A dog’s olfactory bulbs are about 40 times bigger than a human’s”—adds yet another dimension to this surprisingly appealing yet comprehensive romp through anatomy and physiology. A glossary covers some of the more complex terms, but there is no source information. A large fold-out poster that draws together many of the individual systems will enhance understanding. Terrific for classrooms and recreational browsing, this information-packed effort will also appeal to puzzle lovers and those that savor complex illustrations. (Nonfiction. 9-14)

CHANGELING

Gregory, Philippa Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster (272 pp.) $18.99 | May 29, 2012 978-1-4424-5344-9 Series: Order of Darkness, 1 A paranormal/historical potboiler for teens from Gregory. In June 1483, in Rome, the gorgeous supposed orphan and novice priest Luca Vero, 17, rumored to be a faerie child, is sent forth by the Inquisitor to find evil. At the same time, beautiful Isolde of Lucretili, in one fell swoop, finds her father dead, her brother claiming her lands and castle, and herself sent off with her Moorish companion, Ishraq, to be the abbess at the local nunnery. The convent is a hotbed of madness, and when Luca and his companions investigate, they accuse Isolde and Ishraq of witchcraft. But he learns the true evil lies elsewhere, and Isolde and Ishraq escape amid a grisly denouement. There is no character development to speak of, except for Luca’s

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“Potter’s watercolor caricatures, with their tiny feet and restrained demeanors, enact their story in scenes with skewed perspectives and strong diagonals, choices that heighten the absurdity.” from cecil the pet glacier

manservant, who is funny and may have useful hidden talents for subsequent volumes. For a period piece, Gregory indulges in ridiculous-sounding anachronisms. A brigand actually says, “Now, little ladies, put your hands in the air…and nobody will get hurt.” A lot of talk is given over to the weakness of women so that Isolde and Ishraq can contradict it—which Isolde does in distinctly noncanonical fashion: “[Y]ou would destroy us who are made in the image of Our Lady Mary and put us under the rule of men?” Even the actual writing is sloppy, in keeping with the overall construction. Gregory says in her author’s note how much fun she had writing this. Perhaps some may enjoy reading it. (Paranormal/historical fiction. 14-18)

THE HORSE ROAD

Harrison, Troon Bloomsbury (374 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 7, 2012 978-1-59990-846-5

The first of a projected trio of horsecentered historical novels takes readers to a central Asia of some 2,000 years ago. To 14-year-old Kallisto’s wealthy trader father, she is a plump peach, soft and lovely; to her horse-trainer mother, a former slave, she is a warrior yet unproven. Kalli, shy and stammering everywhere but on a horse, begins to prove herself when she and her friend Batu catch a glimpse over a mountainside of thousands of Middle Kingdom warriors preparing to attack their town. Servants herd the family’s elite horses to safety inside the walls, but Kalli herself barters for their food and water, shields them and cares for them; when her own mare, Swan, is stolen, she dons armor and weapons and rides to the rescue. In the end, she wins Swan not in battle, but through shrewd bargaining—the true daughter of both her parents. Harrison’s story is based upon a historical battle in 102 B.C. between soldiers of Chinese emperor Wu-Ti and inhabitants of the city of Ferghana. The emperor wanted the golden-hued Persian horses, ancestors of today’s Akhal-Teke breed; the siege ended diplomatically with the opening of the famous Silk Road. Harrison’s impressive research brings this relatively unknown era to life; her characters ring true, and Kallisto’s equestrian abilities, while impressive, are fully credible. The opening chapters, however, are both confusing and chaotic, with few cues to orient young readers to time and place. Overall, an exciting adventure. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

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CECIL THE PET GLACIER

Harvey, Matthea Illus. by Potter, Giselle Schwartz & Wade/Random (40 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-375-86773-6 The oft-told tale of a child who yearns for a pet and a creature that craves a human gets a new twist when the latter

is a baby glacier. This chip—off a block named Cecilsmater—latches on to Ruby during a family vacation in Norway. The child’s classmates already taunt her about her unusual parents, so she really doesn’t need a glacier tagging along behind her. Mrs. Small designs tiaras; Mr. Small creates topiaries. These artsy adults also tango on the front lawn, leaving Ruby mortified. Her main consolation is derived from the companionship of “The Three Jennifers,” dolls that look and dress exactly like Ruby. She shuns the loyal ice floe and ignores her parents’ encouragement, until Cecil performs a dramatic doll rescue during a thunderstorm— at great personal peril. Harvey’s alliteration adds humor to this saga of tension ’twixt the generations. “ ‘Welcome, Smalls,’ a blue-haired man named Sven sa[ys] severely,” when the family registers for snowmobiles in Horfensnufen. Potter’s watercolor caricatures, with their tiny feet and restrained demeanors, enact their story in scenes with skewed perspectives and strong diagonals, choices that heighten the absurdity. Ultimately, Ruby learns to appreciate her pet’s coolness; consequently, she attracts a new friend, and in her newfound happiness, she relates more lovingly to her family. Fans of Jenny Slate’s Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2011) will find a kindred spirit in the stalwart glacier that eats pebbles and wears a tiara. (Picture book. 5-8)

BREATHING ROOM

Hayles, Marsha Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt (256 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-8050-8961-5 Confined to a tuberculosis sanatorium in rural Minnesota, 13 year-old Evelyn Hoffmeister develops inner strength as she copes with loneliness, loss and the insidious disease that threatens her life. In May 1940, Evvy’s father leaves her at Loon Lake Sanatorium, where she’s assigned to a ward with other teenage tuberculosis patients. Isolated from her family, Evvy quickly learns to follow Loon Lake’s strict regimen of bed rest, diet and treatment, with no talking or visitors. Frightened and overwhelmed, Evvy gradually adapts to the sterile routine and discovers her fellow patients: talkative, fashionable Pearl; kindhearted Beverly; gruff Dena; and shy Sarah, a Jewish girl who becomes her best friend. As time slowly passes, Evvy realizes some patients improve and leave, while others die,

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“[L]ate master [Hoban] leaves a mystical tale about life, death and expiation of mistakes wrapped up as a romanticized Inuit fable.” from soonchild

sometimes unexpectedly. Speaking first as an observer and later as an engaged participant and survivor, Evvy tells the story of her year at Loon Lake. By describing her feelings, fears and tentative hope, she offers an inside peek at the lives of tuberculosis patients in the pre–World War II era, when there was no real cure for the disease. Period photographs of equipment, posters, medical treatments and hospital facilities relating to tuberculosis add verisimilitude. A quiet, sober story of a genuine heroine who survives a devastating disease with grace. (photographs; author’s note; notes on photographs) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

INTENTIONS

Heiligman, Deborah Knopf (272 pp.) $16.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $19.99 Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-375-86861-0 978-0-375-89933-1 e-book 978-0-375-96861-7 PLB Shockingly, Rachel overhears her rabbi having sex in the sanctuary of her synagogue before confirmation class. Unnerved and sickened, she doesn’t know whom to tell. Recognition that a man she’s always admired and trusted is imperfect, along with tension in her parents’ marriage and an impossibly wide chasm between herself and her friend Alexis, make Rachel’s moral compass spin out of control. She lets the rabbi’s bad-boy son, Adam, talk her into losing her “pot virginity.” Her lifelong friend and current crush, Jake, saves her from making a spectacle of herself. Heiligman’s ear for teen dialogue and situational humor is particularly keen here, as Rachel goes from thinking she’s not stoned to a declaration that “pot = truth serum.” When Rachel starts shoplifting with Alexis, Jake suggests that she follow Rabbi Cohn’s advice and atone for her transgressions. “Rabbi Cohn? Fuck Rabbi Cohn! Jake! I heard him screwing someone on the bima. He’s a terrible person!” Rachel’s path to understanding what it means to act with intention winds through a brief stint as a tutor to a special needs boy, past revelations about her parents, and finally to forgiveness. Lessons learned, the plot wraps up a little too neatly. The story is framed by the adult Rachel looking back on the events. A modestly daring coming-of-age tale with a (presumably) unintentionally preachy tone. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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BAD APPLE A Tale of Friendship Hemingway, Edward Illus. by Hemingway, Edward Putnam (32 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-0-399-25191-7

Hemingway’s story of friendship against the odds is sweet, but it has hitched its wagon to a very challenging vehicle. Mac is an apple, a polished piece of perfection, but he’s an easygoing, humble bit of applehood. He enjoys art classes and a slow drift down the neighborhood stream. He likes a spring rain and is napping in the drizzle one day when a worm by the name of Will seeks shelter from the storm in Mac’s head (Mac is pretty much all head). They become fast friends, with Will living in a hole he drilled in Mac’s head. This just seems weird, not to mention painful. When the other apples in the neighborhood start giving Mac grief—“And no one in the orchard would play with them. NOT EVEN the crab apples. Crab apples can be so mean”—calling him a bad apple, readers will feel protective toward the little red guy. And it doesn’t hurt, sympathy-wise, that the characters and settings are lusciously drawn. But still, there’s that that hole in the head. Mac also has an image problem: “Mac knew he’d rather be a Bad Apple with Will than a sad apple without him,” which compromises the whole notion of the beauty of friendship. He’s not a bad apple, he’s a good apple, uncontaminated by the pesticide of a culture that tells us only the glossily unblemished are worth a hoot. A mixed message shopped in a queasy jacket. (Picture book. 3-5)

SOONCHILD

Hoban, Russell Illus. by Deacon, Alexis Candlewick (144 pp.) $15.99 | Aug. 14, 2012 978-0-7636-5920-2 Beloved for such classics as Bedtime for Frances and The Mouse and His Child, the late master leaves a mystical tale about life, death and expiation of mistakes wrapped up as a romanticized Inuit fable. A pre-story note sets the geography as “The North in my mind.” It provides references for fauna, snowmobiles and cold weather, but not for Inuit people; if Hoban researched Inuit culture beyond “my mind,” he doesn’t say. The story addresses distinctly non-Inuit readers: “Maybe…there isn’t any north where you are. Maybe it’s warm….There aren’t any Inuit or dogsleds, nothing like that.” In that Otherized “North” lives Sixteen-Face John, a shaman. As John indulges in “drinking Coca-Cola…watching TV…and reading magazines with centerfolds” and hunting “with a skidoo instead of a dogsled,” the text indulges in a problematic stereotype: native culture choked by excessive modernism and individual decadence. Soonchild, the unborn baby of John and his wife, No Problem, refuses to be born until she hears

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the World Songs, which contain “the memory of ancient rains that filled the oceans.” John mixes a Big-Dream Brew and goes on a dream-quest. He meets animals and spirits including Old Man Raven; he changes form and confronts demons; he retrieves the Songs. Deacon’s soft, primitive pencil and charcoal reinforce the drama. Hoban sneaks poetry into prose: “They taught him dreams and trances, magic songs and dances.” A lyrically beautiful existential fable, unfortunately based on paternalistic and romanticized notions about Native peoples. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 10 & up)

WAKE

Hocking, Amanda St. Martin’s Griffin (320 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 21, 2012 978-1-250-00812-1 978-1-4299-5658-1 e-book Series: Watersong, 1 In self-publishing phenom Hocking’s (Ascend, 2012) disappointing foray into new paranormal territory, one night of partying on the beach leaves 16-year-old Gemma with more than a hangover. When the initial fog of her late night at the cove with a trio of sirens (more frequently, and unimaginatively, referred to as “weird pretty girls”) wears off, Gemma discovers that she is stronger, faster and more beautiful than ever. (Readers might have found this transformation more compelling if Gemma weren’t already strong and beautiful, also graceful and endowed with honey-colored eyes.) Now she just has to choose between the life she loves and the lure of her newfound mythical powers. The question is, will readers care? The “should I stay or should I go” tension at the heart of the story would be a lot more effective if the ties that bind Gemma’s broken family together were more fully developed. Her father is practically nonexistent. Her mother, mentally impaired and incapable of taking care of anyone, including herself, lives in an assisted-care facility. The only constant is Gemma’s older sister Harper, whose need to look out for her feels more like an obsessive yearning for control than real emotion. In the end, it’s secondary characters, like the girls’ love interests, who will sustain readers determined to make it to the final page. Whether they’ll feel motivated to pick up the next three books is anyone’s guess. (Paranormal romance. 14-18)

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DANGEROUS BOY

Hubbard, Mandy Razorbill/Penguin (288 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 30, 2012 978-1-59514-511-6 Danger threatens when Harper falls for the perfect boyfriend, maybe. Harper can’t believe that sensitive, handsome Logan really wants her to be his exclusive girlfriend. She’s just a farm girl who doesn’t even wear makeup. But Logan sweeps her off her feet and seems to feel the same about her. When disturbing things begin to happen around town—birds fall, dead, from the sky, bloody bones turn up in mailboxes, red handprints cover students’ cars—no one can make any sense of it. Harper has her suspicions, however, once she meets someone she didn’t even know existed: Daemon, Logan’s identical twin brother. Daemon enjoys violence and deliberately frightens Harper. Harper grows more suspicious of Daemon when a sabotaged motorbike sends her to the hospital and someone nearly kills her friend. She investigates and learns about some things in Logan’s past that he has hidden. Still, she’s so attracted to him, and he begs her so effectively to stay, that she continues the relationship, and that decision could lead to her death. Hubbard begins with an exciting, frightening chase scene then flashes back to tell the story in sequence. Astute readers will pick up on the solution to the mystery from miles away, but that only heightens the suspense, especially as they have already tasted that chase scene. The difficulty here is the cop-out, too-easy resolution: The author briefly presents an interesting, realistic scenario to explain the mystery but bows to current trends and pushes a nonsensical paranormal solution instead. What a shame. The fun here is in getting to the silly resolution, not achieving it. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

ANIMALS WELCOME A Life of Reading, Writing, and Rescue Kehret, Peg Dutton (144 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 16, 2012 978-0-525-42399-7

In a dream house on land certified as a wildlife sanctuary, Kehret and her husband Carl made their home welcome to animals. When they moved into their cabin on 10 wooded acres abutting forests in Washington, Peg and Carl had two cats, Pete and Molly, and a cairn terrier named Daisy. Over the years came a succession of stray and rescue cats and an occasional dog. When Carl died of heart problems after 48 years of marriage, Peg turned his studio (where he had restored player pianos and other mechanical instruments) into a foster home for cats. The studio became known as the cat room and sported

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a sign reading, “Home for Wayward Cats: Strays Welcome.” It was a safe house that Kehret fancied as akin to safe houses for runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. Each chapter is a new adventure with a cat or dog that comes into Kehret’s life, and young readers who love animals will enjoy these chatty anecdotes. Young readers will understand when the author says she not only rescued animals, they, in turn, rescued her by providing companionship after the death of her husband. A pet lover’s delight. (9-13)

INSIGNIA

Kincaid, S.J. Katherine Tegen/ HarperCollins (464 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-06-209299-1 An unlikely teen is selected to attend Hogwarts-at-the-Pentagon. Tom has spent most of his life casinohopping with his ne’er-do-well father. His only real pleasure is virtual-reality gaming, and his mad skillz bring him to the attention of the U.S. Intrasolar Forces. In short order he is off to the Pentagonal Spire to train to become a Camelot Company Combatant: one of the elite teen “warriors” who pilot the remote spacecraft that wage World War III bloodlessly in space. The Indo-Americans and the Russo-Chinese are propped up by multinationals that fund the enterprise; the neural processors implanted in the kids’ brains—not to mention war itself—aren’t cheap. Tom quickly makes friends (warm and funny boy, Asperger’s-like girl, goofy boy) and enemies (vicious boy, borderline-crazy professor). He also comes to the attention of his mother’s horrible boyfriend, an executive in a multinational that wants a pawn on the inside of CamCo. In addition to obvious echoes of Ender’s Game and Harry Potter, debut novelist Kincaid weaves in hefty helpings of Cory Doctorow–like philosophy: “What, you think the American sheeple are going to question the corporatocracy?” Tom’s father says memorably. With action, real humor and a likable, complex protagonist, this fast-moving, satisfying adventure also provides some food for thought. Derivative and sometimes a little silly, but good fun nevertheless. (Science fiction. 13-16)

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UNGIFTED

Korman, Gordon Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins (288 pp.) $16.99 | PLB $17.89 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-06-174266-8 978-0-06-174268-2 PLB The last thing troublemaker and mediocre student Donovan Curtis ever expected was a transfer from Hardcastle Middle School to the prestigious Academy for Scholastic Distinction. When he whacks a statue of Atlas on the butt, and Atlas’ globe falls off his shoulders, rolls down the hill, and crashes through the glass doors of the gym, Donovan expects to be in big-time trouble. Instead, he receives a letter informing him that he’s been selected to attend ASD. He does attend but soon feels like “some exotic space alien who crash-landed in the gifted program.” Donovan’s journey through his strange new world is told through multiple points of view, allowing his teachers and gifted classmates to offer thoughts on this clearly ungifted boy in their midst. When the robotics class creates a robot named Tin Man, though, it’s Donovan’s skill with the joystick, developed by hours of playing video games, that gives the team hope of winning the upcoming competition. And as he and his new friends try to find some common ground, Donovan becomes the heart and soul of the school, if not the brains. Frequent allusions to The Wizard of Oz—with Tin Man the robot, Oz the teacher and themes of brains, heart and courage—add to the charm of this tale of a boy finding his home. (Fiction. 10-14)

THE MISADVENTURES OF DON QUIXOTE

Lathrop, Tom Illus. by Davis, Jack LinguaText (32 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 4, 2012 978-0-94256658-1

An abbreviated version of the bestever cautionary tale about the hazards of reading too much (among other things), played for laughs and matched to comical caricatures for illustrations. Lathrop covers a select few of the original’s high spots in his plainly told paraphrase. Looking hilariously lanky and crosseyed in Davis’ loosely drawn and colored cartoons, the bookish Don sets out in too-small armor to seek knightly glory. He chooses an oblivious peasant girl as his Dulcinea (“because dulce means ‘sweet’ in Spanish,” the reteller helpfully notes) and mounts Rocinante (“rocín means ‘old nag,’ and ante means ‘before,’ signifying that his horse used to be an old nag but wasn’t one anymore”). With his wise fool neighbor, Sancho Panza, as witness, he charges off to battle a windmill, a herd of sheep, a hapless wineskin and a cage of sleepy lions. Though bucktoothed and dopey of aspect, Sancho Panza gets his own chance

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“[T]here’s no beating the ingenuity of the [superstore] setting, where apparently everything these kids need is at their fingertips.” from monument 14

to shine as he earns a bag of gold escudos judging several legal cases before Quixote is at last unhorsed by a concerned friend and agrees to take a year off from questing. Cramped page design aside, an appealing first exposure for younger readers that highlights the story’s comedy over its satire and sentiment. (Picture book. 6-8)

MONUMENT 14

Laybourne, Emmy Feiwel & Friends (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jun. 5, 2012 978-0-312-56903-7 Series: Monument 14, 1 A staggering natural disaster maroons a handful of teens and younger children in a suburban Colorado big-box department store. An ordinary morning school-bus ride almost instantly goes wrong when a sudden, bizarre hailstorm wrecks Dean’s bus to the high school and sends the elementary/middle school bus through the wall of a nearby Greenway. Heroically, driver Mrs. Wooly goes back to rescue the surviving high school kids and then ventures back out into the chaos for help. While the kids wait—and it will surprise no one when Mrs. Wooly fails to return—they sort out power relationships and monitor events on the outside as best they can. As the days go by, these relationships shift; not surprisingly, some kids are better at survival than others. The introduction of a couple of adults into their self-contained universe threatens the delicate balance. The storytelling takes some shortcuts. The near-future setting seems to derive mostly from the narrative necessity of keeping the lights on (solar arrays on the roof power the store); a chemical-agent cocktail that escapes NORAD conveniently manifests dramatically different symptoms depending on victims’ blood types. But characterization is strong—the children emerge as fully as the teens—and narrator Dean keeps the pages turning. And there’s no beating the ingenuity of the Greenway setting, where apparently everything these kids need is at their fingertips. Lord of the Flies this ain’t, but it is a pretty decent adventure story, and readers will eagerly await the second volume. (Adventure. 13-16)

LAST LAUGHS Animal Epitaphs

Lewis, J. Patrick; Yolen, Jane Illus. by Timmins, Jeffrey Stewart Charlesbridge (32 pp.) $16.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-260-5 978-1-60734-453-7 e-book

Timmins’ smoky, gothic artwork—and sometimes over-reliant upon it for effect—these last laughs take on a variety of moods. Sometimes they are gruesome, as with the newt, “so small, / so fine, / so squashed / beneath / the crossing / sign.” There are the macabre and the simply passing: “In his pond, / he peacefully soaked, / then, ever so quietly / croaked.” Goodbye frog—haplessly, hopelessly adrift in the olivy murk, a lily flower as witness and X’s for eyes. When writers and artist are in balance, as they are here, or when the Canada goose gets cooked on the hightension wires, the pages create a world unto themselves, beguiling and sad. It works with the decrepitude of the eel and the spookiness of the piranha’s undoing. But there are also times when the text end of the equation lets the side down. “Firefly’s Last Flight: Lights out.” Or the last of a wizened stag: “Win some. / Lose some. / Venison.” Or the swan’s last note: “A simple song. / It wasn’t long.” In these cases, brevity is not the soul of wit, but lost chances at poking a finger in the eye of the Reaper. Some spry and inspired grave humor here, but weighed equally with some unimaginative efforts. (Picture book. 7-10)

PIG HAS A PLAN

Long, Ethan Illus. by Long, Ethan Holiday House (32 pp.) $14.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-8234-2428-3 Series: I Like to Read A noisy barnyard is no place for a nap! Poor pig, all he wants to do is take a short snooze. However, there seems to be something going on around him. Each of his farm friends is making noise of one kind or another. “Hen wants to saw.” “Dog wants to tap.” “Hog wants to hum.” Pig looks closer and closer to fainting from exhaustion until he spies some drinking straws and has an idea. He sinks himself in his mud puddle and breathes through a straw snorkel. He’s finally able to catch some Z’s…but all those barnyard noises had a purpose: prep for a piggy birthday celebration. So much for napping! Long’s entry in the I Like to Read series tells its simple tale in 47 words, nearly all of which are of the single-syllable, easy-to-sound-out variety. Bright pastel-andprimary full-bleed illustrations featuring big-eyed farm folk will keep eyes on the page during storytime or guided independent reading. The visual humor and the easy-reading text make this a winner for readers just starting out. Proving even pooped piggies are ready to party, this will make children want to join in. (Early reader. 4-7)

Cracked epitaphs from Lewis and Yolen. This is a collection of 30 tombstone remembrances with an eye for the emphatically stamped exit visa. Ushered along by |

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“McLaughlin and Kraus keep the tone light, with plenty of in-jokes and ultra-hip lingo, lots of passion and romance, and some steamy bits.” from over you

STARRING ME

McGee, Krista Thomas Nelson (336 pp.) $9.99 paperback | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4016-8489-1 Good things come to those who wait—and pray. Since winning America’s Next Star, 17-year-old Chad Beacon is famous enough to call the shots when a network develops a clean, teen version of Saturday Night Live. Well, maybe Chad’s not calling all of the shots yet. Since he will be spending so much time with his female co-star, his (presumably evangelical) Christian parents want to choose a Christian as his companion. A compromise is made: The network will narrow the talent pool to 10 girls, who will live together for a month while Chad’s tutor (also described as a Christian) will serve as housemother and help with the selection. The third-person narration alternates between Chad and Kara McKormick, also 17 and a former reality-show star, who becomes one of the contenders. Although the two meet through mutual friends (including the president’s son) and form an instant attraction, neither has any clue that they may be co-stars. And despite Kara’s obvious distinction from her conniving fellow contenders, she may lose the role—and Chad—because she doesn’t believe in God. Suddenly surrounded by believers and frightened by her dad’s deteriorating health, a questioning Kara turns to God for support. Chad and Kara’s outcome is predictable from the start, but their time spent being creative and typical teens in the context of their celebrity status keeps the narration fun for genre fans. (Christian chick-lit. 13 & up)

OVER YOU

McLaughlin, Emma; Kraus, Nicola HarperTeen (288 pp.) $17.99 | $9.99 e-book | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-06-172043-7 978-0-06-219023-9 e-book Sophisticated chick-lit for the hip consumer of teen fashion magazines, this comedy-drama hits all the in-crowd buttons. Max has crashed badly from an unsuccessful romance with wealthy Hugo. She ran away from school, got her GED and started a business, Ex, Inc., that guides brokenhearted girls who have been dumped through recovery. She does want to go to college, but only to NYU. She’s living in New York City, but now that her mom has married and is about to give birth, Max operates almost entirely on her own, with the help of best friend Zach and assistant Phoebe. She takes advantage of her mom’s job as a magazine writer, though, to sneak into the offices of Teen Vogue and secretly borrow expensive designer fashions from their closet. As Max guides new client Bridget through a bad breakup, she meets Ben, a possible new love interest, but suddenly runs into Hugo and plunges back into 1268

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the depths of despair. Now she has to apply her recovery techniques to herself, but all doesn’t go as planned, and she stands to lose her friends and Ben as well. McLaughlin and Kraus keep the tone light, with plenty of in-jokes and ultra-hip lingo, lots of passion and romance, and some steamy bits. They allow Max to grow up a bit, to make mistakes and try to correct them, thus hauling the story back from a complete focus on the superficial. Bridget’s and Ben’s hurt feelings when Max makes her mistakes offer an effective counter to Max’s breezy confidence. Nevertheless, the emphasis remains on entertainment for designer readers. The whole chick-lit package, upscale. (Chick lit. 14 & up)

THE YOUNG HEALER

McMillan III, Frank N. Mackinac Island Press (216 pp.) $16.95 | paper $8.95 | $6.99 e-book Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-934133-49-1 978-1-934133-50-7 paperback 978-1-60734-463-6 e-book On the day her little brother Peter is hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, 11-year-old Feather is taken on a spirit quest through Manhattan in a series of improbable events in which her Lakota grandfather passes on some of his powers as a traditional healer. Feather describes the day she saved her 5-year-old brother’s life in a chronological narrative she writes up after the fact. This frame reassures readers but removes most of the suspense. Her focus is not plot but the particulars of her spiritual training. This cultural appropriation of another’s religious traditions is surprisingly insensitive. Although the Texan author has dedicated his book to generic “First Americans,” his only stated personal connection is “lifelong interest and respect.” No sources are provided for the mishmash of Native American cultural and ceremonial details. Wooden dialogue and stereotyped characters add to reader discomfort. Also involved in Feather’s training are a magical taxi driver, an Arapaho with whom her grandfather can “talk the old talk,” although those peoples had different languages; a Kodiak bear in the Central Park Zoo; Mrs. Chen, the ageless owner of an international curio shop in Greenwich Village; and the Andersons’ Jewish landlady, a Holocaust survivor, who brings chicken soup to the boy. Readers who would like to go on a spirit quest should choose instead Sylvia Ross’ more carefully crafted and respectful Blue Jay Girl (2010). (Fiction. 9-12)

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SURVIVAL AT 120 ABOVE

Miller, Debbie S. Illus. by Van Zyle, Jon Walker (40 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-8027-9813-8

Animals and plants in Australia’s Simpson Desert have made remarkable adaptations in order to survive in that brutally arid wasteland. After rainfall ends a seven-year drought, this hostile environment teems with life. Seedlings and animals that have lain dormant for years come alive, and many animals emerge from cooler hiding places seeking prey and newly formed bodies of water. The author records a day in the life of the desert as birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants revel in the glory of water and relative coolness of the world’s longest parallel sand dunes. Well and clearly written, the book introduces young readers to many animals children have likely never seen nor heard of and helps them understand the fascinating ways in which animals and other life-forms have adapted to this extreme climate. Helpful pronunciation guides are incorporated within the text. Van Zyle’s acrylic paintings, while realistic, are only serviceable. They lack a sense of movement and real drama, though the artwork does present readers with a good idea of the scale and wonderful colors of the red desert landscape. The book might have benefited from the photographs Miller took on her three-week field trip to Simpson with a scientific team from the University of Sydney. Enjoyable, interesting reading for animal lovers and browsers alike. (author’s note, glossary, temperature chart, bibliography of books and websites, maps) (Informational picture book. 7-10)

THE SHIMMERS IN THE NIGHT

Millet, Lydia Big Mouth House (256 pp.) $16.95 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-1-931520-78-2 Series: The Dissenters, 2 The seemingly three-tiered conflict that emerged in Fires Beneath the Sea (2011) coalesces into a single war in this earnest but somewhat haphazard middle volume. Cara and her brothers (though not their oblivious dad) know their mom’s involved in a confrontation that connects murderous mythical creatures with global warming. Cara leaves Cape Cod for a Boston swim meet, but a frightened text from Jax (a classic geniusyounger-brother archetype—think Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time) says he’s endangered at his Cambridge genius-kid camp. She sneaks off to fetch him, and a man with flames inside his mouth accosts her on the subway. He’s a Burner, an elemental who belongs to the army of the Cold. The Cold steals people’s consciousnesses (including Jax’s) and uses their bodies as “hollows” to serve his Carbon War, which is acidifying oceans and extinguishing species. On the good side are mindtalking/mindreading teachers, Cara’s mother |

(a shapeshifter) and animals both modern and ancient. Relevance to real-world burning of coal and other fossil fuels is vast. However, characters’ naiveté and ill-fitting metaphysics (for example, a book that can take Cara anywhere she asks) replace the luminous prose and luscious, cohesive mysteries of the earlier book. Textual insistence on (Arthur C.) Clarke’s Law—that magic and technology are indistinguishable—jams the nightmare-image Burners and other fantasy elements into the category of “tech.” Nicely serious eco-fantasy; may volume three have more cohesive internal logic. (Fantasy. 9-13)

PRESIDENTIAL PETS

Moberg, Julia Illus. by Jeff Albrecht Studios Imagine Publishing (176 pp.) $14.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-936140-79-4 978-1-60734-471-1 e-book When you’re the president’s pet, who walks you, empties your litter box or scrapes off your perch? Readers who hunger for information about the nonhumans who’ve lived at the White House over the years won’t learn the answer to those questions, but they will discover that all our chief executives but one, from Washington to Obama, have owned a variety of pets—and, in some cases, been owned by them. In addition to the familiar dogs, cats and birds, some unusual First Animals have included goats, mice, bears, zebras, hyenas, lions, snakes, rats and tigers. Another question that goes unanswered in this book is why the information about presidential pets is conveyed through verse—verse that’s not very good and frequently scans poorly at that; how appropriate that the word doggerel already exists, or it would have had to be coined just for this occasion. Brief details about each president’s life and term, a “Tell Me More!” feature with tidbits of trivia, and highlights of each president’s term in office supplement the pet facts. The two-page spreads include lively, humorous caricatures. The simplistic trivia items are generally interesting and amusing, but there are no sources to verify some of the statements. Rhymes without reason and no reason for the rhymes. Strictly for browsers and skimmers. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

STILL THERE?

Nambiar, Sanjay Illus. by 3-Keys Graphics and Design Umiya Publishing (32 pp.) $15.99 paperback | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-9838243-2-9 Series: A Little Zen for Little Ones An old Zen Buddhist tale retold for tots. Two boys play in a schoolyard on a beautiful day. An older girl interrupts their games by ranting and raving about losing an earring while doing nothing to find it. One boy immediately starts looking

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k i r ku s q & a w i t h j i l l b i d e n

DON’T FORGET, GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS

Jill Biden Paula Wiseman/ Simon & Schuster (40 pp.) $16.99 Jun. 5, 2012 978-1-4424-5735-5

In Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, second lady Jill Biden tells a very personal story, narrating in the voice of her granddaughter Natalie the events of the year that her daddy, Beau Biden, was deployed overseas. Sensitively, Biden chronicles Natalie and her little brother Hunter’s fears for their father as well the ways their lives went on. Biden has teamed with Michelle Obama in the Joining Forces initiative to educate Americans about the sacrifices military families endure, and in keeping with this effort, she provides a wealth of resources to help readers help military families. Biden took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her book, out June 5. Q: You have been a teacher of English and writing for years. How did it feel to put on the authorial hat for a change? A: Well, you know, I’m really proud of the book. It’s something that I wrote from the heart. It’s my family’s story, so every time I reread the book with my grandchildren, it all comes flooding back. It makes us remember that year and how hard it was. Q: It’s such a personal story, but it should resonate pretty broadly. How did you decide what details to include to ground it and which to leave out because they were too specific? A: I gave it a lot of thought, and I tried to pick universal examples. For instance, every parent can relate to putting their children to bed, and what it’s like to say prayers. And I think kids, especially now, are on [sports] teams, like Natalie on her swim team. And… we all know how exciting it is to lose your first tooth! So I tried to pick experiences every child could relate to. I just went through the year that [my son] was away, and I thought of…what that was like. These are things that really happened. Q: What was the publishing process like for you?

A: I hope so, because I enjoyed doing it. Actually, I was thinking how neat it would be if…other kids from all across the country would write in about their stories and their experiences, and then I could [collect them and edit them]. I think that’s a really neat idea, not just to see my kids’ stories but to see other families’ stories. In this job, as second lady, I have so many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life, and it really has opened my eyes. I just feel like I want to share it all. I hope I have more books in me, yes. I’m an English teacher, so you have to know that I love books. I mean, as a young child I would walk to the library and carry home literally, like 10 books. My mother was a big reader, and she didn’t care if I read till one in the morning. You know that funny thing about reading under the covers? I never had to do that—she fostered that love of reading. I guess that’s how I turned out to be an English teacher. Q: How did you feel when you saw Raúl Colón’s illustrations? A: He is amazing. I have to tell you, when we were picking out the artist, Simon & Schuster gave us several examples, and Raúl was my choice. Joe was looking at them, and he had some other ideas. I said, “You know what, Joe? Let’s send these to Natalie. It’s her story. Let her pick out the artist that she feels would really show her story.” So we scanned the pictures, and we sent them to Natalie. She picked out Raúl as well, and I was so ecstatic. Q: We felt one of the book’s greatest strengths is that the adults aren’t making false promises to Natalie. Readers feel her anxiety throughout the year. Was it hard for you as a writer and as a grandmother to honor that anxiety and not try to smooth it out? A: You know, there was that sense of anxiety. All our family members were so close during that time, and that’s what I hear universally from military families. I see that in the children. At Christmas time, we had a bunch of kids come over from the school. There was one child whose dad was deployed, and as a surprise to him, we had his dad read a book [via Skype] to the whole class. I had his mother come, because I didn’t know how he would react. He was just so excited to see his dad… . You can see the kids are just so connected, and they really do understand what’s going on. Thank God for Skype. —By Vicky Smith

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P HOTO BY D EN N I S D R EN N E R

A: Actually, it was kind of exciting. I went up and pitched the book to Simon & Schuster, and they immediately loved it. It was really uplifting that they wanted to go tell the story, because really my message is that we just have 1 percent of Americans who are serving in these wars. A lot of other Americans don’t know anybody in the military or have any sort of reference, so that’s what I’m hoping this book achieves—that other Americans will know what military families are going through. So when they see somebody in the military, they do say thank you, [and] so that they can commit to an act of kindness for a military family. It just means so much.

Q: Do you think you have any more books in you?


for the missing jewelry and gets dirty in his search. The other boy watches and frowns. When the helpful boy finds the earring, the girl snatches it and runs off with nary a thank you. The boys start to play again, but the boy who didn’t participate in the search is too upset to have fun. The boy who found the earring tells his friend that it’s a sunny day, and they should be enjoying themselves. He points out that the girl and her earring are long gone and asks, “Why are you still there?” Namibar’s second Little Zen for Little Ones tale is a good-enough modernization of the legend of Japanese monks Tanzen and Ekido that counsels against holding on to past slights. However, it is hobbled by nameless characters and stagy, flat computer illustrations that resemble paper cutouts. The children look like button-eyed bobbleheads superimposed on realistic watercolor backgrounds. Jon J Muth’s retelling of the tale in Zen Shorts (2005) is vastly superior. Good for niche markets only. (Picture book. 4-7)

EMILY AND JACKSON HIDING OUT

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds Delacorte (176 pp.) $14.99 | $9.99 e-book | PLB $17.99 Aug. 7, 2012 978-0-385-74097-5 978-0-375-98342-9 e-book 978-0-375-98978-0- PLB Emily and Jackson try to escape the baddies in this never-too-serious comedy-drama. Back in the 19th century, Emily and her friend Jackson live happily with Aunt Hilda on her farm somewhere in the West. However, dangers from the previous book (Emily’s Fortune, 2010) still lurk, and amid play, pranks and chores, readers know that danger will return. The $10 million Emily has inherited doesn’t affect their lives much because they’re already happy, but it sure attracts bad guys! The two orphans still must escape the dastardly child catchers who want to take Jackson to work in a mill. Then someone suspicious shows up when Aunt Hilda goes away to town, and the two friends find themselves kidnapped. Oh no! How will clever Jackson, not to mention their intrepid dog, Spook, find a way to escape and save Emily? As before, Naylor stuffs her short chapters with fun, ending each with an alliterative phrase, always in huge typeface that takes up half the page, such as “And what in gigglin’ goblins do you think they saw?” It’s a wonderful device to keep children laughing and reading. The suspense is never too threatening and always has a bit of humor involved, yet it’s still scary enough to keep readers turning pages. The author makes the resolution delightful and easy, while Emily and Jackson keep readers smiling. The whimsical line drawings by Collins greatly add to the sweet atmosphere. Spunky! (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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BILL THE BOY WONDER The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

Nobleman, Marc Tyler Illus. by Templeton, Ty Charlesbridge (48 pp.) $17.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58089-289-6 978-1-60734-446-9 e-book

It turns out that Batman—the orphaned, shadowy, wellheeled defender of an embattled Gotham—had another embarrassment of riches: two fathers. Spend any time with Batman in DC Comics and you will have seen it: “Created by Bob Kane.” Only half true. Cartoonist Bob did come up with a prototype, but it was writer Bill Finger who fashioned Batman into the night-tripping, class-andtrash, hero-and-villain intimidator in the pointy-eared cowl whom we have come to love, the superhero without superpowers. This testament to credit due from Nobleman is seriously researched—as the six-page author’s note attests—yet light on its feet, and the artwork from Templeton has all the lush, emotive brushwork one expects from Batman. But what makes this sketch of Finger so memorable is its intimacy with the characters, the way in which it coaxes out an engaging vulnerability in Finger and, by association, with Batman. “Bob’s greatest talent may have been the ability to recognize other talent. His greatest flaw may have been the inability to honor that talent. Bill’s greatest flaw may have been the inability to defend his talent. His greatest talent was the ability to forge legends.” Though Finger has been a known commodity to comics cognoscenti for years, this salute in his own format will make the lasting impression he deserves. (Graphic biography. 8 & up)

WICKED JEALOUS

Palmer, Robin Speak/Penguin (352 pp.) $7.99 paperback | Jul. 19, 2012 978-0-14-241894-9 In a modern wish-fulfillment fairy tale that applies and removes feminism like makeup—frequently, easily and with relish—Simone goes from That Weird Fat Girl to hottie. Simone has pale skin, jet-black hair and lips so naturally red that her wannabe-stepmother smolders with jealousy. Hillary’s 28-year-old, zero-fat body and blond hair have Simone’s widowed father under “some kind of spell.” Snow White details sparkle: Classmate Jason’s “sort of a prince” in this wealthy Los Angeles neighborhood because his dad’s Oscars make him royalty; Simone spends summertime in a house with seven men (her happy—get it?—brother and six others, including a sleepyhead with narcolepsy); Hillary evilly provides Hostess Apple Pies to trigger Simone’s apple allergy. The frothy danger matches the contemporary pop culture

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(Jersey Shore; Urban Dictionary) and brands (Saab; OPI vs. Essie). Simone’s first-person narration is wryly funny. However, messages mix: The text name-checks feminism, then counsels passivity because being “girl-like” is bad. Palmer conflates being “officially fat” (size 16) with Tastykake binges and emotional repression, and she imbues dieting to fit a size 8 dream dress with Simone’s new feeling that “I looked like… me.” Her real dream boy is African-American—Blush, one of the seven—yet offhanded racial jabs pepper the story. Apple-flavored cotton candy: fast and tasty, possibly slightly poisonous. (Fiction. 11-14)

THE HORSE AND THE PLAINS INDIANS A Powerful Partnership Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw Photos by Muñoz, William Clarion (112 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-547-12551-0

In a follow-up to their acclaimed The Buffalo and the Indians (2006), Patent and Munoz discuss how the Plains Indians’ relationship with horses enriched them. For a very long time, the Native American tribes living on the Western prairies relied on dogs pulling travois as their beasts of burden. They hunted buffalo on foot, a dangerous pursuit only possible when many people worked together. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers brought horses to the New World in order to dominate and frighten the Indians, but gradually, as the horses reproduced, escaped and spread, the Indians used horses to transform their world. Horses gave them power and freedom: They could carry much larger loads much faster than dogs. Better still, they could be used in battle. A single warrior on horseback could bring down a buffalo. A mounted raiding party could attack suddenly and retreat with equal swiftness. Horses transformed Indian art and spirituality as well, and, in fact, are still an important part of Plains Indian tribal culture. Patent’s prose is, as always, clear and readable. Munoz’s color photographs show the prairie and tribes as they exist today; in addition, the book uses black-and-white historic photographs that, while grainy, show the West the way it used to be. Very well done; an important resource. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

GODS AND WARRIORS

Paver, Michelle Dial (320 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-8037-3877-5

Hylas, a young goatherd and Outsider, is forced to run for his life when a dark swarm of warriors known only as the Crows attacks. Following the raid, Hylas sets out to find his missing sister and solve the mystery of why the Crows are so intent on destroying every last Outsider. Parallel storylines of the chieftain’s son, Telamon, and Pirra, a mysterious girl from across the sea, emerge, further complicating Hylas’ quest. When a prophecy reveals that Hylas’ destiny will destroy the known world, he must rely on new and old friends to survive. Action-packed chapters ending in cliffhangers keep the story moving forward at a fast clip. Richly detailed and historically believable scenes show Paver’s commitment to authenticity. Unfortunately, an uneven plot, a lack of character development and unstable fantastical elements will keep readers from fully engaging. Though the story promises much in its premise, it falls short in its execution. Less than a sum of its parts, this unfortunate series falters before it even begins. Beautiful, but broken. (Fantasy. 10-14)

MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE

Pitcher, Annabel Little, Brown (226 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 1, 2012 978-0-316-17690-3

Jamie lives in a bizarre world, where a sister can die in a bombing, and the only way to bring Mum and Dad together is by auditioning for Britain’s Biggest Talent Show. Five years after her death, Rose remains foremost in his parents’ minds, “living” in her urn on the mantelpiece. His parents barely know Jamie, nor are they able to recognize Rose’s twin, Jasmine, as an individual. Capturing the confusion of an optimistic but sensitive child navigating a tough situation without guidance, Jamie’s narration is by turns comic and painful. His only friend is Sunya, whose headscarf billows behind her like a superhero cape and who helps Jamie fight the class bully. Yet Jamie cannot tell Sunya how his parents have abandoned the family: his mum to an affair; his dad to alcohol. The fact that Sunya is Muslim and therefore, according to Jamie’s dad, responsible for Rose’s death, is a brilliant counterpoint and an issue that Jamie must work through. Each character is believably flawed, and readers anticipate the heartbreaking scene when Jamie’s plans for a family reunion fail. However, the final triumphant chapters of this striking debut demonstrate that even as Jamie’s sorrows increase, so too, does his capacity for understanding, courage and love. Mum is gone, but Dad may recover, and Jasmine and Sunya are in Jamie’s corner. Realistic, gritty and uplifting. (Fiction. 10-14)

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“Both cute and creepy; for those seeking relief from unrelieved sweetness in their children’s books.” from the baby that roared

WAKING STORMS

Porter, Sarah Harcourt (400 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-547-48251-4

The slow ebb and flow of Luce’s mermaid world in Lost Voices (2011) resumes in this equally sluggish sequel. Although his entire family was murdered by a savage mermaid shipwreck, Dorian becomes obsessed with finding Luce, the lone mermaid who rescued him. No longer believing in the mermaid honor code, which doesn’t permit contact with humans, Luce enters a forbidden romance with Dorian, the only human who can resist a mermaid’s deadly song. When not trying to find a way to be with possessive and controlling Dorian, Luce continues to battle cruel mermaid Anais and her followers in this plot-driven novel. Dorian’s not the only one compelled to locate Luce. An X-Files–like FBI agent believes that a sudden spike in shipwrecks in the surrounding calm Alaskan waters can be attributed to mermaids and sets out to prove their existence. The introduction of Nausicaa, a wise and ancient mermaid who, according to the book if not to Homer, tried to lure Odysseus with her song, raises some narrative interest with her explanation of the creation of mermaids. Her observations of the deteriorating Earth make Luce (and readers) aware of environmental concerns and cause Luce to wonder if mermaids and humans can work together to save the oceans. These efforts are foiled by a surreal island encounter with unexplained, strange voices and a rushed ending that sets up another conflict—and another sequel. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

THE BABY THAT ROARED

Puttock, Simon Illus. by Shireen, Nadia Nosy Crow/Candlewick (32 pp.) $15.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7636-5903-5

Some parents are blind to the faults of their beloved babies. Mr. and Mrs. Deer are desperate for a baby to love and cuddle and read stories to. One morning they find a roaring bundle on their doorstep: their dream come true! Mr. Deer thinks the baby looks peculiar—it’s bright blue, with a lot of sharp teeth—but Mrs. Deer won’t hear a word of it. The hungry baby won’t eat cheese or toast or vegetables. The Deers ask Uncle Duncan, a purple owl, for advice; Duncan declares that the baby needs warm milk. The Deers heat some in the kitchen, and when they return, Duncan is gone. The same mysterious mishap occurs when the Deers consult Aunt Agnes, a cute blue bunny, for advice on changing baby, and go to Dr. Fox to see if baby is sick. Granny Bear saves the day when she lifts the baby firmly to burp it. She pats and pats and pats, triggering an enormous eruption |

that unleashes green food bits...and the three missing animal advisors! Grandma Bear declares that it’s a “Monster!” Puttock’s fractured fairy tale unfolds with measured mirth, and all of Shireen’s digitally depicted creatures are adorable, even the little monster. Both cute and creepy; for those seeking relief from unrelieved sweetness in their children’s books. (Picture book. 3-6)

COUNT THE SHEEP TO SLEEP

Rae, Philippa Illus. by Röhr, Stéphanie Sky Pony Press (28 pp.) $12.95 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-61608-660-2

When a little girl has trouble falling asleep, she tries the ageold remedy of counting sheep in this wild and woolly bedtime countdown. The young narrator announces: “Last night I lay in bed / and found I couldn’t sleep. / So I scrunched my eyes up tightly / and counted woolly sheep.” Her countdown commences with 10 sheep leaping over a clothesline until one lands in a pair of undies, reducing the herd to nine. But as the remaining nine sheep glide on skateboards, one rolls away, leaving eight. Another vanishes in a cloud; another falls into a lion’s cage; another sheep swings too high while disco dancing; another skids on a bar of soap; another loses balance surfing… . Finally, there’s one survivor, who gives up and falls asleep. The repetitive, lilting cadence of the rhyming text alone should lull wee readers to sleep, while the hilarious mishaps of the dwindling sheep will surely provoke bedtime chuckles. Bold illustrations in neon yellows, reds, blues and greens rely on spiky, simple lines and shapes to showcase the dramatic, highly charged, almost surreal antics of these accident-prone sheep as they leap, skate, prance, balance, dance, glide, surf, float, trot and finally sleep across the double-page spreads. Check out these soporific sheep. (Picture book. 3-6)

WHITE HOUSE KIDS

Rhatigan, Joe Illus. by Shin, Jay Imagine Publishing (96 pp.) $14.95 | $9.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-936140-80-0 978-1-60734-472-8 e-book A fascinating and entertaining insider’s intimate view of the White House through the eyes of 70 children and grandchildren of our commanders in chief. Through first-person accounts from letters and interviews, Rhatigan reveals the perks and problems of living in America’s most famous residence. A bowling alley in the basement and chefs available to make any food you want sound great, but you also have to put up with reporters following your every move

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“If mumbling repeatedly out loud does not yield the answer right away, Lichtenheld’s bright pen-and-pastel illustrations will help readers spell it out.” from wumbers

and Secret Service agents never letting you out of sight. Readers learn how life in the White House has changed since John Adams and his family first occupied the mansion, who were the worst behaved presidential children, about the menageries of animals that have come and gone, and what kind of relationships children had with their parents. Factoids sprinkled throughout the text offer anecdotes about White House weddings, gifts presidential kids received and ghosts that supposedly haunt the mansion. Attractively designed in a scrapbook format with appropriate use of red, white and blue, the text is abundantly illustrated with photographs and archival images. An inviting collection of insightful, interesting and often wacky and weird facts and stories about U.S. presidents and their families. (appendices, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE

Rosenfield, Kat Dutton (304 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 5, 2012 978-0-525-42389-8

The lives of two girls on the cusp of something bigger intertwine on a dusty road in a small, dead-end New England town. Amelia has just finished college and is on her way to a summer beach rental with her boyfriend before going to acting school. Becca, just graduated from high school, is looking forward to college and an escape from the “unbearable small-town shit.” Just hours before Amelia is beaten and left for dead, Becca’s boyfriend breaks up with her—right after they have sex in the bed of his pickup. As the summer goes on, Bridgeton buzzes with excitement at the murder, while Amelia’s body lies in the morgue, unidentified. Becca finds herself morbidly, disastrously fascinated with the investigation even as she tries to sort out her feelings about her future. Becca’s first-person narration is occasionally interspersed with third-person flashbacks of Amelia’s last days, and while her end is never in doubt, watching the events that lead up to it will mesmerize readers. Rosenfield nails the dynamics peculiar to a small town with a large, wealthy summer population, the uneasy civic relationship mirroring both Amelia’s and Becca’s emotional negotiations. Her language is precise and vivid; Becca struggles to imagine “the crunch of future feet over fallen leaves shot through with orange and ochre.” A perceptive, contrapuntal character study with a light thriller flavor—utterly compelling. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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WUMBERS

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse Illus. by Lichtenheld, Tom Chronicle (40 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-4521-1022-6 For the unversed, a “wumber” is a word crea8ted using numbers. (Obviously!) Inspired by the master of wordplay himself, William Steig (C D B!, 1968, and C D C?, 1984), Rosenthal and Lichtenheld’s carefully crafted wumbers certainly hold their own. The scope, ranging from simple and fun (“Would you like some honey 2 swee10 your tea?”) to more difficult vocabulary (“4give me, 4 this is bel8ed, but it seems once again I have overinfla8ed”) covers a wide range of readers. A true testament to phonological awareness—the ability to hear the smaller sounds that make up words—if ever there was one, the wumbers also encourage kids to slow down and think. If mumbling repeatedly out loud does not yield the answer right away, Lichtenheld’s bright pen-and-pastel illustrations will help readers spell it out. In this day and age of text-message shorthand, some linguists may declare this book a disaster (Steig never had to contend with such moral panic), but fear not; the clever wumbers are more likely to intrigue and stimulate, not destroy a child’s ability to spell. Let’s just hope there are no h8trs. (Picture book. 5-8)

THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS

Rossetti, Rinsai Dial (300 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 19, 2012 978-0-8037-3566-8

Her name—Frenenqer—means “restraint” in “some language or other,” and she is the only child—creation, really—of a man for whom affection is unspeakable: Pfft. Expatriates, Frenenqer and her parents have lived many places but called none of them home. The teen’s world now is comprised of three boxes: her family’s apartment, her school and the car that takes her from one to the other within the dusty, isolated oasis. When, much to her father’s displeasure, Frenenqer rescues a large cat she finds caged in the souk, she liberates a “Free person,” a shape-shifting being “born without rules.” His are the wings she “borrows,” when he nightly takes her in his arms and flies her around the world and into the realms of the Free people. With Sangris, Frenenqer feels free for the first time in her life—but can freedom accommodate love? Rossetti’s lush language is highly metaphorical and often sensuous, befitting the unfurling of Frenenqer’s stunted soul: “And when I came back up the air was still fresh and calm-smelling,…and the palm trees rustled in faint applause.” Her earthy, often funny exchanges with Sangris represent freedom for both Frenenqer and readers from her cold, controlling father, whose “words have a way of shaping the world around him.” Infused with an urgent hope, this glimmering love story exhilarates and refreshes. (Magical realism. 12 & up)

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SPARK

Ryan, Amy Kathleen St. Martin’s (320 pp.) $17.99 | Jul. 17, 2012 978-0-312-62135-3 Series: The Sky Chasers, 2 The sequel to Glow (2011) delivers a page-turning plot while delving deeper into questions of leadership, trauma and violence. The girls of the Empyrean have returned to their ship after being kidnapped by the New Horizon. Waverly Marshall has endured and committed terrible acts aboard the New Horizon. She is tormented by both her own memories and a faction of younger girls who cannot forgive her for failing to rescue their parents. Kieran, who became the ship’s de facto leader when the adults were taken out of the picture, delivers sermons designed to promote both unity and loyalty among his followers but is deeply anxious about his own power. Meanwhile, Seth, the former leader and third leg of a love triangle with Waverly and Kieran, escapes the brig under mysterious circumstances and discovers a major threat to the ship. As Waverly, Kieran, Seth and the large but generally well-constructed cast of supporting characters work—often at cross-purposes—to keep the peace, secure the ship and rescue their parents from the New Horizon, meaty political and moral questions arise. Is torture ever justified? What about imprisonment and surveillance? How does one stay human after doing something monstrous? Readers hungry for the next installment will have plenty to ponder in the meantime. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

THE IMPOSSIBLE RESCUE The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure

Sandler, Martin W. Candlewick (176 pp.) $22.99 | $22.99 e-book | Sep. 11, 2012 978-0-7636-5080-3 978-0-7636-5969-1 e-book

Sandler brings to life an extraordinary true adventure tale set on the treacherous Arctic terrain. In September 1897, eight whaling vessels became icebound near Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in America, and 265 men faced starvation. Acting on orders from President McKinley, Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage sent Capt. Francis Tuttle and his ship, the Bear, on a rescue mission. He would take the Bear as far north as possible, put three officers ashore and send them over 1,500 miles overland to aid the men. Using a combination of dog-powered and reindeerdrawn sleds, herding 400 reindeer and living off the land along the way, the three-man rescue team, with immense help from indigenous people, succeeded in their journey through the Arctic winter, arriving 103 days after leaving the Bear. Remarkable |

photographs, many taken by one of the rescuing officers, grace just about every spread, and even the captions are fascinating. The narrative’s excitement is heightened by the words of the participants, drawn from their actual letters, diaries, journals and other personal reminiscences. Maps are well drawn, documentation is meticulous, and the backmatter includes a section on what happened to the key players and a useful timeline. Outstanding nonfiction writing that makes history come alive. (source notes, bibliography, photography credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)

MITTENS AT SCHOOL

Schaefer, Lola M. Illus. by Hartung, Susan Kathleen Harper/HarperCollins (32 pp.) $16.99 | paper $3.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-06-170224-2 978-0-06-170223-5 paperback Series: Mittens In Mittens’ sixth outing, he goes to school to be Nick’s show-and-tell, but sitting all day in his carrier is boring. Watching Nick write, then paint just increases Mittens’ desire for “something to do.” The clever kitten gets his opportunity when the class leaves for gym, and he escapes. The abacus on the math table is fun…until it crashes to the floor, scattering the beads. Running across the piano keys makes the most pleasant sound…but not the piano lid slamming shut. And flipping through the pages of a book is most satisfying…until the children’s return startles the kitten into nudging it off the shelf. But Mittens is nothing if not honest, and when the teacher asks who dropped the book, his “Meow” is an admission of guilt that opens the door to giving him something to do—meeting the class. Hartung’s watercolor illustrations capture the expressions of the kitten as his emotions vacillate from sad to pleased to bored to engaged to uh-oh-I’m-in-trouble, the last being an especially understandable and identifiable emotion for Mittens’ emerging-reader audience. Ample white space and a large font support the short, simple sentences, and the few vocabulary words that may pose a challenge are repeated several times. With its feline star, school theme and mild suspense, this is another solid addition to early-reader collections. (Early reader. 4-7)

THE SCARY MONSTER

Scheffler, Axel Illus. by Scheffler, Axel Nosy Crow/Candlewick (32 pp.) $12.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-7636-5918-9 Series: Pip and Posy Pip and Posy are back in an oddly flat tale. One rainy, boring day, Posy decides to bake some cupcakes, washing her hands, donning her apron and mixing up ingredients.

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“With its attractive characters, especially dual narrators Emmeline and Owen, this novel has a power to charm.” from the sweetest spell

While they are baking, a tap at the window and a big, blue, furry hand draw her attention. The suspense and fear ratchet up as there is a knock at the door, where a monster head is just visible. When the door opens, poor Posy dissolves into tears and hides behind the couch. But when she sees her good friend Pip’s feet protruding from the costume, she loses all her fears. Pip apologizes for scaring her and offers to let her try the costume. The two play, then break for a snack of cupcakes and milk. All’s well that ends well, but still, there is something off. The duo (a bunny and a mouse) are a strange mix of adult and child—Posy baking cupcakes all by herself, yet dragging around her stuffed frog and being reduced to tears of fright over the monster. Still, simple vocabulary and two or three short sentences per page make this a good choice for beginning readers, and Scheffler’s ink-andgouache artwork is both bright and cute. Not the best exploration of a friendly twosome—stick with Mr. Putter and Tabby or George and Martha. (Picture book. 3-7)

SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS

Schlitz, Laura Amy Candlewick (400 pp.) $17.99 | Aug. 28, 2012 978-0-7636-5380-4

Two orphans, a witch and a girl who laughs at death: Each shares the lens of protagonist in Newbery winner Schlitz’s fully satisfying gothic novel. Parsefall and Lizzie Rose assist a wicked puppeteer, Grisini, with his London street shows in exchange for board and crumbs in a Dickensian boardinghouse complete with quirky landlady and ill-behaved dogs. Clara Wintermute is a privileged girl living in the shadow of her siblings, who all died from eating diseased watercress (picky Clara made her twin eat hers). Clara demands the puppet show for her birthday, and shortly after the ominous performance, she becomes trapped in some form she can’t fathom. Grisini is suspected, and the orphans are drawn into a dangerous ploy orchestrated by a dying witch who needs a child to steal something precious from her. Each character is a little horrible: Parsefall is a selfish thief, but this neediness gives him a keen empathy and daring. Lizzie Rose is bossy, but her yearning for her lost family keeps them together. Clara is egotistical, but her steely will saves them all. The witch is more horrible than good, but she is a little bit good, like the chocolate in the box that only grown-ups like. The shifting perspective among these characters and cumulative narrative development (echoing Dickens’ serials) create a pleasingly unsettling tension. Schlitz’s prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word. (Historical fantasy. 9-13)

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THE ENCHANTRESS

Scott, Michael Delacorte (528 pp.) $18.99 | paper $21.99 | $10.99 e-book May 22, 2012 978-0-385-73535-3 978-0-385-90518-3 paperback 978-0-375-98590-4 e-book Series: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, 5 Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them). Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off. Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

THE SWEETEST SPELL

Selfors, Suzanne Bloomsbury (416 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 21, 2012 978-0-8027-2376-5

This sweet fairy tale takes readers to an imagined kingdom where there is no justice—and no chocolate, either. Emmeline was born the lowest of the low in a semimedieval land. She’s a “dirt-scratcher” with a clubfoot, making her an outcast among outcasts. The dirt-scratchers grow the food for the kingdom, yet they themselves mostly starve, never allowed to leave the flatlands. But when a flood wipes them out, Emmeline drifts downriver to a middle-class area, where Owen Oak rescues her. Treated well there despite the prejudice, she learns that she and she alone has a magical ability to make

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delicious, rare, ultra-expensive chocolate. Once the secret gets out, danger strikes. Kidnapped, Emmeline tries to escape, while Owen tries to find her. When the dissolute, all-powerful king and queen gain control over her, Emmeline finds herself in even more serious trouble. As often occurs in traditional fairy tales, things get rough. People die; words are spoken with hatred; people are turned into slaves and required to fight to the death. The narrative moves along quickly, easily holding readers’ interest, and if the resolution relies on some deus ex machina elements, it also contains a clever twist. The story’s emphasis on freedom, or the lack thereof, and themes supporting equality stand out. With its attractive characters, especially dual narrators Emmeline and Owen, this novel has a power to charm. Sweet indeed. (Fantasy. 12-16)

PARDON ME

Sheinmel, Courtney Illus. by Bell, Jennifer A. Sleeping Bear Press (144 pp.) $9.99 | paper $5.99 | Jul. 1, 2012 978-1-58536-193-9 978-1-58536-194-6 paperback Series: Stella Batts, 3 Back for her third outing, Stella reports, “If you write at least three books that are all connected then you have a series.” All is not well for Stella: Her BFF has moved far away, leaving a serious sense of loneliness and loss, which is made all the worse when she calls Willa and her friend won’t talk to her. Dispirited, Stella sets her heart on a Maltese puppy at the pet shop near her father’s candy store, even though her mother doesn’t want a dog. Then she’s forced to befriend a new girl in town, Evie, but once she gets comfortable with that idea, the girl inexplicably seems to reject her after they become classmates. Stella faces problems that lots of girls newly transitioning to chapter books will recognize. Her humor-tinged first-person voice and usually upbeat attitude seem just right for her age, capturing the pain of growing up but also affirming the optimistic competence of young grade-schoolers as they encounter conflicts and learn to resolve them. Supportive, wise parents complete the calmly predictable picture of Stella’s middle-class life. Not much happens to Stella, but she’s fun to spend some time with, and now that she’s successfully authored her own whole series, that’ll be possible. (Fiction. 5-9)

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DON’T YOU WISH

St. Claire, Roxanne Delacorte (368 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-385-74156-9 978-0-375-98577-5 e-book 978-0-375-99011-3 PLB An unsatisfying blend of science fiction and Gossip Girl marks St. Claire’s young adult debut. Annie Nutter is so invisible no one notices or cares when their backpacks hit her in the face as they climb on the school bus. After her mother reveals that Annie’s father could have been Jim Monroe, the billionaire owner of a chain of plastic-surgery clinics, Annie wonders if she’d trade her own father, an inventor with wacky ideas, for a different life. Predictably, one of her father’s inventions sends Annie into another universe. Now Annie Nutter is Ayla Monroe: rich, beautiful and A-list. Ayla’s friends are shallow shoplifters, and her hot boyfriend just wants sex; Jim Monroe is a mustache-twirling villain. Then Annie falls for Charlie Zelinsky, a genius who was homeless for a short time. The author tries to ground the creaky body-swap concept in real science: When Charlie learns and accepts Annie’s story, he implausibly uses physics and long explanations to replicate her father’s invention. Of course, this makes Annie question whether she should stay or go. Heavy-handed exposition, flat characters and trite dialogue don’t elevate this outing past forgettable. (Science fiction/chick-lit. 14-17)

WANTED The Haunted Mask

Stine, R.L. Scholastic (240 pp.) $15.99 | $15.99 e-book | Jul. 1, 2012 978-0-545-41793-8 978-0-545-41518-7 e-book Series: Goosebumps

Making its fourth appearance and by now practically a recurring character in Stine’s creep-show opus, the evil mask with a mind of its own kicks off a new Goosebumps spinoff— the first to be originally published in hardcover. Stine crafts two Halloween chillers and links them at the end. In the first, after an introductory setup set 40 years in the past, Lu-Ann wanders away from a friend’s boring party and discovers a demonic green mask in an old trunk. It not only doesn’t come off once she dons it (natch), but enflames her with uncontrollable and destructive anger issues. In the second, Lu-Ann’s friend Devin’s conviction that his holiday is going to be lame since he has to spend it helping his family sell pick-your-own pumpkins doesn’t last long. The vines start moving, the pumpkins turn squishy when he touches them, and the dead begin to rise from the graveyard beneath the field. Featuring plenty of sudden

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“Cassie’s first-person narration effectively captures the messiness of life in a loving family when outside-world events intervene.” from dear blue sky

screams, eerie dreams, creeping dread and spooky undead (but no actual bloodshed), the plotlines ultimately intertwine in a climax that frees both young teens from their travails and allows them (and readers) to laugh at it all the next morning. Pure, Goosebumps–style terror-by-formula, polished through use to such a high gloss that it slides along frictionlessly—a worthy celebration of the series’ 20th anniversary. (reversible dust-jacket mask [not seen]) (Horror. 10-12)

DEAR BLUE SKY

Sullivan, Mary Nancy Paulsen Books (256 pp.) $16.99 | Aug. 2, 2012 978-0-399-25684-4 Cassie’s whole world changes when her beloved older brother, Sef, goes to war in Iraq. Before Sef even leaves, Cassie has nightmares about his demise. Once he’s gone, her family jumps at every phone call. To complicate matters, her father supports the war; her mother doesn’t. While her parents are preoccupied, her best friend, Sonia, inexplicably stops talking to her; her older sister, Van, tests out risky behaviors; and her developmentally delayed younger brother, Jack, becomes altogether silent. When a seventh-grade social-studies project leads her to a blog called Blue Sky, written by an Iraqi girl of similar age, Cassie starts to see the war from a different perspective. Blue Sky’s world is more literally torn apart—her city is destroyed, her family is terrorized, their home is often without electricity and running water. While Sullivan strives to raise difficult questions about American involvement in Iraq, some efforts come across as forced. Yet Cassie’s first-person narration effectively captures the messiness of life in a loving family when outside-world events intervene. Through it all, Cassie discovers her own strengths and rallies everyone around her, just as Sef would have wanted her to do. A compassionate portrait of a family struggling with painful changes, despite some heavy-handed moments. (Fiction. 11-14)

THE LITTLE WOODS

Templeman, McCormick Schwartz & Wade/Random (336 pp.) $17.99 | $10.99 e-book | PLB $20.99 Jul. 10, 2012 978-0-375-86943-3 978-375-98349-8 e-book 978-0-375-96943-0 PLB A quirky teen sharpens her sleuthing skills and endures boarding school drama as she attempts to solve myster-

articulate, Cally has chosen to attend the prestigious boarding school herself. Arriving on campus midyear as a scholarship student, Cally struggles to fit in with her super-privileged classmates, who regularly flout administration rules—sneaking out after last bedcheck for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll—but adhere to a strict, selfcreated code that seems random at best. Cally quickly becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her roommate Helen’s previous roommate, Iris Liang. When Helen, Cally and several other friends discover Iris’ decomposing corpse in a cave in the creepy woods off campus, paranoia and rumors grip the school, rendering St. Bedes’ typically hothouse atmosphere claustrophobic. Could Iris’ death be connected with Clare’s? How utterly unexpected! Meanwhile, Cally’s eventful love life—she’s caught between Big Man on Campus Alex and brooding, witty Jack—threatens to crowd out her attempts to resolve the girls’ mysterious disappearances. Exposition-heavy and packed with credulity-straining coincidences and red herrings, the plot lumbers unsatisfyingly toward resolution. Quasi-supernatural murder mystery? Sexy teen noir? Boarding school bildungsroman? This mess of a novel doesn’t know what it wants to be. (Mystery. 14-17)

THE BRIGHTWORKING

Thompson, Paul B. Enslow (160 pp.) $17.95 | Sep. 1, 2012 978-0-7660-3950-6 Series: The Brightstone Saga, 1 A blacksmith’s son becomes a wizard’s apprentice in this uncomplicated series opener. Illiterate Mikal is snatched from his home village and pressed into service oiling bookbindings for the urban magicians of the Guild of Constant Working. Shortly thereafter, he is promoted to librarian/copyist for Harlano, the Guild’s cruel and remote head. The obligatory quest begins with a revelation that all the world’s magic is metal “brightworking,” derived from a lost meteoric “Brightstone.” Supposedly lost, that is—before sending Mikal and company into subsequent episodes (at least two more are planned), Thompson clumsily provides a huge and obvious clue to its whereabouts that his characters miss but readers won’t. Mikal acquires rudimentary reading skills along the way, as well as a quick-witted if mouthy sidekick named Lyra and Orichalkon, a babbling but extremely well-informed clockwork talking head. With their help, he escapes Harlano’s repeated efforts to do him in on the way to a massive fire and an invasion of the city that put him and his companions on the road. Comfortably predictable fare for younger fans and those who prefer their fantasy charged with standard themes and tropes. (Fantasy. 9-11)

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DINOS ARE FOREVER

Trine, Greg Illus. by Dormer, Frank W. Harcourt (112 pp.) $12.99 | Jul. 3, 2012 978-0-547-76341-5 Series: the Adventures of Jo Schmo, 1 The wacky origin story of a fourthgrade girl superhero from the author of the Melvin Beederman, Superhero series. Jo Schmo’s normal life of skateboards and crushes is cast aside with the arrival of a mysterious package from her Uncle George (who is actually her mother’s second cousin, once removed on account of being stinky). Ready to retire from his life as a superhero, Uncle George bequeaths his cape to Jo so that she may take up the calling. But she’s a little girl, and the cape is too long—the piece Grandpa Joe cuts off makes a perfect cape for her loyal dog and now sidekick, Raymond. The cape gives the duo superpowers— strength for Jo and heroic amounts of drool for Raymond. Luckily, Jo has a capable mentor in Grandpa Joe, a retired sheriff. But soon they must face the mad scientist, super-villain Dr. Dastardly, and his latest invention for evil: the Re-animator Laminator. The zany writing wavers between slapstick and tongue-in-cheek. The edge is taking off the fighting part of crime-fighting through silly attack names like “Russian Toe Hold” and “Siberian Ear Tweak.” Dormer’s movement-oriented illustrations complement the fast pace of the story and suit the comical tone, as well. Lighter-than-air superhero fun. (Adventure. 6-9)

FREAKS LIKE US

Vaught, Susan Bloomsbury (240 pp.) $16.99 | Sep. 4, 2012 978-1-59990-872-4 Jason is “Freak” to his peers and even his ADHD friend Drip, but not to Sunshine, who—though selectively mute—shares her thoughts and feelings with him. Now she’s vanished, and Jason, whose schizophrenia has shaped his life, is a suspect in her disappearance. Seniors Jason, Drip and Sunshine have ridden the short bus and gone through school labeled SED—that’s “Severely Emotionally Disturbed, for you long-bus people.” Bullying at the hands of kids with behavioral disabilities goes unreported and unpunished, but the trio’s alliance made life bearable in their catchall special ed program, where kids with vastly different abilities and disabilities are treated as extensions of their diagnosis acronyms. (Jason, whose irony is well-honed, calls them “alphabets.”) Desperate to find Sunshine, Jason and Drip are wary of sharing all they know with adults who see them as extensions of their stigma. As the FBI investigates, Jason’s always-shaky world threatens to come apart. Not taking “fuzzy pills” keeps his brain sharp, but the voices plaguing him grow |

louder. Jason carries Sunshine’s secrets—should he break his promise not to tell? While the action is occasionally slow and repetitive—suspense arising more from Jason’s internal battles than external action—readers will stick with him; he’s sympathetic, compelling and smart. Navigating a harsh world, the psychologist author makes clear, amounts to an education in itself. An illuminating, recommended read. (Fiction. 12 & up)

LUCKY FOOLS

Voorhees, Coert Hyperion (304 pp.) $16.99 | Jul. 10, 2012 978-1-4231-2398-9 A rich kid fears he won’t realize his college dream in this sedate, bloodless drama. Upper-middle-class high school senior David Ellison is worried that he won’t get into Juilliard because he hasn’t suffered enough. According to his drama teacher, “Actors can’t reach their full potential unless they can find a way to get at the darkest part of their psyches.” Fortunately, hot new girl Vanessa is playing the Daisy to David’s Nick Carraway in the school’s production of The Great Gatsby, and she can provide necessary heartbreak by driving a wedge between him and his girlfriend. He is also distracted by a shady presence known only as The Artist, who is targeting all the high-achieving seniors at his prep school by revealing their secret flaws on a public bulletin board. Though suffering always appears imminent, David’s emotional pain is limited to angsting over his unrequited love and potentially college-free future. Though he fluffs the Juilliard audition, he still manages to be the sole student from his school who is accepted to Stanford. And even The Artist is an empty threat, as his or her identity is never revealed and casually dismissed at novel’s end. The One-Percent setting, low physical and emotional stakes and too-tidy ending ensure that this is a must-read for only a select set of pretty white teens with problems. (Fiction. 13 & up)

SOLAR SYSTEM FORECAST

Whitt, Kelly Kizer Illus. by Klein, Laurie Allen Sylvan Dell (32 pp.) $17.95 | paper $9.95 | Aug. 10, 2012 978-1-607185-239 978-1-607185-321 paperback Young astronauts preparing to blast off might want to check out these planetary weather forecasts first. A friendly, green-skinned TV weatheralien (he calls himself a “weatherman” in the text) begins with the Sun (“active today, with dark sunspots scattered across the surface…”) and moves on to each planet in turn. There are additional reports for the

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moon Titan (“a 100% chance of very chilly methane-rain drizzle today!”) and the dwarf planet Pluto. Klein provides painted scenes featuring space-suited commuters, melted or frozen science gear and views of prominent storms, from a hurricane on Earth to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Readers in search of specific highs, lows and other meteorological data will be well served by the charts, tables, diagrams, quizzes and other enrichment material both at the end and online on the publisher’s site. Essential information for savvy interplanetary travelers. (Informational picture book. 7-9)

HIPPOSPOTAMUS

Willis, Jeanne Illus. by Ross, Tony Andersen Press USA (32 pp.) $16.95 | $12.95 e-book | Sep. 1, 2012 978-1-4677-0316-1 978-1-4677-0322-2 e-book A mysterious pink spot on Hippo’s bum provides the MacGuffin for a lottamus of silly wordplay capped by a deliciously gross denouement. “You sat in a breezle / And caught a diseasel,” says Weasel. “There’s only one treatment. / Exposing your seatment / To sunshine and heatment.” Alas, neither that prescription nor other rhyming diagnoses and remedies provided by Fox (“It’s hippopox!”), Beaver, Shrew, Snake and other helpful animals make a spot of difference. The look of worry on Hippo’s big, blobby face in Ross’ loosely drawn and brushed watercolors changes to a smile only after a small lad wanders by and provides the proper diagnosis: “That’s my bubble gum!” he exclaims, pulling it off and proceeding to chew. Look for uproarious responses from young audiences, especially at the final page turn. Eeeew. But in a good way. (Picture book. 5-7)

interactive e-books THE MET KIDS

Adland Apps Adland Apps $0.99 | Apr. 17, 2012 1.0; Apr. 17, 2012 Some kids on a camping trip venture too close to a fallen meteor and receive an overdose of gamma radiation that turns them into superheroes. During the two families’ camping trip, the kids witness a meteor crash into the ground near their campsite. When the girl and two boys touch the meteor, they fall unconscious and aren’t 1280

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discovered until morning, when their respective fathers wake up and discover them missing. Intergalactic Affairs (IGA) soldiers respond to their distress call in a black stealth helicopter and transport the kids back to a secret laboratory in the mountains. When the kids revive after a few weeks, they seem to be unchanged—until they miraculously prevent a bus accident on a school field trip. The IGA appears, ready to recruit the kids for future adventures. The solid plot will appeal to both boys and girls, although the plodding text sorely needs editing for basic grammar and punctuation. There are some enticing interactive elements: Readers can “pack” camping items into a car and “drive” a car and a helicopter. The music, narration and text boxes can all be switched on or off, while the navigation is just page-forward or -back. The cartoon-style illustrations suit the superhero plot but are nothing special. The sound effects are well-done, but the voiced narration adds nothing to the story. This sci-fi adventure kicks off a relatively promising series. (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

LITTLE BEE’S ABC

LisbonLabs Lisbon Labs $2.99 | Feb. 25, 2012 1.1; Apr. 5, 2012

Educational and entertaining, this alphabet exploration is packed with activities, quirky illustrations and a few inside jokes for adult readers. It’s more activity app than narrative text; users interact with the content via an alphabet menu in which each letter is presented in a different type. Clicked individually, the letters are first depicted as common objects that are shaped like the letters. Although these objects should be relatively easily recognizable by the target audience, they are not the usual alphabet-book fare. For example “T” is a gavel, and “O” is a round clock face. A perky narrator, Little Bee, announces each letter and corresponding object slowly and clearly. Next the selected letter is presented as a component of six potential activities, which provide the opportunity and guidance to draw, paint or connect the dots to create the selected letter. Users also have the opportunity to trace the letter within a related word or play a game in which they are challenged to locate the letter within a themed illustration. There is also a “friends” section, which presents objects, animals and people that begin with the selected letter. The friends range from an apricot to a Zen master, which keeps it fresh; however, it is disappointing that roles such as nurse and teacher are predictably cast as female and the physician is male. Amusing, offbeat and packed with interaction, this is an alphabet app that teaches and charms. (iPad alphabet app. 3-5)

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I AM AN ASTRONAUT!

Lucas, Bianca Illus. by Lucas, Bianca Tizio BV $0.99 | Apr. 10, 2012 1.0.2; Apr. 24, 2012

A cute-enough, toy-filled app about space with one killer gimmick, this trip to the cosmos seems more like a quick orbit than any kind of deep exploration. The app’s opening page features an astronaut floating in space, the large area inside the helmet left blank, to be filled with a photo of the reader. Using the iPad’s camera, a quick snapshot can be manipulated to fill the helmet, which will then appear in later pages. Once the photo is set, the app becomes an interactive, cheerfully illustrated set of pages leading to the inevitable countdown and liftoff. Readers learn what astronauts take on a mission (pizza and cupcakes are on the list, apparently) and play with a set of dials, buttons and a steering wheel. The photo appears in the helmet a few times, including a spacewalk encounter with a threeeyed, friendly alien. But just as the app gets going, the trip is over, ended with a close-up of the reader’s face in the spacecraft’s window and the text, “That’s YOU!” The app has serviceable narration and can be heard in English and Dutch. But it could have used more than 12 pages of quick-moving setup and little-to-no story. It’s fun being an astronaut, but the vastness of the galaxy would seem to demand a little more investigation than this app provides. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

best recent children’s & teen apps Wi t h t h e A p p S t o r e b u l g i n g ever further day

by day, it can be hard to keep track of what’s best. Kirkus here rounds up some of the best apps and e-books for children and teens we’ve seen in the past three months. Please visit kirkusreviews.com for our complete iPad coverage.

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 First reviewed June 1, 2012

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 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 WRONG BOOK

Bland, Nick Illus. by Bland, Nick Wheelbarrow $2.99 | Apr. 11, 2012 1.1; Apr. 18, 2012 First reviewed June 15, 2012 This short, imaginative tale simply wasn’t meant to be but is so fantastically narrated, readers won’t soon forget. All Nicholas Ickle wanted to do was create a book about, well, himself. He’s an imaginative guy with his own story to tell. Trouble is, he barely gets the words “This book is about” out, when he is rudely interrupted by a trumpeting elephant, upstaged by little, green, flatulent monsters, usurped by treasure-burying pirates, then overtaken by rats and other surprising guests. Try as he might to shoo them away, they keep popping in until Nicholas’ book is no longer his own. Based on Bland’s printed book of the same name, it shines as an iPad storybook, with whimsical illustrations and a buffet of interactive fun on each page. The narrative options are clearly illustrated. But the right-est thing about The Wrong Book is the narration itself. Superbly voiced by Australian comic Frank Woodley, Nicholas Ickle’s story-run-amok is buoyed high by brilliant timing and characterization, making the “read and record” option completely unnecessary. The simple, at-times repetitive story might feel thin without Woodley’s dramatic interpretation. A story is only as engaging as its storyteller; this winsome offering leads the way in one crucial area where many digital storybooks fall tellingly short. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

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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

GIFT

Buchanan, Andrea J. Illus. by Seabrook, Alexis OpenRoad Integrated Media $16.99 | Mar. 27, 2012 First reviewed May 1, 2012 An interactive ghost tale weaves together historical fiction and a supernatural love story with satisfying results. Daisy’s mysterious ability to channel electricity has always been more curse than blessing, especially since it means no cellphone or computer use. However, when she and her friends Danielle and Vivi are unexpectedly faced with an evil spirit from Daisy’s distant past, the utility of Daisy’s gift slowly becomes clear. Woven into the mix is Kevin, a brooding love interest with a guitar who keeps Daisy grounded throughout their adventure. Interactive elements ranging from embedded YouTube videos to subtly animated black-and-white illustrations add to the overall experience and spooky atmosphere. The text concludes with a final section—“More Gift”— in which the three supporting characters present their own perspectives on the story. For example, Kevin’s section includes links to audio files of songs and lyrics, which will be familiar to readers as they are featured at the beginning of selected chapters. Vivi’s story is told in a brief graphic-novel format in realistic watercolor illustrations, and Danielle presents her point of view as pages from her diary. While the alternative formatting and use of audio works well, the entire section feels tacked on. Nevertheless, the enhancements are sufficient to make going digital with this text (also published as an ordinary paperback) worthwhile. A fantastical and historical ghost story that benefits from technology and the presence of young love. (Paranormal romance. 15-17)

HORSE MAGIC

Hapka, Cathy Bookerella and Story Worldwide (110 pp.) $1.99 | Mar. 26, 2012 1; Mar. 26, 2012 First reviewed May 15, 2012 An interactive introduction to three female friends linked by their love of horses and a fantastical adventure. When summer vacation starts with a downpour, Shelby, Annalee and Cammie, all 12, are challenged to amuse themselves in the barn at Crooked Creek Stables, which is owned by Shelby’s mom. Boredom has set in when an unfamiliar gray horse with a magical mark on his neck appears both in the story and as an image that slowly materializes on the screen. Despite many warnings about the dangers of an unfamiliar animal, Annalee rides the horse, which they name Magic, and her friends follow alongside as he leads them back in time to a medieval adventure. Each girl bonds with the horse, and their individual interactions showcase their distinct personalities and provide a brief window into their lives. Leveraging the digital format, the text includes high-quality sound effects such as falling rain, hoofbeats and a variety of nature 1282

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sounds, which not only flesh out the immediate situation, but are well-timed to enhance rather than distract from the overall reading experience. Images, mostly of Magic, are used sparingly, maintaining a pleasing rhythm with the text. Each “page” appears to be made of a warm homemade paper edged by greenery, such as ivy and clover, that changes with the flow of the text. The overall effect of the design makes the digital book an art object in itself. Well-used technology paired nicely with solid characters make this a promising series opener. (iPad fantasy app. 8-10)

PETE’S ROBOT

Heartdrive Media Heartdrive $2.99 | Mar. 23, 2012 1.1.1; Apr. 8, 2012 First reviewed June 1, 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)

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LEONARD

Ink Robin Illus. by Penner, Timothy Ink Robin $3.99 | Mar. 15, 2012 1.0; Mar. 15, 2012 First reviewed May 15, 2012 Imagination makes all the difference in this story of one boy’s quest for new friends. A move from the city to the country leaves Leonard, an optimist with an enormous imagination, in a bit of a quandary: Where are all the new friends? As readers join him in his search, Leonard’s imagination takes off full force, taking him into the jungle and soaring into outer space. He’s even desperate enough to crash his sister’s tea party, which turns out to be an awkward turn of events. Full of adventurous, interactive fun, this appealing app is well worth the price and the upgrade to iOS5. Penner’s ’60s-retro illustrations pop, and Andy Trithardt’s narration piques interest from the get go. The music and sound effects are brilliant and flawlessly timed. From the harp-andflute combo that takes readers into Leonard’s imagination to the mournful violin solo played by his long-suffering feline sidekick, it’s a sonic delight. It all adds up to a reading experience children will turn to again and again, and not just because they love the games embedded in the story (squishing big bugs in the forest, spotting jungle animals with a spyglass and building a robot). Well told, cleverly illustrated and beautifully supported with interactive surprises that make sense and are great fun, this is a stellar example of iPad storytelling. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

THE EDIBLE SUIT

Lear, Edward Illus. by Higham, Jon Tizio BV $3.99 | Feb. 23, 2012 1.0; Feb. 23, 2012 First reviewed April 1, 2012 Rapid tapping calls up cascades of pigs, pork chops and more from this lightly edited version of Lear’s hilarious

“The New Vestments.” A bold fashion statement goes badly awry when a gent dressed in meat, candy and other edibles tries to take a stroll. Out hurtle “all sorts of beasticles, birdlings and boys” to send him reeling home stark naked. Higham depicts the onslaught in discreet but humorous watercolor cartoons, enhanced here by touch-activated animal calls and animations. In many scenes, veritable showers of items sail into view, usually with loud pops or other noises, as fast as little fingers can hit the screen. Based on a print version from 1986 with a few of the original verse’s lines rearranged and minor word changes (“jujubes” become “jelly beans,” a “girdle” switches to a “belt”), the rhyme can be read silently or by optional narrators in a Dutch translation or in British or North American accents. Other options include manual or auto advance, a slider to control the sprightly |

background music’s volume and, for added value, a separate lettermatching word game and savable coloring “sheets.” Smooth pans of the double-screen illustrations and interactive features that are as high in child appeal as the sidesplitting plot add up to an unusually successful crossover to the digital domain. (iPad storybook app. 6-9)

OWL AND CAT

Lear, Edward Illus. by Podles, Ewa The Nitro Lab $0.99 | Mar. 9, 2012 1.0; Mar. 9, 2012 First reviewed May 1, 2012 Feline and fowl profess their love for one another in this winning adaptation of Lear’s popular 1871 nonsense poem. Owl and pussycat take a moonlight ride in a “beautiful pea green boat.” Owl pulls out his guitar and openly declares his affection for the cat, singing “O lovely Pussy! / O Pussy my love / what a beautiful Pussy you are.” The cat, clearly swept off her feet, suggests that they be married. Since they don’t have a ring they sail away “for a year and a day” until they come across a pig with a ring in his nose. He agrees to sell his ring to the two sweethearts, and a turkey subsequently performs their marriage ceremony. Everything about this app is well done. The graphics are simple, deeply colorful and laser crisp, and the characters are appealingly goofy. Each slightly animated page holds one or more interactive elements that are basic, yet pleasing, particularly in their tactile fluidity. Sound effects are well placed and strikingly clear, perfectly garnishing the overall effect rather than overwhelming it. Though original music accompanies the text throughout the book, developers intentionally excluded voiceovers to encourage parents to read to their children. Although labeled as “free” in the app store, that applies only to the first few pages. Readers who want the whole poem will need to make an in-app purchase. A triumphant blend of classic literature and tablet technology. (iPad storybook app. 2-5)

LITTLE LOST RABBIT FINDS A FAMILY

Lemniscates iLUBUC $2.99 1.0; Mar. 31, 2012 Mar. 31, 2012 First reviewed May 15, 2012 An abandoned bunny doesn’t stay homeless for long in this understated, sim-

ply illustrated import. Venturing out into “their” vegetable patch with baskets under their arms one day, the Bunnybig family hears loud noises (“CATACRACK, CRASH, CRASH!”). Investigating, they see

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

LOST LARRY

Nunn, Graham Illus. by Nunn, Graham Wasabi Productions $3.99 | Mar. 7, 2012 Series: Larry Lizard, 1.1; Mar. 16, 2012 First reviewed May 1, 2012 A little green lizard will trail a fingertip home in this mini-Odyssey, the third of Larry’s interactive outings. Pointing fingers in the illustrations and overt instructions in the rhymed text (“Trace a path with your finger right on the screen / Larry will follow once the path’s been seen”) provide uncommonly broad hints for this app’s toddler audience. They guide the lost lizard through very simple zigzag mazes, over stepping stones, and past gatherings of anthills and beehives to, at last, a dark little cave just right for a curled-up snooze. The story is read (optionally) in soothing Aussie accents over quiet sighs or chuckles from Larry and other easily identifiable sounds. The low-key narrative accompanies a set of broadly brushed cartoon scenes—in each of which taps will also make numbers appear briefly in sequence, a fish leap, an echidna suck up ants, or buzzing bees fly off as Larry crawls or hops out of view. An unobtrusive icon at the top of each portraitmode screen opens a menu with a link back to the start, a toggle for the audio narration and other options. Clean, simple, seamless—just right for the nursery-school set or children with special needs. (iPad storybook/dexterity app. 1-3)

ALTERNATIVE STORY: RED RIDING HOOD ZigZag Studio ZigZag Studio $1.99 | Mar. 24, 2012 1.0; Mar. 24, 2012 First reviewed June 1, 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 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)

This Issue’s Contributors # Kim Becnel • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley • Sophie Brookover • Louise Brueggemann • Timothy Capehart • Ann Childs • GraceAnne A. DeCandido • Dave DeChristopher • Elise DeGuiseppi • Carol Edwards • Laurie Flynn • Omar Gallaga • Judith Gire • Carol Goldman • Linnea Hendrickson • Heather L. Hepler • Megan Honig • Jennifer Hubert • Kathleen T. Isaacs • Betsy Judkins • Deborah Kaplan • K. Lesley Knieriem • Megan Lambert • Angela Leeper • Peter Lewis • Nina Lindsay • Wendy Lukehart • Lauren Maggio • Jeanne McDermott • John Edward Peters • Susan Pine • Melissa Rabey • Rebecca Rabinowitz • Kristy Raffensberger • Nancy Thalia Reynolds • Melissa Riddle Chalos • Ronnie Rom • Leslie L. Rounds • Dean Schneider • Karyn N. Silverman • Meg Smith • Edward T. Sullivan • Shelley Sutherland • Jessica Thomas • 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 selfpublished books ready to be discovered. At Kirkus Indie, we’ve offered professional, unbiased reviews of self-published books since 2005, so we’re intimately aware of how great these books can be. Some have even earned Kirkus stars. So read on and visit kirkusreviews.com/indie for an exciting look at books made possible by self-publishing. 9 These titles earned the Kirkus Star:

PHOENIX ROSE

Bailey, Michael CreateSpace (366 pp.) $15.00 paperback | $5.00 e-book Dec. 3, 2009 978-1449902452 In Bailey’s (Palindrome Hannah, 2005, etc.) horror saga, a small town seethes with ghouls, apparitions, pranksters and dysfunctional families. Bailey returns to the haunted landscape of Brenden, Wash., with a sequence of intersecting plotlines that balance all-American ordinariness against outbursts of supernaturalism and carnage. Among them: A young boy mauled by a wolflike dog discovers an even more disconcerting foe in a dentist who puts silver fillings in his teeth, while a gas station attendant staring down the barrel of a mugger’s gun is improbably rescued by an animated corpse. Elsewhere, a priest wakes up after 150 years in the grave, thirsty for blood, and two snarky brothers hatch a scheme to craft grandiose crop circles, although they encounter something ominous in the dark wheat fields. Tying these narratives together is the story of Todd, a 3-year-old boy maimed when a horse kicks him in the head. As the tragedy causes his family to unravel, Todd gets caught up in a spiritual calculus of life and death. Bailey’s accomplished novel loops through time and logic in luxuriant tendrils as characters drift through dream states and alternate realities; the players see their futures and return to their pasts in a terrain stocked with insinuating crows, withering blood red roses and disembodied entities obsessed with a grisly numerology. Although his prose teems with mystic symbolism and hallucinatory enigmas, the author keeps the novel firmly grounded in reality by way of pungent characterizations, sharply observed behavior and an evocative sense of social setting. Here, Poe-like phantasmagoria amid Stephen King–style naturalism results in a fictive world that’s familiar yet eerily strange—and plenty scary. An engrossing blend of creepy atmospherics, gory jolts and mind-bending conundrums.

PHOENIX ROSE by Michael Bailey............................................. p. 1285 FALL FOR YOU by Cecilia Gray.................................................. p. 1288 THE KRONOS INTERFERENCE by Edward Miller & J.B. Manas.................................................................................p. 1290 TWO OUT OF THREE by M.M. Silva.........................................p. 1292 |

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THE WAR AT THE SHORE Steve Wynn, Donald Trump and the Epic Battle to Save Atlantic City

Bronson, Richard D. with Meisler, Andrew and Silver, Adam M. Richard D. Bronson (224 pp.) $26.00 | May 24, 2012 978-1468300468 Two powerful personalities clash in this firsthand account of Steve Wynn’s bid to open a new casino on Donald Trump’s turf. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Atlantic City, N.J., was Donald Trump’s town; as the man behind the Trump Plaza, the Trump Castle and the Trump Taj Mahal, the Donald held a huge stake in the city—one that he wasn’t open to sharing with others. So when world-famous gaming magnate Steve Wynn, whose Mirage Resorts had at one time owned and operated the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, sent right-hand man, and our narrator, “Skip” Bronson to town to begin the process of turning an undeveloped former landfill into a glittering world-class casino and resort, Trump moved into overdrive to stop them. Still smarting from a recent failed attempt to set up shop in Connecticut, Bronson and his team quickly decided that transportation would be key to the casino’s success, so they came up with the idea of the Brigantine Connector—a tunnel that would funnel gamers from the interstate under some of the seedier sections of town and directly to the front door of Wynn’s proposed casino. Trump realized that without the tunnel, Wynn’s project probably wouldn’t take off, so through a mix of lawsuits, outrageous public statements and bombs lobbed via the local press, Trump and his allies tried their best to stop construction. As a firsthand participant in the struggle between these two powerful men, the author presents a full account of the conflict and a detailed behind-the-scenes view of the incredible amount of bureaucratic squabbling, glad-handing and negotiation that goes on before a development of this scale can take place, not to mention the many places such a project can suddenly go flying off the tracks. Bronson, whose writing is clear and warm, packs the story with many anecdotes from his long career as a developer. While the digressions are usually funny, they can occasionally detract from the main narrative, but overall they add to the book’s welcoming, conversational tone. An engaging insider’s account of the down-and-dirty machinations that go into high-stakes real estate development.

HOW TO WRITE PARODIES AND BECOME IMMORTAL Chambers, Robert CreateSpace (142 pp.) $12.50 paperback | $2.99 e-book Mar. 16, 2012 978-1468139600

Chambers (Parody, 2010) returns with a jocular instruction manual for creating and reveling in parodies of all sorts. The author guides readers through the specific, example-oriented procedure of conceiving, writing and perfecting parodies in this witty, if at times unfocused, satirical manual. He begins with a dissection of three main categories of satire: “banging,” a head-on collision between a thing and its opposite; “binding,” productive tension between a thing and its opposite; and “blending,” the merging of the two. These and other “multistable” categories are explored in light of Chambers’ claim that “all multistable art is parodic, [and] that such art is, in fact, the hallmark of parody.” Chambers is pointed in his championing of parody, citing its generative effects throughout the history of literature: “For nearly two thousand years our forebears learned writing skills by copying, then parodically imitating exemplary texts on their way to flying off on their own.” While such claims are open to debate, the pragmatic approach Chambers employs in teaching the techniques of understanding and generating parodies is refreshingly straightforward. He encourages beginners to try parodying newspaper articles or New Yorker notices, including (sometimes unwisely) many parodies of his own composition by way of example. The book itself operates as a parody of do-it-yourself manuals with similarly grandiose titles. Chambers writes, “What sets the parody apart from mere simple irony (which is certainly present) is its hoaxy duality.” That duality is cheerfully present on every page of this book. Chambers’ own career as a published parodist spanned only three years (1978–1981) and a small handful of venues, but the usefulness of his exercises and insights here speaks of a lifetimes’ study. A quick, detailed introduction to the technique of parody.

SEE JOHN PLAY

DiGrazie, Dave Wine Flash (320 pp.) $13.95 paperback | $3.99 e-book Apr. 20, 2012 978-0984003631 DiGrazie’s (Von Lagerhaus, 2011) latest mystery introduces golfer John Kaminski, whose journey to the brink of fame and fortune would be considerably easier if he wasn’t also trying to juggle two women and a gambling addiction. John’s golf career hasn’t quite panned out the way he’d envisioned. His in-laws have already bailed him out once, but he’s in debt again after spending too much time at a low-rent casino

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with girlfriend Val while wife Connie and daughter Laurie wait at home. Thuggish Sammy suggests a way for John to wipe out his debt completely: play tournaments and throw a percentage of the winnings to Sammy. Joined by his lucky charm, Val, John surprises everyone when he starts winning big. But Connie’s distrust of John is mounting, and things only get more complicated with the introduction of John’s estranged father, the puzzling death of his mother, and a mysterious woman named Brenda, who takes a sudden interest in the champion golfer. DiGrazie’s book initially plays like a romance novel: Connie questions her marriage, believing her husband to be adulterous; her sister even dupes her into a blind date. But once John starts hitting the tours, the book becomes a rousing tale of character interplay: On tour, John and Val are joined by Sammy’s cousin, Mad Tommy, before Connie and Laurie make an unexpected visit. Add to the mix John’s caddie, Frenchy, and an agent and family friend whom Connie insists John hire. Fortunately, each character is fully incorporated into the story. The sequences with John on the golf course read like commentators’ remarks; they may not create any new golf fans, but they’re essential to the plot. Everyone, it seems, cheers on unlikable John, even those who hate him. Yet DiGrazie succeeds in refining him as a character who ultimately recognizes his own flaws. Humor helps: It’s funny to watch a golfer who’s just won almost a million dollars ask someone to pay for his gas. Readers will appreciate the author’s meticulous, steady progression of plot and characters.

SLEEPING WITH DOGS AND OTHER LOVERS A Second Acts Novel Dumont, Julia BroadLit (138 pp.) $6.39 e-book | Apr. 24, 2012

In the first installment of Dumont’s planned romance series, paranormal dogs and oversexed exes plague a matchmaking service. Cynthia Amas wants to start a new career. The former marketing executive is launching herself as a personalized matchmaker, pairing friends and new clients together and sometimes stepping in to make sure their dates go perfectly. When Max, the ex she loved and lost, reappears in Los Angeles, she’s torn between renewing their relationship with supercharged sex and focusing on her career. She decides she can manage both; complications immediately arise. Her arrival at the wrong hotel room—and the resultant accidental same-sex groping that leaves her completely aroused—is only the beginning of a comedy of errors: Max winds up in bed with Cynthia’s groping buddy and her girlfriend, as Cynthia uses a little light S&M to take out her frustration on a boring suitor. On the matchmaking front, a team of paranormal dogs keeps customer Lolita from closing the deal with a potential partner, and Cynthia’s mother decides to try a bit of matchmaking of her own, introducing Cynthia to a handsome gynecologist. Dumont’s serviceable prose weaves in and out of the |

characters’ lives and loves, providing plenty of titillating sex scenes without promising a happy ending. Instead, she offers a hook into the forthcoming series, which looks to feature friendship among a trio of wacky women. The misunderstandings and mischief will keep readers turning pages, and the lightweight content makes for easy enjoyment. There’s no moral here, nor any deeper meaning to be gleaned—just entertainment. The paranormal dogs are never fully explained, but Dumont manages to make that a curiosity rather than a cliff-hanger. The series will likely reveal that secret as it continues, but in the meantime the comedic value makes this particular omission forgivable. A lightweight, erotic adventure for readers more interested in an entertaining read than deep thought.

THE HUNTING OF THE BUBBLENUFF A Fabian Vermeer Story

Goldfond, Joshua Amazon Digital Services (161 pp.) $1.99 e-book | Dec. 15, 2011 In Goldfond’s debut fantasy, a young, nerdy priest seeks mythical beasts. Quirky Fabian Vermeer has a dilemma: He’s assigned to venture into the real world to determine the existence of the fabled monsters he so fastidiously studies. If the creatures are real, he risks life and limb; if fictitious, Fabian risks his reputation as an exemplar of scholarly pursuit. Regardless, he has no choice in the matter, as the church and empire he serves have chosen to pursue safe, imperialistic expansion. Fabian embarks on this journey with Wilhelmina, an athletic, very tall female soldier, and his pet squirrel, Dashiell. Despite the company, Fabian remains wary of encountering the feared, despised, ethically bankrupt Bubblenuff. The journey quickly runs awry when the trio is forced to contend with a monster of an entirely different color. Goldfond’s novella is allegorically funny in several aspects, most notably in its satirical take on religion, which is best exemplified by messianic characters named Lord Sturdy the Impotent and St. Handy the Useless, or a passage recounting a discussion between church members about the type of currency used in the afterlife. The parallel critique of imperialism, however, is slightly less apparent. Dialogue is amusing, especially the adolescent verbal skill of Wilhelmina. Readers will feel sympathy for the likable protagonist as he attempts to fight demons and nurture his sense of self. The conclusion might initially seem misplaced within the story’s creative plotting, but, ultimately, readers will most likely come to see how well it highlights the satire. The theme of expansionism could be further explored in potential sequels. A witty, fast-paced farce.

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“Dialogue is contemporary, hilarious and honest to [Jane] Austen’s original characters—just reincarnated in 21st century California.” from fall for you

FALL FOR YOU The Jane Austen Academy Series #1: A Modern Retelling of Pride & Prejudice

Gray, Cecilia Amazon Digital Services (105 pp.) $3.99 e-book | Feb. 10, 2012

Gray’s (A Delightful Arrangement, 2011, etc.) young-adult novel offers a unique twist on a classic. Lizzie Egmont has her entire life planned out. A junior at the Jane Austen Academy, she plans to become managing editor of the school’s paper, graduate at the top of her class and receive an acceptance letter from Georgetown University—until her school goes co-ed, that is. When the first male student steps on campus, Lizzie’s dream scuttles off trajectory. Her classmates succumb to boisterous flirtations with the opposite sex, but Lizzie sees trouble. The academy has been sold and the owner’s identity carefully concealed by the new trustees and headmistress. When Lizzie overhears a conversation about plans to change the name of the school, she leaps to action. In the process, she discovers that the truth may cost her friendships and love. As expected from a “modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice,” the book retains the essence of its original cast: Lizzie is bold and beautiful beyond her own good; her love interest, Dante, is stunningly attractive and irresistibly brooding. Fans of Bingley, Jane and Wickham will not be disappointed since the author has taken great care to not only preserve their essences, but also relay them as believable, lovable and flawed teenagers. Dialogue is contemporary, hilarious and honest to Austen’s original characters—just reincarnated in 21st century California. Action and exposition fiercely move readers through a landscape of wealth and ambition, where literature comes to life as readers face contemporary YA issues of conformity, loyalty and identity. Despite its brevity, the novel presents a world just as resonating as those created in some novels triple the size. A compelling mix of action, drama and love.

HUMP DAY

Hefter, Jason N. Cerro Chato (195 pp.) $12.99 paperback | $9.99 e-book Mar. 10, 2012 978-0983693932 One action-packed day in the life of a bunch of misfits and losers. “Things could always be worse,” thinks one man in the opening pages of Hefter’s humorous, energetic debut novel. That’s certainly true for the motley cast of characters, most of whom start out at what appears to be rock bottom only to find out that there’s further to fall. Jonah, whose tale of woe kicks things off, is a self-loathing schlub “hurdling toward 30” with an emotionally distant girlfriend who is far out of his league and a crappy 1288

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job as a personal assistant to a so-called spiritual leader. Skye and Kassie, meanwhile, are best friends who’ve taken jobs as topless maids to pay the rent on their dumpy studio apartment. Each of these luckless but likable failures wants something more out of life, but they can’t quite figure out how to make it happen. Virtually everyone else the trio encounters over the course of the following 24 hours is creepy, violent or just unpleasant. R.J. Bloom, Jonah’s hypocritical, sadomasochistic boss, may destroy the one thing that Jonah values in life. Base Ghost, a drug-dealing, junkie cop, hunts down Kassie and Skye after he hires them to clean his apartment and they double-cross him. Dirt Koharski, Jonah’s drinking buddy, revels in broadcasting tales of his unusual sexual practices. Many events are simply bizarre for the sake of being bizarre: A woman dies after accidentally drinking facial cleanser, a man suffers a gruesome death while masturbating in the bathtub. Darkly funny and often crude, the novel owes an obvious debt to movies like Pulp Fiction, both in the interlocking stories it tells and its ironic celebration of violence. Everything happens in short, kinetic bursts, not surprising since Hefter’s background is in writing for film and television. The breakneck speed means it’s occasionally hard to get a handle on any one character or storyline before the novel veers off in another direction. Yet Hefter capably brings the various threads together in the end. Tries too hard to be transgressive, but a fast-paced, entertaining read nonetheless.

THE DUCK & THE DCO

Kane, Damion CreateSpace (642 pp.) $22.00 paperback | $12.00 e-book Mar. 5, 2012 978-1463682996 Kane’s (The Amazing Adventures of Captain Infant and Superpatch, 2011) nonfiction account looks back at the career partnership of two Orange County, Calif., homicide detectives. Detectives Mike “The Duck” Parrish and Terry Sharkowski, the eponymous damage control officer, have been partners on the California police force for years when Kane’s eventful, irreverent chronicle opens. On the surface, the pair are opposites: The Duck, a former high school coach, is abrupt, intuitive and often abrasive, while the DCO, a former Green Beret, is quiet, methodical and good at calming down the various people his partner upsets. The episodic narrative unfolds as the duo takes readers on an insider’s tour of busy, dramatic Orange County policing. There’s a surprising amount of intercollegiate cooperation and a large number of dead bodies, sometimes very nearly including the pair’s own; the book includes charts of the injuries both men sustained in the course of duty. At its heart, this is a collection of anecdotes—involving police dogs, warring gangs, murder victims and many fairly oblivious ordinary citizens—that have become highly polished over countless retellings. Several of the bigger cases are followed by surprisingly bland summaries (“Always try and get a feel for the person |


you are going to interview”), but the street smarts and human insight these partners accumulate over the years are winningly conveyed. Readers looking for hard-boiled TV-style police action will find plenty of it in these pages, much of it enlivened by Kane’s Mickey Spillane–like patter: “Broderson wasn’t able to get any statements due to the fact that Jackie boy had taken a good-sized hollow-point round right between the horns.” Readers will also be fascinated by the many black-and-white photos of murder weapons and blood-splattered crime scenes that appear throughout the text—alongside several cartoonish illustrations that subsequent editions would be better off without. The Duck himself, far more than his laconic partner, is the star of this story; nevertheless, the cooperative nature of real police work comes through admirably. Fans of true-crime thrillers, police procedurals and office comedies will find much to enjoy.

SMART PARENTING FOR SMART KIDS Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential

Kennedy-Moore, Eileen; Lowenthal, Mark S. Jossey-Bass/Wiley (320 pp.) $16.95 paperback | $9.39 e-book Mar. 1, 2011 978-0470640050 Two psychologists offer a perceptive guide to help smart children succeed aca-

demically and socially. Kennedy-Moore (The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, 2003, etc.) and Lowenthal evaluate the roadblocks that frequently arise for smart children between the ages of 6 and 12. The authors identify “seven fundamental challenges” faced by smart children—and, of course, their parents. They use those challenges to look at how parents can help intelligent children succeed not just in school, but in life, too. Each chapter is devoted to analyzing a challenge: tempering perfectionism, building connection, managing sensitivity, handling cooperation and competition, dealing with authority, developing motivation and finding joy. The authors discuss why each is important for children’s development, aided by vignettes drawn from exhaustive research and their psychology practices. The result is a treasure trove of strategies parents can use to help their children interact with peers, teachers and family members. They also address how children can combat their insecurities in a way that will generate “inner strength and outward compassion.” The authors suggest conversations parents can have with their kids, activities they can engage in together, and songs parents can sing to help lead their children to new intellectual and emotional growth. Near the end of each chapter are suggestions for how parents can model healthy behaviors for their kids; the well-structured chapters then close with a short summary. The authors are also attuned to the nuances that can affect children’s relationships, even noting how the “increase in technology-related play” has altered children’s social lives. Charts and graphs help make the |

authors’ approach truly “solution-focused,” and the vignettes will be achingly familiar for most parents. Although the book targets the parents of bright children, the lessons herein will be relevant to any parent. This forgiving, intelligent look at raising smart children will help parents teach their kids that there’s more to life than academic achievement.

THE 2012 PROJECT

Marin, Ed Self (240 pp.) $15.30 paperback | $8.97 e-book Jan. 20, 2012 978-0615575254 In Marin’s debut novel, a time traveler from ancient Egypt awakes in modern times to perform a vital mission. Tonemcadu, a translator of texts for the maverick pharaoh Akhenaton, undergoes a special type of mummification to spend thousands of years in suspended animation and wake up in 2012. The process works, and he finds himself shedding bandages and scaring the daylights out of Dan Stoval and Linda Sims at the Chicago Museum. There begins the long—and suspiciously easy—process of reacclimatizing, learning a new language and new customs. But Tonemcadu—a decidedly non-Egyptian name which readers may dolefully suspect of being an anagram—works hard, eventually eluding his kindly benefactors. He gets a job at a restaurant in order to earn enough money to return to Egypt, where he must complete the mission for which he was mummified in the first place. At the restaurant, he meets and falls in love with Barbara Covell before eventually finding a job on a cruise ship headed for Egypt. Tonemcadu makes his way to the Great Pyramid of Giza (“It was still the most beautiful structure he’d ever seen”). Marin does a skillful job of maintaining suspense, and he offers some fascinating takes on how an ancient Egyptian would estimate the modern world. “Some technical knowledge has been lost over the years, but there have been extraordinary technological discoveries, a great many of which provide comfort,” Tonemcadu opines. “Yet overall, people seem to have less peace of mind than they had in the past.” The story’s climax provides a further sci-fi twist; in some ways, this is more believable than the unhesitating acceptance Marin’s Americans tend to give to a dark-skinned foreigner single-mindedly intent on traveling across the world to reach a famous building and perform a secret mission. There’s plenty of fascinating information here on the culture of ancient Egypt, but virtually none of the 9/11 resonances readers might expect to find. An entertaining, tautly executed adventure through time.

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“The prose is unfussy, the pacing appropriately brisk, and the past and future sequences show the authors’ admirable imaginative gifts.” from the kronos interference

SUICIDE Living With the Question Maxwell, Ruth H. AuthorHouse (124 pp.) $14.95 paperback | $3.99 e-book Mar. 7, 2012 978-1468555929

Maxwell (Eighteen Roses Red, 2006, etc.) revisits her son’s suicide and her subsequent grieving process. When her 35-year-old son, Bill, committed suicide in 1989, Maxwell was shocked. Bill was seemingly happy and healthy. Married to a woman he loved, the father of two small children and engaged in a promising career, he was someone whom Maxwell felt had “found his place in life.” Maxwell recalls the days and weeks after Bill’s death with a mixture of palpable grief, journalistic detail and wisdom gained from the passage of time. As she carries on in the face of this almost unbearable loss, and as her family participates in the rituals associated with saying goodbye, Maxwell scours Bill’s life for signs of suffering that the family may have overlooked. She catches glimpses of Bill’s distress, including the haunting detail that an 8-year-old Bill told his younger brother he wanted to kill himself. One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is in how Bill’s wife, Laura, his children and his siblings navigate how to preserve and honor his memory. In the final chapters, Maxwell explores depression and suicide directly, drawing from extensive readings and her family’s experience. She concludes that societal attitudes toward suicide—described as “moralistic” and “superstitious”—are not only wrong, but damaging. Her final advice to grieving readers: “Be willing to live with the unanswered questions and with your grief.” Time has provided Maxwell with the clarity to assess her grieving, but this memoir will be most comforting to those recently unmoored by a loss. This unusually thoughtful, considered memoir will be valuable and inspirational to readers who have lost a loved one to suicide.

THE KRONOS INTERFERENCE

Miller, Edward; Manas, J.B. Pop Culture Press (501 pp.) Jun. 30, 2012 In this time-travel thriller, debut authors Miller and Manas spin a clever, original variation on a classic alternative history premise: What if it were possible to travel back in time and kill Adolf Hitler? Jacob Newman, a brilliant scientist and nanotechnology expert who consults with the CIA on projects of national security, receives a mysterious packet containing his German grandfather’s diaries from the 1920s, which detail a failed plot to poison Hitler at the beginning of his ascent to power. Although Newman’s wife is dying of cancer, 1290

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a global crisis soon takes him from her bedside. An alien vessel has been found on the bottom of the ocean, off the coast of Chile. Inside the elegantly described “cavernous zeppelin shaped” space are eight giant floating monitors—arranged “like some sort of avant-garde Stonehenge”—that show images from horrific moments in human history, including the Crusades and the Holocaust. The ship also contains some strange pieces of alien technology; most notably a small object the scientists dub the Kronos Device, which, as Newman discovers, facilitates time travel. The scientists soon come to the consensus that someone or something has been sitting in judgment of humankind—and an ominous verdict could be delivered at any time. Inspired by his grandfather’s diary and desperate to afford humankind another chance in the eyes of the mysterious alien power, Newman decides to go back in time and ensure that the plot to kill Hitler is successful, thereby—in theory—erasing the ensuing heinous acts from history. Sci-fi fans will be familiar with what happens next: By interfering with the past, Newman inadvertently creates a future that is far worse. But here the novel displays some unexpectedly creative plotting: Newman’s attempt to undo the damage he’s done involves him in his own mind-bending parallel life, as well as the prospect of a harrowing sacrifice. The prose is unfussy, the pacing appropriately brisk, and the past and future sequences show the authors’ admirable imaginative gifts. Miller and Manas’ tour de force packs plenty of entertainment value, and the ending tantalizes with the possibility of future past installments. An impressively original take on alternative history.

A MODEL WIFE FOR A GENTLE IMAM An Imam. A Model. A Dream. A Novel.

Rana, Tariq CreateSpace (402 pp.) $17.99 paperback | $3.99 e-book Mar. 14, 2012 978-1468162721 In Rana’s debut novel, a reclusive, conservative Islamic leader and family man falls for a vivacious fashion model half his age. The worship leader of a Muslim community in Canada, Ali Mansoor Khan is a middle-aged imam with two children whose wife, Shazia, is pregnant with a third. He is also a veteran; the horrors he experienced and injuries he sustained while serving his country in Afghanistan have left him with horrific nightmares. His reprieve from this terror comes in his dreams, in the form of the beautiful Stacy Kimball, a model Ali saw in one of his daughter’s clothing magazines. Ali becomes obsessed with Stacy and the haunting similarities the blond 20-something shares with Shazia. Upon meeting her, his attraction only grows. But even if his religion allows it, how can he take a second wife? Especially with the protestations of his family and the public scrutiny that results when a man of his age and appearance is seen with a famous young model. Rana’s debut showcases a |


IN DI E

Working with Indie Booksellers B Y K A REN

SC HEC HNER

Indie publishing has seen a lot of press recently. There was E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, (which caused some confusion for teen novel Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, a mix-up that has sitcom-subplot potential); the recent New York Times article about kids self-publishing; and in the endless news stream about how the publishing industry is undergoing various sea changes, indie publishing usually gets a nod if not the lead. Independent booksellers have been onto the indie-publishing explosion for a while. For years, they’ve managed and sold books that didn’t have any Big Six marketing dollars behind them. I talked with a few indie booksellers about trends they’ve seen recently and advice they’d give selfpublished authors. (Here’s another article I recently wrote on the same topic.) A few years ago, about 40 self-published and traditionally published authors attended the Northwest Author Fair, an outdoor event with panels and signings, hosted by Bob’s Beach Books in Lincoln City, Ore. “We capped it at 50,” says owner

Diana Portwood about this year’s crowd. “At the rate it was going, we were going to hit 85 this year and 100 next year.” She said that the size of the audience has grown along with the number of authors. At this year’s fair, she expects several hundred attendees. Her goal is for each author to sell at least one book, and many sell a lot more than that. Portwood will buy at least one copy of a professionally bound book from any local author. She suggests indie authors approach their local booksellers before going to press. “You have to study up on what to do before you commit,” she says. “Talk to a couple of different bookstores and ask them what they’re looking for with packaging. For example, you’ll want the title on the spine. And talk to other self-published authors.” Blogs by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Rusch’s husband, Dean Wesley Smith are worth checking out, she says. Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, Colo., bases the structure of their consignment program on what’s called publisher co-op—ad money supplied by the publisher to booksellers for use in marketing, advertising and displays. So self-published authors can, like publishers, pay for the expertise, advertising, prominent placement and events available at Boulder. The bookstore doubled their stocked self-published titles in the past four years. “We have about 200 active consignments right now,” says Liesl Freudenstein, who manages consignments at Boulder, which posts resources online for indie authors. “I see more of a continuation of trends that started a while ago. More professional bindings, slicker covers—that sort of thing. Everyone seems to be more professional, bookstores and authors alike, and I feel that we are working together better.” Freudenstein recommends that authors not skimp on a good editor that they support other local authors. “Our most successful authors make a lot of effort to reach out to the community and it shows.” |

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Tattered Cover in Denver launched the Tattered Cover Press to meet the growing demands of their local indie authors. “I think many changes in self-publishing mirror the changes in the publishing industry in general,” says Katie Schmidt, Tattered’s local author coordinator. “Certainly there’s a lot more activity in the direction of digital content, but an exciting development for us has been the new interest in print-on-demand self-publishing.” Tattered Cover Press uses an Espresso Book Machine, as do many other indie bookstores, including McNally Jackson Booksellers, Harvard Book Store and Village Books, to offer all-in-one book printing and binding services in-house. This is in conjunction with their Rocky Mountain Authors program, an extensive consignment program for small presses and indie authors. Schmidt says that Tattered is proud to work with their local self-published authors, and the Rocky Mountain Authors program feeds a need for local writers and readers. “It gives authors access to a well-known retail outlet for their work, and it provides customers with content that, in many cases, they’re not going to find anywhere else.” The way to reach more customers is “to be as business-minded as possible after the writing of the book ends, if their next goal is to sell the book,” Schmidt says. “If you want to open a jewelry boutique, you’ll need a business plan, a pro forma, a chart that balances your expected costs with your expected revenue, some legal counseling, and a lot of marketing and development. It’s no different for an author selling a book.” To build the current momentum of indie publishing, Boulder’s Freudenstein says to show some love for all things indie, both booksellers and authors. “Every author loves to see their book in an actual bookstore, and that is just not going to happen if we don’t work together.”

9 Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor at Kirkus.

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refreshing sense of humor; forgoing subtlety more often than not, Rana presents the characters as animated, exaggerated figures. While this does little to establish a sense of realism, each character in the novel is clearly defined and instantly memorable—from Ali as the tortured, self-chastising holy man to the seductive coquette, Stacy, to Shazia, Ali’s mercurial, rampaging wife. Yet these larger-than-life personalities never undercut the darker aspects of the story. Chapters move quickly in a nonlinear fashion, a device which, while initially disorienting, creates intrigue even during more banal scenes. Rana utilizes repetition in his narrative, but it never feels tedious. Instead, the novel presents the recurring hopes, fears and sentiments of its characters in a way that resembles Ali’s prayers. The means through which Ali meets his new love are flimsy—a picture, a dream, a private investigator—but as the novel advances, it forms an eloquent commentary on image, especially as it concerns religion and race in Western society. Subverts expectations with a twisting plot crossing cultural and religious boundaries.

TWO OUT OF THREE A Meagan Maloney Mystery

K I R K US M E DI A L L C # K I R K US M E DI A L L C President

Silva, M. M. AuthorHouse (352 pp.) $28.49 | paper $17.99 $3.99 e-book | Oct. 6, 2011 978-1463442972 978-1463442958 paperback

M A RC W I# NKELMA N President SVP, Finance M A RC WEISNH KU EL LL MAN JA M SVP,Marketing Finance SVP, J AIM LY L M KE E SHH EU JN SVP, Marketing SVP, Online M ILK H EO HFEFJM NA YN PAU

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

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Silva’s thriller introduces Meagan Maloney, a private investigator whose search for a missing person draws her into a deeper mystery than she ever imagined. The first volume in a series of mysteries featuring the caffeine-addicted Bostonian Meagan, Silva’s debut unveils a character who is refreshingly different from the stereotypical private detective found in many crime novels. As she tracks down the missing person in her first major case, Meagan enlists the aid of her computer-whiz friend and neighbor, Doobie. While Doobie is clearly the man for the job when it comes to hacking into various systems in search of information, Meagan sometimes needs detailed explanations of things readers would expect to be second nature for someone her age, such as email. Regardless, it is precisely this ordinary girl–turned-detective persona that makes Meagan such a relatable, believable and interesting heroine. Without dwelling or giving too much away, the author drops hints |

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about a dark moment in Meagan’s past that led to her chosen career path. It’s enough to explain Meagan’s apparent naiveté, although perhaps not enough to explain the impression that she doesn’t always seem to be the brightest bulb. Meagan stays true to character as she finds herself in increasingly difficult and dangerous situations. Rather than resorting to hidden talents like a surprise martial arts degree or MacGyveresque skills, Meagan responds to danger as any normal person would, mistakes included. This consistency lends an air of credibility to an otherwise unlikely set of circumstances, and it fosters empathy for this grown-up, modern Nancy Drew. Silva sustains a solid mystery that manages to keep readers engaged throughout the many plot twists and turns. A well-constructed story that lays a promising foundation for the rest of the series.

LAW & LAWYERS IN THE UNITED STATES Smith, Robert Sellers CreateSpace (304 pp.) $14.95 paperback Mar. 29, 2012 978-1469907604

Smith (West’s Law Dictionary, 1993, etc.) breaks down the ins and outs of U.S. government and law. Beginning with the foundations of the U.S government, Smith provides an accessible resource for understanding how American law originates and evolves. Each chapter is brief, covering the most pertinent data in what can often feel like an endless number of legal categories and jurisdictions. The book covers everything from how a bill is made into law, the hierarchies of the court system, and various types of law, such as bankruptcy and administrative. Fortunately, simple structure and prose make this a user-friendly reference guide. However, Smith sometimes makes blanket statements that can feel out of place, as when discussing executive power: “For good reason, the President of the United States is often described as the most powerful person in the world.” This statement is never elaborated on, nor is his claim that those “who are eligible [for lawful permanent residency] would be well advised to consider applying.” Elsewhere, a section on civil rights law is poorly served with its slim two-page coverage. Since Smith makes clear that this book is for beginners, each section is appropriately paced and best suited for aspiring law students in college or even high school, foreigners and curious readers looking for an introduction to legal issues. Yet


“Pacing is pitch-perfect with the kind of aha moments readers cherish.” from the fixer

readers unfamiliar with the material should take the author’s more opinionated statements with a grain of salt. Readers can also jump to a specific section without feeling lost, making this guide useful as a desk reference, too. A notable, brief overview of the state of American law, without the jargon.

THE INVISIBLE CONVERSATIONS™ WITH YOUR AGING PARENTS White, Shannon A. Self (98 pp.) $9.89 paperback | $3.19 e-book Mar. 22, 2012 978-1937829179

White (How Was School Today? Fine., 2010) returns with a concise guide to navigating the difficult but necessary conversations adult children need to initiate with their aging parents. Drawing on her years of work as a clergywoman and TV journalist, White presents an eminently helpful guide for adult children finding difficulty confronting the frailty, illness and inevitable death of their parents. Through a penetrating analysis of the difficulties she faced in talking to her own father as he was dying of cancer, White offers a compelling look at how readers can confront a parent’s end-of-life issues, while numerous anecdotes from others who have found themselves in this unenviable position clearly exemplify valuable lessons learned. “Invisible Conversations,” her trademark, refers to “all of those conversations which are not communicated with the intended person or people.” White says adult children tend to exercise common denial mechanisms—like avoidance of necessary dialogue—to eschew the responsibility of having to parent those who once parented them. One of the many refreshing points White offers is that helping aging parents while their health declines doesn’t need to be seen as a saintly, altruistic process. “This journey is as much about your own development as it is about those for whom you love and care,” she says. While the author adopts a conventional approach to self-help by offering an assortment of questions to ask, much of White’s advice is surprising: She proposes asking ailing parents to offer their hopes for how their family will move on after they’re gone. White also suggests asking: “Are there stories about something you did that you may think I don’t know about?” With helpful lists of conversation-starting questions and moving case histories, White’s direct, compassionate tone and crisply crafted writing will be appreciated by readers who need pragmatic strategies to better communicate with their fading parents. An empathetic, useful guide.

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THE FIXER

Woods, Teresa E. Manuscript May 29, 2012 The compelling tale of a female fixer, who, à la Dexter, dispatches baddies while examining her own dark proclivities. In the Pacific Northwest, lovely, insightful psychologist Lydia Corriger welcomes a new patient, the equally lovely Savannah Samuels, who’s guilty of doing “awful things and not caring.” Around them, people are dying: investment banker and con artist Gordon Halloway; lowlife Angelo “Satan” Santanell, Jr.; and university researcher Fred Bastian, who was cruel to lab animals, especially Ortoo, a silverback gorilla. The latest body to drop is that of lab assistant Wally Buchner, a co-worker of Bastian’s. When Seattle detective and widower Mort Grant investigates, he crosses paths with Lydia, who can read people like they’re Ikea catalogs. Lydia attempts to learn more about her enigmatic patient, Savannah, and her connection, if any, to Fred Bastian and his fiancée, Cameron Williams, former trophy girlfriend of billionaire Bradley Wells. Also, someone—using a voice synthesizer to keep his identity a secret—is on to the Fixer’s game; a DVD of the Fixer eliminating Fred Bastian ensures cooperation. Typically in control of every situation while operating by principles that involve making the world a better place, the Fixer is now only a pawn to the selfinterested “Private Number.” Despite occasional spelling errors, incorrect usage and missing words, the story is a first-rate chiller. There’s sufficient character development and back story in Lydia and Mort, and together they become the heart of the tale. Romance may be in the wind, so readers will hope that the pair can somehow come out on top in spite of the mayhem surrounding them. Amid twist after twist, sleazebags are exposed for the scum they are. Although not a police procedural per se, there’s enough command in the criminal scenes to instill belief that the author knows her stuff, right down to canine Bruiser who lost his bark from an on-the-job injury. Pacing is pitch-perfect with the kind of aha moments readers cherish. Solid characters, unpredictable twists and excellent plotting; a must-read for those who enjoy crime fiction.

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June 15, 2012: Volume LXXX, No 12